Friday, June 30, 2017

YTT Nugget Conglomeration

Our last assignment in yoga teacher training (YTT) was to write a letter to self on our growth the past nine months and what we've come to know about ourselves. 

I am. I am that. So hum. You are a child of god. You are human and accept others’ humanness. You are so much more than you labeled yourself, more than the box you believed existed.

Be the kind of person you’d like to meet. Continually rewrite your story. You create your own reality.
Everything that has happened to you in the past was to prepare me for what you’re meant to become.

Visualizing is important. What it is you believe about yourself will reflect back at you. Create your day with your image of the future. If you think it, it will become. Your point of attention is what grows. Your thoughts are what you are giving power to. What are you focusing your thoughts on? What consumes your mind controls your life. Your mind is a powerful thing; when you fill it with positive thoughts your life will start to change. What we think about excessively eventually will become.

You committed to a nine month journey of becoming a yoga teacher and transforming self along the way. You committed to having migraine free days, starting a dog walking company for flexibility, completing a four month apprenticeship with elephant journal to become a stronger writer and share learnings with others, finishing a life coach course to improve communication and help others live the lives they’ve imagined, and starting a SUP yoga company to play outside. You committed to growing a community. Because of your steady commitments and watering of the seeds every day, you are coming closer and closer to your purpose. You are on the right path.

Think big. Think outside the box. You have choices, always. Open your eyes. Who would have thought an opportunity to work on a retreat for migraine sufferers was in your future! Stay focused on your passions, your purpose, and sharing your gifts with others. The opportunities will keep arising. Don’t stay in a comfortable place, take the leap on the trapeze to the other bar. Are you not shining to make others comfortable?

Don’t worry about the how. You like controlled stability, but sometimes you just have to trust that the universe has your back. If something doesn’t happen it’s because something better for you is on the way. Continue to water your seeds daily, even if it’s just something seemingly small you do. Are your actions harmonious with who you aspire to be? Are your feelings, thoughts, and words aligned? Plan, evaluate, but then let go of your need to control the outcome. It’s ok to be excited; the other shoe won’t drop. Don’t waste precious time on fear and worry. You are on your path that the universe wants to happen for you. Let go and let god. What would happen if you did fail? What’s the worst that could happen? It’s not that bad. Go with the flow. Trust that the path will illuminate itself and be revealed as you go along.

People who challenge you the most are your teachers.

You are capable. You’ve done yoga for countless hours. Teach what you know and what you’re good at. You don’t have to be all things to all people. Share what you have to offer and that is enough. You do not need anyone to validate you. “Shoulds” are someone else’s vision for you. Get rid of your limiting thoughts. Be your biggest cheerleader. Would you want to be in a relationship with yourself? How are you treating and talking to yourself?

You are a type two, the helper. You want to be loved, fear not being loved, being unwanted, and being alone. Always ask yourself why you are doing something. Ensure it is not to be needed, for someone to think you are special. Notice the difference between feeling obligation versus genuine enthusiasm. You don’t have to win anyone over. You are loved by the universe.

You have to let go to make room for the new, for something to come in.

You can be a healer through your words. You are the medicine woman. You want to help others, are compassionate, and caring. You are highly intuitive. You can communicate the subtle truths about the human condition in ways that are profound, beautiful, and effective.

You are enough for yourself, but it’s ok to ask for help.

What legacy are you leaving behind? Is what you’re doing bringing you closer to the divine or away from it? Ask your spirit guides to guide you to where your highest self is supposed to be. Don’t be afraid of their answers.

Have a gratitude practice. Pray. Meditate. Do self-reiki. Contemplate. Write. Journal. Do art. Dance. Trust your gut and intuition always. Listen to your body. Listen. Enjoy this life. Be real, authentic. Why not?

And at times, just be. Relish in it.

The greatest sin is you not allowing yourself to be who you are.

Strive for the angel bumps.

Friday, May 12, 2017

11 Time Savers that are Hurting Us.

This piece originally appeared on elephant journal, here

Did you ever have one of those deciding moments, a sinking realization that you’ve learned too much and there’s no going back to how you were living prior to that knowledge?

During my apprenticeship with elephant journal, one thing kept standing out to me—what is popular is not always what is the most important.

Like great journalists, I need to doggedly search for the truth and facts and not take anything at face value. This caused me to start questioning my daily way of life. I agreed to a challenge of not using any disposable cups for several months. Sounds easy, right?

