Dear Chicago

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Dear Chicago,

I’m not leaving because of something you did wrong. It’s not you, it’s me. From your beautiful summer nights to the birth of my two daughters, I leave here with so many beautiful memories, too many to list.  And, I’ll be back to make more memories as a visitor, for at least a while. I’m not moving away from something as much as moving on and trying to let go of who I have been here. This journey to find my happy place has vividly pointed out what doesn’t make me happy. I’m still working on figuring out exactly what does.

I deserve to be happy, feel comfortable and grow. I deserve to reconfigure my normal. You can’t go back, but you can go forward. The only way to change is to change the way. It’s all about the journey.

Warmly,

Jamie

Dear Denver,

When we met 25 years ago, I had no idea that I would never be able to stop thinking about you. I considered coming here for college and was accepted to the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1994 as a transfer student looking to make big changes and relocate to somewhere exciting. Even though I chose Phoenix at the time, I always wondered what it would have been like if I had made a different move. I’ve been back several times over the years, and it always feels more like home than anywhere else.

The pull to give you a try has now taken me over and I’ll see you in a few weeks to start my next chapter. Now, I know you have a lot going on and a lot of people here to please, all I’m asking is that you show me kindness and support. I’m not in a hurry, but I would like to see if my future is here. I’m feeling confident that you will give me a sign and show me the way, not let me wander too much from what could bring me happiness. I believe in you.

See you soon,

Jamie

gratitude to dharder on morguefile.com for the above photo

Seesaw Sisters

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Jewel and Joy are sisters. They love to play together. It’s fun having a play mate right in your own house, but sometimes Jewel and Joy want to do different things. It’s hard to always agree on what to play.

One day, Jewel went to her mom and asked to spend some time alone at the park. She was tired of playing with her sister all the time.

So Jewel went to the park without Joy. She spotted the seesaw and jumped on! But the seesaw is not as much fun by yourself. As she sat on the seesaw unable to make it move, she wished her sister was there with her.

Just as Jewel wanted some time alone, so did Joy. The next day, Joy wanted to go to the park without Jewel.

When Joy got to the park she ran and hopped on her favorite piece of equipment, the seesaw. But as she sat on one end staring up into the sky at the empty end of the see saw, she realized that the park was much more fun with her sister there.

The next day, Jewel and Joy decided to go to the park, together. The both ran and hopped on the seesaw and enjoyed how it went up and down and up and down! They laughed and smiled as they flew up and then down enjoying the beautiful day, together.

Sometimes together is better, but sometimes you have to be alone to figure that out.

Lifestyle Medicine

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Prevention is truly the best medicine. Taking our health seriously and making steps toward wellness before there is a real reason to worry is the smartest way to go. To indulge and ignore is risky, to be proactive and educated can save your health and maybe your life. Your lifestyle can be your best medicine.

Lifestyle medicine means making choices that lessen your risk of illness and disease. The basics of using lifestyle intervention may include nutrition, stress reduction, toxin awareness, and physical activity. The process of incorporating positive choices in all of these areas give you the best chance at preventing many of the chronic diseases that are common in our culture today.

Evaluating and adjusting risky behavior is your first line of defense. To make good decisions you must have the right information, but you also need to be sure about where your facts are coming from. Don’t just reach for what you have been told are healthy foods, research the sources of that food being labeled healthy. Amp up your general wellness competence by making decisions based in scientific research, not big business sponsored mass marketing messages.  We need to address the gap between what we know and what we think we know.

A perfect example of this is the need for education and lifestyle management related to Osteoporosis. Did you know…

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So the question “What do I do now?” tends to be posed after a person is diagnosed with Osteoporosis, when we could be living a lifestyle which manages our risk and lessens our chances of developing this dangerous condition way before we are at risk of becoming one of it’s casualties.

When assessing your options to create and support a healthy lifestyle, here are three lifestyle choices to consider that may significantly impact your chances of developing Osteoporosis later in life:

1.   Calcium Intake

Are you getting enough calcium in your daily diet? Some healthy sources of calcium are dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, orange juice. It’s not just about drinking milk and consuming dairy although healthy servings of milk can also reduce your risk.  (mayoclinic.org)

2.   Exercise

Beginning to exercise when you are young and continuing your active lifestyle as you age can be the best way to build strong bones. Combining strength training and weight bearing physical activity is the best way to avoid Osteoporosis. (mayoclinic.org)

3.   Avoid alcohol and cigarettes

Excessive drinking has been linked to increased risk of bone loss and smoking doubles your chance of bone loss. (webmd.com)

For a long time I thought drinking carbonated beverages caused bone loss, but in doing research for this post I have found evidence that does not support that assumption. Since I’m not completely convinced I removed it from my list and will have to look into it further. So, in addition to making positive change, begin to second guess what you have always assumed about diseases such as this. And please, check my sources and find credible ones of your own because not every medical myth you hear has complete truth to it. Begin to evaluate your life choices, but don’t be hasty until you think them through. For example, many people think that coffee causes osteoporosis. But does it? “Because coffee and caffeine consumption slightly decreases the absorption of calcium by about 4 – 6 mg per cup, coffee has been blamed for causing osteoporosis. In a hypothetical world, this reduction in calcium would lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. Fortunately, in the real world, adding one tablespoon of milk to each cup of coffee consumed would offset any calcium loss caused by the caffeine, preventing an effect on bone quality. By ensuring adequate calcium intake and drinking coffee in moderation, studies show that there will be no increased risk of fractures or osteoporosis.” (www.isagenixhealth.net)

Be smart enough to know which life choices are truly smart and which ones are cultural lore.

So, what else do you think you know for sure? Are you trusting credible sources when gathering your knowledge on wellness? Are you sure?

thanks to where_ever_I_am on morgue file.com for the lovely photo above 

thanks to The American Recall Center for the Osteoporosis graphic above 

Waking Up

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So how exactly do I know if I’m having a spiritual awakening? Will I feel it? Will I know what to do? There is no way to measure or verify an exact moment when an awakening begins, or even how it will unfold, so I’m trusting my intuition and going with the flow.

Some people are morning people and some people are not. People are complex and diverse and every spiritual awakening looks different. Some experience their eyes popping open to a brand new revelation and begin their new journey instantly and full steam ahead while others have to rub their eyes and slowly adjust to the light of a new day. But, any way you “wake up”, the important thing is to begin the process when it is presented to you.

When I open my eyes every morning, I have a noticeable transition between the beautiful world of my dreams (which used to be nightmares) and my reality flooding in. I take a deep breath and try to choose a mantra for the day such as:

“Today is a good day to have a good day”

“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”

“Time to make the donuts”

Depends on my mood.

At first, it takes me a moment to get moving, but the two little girls staring at me and breathing their morning breath into my face are not always sympathetic to that. It’s just me and the girls most mornings, so I have to hop to it as soon as duty calls.

Coffee helps.

I normally have to patiently breathe through those first few moments, set my intention quietly, and rise up before I’m ready. Stumbling for the bathroom, I hear the demands, the whining, the complaining beginning pretty immediately. I remind myself that my girls have just woken up as well and it’s even harder to manage those early morning feelings when you’re only a little girl.

I take a lot of deep breaths in the morning.

And then it occurred to me. This waking up I do everyday is a mirror of the awakening I have been experiencing for the last few years. My awakening is happening a little bit at a time, and I have to work with what I have here in my life. I don’t always have control over when I wake up, when I go to sleep, or whether or not I sleep through the night. So, I have to adapt, adjust, and roll with it without losing sight of my “why” and how much all of this means. There is a lesson in all of this and I trust that I’m learning it in the right time. I’m exactly where I need to be. During an awakening, you may learn things that take your life in new directions. Learning to let go and peacefully flowing with that momentum can be comforting. We only get to do this life once and regret is the worst thing to own.

So even with a few steps backwards along the way and little sufferings peppered in with the beautiful moments, I’m slowly rubbing my eyes and opening them to new possibilities and the idea that I can become a more peaceful and balanced person. I believe the capacity for enlightenment is the same for all people although not everyone is capable of recognizing it. I also think that our degree of feeling awake changes in different moments and states that we experience, and that’s ok.

As with most things spiritual, the act and result of experiencing an awakening is unmeasurable and unverifiable. It’s up to each of us to label and define our own journey. So, whether your eyes pop open in a revelation or you have to slowly adjust to the light, roll with your awakening and be grateful for another day to enjoy it.

Every day is a good day to have a good day, but it’s up to you to make it good.

Come On Get Healthy

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I have found that, for me, getting happy started with a healthier body. It’s almost impossible to have a positive state of mind if your body is distracting you from your happiness goals. An unhealthy body that feels achey, sluggish, and doesn’t sleep well is probably not leading you on a journey to a happier place. When you feel healthy, rested and well nourished you are then more free to focus on your state of mind. An important thing to consider is that healthy looks different for every body, so keeping in mind that you only need to be the expert on making yourself happy is essential.

A great place to begin your journey to happiness is in the kitchen. Chances are, if you’re feeling less than happy, there are easy, manageable steps you can take right now in your own home. To make positive change, you have to make changes. The goal should be reinventing your relationship with food. Begin by taking inventory. Every few months I like to pull everything out of my pantry and reassess. Creating healthy habits and maintaining them does not happen with one trip to the grocery store. It can be an ongoing process of learning and adapting.

After you pull out all of your food, it’s time to take a good look at what you have on hand and consider your patterns. Anything that is expired has got to go, that’s easy. Anything that is processed and/or eaten in moments of emotional distress has also got to go. Food is fuel. Using food for comfort is not a step toward getting healthier. This process is about positive change. Replacing your comfort food with exercise, stretching, breathing, meditation, yoga, or a hot bath will serve you better. Consider what will work for you and give it a try.

Now clean out your fridge and freezer using the same process. When you are done with your purge, gather some healthy recipe and snack ideas and make a list of what you need. Grab your cloth grocery bags and head out with your list. Try and stick to what you need and not fall victim to impulse buying. Planning out your menu will serve you well, it saves time and let’s you be prepared in those moments when you want to slip back into old habits.

You have three considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Addressing three meals per day, everyday.
  2. Plan for your need to snack
  3. Consider your nutrient and mineral deficiencies

If your intention is to get healthy and happy, you need to begin to live from a place of intention and not a place of habit. Addressing your eating habits and being open to making positive, lasting change can very well be your first step on a path toward enjoying more happiness. It certainly was for me.

Gratitude to MaxStraeten for the lovely photo above from morgue file.com

Connecting with Butterflies

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Interpreting animal symbolism is a powerful way to connect with nature, and learn lessons from her creatures. Cultural lore honors the butterfly as a symbol of transformation because of its impressive process of metamorphosis. Imagine your whole life changing to such an extreme you are unrecognizable at the end of the transformation. Herein lies the deepest symbolic lesson of the butterfly as well as the benefits of yoga.

Learning and living yoga means surrendering to both your body’s potential and limitations at the same time. The butterfly asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does, and in the right time. A butterfly represents a need for change and greater freedom, and at the same time it represents the courage to carry out the changes necessary in the process of growth. The butterfly is a symbol of new life, letting go of old cycles and finding your true inner expression, much like yoga.

The journey from chrysalis to butterfly is a meaningful passage. The ultimate goal of doing yoga is to have a relaxed mind. With a relaxed mind we can begin to enjoy a relaxed body and a heathy balanced life. Often yoga practitioners use inspiration from our friends in nature to share the benefits of yoga with children and their families, but the idea works just as well for adults feeling ready for transformation. We can adapt the symbolism of a butterfly, and other creatures of nature, to understand these changes within ourselves. There is much to be learned when we slow down and look to nature for inspiration. To begin this metamorphosis through yoga as a child is a gift, to begin the journey as an adult is a gift you give yourself.

Little Sufferings

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Being healthy can be stressful.

Making an effort to get rid of the stress in my life is really stressing me out.

There are days I think making all these changes to become my best self may be the actual thing making it all harder. It’s easy to sink back into old habits that were keeping me stagnant.

But then I take a breath and reflect on how much good all these changes have brought to me, and how much better the future looks because of all these shifts. The little sufferings along the way teach me valuable lessons and help me grow. And that’s all they are, little.

I believe my future is as bright as my attitude about today. I’m grateful for the past and I’m ready for the future.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it”. -Peter F Drucker

Gratitude to Dedulo Photos on morguefile.com for the beautiful photo above

The Art of Happiness

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A common lesson that keeps showing up for me on my journey is the idea of attachment vs. letting go. I believe Happiness is an art form and to enjoy it you must learn to cultivate your talent like an artist. Without this understanding people rest in a state of disconnection from true joy. When you plug into and internalize this idea you have learned what I believe is The Art of Happiness.

