Category Archives: mindfulness

Take Two: Learning to be Alone

I can just imagine the look of stress on my mom’s face as she receives an email notification that I’ve written another blog on me being alone. Let me quell your fears right away — It’s OK Mom, everything is fine and we have not broken up.

In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. This time around I am learning that there is a new kind of being alone, the kind that you schedule and choose very carefully. The kind that is infinitely more challenging when you’re in a happy, loving relationship in a city full of things to see and places to eat and and friends (!) … did I mention I have those too! It’s kind of well…overwhelming. Both in a very good way (believe me I’m grateful) but also in a how-do-I-balance-all-this-and-still-go-to-the-gym-kind-of-way?!

So here we go with my biggest realization as of late: my time living on Long Island should more accurately be described as my time in isolation, not my time spent alone. I didn’t know that there was a difference until I had something to compare it with, but this is what isolation looked like for me.

Scrolling for hours and hours through social media because I missed all my friends and even randoms I didn’t even really care too much to know how they were doing.

Crying after coming home from a fantastic weekend of visiting people and feeling the heavy void of them not being there.

Being in bed on a Friday night at 9pm because I couldn’t think of anything better to do with my time, warming my heating pad up and calling it my “boyfriend” because it was heavy enough to mimic human contact.

These were some of the down sides, but I’ve also written extensively on the positives — I learned a whole lot about what I do to entertain myself when I am isolated. The list includes but is not limited to:

  • Getting tipsy and playing 9 holes of golf by myself
  • Going for a long walk at the beach in the winter time
  • Learning to dance the tango
  • Learning to kick box
  • Zumba!
  • Taking myself out to restaurants
  • Going on a string of ridiculous first dates
  • Shopping — lots of shopping

And above all, I did a lot of reflecting. There was a lot of laying around on my yoga mat, deep-breathing through challenges and grappling with feelings of longing for a more active and interesting lifestyle. But don’t get me wrong, I did settle in some. I made a few really important friendships and I quieted myself down from my usual warp-speed pace. And you know what? By the end of it all… I was actually really grateful that I got to have those experiences. And I was also like, really fit. Which was cool.

And so now, looking back it feels almost crazy how quickly I’ve accelerated. I went from 0-60 practically over night. And with 9 months under my belt, I am starting to crave some quiet again and I realize that I have to make that time for myself. That I have to choose it and I have to honor it.

I need to take time to reflect more and to be alone. The alone that I choose for myself. The alone that is the opposite of isolated. The alone that feels so decadent and healthy and re-energizing. The alone that feels so good.

So all of this just to say, there will be more here soon. This is one of my favorite outlets of reflection myself and it’s been a while. But I am back and I have so much to say.

L.

 

 

 

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It will be worth it.

For the past three years I have been a shepherd, so to speak, for young international students who are leaving home (some for the first time) to come to the United States to spend a year, maybe two, living with an American host family as an au pair. My training school has ushered thousands upon thousands of students through its doors, welcoming and grounding them in preparation for their adventure ahead.

The question “what’s next?”is the common theme that bonds all of the students together, and our facility is a place where transition begins the process of transformation. At the Training School our students are on the precipice of an enormous change, perhaps one so drastic that they may not even recognize their former selves upon returning home to their countries at the end of their program.

And it is this raw energy of change that has fed my heart and soul, and which has driven me to work harder than ever before. Over the past few years I’ve come to discover that I value nothing more than pushing and expanding boundaries, stepping outside of my comfort zone and trusting that the “what’s next?” will be effortlessly handled when and as it is meant to be.

So as I prepare myself for a life transition of my own, I think it’s pertinent to reflect on some of the lessons my students and this school have taught me over the past 3 years.

1. The unknown is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling. I’m literally reminded of this one hundred times a week. When I ask an au pair how they are feeling about meeting their host family for the first time 99.99% of them will say “I’m nervous and excited all at the same time.” And well, duh! That’s because they have only the faintest idea of what their life is going to be like in a mere 48hrs. Nothing is more unsettling than not being able to plan two days in advance. The thrill of it all is the adrenaline pumping through their veins and the realization that, “well, shit, I am here and I’m doing this and soon I will walk through their door and I will figure it out.”

