our wedding day

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Photo by:  Sean Cook Weddings                                                                                                      Instagram:  @seancookweddings

 

A week ago today, we shared our vows between two trees in the mountains with all of the most important people in our lives standing before us as witnesses.  I know most everyone says this about their wedding day, but it was magical.

Early on, I set an intention to enjoy the process and to maintain perspective- to remember that I wanted to create a marriage that was more beautiful than our wedding.  And so I did my best with infusing each step of the planning with love, attention to detail, and a deep appreciation for all of the help we received along the way.  I wasn’t always perfect, but I did always try.  July 23rd was an absolute dream that I’m not sure I’ll ever wake from and I’ll take from it more than a genuinely kind husband and a new last name.  I gained an abundance of wisdom I never expected to receive and a re-commitment to celebrate each of my days with the same peace, happiness, and thankfulness  I experienced during our wedding.

And so when people ask about wedding planning advice, I guess all I really have to offer are suggestions about life and things we already know but so easily lose sight of.

Love.

What I know is that love exists in moments.  Nights of staying up too late talking, learning to swing dance,  and falling asleep in buses, trains, subways, and on hard-wood floors.  It’s in monthly budget meetings, cooking dinner at midnight, training for a half-marathon,  and watching thunderstorms from the front porch while sipping on wine.  It’s in those simple, sweet words that get strung together so perfectly that will one day become your vows.    These acts of love are the moments that we will be forever nostalgic for.

And when you choose the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with,  remember that you’re also choosing the person you eat breakfast with, experience heartaches and growing pains with, and a person who will deeply influence who you become.  You’re choosing a person who will be in all of the memories you have; a person to sing alongside with during road trips, someone you’ll cry in front of when life gets hard, and a person who you’ll sleep in with on lazy Sunday afternoons. You’re choosing a partner who will not only see you during your greatest and weakest moments, but also endure them all with you.

Choose well.  Be with someone who will tell you a corny joke just to make you laugh and who knows when it’s a wine, cheese, and salami kind of day.  You deserve a love that lights up your soul in all of the most beautiful ways and knows all of the deepest places in your heart.  You deserve a love that is centered around kindness, compassion, sincerity, and warmth; a relationship that is tender, giving, and pure.

The best advice I have is to give away all the love you have in heart, on your wedding day and on unsuspecting moments that feel like ordinary life.

 

2. Support

It goes back to love, but take the opportunity to look at every person at the wedding and know that your life story, happiness, and experience in this world has been impacted by all of the warm smiles standing before you.  Place your hand on your heart and recognize all of the beautiful faces that showed up in honor of your love and to celebrate your relationship and new life adventure.   Know that there may not be another chance to have all of your most treasured people eating together in one place, dancing together during one night.  Close your eyes and try to capture it forever.

Notice all of the effort that goes into making not only your wedding, but your life, as memorable as it is and understand that you couldn’t have done this alone.   Be mindful of the time spent by your parents making all of the wedding crafts, the sweet gestures of your new in-laws in planning the rehearsal dinner, your bridal party and their willingness to go offer advice and problem-solve challenges, and your extended family members who give up their vacation and contribute their talents into making your wedding day everything you hoped it would be. Recognize that these are the same people that have been offering you their gifts all along.

As a general rule, surround yourself with the people you would like to be like; be kind to everyone and selective in who you allow to become your greatest support.  The people who will encourage you to take on new adventures  and schedule phone dates with you just so they don’t miss a thing are the ones that will be there on your wedding day and all the days after.  Hold on tight to your relationships with them.

 

And on a different day and in a different setting, look around you.  Feel the happiness that wells  up in your heart when you focus on the gifts you received in this life that come in the forms of  your friends and family members. Focus on the love that brings you all together and gently let go of the rest. I’d like to bottle up all of the love that we were surrounded with on July 23rd  and pass it around to strangers on the street in need of a pick-me-up.  I believe that everyone deserves that kind of everlasting and unconditional love and I know we all bloom like the magnificent flowers we are when we feel loved, supported, and acknowledged.

