Monday, September 29, 2014

lessons from my vertebrae

The alarm went off. It's Sunday morning. My eyes are open. But I am in pain. An excruciating amount of pain. In my neck. Like the worst pain ever. Ow. Oh my gosh. Panic. Sore. Can't move. Can't flip the covers off and run into the world. What is happening? The thoughts are on overdrive. True panic setting in. Okay. Yes, I can feel my fingers and toes. But neck and head? Can't move. Ice pick pain in the back of my neck and the left side of my neck is like a bunch of glue and straw all piled together. Slowly but surely I use my arms to prop myself up on the mattress, my eyes closed tightly. My partner truly concerned. "How can I help? What do you need?" 

Hot shower. Tea. Slow movements. What I need is for all of this to go away. Today is our engagement photo shoot with my friend who is launching her freelance photography business. It was supposed to be perfect. My outfits, my hair, his outfits, his hair. All of it. Like newlyweds but not. And here I was, completely immobile, in tears, because my neck was locked up. 

Was it the yoga? Was it the shots I got last week at the travel clinic for my India trip? Did I flail in the night during a nightmare and whack myself? WHAT DID I DO?  

The funny part about this whole thing is twofold: 

1. I went to the natural place in my self-sabotaging way of blaming myself for something I did to cause this amount of bodily pain. I made it all about me/myself/I. I did something bad and got a bad result. Easy peezy. 

2. I was concerned about what I would look like in my engagement photos with a bad neck, Ha. 

Well, to wrap up this little moment, I ended up taking a scalding shower, started to feel better, put on my outfit, and we went to the photo shoot, which ended up being wonderful. truly, absolutely perfect in every way, shape and form. We then went to lunch with our friends and gobbled down delicious sandwiches, soup, lemonades, and chai lattes. And came home. My neck was still very stiff. I was still in a lot of pain. But I survived and I was OK. 

Today, I woke up to the same friggin scenario. Lots of pain, immobility, etc. I write an e-mail to work and completely surrendered to the fact that today, I was going to snuggle up close with my neck pain and hopefully learn a thing or two about my operating agreement with myself when things become uncomfortable in my body. 

Ask for help. I am not a super huge fan of chiropractic care, but this was an exception, I really had to tune into my intuitive self and ask, "Body, what do you need? What do you feel?' I felt stuck. Like something in my neck was actually physically stuck/turned around/tweaked. I called in, appointment for 2:30pm. Until then, rest.

PhotoFood good. Mmmm. A big bowl of pho is exactly what makes me feel so good when I am under the weather. Around 11;30am, I ventured out to grab some to bring back to my house. It's totally amazing how nourishment can take pain away, even if just for a moment. I think back to steaming bowls of pastene or Italian wedding soup when I was sick as a kid and it does do wonders. Even if bones are out of place.

Permission. My partner can attest that I hate to rest and embrace boredom. I very rarely take sick days and the idea of "do nothing," pushes me to my limit. This pain I was feeling converted me into a permission believer. Take the time to do nothing...surf Pinterest, play Candy Crush, watch the Biggest Loser & Master Chef Junior on hulu...whatever you do, just be lazy. 

Do the work...to heal. Tea, good food, water, even some ibuprofen, and ice as well as conscious breathing and relaxation are my remedies right now.  

After my visit to the chiropractor, my x-ray showed that the vertebrae in my neck are curving the wrong way. I have to undo some damage. Chin back, relax, breathe...it will all go back into place. I did have one little bugger though that was completely out and after some snap, crackle, pop, I do feel the relief. But there is still work to be done. I am still in pain. 

One of my yoga teachers says that our own injuries make us better practitioners, but make us the best teachers. It's like a big science experiment and the body is a laboratory. Hmmm...what am I learning where and now? Hmmm...this is an interesting place to be, both mind and body. What is my reaction to this? Where do I resist? What do I embrace?

So I march on, with pain in my neck and back and hope for healing because I know that healing is a practice in itself. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

car repair

One of the things I love about my partner is his ability (and talent) to perform basically all of our car maintenance and repair. He is fearless (as well as experienced) to take on this part of our household and I truly admire him for it. He has no qualms about doing research, getting the right tools and parts together, and scheduling a day for the repair or service. It brings him joy, a deep sense of accomplishment, and it saves us a ton of money.

This past weekend, we replaced my suspension. Yes, the suspension, meaning struts. It is quite a simple job when you look at the big picture; you jack the car up, remove the tires, take out the old strut, use a tool to tighten the shocks so the strut can be replaced, put in the new one, attach some bolts, and boom. New suspension. Well...that's the textbook version.

Let me step back a moment. I can personally speak to the satisfaction one gets from a day of vehicle work. I have learned so much from these repairs...and the biggest lesson of all is how to work with your partner under the stressful conditions of a car repair. It's like a laboratory for our relationship. Car repairs embody communication, trust, a sense of humor, a common goal/vision, etc. All of these things wrapped up in oil changes, new brakes, etc.

The repair was going quite fine. We spanned it across the weekend as we had previous commitments sprinkled in, including our engagement photos. The weather was quite delightful. I was suffering from a pulled muscle in my neck, so I was more immobile than usual, but was assisting where I could. The sun was out, life was good, we were making progress. Then....

The tool we were using for the shocks themselves started to malfunction. "Well this sucks," he said. The sun started to go down, it became damp outside, dew started to form. We were in the shit and it wasn't looking promising in the sense that I would have a vehicle for Monday morning. But you see, this is where the joy comes from. We worked together. I ran about grabbing tools, holding the flashlight, providing words of encouragement, where the old me would have started yelling about starting the project too late in the day, saying things like, "This is why we shouldn't do this," or "You don't know what you are doing." The old me would have succumbed to the pressure, the tension that was in existence at that moment in time. Magic happens when there is a pause between the stimulus-response. I provided the pause, he provided the creativity. We got to solve it together. We were both out there in the damp fall evening and we got it done.

