Slow down for what?

Recently the days, weeks and EVEN months have been passing as quickly as a flip book. If I dare to blink, I risk missing it all due to the sheer velocity of which the pages travel.

It’s October now, and I can hardly even recall the past four months. I could blame it on work, and the hectic nature of our busiest season, but ultimately I am the one to blame for letting the present moment slip away from me so effortlessly. I recall sitting at my desk at 8pm on a Wednesday night and wishing for there to be more hours in the day, just so that I could complete everything that needed to be done.

However, because I believed there was not enough time to get everything done, every action that followed this thought came with a sense of urgency. I began to eat my meals standing up in the kitchen…because let’s face it, who has time to sit? I stopped working out…because that’s a luxury for people with time. Writing? Who has time for something you love when you have no time to read all of your emails? Meditation? Ha! Sit still for fifteen minutes everyday?! You’ve got to be kidding me.

I could feel myself burning out and kept telling myself, “push through, next month will be better.” But as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months, I realized that it wouldn’t get better unless I slowed down. What’s more,  I was solidifying a dangerous pattern into my psyche that is very hard to unlearn.

I began to think in terms of lack rather than abundance.

Not only was there not enough time, there wasn’t enough money, not enough love! On this slippery slope, I began to slide. The slide wasn’t fast and it wasn’t without resistance. I saw what was happening to myself, but I ultimately couldn’t control it.  Until I finally took a deep breath.

(INSERT DEEP BREATH HERE).

AH, there it is, the key to it all. A conscious deep breath is an acknowledgement of the present moment, in which we always reside whether we are aware of it or not.

So now that I am breathing again, how do I make a 180-turn around from lack to abundance? Here are a few steps I am taking to bring myself back into alignment and achieve abundance in all aspects of my life.

1. Fake it til you make it. When we have functioned with the idea of lack in the back of our heads for a significant period of time it is hard to believe that you are enough and will always have enough. So, fake it until you begin to see some results.

If you don’t think you have enough money, give away the last 5 dollars in your wallet.

If you don’t think you have enough love, send someone you love a handwritten note proclaiming your love.

If you don’t think you have enough time, sit down and, as slowly as you can, drink a hot cup of tea.

2. Give thanks. Gratitude is a huge factor in how we perceive abundance in our lives. A gracious mentality will shift our energy field from negative to positive, and in doing so attract like-minded thoughts, people and events into our lives.

Today I am grateful that I was able to sit down and write this post. The satisfaction I receive from writing is so much more than than the satisfaction of checking off items from my daily to-do list. Laundry? Sure it needs to be done, but hey, I’ve got time …and 2 more pair of underwear until I actually NEED to do it.

3. Take a time out from your screens. I, like the rest of humanity these days, am addicted to my cell phone, my computer, my social networks, etc. etc. etc. Commit to powering down every now and then. It will help you to manage the sense of urgency that technology creates for us to be (in the words of Daft Punk) harder, better, faster, stronger. The world will not stop if you turn your phone off periodically. In fact, by taking some time away from our handhelds I would argue that we will increase our productivity. The world will continue to spin and we will be more present to the beauty and opportunity around us in the moment.

4. Make yourself a priority. When everyone else’s needs come before your own, you can be sure that you will become resentful. Do specific things for yourself everyday that contribute to your mental health and well-being.

Go to the gym. Read a book. Cook a healthy meal! Go for a nice walk in the woods. Create something beautiful. Meditate. Dance. These are just a few things that make me happy and restore me. Ask yourself what makes you happy, and make doing it a priority!

At first, slowing down means more routine, because it takes a bit more planning and commitment. However, the ultimate goal is to turn it into ritual–the more positive and spiritual counterpart of routine.

Slow down for what? 

Slow down for your health, Slow down for your well being. Slow down so you will reap the bounty of abundant gifts from the universe.

lil john\

Lil Jon agrees.