 

3.  Everything will fall into place

I think it’s natural to hope that our weddings are beautiful and perfect- but I also noticed that from this comes a hyper-focus on attention to detail, perfection, and rigid ideas about how the day will go. I worried about following the schedule, being on time, and whether the wind would blow our centerpieces away.  I worried about whether our moccasins matched the dresses, if the color scheme matched our vision, and whether or not our food would arrive.  But life is always teaching and reteaching me that when I loosen my attachment to expectations of how a situation will play out and focus on being open to the experience, everything unfolds in the most breathtaking way.  I’m still learning that when we turn ordinary situations into emergencies, we get in our own way of the experience. And I’m still being mindful of the tendency to rob ourselves of the happiness and beauty of the moment by infusing it with our stress or worry.

I practiced allowing the day to unfold and fall into place the most on our wedding day and I smile when I realize how perfect it all was.  The interrupted dances, rain on our rehearsal practice, the missing aisle runner, sneaky moonshine, and dipping too soon during our first dance.  And as in life, we may not know it at the time but each moment is what we need, exactly in the way we need it.

 

4.  Focus on what matters

Although countless numbers of hours were spent on creating the most serene venue – from the wooden benches to the handmade wood cut slabs and centerpieces- what I’ll remember most is my dad pointing out family members as we walked down the aisle and my two little cousins carrying the train of my wedding dress behind us.  I’ll remember my mom dancing the night away with us under the star filled sky, sneaking kisses with my groom, and overlooking the mountains at an incredible view.  I’ll replay moments of my bridesmaids sniffling as they heard us share our vows and remember us singing a made-up song to our photographer and watching them sway their hands as my dad and I danced to “My Girl.”

It was easy to get caught up in all of the details- perfecting every last centerpiece and debating over every single hair option, napkin color, and table arrangement.  I’m glad I took the time to consider them and create an enchanting atmosphere, but the day would have been perfect without all of that.  Don’t lose perspective on the love that brought you to this moment and the love that will sustain your marriage.  Don’t get so focused on creating the perfect wedding that you forget to enjoy time with the family and friends that came to share it with you.

There are so many things competing for our attention and so many societal norms demanding our time and money, and in this all, it is our responsibility to choose to spend our energy on enriching our lives.  Be unfaltering in your decision to focus on the things that can’t be easily captured or defined and commit to spending your life using up all of the love that you possess.  And my dear friend, dance- on your wedding day, in your kitchen, and during salsa lessons- even if you don’t know how to. Promise yourself that you won’t leave the dance floor until you’ve convinced yourself that you have all the moves.

 

5.  gratitude

I can’t think about our wedding day and the months, weeks, and days leading up to it without crying.  I attribute the constant flow of tears to my heart being so full with appreciation. Never have I experienced people showing up in the most beautiful and thoughtful ways to make us feel so loved and I will always remember this day as a blessing and a privilege.

Live a life of gratitude, of knowing that you have enough, and let the abundance of it all sustain you during difficult times. And in moments of frustration and differing of opinions, take yourself back to the richness of your relationships, the laughter you have shared, and all of the happiness that has colored your life.   Take a step back from the push towards consumerism and material pleasures and know that these things will never fulfill our greatest needs. Take a deep breath in and fill yourself with deep gratitude of all that is yours; of all the hands that you’ve held, the scars that have healed, the hugs you’ve received, and the knowledge you have gained.

 

I still stay up late at night thinking about the kindness received from strangers and new friends in support of our wedding and the people  in our lives who continue to teach me what it means to be selfless, flexible, and compassionate.  I’m endlessly grateful for a husband who continues to be the best person I know and who always responds in the exact way I need.  I’ll always go back to the conversation we had at 3am on the Thursday before the wedding in which he reminded me to hold on to every moment because they would be so fleeting, where we talked about the intentionality of happiness, and choosing to respond to whatever comes our way with love.  I’m so grateful for every moment, misstep, and wrong turn that became our love story.

 

 

 

 

 

Today was meaningful because sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts, and sometimes when it is, you decide to make it last a lifetime by saying ‘I Do.’

the ‘what if’ game

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i have this belief that within all of us is untapped potential.

 

and because i am a characteristically anxious person, i find that i’m constantly playing the what if game.  and if you know this game, you know that the background conversation playing in your mind goes something like “what if they don’t like me? what if i’m not good enough?  what if i don’t get the job?  what if i don’t pass the test?  what if i never get married? what if it doesn’t work out? what if the worst case scenario happens? what if i’m not a good enough parent.friend.person.employee.student.writer.artist? what if i fail?”

if you know yourself or are in the process of getting to know yourself, you might find the what if game comes from a place of insecurity or a belief that we are not enough… and if it doesn’t consciously start from that place it often takes us there. and for me, this kind of thinking is always about working against myself.  i don’t always realize it, but somehow insecurity, feelings of inadequacy, and anxiety start surfacing. when i engage myself in this way, i encourage negative thoughts, energy, emotions, and worry by creating worst case-scenarios, catastrophizing events, and imagining all the ways in which something will fall apart.  and usually my what if games lead to believing that the challenges ahead of me are more difficult than my ability to master them- that the challenge surpasses my capabilities. we sell ourselves short in this incessant stream of thinking and believing that we are less capable than we truly are.

