Category Archives: Conflict Transformation

Attitude of Gratitude–Day 35: #love #selfie

Love is an all-encompassing word–so very meta, if you will. And while it’s not an easy word to pinpoint a definition to, though believe me I’ve tried, it is something that is very easy to offer some gratitude!

How is it, that if I can’t quite define it, I can offer it gratitude, you ask? The answer is so simple it’s almost silly. If love is everything, within every particle of the universe,  than my offering up of gratitude to anyone or anything at all, is an offer in love’s name.

With that being said, I’m staring at my blank canvas of a word processor, and trying to decide where in the world I’d like to direct some gratitude-filled love today. Whilst this topic is so vast, I’m going to stay inside the box, and offer gratitude to a little thing called self-love.

Self-love is one of those things that seems easy in theory, but  I can’t explain how many times I’ve gotten advice from friends telling me, “All you really need to do is just love yourself a little more…” And I’m like, “I know, I knooow. Of course.  Sure. You’re so right. Definitely.”

But I’d be fooling myself if I could say I had the answer as to HOW best do that.

Let’s not get me wrong here, I think I’m pretty awesome, and I definitely don’t hate myself. But there have been situations that have occurred in my life, where I do not put my well-being or convenience first. I have been known to dance around people’s wishes, aiming to please, forever looking to compromise, and while I don’t think this is a character flaw of mine in the least, I do recognize that there comes a point when I need to say,

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Because today was one of those days for me, I’m grateful that I took the time to see where my energy was being zapped by other people. Letting others control my feelings and/or environment is the opposite of self-love. For me, it takes a lot of heart to admit when  it’s happening, but usually I can feel it in my body. Recently my second, fourth and fifth chakras have felt  blocked up ….And by that I mean, I’ve been experiencing a  feeling of deep discomfort residing in the pit of my stomach, around my chest and in my throat.  Recognizing this discomfort and telling myself stop and settle into it has been the first step.  Discussing with those who have had an impact on my dis-ease, well, that’s a whole different ball game,  but I’m on my way.  I’ll get there, but not before  making a couple of pit stops to: the massage therapist, yoga studio and amazon.com’s spiritual self-help book section. Hopefully by the time I reach step two, I’ll have worked out a few tense muscles in my shoulders and will be yielding my smoking gun of spiritual wisdom and infinite patience.

 

Today, I bow to myself in deep, loving gratitude,

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 24: Unexpected Connection

Yesterday, after work, I went with some colleagues to have a few drinks at the bar. Being that I am just visiting the Boston office, and I am new to the team, getting to know people in a more casual setting is a nice way for me to put faces to names and build my connections. The night took an unexpected turn towards amazing, when I struck up conversation with a young woman named Bethlehem.

As our conversation evolved from the typical, what’s your name? where are you from? chitter-chatter, we both began to recognize that we “read from the same book.”  Our conversation was a journey of self-discovery and the bar around us faded into the background. The only indicator I had to denote the length of our conversation was the 3 empty glasses of Malbec. Our conversation flowed from travel to spirit, spirit to conflict, conflict to identity, and finally identity back to spirit. We discussed books and critiqued philosophies; we talked about religion and about God and our role prophetic models, Carl Jung, Christ and the Buddha.

As the after work crowd began to dwindle, we came back into our surroundings and mingled back in with our remaining colleagues. Together, we felt like a force of wisdom, strengthened by the old age of our souls. We began to talk with one of our co-workers about relationships, and we completed each others thoughts and nodded vigorously as the other spoke. Upon leaving, Bethlehem, a stranger two and a half hours prior, said to me, “I feel like I am talking to myself seven years ago.”

Upon hearing this I to stopped and acknowledged the feeling of unity and oneness of all beings. If she is me, seven years my senior, I am excited for all of the spiritual growth yet to come. And thus, I am grateful for an unexpected connection, and the reminder that continuing to feed the soul with deep analysis and discussion is how I will ultimately continue to grow. I am thankful for my spiritual community and for all the people in my life who nourish and push my spiritual boundaries.