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Walking Into Life’s Labyrinth — A Year of Walking With My Heart Open

Today is the one year anniversary of my arrival in St. Jean Pied de Port, France where I began Le Chemin de Saint Jacques, also known as El Camino de Santiago or the Way of Saint James–a Catholic pilgrimage across Northern Spain to the city of Santiago de Compostela. One year ago today, I stood at the entrance to the labyrinth that would guide me within myself and help me to balance my external and internal journeys. 

Huruki Murakami’s book, Kafka on the Shore, sheds some interesting light on the emergence and symbolism of labyrinths.

“The symbol of the labyrinth comes from the ancient Mesopotamians. They pulled out animal intestines–sometimes human intestines, I expect–and used the shape to predict the future, They admired the complex shape of intestines. So the prototype for labyrinths is, in a word, guts. Which means that the principle for the labyrinth is inside you.  And that correlates to the labyrinth outside.” 

The principle of reciprocity lies within the labyrinth. If you step into one outside of you, you are also stepping into the one within you.  

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A natural labyrinth outside of Burgos, Spain along El Camino.

Before I walked my dear friend and fellow pilgrim, James, told me that we’re always walking el camino–the way. The voyage itself is just the physical manifestation of the path within. But the way within is typically a very challenging and risky trail to follow. But like a labyrinth, you slowly wind your way to the center, and then back out again. You release, receive and return, hopefully with some clarity of mind and openness of heart. 

El Camino de Santiago is a giant labyrinth that sets the stage for you to turn within. Marked by yellow arrows and scallop shells, Pilgrims wind their way over mountains, across valleys, through woods, over rivers, and into the center of their hearts. Everything along El Camino is a poignant metaphor for life’s labyrinth. 

El Camino itself, perhaps the most obvious, is the way. The journey of our lives. But it is heavily peppered with many other metaphors. The physical pain a pilgrim endures mark the traumas of our lives. The sunrises and sunsets familiarize pilgrims with the cyclical nature of the soul’s journey. One metaphor I found truly persuasive was the pack I carried on my back. Weighing in at 9 kilos when I started (approximately 18 pounds), my bag was full of the things that I thought I needed. Creams, guidebooks, clothing, food etc. My bag, though not the biggest on the trail, was certainly a burden for my unacquainted frame. Smart pilgrims learn fast, lose the weight or else you suffer. Ditch the things that don’t serve you and trust that your community will provide the things you don’t have when you are in need.

El camino always provides. 

The coming and going of pilgrims was another strong metaphor. You meet someone, you walk with them side by side for days on end, and then one day you realize you will eventually move forward or fall behind. Letting your fellow pilgrims walk their own way, and respecting that you too need to proceed the way you feel best, can be hard. Though you may have known them for two or three or fourteen days, they are your support system, your security blanket. Letting go of people is just as hard on the camino as it is in real life. But it was an important lesson for me to learn. I walk my way, you walk yours. If our paths cross and we exchange lessons, you will remain forever in my heart. I do not need to cling to anyone, because  I can take care of myself– I am whole. 

El Camino taught me lessons about resistance. It taught me to let go, to trust, and to go with the flow. The practice of identifying and then releasing myself from the inner-resistance has served me thoroughly in navigating through life’s challenges and my/society’s heavy-set expectations. 

El camino also taught me about magic. In it’s own special way, that trail makes magic. Whether it is the collective energy of the pilgrims who walk, or the sacred and beautiful land, or both! There is something truly remarkable and indescribable about the magic of El Camino. When I finished I thought the magic would go away. That I would only be able to tap into it if I were there, but really the magic was just with me and lying dormant all along. the labyrinth of El Camino opened up the channels for my good-witchery to flow freely. 

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A labyrinth in Queens, NY at the site of the former sacred 5Pointz graffiti mecca.