 

i’m trying to play a different what if game with myself; one that encourages thinking about possibilities rather than limitations. one that fosters imagination, breaks down walls, and involves expanding ourselves to be more than we have ever considered. this what if game is about believing in ourselves, it’s about coming from a place where we are enough. this game is about knowing that we can do the work and that we can get to that place within ourselves and in the world that we never thought we’d see. this reverse kind of thinking acknowledges that we have the ability to grow, to develop, and to improve. its about creativity, experimenting, and playfulness.  it’s about imagining all of the possibilities. and knowing that they are out there for us to grasp.

 

and so here’s mine:

  • what if i devoted this year to working on my goals in a way i have not done before?
  • what if i woke up every morning and set an intention for the day?
  • what if i stayed focused on each intention and worked diligently on my goals until i accomplished them all?
  • what if i was consistent in my efforts?
  • what if i slowed down and stopped frequently to breathe?
  • what if i acknowledged that i have enough time?
  • what if i stopped listening to negative self-talk?
  • what if i softened into my efforts?
  • what if i tried harder each time that i failed?
  • what if i gave myself permission to fail?
  • what if i each action and behavior was chosen from love?
  • what if i spent less time on my cell phone and more time investing in my relationships? in myself? in my community?
  • what if i wrote every day?
  • what if i expanded my mind every day?
  • what if i took risks?  what if i got uncomfortable?
  • what if i started today? right now?
  •      what if i was limitless?

 

do you feel the difference?

when we open ourselves up to the possibilities we begin to pave the pathway for our goals to unfold.  train your mind to look within yourself in a new way, and train your inner voice to build you up to your capabilities instead of breaking you apart through your insecurities.

 

i have this belief that it is our responsibility and gift to use ourselves up.  to grow into our weaknesses and to give to the world the talents that are within each of us that only we as individuals have.  i have this belief that we are all incredible.  that if we sat down and took the time to look within ourselves, to get to know ourselves, and committed to the process of achieving our heart’s purpose, that we would astound ourselves and one another in what we could accomplish.

 

i have this belief that the world would become even more beautiful.

 

 

 

how you love yourself.

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we carry collected pain from so many moments. like the time during high school when you were first made fun of or when you didn’t get a high enough score to be placed in advanced classes. maybe you lost yourself in the transition to adulthood, parenthood, or somewhere else along the way.  or perhaps you are experiencing pain from the present moment as life is unfolding in a way that is different from what you had planned. we all have these moments. some we continue to know because the wounds remain scabbed, fresh, and open; others are faint scars that have healed over the years. and i believe that like the outside of our bodies that serve as life maps covered with scars from a fishing trip, the first fall on a bike, or stretch-marks after a growth spurt or having your first child; the inside of our bodies carry memories of the experiences we have endured and the emotions we have attached to these moments.

 

we hold on to the words that hurt us and the disappointments we experienced when the outcome didn’t match our expectations.  some people might carry pain, discomfort, insecurities and challenging emotions that come from enduring significant trauma in their life. others might carry the heaviness that accompanies feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, loneliness, or a lost sense of purpose.  perhaps you are familiar with the sting of shame that presents itself in a wave of heat that takes over your body or knots in your stomach from feeling unworthy or never enough. and we all carry the pain from the heartache of lost love- whether that loss be from an imagined life dream, intimate relationship, friendship, goal, pet, or family member.  our bodies store the emotions we experience and our minds collect all of the words that we consciously or unconsciously think. the sum of all of these experiences equate into who we are in this moment.

and sometimes the present moment is messy.  sometimes we have mascara running down our face or we push back tears of frustration that we’ve been fighting with for far too long.   and while the present moment can feel like too much to endure, endless, or unbearable, we often feel forced to pull it all together with a smile on our face because showing up honestly and openly feels too revealing and uncomfortable. so we show up in altered versions of ourselves and we act in ways that we do not fully understand; perhaps through increased alcohol consumption, restrictive eating habits, self-harming behaviors, or spending time with people who only pull you farther from your goals.  we cover up insecurities through mistaken gestures of love or lose ourselves in misguided attempts to find happiness through busyness, people pleasing, productivity, or materialism. we search for reassurance, validation, and self-worth through other people’s approval, the numbers on a scale, or they way our clothes fit us. and still, something remains missing.