To learn any craft takes a healthy dose of discipline, the discipline to understand your own methods and patience to establish the most effective way for you to enjoy your art form. One thing that has not changed for me, not even for a minute, is my desire to change, evolve and succeed. I needed to learn The Art of Happiness to move forward. It is that urgency, commitment and discipline that have helped me internalize the lessons of attachment, one of the more challenging assignments for me personally.

Most of the suffering that I was experiencing, and that I see around me, is from people trying to control and shape every inch of their lives. There is never a moment to just accept and enjoy the moment as it is. Letting go is about understanding how the story you create and cling to is what is causing your pain, your fear, your stress. Clinging to something does not mean you keep it. It means your hands are occupied when what you really need is right in front of you. Learning to acknowledge attachment means you can begin to let go of what is not serving you.

A good way to absorb this lesson is by taking a look at the difference between attachment and love. Attachment is based in fear and dependency and focused on the self. Love without attachment is about giving to others and not asking anything in return. How much of your life is based in attachment and how much is based in love?

A wonderful example of this distinction is young love. Falling in love when you are young can be a stubborn, whimsical attachment to all you have learned love is supposed to be. Whether you have found your soul mate or are simply attached to an idea is hard to understand. Later, when you learn how love changes through time in every relationship around you, your tendency to attach and let go may change as well. With wisdom we can learn how to manage love, patience, cravings, desire, sadness, aversion, fear and all those human emotions that make us vulnerable. When you become brave enough to sit with your vulnerability and just experience life happening around you without attaching to it, you have truly let go. 

Feeling happiness is an art form, it takes time and desire to cultivate the skills needed to manage a happy life. Feeling true happiness means learning the difference between love and indulgence, appreciation and extravagance. When you let go of overindulgence and embrace gratitude for what is, you let go of suffering. One of the hardest things to do is let go of something you really want, but that’s the only way to truly hold on to it.

“Stress is an alarm clock that let’s you know you’re attached to something that’s not true for you. A thought is harmless until we believe it. It’s not our thoughts but our attachment to our thoughts that causes suffering.” -Byron Katie

“Sometimes we are so attached to our way of life that we turn down a wonderful opportunity simply because we don’t know what to do with it.” -Paulo Coelho

“You only lose what you cling to” -Buddha

photo courtesy of kakisky on morguefile.com

Great Expectations

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Sometimes I see other people having nice, sweet relationships and I think that’s what I should have too. But you can’t always get what you want. Truth be told, several of my most cherished relationships have been tested lately. It has taken a lot of energy to process how I feel about all this. I feel shocked. I’ve experienced some disappointment. But, I also feel empowered. When the supports that you count on, or thought you could depend on, start to fall away one by one, you begin to realize that you can exist despite it all. No matter what my relationships were supposed to afford me (purely by society’s definition of their role) they never cease to surprise me.

People will basically tell you just about anything to serve their own needs if it means enough to them. What I don’t understand is how people can treat the ones closest to them with blatant disregard. I believe every person, no matter who they are, will ultimately do things solely to serve themselves. As I carry on further down this path, I hope to keep becoming the kind of person who can see beyond that type of self serving behavior and honor myself, as well as those who mean the most to me, by making a valiant effort to think of others as well as myself. If I want to be treated with loving kindness then that is what I need to be giving others. Sometimes when others are not showing you kindness is when they need to be receiving it most. I need to consider other’s feelings as much as my own, even if others are not doing the same. I am willing to love the bad as well as the good from those I care about. I am willing to consider how my actions and words will affect the ones I love, but not everyone is strong enough to do that.

I feel like expectations have been the worst things I could have. “Expectation is the root of all heartache” – William Shakespeare  As I reflect on my experiences over the last few months, it is my own expectations that have let me down, not the people around me. In the end, it is me who has complete control over how I feel and ultimately how I let things affect me. It will serve me best to simply love what is, not fight against it. I can’t make someone feel differently about me and I can’t force anyone to feel obligated to show me kindness.

And so, I continue down this road, learning more and more about myself, my relationships and ultimately what I want and don’t want for myself. I am in complete control of my own happiness.

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time”  -Maya Angelou  

photo courtesy of hotblack on morgue file.com

Running The Good Race

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Two men stand next to each other at the starting line of a race.

One has been rigidly training everyday at dawn following a set plan of action to achieve a certain time for this race. Each practice run was meticulously timed and outlined. That final number is set in his head, anything less is unacceptable. He jumps up and down anxiously warming up, checking his watch to make sure his technology is ready to track his progress. This is it, he has to do this in a certain amount of time. That finish line is everything to him right now.

The other man stands with his hands on his hips looking up at the beautiful blue sky and takes a deep breath thinking about how nice this run will be on this bright sunny day. Feeling proud of the training he has done in preparation for this race, he thinks about all those other nice, long runs he took on other days similar to this. What a pleasure it has been to set this goal and get outside and run. He’s feeling good about getting back in shape and spending his time doing something positive for himself. The finish line will appear when he is ready.

The race begins. The first man explodes down the path in anticipation. The second man begins to run and smiles at how good it feels to get moving. The race continues on and on while both men have two very different experiences. The first man didn’t notice the beautiful scenery and the quiet calm of listening to your feet create a soothing rhythm as you run. The second man noticed this and more.

The first man crossed the finish line in a hurried frenzy breaking his own record and pumping his fist in the air with pride. His goal was reached and exceeded and this high will last him a while. He gathers his data and heads home.

The second man forgets to notice the clock as he glides past the finish line feeling grateful for the time spent running that day. He takes a few moments to enjoy his accomplishments and shake a few hands of other proud runners around him also basking in the glory of seeing through their intention.

Both men enjoyed the benefits of setting a goal, carrying out a plan and feeling the accomplishment of a job well done and both finished in the same amount of time. But even though they ran the exact same race, they each ran down very different paths. Neither path is right or wrong. Neither path should be judged. But which way would you rather run through life?

Life takes planning, preparation, commitment and discipline. Life is a marathon. You can choose to run that marathon any way you want.

It’s all about perspective.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” -Wayne Dyer

The Empowering Journey From Never Enough To Perfectly Imperfect

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At so many times during my first 40 years I’ve wasted energy feeling like no matter what I was doing, it was just never enough. We are all human, we crave connection and validation so we often fall into traps of guilt or obligation to satisfy what others need from us. At your core, no matter how much confidence, ability and talent you possess, you have the desire to be loved and feel safe and accepted and will often go against instinct to achieve it. Maybe that’s human nature. But, action should come from a place of love, not a place of obligation. We are all born with potential that we may not recognize initially. It’s time for me to turn off this tap that spews energy in the wrong direction. It’s time to stop pouring myself into the expectations of others and begin to cultivate that energy and direct it inward to myself.

Why do we struggle? We look around to see how others are perceiving us and what they are demanding from us, when at the end of it all, it was only us who created our own story. The minute you stop paddling so vigorously against the current and let go, it will all flow. “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are” – Chinese Proverb

The only constant, the only thing we all have every moment of our lives is breath. Breathing in and out is a universal constant if you want to sustain life. Another universal constant is change. One day, the breathing will stop and your story will be over.  Before you get there, change will happen over and over and you will be there to see it all. You are not now the same person you were when you woke up this morning nor will you be this person when you wake up tomorrow. That is life. That is living. Why would you waste a single breath, in or out, taking in or giving away energy that doesn’t align with your true life intention? Do what creates what you believe to be the greatest version of yourself, not what others think will bring you to such ends. Breathe every breath.

Are you becoming who you are meant to be? Or are you letting yourself become what other people need you to be? Can you let go of the negative path to perfection, and start to accept and relish the perfectly imperfect life that is yours to enjoy? “If this is what you are doing with the negative, imagine what you could do with the positive” – Maya Angelou

When you embrace the idea that you will never be perfect, and accept that you will be the perfect version of you, life will begin to flow. Pour your energy into yourself and who you want to become. “Strive for progress, not perfection” – Unknown  And, when you have learned all that you can and grown as much as possible from someone or somewhere, it’s time to move on to your life’s next master class. There is so much left to learn, so many mistakes to learn from.

“I want to be all used up when I die” – George Bernard Shaw

Be who you are.

I am again grateful for my friend Shannon and her pretty toes showing us how to truly let it flow

YES

I have another new word to embrace this year. YES! I would like to say YES to more coveted benevolence this year and hold a more positive vibe longer and stronger than I have in the past. Maintaining an upswing of positive intention should be just as easy as resting on a low hum in the more challenging times. In the past, I have resonated in a more negative space, but this promising path I am on is leading me toward more positive things and that takes enduring, steady effort to maintain. I aim to make the effort feel lighter and let the goodness flow around me and through me. Perseverance is well worth the reward and I plan to keep it going.

The word yes has yielded other goodness in the past. The story of John Lennon and Yoko Ono all began with the word yes. Their story is about a young artist named Yoko who had one John Lennon visit her art exhibit in New York City. The exhibit asked observers to climb a ladder and read a word mounted on the ceiling. Only when you ascended the ladder could you make out the word. I imagine John climbing that ladder, seeing the word YES and becoming inspired by this being the peace-loving creature that he was. He met the artist of the installation and the rest is history.

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A simple climb representing so much. The trip down the ladder must have been very different than the trip up because you climbed back down with a stunning affirmation in your head. Such a meaningful and inspired work, I can understand why it intrigued John all those years ago.

And the word yes set off a love affair for the ages. Misunderstood by many but cherished by many as well, they were a creative force that significantly impacted our culture. I wonder if they would have had the same result if the word had been negative. Most likely not.

John was an artist himself. He had a beautiful childish whimsy feel to his work. I love his art and hope to one day own a piece of it, but for now I will adore pieces like this from afar….

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Love is an astounding phenomenon that intrigues and inspires us all in so many ways. It’s beautiful to think of a love affair beginning on such a positive stride. I want to emulate that beauty and positivity in my own life and find that kind of love within myself.

“We need to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” – John Lennon

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I always have been and always will be inspired by these two creative, fascinating lovers. I hope to create that kind of tenderness within my own being. I believe they had such a fondness for each other because they had a deep devotion to themselves individually. Enchanting rapture may only exist in fairy tales, but I believe I can create a marveling wonderment within myself if I stay positive and continue to appreciate a loving and steady resolve that I know I am capable of manifesting.

above photos via bing.com

New year, New word

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ABUNDANCE!! I proclaim 2015 to be the year of abundance. Abundant energy, love, strength, power, change, and belief! I love a fresh start, it gives you the opportunity to do better, and we can always do better. Each day gives us the chance to begin again, but a new day at the start of a new year gives us the opportunity to completely refresh our agendas and recommit on a new level.

Who’s with me? Let’s create and attract epic abundance! What can you do to begin this new year on an optimistic upswing with a sustainable rising surge of goodness? What are the real, reachable goals you can set for yourself? Name it, make a plan and go for it. Don’t just hope for good change and cross your fingers, map out a strategy to get there, and then get moving!

I have recently committed to getting my certification to be a yoga instructor. Mid-January I will begin an intense 5 month course and by June I will be certified to teach others how to incorporate a practice of yoga into their life. To me, yoga is a progressive and peaceful way to focus on a combined healthy mind and heathy body. As my body begins to change and reform through a committed and dedicated yoga practice, I envision my mind and spirit growing stronger as well.

This commitment for me marks the beginning of more changes in an effort to continue on this path of momentum, strength and growth. I live courageously for myself. I have defined reasons why. Momentum demands action and brings progress. I have goals and I have a plan to achieve those goals, but I also have a mind open to what these new actions will bring. I move forward feeling brave and ready. I crave radical achievement and I am worthy of the goodness I feel it will bring into my life.

I intend on bringing in abundance. I imagine myself bringing in great bounty and satisfaction. I envision copious amounts of progressive triumph.

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it”. – Amelia Earhart

“What if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” EH

Project the path you are on right now in front of you and imagine where it is leading. If that path is not in alignment with what you want and need then what do you need to do to make change? Shift your focus from trying to find yourself to actively creating yourself. Create abundance, actualize progress, manifest joy.

Happy abundant new year to you all!

above photo courtesy of ManicMorFF on morgue file.com

The Burden of Thriving in Troubled Times

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Life is amazingly persistent at teaching us salient lessons along the way. We may not always clearly recognize them, but, if you slow down, be still and let go during times that have something to teach you, there is much to be learned.

“The problem is you think you have time” -Buddha

Sometimes it takes a tragic major life event to shake things up and break the routine just enough to help us rethink our world. What seems like tragedy may actually be an opportunity. Growing and making the best in the aftermath of a terrible loss will not change what has already happened. Using a dark time as a springboard into better times will pay homage and honor those who have been hurt or lost. When faced with any type of personal tragedy you always have a choice.