Now, I am not your typical cheerleader for my partner. I don't stand by his side every waking moment saying, "You can do it!" and baking cookies every time he changes my oil, but my insight this weekend was more about the fact that when we come together despite the conditions and constraints around us, we are practically invincible. That gives me so much inspiration. It grows not only my unconditional love for him, but for our partnership. I am so grateful for that...and my new suspension.


Monday, September 15, 2014

the dahlias die

As many of you know, I have quite the affinity for dahlias. I cannot even begin to describe with words how much joy they bring me. Honestly, it's not just the beautiful blooms that bring me joy, it's the whole process from start to finish that brings me total contentment and bliss. 

a dinner plate dahlia in bloom about a month ago
The selection process, the planting, the weeks of nurturing that include watering and staking, making sure that the containers are positioned to get the right amount of sun, and then the waiting and watching. And when the buds start to form, and little by little, as if they are trying with all their might, they start to open and then like something out of the secret garden, the dahlias bloom and bloom, shooting amazing colors into my yard. I walk out on Monday mornings early, cut the flowers and bring them to work so I can enjoy them there. I cut more and send them home with friends. They shower all surfaces in my house. 

Now, they are nearing their end of their life cycle. Heading to dormancy. The leaves and stalks are drying out a little, the blooms look a little lazy, and a powdery mildew is encroaching upon the leaves. The dahlias start to die off. The good news is that the dahlias I grow come back year after year, with proper care and storage but this time of year I always feel a sense of sadness in the witnessing of their death. 

Tonight, I was watering at sunset and as I looked around at my garden, specifically at the dahlia plants, I was overcome with the mixed sense of joy and sadness. Up until this moment, I had not been super aware of being in touch with the combination of these two emotions, yet I realized that these two emotions can and do exist in my life in so many ways. 

...when I bring my students out of savasana at the end of a yoga class.
...when I visit home for the holidays and fly back after new years.
...when I see my garden transition seasons.
...when I finish a project, a book, or a journal entry.

The emotions of joy and sadness at the same time bring this unique sense of closure and room for new beginnings. So as we transition into a new season, there is always a mix of emotions; joy, sadness, frustration, apathy, bliss, happiness, anger. 

It's so natural to get stuck in going with the flow, being stuck in our habits and processes but I challenge you to tune into what emotions exist, what's being churned up, what is triggering you. Maybe it's the dahlias dying back or the fact that our days are becoming shorter, but I give us permission to just be in the moment and sit with the complexity of it all. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

challenges

Tonight I came home from work and I was pretty amped up. I really felt my agitation, my energy bordering on that fine line of being contained and spilling out. My symptoms included an increase in volume in my voice (which my partner can spot right away), a bit of pacing around, a lot of diarrhea of the mouth (gossiping, complaining, making huge assumptions about everything and everybody), and an unwillingness to soften. I have been feeling like this for about a week or so now and tonight, I decided to engage my opposite action muscle...so I did. I sat down on my meditation cushion and said, "Just 10 minutes. I am giving myself 10 minutes." And now I am here, sitting, writing, feeling cooled off, collected, and way more grounded.

Wow.

I came out of my sit with my brain and body a little softer, a little more open, a little less agitated. Truly lovely.

I also came out with one of those little insights. I will always be challenged but it doesn't have to be this hard.

I haven't been doing the best job attending to my physical health lately. I haven't been super disciplined with my exercise and physical yoga practice, have been going to bed super late, enjoying more glasses of wine and chocolate than I probably should, and cheese...need I say more about cheese? The same is true for my meditation practice. I have been enjoying sleeping in and not sitting in the mornings and it has really thrown off my game. And I have been judging the hell out of myself.

One of my biggest lessons I took with me into turning 30 was that living in an either/or, black/white world isn't the best place and unfortunately I have been spending way too much time there. So, what now? Well I am declaring that I am giving that sh%* up. Not worth it to judge and hate. Life is constantly ebbing and flowing and that's it. Certain things take up my energy for a certain time and I give my attention and energy to that thing...being 100% present is more important to me than carefully attending to this elusive idea of balance. Sometimes, things go on the back burner and ultimately it comes down to how I want to feel.

So, what now? Well I am not sure. I am just here, living, working, loving, making a difference. I am clear on how I want to feel - Nourished, Vitality, Connected, Grace, Limitless. And that's what matters most, despite the perceived challenges.



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

30 books that have changed my life

Reading is one of my core desired activities. It feeds me from the inside out. It's not just about the knowledge I get, it's the whole experience. The brushing and flossing of my teeth at night, taking my triphala, walking into the bedroom, setting the alarm, peeling away the down comforter from the head of the bed, and crawling in, like a child crawling to a mother for nourishment and care. I pick up my book and read. Usually it's for about 45-60 minutes, other nights it's shorter, on the weekends, I like reading in the morning, the stillness of the world still vibrant. Also, I am an avid supporter, donor, and patron of the Seattle Public Library, one of the finest systems in the United States, where I can be caught browsing the shelves on a Sunday afternoon post-grocery shopping.

I wanted to share with you 30 non-fiction books that have changed my life. Now, narrowing down 30 was difficult and I have hundreds of books on my shelves, fiction and non-fiction. I wanted to keep some boundaries on this list though that speak to my desire to be constantly evolving and learning about the human condition. Self-help gets a bad rap and I hate the term, so think of this collection as my "Soul Collection."