 

 

 

whether it be in large or small ways, these little bits of darkness that accumulate along the way begin to cloud our hearts and chip away at our self-worth, self-love, and inner light.

 

 

 

but the truth is, the world needs your brightness.

you need your brightness.

 

i know this because i know what it feels like when we go dim.  our insides start to feel like a deserted, musty old attic room that aches for a little sunlight and fresh air. you start closing doors and boxing yourself in. you begin to feel like you’re living in a way that’s smaller than you actually are. maybe you’ve heard the little whisper in your heart or ringing softly in your ears  reminding you that you are so much more than the present moment.  that your life, your deepest radiance, is one of greatness and eternal love.

and if any of this holds true for you, you haven’t lost who you are, you’re just finding your way. 

there is a deep calling to self-love within each of us, if only we would get quiet enough to listen, patient enough to try, and enduring enough to persevere. self-love is a fluid process that ebb and flows and because it is ever changing, it’s something we must work on daily.  if you aren’t familiar with the shift from inner criticism to celebrating your worth, there are many ways to start:


 


 

 

1.. you can start by honoring who and where you are.  begin to learn about the messages you  tell yourself and gently consider where it is you find your worth- perhaps it comes from the attention you receive from the people around you, in your productivity, accomplishments, or ability to please others. get curious about your sadness, internal pressures, or constant worrying and perfectionism.  maybe it is about making a decision to stop allowing your past to dictate your future while still honoring where it is you come from.  you can start by allowing yourself to be exactly who you are in this moment without calling for a need to change or be anything different than you are.  and begin to know that who you are is enough and that you have everything within you to become everything you aspire to be.

 

2..  you get curious about who you are and who you pretend to be in order to meet other people’s expectations. you start observing the comparisons you make or the put-downs you mutter about yourself or others.  you watch your unkind judgments and assumptions of strangers and recognize that your perception of others is often a reflection of yourself and the way you are feeling.  and during this process, you give yourself permission to gently exit people from your life and make peace with the fact that some relationships and people are not meant for you. you recognize that perhaps inner growth will take place in the letting go, the moving on.   it means you lean into the guilt you experience when saying no to others so that you can start to say yes to yourself.

 

3. you improve yourself through kindness.  kindness towards your body and love to your soul.  self-love is a practice that includes the way you view yourself when you look into the mirror, the way you talk to yourself in the secrecy of your mind, and the way you nourish yourself throughout your days.  the movement towards self love is showing yourself the same compassion, understanding, and kindness that you would treat your dearest friend. its a process of  forgiving flaws and owning up to mistakes. so maybe you are kind to yourself by taking a nap in the middle of a sunday afternoon when the sun is shining into your window just right even though you have a million other things that need to be done.  or for you, it might be about increasing your awareness of the background noise of anxiety that attempts to drown out your sense of enjoyment and play.  it’s recognizing that you are worthy and deserving of the happiness that comes your way and not allowing your mind to rob you of the joy, gratitude, and contentment of the present moment out of fear of future what-if’s, anxieties, and catastrophes.

 

4.  you practice things that bring you joy, calmness, and energy. you start listening to the quiet inner voice that knows your heart and the sweetness that you need.  maybe you need a day full of pajamas and blankets or an afternoon of laughter with friends.  you begin prioritizing your well-being and understand that you’re most capable of offering the purest love to others when you develop that same love for yourself. i journal. drink tea. read. exercise. i practice yoga and meditate, and sometimes i eat five chewy chocolate chip cookies in a row.  i honor my need for personal time and get curious about times when i feel anxious, incompetent, or upset.  i share my insecurities and ease in to vulnerability.  and when you practice self-love you become selective of the way you spend and give of your time.  you stop collecting other people’s negativity and make a decision to be soft and patient with yourself.