2. Be aware of your point of no return …and embrace the momentum.  Each week as the au pairs fly in from all around the world and arrive to the Training School in New York, I sense they are feeling that they have crossed their point of no return. And while this isn’t exactly accurate, they are autonomous beings who can exercise their free-will and return home at any point, there is some genuine truth to the statement. After all, they got on an airplane. They flew around the world. They’ve now invested both their time and their money into this adventure and turning around feels harder with all the momentum pushing them forward into the next segment of their experience.

The point of no return, however, is where most humans begin to flip out. You’ve set the wheels in motion and guess what baby — physics. An object in motion will remain in motion, so unless you’re going to quickly build a huge brick wall to smash yourself into (which I don’t recommend by the way) your only other option is to hang on for the ride. Let it take you where you are meant to go and trust that you are going to make it to the other side.

I often use the metaphor of a roller coaster to explain my emotions to people, but this situation is quite literally the most accurate time to employ this visual.

You willingly get on the rollercoaster, possibly even choosing the front seat for greater effect. You buckle in for safety and as the roller coaster clicks higher and higher, you realize that return is no longer an option. This is when your heart begins to beat faster, you fear for your life, your stomach drops into your butt and you panic like a small child lost in Costco. But as you peer over the edge you begin to let go into an inexplicable trust that the structure to which you have so willingly entrusted your life has been soundly built. What’s more, in less than two minutes you will be back at the loading station with a few snapshots to purchase of your smiling (more like scream-cry-laughing) windblown face.

3. Know that you are never alone. One of the greatest aspects of the Training School is that everyone is in the same boat. The community of students is strong, even with so few days to get to know each other, the bonds that are formed are very strong because they are able to comprehend in such as deep way the nerves and excitement that their peers are experiencing.

This has served as a reminder to me that in any kind of transition, it is crucial to seek out those who are or who have recently gone through something of similar sorts. Taking care of yourself is your number one priority during any transition, but the task can feel daunting if you are trying to do it alone. Reach out to friends, family and significant others for support and comfort. Let them know that you believe in the process, and that you want them by your side to remind you that the trail you are blazing still leads to Rome.

4. Take off your armor. The most gratifying moments for me at work are when a student will come to me or a member of my team, and wearing their heart on their sleeve, demonstrate their exquisite vulnerability. Just this week I had a lovely girl from France reach out for help with her transition from home to the U.S. In speaking with her she told me that she has always been a pillar of strength for her family, and that being an au pair has always been a dream of hers. As her dream began to turn into reality, the pressure of holding  not just herself, but her family together as well, was weighing heavily on her. She was homesick, she couldn’t stop crying. She felt she needed to be strong and forge ahead.

My advice to her was take off her armor. Be vulnerable. Soften. It takes an incredible amount of energy to put on a face that exclaims, “everything is fine” when you’re actually feeling more like, “holy shit, everything is upside down.” That energy should be conserved and used to process your emotions. Don’t use your valuable energy to cover them up because the ramifications on your mind and body will be grave. Your future-self will thank you for doing the hard work.

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Transitions are super hard and can be incredibly uncomfortable and trying, but they are also pregnant with possibility, excitement and growth. It’s crucial to remember to be mindful. To be where you are. To observe what you are feeling and to give thanks to it. It’s ok to ask for guidance. It’s ok to ask for support. Trust. Soften into the discomfort — it will  be worth it.

 

 

 

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Feeling All the Feels– A Subjective Analysis of Why We (I) Cry

The science of crying is fascinating, and there is a lot of research behind the mechanics of our tears. We cry to protect our eyeballz as well as to regulate an overwhelmed nervous system.  The kind of crying I want to talk about here is not so much the I’m-cutting-onions cry or the I’ve-got-a-piece-of-lint-in-my-eye cry but rather, the I’m-so-overwhelmed-with-emotion-I-need-to-ugly-cry cry.

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It’s a well known fact amongst those who know me that I unabashedly let my salty tears flow. I wear them proudly, my mascara bleeding down my face, my face red and blotchy, my eyes puffy and swollen. What isn’t so well known, however, are the reasons behind these tears…

…so let me flush out a few of my fave tear jerkers: 

The I’m-so-grateful cry:  An overwhelming sense of gratitude for a person, place or thing will get this type of tear flowing for me. Nothing feels quite as good as the I’m-so-grateful cry because it signals to my brain how much abundance I have generated. This direct link between gratitude and abundance is most advantageous for those who wish to manifest even more things to be grateful for into their lives. By focusing on your abundance you align your energy to attract more of the same.