Arriving in Santiago was one of the most amazing days of my life. Blistered and swollen, my feet rocked 500 miles of terrain and earned themselves some serious street creds. But what I feared most upon arriving in Santiago was how to keep El Camino alive now that I would no longer be walking its sacred path. But again, like the labyrinth commands you must always return to the external realm. You can not stay forever within, you must emerge. But you’ve touched center and can once again be reassured that it is there. Your equilibrium has been rebalanced and you can go about living your human life until the next time you desire to return to that place. The center remains accessibly where it has always been and forever will be, seek it when you need it. 

El Camino has lived a very vibrant life within me since the day I finished walking the trail. There has not been one time where I have thought of my 33 days on the trail and not had a volcanic eruption of emotions explode from my heart. Happiness, pride, nostalgia, awe and gratitude frequently swirl within me when I think back on this experience. 

So I guess James was right, I was walking the way before, though perhaps with my eyes closed. When I made my pilgrimage to Santiago, I walked straight into the wild labyrinth. Through my journey I opened my soul wide and I touched center. I’ve returned frequently to that place to leave offerings of patience with myself and kindness for others, gratitude for life’s lessons and above all a big bouquet of love upon the altar of my soul. 

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A beautiful labyrinth on Long Island.

 

Shake Awake!

There is something about this music video that makes me want to wear high-waisted jeans and a crop top and bust a move. Maybe I will!

What about you?

Today I am shaking myself awake to this! Dance with me!

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Wake up and dance with me!

I just read an article about early morning sober dance raves in Brooklyn, where smoothies takes the place of alcohol and early birds can shake their booties before heading to the office. Admittedly,  at first I shook my head and thought, “OooOooOhhhh how Brooklyn,” but then immediately after I judged Brooklyn for being its cool-hipster-brownstone-gentrifying-strollered-artsy-dogparked-awesome-self, I thought about how I would TOTALLY go to this sober dance party. Let’s be real, how epic it would be to start each day a dance party?!

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The answer is clearly, duh, dancing is awesome, that WOULD be totally epic.

But not only would it be epic, it would be healthy, and centering. It would promote happiness and well-being, and awareness of my body, mind and soul. For me, dancing is the quickest way to my center. It enables me to find this place deep inside my soul where I fully trust the present moment. In this place I rely on my intuition to fluidly move my body from one movement to the next. Thoughts are not involved.

My journey thus far has taken me through the highs and lows of life, to the tops of mountain peaks and wading through rivers in the valleys below. In order to find my balance, I’ve had to learn to go as the river, and to yodel gratitude from the peaks of luscious green mountains . Along this blessed journey I’ve discovered the importance of self-care and self-awareness. And I’m lavishing this idea of being both fully aware and caring of myself by creating an outlet for my emotional being through my groovy dance moves.

And while I won’t be making the trek to Brooklyn for a daily dose of dance, there is no reason why I can’t bring Brooklyn to me…figuratively speaking.

So, will you join me in a dance party?

The tunez and daily inspiration will be provided courtesy of moi, DJ LIZ$, here on my blog and on the book of face each morning.

Wake up and dance with me. Because, why the eff not?

It’s time to come alive and shake off the sleep! Tomorrow is the official start date, but here’s a little taste of the funk to come.

When one closet closes, another window is opened–Wendy’s Closet Clothes Out

Yesterday marked both an anniversary and the end of an era. Wendy’s Closet in Stowe, Vermont, closed its doors after 24 years (to the day) of business. Those who have shopped at Wendy’s know that her store was so much more than “fabulous” fashions. Her goal has always been to help women feel beautiful and confident in their own skin, and she has empowered women for years to embrace their unique beauty. The energy and love that filled this small shop knew no boundaries.  All who passed through her doors received the utmost service of loving-kindness from Wendy and her staff, or her ‘Angels’ as she liked to refer to them.

I was blessed to be a “Wendy’s Angel” myself, coming to the store in 2008 on a return trip from college. With no summer job prospects, I happened upon Wendy’s looking for a birthday gift for a friend. As a long time customer of the store, Wendy knew my retail history and offered me a job the moment I told her I was looking for work.