 

5.  you allow yourself to heal.  and healing can be uncomfortable. our individual experiences of healing will take different paths and different amounts of time, and all of it is necessary for our journey.  you welcome the raw and truthful expression of emotion and you promise to be gentle with yourself as you grow. there is no time limit on healing and you allow yourself to take as long you need.  it will be a long and windy road filled with detours of disappointments or a return to old behaviors, but you continue to try.  sometimes self-love is about allowing yourself to face your sadness, to speak your hurts, and to sit with your feelings.  sometimes self-love is recognizing all that you have endured.  its looking for those little glimmers of hope that present themselves to us in the darkest of moments.

 

so i support you to grow in love towards yourself.  i challenge you to ask yourself where it is that you hurt and why.  talk if you need to or write if the words flow more easily that way.  and if the tears come, let them.  i encourage you to be a little more gentle, patient, and accepting of your best effort as you try.

 

 

you are wonderful and capable and kind.

and you are deserving of your love.

 

 

 

 

a year’s reflection

 

 

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2015 was a good year.

 

i spent the year engaged to the most wonderful human being on earth and i got to wake up every morning to go to a job that i love.  i ran my first half-marathon, passed my licensure exam, and thoroughly enjoyed the process of planning our wedding. i went for nighttime runs in the park and had dinner with my parents in their backyard.  i watched a lot of sunsets and learned new things.

 

but if i am honest with myself, i didn’t show up for people the way i wanted to.  and in some important moments and simple day to day life experiences, i didn’t show up in the ways i would have liked to. i spent more time complaining and identifying with the negative than i did in investing in happiness, gratitude, and enriching my well-being. i found myself so caught up in being busy that i forgot to live slowly, to enjoy the only moment we are ever promised–right now. i didn’t have as good of an attitude as i would have liked and i was less patient than i know i can be.  somehow and somewhere in 2015 i got off balance; i spent less time engaging in the things that i enjoy like reading, spending time with family and friends, spreading positivity, and forming connections. i spent less time writing and creating.  it’s taken me a while to realize it, but i didn’t feel that inner happiness that has always been so comforting.  i was searching for the ease that i had been living with, but found it harder to come by. 2015 was different from the ones i’ve had recently in ways that i do not fully understand and it was still a good year.

i think it’s important to be able to talk about the times that we fall. to talk about moments when we didn’t live up to our values, expectations, or goals. to be able to say that we have failed or didn’t quite make the target.  i think it’s important to be able to talk candidly about the disappointment we feel or the heartache we are recovering from. the sadness that still lingers after a loss or a setback or the hurt that we try and push away. and i think we only grow when we can be honest in stating that there are some things we will do differently next time.

 



 

i’d like to take better care of myself this year. to honor my time with myself. to find balance between outside commitments, personal goals, and life obligations. i’d like to spend more time being quiet with a warm cup of tea or a book in my hand. i’d like to wake up early in the mornings to write gratitude on my heart and to expand my mind with beautiful words. i’d like to form more connections this year and deepen the relationships that i’m already blessed with. i’d like to be more conscious of the energy i am investing in and harvesting inside. i’d like to be gentler with myself in knowing that i’m trying my best and i’d like to observe the constant flow of thoughts that drive my perceptions and feelings. i’d like to create inspiration and an infinite amount of moments filled with love.

we can talk about all of the things that we want and all of the goals held so close to our hearts. we can read all of the blog posts and books and  listen to all of the motivating speakers and podcasts, but it we do not take action and make the decision to live differently on a consistent day-to-day basis, we remain the unchanged.  sometimes taking action means sitting peacefully, offering yourself a moment to wind down and welcome the moment as it is. and sometimes it means fighting off every excuse to remain stagnant and become uncomfortable. so for me, this year is about saying ‘no’ and being more cautious with my time.  it’s about being mindful of my thoughts and aware of my tendency to fit everything in at the expense of enjoying the moment.  i’m being more intentional and developing new habits. i started writing every night.

 

slowly, with concerted efforts and gentle reminders, we will get there.

but we must know where we are headed.

 

 

 

 

and so with an open heart, a calm mind, and my face tilted to the sun, i welcome 2 0 1 6 .

i welcome today.

right now.

this breath.

reflections from a yoga mat

i cried in yoga today.

i’m not sure why, but i think it’s because i had stored up negative emotions inside of my body-  stress, anxiety, and  pressure.  the need for control, disappointment, and expectation. and sometimes these things sneak into our lives and linger without invitation or our own awareness that they are there. and i’ve learned that when we store this negative energy within ourselves- either consciously or unconsciously- it begins to dim out the light that we are, the inner and outer radiance that we shine, and the brightness we share.

