like someone you love.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset I’ve been doing this thing lately where I ask “how can I best take care of myself in this moment?” and then I pause long enough to hear the answer. The thing about our hearts, is that they know. This year I’ve placed a high priority on taking care of myself and am constantly reorganizing my commitments and schedule to find balance.  It’s not a fixed point you know, taking care of yourself and juggling all of the commitments that life requires of us.  My philosophy about self-care and self-love is that you can’t show up fully to the present moment and to the people that you love when you don’t feel whole.

On the surface, self-care can include practices like receiving adequate sleep, spending time in nature, practicing yoga, getting a massage, taking a long bath, or engaging in supportive eating habits.  These kinds of activities nourish ourselves and help to restore our hearts and minds; they take care of our most basic needs.  And we can practice all of these things and still find ourselves feeling internally restless, uneasy, uninspired, harsh, inadequate, anxious, sad, or unkind.  Beyond all of the self-care rituals we can tend to is perhaps a greater, more gentle, and necessary way of being with ourselves.

This year, I started with the practices. I went to yoga almost every day and spent a lot of time outside with my feet in a stream.  I collected rocks, slept under the stars, and journaled regularly.  I said ‘no’ to things when I was tired and gave myself plenty of permission to rest. But the real work and internal shifts came by getting to know myself deeply enough to identify underlying core beliefs about my worth and how achievements and accomplishments fueled the reaching for feelings of ‘enough.’  The self-love came when I allowed myself to be imperfect after making a mistake, or when I showered myself in kindness after making the wrong choice.  The deep self-love came when I interrupted a habitual thought patterning of shame and negative self-talk and stopped myself from continually replaying out situations in my mind, of living in the past.

Our society talks a lot about self-love and self-care, especially these days.  But there are still so many people feeling lonely, disappointed, and not okay.  I think it’s partly because we have mixed up the intention of doing self-care practices with the intention of being someone who cares about themself. Self-love and self-care are not about excusing your behaviors or giving yourself permission to over-indulge or over-consume, they are about moments when you choose to hold space for the human being that you are.  Self-love is about becoming familiar with the thoughts that pass through our minds everyday and learning that we are not our thoughts and we are not our feelings.    The practice is in acknowledging the way you are unfolding and blooming to the present moment, no matter how messy or scary that might be. Its requires active and continual effort to honor your existence, tune in, listen, and then make a choice based on what it is you need.

 

I invite you to begin treating yourself the same way you would treat someone you dearly love.  It can get messy because it might ask us to uncover some truths about our self-worth, feelings of value, and ability to set boundaries with time, people, and our resources.  It might stir up feelings of regret, anger, shame, or dissatisfaction.  And all of that is okay; we can allow ourselves to feel the way we feel without having to act or changing anything.  That is self-love.

 

 

I offer you ultimate permission to unequivocally be yourself.  To feel bad and still be okay, to be imperfect and still enough.  To be a work in progress and still a brilliant masterpiece.  I encourage you to take as much time as you need, to move slowly,  and to work on only one thing at a time.  I invite you to learn about where you hurt and why, and to set an intention to send the love there.  Connect to what inspires you and chase those little sparks of magic.  Be gentle with your current self, the person you once were, and the person that you are becoming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

be brave enough to love yourself more than you think you deserve.

and then a little more.

on vulnerability.

everything is full.

I’ve sat in a lot of circles this year; hands at my heart, eyes gently closed, feet pressing upon a hardwood floor. We always start off as strangers who come together in vulnerability, and end up as friends.

Last weekend I recognized that somewhere along the way, we’ve learned that it’s dangerous to be vulnerable, that we shouldn’t risk being seen.  Our voices have been quieted in many ways throughout our lives, and somewhere, we’ve learned to keep our pains silent and to suffer quietly in the secrecy of our hearts.  We’ve internalized messages that we are supposed to show up as nicely wrapped packages, organized, happy, and unflawed. We believe we’re supposed to experience life so effortlessly that we feel discouraged when things get hard.