The I’m-so-grateful cry is a fantastic indicator that you are on the fast track to a vastly abundant life. Simply put,  you are hard-wired this way, and this physical response is your body working hard for your success, so you don’t have to. Let these tears runneth over, cuz you’re #blessed.

The standing-on-top-of-a-mountain-one-with-nature cry: Another cry I am a big fan of. This cry comes from the overwhelming feeling that goes something along the lines of “Woah, I feel humbled by the magnitude and beauty of creation. How am I, in the grand scheme of it all, so small and insignificant and yet so uniquely a part of this?!”This mind blowing feeling and the consequential tear drops can be induced by a double rainbow (what does it mean?!) or the constellations in the night sky or standing beside the ocean or being high on a mountain top.

The reason I am a fan of these tears is their intuitive understanding that we are one with everything around us. They are a homecoming of sorts, a reminder. They signify to us the bigger picture and allow relief from our everyday woes and squabbles.

The empathy cry: This cry is an interesting one, and I’m not actually sure how common it is. Personally, I tend to cry when I am in the presence of others shedding their own tears. I conjure these tears as I do the passing of a yawn. If someone is opening up to me with their tears, there is a 99% chance that I will shed a few of my own, even if their pain has not triggered me in any way (that I am aware of in that moment).

I consider this cry one of my super powers. I don’t know why it happens to me, but I know it is directly linked to my life’s purpose–to help others help themselves. This kind of cry notifies others that they can trust me and be open with me. I will not judge their tears and I will provide a very safe space for them to find some catharsis.

Like all super powers, though, it is important to use them for good. Sharing a tear in empathy can be very helpful in helping people heal, however, crying too much can further trigger their stress and cause things to spiral out of hand. If you also have this super power, remember to check yourself before you wreck yourself (and another), aiight?

The broken-heart cry: For obvious reasons, I think it’s safe to say that I have a love/hate relationship with this cry. It’s the ugliest of ugly cries, and yet, in a twisted way, it feels so good.

Clearly the bruising of one’s ego from being dumped is different than, say, grieving the loss of a loved one. However, these reasons for a heartfelt sob can be lumped under the same category for scientific reasons, which I will attempt to explain (plagiarize) via multiple sketchy internet sources.

Some scientists believe that having a “good cry” can release toxins and waste products from your system, which is why we generally feel physically and emotionally better when we wring out your stress and/or grief in a good sob sesh.This kind of cry is very cathartic and supports our health and well-being, so I am a major proponent! Get it out of your body so that it doesn’t manifest into something more severe down the line.

The nostalgia cry (aka the transition cry aka the growth cry): Last but not least is the nostalgia cry. For me, this is generally linked with the gratitude cry, though it can also stand alone in its own bittersweet melancholy. The nostalgia cry is temporal and beckons fond memories that have or will soon come to pass.

This might be my most common cry as I am a being in constant motion. I cry during transitions because they are a time of great reflection for me. It is not so much the fear of the unknown or moving away from people who are dear to me–this is merely at the surface level. Deep down I know that the unknown thrills me to my core and I that I will forever be connected to those who matter most to me.

The reason I personally cry tears of nostalgia is because they are indicators of my amazing successes. They are my growth tears. The tears I invoke when my psyche wants me to recognize how far I have come, how much I’ve conquered. They are my own way of recognizing of my hard work–my blood, sweat and tears if you will. What’s more, the more profound the experience or lesson, the harder I will cry.

According to my own very un-scientific reasoning, this cry is also closely linked with the science of the broken-heart cry as it allows for a softening of the nervous system. With this kind of cry I induce a feeling of total relaxation. For a brief moment, I am able to relish the satisfaction of seeing something through to completion. This pause and time for reflection is ever so important before I begin the next leg of my ascent.

So let us embrace our tears so that we can relish our vast abundance, be a part of it all, change the world with our superhero powers, support our well-being and rejoice in our accomplishments.

Tissue anyone?

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” -Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

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What I’ve Learned by Being Alone

Before sitting down to write I did a quick Google search on the following words: loneliness & alone.

The results were just as I’d expected.

There were tons of posts on the growing public health concern of loneliness, Psychology Today articles on combatting it as well as the human need for socialization. What I didn’t see in my quick search, however, was what I want to write about here — what I’ve learned and the benefits of being alone.