Here they are:

Yoga 
Yoga and the Quest for True Self by Stephen Cope
Bringing Yoga to Life by Donna Farhi
The Path of the Yoga Sutras by Nicolai Bachman
The Four Desires by Rod Stryker
The Sevenfold Journey by Anodea Judith & Selene Vega
Light on Life by BKS Iyengar

Buddhism, Mindfulness, Soul Work 
Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
True Refuge by Tara Brach
Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton
The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie
Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg
The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte
Dharma Punx by Noah Levine

Creativity, Writing, Thinking 
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte

Food & Adventure 
Cooked by Michael Pollan
Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr
Eat Right for Your Type by Dr. D'Adamo
Into thin Air by John Krakauer
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes
High Infatuation by Steph Davis


Sunday, August 24, 2014

summer break


Lounging. Lots of lounging.
Oh. My. Gosh. This summer has absolutely, totally, rocked. It has kicked ass and taken names. It has been so full of juicy fun, vitality, growth, laughter, unabashed delight. I have been enjoying it sooooooo much. And now, it is starting to feel like the end is almost near. And you know what? I am okay with it. I have been out and about, eating meals al fresco, enjoying late night movie fests, adventuring to lots of fun events, taking yoga outside, and most of all, living with ease. I have stepped back from my blog, mainly because I hate the thought of sitting in front of the computer when the sun is shining for almost 16 hours a day.

Since moving to the Pacific Northwest in 2007, I quickly learned that you live here and put up with the grey skies and drizzle for the 6+ months to enjoy the beautiful, succulent summer months. We have totally lucked out this summer and I am realizing how blessed and grateful I am for not only the amazing weather, but for all the micro moments that the summer has captured. Here are a few photos showcasing what I have been up to.
Assisting at the Seattle Art Museum Yoga in the Park Event.
250 people coming together for yoga on Saturday mornings. Does it get any better?
Sunset picnics at the beach. Need I say more?
Summer garden harvest! Oh. My. Yum. 
Summer Street Food Festival with my Seattle Family. 
My mom visited for 12 days and I had the entire time off.
It was so fun to connect and hangout together. 
Lots of deck time. Reading, sipping, reading, sipping...
Dahlia love. 
Coffee dates on cool mornings, solving all the world's problems over a cuppa.
There was a lot of ice cream eaten. A lot. 
There was ample spiritual practice this summer. Hanging out with my goddesses.
Tears, smiles, open hearts. 
Red Sox vs. Seattle. A perfect evening. Nothing says summer like baseball. 
Reflection was a staple.
Balancing extroverted energy with my introverted nature. 

I ran a 5k race in July.
It was great to train and I felt so good and strong.
It also marked a celebration that my chapter of healing from Lyme disease had been achieved. 
One of many weekend lunches with friends this summer.
This place has the most rockin' black bean burger lunch in Seattle.

Oh, I could go on and on for days. I love these simple snapshots. What moments are you savoring? What memories are you creating with your friends and family? May the rest of your summer be oh so juicy, full of great food and fun, and ample down time. :)

Monday, June 30, 2014

what is your awareness aware of?

I was in my Friday morning yoga class, sitting patiently on my bolster for my teacher to start his opening remarks. This teacher is a Buddhist Meditation Teacher & Yoga Teacher by trade...hence the reason I love going because I get the wisdom and the movement double whammy in his classes. It's about 15 minutes of pure meditation training and insight, then 60 minutes of asana flow, where I open my hips, my lower back releases, and I feel completely juicy.
On this particular morning, my body was feel agitated, tight, and wound up, like a piece of marine rope tangled and left on the shores for someone to save. 

His talk started. "What is your awareness aware of?" Huh, I thought. Interesting idea. I closed my eyes and sank deeper, trying to be present, trying to do meditation. Ahhhh...I see my problem, I instantly thought. I am so programmed into doing, that I never get to just be aware. Huh. Of course, my mind was blown. I started down the rabbit hole of where this shows up in other areas of my life. For example, being at home. I have the hardest time just being at home, reading, sitting, listening. I become agitated quickly, running to the next chore or task to check off the list. I see...I am succumbing to the human condition. 

"What is your awareness aware of?" He continued to ask this question probably every five minutes for the rest of the class. For me, my consciousness went something like this...
My calves are tight. Oh, I can feel that in my hamstrings...why is my back so tight? I need to go to yoga more. I need more routine in my life. I need structure. I want to be home more, making dinner. I need to clear out my clutter. That would feel good. Pack up some books...downsize.

And then..."What is your awareness aware of?" Boom. Shot back into real time. 
Can I tune into my breath? oh yeah, that feels good. Deep breathing. Release. Ahhhh....breath. Now I am into it. I am aware of my body, strong body, healthy body, resilient body. Oh yeah. That's nice...big stretch, opening of my hip. In my body. 

On and on this went for the next 50 minutes or so. It was lovely. For the first time, I was able to be in my body, feel every little muscle, bone, fascia, tendon, ligament...stretch & release. 

I totally loved the class as you can probably tell. As Jack Kornfield says in his book A Path With Heart, our minds are puppies and it is our job to train them. We do this not my doing meditation but by being aware. What is your awareness aware of? Try that on for the next 10 minutes, how about the day, what about the rest of your life? This is the juice. This is the work. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

notes on transition

 I attended a women's retreat over solstice for four days. The theme of the retreat was, "Navigating Endings & Welcoming Beginnings." It was marvelous. For four days, I shared joy and tears, taught two movement/yoga classes a day, walked the trails and enjoyed the wind and sun on my skin, ate delicious meals in community. Pure bliss.

Like any retreat, the fruits of insight don't show up until days, weeks, sometimes months after the retreat. With that said, I have had some fabulous learning appear for me since reintegrating into life this week.

The More We Live in Black/White, Either/Or, Good/Bad Thinking, The Less Access We Have to Magic. I used to be a very black/white thinker. Granted, I think there are moments in our lives when this type of thinking is advantageous...you either pay your taxes or you don't, you either love the person or you don't, you either stop at the red light or you don't. Although all those are good examples when thinking like that works out, I have changed teams and now bring with me a curiosity and inquiry into why things are unfolding the way they are unfolding. We never know why someone shows up the way we do...we must listen deeply, hold the space, and let the navigation be done at a pace that works for folks.

We Are All Dying. I am not intending to be Ms. Bleak here but this is the mother of all lessons...impermanence. A lot of the women in my retreat were on their other half of life and very clear, present, and matter of fact about it, yet they had some softness to their attitude about it all which I found so inspiring and humbling. Death and dying brings up so much...too much to unpack here, but I will say that I got really clear on how this unfolds in the witnessing of my grandmother in hospice. I traveled back for her 90th birthday in 2012 and about three weeks after that, she passed away. I experienced the rawness, teh compassion, the realization of what matters. I will never forget the moment where I held her hand and she looked at me and told me what a beautiful woman I had become. She told me to follow my heart, forgive, be strong and love people.