Often the most essential lessons about ourselves are presented in the most somber times. These are times when we stop and reevaluate our lives, our purpose and our plan. We feel heavy and burdened, not ready to take on any of life’s obligations. And just like learning, we all grieve in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to experience a loss just as their is no right or wrong way to learn a lesson. Life has a way of being gently abrasive. Life will find a way, but we all have the choice to absorb it independently, in our own way. The point is always to just internalize it in the end. Whatever you think the lesson is, it is. Being able to see the opportunity for growth means you are on the right track.

Troubling or challenging times is the perfect juncture to question dogma. Be brave and grow in the face of hardship. Experience profound movement in times of struggle. No need to be a hero, just be one for yourself, quietly, in your private moments.

Challenge Yourself

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I challenge you to ask yourself some tough questions. 

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” -Fred DeVito

Sit with yourself and have a conversation. Take your life’s temperature, see what you find. As we approach the new year, consider how you want this one to be different. Just changing a few small things can make a big impact. If you really want things to be different then make it happen. Here’s a few ideas to get you started, but you may want to add a few of your own.

What do you think about more… your wealth or your health?

Health, cared for and adored, can lead to wealth, but abundant wealth on it’s own seldom leads to health. Which do you spend more time thinking about? Which occupies more space in your thoughts? Which do you feel is more important? Are you happy with your answer?

Can you find more time to enjoy healthy activities in the great outdoors? 

Fresh air and movement. That’s what you need. The stale air of the gym and riding a bike that never gets anywhere is not my ideal way to get in my exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been known to take a spin class, but I much prefer to get outside and go for a walk or ride my street bike. Spending time outdoors can be refreshing, meditative and rejuvenating. How can you devote more time to getting yourself out there? Just decide you want to and you will.

Are you constantly trying to morph into something or someone else or are you taking the time to enjoy the body and mind that you have right now?

If you are reading this that tells me a few things. You are alive. You know how to read. You have access to a computer and the internet. You have free time and you use it wisely.  :)

Does it really matter whether or not your measurements match up to societies definition of beauty? Isn’t it more important to be healthy? I challenge you to let go of your finish line and enjoy more present moments. Live happily and satisfied in the body you own right now. That body needs to be healthy, but it doesn’t need to look a certain way or weigh a certain amount to make you happy. Focus on your health, and happiness will find you.

You may not know exactly where you’re going, just keep going…  Life never stops or slows down, but you can. We work so hard to create space where we feel comfortable, now find a way to enjoy it. Forward movement is good, just don’t forget to take a breath, look around and enjoy the view. Challenge yourself to make a few changes today so you can enjoy more of tomorrow. The moment you stop accepting challenges is the moment you stop moving forward.

The Strength to be Happy and The Wisdom to Use Your Ruby Slippers.

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This is the part of your story when you slow down and get real. This is when you choose how you spend your energy. This is your opportunity to live on the other side of suffering.

Under the same force, two people may respond contradictory. Are you a good witch or a bad witch? We have a choice to make each time we come up against struggle and strife. And, we have a new opportunity to respond in each new moment. When you start to tally up favorable, positive moments and feel them happening in succession, gather the strength to keep that momentum going. At the same time, remember your strength and use it if you revert back to old responses. Be forgiving of yourself and show loving kindness to your heart, but demand the strength you know you possess or no one else will. Because if you’re not feeling strong when you move around in the world then it’s time to get strong and stay that way. It’s time to stop making excuses and it’s time to be in control. Are you a hero or a victim? Are you a heavy or a light? Are you strong or….

It’s time to assess and conquer…. inside. I’m not talking about a strong body, I’m talking about a strong spirit and a clever soul.  “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” -Carl Jung  Being awake can take great strength, so wake up and smell the crossroad. Put on your big girl (or boy) pants and handle it.

These are not inner battles we post on social media or overthink and discuss at length with our close friends. Stop getting sucked into the abyss of competition and curiosity. Be on your own journey. Close your eyes, breathe and be still. If you went inside and checked your inner self highlight reel or your soul expressions with the frequency that you check your Facebook account and your Twitter updates then you may be able to pry off the compulsion to struggle through your every moment. It’s ok to take a moment, it’s natural to relax and rejuvenate. It’s healthy to unwind and feel pleasure and it’s even ok if no one else is doing the same or knows about it. Just do it. Let go of self-judgement, conquer the monster of comparison and stand capable in your own stability. “Comparison is the thief of joy”- Theodore Roosevelt

These inner battles are the struggles that we must process over time… silently, with great resolve and commitment. Cultivate discipline, access fortitude. Gather strength and enjoy solid valor. You have it, you just have to decide to access it. Like Dorothy and her ruby slippers or the lion and his courage…. “You’ve always had the power, my dear, but you had to learn it for yourself” -The Good Witch. Just decide you are strong and you are strong.

I believe being happy takes great strength. I know that finding happiness will continue to take courage. I think that being happy and satisfied is nothing to hide or be ashamed of.  There is no worthy prize for proving you are the one who suffers the most or has the hardest life. Complaining and bellyaching, sour moods and melancholy are the tools of the powerless. We should never forget or cease to respect how fragile we all are, but no one in the world is going to be as concerned about your moment-to-moment indulgent negative whimsy as you are yourself. And honestly, it’s usually the strongest spirits who experience the most suffering that seem to show the bravest and most unbroken fortitude. They are my heroes and the only ones I will look to for guidance.

If you want to be in my thoughts then make them better, not worse.

Simply Grateful

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Be grateful.

Sometimes less is more, so just keep it simple today.

There is always something to be grateful for.

Enough is a feast. – Buddhist Proverb

Today I am grateful.

photo courtesy of a2jc4life on morguefile.com

Open Eyes See More

Once your eyes are opened and you learn to fully understand when your heart speaks to you, there is no more ignoring that delicate, distinct heart-mind connection. You can’t unlearn and you can’t unfeel. Inside your being there is a whole new conversation going on. This is a capability we can achieve by being human, by being evolved and wise. The ones close to you who recognize that type of subtle shift in your personal evolution and encourage you to explore it are the ones with whom you know true loving kindness. When you stumble upon others who have discovered this inner bond as well, be grateful, join hands and move forward with them. This is an instinct that is inside us all but is only enjoyed by some.

In your mind, you sort through thoughts and observations. Our mind allows us to gather knowledge, gain intellect and review evidence. Inside our head we can observe reality with objectivity and then our hearts help draw conclusions. Our brains examine, observe, and inspect material to be processed by the heart. This process can be fluid and gentle or it can be burdensome and problematic. The choice is ultimately yours. The bridge between the heart and mind is both tender and profound.

The Kabbalah says that the mind is cool like water and the heart is hot like fire. The mind is a calm investigator and the heart is a passionate, living soul.  This yin and yang within each of us creates a constant struggle to find the balance necessary to be at peace. Each of us has a masculine (mind) and feminine (heart) side to negotiate life’s experiences. When you discover the bridge between these two parts of yourself, it is much like finding your soulmate. These two sides can come together and compliment one another in harmony if this bridge is constructed with love and understanding within yourself. And finding your soulmate is one of life’s miracles. If you believe there can be a coming together within your self that is equal to experiencing the love that lives in fairy tales, then there is hope for you to truly fall in love with yourself and enjoy peace. When you understand that a balanced connection between your heart and mind is essential to becoming your best, most peaceful self, then your soul is ready to flourish. Just as a truly loving relationship can bring you comfort, a sincere heart-mind connection can lead to inner peace.

The process of learning to negotiate matters between your heart and mind can be demanding. The journey to grow and discover yourself can be unpredictable. But, I will never look back and I will always be grateful for having the strength to begin a journey to find more happiness. I didn’t know I needed to take the journey until I was on it.

“Wake Me Up”

By Avicii

 

Feeling my way through the darkness

Guided by a beating heart

I can’t tell where the journey will end

But I know where to start

They tell me I’m too young to understand

They say I’m caught up in a dream

Well life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes

Well that’s fine by me

So wake me up when it’s all over

When I’m wiser and I’m older

All this time I was finding myself

And I didn’t know I was lost

I tried carrying the weight of the world

But I only have two hands

Hope I get a chance to travel the world

But I don’t have any plans

Wish that I could stay forever this young

Not afraid to close my eyes

Life’s a game made for everyone

And love is the prize

Just because the lesson is clear, and even important, doesn’t mean everyone in the class will succeed. But, the lesson remains accessible to anyone who chooses to pay attention. The journey itself is up to you.

The Gift

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Six years ago today my life changed for the better. My identity was redefined and I became a new kind of person. Six years ago today my oldest daughter was born and never before had I felt the kind of love that I now enjoy everyday of my life. Grateful doesn’t even begin to explain how I feel about being a Mom.

So we celebrated! My girls and I got all dolled up and headed down to The American Girl store to have a day of sweetness and suspended disbelief. They each brought their treasured doll along (all four of them in matching outfits) and we treated them to a day of beauty, shopping and fancy dining. Oh yeah, we totally did. We made hair appointments for the dolls, bought matching pajamas for my girls and their dolls and had dinner in the cafe where they have highchairs and table settings for the dolls. It was ridiculously indulgent and my girls were so happy it looked like their cheeks may have been sore from smiling so much. That store is genius. The level of cuteness and happiness was off the charts and that’s a Mom-win.

While I was there, I began to notice the messages that were not-so-subtly being shared. I looked around at the displays of historical dolls positioned in installations of inspiration and noticed how empowering this experience can be for little girls. Written all over the walls were words of wisdom and historical significance such as….

‘Today I’ll use my heart to heal others’

‘Hope keeps my chin up. Family keeps my heart strong.’

‘Good friends are worth more than anything money can buy.’

‘Women fight for the right to vote’

‘Celebrating girls of yesterday and tomorrow’

Between these lovely messages,the dolls arranged in scenes of positive connotation, and the priceless hours of imaginative play that I knew would be born from this experience, I felt like I was in Mom heaven!

And as we left the store, I rode down the escalator with a daughter on each side of me and passed a huge message on the wall that read:

Shine.

Imagine.

Explore.

You can do anything!

When I read it aloud to my girls, I felt like this day had been as much of a gift to me as it was to my daughter for her birthday. I’m grateful that I can give my dolls a day of fun and insight that establishes a hopeful outlook and continued playful fantasy well after we bring our treasures home. What a wonderful gift.

Happy birthday Sweetheart, you make my life better.

Living Your Bliss

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How do we stand out as an individual when we are truly a member of a collective? The ones who stand out from the crowd have a mad, insatiable passion to define themselves and live their bliss.  These creative beings see potential and magic in the ordinary.  They defy entropy and live as though they will enjoy the bliss they manifest with no limits.

Turn down the volume of the world.  Just reach in and turn it down.  Let go and hear your true inner voice.  You will feel the magic, discover your desires and enjoy the bliss.

Those of us who feel an unconditional, radical connection to our children may catch a glimpse of that innocent, authentic patience with life that they are lucky enough to enjoy at that stage and maybe we can find that permission to be so gentle, even carefree, with ourselves.  When you surrender to a childlike state, time loses meaning and the stressors of this created life disappear.  Who are you in that moment?  Is this the quintessential ‘you’ that feels in alignment with your bliss.  As we grow we may put up walls, learn self-defeating behavior and trade our playtime for responsibility and obligation.  Is this what we want to happen to our children?  There has to be a better way.

Now imagine how you would feel if others in your life could hear your inner thoughts about your bliss.  Bringing your guarded, private blissful desires into alignment with what you show the world makes an authentic connection between your dreams and your reality. But, what holds us back from truly making this our reality?

What if we could feel certain and confident about standing out from the crowd and living our life of bliss? What would be different if you could exist unencumbered by limits and regulations.

What does your bliss really look like?

photo courtesy of Oleander on morgue file.com

The Human Animal

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We are animals, but we are also human. This divergence in our collective identity is something I think about often.  “Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” – Erich Fromm

We seem to be disengaging as a whole from our essential connection with nature even though we come from nature and it is all around us. Humans have drawn some sort of line between themselves and their roots. Our children are spending less time in nature and more time where they can plug in. This disconnection with our natural ties concerns me. Within the world of psychology exists an entire field of study called Ecopsychology which explores the synergistic relationship between how we as humans relate to nature and how that relationship, or our lack of meaningful emotional ties to nature, has a direct effect on how we exist on our planet. There is scientific evidence proving that your level of happiness can be directly affected by the level of your nature relatedness.

When you reconnect and establish a meaningful bond with what you are meant to feel connected to, it may feel as fluid and undeniable as a key in the right lock. Realizing that your body, mind and spirit are all connected to nature could potentially catapult you toward a more calm, peaceful existence. Nurturing that connection can lead to more happiness. So what are we gaining from this disconnect and how can we work toward getting back to basics? There is so much to gain by getting back in touch with nature.