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Enough, already! I’m Already, Enough.

The dawning of a New Year seems to spark in everyone a consciousness and awareness of their physical creation – the haves and have-nots of our manifestations. I like to take the time to look back on my year and laud myself for the triumphs and pat myself on the back for wading through the breakdowns, the losses and the “failures.” Each new year, I set goals and intentions, make plans, dream my wildest dreams and then settle back slowly into the present, filled with optimism that this year will be as good, if not better than the last.

However, this year, I’ve decided to go a slightly different route with my New Years intentions. I am starting from a place that I’ve never started from before, and it’s a place that needs nothing. No superlatives! I don’t need more money, I don’t need to be skinnier, and I don’t need more love in my life.

I am simply enough.

With this new mantra in mind, there is one thing that I do want to accomplish this year. I want to let go of old patterns that no longer serve my personal growth.

I plan on doing this with the help of one of my most powerful resources—my awareness.

This year I want to dedicate my focus to my awareness, to the “me” beyond me, to the observer.

But really, how can I get myself to a place where I can actually believe that I am enough? The power of thought is not to be underestimated, but I honestly believe that one needs to dig down deep—to really go there. My inner archaeologist wants to unearth some dinosaur bone patterns.

Consider your life to be like geologic formations. At a granular level, our solid form is but a mere collection of the material possessions, our name and reputation, physical body, and our mental thoughts. These collections build upon our past and make up the solid form we see as our “self”, though no one can claim to be their iPhone5 or their trek through the Andes or their curvy thighs. These are simply our sedimentary identifications, to  some we are very attached, and to others we’d rather pretend they didn’t exist at all. But all these attachments, whether we see them as a positive or a negative are not truly who we are.

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Thus, this year, I will be examining all my attachments: my memories, my physical possessions, my inner dialogues, my relationships, my body, and my health. And I will begin to look at the foundations that they were built on. I can tell you already that some of these attachments seem like they were laid with cement foundations, while others maybe are more talc-like and easily degraded. Where are there cracks in the foundation? Where am I solid and sturdy?

With this one intention of mindfully observing where I am, I must constantly come back to that place of enough. It is the one place that doesn’t need to add any layers of attachment, though paradoxically it allows me to whole-heartedly embrace all of them.

I am who I am, I am love itself, I am Lizzie.

A blessed New Year to you all!

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Falling or Flying? Uniting the Yin and Yang of Our Lives.

Sometimes when you fall, you fly. -Neil Gaiman

I was flying when I came home to the United States in mid-October, fresh off El Camino. I felt like I was moon-walking my way through my much anticipated transition home, and that there was absolutely nothing that could bring my feet back down to earth.

My 33 day trek across Northern Spain was like taking an extended yoga class. I had learned the 3 L’s — Living, loving and levitating.

Somebody rain on my parade, I dare you. I’ll just fly up past the clouds and wait for the storm to pass. NBD.

Well, something happened in my second week home that clipped my wings and knocked me to my knees. My present reality: No money. No job. No plans. Student loans payments. A long distance relationship(?!). Loss of independence.

A shit storm of struggles quickly grounded my feet to the earth, and then, laughing, pulled the rug out from underneath me. I found myself on my knees, hands pressed together in prayer.

So many thoughts whirling in my head. How had this happened? How can I get back to that place? How can I be that me again–that amazing, carefree, life-living, bad ass who had just walked across an entire country? Where were the attitudes of love and timelessness that I had just cultivated?

HOW had I let the fear, insecurity and uncertainty back in?

If this is reality, I thought, I prefer the opposite.

And there it was, that important word; the clue to the next piece of my puzzle. The opposing forces that hold us together, the yin and yang that allow us to fly, can ultimately break us down if we can’t find a way to unite and balance them.