Little did I know that this moment would alter the course of my life. Wendy took me in and opened up a world of love, kindness, generosity, loyalty, and spirituality to me. She is truly a guru among humans–humble and noble, fabulous and fashionable. She’s a woman who can throw anything on with a tee-shirt and jeans and make it funky and classy all at the same time. She taught me lessons about self-confidence and the importance of self-love as we played marathons of backgammon, read our horoscopes from the Seven Days and ate cupcakes from Harvest Market.

It was in her very shop that I even landed my current job. I had moved home from living abroad and had little more than two dimes to rub together. I called Wendy, as I always do when I am home and in transition. As expected, she opened her doors wide to me and offered me my coveted job back. I came to work only for the weekend, taking the bus from NYC to Stowe. Some might call it luck, but I call it fate, that on this very weekend back in October of 2013, I helped a customer who would end up offering me a position within a company called Education First, which would eventually launch my career as the Director of the Cultural Care Au Pair Training School.

The path that my life has traveled since that day has everything to do with Wendy’s Closet. All of the lessons I’ve learned over the years from Wendy about facing my fears, taking chances and opening myself up to the gifts of the Universe came to pass under her roof on this fateful day in late October.

Wendy is a woman of strength and character, and has been both a mentor and a dear friend to me. Her store was my haven, a place I called home. I knew it inside out, from the merchandise to her loyal customers. I relished my afternoons working with Wendy and the Angels.

And so, it is with bittersweet emotion that I write this piece. It is difficult to imagine Stowe without Wendy’s Closet, but I, like anyone else who knows Wendy, am certain that whatever this new chapter brings, it’s going to be “fabulous.”

Wendy, these mere words I’ve conjured pale in comparison to the feelings of gratitude and love I feel for you and your store. Thank you for everything, and my best wishes to you in this exciting transition.

Lots and lots of love,

Lizzie

wcvt

 

 

Circumnavigating the Heart; A Father’s Day Tribute

The circle is a symbol we can all identify with, an infinitely wise geometric shape.

The heart, a blood-pumping-organ that circulates oxygen and blood through our veins.

The sun, which chases the moon through the night sky, dashing across the universe

And pulling the tides of the sea inhale, exhale.

A ship, sailing the seas, circumnavigating the globe.

Through turbulent waters and calm ones he sailed.

My father, the seafarer.

Some of my earliest memories of my father were imaginations, ruminations.

I sat spinning my globe ’round and round tracing an outline with my delicate pointer finger

Across mountains and seas, desserts and rain forests,

Metropolitan cities and rivers and valleys.

“Where’s Daddy?” Mommy would ask.

“Bangladesh,” or  “Cape Town,” or  “Diego Garcia,” I would reply, pinpointing his location with my finger.

I imagined him on his ship, the master of the seas.

“Daddy always comes home” Mommy would tell me.

And he always did.

—–

It was hard for all of us to function as a family unit sans the captain of our household.

But his first mate and crew managed.

Our hearts were full of joy when Dad came and grief when he left.

And even as we grew older and more accustomed, it never became easier.

Birthdays were missed, Christmases too.

But as Dad sailed he circumnavigated our hearts.

Because it was love for his family that sent him back to the open seas each time.

—-

Don’t be fooled, Dad. This love is not unrequited nor unappreciated.

And it’s this very love, which has had a profound effect on my life.

Sometimes the effects were as indirect as the passage around the Cape of Good Hope,

But they remain a part of me nonetheless.

I too became a traveler, and as the wanderlust surged and swelled within me like a storm raging in the Atlantic, I set off, like my father, to chart my own course.

I wanted to see the world  just like my Dad.

I wanted my passport to be as full and diverse as his.

And most of all I wanted to explore borders and push boundaries.

I wanted to open myself up the world and let my heart soar to heights as high as Kilimanjaro and plunge as low as the ocean’s floor.

From home, my parents worried. But they were steadfast in their love and support.

And what I’ve learned is that no matter how many times we complete a circle, we are infinitely traveling towards home.