One day, I forgot my stainless-steel tumbler, and I purposely didn’t get carryout at a local restaurant to avoid the waste. But it was to no avail. They brought me water in a plastic cup to my dine-in table, and I cringed when they proceeded to bring my food on a paper plate, as well. I stared on in horror as the server threw my disdainful cup away and grabbed a new plastic cup to leach chemicals into my refill.

That weekend we attended a charity dinner, and I watched in dismay as 250 hard plastic plates that could pass for fine china in my own cabinet were thrown into large trash bins after the meal.

Now that I was mindful of it and paying attention, it was incredulousness how much waste I created every time we went outside of our home for a meal or social outing. I am just one person, but when I started envisioning how many disposable items are used in just one hour across the world, I started to feel ill.

I don’t want to challenge the way it’s always been done; I want to challenge the way we’ve done it for the past 50 years or so and how it’s impacting ourselves, our communities, and our Earth.

Red flags for me are hearing the words popular, convenient, easy, or free.

A lot of truth and research is staring us in the face, but we have been blindly turning away.

We work so hard to afford the finer things in life and maintain them, but are those the very things that are hurting us? When I sat down and really thought about how we’re living, I came up with 11 ways of life I’m working to make the exception instead of the norm, saving some money along the way. We can survive without all of these things, but with them, the Earth won’t:

1. Processed, frozen, packaged, and fast foods. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. I don’t want to eat anything with 25 ingredients on the label that I can’t even pronounce. I like to call this faux food. Let’s bring cooking locally-grown whole foods back.

2. Microwaves. With an increase in the consumption of frozen and processed foods comes an increase in microwave use. Microwaves change the chemical structure of food, and that sh*t just isn’t natural. Microwaves damage the nutritional value of food; steaming is much better. I am also a huge advocate of the toaster oven or a rice cooker.

You can plan ahead to defrost and it only takes just a few more minutes to heat up food. I store dish towels in our spotless microwave, but if you can’t quit it, at least stand in a different room when it’s running so you don’t absorb as many electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) linked to cancer and other health issues—we get enough of those EMFs from our cell phones and Wi-Fi!

3. Coffee and energy drinks. I am down with coffee in moderation for a jump start in the morning, but when multiple cups are required, I have to re-evaluate why I’m so tired in the first place. We’ve known since we were little tykes that we need eight hours of sleep a night. My personal average is six. Long-term consequences of insufficient sleep are not good. I don’t need obesity and cardiovascular disease in my life.

4. Medication. The body heals itself during sleep, and food nourishes the body. We’ve all listened to the 80 side-effects rattled off when medications are advertised and shook our heads. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for medication. Other times, it may just take a few more days to let the body heal itself rather than popping a pill.

5. Disposable plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery. One party with a few dozen people creates bags of garbage. The amount of garbage daily collected from amusement parks, concerts, and sporting events is astounding. Think of all the bridal showers, baby showers, and birthday parties going on at any given moment.

We use an old silverware set for parties and just throw them in the dishwasher after. I’m bringing cloth napkins back in 2017. We make our coffee and tea at home and save some serious change and to-go cups. That $4 a day for a coffee quickly adds up to $120 a month.

6. To-go boxes. A new socially awkward thing I’m going to start doing is keeping a glass Pyrex bowl in my satchel when I go out to eat for the leftovers. I would rather look at the bemused expressions on my friends’ faces than yet another carryout box that will end up in an overflowing landfill.

7. We put produce in plastic bags.  Whatever did people do prior to 1960? I want to avoid the risk of the migration of any chemicals from the plastic into the food. I put my fruits and veggies right into my reusable bags and for the little and loose guys like okra I put those in mesh bags oranges come in. I always kick myself when I forget my bags at home, and I’ve been known to leave my full cart at the checkout line to run out to my car and grab them.

8. Bottled drinks. Plastic chemicals can seep into what we drink. I now try my best to plan for my day and bring my own water. I carry a stainless steel, glass, or porcelain cup with me. Plastic is off the chain, don’t get me wrong. It was originally invented to create a material that would replace elephant ivory so the beautiful creatures would stop being poached. But there is too much of a good thing when we go to extremes. There are humongous garbage patches filled with plastic in our oceans and plastic pieces end up in the wildlife’s stomachs. The animals can’t take their kids to the doctor to get X-rayed to see they swallowed a G.I. Joe figurine or a bottle cap.