Here are four new practices I have undertaken in order to unite the yin and yang and cultivate balance in my life:

1. Softening into discomfort: I have taken countless yoga classes where the teacher would  kick your ass through a series of asanas saying audacious things like, “Breathe into the discomfort” and “Are you clenching your jaw, gripping through your toes? Soften into the pose.” In those moments, I have usually wanted to round house kick the teacher in the head as sweat dripped from my furrowed brow and my arms and knees trembled. Holding chair pose for what feels like an eternity and a half sucksssss.

But the idea of softening into the discomfort is actually a practice that allows us to find our limits and then stretch them. Sometimes this stretch is just a second or two longer than our mind is telling us is currently possible. But over time, we can endure the discomfort for longer periods and build up strength.

If this practice can sculpt our buns and tone our arms, just think of the benefits it can provide to the most important muscle in our whole body–our kick drum heart!

All of the stress I have been experiencing recently had resulted in feelings of tightness and tension in my heart. I could physically feel a contraction in my chest and heart. I had to learn to cultivate awareness. When I start to notice this tension in me, I now take a deep tension releasing breath. Result? An immediate sense of relief. Usually the relief is fleeting, but as I gradually build and hone this practice, I am ultimately strengthening my heart muscle.

2. Shading my shadow: Having glimpsed a sliver of the perfect me, I was reluctant to admit to its opposite. Rather, I had hoped to dig my nails into perfection and hold on for dear life. In retrospect, I should have known that resisting this change was not going to end well…but hey, lesson learned, I’m only human and change is fucking scary.

So I began a quest to liberate myself.. from myself. I started by accepting the opposites and all that lies in between.

I began with the things that I don’t like about myself, and then I looked within to find the opposite. I began to see the contradictions. Oh yes, sooo many contradictions.

For example: I would give the world for someone I love, could also mean that I am capable of being selfish and self-preserving. But in between these extremes, there are 50 shades of grey (wink), and  I can be anywhere on the spectrum and it’s all me. It’s all gravy baby.

Tension relieving sigh….

3. Lightening and grounding:

This technique is awesome. It’s the alchemy of energy. It’s the transmutation of heaviness into lightness. Ultimately, we are capable of moving our heavy energy to places that need to be grounded, thus freeing space for lightness. By focusing on drawing the feelings of heaviness downwards to our feet, we are able to build a base that stabilizes and connects us to the earth allowing us to be light in our hearts.

Image I’ve started transforming my base metals into noble metals, boo yah!

4. Looking at the reflection in the mirror:

We are all mirrors of one another and we reflect our souls into the eyes of other beings.

Anytime you have a  negative judgement of another person, that same negative energy exists within you. Thus, we can practice releasing ourselves from the grips of judgement by committing to taking responsibility for ourselves. Whenever I feel an negative emotion as result of an interaction with someone else, I ask where its coming from within me and then try to peel back the layers and hopefully neutralize the negativity by uniting the two reflections.

Justin Timberlake nailed it:

You were right here all along
It’s like you’re my mirror
My mirror staring back at me
I couldn’t get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it’s clear as this promise
That we’re making two reflections into one

On this note too, we can also find kindness and love in each other. Start with yourself! Be kind to yourself, and then you can be kind to others. Love yourself, and you can love others. This will ultimately result in people being loving and kind to you. Sweet!

These techniques have helped me to cope with the fall. But in the end, we don’t have to be afraid to fall. Sometimes in those moments of utter confusion, chaos and shit we experience insight, enlightenment and love.

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So…

“Hang on to the wind and trust. You are eagle.”

Monkey Mind

The other day I decided to take a walk in the woods out to Sterling Gorge Falls. I knew approximately the direction I was going in based on a mental image I had of a trail map, and I figured it couldn’t be too far from my launch point on Maple Lane. With the trail map in my minds eye and my two chipper canine companions, Sadie and Ben, I felt secure and confident as I headed off down the narrow logging road. I knew the road turned into the trail, which I hoped that would lead me to the falls. Having left my usual distractions behind such as my cell phone and my iPod, I set an intention to walk with purpose and relish in the present moment. I busted out my ujiyii breathing (that’s fancy sanskrit for “ocean sounding breath”) and counted the length of my inhalations and exhalations. I also made mental notes of my physical being. How were my knees feeling? Achy. How was my psiatic? Twingy. Apparently I’m a grandma in a 23 year old’s body… But that’s beside the point. I was being present. Or at least I was trying really REALLY hard to be present.