Since the beginning, people have used figures of nature to teach lessons and explain our surroundings. Humans apply unnecessary characteristics to natural things to help us explain the unfamiliar and assimilate our developed distortion. Within these myths and legends, a fox is sly and an owl is wise even though those creatures are unaffected and uninterested in the process and reasons behind the anthropomorphism. An owl is not interested in being the most wise of it’s parliament. We put upon that owl the trait of being enlightened. Instead of just admiring an owl for the beautiful creature that it is, we have to assign meaning to it and figure out it’s usefulness. Relax, it’s just an owl and owls are beautiful, that’s enough. Now more than ever I feel a need to release all this chatter and superfluous meaning and just find my own connection with nature and remember how simple it all really can be.

There is so much wisdom in nature and all too often we either ignore it because we are desensitized to our surroundings, too caught up in the insignificant details of an over stretched life or just disconnected to what we have a natural affinity to admire. “This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety, it becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace.” -Dalai Lama

We need to get back to nature. We need to remind ourselves of what is right outside our  front, back and side doors. Our access to more peace and nature is so close that I feel sad when people fail to acknowledge it. My favorite type of window is an open one.

A ‘breath of fresh air’, ‘stopping to smell the roses’, and ‘taking the path less traveled’ are right beside us yet we seem to find endless excuses to build a literal and figurative wall between ourselves and these marvelous gifts. Why do we do that? Why is it not a priority as important as drinking water to get out and connect with nature? What human ‘parts’ of us force us to disconnect? Brick walls such as fear, self-doubt, and anxiety keep us from experiencing this life the way it is meant to be enjoyed… with unbridled, all-consuming passion and emotion, but also with simplicity, ease and a sense of natural instinct.

A bird sitting on a tree is not afraid of the branch breaking, it instinctively knows that if that branch happens to break it has wings, yet the bird doesn’t ruminate over this fear as it sits. It is able to just be. Lucky bird.

Get In The Swing

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Sometimes I get to a point where I feel like I need a push. Like sitting on a swing waiting for someone to come from behind and give me a big underdog push so I can start enjoying the park more. The little girl in me sneaks out and pouts.

But then…. But then I remember…. I don’t need anyone to push me, I don’t even want to need someone to push me. So, instead I need to shift my focus to the swing, the beautiful day, the warm air rushing past me backwards and forwards, the feeling of pure freedom as I float back and forth and back and forth. If you haven’t been on a swing in a while, go find one and get on it.

I have the power and awareness to create my reality no matter what is happening around me. Dependence is a dangerous crutch. Don’t wait for someone else to push you when you can propel yourself just fine. Being dependent on something or someone will never serve your highest good. You are capable, you are strong.

The lessons keep coming in their own time, one after another. I welcome each one and keep moving forward by my own momentum, no push necessary. I’m moving right along all on my own.

But, that’s not to say you shouldn’t draw inspiration from the ones who touch you along the way. Let the love and kind words of others wash over you while you sit on that swing and feel your own legs begin to launch you. Pretty soon you’ll be swinging all on your own and feel the pride of being independently strong. Feel the gratitude run through you and the pride of creating your own momentum from your own or another’s inspiration.

I’ve manifested all the things in my life that don’t serve me and I have the power to change all of them.

 

photo courtesy of LCosgrove from morguefile.com

Life Should Be Wonderful

Believe Rock

Life should be wonderful. That’s what I want to say.

Because people have such an amazing capacity for happiness and because it feels so much better in my body than pain, I believe we are meant to experience and dwell in happiness. Happiness feels better than sadness. Happiness is healthier than sadness.

We come in and go out of this world alone, but in between…. In between we get to make choices and design a life. Some get it right on the first try and others have to shape and mold and learn and grow to build a life that they can love.

This is your universe. It created you, now you create it. You are not a visitor here, you are from this earth… body, mind and spirit. If you work with it, and within it’s laws, you can manifest the life and the feelings that you crave. Visualize your universe shifting and molding into what you want.

Manifestation is a strong and capable beast. If you are living a life that doesn’t suit you, the first thing you need to change is your mind. Release the details of how that change will become your new reality and just believe in your real, genuine heart that you can change your situation. Your mind takes the first steps and your body follows. Throw yourself down a path toward happiness, your feet will catch up.

Energy goes where the attention flows.

You can’t change the world, but you can find joy and be at peace with the world you have created for yourself. If you don’t feel at peace in the place you’ve created then it’s your soul’s obligation to visualize and bring in the change needed to become at peace with your life’s path. It’s that simple. Start seeing the happiness that you want as your quest.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, either way you are right” -Henry Ford

Feel in your body where you experience stress, pain and sadness. Now clear that slate and recognize where you feel joy, hope and love. Note your results and move forward toward the one that makes you feel more empowered and happy. Feel your body, relax your mind and guide your thoughts toward the things that make you smile. Doing that will change your life for the better, so keep doing it.

I could say that I have a dream to be happy, because I do, but more than that I have a plan.

Here’s my plan:

  1. Keep remembering that life is wonderful and I deserve to be happy.
  2. Visualize a blissful situation where I am happy that I would like to manifest.
  3. Do those again. And again. And again.

And in between I will keep living, keep loving and keep finding ways to bring in more happiness, because life should be wonderful.

photo above courtesy of Scarletina on morgue file.com

Practicing Motherhood

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When I wake up in the morning, I think about the ones in my life that make my heart smile and that thought catapults me contentedly into my day. I look forward to discovering what I can do to make them happy that day and wonder what they will do to make me smile. The opportunity to feel good motivates me. I like being happy, and I like knowing that I will most likely have some lovely peaceful moments coming my way.

I enjoy making breakfast for my girls and getting us all ready for the day ahead. I pack lunches, organize backpacks and put on little shoes. We say goodbye to our dog and hurry out the door. We listen to music and sing in the car after we discuss the day’s schedule. I do all of these things for my girls, but I also do them for myself.

I consider being a work-at-home mom a gift.  It’s a gift for me and it’s a gift for my family. I enjoy being the one who is available to drive kids here and pick them up there. I arrange doctor appointments, activities, holidays and chaperone school outings. I can bring a forgotten special show-and-tell item to school at a moment’s notice and I can be the first mom standing outside the door when the school bell rings. I can take a little girl out for a special lunch for no special reason on any given day of the week and I can grocery shop at off peak hours to make the trip a little easier. I am the depositor of checks in the bank and the filler of prescriptions. I am the 24-hour sick care nurse, the wiper of tears and the Director of The Complaint Department.

How did I get this lucky?

My personal life and my professional life both revolve a lot around making sure people’s needs are met. Having no set work schedule and no office to go to means that I can also cater to my own needs as well. I enjoy being the one who can help out and I’m grateful that I have the time and freedom to do it.

As you revolve around your loved ones, what is your mindset? I could have named all of these activities I do all day long as chores that bring me aggravation and stress, and there are some days that it all does seem like a bit too much.  But, even though my days are filled with surprises and life can be messy and unpredictable, I feel a general gratefulness to be doing what I’m doing with my life. There are far more moments of joy than moments of anguish and there are so many reasons to be grateful for this life that I lead.

The best part about my role is that I’m getting better at it as I go. Mothering is a practice. You could say it is the original and most important job in the world.  The fascinating part of mothering is that we all do it differently and still do it well. My wish is that more mothers would shift their perspective and take pride in their mothering role and feel less guilt about “staying home” because that is so far from what we do. There is so much joy to be found in practicing Motherhood and I will continue to find ways to bring smiles to the faces that I love so much, it’s just part of my job.

Breaking News

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I never watch the news. The news is sad and scary and someone else’s inflated, alarming opinion of what is happening in the world. Since I was a kid I had wished for a HAPPY news report instead of the horrible, depressing broadcast that my father watched every night at 10pm, but unfortunately there was no such show airing. Why did everyone want to know every detail of the heartache and tragedy happening around us?  Why do we like to work each other into a frenzy of “poor them” and “what-if”? I care about what is happening in my community and I am concerned with the state of the nation, but I don’t like being bombarded with daily doses of overblown breakdowns of the worst misfortune media could hunt down before their deadline. I also can’t stand scary movies or anything that has Zombies. I’ve spent more than a few nights awake and terrified with horrible Hollywood images in my head and it doesn’t serve me.

I know there is pain and sickness all around me, and I know danger lurks everywhere and I need to be careful and warned.  I just enjoy thinking about goodness and beauty more. I enjoy hearing stories about other people’s success and triumph!  Even small victories and menial tenderness holds my attention better than bad fortune and struggle. I want to feel brave and free, not scared and confined.

Before I made my happy promise, I was an avid watcher of murder mysteries and cop shows. I loved a good whodunnit and would study the facts and try to solve the mystery. They fascinated me. At the same time, I was experiencing horrible nightmares and bouts of fear. I realized these shows, although mostly fictional, were having a deeper impact than I knew. This terror and uneasiness consumed my thoughts and the cycle had to end. I created scenarios in my head, every situation had a foreboding tone and a bad possible ending. But, when I took a step back and manifested my goal to be happy and feel more at peace, I started to feel change happening. One of those changes included watching far less television. I needed to get other people’s thoughts and images out of my head and start designing my own. I needed to give others less control over my mind space.

When I started filing my time with rethinking my situation, writing my blog, and collecting research from reliable, intelligent sources, I started to feel less fearful. I started to feel more empowered and my momentum fired up and propelled me forward. I felt brave! I noticed my dreams were getting better and my anxious moments were disappearing. I stopped letting others fill my head with scary images and nonsense. I became far more interested in things based in reality and my new perception of what mattered.

Looking back over the last few years since I’ve experienced major shifts in my mind, body and spirit, I feel proud, peaceful and strong. Change takes time and conquering any blockage is demanding. The people around you that truly want to see you happy will step aside and let you hunt down and conquer that happiness by whatever means necessary. Chase your bliss and be suspicious of anyone who tries to keep you from it. If you feel like shifting some basic habits can have major positive ripple effects in all areas of your life, then trust that instinct no matter what others think or say. Believe me, I used to have to justify not watching the news or scary television or movies, but now I just don’t even engage in conversation about it. I changed a simple behavior, enjoy feeling the benefits and refuse to apologize for that. I still manage to know what is happening in the world. I am aware of issues that exist in our society and I manage to form my own thoughts about how they make me feel. I no longer watch the news or any late night cop shows (or zombie movies) and I’m managing just fine.

Habits can be shifted and the results can be sweet.

photo courtesy of pablogv2004 on morgue file.com

The Unlearning

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Life often feels like a series of repeating patterns that move us along on a conveyor belt. We keep duplicating these echoes until the act is so familiar that it becomes mindless. Our days may feel as though they are made up of a series of many menial, mindless, apathetic actions. The repetition is not the cause for my concern, it’s the mindlessness that worries me. We are proficient learners of things that we believe serve us, and we create intentional roadblocks in front of the things we fear. We settle into habit and become the hamster on the wheel either oblivious of the stagnation or frozen in fear of the unknown.  What if the unknown is better? What if the unknown is amazing…

Is this cycle of repetition ok with you? Are you doing what you love? Are you loving what you do? This includes the way you begin and end your day, the way you interact with people, and even the basic structure of your life. Have you taken a step back from this routine to consider whether it’s learned, reproduced behavior being repeated out of ingrained habit, or is it how you truly want to move through your day?  Could you unlearn this structure and pattern to create more happiness and peace?

Even more important is the perspective you hold on these repetitive actions.  Attitude can turn resentment into gratitude. Point of view can change your perception. Unlearning an automatic response can open possibilities of finding joy in something that has felt like a long time chore.

When I made my happy promise, I began to see the small stuff as integral instead of menial, mindless tasks. When I went from feeling heavy obligation to finding bits of joy throughout my day, I found far more than a happy thought, I found more peaceful moments. I began the process of my unlearning.

There are still plenty of ways that I contribute to my own struggle, my hope is to begin shining a light on those blocks I have put up for myself and begin to unlearn my methods that are not serving me. When I come up against something that causes me frustration or pain, it serves me better to stop and consider the real reason behind that root feeling. If I can extract that cause I may be able to examine, process and unlearn the behavior. I can learn to reprogram.

Unlearning is not just about reconsidering and changing, it’s about completely abandoning a behavior. I need to stop planning what I want to learn and leave space to just be open to what comes my way.  I have to be willing to be empty in order to fill myself up with goodness. I realize now that ‘letting go’ is not enough, I have to completely unlearn what I know. I often focus on my ability to let go and get to a calm place, but finding happiness is about releasing the instigating act before it takes hold of me. I want to be able to unclench before a thought or feeling infiltrates my peaceful space. Mindfully examining what part of me responds negatively helps me detach from those feelings.  I believe unlearning is the true method that leads to a peaceful mind.

A peaceful mind creates a peaceful world to live in.