We might have lived lifetimes of saying we are fine when actually, we feel lonely.  When we are actually scared, deeply unhappy, tired, anxious, or hurt.  We mask ourselves in busy-ness, numbing, perfectionism, over/under-eating, alcohol, and drugs.  And we wear cloaks of perfection or indifference to replace our deep rooted fears of being negatively judged, falling short, or feeling inadequate. We harm ourselves through the voice of our inner critic or avoid trying because of the risk of failure. We might resist vulnerability out of fear of what would happen if we opened up.

And while vulnerability can mean many things for different people, for me, it is about uncertainty, risk, and exposing the truest parts of ourselves.  Vulnerability is about our ability to sit with discomfort, name it, and grow in it. It’s about being seen for who we are, especially when it’s hard and when we feel like we are crumbling; especially when it feels like no one could understand.  And I believe this matters because when we close ourselves off to this emotional risk, we start to feel alone.  We feel like something is wrong with us; we feel inadequate, broken, disconnected, and not enough.

 

 

 

 

I think that if you sit on the floor with someone and listen as they talk about what they most fear, how badly it hurt to lose someone they loved, and how difficult it can be to live in their body and mind; we would begin to realize we are all the same.  We hurt in the same ways and seek the same sense of connection, approval, and belonging from others; the similarities in our hearts are greater than the differences that divide us.  And the more people I sit with, the more I realize that the cracks in our hearts are the areas in which we can allow more love in.

This is your gentle reminder that we don’t have to do any of this alone; that we all have a need to feel connected to and nurtured by others.  And what I know is that our relationships and connections to one another help us to stay anchored to the shore when the waves are raging inside and trying to tear us away.  I invite you to give yourself permission to be messy, to be a work of art, to change your mind, and to speak your heart.  I encourage you to make mistakes and learn from them.  To rest when things get hard.  And please know that you can speak your truth and still be scared.  You can feel alone and not know what to do with it; you can be sad and tired, and still okay.  You can be not okay while still holding on.  I invite you to open up to how you feel and honor who you are; mistakes, unknowns, insecurities and all.

 

 

 

 

 

and if there is no one in your circle yet, I would be happy to sit there with you.

we can start off as strangers and end up as friends.

a point in time.

Last weekend was the “Point-In-Time Count (PIT)”- a national measure that takes place every January where a community attempts to capture the number of people who are literally homeless or sleeping in a shelter.  This snapshot of homelessness meets a funding requirement for HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and the data is used to track progress on addressing homelessness, increase local and national awareness, inform policy makers, and attract resources to address homelessness.  It was a Thursday through Sunday of waking up at 3:00am to walk the streets, under bridges, and near loading docks.  Some people went up near the mountains, and others in parks.  The places we visited were hidden and not meant for human habitation, perhaps invisible to your eye if you haven’t been looking.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the experience and even more time thinking about the people I encountered.  I can’t tell you the depth of their stories and I can’t tell you about their experiences, hopes, fears, and goals, because our interactions were brief and it’s likely that I wouldn’t be able to fully understand, even if we had had all day.  But I can tell you what I saw, what I heard, and how I felt.  I can tell you how it made me reflect and how this experience informs my interactions with people I do not know.  I can tell you about the fire that is inside my heart, and how important it is to not make generalizations about people you do not know.  And I’ll tell you these things with the hopes that perhaps it will offer you a new perspective, an opening in your heart to fill with compassion, or a call to act. I’ll share these words with you in hopes that you’ll be curious and not-judgmental; compassionate rather than condemning.

It was so cold that I had on two pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, two pairs of gloves, five long sleeve shirts, a hat and a jacket.  There was snow on the ground and I was acutely aware that I had gloves and all these layers on and the people we met did not. I was aware of the luxury I had to  buy waterproof snow-boots and the time limited nature of my role in the count. I knew that I would return home to a warm apartment, they would not.  I want you to know that there are places where people sleep that many of  us could not even imagine. I cannot forget how cold I was, nor the knowing of how cold they were too.