9. Social media for our primary news source. We are relying on a haphazard scroll through a newsfeed to know what’s going on in the world. You are what you eat, how you cook it, and what you read! Let’s bring the Sunday paper back full of independent journalism that is working to protect the interest of the public. I need to be mindful of not just settling for what’s going viral on the web, but seeking out solid reporters to stay informed like they have at The New York Times or The Washington Post. I want to ensure I’m drawing my opinions from facts. And let’s be real, we all miss the Sunday Comics.

10. Online shopping with direct shipping. That one-click purchase and two-day free shipping is enticing; the struggle is real for me on this one. I was pleasantly surprised when I ran into a local store this week and got a free tote bag with my in-store purchase, and I met a cool chick in line and struck up a conversation about the meaning of her tattoo that became my mantra for the day. Shopping local is eco-friendly and strengthens the economy of your community. Support your neighbors.

11. Weed killers and pesticides. While these quickly kill weeds and insects in the short term, what are we slowly poisoning long term? Let’s check out crop rotations from days of old and natural remedies for weeds like boiling water, vinegar, or some elbow grease.

We seem to have this need for speed and insist on intervening. New inventions have come out over the years that were touted to be time savers, and we excitedly adopted them because they were convenient (for us). Study after study comes out about how bad processed foods are for us, how we need more sleep, and how plastic and chemicals are bad. As new information came out on their effects, it was too late—we were hooked. It’s like we would be inconveniencing ourselves to do what’s healthy and ignored the research.

Despite all of the new technology to go faster, when’s the last time we said to ourselves, “Dang, I have so much time and money.” If you ask someone how they are doing, most will respond, “I’m so busy.” Let’s rethink this whole alleged convenience thing. Perhaps having to wash a few plates instead of throwing away a paper plate isn’t the problem.

If we don’t need to buy all of these convenient and disposable items, maybe we won’t have to work quite so hard and will have more time in the long run. And I’ll wager we’ll be sick less and have more energy if we cook more at home with local produce and get more sleep.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Medicating Migraines With No Relief? Try This.

This piece originally appeared on elephant journal, here.

I am now a firm believer that our body is trying to tell us something when we have distressing physical symptoms—and it is in our best interest to find out what that something is.

Not listening has significant consequences.

I have had a few bouts with my old foe—chronic migraines—but the most recent was debilitating. The migraines were constant for six months and I experienced auras with scattered spots the majority of the day.

Every morning I woke up, hopeful, searching my eyes to see if the dreaded spots were still there. I took naps in my car in the parking garage at work, because I felt feverish and my eyelids were so heavy with fatigue. I felt helpless and didn’t see any options.

When I reached a breaking point, my doctor suggested I go on leave from my demanding corporate job to focus on my health. I felt shameful for letting everyone down at the time, but it’s the best decision I could have made. Some surprising things happened to not just my health, but my life along the way. I realize now that you can’t help anyone else until you fix yourself.

I wasn’t doing anyone any good by being a shell of myself.

I had already tried all of the natural remedies I could find in an attempt to eliminate any possible migraine triggers. I exercised, slept like a bear in hibernation, had weekly acupuncture, chiropractic care, deep-tissue massages—and ate a whole food diet of organic fruits, vegetables, legumes, and wild caught fish.

Hasta la vista processed foods and alcohol. I quit the juice (coffee) and even my delightful green tea. Thank heaven for herbal teas. I stopped eating lunchmeat—RIP turkey sandwiches. I dramatically cut back on chocolate. We replaced every fluorescent bulb in the house.

I wanted the migraines gone and as quickly as possible, but I wasn’t willing to medicate. I tried medication in the past and it didn’t help keep my migraines at bay long-term. I now don’t believe in hiding symptoms without addressing the root cause.

I underwent a series of tests with a doctor that practiced integrative medicine. We uncovered that I was deficient in Vitamin D and my Epstein-Barr (EPV) virus was active. I invested in Vitamin D and zinc whole food supplements. We added in some riboflavin and magnesium—common antidotes for migraines—for good measure. By using whole food supplements, it could take four to six weeks before I would see results. In the meantime, I continued on my quest for the root cause.