We are all born with the capacity to feel love, happiness and peace and the ability to learn and change. Our natural skill to learn comes from the same place within ourselves where we pull the unlearning. Unlearn what no longer serves you and be open to what could possibly fill the wonderfully empty space.

above photo from MichelleBulgaria on morgue file.com

Playing the Day Away

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No matter how I’m feeling, there is always a piece of music to fit my mood. I feel very connected to music, it can calm me, excite me, or soothe me depending on what I need in the moment. I love to make my own music, but I haven’t done that consistently for a long time.

I inherited my Grandmother’s piano eight years ago and it’s been sitting quiet most of the time since then. It was the piano I learned on as a little girl and I’m happy to have it in my life. There have been days that I sit down and play all of my familiar tunes or a visiting friend tickles the ivories for a bit, but for the most part it remains a showpiece in my living room.

My daughters enjoy playing our piano too. I’ve started teaching them the basics and I hear them crafting their own tunes quite often. Piano lessons are imminent. I would love for my girls to connect to music the way I do.  Music is revitalizing and inspirational and can be a beautifully supportive tool.

As the seasons start to change, I see an opportunity to recharge, refresh and revitalize! I am reaffirming my commitment to kindness and self-care. I have to be healthy, strong and happy to make sure my kids are as well. And, I see the chance to make a new, exciting pledge to get back to making music, so I picked a new song and sat down in front of the piano and began to play. I’m planning to put more piano into my life as a way to soothe myself and be a good model for my girls. While they watch me learn a new song by reading the music and practicing, I’m hoping they will be attracted to the process. This time I chose a song that I can sing and play at the same time and I feel like that act will be a nice way to unwind and relax myself and the girls. Hopefully I can build a nice, new repertoire.

Finding happiness isn’t always about discovering something new, sometimes it’s about rediscovering what you already knew you had.

photo is of my Grandmother’s piano in my living room

A Quest To Discover

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A strong identity emerges not only from conscious contemplation of your life’s purpose, but also from successfully resolving the developmental challenges that characterize your formative years. Identity may emerge in it’s own time. It may show itself to you while you’re busy following your heart, creating opportunities to enjoy life and manifesting positivity.

So how do you begin the process of understanding who you are and what will ultimately make you happy? Celebrate what you do know about who you are and who you want to become while excavating deeper to discover more that you may not understand yet.

If you are strong enough to be asking these questions, then chances are you have developed a deep rooted belief that you are worth this time and effort. For that, I applaud you. Go easy on yourself as you learn, absorb each discovery and be ready to accept what you find. Use your findings to spring forward and be open to the beautiful things possible when you continue to grow.

The meaning of life is to live. Finding your identity means you can live it in a way that allows your soul to align with every moment. Defining your identity successfully means feeling complete. Feeling complete means strength of character and spirit.

The person who I have been in recent years is having a tough time being completely happy. I’ve learned a lot about what was making me unhappy and I seem to enjoy more peaceful moments these days. I’ve explored my spiritual existence and I’ve learned to meditate. I enjoy journaling and I have a better idea of what kind of mother I want to be. These are all big wins.  But I still feel slammed against a glass ceiling and trapped inside an identity that feels tight and restrictive. Maybe I’ve been focusing and working on the wrong parts.  Maybe it’s my worn out, misfitting identity that needs adjusting. I’ve moved forward, learned lessons and felt significant growth, but I haven’t redefined myself. I haven’t considered how all of this will inevitably change my identity.

Who am I anyway?

I am what I do.

I am who I love.

I am what I think.

I’ve slowly changed a lot about what I do and how I spend my time so maybe I’m growing out of my identity and should be shopping for a shiny new one. If I redefine who I am, some of these changes and all of this hard work may settle better into place. If conquering an identity crisis is difficult for you, remember that you are possibly doing work that involves resolving deep prior issues of trust, confidence and self-sufficiency. Go easy on yourself and be kind during this consuming process.

For some, the idea of having an identity crisis will denote negativity simply because it’s called an identity CRISIS.  However, I think the quest to uncover who you truly are in an effort to align your body, mind and spirit is a noble task and should be commended.

Plateau Busting Purple and Orange Clouds

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I love sunsets.  I love that time of day when the energy and hurried rush of the day begin to calm, the sun drops down in the sky and light begins to fade.  It’s that nightly curtain call that gives me time to take a breath and delight in the majestic splendor of the sky as it changes colors and dims.  This is my favorite time of day to be outside.  I love being able to sit quietly as the sun sets and let my mind wander as I revel in it’s beauty and let go for a while.  I like to slip into my thoughts and recommit to being kind to myself.  I enjoy listening to music, sitting in deep thought and letting the light disappear around me.

It’s been a while since I sat and enjoyed this time of day the way I like to.  Last night, I happen to be outside at twilight and I realized how long it had been since I took a moment to enjoy this opportunity, reflect and slow down.  So I did.

As I looked at the sky of purple and orange clouds, I realized that I have slowed down on my journey, even hit a plateau.  I longed to feel lifted and inspired.  I started to think about what this could mean for me and why I may be feeling this way.  There could be a lesson here for me.  A spiritual plateau is a place to rest.  Or, it may be a test.  It can be a time to stabilize, absorb, collect, receive and integrate all that I have learned.

I’m hoping to catch my breath and push farther for greater growth after this rest. But rest is also important.  I want to keep growing, use the tools and be in the moment. Resting doesn’t have to mean slipping backwards, it presents a chance to practice what we have cultivated.

Feeling a spiritual plateau can present a great opportunity to take a look around.  Maybe you are coming up against something you have dealt with before and have never been able to push through.  Are you feeling stagnant against familiar road blocks?  Maybe now you have more power to break them down. The journey continues, so break them down or move them aside this time.  See the opportunity and push forward, don’t let it pull you under. Your hardest challenges present your biggest opportunities for growth.

And then I started to imagine myself on the other side of this plateau.  Where am I going and what is next for me?  I started to feel a bit of inspiration and anticipation… could just recognizing the plateau be enough to move past it?

Today I played tennis for the first time in a few weeks.  I’ve been taking lessons for a year now and today was the first day of the new session.  It was good to feel my strong legs under me after not playing for a while.  Last year when I started to learn the game I felt nervous and clumsy, but today I felt strong and ready to play.  At the end of last session I was feeling frustrated, like I had hit a plateau.  So, as I started to volley, I recalled my thoughts from the night before about how I was feeling spiritually stagnant.  I started to realize the parallel between my physical game and my mental game.  So I took a moment to visualize myself playing well and set an intention to use thoughtful and mindful swings and volleys.  I took my time and followed through each shot.  The lessons I had learned over the past year all seemed to click and flow and I played the best tennis of my life.  I’m still a beginner, but I felt a confidence today that I haven’t felt since I started playing.

I broke right through my plateau.

So I’m riding the wave after my tennis lesson today, it was a nice little boost for me.  I needed that.  And now I’m feeling more open to receiving what is next for me on my journey.  It’s up to us to see the possibilities available and only you can create opportunities to see things in a plateau busting way.  When you feel stuck or stale, like you need some inspiration, just look around and see it… it’s all around you waiting to be discovered.

Every evening gives you an opportunity to reflect.  Every day is a new chance to renew a promise or redefine your path.  And, every morning is a gift.  Tear off the wrapping and get excited to see what’s in store!  How would your life be different if you started each day as if it was going to be nothing short of amazing?!

GMOs and EMOs

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I am a voice in the crowd.  As I learn more about the world around me and issues that effect my family and loved ones, I see more of the big picture and I am connecting certain issues to try and gain a better, more thorough understanding of our general wellbeing.  Most recently I have been thinking a lot about what I am feeding my family and whether their nutritional needs are being met.  Keeping my family healthy is very high on my “To Do List”.  It was almost 3 years ago that I started to take a longer, harder look at my nutrition, my body and what I was putting in the mouths of my children.  I started with myself.  Just like being on an airplane when the flight attendant tells you to put on your oxygen mask first before assisting the children with their masks, I had to make sure I was healthy and had a healthy understanding of all of this before I started doing the same with my children. I needed to be healthy and strong to make them healthy and strong.

What I found was that everything I didn’t know about food was keeping me unhealthy.  I had been unable to lose the lingering weight after I had my children and despite my best efforts using the information that I had, nothing was working and I was getting more unhealthy instead of closer to my goal of getting myself and my family more healthy.  I was so busy with my life and the details that needed attention that getting truly educated about this never made my “To Do List”. It wasn’t until I began learning about nutritional cleansing, the true nutritional value of our food and the dangers of many of the foods on the market that I took for granted as being healthy that I started down the path of educating myself to a healthier state.

One of the scariest topics I have come across is the debate over GMOs in our food and the political battle over labeling them in our products here in the US.  I’ve come to learn that the powers-that-be are profiting from people growing and consuming food that has been genetically modified to the point that it resembles something closer to poison than food.  People are working hard at their jobs to earn money to be able to visit the grocery store and mindlessly fill their cart with food that is either poisonous or contains little to no nutritional value.  It’s fair to say that a significant amount of people have no idea that the food we have been eating for well over the last decade has been significantly altered by science.

Who are we to decide the direction of evolution in this way?  For a race of people that like to make their own choices and act on their own volition, this issue seems like a giant step backwards.  So, as a member of the collective, the biggest piece of this puzzle for me is that I am not being given the choice of whether or not to consume this altered food.  My power, in this regard, has been stripped from me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m also pretty upset about the whole process of how this all came to fruition from bullying farmers to get on board to thinking about the long term effects on our precious soil, environment and the integrity of our water supply….. It all has me riled up and has called me to action in many, many ways.

But, as I look at the giant companies involved in this happening and evaluate their obsession with money and securing that money for the future, I see a dangerous trend toward greed, born naturally from our emotional range as people.  This greed has become genetically altered to fit the world we live in.  This form of emotional evolution is just as frightening and unsettling to me as the issue of GMOs.  People are becoming emotionally modified as a result of the world we live in and the experiences we have to navigate through.  Our emotions and visceral responses to our environment have been altered through technology and evolution just the same as that first pea’s genetic makeup was altered by the hands of an Austrian Monk.  The masses of children desensitized to things like violence because of technology, television, movies and video games is to me as much of a threat as the GMOs that are infiltrating their bodies.  Is this modern world nurturing our children’s gentle and kind natures or are they being emotionally modified by the world around them?

Although I am scared for the future health situation because of the missing regulation, sensitivity and outrage in the world of GMOs, I am equally terrified by the omission of sensitivity to violence and the overwhelming inability for people to feel happily engaged in their life.  There is an epidemic of EMOs (Emotionally Modified Organisms) and we are the Organisms.  This seemingly pandemic disengagement terrifies and saddens me.  Put the two initiatives together and you get a world wide epidemic threatening health, wellbeing and wellness in general.

What will you do to balance all of the fears presented by this life we lead, start creating more time for fun, and at the same time act responsibly for the benefit of the next generation? It’s a lot to do, we all have a lot on our plate these days.

Well, I know what I’m going to do.  I’m going to learn all that I can while keeping a healthy perspective about the amount of power I have over how I live.  I will continue to take a look at my own emotions and understand what the world and my immediate environment has done to modify me.  Armed with that information and understanding I can become a better version of myself.

You are strong!  You have power!  You can make change!  You have as much power over your actions and emotions as you do over the food you put in your body and the bodies of those you love.  “Whatever you believe about yourself on the inside is what you will manifest on the outside” -Unknown

I believe these concerns are all connected and deserve the same amount of respect and attention.  Do your part to make the world a better place for our children, but don’t forget that all of those changes start with you….. every part of you.

 

picture courtesy of morgue file.com

And So It Goes

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Over the last week, I have watched five of my dear friends lose either a parent or grandparent.  It’s hard to hear such news, and it’s even harder to see it in such mass.  The idea of transition as we begin a new school year and approach the end of summer always brings about all kinds of change and feelings of uncertainty for what is to come.  But this year, the idea of transition has meant major life changes and adjustments for several people whom I hold dear.  I thought it strange at first when the news kept rolling in one after the other of these deaths, but I began to understand that life works in mysterious cycles and it is not for me to question these things.

With endings come new beginnings and with new beginnings come possibilities for renewal and new found confidence and certainty that when we can stand strong during times of great change and struggle, we can find ourselves even more powerful and capable than before.  As I move through funerals and shivas and showing my support and love to those who need it, I feel grateful.  I feel grateful to have so many blessings in my life and I feel grateful to be able to have the strength to show my love to these people who need it right now.

When I was 18, three of my friends mothers and three of my dear friends passed away within months of each other.  Six people.  It seemed like a thousand.  It wasn’t my first experience with loss, but when the waves of sad news kept coming it seemed to be too much to bare these sorrow feelings for all of these people and families.  I remember attending funerals and shedding tears with the ones left to pick up the pieces.  At that age, it’s hard to process the world changing so much and so rapidly.  But now, even though the sadness still lingers after a loss, I know from experience that life will go on and change and flow for those left behind.  We accept the love offered to us and feel the emotions as it happens around us.  We learn about love and we reminisce.