None of the people we encountered between 4am and 6am were sleeping; they all appeared to be tired, but it was much too cold.  We met a person laying on a loading dock,  his eyes greeted us over the top of his sleeping bag; he was more vigilant and alert than he was asleep.  We talked to a person under an overpass, huddled between two trash cans with bags of personal belongings laid out in front of him.  I saw that we were both shivering, both cold, and we laughed together over the same joke.  We met another person under a light-post, he explained that he was eager to complete the VI-SPDAT so that he could practice his ‘people skills’ and later asked us for feedback on how he was doing.  He said it was nice to have someone to talk to.  Another person explained that they were formerly homeless and showed more passion than some of the people in the room.

We walked down a dirt road, sideway stepped down a hill, and walked behind a graffitied building.  There was a pile of wood, empty cups, trash, boxes, papers, and a blue tarp piled up to make a home.  An overturned bucket held up the entrance; we only heard his voice and only saw his hands.  He told us several stories that did not seem to be based in reality, and his voice was sweet, his words welcoming.  He had no mailbox and no socks. He lives in a hidden place. I saw a person I knew, shivering on the snow covered cement, supported by the side of a building and his groceries thrown about.  He was outside for over nine hours in the freezing cold because he had fallen and missed the last bus.  A lot of people passed by, but no one had stopped.  I noticed that his lips were pale, his body shaking.

We met a 32 year old laying on a tarp with only a yellow blanket covering his body.   Empty boxes of hand-warmers surrounded him and his shoes were wet. He was under a tree and we heard him crying out in pain.  His toes were raw and blistered; the nurse said his feet were frostbitten and that putting socks on would be too painful.  He spoke only of his severe anxiety  and kept his body under the blanket, partly for warmth, and partly because he said he felt too overwhelmed.  He wouldn’t go to the hospital.

 

We didn’t end up ‘counting’ or assessing as many people as I expected; not because they weren’t there, but because somehow asking questions didn’t seem as important as addressing people’s more emergent medical needs and immediate suffering.  I drove home with tears in my eyes, angry and cold, but with fire burning inside.  I’m still trying to put together the words to describe this point in time.  My thoughts, like many of the sentences in this post, are incomplete.  What I saw was suffering and unshakeable resilience.  I saw people surviving in a way that I had never seen before.

 

I tell you these stories because human suffering is not something we remember only when it is convenient for us.  It is not something we fix with a simple solution or ignore because of an incomplete judgement.  Mental illness, addiction, complex trauma, and homelessness are real.  And they hurt.  It can be isolating.  And they do not fully represent who a person is.

 

What I know most is our shared humanity.  This deep sense that my life is not worth more nor more important than another human being.  I ask you to recognize the actual experience of someone in your community, and I ask you to make room in your heart to love someone that you do not know.  As divisions becoming increasingly cemented, we must continue to make bridges between our hearts.  For me, this is not about politics.  This is about people.

 

Find your mission.  Find your human, your cause, and your fight.  Do not be quieted by systems, policies, or judgements.

We were given voices. minds. and hearts.

 

Act.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

oceans and mountains.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetOut of all the things there are to love in this world, people are my favorite.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all of the hearts I am connected to and how grateful I am to have so many pieces of people’s lives intertwined with my story.  Like the man from Budapest who told me about his daughter’s dreams while in Paris or the father I hugged when he got his son back.  I think about the chance encounters that became my greatest friendships; your desk being placed next to mine because you were shy and I was not.  I think about you crossing oceans and me moving to the mountains and both of us sitting next to each other on a hardwood floor in a circle, hands on our hearts. I think about all of us applying at the same restaurant as we made our way through college and dancing the night away eight years later on my wedding day. My heart thinks about you, all of the people that have read my words and then became my real life friends.