 

 

can you reflect for a moment on the ways in which you may be dimming your own light?

 

 

if you look long enough and can be open with your heart, you might find that you are unkind to yourself in ways that you did not know. like the ways that you eat or do not 0r in the way you force what is not ready to come.  the way you judge your best efforts or the words you allow to speak to your heart. the way you talk to yourself as you set out on a new adventure or explore an unwalked path.  and can you look inside and find the parts of yourself that are holding on to thoughts of inadequacy, worthlessness, harshness, and self-judgement?  or perhaps you punish yourself through criticism, over-working, and the need for perfection.  maybe you will start to observe the stories that you tell yourself about what you cannot do or about what is already done.  listen to the thoughts that swirl in your mind causing anxiety, anger, sadness, or loneliness.  and from my yoga mat i learned that sometimes we dim out our own light by doubting our competencies, talents, and abilities, or choosing not to see our goals through. do you notice yourself creating unnecessary pressure through deadlines, busy-ness, or the need to control every outcome? and when you search your soul are there lingering feelings of isolation, guilt, shame, or fear?  what do they feel like? and how can you let them go?

 

 

stop for a moment.

just notice.

 

 

and in these last two months i’ve learned that when we dim our lights or the lights of others through criticism, judgement, and unkindness, we cause the world to go dark.  we cause suffering. we become trapped in hurt and unconscious negativity.  when we make ourselves small it can become harder to grow, to develop our talents, to be consistent with our personal values, and to be who we fully are and are capable of.  and when we spread negativity to others through jealousy, gossip, comparison, or un-forgiveness, we harbor the same energy within ourselves. but remember my friend, if we can replace our individual and collective spots of darkness with light, we may all shine. 

 

and can you get to know yourself? can you sit with yourself and wonder?

take the time to begin to find yourself in all the ways that you’ve been lost in it.

 

 

 

 

and from my yoga mat, i have found that the more you know yourself the better you’ll be able to recognize when you are straying from your own path.  we can use these opportunities of awareness to embrace discomfort and lean into our pain and insecurities. we can develop presence with the way that we feel and begin to understand that we need not do anything to change it.

 

release. breathe. let go and lean in.

 

 

 

we may not have all the answers, but at least we may begin to ask of the right questions.

namaste.

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… because of letters to strangers.

dear stranger,

i wrote you a letter once and i’ve thought about you a lot since then, mainly because life continues to present its experiences to me and i like to think that we are here in this world learning together.  i like to imagine the two of us meeting in a coffee shop with mismatched furniture sipping on our favorite hot tea and exchanging bits of wisdom learned from the struggles we have endured, the tears we’ve cried, and the moments we have celebrated.

i think the thing about advice is that we can share it, but only through experience and overcoming our individual struggles do we ever really understand.  i think pain, discomfort, heartache, uncertainty, and raw emotions are necessary for our growth and important in realizing the richness of life. perhaps the lessons learned from my pain will be different from the ones you learn in yours; and maybe we offer these things to each other so that our individual discomforts can be different, although shared, and somehow that is comforting. and so i’ll give you my words in hopes that you’ll get from them something that you need and in hopes that you’ll know that wherever you are, we are both here.

i hope you are always learning, dear stranger. that you look at the world through eyes filled with wonder, curiosity, and imagination. i hope you fail frequently and continue to try. that you view the simplest pleasures through the earnest eyes of a child. i hope you create beautiful things and use all of your senses.  that you read interesting books, seek out new adventures, and have deep conversations with someone you hardly know. i hope you listen to the news and read things that challenge your beliefs, i hope you write down poetry and sing silly rhymes. i hope you paint. that you walk. that you touch nature with an explorer’s heart.  i hope you listen more than you talk and that you love before you judge. and i hope you know the world to be simple, complex, and wonderful.