Transitions Take A Lot. Of time, energy, work, emotions, physical energy...it takes a lot and it can leave us feeling depleted, overwhelmed, emotional, and resentful sometimes. It comes back to the infamous circle of self-care and a deep listening of that place deep within ourselves. Find practices that are grounding, friends and family who can hold you, and time alone to process at your own pace.


I love this article my teacher shared with us on retreat. Post it on your fridge, your nightstand, your bathroom mirror, your work locker. Come back to it again and again. Remember, the only thing permanent is change.

From http://transitions101.net/category/beginners-mind/

"When going through a transition one tool I have found invaluable is to adopt a beginner’s mind. This comes from Zen Buddhist practice."
  • Accept nothing at face value, and adopt a healthy skepticism;
  • Let go of everything you have learnt from experts, teachers, or gurus;
  • Drop the language of should, must and have to;
  • Stop, appreciate and experience the present moment fully;
  • Notice what is unusual and unique in every situation;
  • Reflect on the big questions and simply allow the answers to come;
  • Look for one uplifting thought or idea in your conversations with others;
  • Adopt a sense of newness with people you have known for a long time;
  • Do something small, different and unexpected every day;
  • Take one step at a time without worrying about the future;
  • Immerse yourself in your life and forget what is going on around you;
  • Enjoy being surprised especially when things do not work out as expected;
  • Celebrate falling down as well as getting up again;
  • Learn to embrace the unknown and live each day to the full; *Practice saying “I don’t know” at least once a day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

where the magic happens

Gone are the days of brunches in wine country, iced coffees and speed walking around the lake, and throwing ourselves into the meat market of Friday night clubbing. The women I run with are meeting in living rooms on the New Moon and shedding their layers and exposing deep vulnerabilities, having conversations worth having, stepping into deep power, love for themselves and one another, and getting real. I started attending a New Moon Circle in January of this year.

It manifested out of one of my goals from the Desire Map based on my Core Desired Feelings...engaged, vitality, aligned, nourished, limitless. My top goal was to find my tribe of amazing, goddess women. Boom. Fast forward to the May New Moon and I am sitting her completely in awe of the power that is generated in the three hours we spend together every month. Magic Happens. I am called to write, to write poetry to capture what I feel.



talking stick. i listen. i speak. only one at a time.
chanting to ganesha. om ganesha. remover of obstacles. guide me, embrace all of it.
holding space, feeling sad, open, ripped apart, muddled up.
it is held.
fuck. shit. damn, holy hell.
all of it.
the tears, raw and flowing. there is no harm here. just be.
sit with it. be with it, you are supported. that is all.
we discover through the night, as we sip tea that we all hold the stories
that hold us back. ahhhh, now i see. it is clear. shameless? hell yes.
that is my purpose. what is my purpose? legacy struggle.
marry myself. fearless on the cliff. the tears trailing in the wind.
if i am stable in myself, standing in my truth, all is well.
leave nothing unsaid, leave with your heart held in a new way.
nourished and new.
the intention is set.

Monday, May 26, 2014

and I run

It's Friday morning, May 23. It's raining. It's 7:30am. It's my birthday. I have only run once this week, it was Tuesday, and I put off Wednesday and Thursday, because, well, the bed seemed to feel a lot better than the pavement on Phinney Avenue. But I have made this promise to myself. It feels good to come back from my run and take my black Sharpie marker and make the smiley face on the training calendar. I LOVE THAT!
So, I lace up my Nike running shoes, pull on a long sleeve capilene shirt and head out. The rain pelting. All of life still dormant in the early morning hours. And I run. One foot in front of the other, my heart pounding. It feels nice. It feels, well, freeing.

About two weeks ago, I made the choice to start the Couch to 5k Program. It makes me giggle because back in the day (we are talking 10 years ago), I was the co-captain of my Cross Country Team and was running 50+ miles per week. Now, I am like most Americans (although I don't think of myself as such), working the 9-5 grind, doing what I can to eat well, be active, and keep stress levels at bay. This running program is one of the coolest things I have embarked on. I like the structure, the easing into it, the approachability, and the goal oriented approach...nine weeks, three running workouts per week, 20-25 minutes/run...totally doable. I love that. Although I will say that it has been a bit confronting.

Sometimes the running does feel super nice. The blood and oxygen pulsating through my system, the way the sweat beads on my lower back and forehead, the feeling of "hell yes!" And like everything. there is the other side of the coin. I start with the negative self-talk. "God Jen, you used to be faster, skinnier, more in shape. You let yourself go. Way too many wings and pizza slices lady!" Well, all that chatter is just chatter. That is it. What I have come to realize is that I can choose the two paths...I can be at peace with the fact that I am getting older, my body has changed and I am staying active and feeling awesome or I can succumb to the negative Nancy in my head that has nothing but shame remarks. I choose the former.

The things is, over and over I come back to the premise that one of my spiritual teachers speaks of all the time: we are all just doing the best we can with what we have. For me, it's a 10 year old t-shirt, some Nike shoes, and the iPod I got my freshman year of college. But I run. I enjoy those 20 minutes, even when they leave me totally breathless and humbled.

I leave you with this...do something that is challenging. Pick up an activity from the past. Be open to being humbled. That is all.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

30 things I am taking with me into my thirties

Well, it's here. I turned 30 yesterday and I have sunken deep into reflective space. Even though there is tons to do like writing thank you notes, launching my yoga business website, planting things in the garden, scrubbing the bathroom, and tackling the pile of library books that I just had to check out because the cover made me get it, I am in a funky head space. I am sad to see 10 years of soul searching, finding myself, growing up, this is real life-ness end, yet, I am so ready for what is next.