For the past year and half I’ve been contemplating the concept of being alone. I moved to Long Island in 2014 for a dream opportunity. I packed up my belongings and transplanted myself in a locale quite culturally foreign to me. I came here without a network of friends and only some limited family nearby. I was, for all intents and purposes, alone.

Before I came out here I had a vibrant social life and a unique circle of friends of all ages. I’d also never truly been alone before, at least not in the way that I have been in this new setting. Here I have not been able to call up a friend and announce that on a moments notice, I’d be at their door. I’ve always had friends to explore and hangout with. So, as you can imagine, this change was pretty abrupt and harsh for me.

At first I rejected the area and its inhabitants. I assured myself that it was time for me to put my head down and to work hard — harder than ever before. If I threw myself into my work, I wouldn’t have time to feel lonely. This was partially true. The first few months I was here, I worked like a dog. I tried to push the loneliness out by working so hard that the weekends could only be a time for rest, relaxation and recuperation. But as expected, feelings of loneliness would creep up on me when I least expected them. There I was again – at the beach, in random parking lots, in my kitchen, on the phone, in the car – crying. I had never been so lonely, and for so long, in my entire life.

When I sat down with the purpose of writing about being alone out here, my intent was to explain the life lesson that I’ve been learning and not to make anyone feel bad for me…or worse, for ME to feel for myself. Just so I’m clear, loneliness does not necessarily equate to unhappiness for me.

Sure, I have days where I feel melancholy and nostalgic and wish I had my best friends nearby. I’ve even had extended periods of time where I’ve felt this way. However, what I’ve been feeling recently is more balance between being a social butterfly and being alone.

Before I moved here, there were many things I didn’t know about myself. I never needed to ask myself questions like Who am I? What do I want most? Do I love myself? I had a barrage of social reinforcements that I defined myself against, and our collective mentality was supreme. I was able to be a unique part of a whole, but I never felt truly whole myself without my friend group.  But now that’s different, and I am different. I have more insight now that I didn’t have before, and I know myself better.

I have a better understanding of my social patterns and tendencies.  I know that when I feel alone I use Instagram and Facebook as a crutch to to feel connection. Or that I pursue romantic possibilities even when I’m not fully keen on the person.  And I know that I will pick up the phone and dial everyone in my ‘favorites’ in order to hear a voice on the line who can reassure me that I am still awesome.

These patterns and tendencies are hard to admit because they go against one of my core values–give to yourself what you would ask of others to give to you. To simplify what I mean by that would essentially be to say, “Hey, go connect with yourself. Be your own best friend. Fall in love with yourself.”

But I am only human. And I frequently forget that I am one with everyone and everything — I am never truly alone.

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So what, you may ask, is the benefit of being alone for this long? For me, it has been having enough time to take a good look in the mirror. In the past two years I’ve been able to shift some of my most negative patterns in a more positive direction because I’ve had the time to look within. None of this means that I’ve perfected my ways, but I’ve definitely made progress.

I’ve learned to value myself and my time more. I have learned to be non-judgmental and kind to myself when I am having a off day. I’ve learned that meeting new people takes time and requires lots of patience. I’ve learned to be more patient. I’ve learned that connection is all about quality and not about quantity. I’ve learned to be more aware of my time spent on social media and handheld devices. I’ve learned to get out there and do things that interest me. I’ve learned to kick box and to tango. I’ve learned to be more grateful for the things that I do have. I’ve learned to relish a quiet Friday evening at home, and most of all I’ve learned that “me time” is a necessity.

So while it’s been a bumpy ride over the course of the past few years here on Long Island, I’ve learned a great deal about who I am as a person and what I am capable of manifesting all on my very own.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

Attitude of Gratitude–Day 36: Divinity

All week I’ve been building up to this post, like a yogi building up to a challenging pose. I’ve been limbering up my mind, body and soul to openly accept the divine within. I specifically decided that divinity, would be my last subject of this week’s “You Are What You Eat” posts, because it is encompasses all of this week’s topics: humility, self-sacrifice, friendship and love.

When we are in tune with our divine essence, we synchronize ourselves with the infinite expansion of the universe. We are at one both human and divine–ever changing, ever expanding beings.