 

dear stranger, we let go of so many moments in our rush to get to the next one.  i’m always learning that if  you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss out on this moment. i hope you don’t wish time away. you’ll miss kindness in the eyes of the cashier, the sound of a small child giggling, and the crunch of the leaves underneath your shoe.  when we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the sickness that is busy, we don’t slow down enough to experience the rise and fall of our breath, witness the sun set, or smell the scent of a cool summer’s rain. we don’t hear what our parents are saying, feel the love that other people are offering, or notice a stranger’s attempt at connection.  although i understand the lure of the future, the draw towards tomorrow, and the excitement of what will be, i also recognize that we do so in exchange for the now.  what i know is that it is about today.  right now.  this exact moment is your life.

when we constantly reach out for distraction, use our time for mindless scrolling, and focus on the world through a screen, we give away the opportunity to practice patience in moments of frustration and to understand how we truly feel.  dear stranger, please put down your cellphone and live in what’s real, in what’s right in front of you. when you are with your friends, family members, strangers, on the bus, driving in your car, in a work meeting, trying something new, eating dinner, relaxing before bedtime, or celebrating something momentous, put down your phone.  i worry that pretty soon we will have lived a life of moments captured, but not truly enjoyed. and we will be left with a life that is unlived. unnoticed. and unappreciated. turn off your phone for a while, my friend…. we don’t get these moments back.

 

i’ve been learning about quality in this last year.  the quality of the relationships i have with friends, family, and my community. who i call and who calls me back. quality work, lessons, experiences, and tasks.  i’ve come to understand that part of developing quality is about being selective and that it is also about time;  choosing how you spend it, what you give it, the amount offered to it, and whom or what we give it to.  you don’t have to accept every task, article, or thing to do; you don’t have to accept every argument or conversation. decide what will add value to your life, who will enrich your worldview, and what will bring happiness and then do these things.  gently let go of the rest.

pay attention, my friend.  notice what you offer the world and yourself through the words you mutter underneath your breath, in the background noise of your mind, and in exchanges you have with people you love and the people you don’t know. focus on the quality of the time, energy, and effort you offer to the world and notice how it comes back to you.  are you here?  are you present? what message are you sending? what lessons are you teaching? what energy are you allowing to fill up your soul?  what relationships are you giving of your heart and your time? and is this the way you would like for it to be?

 

and when it comes to love, i hope you have the courage to let go of somebody who doesn’t love you. that in your search for a companion, you get to know yourself first, accept your shortcomings, and make peace with your flaws. i hope you let love come when it does and in the meantime you celebrate the wholeness you already are.  i hope you don’t accept misguided attention to escape your loneliness, and when your heart gets broken dear stranger, i hope you know that you are still complete. and when you are in fact lonely, i encourage you to seek out connection rather than half-hearted attention.  connect your heart to someone else’s, someone who understands your worth.  recognize that you are enough and start to learn all of the ways in which you convince yourself that you are not.  take time to listen to the background noise that plays throughout your mind and learn that you don’t have to believe every thought you think.  and remember that your value is not dependent on another person’s acknoweldgment or acceptance.

 

i hope you take sometime to look for the cobwebs that may exist in the corners of your heart and decide to let them go, clean them out.  past anger, unforgiven hurts, and feelings of inadequacy or not being enough.  listen for those whispers that cloud your mind with feelings of anxiety, disappointment, sadness, or hurt.  replace them with self-love, compassion, empathy, and gratitude.  and remember dear stranger, other people’s happiness and successes are not the absence of your own.

 

i hope you don’t let your dreams pass you by in exchange for the easier route. i challenge you to create routines and put forth the energy needed to accomplish your heart’s mission. nurture self-discipline and foster the habits necessary that will lead you to your goals.  i hope you find something that you are passionate about and live it.  i hope you fight for something that is larger than yourself and become all that you already are. and while you are on the way, take care of yourself and tend to your own garden. wish others well. give yourself permission to be strong and in the same breathe, to be soft, to be unsure.  take the time to practice being you and drown out the unnecessary noise that tends to clutter our lives. and most importantly, show yourself some kindness as you grow.

 

dear stranger, give out pieces of your heart without attachment or expectation. share your love, give out kindness, and shine your light.

 

 

remember that it’s all beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the three c’s.

we have a lot of choices.

the collection of words we string together to use for self-expression, the inflection of our voice, the focus of our thoughts, and the depth of each breath. we determine the amount of energy we invest in our goals, the perspectives we take, the direction in which we lead our lives, and the topic of conversations we speak about.  we get to decide the kind of responses we have to other people’s words, behaviors, and life situations. and we choose what we allow to make us angry, how we let it influence our day, and how to let it go.