My twenties rocked. They rolled. They blew my mind. They sucked. They sucked hard. They taught me about life. They were full of travels east, west, north, and south. They offered me community, tears, screaming fights, and belly laughs. Lots of endings, lots of beginnings. Being broke, feeling abundant. Learning to love all the parts of myself, even the soft, flabby bits, the creaky joints, the sickness, the health. ALL. OF. IT.

Now, I have closed the door on them. Why thank you, sweet twenties! Thank you for everything. But before I go, here are thirty things I am taking with me.

Life isn't just black and white...there is a lot of grey. Life gets a little more complex, I can go deeper on things and I don't have to live in this either/or, good/bad, black/white thinking mode. Flexibility, understanding, and playing in the unknown is way more fun.
Silence is golden. Sit. Meditate. It does my mind/body/soul so good.
Nourish your tribe. All of them. The way our culture operates, we are so digital. Coming together as tribes is disappearing. Create space for this in life. Having people come together from different networks is amazing and magical. Laughter ensues, debates emerge, the presence of other people is nourishing in itself.
Live the 80/20 rule. I am a huge fan of the Pareto Principle. It's the assumption of predictive imbalance. Whether it is food, fitness, temperament, work/life balance, being forgiving and gentle with myself makes life so much more enjoyable.
Say no. I don't do this enough. I have come into my own on embracing what feels good and knowing when things don't quote feel right...and learning to walk away. I know that it is imperative to create white space in the calendar and push back a little.
Share gratitude first. The Man and I do this at our table before meals. What are we grateful for? Just in that moment, everything falls away. It feels good to acknowledge the good, the universe and what it provides. It only takes seconds too.
Pleasure and desire are good things. This comes purely from Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map program. I have been working with it for over a year now and it is life changing. Focusing on how I want to feel first, and then aligning my actions and to do list with those feelings has changed my life. I started giving myself permission to want what I want and man, does that feel good.
Wear bright colors. Hot pink, lime green, orange, and purple are now staples in my wardrobe. Those pieces make me smile.
Change your mind. I am a mind changer and have finally started to accept that part of myself. Part of it is my inner Gemini, but the other part of it is taking time to let things process...not jumping to decisions right away.
Always be reading. My favorite habit by far...I read everyday, even if it's just a few pages. I try to block out 30-45 minutes before bed nightly and I love it. It is a habit I hold close to my heart.
Rest is key. My early twenties were packed with stuff to do. I was always pushing, always doing. Then I got sick with Lyme Disease and I literally had to learn how to rest. It makes a world of difference. It means doing nothing...putting my feet up, sitting on my deck and watching the birds as I sip tea, even a walk in the middle of the day can be restful. I sleep in when I need to, but gone are the days of burning the candle at both ends.
Nobody is broken. We are all just doing the best we can with what we have. That it is all.
Have your things. I am quirky. I am a geek at heart, totally introverted actually when it comes down to it. I like office supplies, pens, notebooks, and used bookstores. I enjoy little candles and soaps, and the feel of clean sheets. These parts of myself I don't hide anymore.
Commit. My early twenties were very free spirited...there was a nomadic quality to my way of life, coming and going, doing whatever felt "right." I am enjoying the new chapter of my life, being with the man of my dreams, nesting, grocery shopping at the same place every week, and knowing I have people to be with in my community. It feels good to have committed to my life in Seattle. I totally love it. 
Be humbled.When I started volunteering in my twenties, service became a huge part of my life. My livelihood revolves around working in the non-profit community and everyday I am humbled by what folks are facing. This keeps me grounded and in touch with what truly matters.
Don't just be fine. Share yourself completely and honestly. And if you can't, find some new peeps.
Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. This is the golden jewel in my lessons. It used to be so hard for me to be with pain and discomfort, primarily with emotional pain. My studies in Buddhism, Yoga, and Meditation have helped me make immense strides in this, but I still struggle and am in love with the struggle now, as opposed to total aversion.
RSVP. Manners matter.
My Family Totally Rocks. They are my best friends. They would come and get me out of jail. They make me pee my pants when we are together because we are laughing so damn hard, and they are good people with big hearts.
The More You Practice, The More You Shift. This wisdom is from one of my teachers. It has left a profound mark on me. My practices of yoga, meditation, breathing practices, and studying all keep me resilient. I think of my personal spiritual practice in the sense that I am running an ongoing experiment and I am the scientist.
Get Physical. Drink Water. Floss. Honoring my Temple has been key for my stability and functionality.
Laughter is love. I love making people laugh. I love laughing. We need more of it if we want this world to heal.
Heal My Feet. I battled a nasty foot thing for about 6 years and finally, I just healed it through some cleansing and some diet changes. Boom. Done. Sometimes, making some external changes heals things internally. Gotta love that.
Get on the floor. My yoga practice is more floor based now more than ever. It is the most grounding place to be and when I am feeling crazy/overwhelmed/anxious/etc., the floor is the place to go.
Get rid of some shit. I am into the Tiny House movement. We don't need all the shit we have. I am constantly looking for things to get rid of. I really want to try to get rid of 10 things every week this next year.
Ask deep questions...of yourself. I journal. It's my way of checking in. I love it. I ask deep questions like where I want to be in in 10 years, what fuels me, what do I need to stop doing.
Buy good beauty products. And sheets. I have learned not to skimp on the things I use religiously everyday...sheets and hair products. I invest in these and it pays off in....feeling amazing.
Play in the dirt. Gardening and working with the earth and getting outside keeps us in touch with what is bigger than ourselves. I love it and am amazed by it everyday.
For the love of learning. I just did a personality strengths assessment at work during a Management Team Retreat and Love of Learning was in my top five strengths. Could not be more true. I make it a point to live on the edge of learning new things and I eat it up. Like cake. 
Always be searching. For meaning, for new community, for ways to change the world, for challenges that spark me. I will never stop.