A few things happened that pointed to stress as the primary trigger for my migraines. My integrative doctor informed me that I was constantly in a state of fight or flight mode. My pupils were dilated. My lip or nose twitched regularly. My monkey mind was out of control, playing out ridiculous scenario after scenario.

After acupuncture, my entire body felt relieved. My migraine aura would often clear when doing yoga—and then quickly return. When I went on leave, a good friend bought me three sessions with a psychotherapist and made me promise I would try them before I decided whether I would return to my corporate job or quit.

We focused my treatment plan on yoga, meditation, and therapy to develop coping mechanisms for stress. By addressing the stress, I could decrease my anxiety, calm down my nervous system, increase my serotonin and dopamine counts, decrease my fatigue, and improve my concentration.

When I was tired, I slept. My body ruled the roost.

Life doesn’t stop and you go on living despite (or in spite of) the migraines. I started a dog walking company that allowed me flexibility in my day should a migraine hit. This was a low-stress venture. I still got to meet new people and had the perk of getting to be outside and playing with dogs.

The migraines spurred an entirely different path for me.

My career decisions were made out of practicality and for financial reasons. I clambered up the corporate ladder. I had stopped dreaming somewhere along the way. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my migraines were like a flashing light (literally and figuratively), letting me know it was time to leave the sensible job and move toward my purpose. That sensible job was making me sick—it wasn’t right for me.

My migraines gave me the push I needed to pursue my passions and not a dollar sign.

As my leave was coming to a close and it was decision time, my decision was made for me. The company I worked for let everyone on leave go, along with hundreds of other employees. I now had a severance package that seemed like a gift to start me on my way. A thank you for working yourself to the bone. We are going to use it to travel and start a SUP yoga company. At the same time, a friend was opening a yoga studio and needed a studio manager.

The universe always seems to provide, if we just get out of the way.

I redefined success for myself and it was no longer climbing the corporate ladder. I now was focused on my health and passion to help others—human and animal.

I now meditate every morning to calm myself at the start of the day. I do yoga. I’ll teach yoga in a few months when I’m certified—to help others manage stress. I write. I cook. I walk dogs. I hike in nature. I’ve slowed down and listen to my intuition. I spend time with friends and family. I set boundaries so I can remain healthy. I realize I always have choices. And I’m happy.

It took my body six months to heal. Most things in nature heal themselves, if we give them enough time.

Initially—I didn’t pay attention to the signs of chronic stress so that I could increase self-care or address the underlying causes of the stress. If you get migraines, you may not have the same causes I did, but don’t give up finding yours. We are not our migraines; we are people overcoming our migraines.

The next time my body talks to me, I will listen. I won’t wait until a breaking point.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

We Used to See Wishes, but Now we See Weeds.

Brand Park, Glendale, CA

This piece originally appeared on elephant journal, here.

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was driving down the road and noticed a few patches of weeds.

At a stop light, I continued to stare and noticed flashes of purple from a weed flower and the pop of yellow from dandelions.
When did weeds become bad? When did uniform, perfectly-manicured lawns become good?
And at what cost?
As a child, blowing dandelion seeds and watching the wind carry them off was always a magic moment for me. We now see a weed where we used to see a wish.
I want the wild, the unexpected. I don’t want acres of the same shade of green, evenly trimmed grass blades. I don’t want to be mad at the deer for eating the flowers that we painstakingly paid to be planted.
We spend money on chemicals to stop weeds for a brief period of time—money that could be used on so many other things. Why? Is it because we are afraid of what the next-door neighbors will think?
I remember the horror I felt when my boyfriend wanted to treat the weeds cropping up in our driveway with Roundup, because that is what you do in suburbia. “We live 100 feet from the lake where our dogs swim every day! They would be swimming in poison!”
Because the weeds always come back, and then the cycle begins again.
When I drive by wildflowers planted on the side of the road though, I can’t help but smile. There is a 1987 federal law mandating one-quarter of one percent of federal landscaping money be devoted to planting wildflowers by the highway. That seems tiny, but I’ll take it.
We could all plant wildflowers around our yard and save time on mowing. But I do love the smell of fresh-cut grass. I get pleasure out of seeing a beautiful lawn with crisscross patterns from the mower. I used to edge my lawn for hours in a meditative state.
There are other ways to tame the weeds though. We could skip the gym and pull the weeds if their existence is bothering us that much. We can pour boiling water, vinegar, or leftover pickle juice on them. We can smother them with newspapers so the sun can’t reach them.
Or we can just let them be. We can stop the judgment.
“One man’s weed is another man’s flower.” ~ Gloria Naylor

Monday, March 20, 2017

Crash Into Me

Nature provides so many answers if we can just become aware.