After a loss, families and friends gather, eat, talk, love, cry, hug…. This goes on for days and the support is necessary and beautiful.  And as the wave of sadness subsides, the masses scatter and the loss changes, transitions and settles.  Life shifts and people go on.  I don’t think we ever accept the mortality of our loved ones, but we naturally gather the feelings, make them a part of who we are and the loss becomes part of our identity.

I hope for you that grief is an emotion that leaves you stiff and sore the next day because that would mean it is not exercised very often.  Feeling true sadness reminds us just how human we have become.  Moving forward when that soreness fades doesn’t mean we let go of the grief, it means we have become stronger and can more easily carry it with us along our way.

 

photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Goodbye Robin

Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day… make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.

 

beautiful words from the movie Jack starring Robin Williams

Becoming Me

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Who were you before the world stepped in and told you who to become?  When a baby cries out and a caretaker responds with loving kindness, in the beginning it’s all a guessing game to try our best to soothe, respond and love.  But we really never know the true meaning behind those cries.  Even the best intending people may put their own needs and assumptions on those cries and respond the way they see fit.  That’s the best they can do until that baby can confirm those suspicions.  Is that baby having every need met, or is that sweet, dependent soul beginning the journey of taking what is offered and making it fit? Such is life as we grow into ourselves and begin to make our true selves heard.  And even then, how much are we forced to push down and ignore of what we really want and need?  Those innocent smiles on children desperate to please may be the faces of little ones learning to do the best with what is given to them while learning to manage what they truly wish.    

As we grow and mature, we have a chance to consider who we are and what truly makes us happy.  Are you letting yourself be the person you were meant to be?  How do we figure out exactly who that is?  After years of being told what to do, it may be difficult to truly be authentically present and acknowledge how much of who we have become is put upon us and how much of it we were free to develop on our own.  Take a step back for a moment and think about where you are, why you are there and whether or not it is who and where you would like to be.  Such is life really, but the next phase is letting go of some of that ingrained learning and allowing yourself to push back from the shore and mindfully explore what your choices will bring.  Navigating your path after you set sail on an adventure such as this may be filled with unknown, but it’s always in times of deep reflection or exploration that we have the opportunity to grow the most.        

Need to change a few things?  I do, and I want to learn more about myself.  There are 5 steps I am taking to thoughtfully process this lesson.  

Live life and engage in activities I enjoy.

Over the last few years I have found myself diving into new experiences with a brave, awakened yearning for change.  Feeling satisfied and content was no longer acceptable.  I longed for a divergence from my routine and I have found myself engulfed in exciting new opportunities saying, “YES!  THIS is me! THIS is what I crave and how I want to live!”  And it feels good.  I want more of that, so I make it happen.  

Stay curious and learn

Instead of sitting in wonder of some of my interests, I decided to engage in workshops and learn new skills, read new books and attend readings of their authors, and manage my own new business focused on my passions.  I hunger for new knowledge and I will never know enough about the matters that interest me.  

Live in the present

Engage.  Put down your technology, turn off the television and properly engage with the people and experiences around you.  I like to make a pile of cell phones when my friends have dinner and the first one to reach for their phone instead of being immersed in the gathering is handed the check.  If we all remain engaged and never touch a piece of technology then I consider that a win.  If you are not enjoying your surroundings and need the stimulation of outside sources, then it’s time to unravel that.  That unraveling is genuine work and you should be making time and space to focus on and improve that matter.  It’s the constant learning and unraveling that makes us grow indefinitely, but it’s in the present that we live.  Wherever you go, there you are.  Be there.  

Meet new admirable people and reawaken valuable lost connections

The people I have met and align myself with have made all the difference, and the people I have reconnected with from my past have impacted my journey more than words can say.  It’s those who love you unconditionally and authentically that deserve your precious time and attention.  Strengthen those bonds, throw your energy in their direction and it will come back to you with boundless possibility.  Your soul mates, no matter how abundant or few, will see the authentic YOU emerging and admire the light shining from you.    

“All of me loves all of you. Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections” -All Of Me, John Legend

Sleep and spend time alone

When I am alone with my thoughts and without other influences to taint my perspective is when I catch a clear glimpse of who I am and what I truly want.  I like to form my own impressions without speculation of others leaking in.  And, never underestimate the importance of rest and renewal.  Our sleep patterns are the refresh opportunity that we have everyday.  After expending all of this energy to make change and become my authentic self, I need to let my body absorb this information so it can truly be integrated into my reality.      

The question of who I am may never definitively be answered because she changes with each moment, but it is the promising journey to discover and rediscover myself that ignites my spirit and inspires my momentum.

 

above photo is of my daughter holding my hand that very first day

Midlife Miracle

youarehereAfter sprinting forward out of my teen years, dancing through my twenties and coasting into responsibility in my thirties, I’ve hit the speed bump known as midlife. I’m 40. So, I decided to slow to a stop and take a thoughtful look behind me to see what I’ve done so far.

I’ve been an honor student, competitive figure skater, off-off broadway actress, sign language interpreter, college professor and wellness coach among other things. I’ve had a lot of fun and met some amazing people along my journey. I imagine it’s not so uncommon to have a few thoughts about “life so far” and what is to come when folks hit 40. I’m allowing myself to acknowledge that it’s a big deal simply because it feels that way to me.

When I hit 30, I had no idea who I would marry, how many children I would have or where I would end up living. But at 40, I know the answers to most of my unanswered questions. At times it feels like life is now about managing and maintaining the life I’ve built and the choices I’ve made. But I don’t want this life adventure to feel stagnant. I have so much more to do. Who knows what I will know at 50 that I hadn’t realized at 40?! I have an obligation to this life to keep growing, seeking and creating adventurous change!

During my look back I realized how much I have been able to accomplish so far and I see how much more is possible! The miracle about reaching midlife is that you are armed with plenty of life knowledge and wisdom that you didn’t have when you launched into your independence. And, you still have so much time left to enjoy it.

Midlife means power. Midlife means dynamic capability to take control of choices and live a life that serves us. Many of us take the helm of our families at this stage and become responsible for raising the next generation while at the same time helping our parents transition into the next phase of their existence. Sandwiched between the young and the old we learn how strong we have become and how capable we are. Embrace your strength and let it shine from inside of you. The more people depend on you the more they believe you can handle. Show kindness to yourself and then to those who look to you for courage and fortitude. We are the midlife soldiers, we are the miracles for so many people in our lives. Wear it as a badge of honor and serve those who need us with love and respect. But also learn how to look deep inside and serve yourself with just as much loving devotion.

After my long look behind, I’m ready to turn back around and see what is to come. Instead of a midlife crisis, I am having a midlife miracle. I’m moving forward giving and receiving unbridled, rampant, radical positive energy!

“Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives” – Alan Sachs

This beautiful life won’t last forever, but that’s what nature intends. We live, we learn, we love. We laugh, grow and play. Your responsibility in this life is to make it count. Life itself is a steady natural awakening. The meaning of life is to live! 

 

photo credit to pippalou on morgue file.com

 

Live Simply, Think Gently

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“Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Wisdom of Confucius

I like to be barefoot, I like to take it slow.  I enjoy riding a bike, and I enjoy being near the water.  I like finding beauty in my life where I hadn’t noticed it before.  I like to have time to think before I speak and I like to feel connected to the ones I love.  I like to spend time with horses and I like to walk my dog.  I like to live simply.

I’m moving more toward a simpler life as I continue on this journey.  I have been moved to clean out my entire house this summer and shed myself of anything that has no purpose or meaning.  I’ve shed the clutter in my house as I’ve tried to clear out the negative thoughts that clutter my head.  With less “stuff” to worry about, I find it easier to live mindfully in the moment and create space to really connect with my friends and family.

I want to feel light, I want to feel fresh.  I want to hear wind chimes and birds singing when I step outside into the cool morning air.  I want to feel unencumbered by technology and start my day with my own thoughts.  I like the smell of hot coffee and the feel of warm morning sun as I start my day.  I want to live simply, but I also want to think gently.

This pull toward a simpler existence has spun my mind in directions it’s not used to.  With a life cluttered with tasks and too much “stuff”, I found my mind was constantly on high volume and there were several thoughts competing for my attention at once.  Living simply is not just about my surroundings and my belongings, it’s about living with more ease on the inside as well.  Being kind and gentle with myself involves an effort in my body, mind and spirit.  Quieting the alarms that have been pre-set for ages has not been easy.  Slowing down and trying to think one thought at a time has been a way to start.  Deep breath, look at the sky, close your eyes.  Exhale.  Move on.

I do love the hardly bearable feeling of craving something that I want so badly that I can barely stand still, but I enjoy the calming, soothing feeling of swinging on a hammock in the afternoon more.  I appreciate the feeling of yugen which is to awaken an array of inner thoughts through mere suggestion.  It is an intense, breathless feeling of inspiration and beauty.  But, a feeling such as yugen is meant to be enjoyed in small doses.  You can’t live in a state that takes your breath away, but you can revel in it for a moment, appreciate it, and find joy.  Thinking gently is about finding a state of mind that you can enjoy and still be a productive, functioning member of your life.

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Find balance, seek peace, crave joy.

When you learn to think gently, the volume is lowered and the level of intensity becomes manageable.  If you are kind to yourself and treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love, you may begin to notice more calm feelings and find more space for relaxing in your life.  Gone are the days of feeling guilty for taking a moment to myself.  I’ve reached the age of permission and I’ve earned my right to feel happy just by being born.

We deserve to be happy.  So I’m choosing to live simply and think gently.

 

photos from morguefile.com

Becoming a Butterfly

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“Does the caterpillar know it is turning into a butterfly or is it in panic, stuck to a tree feeling all fat and crispy” -Becky Walsh, Mind Body Spirit Magazine

Our world is filled with BIG and FAST, so we may be conditioned to get what we want right in the moment we want it.  But, transition takes time and patience.  Change for the better is best achieved thoughtfully and slowly.  Nature gives us plenty of examples to support this theory like the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. We don’t know for sure what goes on inside that cocoon.  I wonder how that caterpillar feels as it creates it’s new home.  Does he have time and space to prepare for this change?  Is he looking forward to becoming a butterfly or was he happy being a caterpillar?  Let’s assume he is simply following his instincts and having faith in the process.  Wouldn’t it be comforting if we were all capable of that kind of trust and belief in our lives as we experience our own changes and transitions?  Sometimes enjoying the journey takes endurance and poise and sometimes you just hang your head out the window like a happy dog feeling the wind.  It all depends on the day.

“You can be presented with some rather difficult situations that bring about the transformation needed for you to fly.”  -Becky Walsh, Mind Body Spirit Magazine

The good news for the butterfly is that when it emerges it will be able to fly.  The process to get there may be unpleasant or it may be cathartic, that we will never know.  The process is private and looks different for everyone, and every caterpillar.  The key is to be kind to yourself and remember that the things in life worth waiting for are usually the best things we encounter.  Often at the other end of a trying time is a realization that you have come to know yourself better from your experience.  When you figure out the thing or things that you want most in this life it’s hard to sit still and wait, but manifesting change with intention takes time.

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” -Billy Crystal as Harry in When Harry Met Sally

Love may be the easiest way to demonstrate that feeling of eagerness and craving when it comes to transition, but there are several things in life that work that same way.  Anyone who finds themselves feeling stuck in a career and suddenly has a realization that there is something better out there will relate to this process as well.  The process of learning what you need to know to start a new career may be slow and tedious, but in the end, after all of your preparation, you feel strong and ready to charge out of the gate running.  Anyone who has a dream knows the anguish of waiting and working towards the hopeful day that it will come true.  The important component in all of this is to take your time and put intentional energy into getting to know yourself and learning to be at peace with your life’s path.

“The key to transformation is simply this: the better we know ourselves, the better equipped we will be to make our choices wisely.”  -Gregg Braden, Mind Body Spirit Magazine

Meditate On It

 

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“It’s almost like mindfulness is becoming a folk religion of the secular elite in Western Culture.” – David McMahan (Buddhist Scholar)

SInce Buddhism and meditation have been brought to Western Culture, it has been reinterpreted and reapplied to fit the needs and intentions of the varied followers who practice.  Are the meditation practices being used today truly in alignment with original Buddhist practices?  Or, is what we practice now just a modernization of an ancient practice that is meant to be independent of culture and time? Are we meditating authentically? Do we concern ourselves with these thoughts and comparisons or do we just meditate in our own way and veer from tradition to simply extract what we can and pull what we need from it?  This topic would no doubt give Buddhist scholars much to pontificate about, but my opinions here are those of a Westerner who holds a deep respect and appreciation for all that Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness have taught me.  I am not Buddhist, but I enjoy reading about what it has to teach us.  I do meditate and feel that I do it in my own way following my own agenda.  I try to live mindfully, but I interpret what that means for my life.  In my position in life it would be impossible for me to live up to true Buddhist customs.  I do what I can with what I’m handed.  I don’t concern myself with popular belief, I concern myself with what serves me and what makes me feel at peace.  Meditating in my Meditation Garden for as long as I have time for is what works for me.