Friday, May 9, 2014

nourishing engagement

Photo: Spring morning at UWIt's May. It's gorgeous. It's fun and full and yet feels so nourishing and, well, beautiful. Part of this fullness is the simple fact that it's my birthday month and this year is a biggie...I am turning 30. I am putting the twenties away, wrapping them up in glittery paper with lots of sparkles, and bowing to them with deep, pure gratitude. There is pizza, chocolate, wine, delicious cheese, and cake as well. Of course, a birthday milestone brings up so much reflective qualities that are truly hard to ignore. It can whip your mind into the future and modes of "what if," and deep insecurities. "Am I where I want to be?," "Have I done enough?," "Am I rocking it?"

In this deeply reflective space, I can't help but look back on this year in general. 2014 has rocked the bliss. It has proven that no matter how full and good you feel, you can always add more full and good. The words that have been most prominent have been nourish and vitality, hence the name for my new yoga business Nourished Vitality: Yoga for the Soul which launched this week and by launch, I mean a business license, domain name, and website building in process. It has been a dream of mine since I was 16 to become a certified yoga teacher and now, 14 years later, the dream has come to fruition.

On top of my yoga, I got engaged and am also building my tribe of amazing, wonderful women. Connecting with new & old friends, making time and space for engagement and connection with key folks in my communities, as well as sowing the seeds for a sacred partnership with The Man, have all made me realize that connection can nourish us, right to the deepest places of our souls. We crave it, yet sometimes we are pulled away from making it happen. It takes work. Period. The cool thing about partnerships is that there is an equilibrium that is created when two people come together and create energy that works. There is nourishment on both ends, people feel supported, heard, and valued. Love flows.

All of these happenings have catapulted me into what it means to be part of a community, of something bigger than us. In Buddhism, we consider it sangha and some cultures term it as your tribe. Being part of a community is only one half of the equation. Being nourished in that community is the second part. Below are a few of my personal reflections on what nourishing engagement & communities mean to me, based on living in this new realm for the past few months.

It takes awhile to find your tribe. When I moved to Seattle in 2007 (now almost seven years ago!) I was lost for awhile. It was my first experience living in a big city and like every region, there were some quirks. It was harder to make friends due to my introverted nature. Over time, I got grounded in my space, engaged with my hobbies & passions, created relationships at work, embraced new experiences that were scary at times (going to a concert in a new part of town with a group of people I barely knew through a coworker), and having some bad fits. We never force a child to make friends quickly, we let it develop. 

It takes some elbow grease. You gotta make the time to connect, and I mean, make the time for in person, face to face, eye contact, hugs, etc. That time is valuable and is so nourishing. Due to my introverted nature, one-to-one time is so much easier for me than large events. I can manage my energy better, I can be present, and really tune in, but you gotta nurture those opportunities like a tomato or basil start in the garden. That means getting things on the calendar, calling people back, involving some food and beverages, and battling the "I'm too tired, busy, fill in the blank."

Know Your Energy. I have already mentioned plenty about my introverted nature, but to expand on this a bit, my personal philosophy/values/core desired feelings are all about alignment, nourishment, vitality, and engagement. I can't have one of those without the others. I know that I work late on Tuesdays and that Wednesdays are yoga nights and Thursdays are couple nights. That leaves Mondays, Friday's, and the weekend to nourish relationships and be in community. I monitor my energy and self-care to not be overextended and white space is standard in my calendar. Once or twice a week for nourishing outside relationships is my standard. Usually it does not involved late nights, drinking, or loud environments.

My hope for you is that you are out in the world sharing your fabulous self and spirit, because we need more of that. Go forth and engage with the folks that bring you joy. Let them support you, support them, and most of all, let it be the most nourishing thing you do.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

softness

I am wrapping up a five day visit in Washington D.C. at a conference for the economic development grant I am part of. It is my first time in Washington D.C. and it has been an intense and wonderful visit. Conferences are great in the fact that although they ask a lot of you in terms of extroverted energy, capacity for learning, being able to juggle sessions and workshops as well as squeeze in work time to check e-mail and handle fires back at the office, they provide so much inspiration, collaboration, and energy to go back to the ground floor and do the work you were put on this earth to do.

On top of eating amazing food, sharing best practices, starting mornings with heels and hot coffee, and guzzling the H20 while madly scribbling away in my moleskine, I have had time to see some sights. My first night, I took an epic five mile walk and saw the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, the FBI Building, etc. It was beautiful, big, massive...it left an impact on me.

Then today, I headed out to Arlington and well, I lost it. It hit me so hard from head to toe. I crumbled when I got back to my room. There was a heaviness, a sadness that flooded every cell of my being. It was beyond emotional, there was a humbling, a realization that there is so much more than is bigger than me...I was in the company of heroes.

I grabbed my purse and walked. I went to the subway and hopped on the metro and went to a bookstore/cafe in Dupont Circle. I browsed while my heart still felt as though it was bursting through my chest. And then it happened...I felt a softness. I let myself feel what I was feeling. I melted into the compassion, the honor, the gratitude.

Softness happens. It's there. Just stop, be in touch, and let it come. Your heart will melt.

Monday, February 24, 2014

on engagement, all the gratitude, resistance to downtime, and intention

Whoa buddy! Where did February go? I mean, weren't we just popping open champagne and saying goodbye to 2013? It always feels (at least in the Pacific Northwest anyway) that February can feel both like the longest month and the shortest month all at the same time. The holidays have passed their prime, the newness of gifts and such maybe are lacking their initial luster, those intentions/resolutions/goals/etc. just don't light you up like they did on January 2nd, and life can seem, well, blah...at least for me. Well this February had a whole bunch of those emotions and lots of highs too. 