Towards the center of our hearts,

And into the arms of those who love us most.

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Dad,

My passport is now filled with stamps, but the most important stamp of all is the influence you’ve had on my life over the past 24 years. Thank you for your love that knows no borders.

And remember, I, too, always come home.

Happy Father’s Day!

Love,

Lizzie

 

 

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Attitude of Gratitude — A Mother’s Day Smile

From her joyous womb they cut me out and introduced me to the world. 

The scar tissue from my child birth formed what mom called her “Lizzie smile.”

This scar, a symbol of the symbiotic relationship, formed between a mother and daughter.  

A smile. Yes, if our relationship could boil down to one word, smile would be it. 

Some days were upside down smiles, of course. But right side up or up side down, it matters not. 

She was there, steadfast in her love for her children, her family. 

That’s how a family is created, isn’t it?

Creation through an act of love. 

And the most amazing thing about creating from love is that you pass that love along and watch it as it multiplies. 

My brother’s and I are results of that love, which we too are able to share with the world. 

And one of mom’s incredible gifts that she passed along to me was her love for words.

The gift of gab, some would call it. 

Whether it’s an oral story or a poem or a book, mom’s talents know no boundaries but the one’s she sets herself. Spirit flows through her when she’s handpicking her words like apples from trees and weaving them into intuitive tales, laden with experience. Her creativity never ceases to entertain her crowd. 

So on this Mother’s Day, I hope to return some of these words to my mom. It’s not flowers or breakfast in bed, but it’s something that we share, and something that makes us both smile. 

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thank you for everything you do for your family. I hope you’ve been inspired to do more of what you love, because even though we’re grown, we still take our cues from you.

Keep multiplying that love and go get your damn story published! 

XO — Lizzie 

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Managing changing relationships. A yogi toolkit!

Dear readers, I’m pleased to announce that all of this writing I’ve been doing lately has paid off! I’ve been published in the Elephant Journal! Please click the following link and give a read! Thank you all for you inspiration and support! Lots and lots of love!

Lizzie

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/05/managing-change-in-relationships-a-yogi-toolkit-lizzie-guerra/

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 43: Reunion

I’m writing this from my phone as I sit on the 3 train. I haven’t had much time to write, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to be grateful for. Actually, recently it seems that the more I have to do, and the busier I am, the more I have to give thanks for!

Today was another full day of sunshine and good company, and tonight I reunite with a good friend who I haven’t seen in 3 years.

We met in 2009 during our study abroad program in Burkina Faso. We fast became friends and were an unstoppable duo; the self proclaimed Lizzie and Elena show, we commanded attention and turned heads with our dance moves. We always said that we were “coupé de là même tissu” –cut from the same fabric. Fabric as colorful as a Burkinabé pagne, the gorgeous west African cloth, which clads all.

I’m grateful to the souls out in this world, who I’ve connected with. And I’m SO grateful for the joyous moments of reunion, because they’re filled with fond memories of days gone by, reminiscent laughs of mischief managed and good times spent.

Hugs abound!

-L

Attitude of Gratitude–Day 42: Renewed Enthusiasm

For the past few days I have been feeling a lot of my energy desiring to be channeled into things that grow my person. There are things that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, like listen to lectures, read, study languages and work out. Because I’ve been so focused on keeping my head above water at work and trying to find a social balance, I’ve had very little free time to do anything more than write daily,  sleep and MAYBE visit friends on the weekends.

All of a sudden, today, I snapped my fingers and did all of the things I’ve been meaning to do for some while! It’s as if my enthusiasm for myself has been restored. God it feels so good! I can’t wait to get my hands into new projects like learning Spanish, taking cooking classes, reading, training at the gym and deepening my faith and yoga practice. Right now I feel like I could tackle any project…so I guess that means I’ll have to do just that! Bring ‘em on!

I’m grateful today to have enthusiasm for some long term projects, which I can focus myself on daily!

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