what i know is that sometimes we forget that in each individual moment we can choose. and without awareness of these choices, it becomes easy to respond out of habit or initial reaction instead of in a way that promotes inner peace, contentment, and happiness.  and so a seemingly isolated incident of frustration can lead to a day of irritability, a week of anger, and a month of gloom. and after collecting these thoughts and holding on to these lingering emotions, you might start to feel like you are out of sync with yourself, discouraged with the way things are going, or overcast with negativity.

i’ve learned that if you want a different outcome you must make a different choice.  this is important because our individual choices result in a collection of events; they directly impact the flow of our day and shape our thoughts, moods, and the relationship we have with our life.  our outward perspectives toward life are the result of our inner experiences and so it’s important to remember that the way we feel isn’t always the truest reality; often times, our experience is impacted by the thoughts in our mind, shaped by the emotions in our heart, and altered by the kinds of days we’ve been having. our days are colored by the thoughts and emotions we choose to entertain in our minds and hearts.


in the last few weeks, i’ve been doing a lot of grumbling.  i complain about too much sleep, too little sleep, too dirty of a house, having too much to do and not enough time.  i’ve been finding fault with strangers at the store, drivers on the road, and in the people i appreciate.  i’ve been argumentative with other people’s perspectives, contributions, opinions, and beliefs, and annoyed with the resulting disagreements and negative emotions that often accompany it.  as a result, i haven’t felt like myself.  i’ve felt anxious, dissatisfied, frustrated, disappointed, annoyed, lonely, or upset.  not only do i not like to do these things, i also don’t like to feel these ways either. so of course, i started to think.   and before long, three c’s came to mind- condemnation, complaints, and criticism – and slowly i started to remember all of the ways in which i have the choice to separate myself from them. and so here i am, drinking hot tea in an adorable coffee shop, deciding to make a different choice.

here’s what i know:

criticism– when your attention is focused on a person’s misgivings, shortcomings, and flaws, you fail to appreciate the light they have to offer, the laughter a person brings, or the happiness they bring to you.  i know that constant attention to all that is wrong leaves us feeling ungrateful, unappreciative, and discontent.  criticism naturally makes us focus on the flaws in a situation and the more we identify our frustrations the more identified we become with them.  and so the more we complain, the more complaints we have.  soon, you might notice that all you can see are errors, flaws, and mistakes in any given situation.  as a result, all that you feel is dissatisfaction, anger, and annoyance. and while there is a time and place for contstructive criticism, it’s not for every place, every stranger, and every moment. i’d rather be an enjoyer of life than a constant critic of it and in this effort, i’m attempting to replace fault seeking and negative judgement with appreciation.  i’ll compliment more. i’ll search for the good.

condemnation– when we condemn another persons’s beliefs, opinions, actions, or life choices, we limit our ability to take on another person’s perspective. we lose empathy, tolerance, and openness.  i believe that condemning others- especially large groups of people- encourages feelings of superiority and further divides us from one another.  and when you condemn another person’s actions it becomes easy to disrepect and disapprove of the individual as a whole. condemnation is about judgement– a belief that your way of seeing and understanding the world is more accurate than another’s– and it’s about shutting doors.  and with a shift in focus, what i know is that i hope to use my life to open doors.  for other people, for opportunities, and for a greater understanding of the diversity and richness that exists among each human being.

complaints–  we complain about the food we eat, the vacations we take and the clothes we wear.   we complain about weather, work, and our morning commute.  about our sleep, the television we watch, and the co-workers, family, friends, or spouses we surround ourselves by.  and what i know is that complaints are hardly ever a positive reaction to the situation we are in.  we have become so used to expressing our dissatisfaction with a circumstance that we have forgotten how to express excitement, gratitude, and appreciation for what is. too often and too easily, complaining has become our natural response and makes it difficult to find beauty and satisfaction with where we are.  and the problem with constant complaint is that it fosters negativity, does not alter the situation, and results in unhappiness. i’ve began to practice recognizing that both people and things are imperfect and i’m trying to find value in learning how to appreciate these shortcomings. i’m choosing not to open conversations with a complaint or go to bed with words of dissatisfaction on my heart.

what i know is that these three words- criticism, condemnation, and complaint- are focused on the self.  they bring unhappiness and leave us cycling in negativity- all of which serve little purpose in our lives. you have the choice. you pick your words and choose your focus.  i challenge you to ask yourself what relationship do you have with the current moment? how do you choose to interact with your life?   what thoughts are you forming?  what words are you speaking? and what emotions do you have lingering in your heart?

what choices are you making?

and what will you do different this time?