Like most times I meditate, I experience what we yogis like to call monkey mind. My thoughts jump and flip and dance around my brain like a chimpanzee at the zoo. With my impending move to Morocco creeping up on me, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. This fueled the schizophrenic conversation I started having with myself as I walked. It went something like this: “What am I doing going to Morocco? Am I crazy? I’m overwhelmed. I should stay.”  Then it would quickly turn to Lizzie #2 justifying and supporting my decision to go. She would say things like, “follow your dreams”, or “trust your intuition” and “you are going to be just fine.”  Then Lizzie # 3 would step in somewhere mid thought to remind Lizzie 1 and 2 that she was supposed to be meditating and therefore should be clearing her mind of all clutter and thoughts and focusing solely on her breath. Lizzie #3 would win out for a good 30 seconds to a minute, before the chatter would start again. Thankfully I was the only person on the trail that evening, because I’m sure if anyone witnessed me and my ocean sounding breathing evidently struggling to contain the voices in my head, they would have turned on the heels of their sturdy hiking boots and walked in the opposite direction.

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Many times when I go hiking in new places I experience feelings of doubt. Though I usually I have a vague sense of where I am headed, I often find myself wondering if I am going the right way. When that feeling of doubt sets in, it can easily pervade your whole being. You get this feeling of anxiety; an uneasy feeling right in the pit of your stomach. Often it urges you to turn back. It starts telling you that it is getting dark out, and that there are bears or woodchuck serial killers that are just lurking in the woods waiting to attack vulnerable weak-kneed girls. Just then, you spot a trail marker indicating your proximity to your destination. The little white paint on a tree is a comforting sign that urges you to press on, and suddenly you are flooded with relief because you know you are still on track.

On this particular walk I simultaneously experienced doubt in its literal and mental forms. I felt equally unsure of where my desired destination was on the physical trail I was walking and the metaphorical journey I am on. However, what I learned from the trail that day is that I need to trust myself more. Even the vague mental image of a trail map I had was enough to coax me forward, and to eventually be successful in finding my desired destination, Sterling Falls Gorge. It was gorge-ous to say the least, and I was thrilled to sit quietly at the edge of the falls and listen to the water rush by.  

As I was walking back I recognized the symbolism and I chuckled. Obviously the trail was a journey… just like the one I am travelling on every day of my life. The doubt was there to try my commitment towards forward progression and it made me anxious and uncomfortable. But I’m stubborn when it comes to my dreams, and I am not the kind of person to succumb so easy to fear and doubt. All it took was just a few trail markers and some trust in my intuition to bring me safely and successfully to my desired destination where I could sit enjoy the gratifying view for a while.

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I’ve learned many things from the woods this summer—trust and gratitude and presence—to name a few. I’m thankful that I was actively participating in seeking the present moment that afternoon, because had I not been, I could have easily missed the symbolism of the trail and its direction markers. As soon as I made the connection I felt instant relief about my upcoming adventure to Morocco and what lays unplanned thereafter. I also realized that everything could be much simpler if we can stay present. The answer I was seeking was playing out before my eyes and it was so simple that it shut Lizzie 1, 2, AND 3 the eff up!

Citizen of the Planet

Ok…so yes, I know it’s a totally cliché first post, but I really love this song.

Get a load of these lyrics:
“And so, the next few years are blurry, the next decade’s a flurry of smells and tastes unknown. Threads sewn straight through this fabric through fields of every color, one culture to another.”

Ehh so maybe it’s not lyrical genius, but geez Alanis, you get me. I mean, you REALLY get me. This song is about pushing personal boundaries, exchanging cultures, and respecting the sanctity of all beings. So of course I love it.

I am definitely adding this to my travel playlist. Stay tuned.

Xo, Liz$

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