Through humility we recognize our place in the universe and allow ourselves the flexibility to accept who we are in this form, but also recognize the goddess and god within ourselves and our fellow earthly inhabitants. Through self-sacrifice, we experience the needs of the collective, and give them precedence over our own individual needs. Through friendship we learn the give and take, or the divine dance. if you will, of relationships.  And  finally, through love–especially self-love–we learn to elevate our energetic fields so that those who come into contact with our love know exactly how they should treat us. And thus, as divine beings, we promote all of these wonderful characteristics through a concentrated practice of non-judgement, awareness and patience.

While this week has been tough physically as a result of the juice cleanse, and emotionally quite low for me, I am grateful for some divine perspective. The challenge of body, mind and spirit awareness isheavily concentrated in the body and mind. For me, though this week has been hard in those two aspects, I feel like I am soaring to new divine heights. The dirty work, the hunger, the endurance, the patience, the awareness, the commitment are tools  we use to alter our perspective.

My commitment to gracious living and doing the dirty work is what makes my spirit shine. As a result of this cleanse and my week’s worth of concentration on the divine, my light is lighter and brighter this week.

I am grateful today for this learning experience, for the hard work and commitment, for the lessons I learned by sitting with the discomfort and for my well earned treat, a deep tissue massage.

 

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Amen, right on, shalom, salaam, namaste.

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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 33: Lightening Our Loads

Today I was supposed to write about self-sacrifice, but I decided that sounded a little too heavy as far as my day goes. However, something that I can be grateful for, which directly relates to self-sacrifice, is teamwork. If you think about it, self-sacrifice means to give up your own convenience (for lack of a better word) for the benefit of a group. Teamwork, is this and more!

Working in a team means that the groups functionality must take precedence over our own convenience. Sometimes when we work as a team, we have to make compromises. But in a team, we can accomplish so much more than as just one person. Therefore, we ultimately make everyone’s life less burdensome by spreading out the weight of a hefty task upon many shoulders.

The idea of lightening our load through teamwork is what I am grateful for today. Whether it is a physical or mental task, a personal issue or a collective issue, sharing it with others makes it easier. Today in particular I have two very different examples of how teamwork has worked to my benefit. The first is very evident, as it happened in the work place–a common space for teamwork. Today my staff and I sat down together and re-divvied up our tasks. We will be working together over the next few weeks to train each other on how to do the new tasks. The goal of re-delegating was to freshen up the environment and breathe some enthusiasm into what had become wrote and mundane. We all agreed that this would take some work to learn our new tasks, but that ultimately the team would function better once we had our new routines mastered.

My second example relates more to emotional teamwork. I don’t know if this is even a thing, but I’m sure somewhere in a psychology journal someone wrote the obvious: sharing an emotional burden with a friend, family or stranger helps take the pressure off of ourselves. Today, I am grateful to my best friend, Kaitlin, for being my sounding board. My friends, in general, are always there to listen with an open ear whenever I have something I want to talk through. They’ve helped me lighten many a burden, just be giving me the space to analyze and get things off my chest.

As I lighten my mental and emotional burdens, I am of course lightening my physical burden through this cleanse. I feel much lighter from the juice already! And in case you were wondering if  I was hungry as a result of the juice cleanse, the answer is YES!  But, I’m more hungry for wisdom, and the mindfulness component of this cleanse is filling me up.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 31: A New Take on the Last Supper

Maundy Thursday (the celebration of the Last Supper, which took place on the eve of Good Friday) is a little less than two weeks away, but tonight I partook in a “last supper” of sorts. Tomorrow, I begin a 5 day juice cleanse, in which I will drink all of my nutrients in order to purify and reboot my digestive system. Combining the, “you are what you eat” philosophy with some Eucharistic theology of Christ’s Last Supper, the aim of my juice fast is to forgive,  purify and raise myself up in humbled grace.

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According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the last supper symbolizes. among many things, Christ’s humility; refusing to prove himself the Son of God, he humbly chose self-sacrifice over exhibiting external, miraculous powers. At supper, he broke bread with his disciples whom he acknowledged as his friends. The breaking of bread being the symbolic foreshadowing of Christ’s broken body, and the wine, the blood he shed to forgive the sins of humanity.