My heart overflows with gratitude when I consider the details that occurred in order for our lives to touch, the miles and miles we each spent walking the earth that resulted in your footprints making their way to my path.  I’ll always believe that people show up right when we need them, to help us grow, to open us up to the possibilities, to carry a message, or to hold our hand in comfort after a particularly stormy chapter.  I think about the people I’ve come to know who live their lives in the boldest, most beautiful, and magnificent ways.  The people who teach you to be soft, who show you how to be honest and vulnerable, the ones who dare to change their paths to answer to their life’s calling.  And I think about all of the people I do not know and all of the hearts that are beating just like mine.  I think about entire populations of people that many of us know nothing about, who do courageous things and suffer in ways we cannot possibly understand. I think about all of the people sewing beautiful seeds into their corners of the world, who leave roots for things to grow in every place they touch.  I imagine picking a flower they once planted or sitting underneath the shade of the tree they helped to grow.

 

With my blankets astray and snowflakes falling from the sky from my third floor apartment, I think about the ways in which we enter people’s lives. The ways our own feet lead us into another person’s story and create lasting change.  We can show up in the world in big and small ways,  like the way we carry ourselves, greet a stranger, or stand in a check-out line.  We show up in the ways we use our talents to benefit another person, pursue our passions with every fiber of our being, and how we make a person feel about themselves.  We choose the way we treat the people we love and the people we do not know.  We can be soft while showing up strong, we can withdraw judgement and seek to connect, to extend a hand.  We can help people to see the magic that they are.

I think about my yoga teachers, who without words, showed me how I want to be present in other people’s lives.  In the last four months I’ve learned about the gift we offer to people we meet and the people we love when we are present and kind.  I’ve learned that the more compassionate and gentle we can be with ourselves, the more compassion we can show towards others.  I’ve learned how valuable it is to see each person as a whole, to take note of their heart, and to make room for someone to be just as they are.  I was able to transform in beautiful ways because my experiences, challenges, and strengths were not only validated and seen, but celebrated and encouraged.  I developed as a person because my heart was nurtured, my words were listened to, and my vulnerability was met with sweetness and love.

 

When it comes to loving people, here is what I know:

  • Powerful things happen when we allow people to be who they are instead of who we want them to be.
  • People transform with compassion, not shame.
  • When we nurture another human being, we create an opportunity for healing, softening, and growth.
  • We have the power to impact someone’s life in just one conversation, evening, or experience.
  • I believe when we show up authentically and vulnerably we encourage others to do the same.
  • We can stop trying to fix people and focus on loving them instead.

 

 

 

 

and so I thank you, for being who you are and showing up in the way that you did.

in big ways and small ways.

I needed you.

what we think.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetI am participating in a yoga teacher training and a few weeks ago we started to study the manomaya kosha; the mind.  The parts of ourselves that include thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and images.  We went through a practice that included observing our thoughts and we were asked to begin noticing a habitual running of sentences through our mind.  As we were guided through the practice I found myself internally saying ‘I don’t know how to do this, I’m never going to learn all of this’ asking,”am I doing this correctly?” and similar variations.

What I know is that our thoughts are often snapshots of our underlying core beliefs; beliefs that feel imbedded into who we are and often consciously or unconsciously guide our emotions or behaviors.  For most of us, these beliefs fall into a “I am not _____ enough”  statement.  Maybe you fill in the blank with words like worthy, strong, attractive, skinny, nice, competent, loving, masculine, successful, wealthy, good,  or popular.  Regardless of the adjective, the beliefs turn into feelings of lack, a general feeling of not being enough.