Photo: Resized and official.  #bliss #engagement #soulmateFebruary reminds me to hunker down just a little bit, make space for sleeping in, enjoy lazy Sunday mornings with coffee and donuts, and be in my sweats more than skirts. My GoreTex gets used a bit more, the bulbs I planted in the fall start to creep up in the whiskey barrel planters and bring me joy when I head out for my commute in the mornings, and there is a settling in of sorts with the routines I have set for 2014. The biggest change for me in this still very new year is the fact that I got engaged on February 1st. It has been blissful to settle into this new chapter (and exhausting!). It has included getting in touch with family and friends, celebrating with our tribe with dinners, champagne, and delicious treats, lots of laughter and tears, Skype time with my parents, dabbling into wedding Pinterest boards (rabbit hole central), doing some serious purging of stuff, which led to me experiencing the closing of a life chapter. The best part of engagement is both having that direction of knowing where we are going but also this amazingly deep, soulful, telepathic, love vibe that has infected us. I am giddy and totally loving our time to just be in the moment. 

"People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost." - Dalai LamaOn top of that huge life movement came my passing of my yoga teacher training exam. I finished up my course February 9th and am getting ready for Part II, a week long retreat at the hot springs in Oregon where I will be totally in turn-off mode, yoga bliss, and mind bending with my yoga tribe in the first week of April. I am filled with huge amounts of gratitude for the experience of going through this process. It has turned my life completely upside down (in a good way of course). One of the biggest pieces of the five month process is this return to gratitude for all my practice provides me...stability during the storms, joy in the dark, and the capacity to live a full, multidimensional life. It's oh so good.

February also brought the opportunity to start working with a life coach. It was an opportunity that fell into my lap and I said a holy yes to it, simply because there are some patterns of mine that I want to examine a bit more and change in these next few months. I feel like I am totally ready to launch into that next chapter. Part of this is the integration/resistance of downtime for me. Think: white calendar space. Yep, don't have much of that going on these days. I am working on figuring out where does that come from, how does it feel in my body, how does it create ripple impacts across other areas of my life, etc.? Great questions to ask...answers? Not so much yet, but totally loving the process. 

Intention + Action = MagicAnd in the end, it comes back to intention. Intentions resonate with me a little bit more than goals do, simply because it feels a little stronger and provides a little bit more flexibility. I had dinner with a colleague and we were talking about intentions leading us into action. It becomes quite magical when the intention is created and things do fall into place. Our conversation reminded me that I have this choice every day to create from a blank slate...the intentions I set create my attitudes and beliefs and perceptions. It's juicy stuff...

So, as I step into the last week of February, there is so much to be excited about, despite the dampness, heaviness, and desire to hibernate in my fiance's old rowing sweatshirt from 1991. Cultivation is game...setting the foundation up for launch and growth. May the last few days of the shortest month treat you well. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

gratitude week 5: the valuable lessons

The past couple weeks have had that full capacity/overdrive/treading water kind of feeling, yet there was an adequate amount of effort and ease. I am excited to announce that I have completed the first part of my 200 hour yoga teacher training program (the school, lecture, exam part) and now get to embrace some white space in the calendar as well as the building up of excitement for a week long retreat in April. I will be getting back to my personal practice a little more, enjoying time with my fiance (yes, I got engaged a week ago), and bringing some focus back to my house, cooking in my kitchen, spending some time outside, and taking some self-care breaks.
Gallery - Inner Alignment Mandalas
Throughout my yoga teacher training, there have been mind blowing insights into my own personal life and my journey and path and it's been not only a process of self-discovery and inquiry, but also of inner work and vulnerability; learning my patterns, habits, escape valves, etc. All of this spurs inner reflections on the many years of life work I have been embarking on and I thought that drawing a few lessons out would reaffirm both growth and hope, even in the doldrums and dreariness of February.

These lessons come from the peaks, the valleys, the mundane, and the extraordinary and most of them of course are from my twenties and as I get ready to move into my 30's, it's fun to look back and see what has shaped, morphed, and transformed.

Know how I want to feel and do the things that help me feel that way. I am totally blessed to have stumbled across Danielle LaPorte a few years ago. Her work is inspirational, grounded, and a no-bullshit approach to not only leading and loving your life, but radically changes the whole approach to goal setting and striving. The Desire Map program has taken years of personal work and self-study and pulled it all in to a very accessible bible of sorts that I can reference day after day, moment to moment.

Rest more. As a pusher, the whole idea of rest in general was stunningly, well, lazy. I trained myself to constantly be pushing, going, moving, etc., and well, I got tired. This became especially relevant when I was battling Lyme Disease and also some depression stuff in college. Rest has become a huge part of my own life and takes many forms. For instance, sleeping in here and there, driving without radio, getting in some walks and laughter, and taking my self offline through retreats and scheduled time off. It just makes sense.

Saying no is just as powerful as saying yes. Choice is the key lesson here. I always have choice not only in what I take on but what I choose not to take on as well. This I struggle with on a daily basis. It is the root of my own suffering and boundaries are my new "project" of sorts. Just playing the witness and the observer can be a very magical experience with this. One of my yoga teachers tells me, "If it isn't a hell yes, it's a no."

Vulnerability is sexy and strong. Whoa buddy! Yep...this was huge for me. I was a brick and mortar gal for so many years, putting up layer upon layer, wall after wall, not really letting folks in. I was in a deep place of hurting, fear, and sadness and when I slowly let those walls down, there were some massive shifts in my life, particularly in my love life. I transitioned out of old patterns and into new possibilities, and became a little luv bug with myself and the people in my life.

Always be learning. There is so much out there in the world which can be both difficult but such a blessing. I love the fact that I can tune into podcasts from the other side of the world or put a book on hold at the library from my phone after talking about it with a colleague. The time I make to read at night before bed or meetup with the women in my new moon circle makes my own brain work. Love. It. Lots.

I am responsible for my own happiness. This was a biggie. The external conditions are just how it is. I get to choose how I am about them and the actions I take in regards to them. It's tough because we always want the best for folks but it's not my job to manage other people's happiness. It's only by job to be authentic, grounded, and totally in tune with me and my happiness.

Let go, quit, move on...when it doesn't work. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. It's said over and over to let go of things, quit, move on but sometimes it does not translate into action. If it's not working, giving ourselves and each other permission to walk away can be so powerful for everyone, including the folks on the other side.