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What is being done in present day may be more like a quick and convenient shot of meditation espresso, but I feel that may be what we need and all we can accommodate right now. The life of a modern day member of Western Culture looks much different than that of a Buddhist Monk.  And, if the end result brings us the desired outcome then should we bother even considering our means to a desired end?  If our intentions are good then our methods are sound.  I see people pick their method and adapt their ways to fit their busy lifestyles and I don’t judge.  Judgement of these things would, of course, not be in alignment with practices such as this anyway.

However, if you decide to incorporate your version of relaxation meditation, understand that your result will be just that: relaxing.  Without internalizing dharma by reciting scriptures and sinking deep into your own mind for devoted periods of time as the Buddhist Monks do, you will technically not reach the insights intended to be learned through ancient meditation.  But, don’t misunderstand me.  My message here is one of support to all of you who meditate for as long or as short as you wish and in whatever way you decide.  “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.  Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” -Ella Fitzgerald

In this world of chaos and unpredictability, for me it is comforting to turn to meditation to quiet my mind and relax my body.  I feel comfortable calling what I do meditation even though it follows the guidelines of more popular beliefs about meditation than the Buddhist protocol.

With a healthy dose of self love and a whole heap of good intentions, mindfulness and meditation in any capacity will serve you well.  “Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines” – Shiny Happy People REM

photos taken in my meditation garden

The Story of a House

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Just after coming back from a lovely walk, a car slowed to a stop in front of my house.  I yelled out a “hello” and asked if he needed something.  He was a nice, Hungarian gentleman who went on to tell me that his name was Laslo and he had built our house with his bare hands in the 1950’s.  He said he had lived here for 20 years after he built it and raised a son here.  Every time he is in the area he takes a drive past the house, this time I just happened to be outside.  He told me that our house was the first one built on the street and that he used to walk to his job just up the road at a factory.  He explained that in the beginning, the house would flood when it rained because of the pitch of the driveway which was why he installed the sump pump at the base of the driveway.  He told me that he put a penny in every corner of the main room under the wood floor.

I invited him to come in and take a look to see what had changed in the house over the years.  I told him about the addition the previous owners had built and about how much we had done to the backyard.  He declined and even started to drive away when I mentioned it.  I think his memory served him well and he wanted to visit this place in his memory, not learn about what we had done to change things.  He looked over at my neighbor Pete, also Hungarian, who was in front of his house trimming the hedge.  He explained that Pete’s house was the second on the street and built in the 1960’s.  He said they knew each other back then and that they helped build the street we live on.  To my surprise, he never took a second glance at Pete or slowed his car as he passed him to offer a hello to his old neighbor.  When we were done talking he just took a long last look and drove away.

I went inside with new thoughts about my house, this place that I come home to every day without even thinking about it.  You get numb to your routine, you find comfort and settle in to a pattern.  So often we forget to be grateful for all of the things that surround us.  After meeting Laslo I took a new look around my house.  I became grateful for his hard work and his care of this house all those years ago.  I wondered who else had lived here since then and I realized that I was now a part of the story of this house.  Maybe someday I will drive past and tell my part of the story to a new family of how I raised my daughters here and spent countless, relaxing hours at the park right across the street.

People spend a lot of energy and time making their private space just the way they want it.  We leave our mark on the world with the way we live in those moments.  At home is where you relax and let it all go, hopefully.  I thought about how attached people become to their homes when really I think they are attached to the space in time represented by that house.  I don’t necessarily feel attached to the brick and mortar of this house, but rather I feel an affection for the times I have had here.  I’m grateful for the strength and integrity of the house itself, but it’s the memories and the time that I will carry with me long after I leave this place.  I have other special places like this as well, and something still makes me long to be in those spaces sometimes.  Being there helps me remember, feel, and even smell the memory from way back when…. and that is nice.

So, thank you Laslo, for coming by and paying a visit to your memory.  Thank you for reminding me that life goes on and that we should take time to be grateful along the way.

No Ordinary Journey

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I love to walk.  I love to just walk out the front door and go wherever I feel.  Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I go for more of a mediative walk, but I always love the act of moving and looking and being out in nature.  My neighborhood is lovely, but I decided to take a break from my usual path and head into a new neighborhood across town.  I drove until I found the right place to park and I got out and started to walk.  It felt great to be in a new place with no plan of where I was going.  I saw beautiful houses, new people and wandered down different streets.  It was refreshing.  It’s not the familiar path that I enjoy when I’m walking, it’s the act of getting out and feeling the walk.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ~Dalai Lama

Create more joy in your life!  Find more adventures in your own backyard and have control over your happiness!  Take an inner journey to learn more about how you feel and how you respond to varied experiences without outside influences seeping in and tainting your true feelings.  Life is never going to be perfect or even how you predict it to be, but if your happiness comes from within, external circumstances can only exist around you and cannot affect your true feelings.  Take a vacation from the familiar.  Free yourself from the influences that may be seeping in to your thoughts and impacting your choices.  Take a new walk and let go of your old routine.  Change things up and you will feel the change!  Take note of how you feel and reflect on how you can use it to grow.

Instead of saying, “I’ll be happy when…..” just decide that you are going to be happy as you move through your life and work towards your goals.  You don’t have to achieve a goal to bring you to some magical happy place, start enjoying happiness NOW by enjoying the ride and appreciating your own hard work along the way.  Do something familiar in a new place, take a walk in a new neighborhood, just create a new experience for yourself.  Break free from your routine and explore how you feel.

“Life is a journey, not a destination” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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As I walked, I noticed the brick that still made up the road in this neighborhood, something I don’t see only a few miles away near my home.  I thought about the history of that brick and how the whole street must have looked that way so many years ago.  I noticed the difference in architecture on this side of town and the way the streets turned and wound around the ravines over there.  So many subtle differences right there in the same town.  After some time had gone by, I realized I was successfully able to break free from my normal, reoccurring thoughts that normally fill my head when I walk in my familiar surroundings.  I felt grateful for this break from my routine.  Where will I walk tomorrow?

This was no ordinary journey and for that I was grateful.

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Judgement Vista

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You spend time in nature and enjoy magnificent views. You hear lovely sounds and smell fresh, crisp air. The wonder of natural things replaces the burdens of everyday thinking and you are grateful. If just for a moment, or for the moments in between, you take in the beauty and feel the experience and naturally place a judgement on what you see. You decide that what you see is beautiful or strange or what you smell is refreshing or pungent. Nature is as varied as the opinions of those who enjoy it. One person may assign one judgement and another will see things with a different reasoning. None of that changes the ancient layout that has been growing and changing since the beginning of time. It is YOU that places a name, opinion or judgement on those things, nature will exist and grow regardless.

You are standing on Judgement Vista.

When you look out at nature, your judgements are most likely simple and sweet. You see the beauty, or not, and with all of your senses take in the moment and process how you feel about that scene. But, the scene itself is unchanged. What if we could see all of life and all people with the same eyes we use when we are in awe of those magnificent views? What if those breathtaking moments of awe could exist within us and we could learn to live on that vibration consistently?

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

When I look at nature and stand on MY Judgement Vista. I like to absorb the beauty and stand in awe that I am a part of it. I don’t mind feeling small and insignificant within it’s surroundings because it takes the pressure off of me to be bigger than life which is how I normally tend to feel in my world of caring for others. If I can take that simple, peaceful feeling that I feel in nature with me into my everyday world, my judgements may be lighter and have less ignorance. Maybe I can gain more perspective of how small I actually am in the scheme of things and revel in the simple things that make me happy. I often wish I could spend more of my time in nature instead of trying to channel the feeling, that would make me happier, but for now I will take it all in and refill my reserves.

Existing in judgement is natural, we need to judge lots of things all day long to keep us safe and healthy. We judge whether or not it’s safe to cross the street and we sniff the milk to judge whether it’s still fresh enough to drink. We need to have good common sense and reasoning to get along in our daily lives. Good judgement is a quality I hope to manifest well in my daughters. Without judgement we are in danger.

We also judge each other. We either judge from a place of necessity or negativity. I judge whether or not I think people will be nice and have things in common with me when I meet them and hope to find a friend in them. I judge whether people are devoted, committed and responsible when I consider doing business with them. I judge all the time and I make an effort to do it from a place of goodness. I am only human after all, a small piece of the nature that created judgement. I place these judgements, but I do it with care and respect.

I judge myself. I consider whether my reasoning and savvy are being put to good use and I try hard to develop the wisdom it takes to use my judgement for good. I am often hard on myself with my own judgement and I try to remember to take it easy and be kind. I am a work in progress. I aim to stand on my Judgement Vista as often as I can to remind myself the true nature of things and how I can let go of negativity and be in awe of the beauty of my life. It’s healthy for me to be reminded, gently.

Moving from judgement to admiration of people and situations just as I am when I look out on a beautiful scene of nature is what I hope to accomplish more often than not. Those same people who receive our judgement are also creations of nature and are imperfect just like us, and imperfectly perfect just like that scene in nature.

I hope I have made you as happy as you’ve made me. I hope I can judge you gently and you can see me through eyes that have visited YOUR Judgement Vista. Because if you judge me with eyes that have not yet looked out at your world with awe and gratitude, then I choose to acknowledge your judgement and release it. It doesn’t serve me and it doesn’t serve you for me to receive it.

“When you delete critics and fault-finders from your life, good things will start to happen to you, and it won’t be a coincidence.” ~Art Jonak

The Long and Winding Road

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You embark on a journey and it fills you up and teaches you more than you ever thought possible.  This is the stuff of myths and fairy tales born from real life heros and explorers.  You ask the tough questions and seek the true answers.  You absorb the result no matter how energizing or shocking they may be because it’s better to know and grow than wonder and stay stagnant.  Along the way we make discoveries that we may not fully process until a later point in the journey.  The journey is never over, so I won’t say we process our experiences at the end.  This is an ongoing, beautiful movement through our life.  We are all on a journey, we all have a path.  Learning to be at peace with your life’s path will bring you just that, peace.  You have the power to interpret your journey and take action to make it serve you.  Be your own hero.  Live a beautiful life.

Then you reach the part of the journey where you have gone through vital self discovery and realize you want to make changes.  Maybe you feel like life and details are in the way and you are tethered to certain routines and will have to get crafty to make these changes.  But the changes are possible, anything is possible and change is good.

“How you spend your days is how you spend your life” – Annie Dillard.  For me, creating and basking in happy days is ultimately the only choice.  Though we may have to work hard to self discover and manage our findings, the task is well worth the struggle no matter how enjoyable or painful those outcomes may prove to be.  There are times you discover things that challenge you or take your breathe away.  It’s all in how you see those things and how you take action that make the difference.

This life is truly a long and winding road, and my life is made up of so many varied experiences and truths, but the truth I hold most dear and cannot breathe without is the belief that all of this hard work will continue to lead me on a beautiful, happy journey.

“I think a spiritual journey is not so much a journey of discovery.  It’s a journey of recovery.  It’s a journey of uncovering your own inner nature.  It’s already there.”  -Billy Corgan

Picture Perfect

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The most beautiful moments in life are frozen in time.  Maybe they live as a perfect picture on paper or in your memory.  And, even though we may feel melancholy as we remember those times, they are never really over.  Memories melt into our existence and give us peace and hope of living more beautiful moments.

When you can see your beauty, strength and potential in the eyes of another, possibility and hope abound.  The present is a creation built from the past and future.  Memories and moments play like an old movie in my head.  I am the joyful, lone movie goer in a big, empty theater while I remember…. and I’m grateful.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” – Dr. Seuss

From our experiences we hold souvenirs and meticulously incorporate them into our trinkets on a shelf and they become part of our story.  Maybe we wear them around our neck or tuck them into a pocket and carry them with us as a reminder.  We look at them, touch them, turn them over and over in our hands to incorporate tangible senses into our remembering.  The story of my life is told on the shelves and walls of my house as well as live in my heart.  Those souvenirs remind you that those memories actually happened, the story is written and will stay with you.  Some of the best memories are the ones you didn’t know you were creating at the time, they come from life flowing around you and letting yourself fall in love with that moment without even realizing it’s happening.

Life may happen between those moments, but those moments are the magic.  I live for picture perfect times like that.  But, it’s the past and no one can live there.  We move on to the next phase and wait for new moments and memories to find us.

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” – LP Hartley

Create moments, gather memories and live your life as if you are walking through a garden.