And though Christ may have expunged our sins upon his crucifixion, we continue to sin nonetheless. It is my belief that one of society’s greatest sins is our utter lack of appreciation for our vessel–the human body. In the United Sates in particular, where nearly 1/3 of children and adolescents are considered overweight or obese, large agricultural and pharmaceutical  industries are doing their best to make us sick.  Our diets are now scientifically linked to the sharp increase of  obesity related diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  We are encouraged/ duped to mindlessly consume processed sugars, foods pumped full of chemicals and preservatives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and growth hormones; as a result, our generation is the first expected to live shorter lives than those of our parents! I find it outrageous, gluttonous and sinful that we actively disregard our privilege and participate in our own systemic demise.

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Thus, tonight, after my “last supper,” I began to think of a juice cleanse as being my way of offering some forgiveness to humanity for what we have done to our bodies as a result of our consumptive attitude. The Christ-like qualities I would like to embody–humility, self-sacrifice, friendship, love and divinity– will be the subsequent themes for my next five gratitude posts, as well as each day’s meditative intention while I fast.

Tonight, I give thanks to my belly full of  curried tofu and vegetables, roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potato wedges, and I look forward to revving up the Vita-mix, and experiencing all the challenges and rewards of purifying my body, mind and soul!

Amen, right on, shalom, salaam, namaste!

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 29: Leggo my ego

Like any self-driven human being, I set standards, expectations and goals. It’s a way for me to measure my successes and to track my personal growth. Though the legitimacy of my progress is evident with just the slightest bit of self-reflection, I often run the risk of not living up to my own expectations. What’s more, I am also frequently let down by the actions of others whose standards, expectations and goals do not match my own.

Today I’m writing this post for multiple reasons, though particularly as a chance for me to acknowledge the fact that yesterday I failed to write. Not writing yesterday isn’t something I feel any panic about, though I do feel a sense of self judgement and disappointment because I didn’t complete my task sans flaw. I know I could just write two posts today and call my guilt good, but I’ve decided against that course of action because I want to reflect on the validity of leniency and letting go.

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Every so often we need to cut ourselves some slack. I once had a yoga teacher who said, “I don’t make my classes hard because I want you to push yourselves beyond your limit. I make them hard so you can recognize where your ego is telling you to do more than you are capable of on this day. When you find your personal limit, you are not weak for backing off, you are strong for telling your ego to let go.”

I remember being wowed by this statement, and it has never left me. I needed this reminder while I was walking the Camino. One day I pushed myself too hard and walked 40km. My tendonitis flared back up and, though it killed me to do so, I had to let go of the idea of walking every kilometer of the trail. It wasn’t going to be possible in the time frame that I had so I took the bus. GASP. But the lesson I learned that day was perhaps more valuable than the walking itself. I had to tell my ego, which wanted to boast that it walked EVERY SINGLE STEP, to be quiet. On that day, I couldn’t physically walk and I was stronger for recognizing this and taking the necessary measures so as not to hurt myself any more.

This lesson can and should be applied to ourselves as often as possible, but it is also very useful in relationships with others. I’ve had relationships, both friendly and romantic, where I’ve pushed myself to my limit in the search for perfection. My ego, is the part of me that registers disappointment in others. It’s a comparison of my desire with theirs that, when unequal, generates hurt. When my ego rears its head, which it does every so often, it takes the strongest part of me  to tell it to back off. My ego wants to attach itself to a story of disappointment, but my higher Self is so much bigger than that.

Letting go in relationships is probably the most challenging thing we, as humans, can do. In an attempt to control and perfect, we fail to see that everyone is on their unique journey through life. I’ve seen this with parents who push their children to be something they don’t want to be for the sake of monetary gain and “success”. I’ve also seen this with friendships and romantic relations where, though their paths have diverged, one or both of the people cling desperately to the past out of fear for the present.

What I’ve learned through both observation and experience is that the healthiest relationships are those grounded in non-attachment. This doesn’t mean that we don’t  care for and communicate to our friends, families, and partners, rather, it recognizes that their journey is transpiring simultaneously alongside our own. In order for them to live out their personal truth, they must go forth, alone, with your blessing, support and love. Attachment stunts those we love. Ego is attachment, love is its opposing force.

So today, my dose of gratitude is for yesterday’s non-post. I am grateful, once again, for the life lessons I’m learning through this writing experience. Sometimes these lessons come from a place of quiet awareness and non-action, and I’m grateful that I was attentive enough today to see this. I am truly grateful to my higher Self, which took the opportunity to learn as opposed to judge, and I am grateful to my ego for letting go of its self expectations.

 

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