During this practice, I learned of a sentence that quietly runs in the back of mind, a belief that often masks itself in feelings of fear of failure, unsureness, and unease about my level of competency.    When I introspected a little bit deeper, “I am not smart enough” came to mind.  I went back to kindergarten where I saw my 6 year old self standing in front of my sweet teacher, feeling panicked and unsure about whether I would be able to successfully count to one hundred.  I went back to 3rd grade when I failed a cursive handwriting assignment after writing all of my “f’s” backwards.  Or in 4th grade when I was pulled out of math time while learning division because I wasn’t catching on as quickly as the other students.  I recall being surrounded by wonderful friends who were more intelligent, bright, and quicker learners than myself as a seventh grader in junior high.  And I can remember how embarassed I felt in high school after failing the AP calculus exam and learning that all of my friends had passed. I can hear the kind people in my life saying things that were internalized in a way that was perhaps unintended; “you have that lowest ACT score out of the group, but we are glad you are here,” and “we just wanted to spend extra time with you since it was taking you longer than everyone else.”  The statements were harmless, but over time the words somehow blended together into an internal statement of “I am not smart enough.”  This transpired into actions of excessive study, obsessive focus on success, and feelings of failure.  It resulted in an undertone of feeling inadequate and sometimes placing extreme pressure on myself with expectations of scholastic perfection.  This meant that I cried when I got less than an “A” on an assignment and felt panicked after reading the first question on a test.  I felt unsure of my innate ability to learn and of the likelihood that I would be able to succeed. I didn’t  know this about myself until recently.

 

I share these words with you because the homes that are our bodies exist on foundations of beliefs, experiences, and learnings.  I am not _______ enough exists within us all.  It is worth taking a look inside of yourself, asking where your insecurities may lay, and getting to know where those little sparks exist.  I say this because perhaps you’ll find they are not true, that they no longer serve you, or that you might come to know where they came from.  And maybe from this place of knowing, you might begin to see yourself in a more complete way.  You might find that your life experiences have other information to show you.

 

And with a little work, a more balanced thought might arise after allowing all of the other thoughts to settle.  One that says I am competent, able to learn, and intelligent.  One that says I am smart, strong, capable, and deserving. One that says I am enough.

I share all of this with you in hopes that you’ll start to notice the thoughts that cloud your mind, that you’ll start to hear the stories that you tell yourself, and that you’ll start to shake and loosen your grip on the beliefs that that feel real but are not true.  In hopes that  you’ll allow some room for love and self-compassion in.  In hopes that you’ll heal.

In hopes that you begin to deeply know that you are not broken. 

 

because we change

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Think about all of the transitions you’ve been through during this season of your life.  Maybe you’ve began to raise a beautiful human being that exists with an infinite amount of possibilities or  became a beginner again as a new college student.  Perhaps you’ve had to navigate this portion of your life without the comfort of a hand you’ve previously held, tiptoeing  atop the earth knowing that a part of your soul is in the sky.  I like to think that parts of our selves,  like leaves, fall to the ground during autumn too.  And perhaps the only thing we will ever come to know is that it all changes; the leaves, the weather, our existence.

 

I moved to a new state four months ago and said goodbye to some of my hearts greatest treasures.  I left a job I loved and became surrounded by new people, the mountains, and a different culture.  I became a stranger in a city I once somewhat knew, lost again amongst all of the streets and forever trying to find my way.  There’s nothing like change in the literal and figurative weather to stir things up inside, creating room for us to reflect, grow, and heal.

I like to think of our individual cracks-  the hurts, disappointments, setbacks, heartbreaks, failures, traumas, and losses- as the same veins that characterize our favorite marigold yellow, burnt orange, and red leaves.  For the leaf, these veins carry vital nutrients; for us, the life lessons, experiences, and unknowns meant only for our hearts. I believe that some of our most beautiful lessons can be our most painful experiences, if only we might be able to find the meaning deep within ourselves.  Within each crack is the ability to be transformed and soothed. I am not suggesting that we forget, but am gently offering that we don’t have to hold on to everything.  I believe we find the strength in our healing.   The trees teach us that we must learn to let go, that we can find sweetness in the fall.  My sweet friend, we can be shattered and still rooted to the ground.