This list of lessons continues to grow and evolve but these make the cut...always. There are other things sprinkled in of course...eating well, resourcing myself through passions, innovation and invention, community building, intimacy and honesty...but it all comes back to aligning the actions of everyday to the alignment of the rest of my life. May your lessons appear and be totally acknowledged and appreciated.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

gratitude week 4: seeing amazingness among the mundane

I have to admit, the past two weeks have felt a little low/funky for me. Part of it is the struggle for maintaining a solid routine as my work schedule was sporadic, dedicating a lot of time into studying and homework for my yoga teacher training program, and not getting a ton of exercise. Like one of my teachers always says, just return to your practice which has also been hard but slowly I am finding my way back on course. Warm lemon water in the morning, short meditations, and smiling...lots of smiling.

With that said, this week's post is all about seeing the gratitude through what may appear as the mundane.

I am so grateful for my morning time...I seem to mention it a lot, but it has become something so sacred to me in my life. Quiet, fresh, blank. I had the opportunity to take a workshop from Rod Stryker last week, founder of Parayoga and it truly lit me up. I had one of those glimpses into absolute radiance. I am starting his book, The Four Desires, a recommendation from one of my teachers. The mug next to the book was a gift from my best friend's mom who is a potter.
The amazing access I have to delicious and wonderful food...Seattle is one of those places where you could eat at a different place every night for a year and still not make a dent. We don;t eat out a ton but we also have amazing grocery stores...five in a half mile radius of our house, three in 1/10 of a mile. They are always fully stocked with yummy food and freshness. The chai is a new addition this week as the mornings are gloomy and cold and I always sip it and smile thinking this tastes like awesome.
My learning and transformation through my yoga teacher training...yes, I have been studying and working my little gluetal muscles off but the past five months have been exceptionally transformative. Where it will lead is totally unknown at this point, but lots of ideas brewing in the cauldron. I am beyond grateful not only for the experience but all the valleys and peaks along they way that led me to this moment. That whole idea of turning dreams into reality? Yep, it happens. It just takes a helluva lot of elbow grease and a dash of magic and when the starts align, it all just flows.
Photo: Morning practice.

So, the mundane isn't so mundane. It holds this extreme amount of magical light and greatness that should not be taken for granted. In these last final days of January, I look back on the month and think, holy heck! What a full, robust, wacky month but so fabulous. Enjoy!

Monday, January 20, 2014

week in gratitude: #3-inspiring quotes

As I was entrenched in the Seahawks game last night, I realized after I put my book down before bed that I forgot to post. The good news is that I have a holiday today and some great things on the docket aligned with my core desired feelings of Alignment, Grace, Limitless, Create, Nourished, and Engaged.

It's always a balance for me in terms of external relationship building and enjoyment and also enjoying my personal time, restoring my energy through introverted activities. One of my guilty pleasures actually is surfing Pinterest and finding those amazing, inspiring, blissful quotes. I thought I would share a few here that just make my heart melt...absolutely melt. They are part of my vision board and serve as northern stars for those lazy/uninspired/frustrating days. Enjoy!

If it doesn't light you up, you're not the right person for the job. Subscribe: DanielleLaPorte.com #Truthbomb #Words #Quotesworthy.For me writing is as essential as breathing, and food. I do not feel alive, or complete without the music of the soul, which for me is the written word. I suppose musician's feel the same when they compose, and artists feel the same when they paint. Writing is far more than an internal dialog that is shared from concept to tangible script. The power of the story is timeless. Jeana Giordano

#Grace is accepting what is instead of resenting what isn't.              laughing.          Balance = alignment - Loved and pinned by www.deyogatempel.nl <3333. My English teacher taught me this, (: . I love writing for this class. It Gmh . I thought my hs English teacher was great.... But she was really cynical. And we never studied anything fascinating.
...                            Live Now

Sunday, January 12, 2014

gratitude week #2: basics

Well, I am finally back and for the most part, settled back into life in the PNW. I was almost gone for about a month with the weather delays on top of my three week scheduled mini-sabbatical and it feels good to be home but as you probably know, it takes some time to get in the groove again with work, home, routine, unpacking, and putting away the holidays. Deep breaths combined with jumping right into yoga teacher training weekend as well as a few 11 hour nights of sleep and lemon tea, I feel pretty dang good. With that said, my theme of gratitude this week is all about basics.

1. For amazingly delicious, nourishing food, especially on the days I worked from home in my parents' basement. This delicious lobstah stew totally made the working part worth it as I hunkered down, caught up on all things e-mail and conference call. Yum, yum, yum!

2. For mornings. It's so funny how the rhythm of life changes as you get older, especially in the way of getting my day started a helluva lot earlier now than when I was in my teens and early twenties. I love the magic a morning brings, like a fresh start, almost as if the day is a blank canvas and I get to throw on the paint.

3. For my favorite work tools. A great notebook, Pilot G2 .7 Black pen, purple post-it notes, and yogi tea with the best words of wisdom ever. It's the little things that totally light me up ear to ear and may make me giggle a bit when I realize how dorky I am.

4. For beauty in the smallest places. It's everywhere...beauty that is. Yes, the world throws us curveball after curveball, destroying those cute little expectations we have about life, love, traveling on time, etc. One of the days I was stuck, I saw this beautiful pattern in my bedroom window of the crystals that had formed from the ice and moisture. Truly amazing that nature can put pieces like this together with no help from us...at all.

5. For my altar. Even though it feels like we live on a boat sometimes, I still maintain my little nook and part of my nook is my altar/sanctuary/devotional corner. It is where I find my respite after my long days and where I start most of my mornings. It is grounding, open, receptive, and taps into all parts of my being. It is so basic...a small Ikea table I got from a friend who was moving out of town, a few buddhas from around the globe, a few of my favorite texts, and a singing bowl from my trip to Nepal. My newest addition is Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map program that The Man gifted me for Christmas.

So, as I wrap up my Sunday night post, I get really present to all the basic things in my life that add groundedness, deep breaths, smiles, and a little spice. Now, hot tea, reading, and rest call my name.