 

photo above was taken by me on a picture perfect morning

I Love A Rainy Night

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When I wake up on a rainy, summer day, I don’t feel down or blah, I see it as a day to change things up.  I welcome the sweet smell of fresh rain and the sound of it tapping on my window.  I love letting the kids run into the grass barefoot and feel the rain all around them.  It’s fun to get soaked on your way into the house when you have no where to go and can just giggle and undress and put on cozy, dry clothes and relax.  No kids, we don’t really need an umbrella, just run through the rain and enjoy!

Yes, we waited patiently through a winter of polar vortex weather and being stuck inside during frigid days too cold to enjoy the mountains of snow pilling up outside our window for more than 20 minutes at a time out of fear of frost bite.  And yes, I love waking up to the sun and feeling it kiss my skin when I take my first steps outside in the morning, it makes me smile.  I like watering my garden and wearing sandals instead of shoveling snow from my car and maneuvering around big, bulky coats and boots for so many days during the winter.  But, too much of anything, including sunshine, can be overload.  Even when it’s raining I can still see the sunshiny smiles of my kids when they look to me to fill the day with new activities and adventures.

I enjoy twists and turns in my daily life, they keep things interesting.  Relaxing into a comfortable routine can satisfy some and seem mundane to others.  Everyone has a different idea of what they would like to get out of each day.  Some plan and plan and need to know what’s around each turn.  Some flitter around taking things as they come.  No matter what your personality demands, stop and consider if what you are creating is serving you.  Try a little change and see how it feels, see if it pleases you.  Stability is still good, it provides us with the things we need, the money to pay for the things we need and the comforts that we choose to enjoy.  Just consider stepping out of that “comfort zone” and experiment with a new path.  You can always go back to your routine.

For me, there are still shells to collect on the beach when it’s cloudy and much singing to do in the rain.  There is something romantically scary about listening to a thunderstorm while laying in your bed in the middle of the night.  And, when the sun peeks through after a day of rain and shines so brightly for you to enjoy, the feeling is like laughter through tears if you let it be.  It’s all in your perspective when you wake up to a rainy morning.

 

 I Love A Rainy Night – Eddie Rabbit

Well I love a rainy night

I love a rainy night

I love to hear the thunder

Watch the lightning

When it lights up the sky

You know it makes me feel good

Well I love a rainy night

It’s such a beautiful sight

I love to feel the rain

On my face

To taste the rain on my lips

In the moonlight shadow

Showers wash

All my cares away

I wake up to a sunny day

‘Cause I love a rainy night

Yes I love a rainy night

A Father’s Love

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Thanks Dad, for your generosity, support and open mind.  You’ve taught me to be my own person and that it’s alright to be exactly who you are no matter who you are with.  You are a unique being and you make life interesting!  And, you make being a father and grandfather cool!

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Thanks Paul, for giving our girls a dad who can be fun and also tend to their every need.  They are lucky to have a dad and a “mate” like you!

“Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.” —Anne Geddes

Happy Father’s Day!

Inquire Within

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I woke up feeling reflective and distracted this morning, so I took a ride over to my favorite spot down by the lake.  I used to go down there when I was a kid.  From the minute I got my driver’s license, I would hop in my car and head straight to my spot.  I used to bring my lunch down there during high school.  So for 24 years, this spot has been my quick escape right in my own “backyard”.  I have many treasured memories sitting with close friends at this spot catching up, reflecting, or just sitting and enjoying the view.

So what was on my mind this morning?  Why was I so distracted?  Love.

Over the 24 years I’ve been going to that spot by the lake, love has meant different things to me.  I’ve gone down there to think about friends, boyfriends, and even family but now I just went down there to think about love.  Just love in general.  I thought about the many kinds of love I have experienced since I started visiting the beach.  At first, there was my first love… mmmmm …. and the love of friends getting to know what life is all about.  Later, I learned about the love between a mother and child from both sides, the love of a husband and wife, the love between two girl friends as a kid and as an adult, and the love between myself and other moms as we enjoy this wild ride together just to name a few.  And, over the last few years, I’ve gotten far more familiar with my own love for myself.  And now, I realize that my sensitivity to my own ideas about love is really the only kind of love that actually exists.  As Byron Katie tells us, the important thing is “loving what is”.  The rest is what we believe is conjured up by others and sent our way.  We interpret that “love” and create a story around it.

The only thing with more optimistic power than love is the idea of “tomorrow”, the idea of what is to come.  To feel genuine love for another and feel the promise of that love being there tomorrow is no less than magnificent.  What I understand now is that my love for myself will be there tomorrow, and always.  It is a striking reason to continue this journey of finding more ways to fall deeper in love with myself.  It also inspires me to find ways to feel confident in my love of my friends and loved ones and their love for me.  “Do you want to meet the love of your life? Look in the mirror.”  -Byron Katie

My heartfelt wish for myself and for everyone is to feel and experience non-judgmental, unconditional, mind blowing love in every way possible in your life.  Whether it be from your dog, your lover or your mother, breathe in all the love in your life and breathe out delight.  Just be sure you continue to inquire within for the love of yourself.  Every bit of love that you experience is the result of how you perceive love, no one can give you love, you simply feel what is in your own heart.  “Peace doesn’t require two people; it requires only one. It has to be you. The problem begins and ends there.” -Byron Katie

“Love” is one of my favorite songs by John Lennon, but the only line in the song that really needs to be sung is the last one.

“Love”

Love is real, real is love

Love is feeling, feeling love

Love is wanting to be loved

Love is touch, touch is love

Love is reaching, reaching love

Love is asking to be loved

Love is you

You and me

Love is knowing

we can be

Love is free, free is love

Love is living, living love

Love is needed to be loved

-John Lennon

photo above was taken at Park Ave Beach

Unapologetically, Authentically You

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Living an authentic life means not being afraid to be your true self.  Authentic people embrace and respect what exists and make no excuses for not riding on the bandwagon.  An intention to be authentic may be enough to get you started, and being brave enough to uncover what that looks like for your life is a noble stride toward making peace with your life’s path.  To be authentic means that you don’t look to others to assess experiences, make a choice or feel an emotion.  You let it flow and accept what naturally spills from your heart as true.  Being a keen observer of your authenticity will make you understand your journey and yourself.

Being authentic in a relationship is possible when you are being true to yourself. Hiding what you feel will hinder others from loving you for who you are.  If you are consistently you, others can consistently love who you truly are.  What a lovely thought, and what a lovely experience.  Imagine spending your day being absolutely true to who you are and being sincerely loved for it…..

“Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss

Accepting yourself as exactly who you are is empowering and freeing!  Start with forgiving yourself for your past.  Everything that has happened up until now made you the person you are today.  Without each day of that existence you could not be the person you are now.  Express gratitude for every lesson those past versions of yourself have endured and realize that you are smarter and more schooled than all of the past versions of yourself.  When you go easy on prior versions of yourself and allow the present version of you to benefit from the past, those fundamental life lessons begin to serve your life education instead of break your stride.  Let the past contribute to a breakthrough, not a breakdown.

A quiet, uninterrupted mind will reveal simple truths about yourself.  What do you think about when you wake up in the morning?  Before the world and technology shifts your thoughts and invades your head space, what and who comes to mind?

Do you know how to be yourself?  Can you experience it?  What if the YOU in your quiet moments could be the YOU that moves around in the world?  Would that make you happy?  Would that bring you peace?  I often wonder how much of a mask people hide behind and how much they let themselves just be.  Varying degrees of authenticity depending on the setting, people around you and your comfort level in a situation is such hard work.  Are you constantly playing a role or are you living authentically?  Can you stay connected to your vital relationships genuinely or do you feel like there are rules to follow and guidelines to adhere to?  Why do we over complicate things?  What if we could just simply be….

“There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a person being themselves.  Imagine going through your day being unapologetically you.” – Steve Maraboli

Waldo image from Google Images

40, Fierce and Fabulous!

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Major milestone baby!  I’m 40 today!  The best part of turning 40 is that I have no idea how 40 is supposed to feel because I don’t feel a day over 20…. ok maybe 30.  I admit the daunting feeling that a big change was coming was hard to ignore recently, but there is no point in resisting time because it just keeps going.  I’m starting to gain a new respect for time.

A woman before she is 40 is like a fruit hanging and ripening on a tree.  Many young people go on and on about how old and mature and all-knowing they are, but it’s not until you get a bit older that you realize how dumb and immature and actually senseless you have been and still are about most things in life.  Embrace the unknowing and go out and explore!  You go from anxiously waiting to be plucked from that tree to wanting to hang out there as long as you can and enjoy it.  The next stage will come when it’s time, no reason to rush it along because you can’t change time.  What you can do is embrace change, ride the wave, and throw out your mini skirts!  40!

It took me a long time to realize how much there was that I didn’t know.  That realization has taken me from being a seeker to being a finder, it’s slowed me down and it’s given me a true north.  Having a journey to look back on helps me to understand some of my choices and encourages me to mindfully step into the future knowing that all I can do is try my best to be at peace with my life’s path.

I’m 40, I’m fierce and it’s fabulous!!  Embrace your place in life, you’ll be happy you did!

Dear Maya Angelou

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Dear Maya,

Thank you.

With love,

Jamie

 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

Join The Mindful Revolution

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First we saw a rise in society’s belief in physical fitness and we are now seeing a rise in the attention paid to our emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Just as you began to see variation in attendees of exercise classes and gyms, now you see a complete mixed bag of people who attend yoga and meditation classes.  Even science is standing behind the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  Just as people are encouraged to exercise, the trend is moving also toward people incorporating mindfulness and meditation practice into their daily life for the benefit of their overall wellbeing.  You can spend hours, days, and years exercising to attain the body you want, but in 30 minutes of meditation you can be leaps and bounds closer to a calm, peaceful mind.

We live in an age of RIGHT NOW and sometimes change takes time, so I’m not surprised to hear frustration from people wanting to see changes from their effort right away.  But, like a beautiful garden, these things take time.  Plant the seeds, nurture them and be patient for what is to come, it will be worth it.  Consider being open to what is available and abundant around you instead of fighting against your circumstance and constantly looking for what you WANT.  Many of us already have what we need, but we have to learn to need it.  Feel gratitude for what you have, the lessons you’ve learned and for what is to come that is still unknown.  The power to manifest the things that you desire is true.  It all begins with exercising your ability to calm your mind and listen to your truth.

One way to begin your path to emotional and spiritual wellbeing is to start practicing mindfulness.  The goal of being mindful is to be present without judgement.

Challenge: Pick an activity that you do regularly and make a commitment to perform it mindfully.  That means make an intention to be present in the activity and only focus on the actual act of performing that task.  If thoughts begin coming in, gently acknowledge them and then swiftly escort them out.  Some possible activities are showering, doing the dishes, taking a walk, riding a horse, driving a well traveled route, putting on your makeup, shaving.  Breathe, connect with the present moment and keep that moment real and free of external static.  This can be considered a first step toward a meditation practice.  Meditation would be doing this same mindful act without the activity.  So, begin with practicing mindfulness during an activity and move forward from there.

“Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

photo courtesy of jade from morguefile.com

Discovering my Om

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Meditation has been a vibrating part of my journey and has shown itself in many forms.  Whether it falls to the background and lays silent or resonates loudly, I constantly feel the presence of Om and all I have learned about it’s value which reflects no beginning or end and embraces all things.  The quest for a quiet mind and a mindful existence can be elusive at times and a calm partner in others.

Many have mentioned to me that they struggle with the idea of meditation and the thought of sitting still in silence for long periods of time.  This is when I refer them to the Zen Proverb “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day, unless you’re too busy.  Then you should sit for an hour.”  It’s about shifting your mindset from being busy to having priorities.  There is always a choice.

When I began meditating, I was told to imagine a white room and as thoughts came into my head acknowledge them as if they entered through one door and then escort them out another door on the opposite side of the room.  In the beginning, I remember thinking:

“I am sitting here all alone in this imagined room with all of these thoughts!”

As I sat in meditation that became:

“I am here in this room with my thoughts.”

As I sat more and more often that evolved to:

“I am here in this room” 

and then:

“I am here”

Eventually, I was able to get to:

“I am”

and now I feel like I am approaching

“Om”.

Tonight I attended a Gong Meditation Bath with Gong Spirit along side some of my close friends.  It was nice to sit in silent awe of these ancient therapeutic sounds with every frequency tapping into different parts of my meditation.  I sank deep, and I appreciated the time.  I feel a major difference when I sit in silence and when I meditate with sound.  The gong is a stress reliever and a mood enhancer.  My body had a natural calming response from the first sound.  Time had no meaning, there was no time and plenty of time.  The sound of the gong is at once a driving force and a calming lull.  A gamut of emotions are experienced, confusion comes into focus.

All too often we jump to a conclusion or make a snap decision or judgement.  The next time you have the opportunity to make a move in the game of life, try meditation.  Your final result may be a more relaxed response to your true self.  For this lesson from the gong I am grateful.

photo taken on a meditation walk in Sarasota, Florida

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