 

During this transitional period of your life, what would you like to let fall to the earth? We can let go of people that are no longer parts of our stories, experiences that only remind of us of pain.  We can let go of the beliefs we’ve held on to about ourselves that feel real but are not true.  We can let go of expectations about we are supposed to be be, knowing that we don’t have to be everything for everyone.   We can let go of the messages we’ve created or received about our worth and allow old behaviors to fall away, making room for something new.

We can offer ourselves more time, sunlight, or compassion.  We can be good to ourselves so that one day, we will open our eyes and find that everything is covered in light again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

my dear friend, our favorite season of fall only exists because things change.

you’ve transformed in beautiful and difficult ways; this is your gentle reminder that we can do hard things.

 

on the choices we make

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We each have moments in our lives where we wished we had chosen differently or are unsure of how to proceed.   For me, these moments exist in the mean spirited action I participated in as a junior in college or holding on to relationships that were not meant for me;  in times when thoughtless words were spoken in moments of frustration and in gestures of unkindness to the people that I love.  We get so busy, tired, and hyper-focused on our problems that we act out of habit or automaticity and engage in actions before recognizing our choice.  If we stopped for a moment, we might observe our tendency to make decisions based on the way we feel and the incessant thoughts running through our minds rather than from the place in our hearts that are the truest expression of who we are.

Maybe for you, that moment existed today, yesterday, or last year. Or maybe it hasn’t happened yet; perhaps it’s a decision you are contemplating but have not decided on, a fork in the road between the person you are capable of being and a decision that is easy, convenient, or safe.

This is a simple reminder that our lives are characterized by actions; that every single action or inaction made is the result of a choice.   And all of these choices bear fruit; they have consequences, slowly shape the story of our lives, and plant seeds that will eventually take root. Take a moment and think about the hundreds of small choices wrapped up in all the minutes of the day… when you choose to go to sleep, who lays beside you, and whether or not you push the snooze button in the morning.  There are choices in whether you wake up to a moment of gratitude or three cups of coffee, extra sugar.  Choices exist in the words we speak, how we express our emotions, and the kinds of people we allow into our lives.  The people we let stay and the people we let go.  We have choices in what we consume, how we feel, and the way we move our bodies. Choices in the purchases we make, the money we do or do not save, the activities we engage in, and the information we take in through the brightly lit screens on our telephones, computers, televisions, and games.  Decisions also exist in what we choose not to do, like not finishing the degree, not quitting the job, or establishing healthy boundaries for ourselves.  You can decide to quiet your voice or shout from the top of your lungs, to pause, or to constantly move from one place of busyness to the next.  Maybe you routinely make the decision to treat yourself with less love and kindness than you deserve.

This is my encouragement to choose to respond to whatever challenge you are facing with your highest self.  With the part of you that can look beyond the immediate situation and shift to a larger perspective.  This is a reminder that we can choose to show up in every situation with the parts of ourselves that are calm, compassionate, honest, wise, and healthy.  And on some days and in some moments you might be able to rationalize your actions even when the deepest part of yourself knows you are wrong.  Maybe you’re frustrated and justified in your anger, but you still have the choice to let go of that hurt.  You still have the choice to move on, to accept what is, and to forgive.  You can take a step in the direction of your goals despite how difficult the journey may be, and no matter how unmotivated you feel; this is a gentle reminder that changes happen in our lives only when we choose to make them.

You’ll encounter situations that break your heart and still you can choose to put the pieces back together, to heal, to love deeply, and trust again.  You’ll meet people who are hurtful and unkind and you can still offer them grace and the light that you are.   And when you can’t offer that, perhaps make the decision to not act.  Your choice is in the inaction, in the pause. You may find situations that challenge you, and you can choose to try, to learn, and to grow.

 

When we choose to act in congruence with the best version of ourselves- with the light and loving kindness that exists within all of us- we slowly start to become all that we already are.

we exist in the depth of our choices.