Watching the oceans waves I think about how similar they are to life.

The hard stuff comes in with a bang, salty foam flying. We are always waiting and anticipating, but it crashes in when we least expect it. If we are mindful we may have noticed the swell coming our way, building and building.

At the time the crash seems so long, but if we wait it too will fizzle.

Two waves crash into one another and join forces to ride it out. If we look just a few feet to the left, change perspective, there is no wave. To the right is a wave much larger than ours.

All of the waves are connected, all are one.

If we look down, the wave likely left us little treasures and messages. An unexpected sand dollar or a beautiful shell.

The waves will leave an impression with salt upon our skin.

While they seem out of control, the waves are reliable. If we watch the waves long enough, we may notice patterns like the tides are there. They will come again and again. The waves are inevitable, we can’t possible sustain out-swimming them. Seemingly good or bad, wanted or unwanted, they will come. Some days the water will gently lap against the shore. Other days the waves are in a fury and seem endless, crash after crash.

We can control how we react to the wave.

Will we freeze, tumble, and get sucked under, somersaulting out of control?

Or will we look up and remember the blue sky above us? Will we remember the earth beneath our feet? Will we stop fighting it and trust? Will we ride it out, finding the good, heading the rush, and wanting more?

We will then see we needed the wave after all. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Three Dogs, One Hour & a Reminder of Gratitude

This piece originally appeared on elephant journal, here.

It can be easy to take the presence of animals for granted.

Expecting to be greeted at the door by a wagging tail and wet nose. Feeling annoyed at having to walk them when it’s cold outside. Carelessly weaving fingers through fur and not consciously acknowledging every fiber of the soft texture.
Indulging in the seemingly unconditional love in our pet’s eyes. Ignoring the tennis ball or rope in their mouth as we crank through another item on our to-do list.
But imagine now that our bodies are failing us while our minds remain sharp. We sit for hours on end in the same room with little to no company. We ache for connection and wistfully remember our own home filled with family, pets included.
We feel anxious. We feel lonely.
Then one day, we look up and a dog is trotting toward us with an inquisitive look and a swishing tail. We reach out our shaking hand and he nudges his head into our palm and sighs. A tear streams down our face.
We look forward to that dog returning each month. We store dog treats for him in our room. He quickly becomes more and more familiar and affectionately licks our hand. He could care less that we are in a wheel chair or that sometimes our words are jumbled.
Any time I replay this scene in my mind, it makes me wish I had started pet visits a long time ago.
It seems selfish that I’ve had these three dogs all to myself for so long. Especially since all it took was a phone call to a local nursing home to inquire about their pet policy. Most homes only require a copy of an animal’s vet records showing up-to-date vaccines and a heads up that you will be coming.
I partnered with a volunteer organization, knowing that they could help raise awareness of this opportunity to others. More volunteers also meant more time with dogs for the residents. I learned that not everyone likes big or small dogs, so a mix of both is ideal.
I do these pet visits because I would want someone to do them for me.
The visits are a gentle reminder to value my time with my dogs and with others. My grandmother is in hospice several states away and while I cannot do much to bring her comfort, it brings me peace to make a small impact on those close by.
The pet visits are one hour out of the month. I guard that commitment like a watch dog. It amazes me that such a small amount of effort can bring much-needed joy to these residents.
When we volunteer, we don’t expect anything back in return, but I’ve found that helping others is a good way to gain fulfillment for ourselves. It gives me a sense of purpose each month and a little joy as well. I get outside of my head and away from the seemingly important drama to focus on others. The connections I’ve made help give me a better sense of community.
The best parts of my week, and maybe yours, are when someone performs a random act of kindness. When my friend emails me a link to a video she thought would help me. When the neighborhood kids knock on my door and ask if they can walk our dogs. When my boyfriend leaves a cheerful note next to my tea each morning. These thoughtful gestures bring a smile to my face and a rush of gratitude. My mood and spirit elevate instantly.
Pet visits are my way to make a difference. I can feel the energy in the room shift when the dogs enter, as if each resident is recalling images and memories of their former pets. Often times they share stories as they reminisce about dog companions from the past, and this is when I pick up valuable nuggets of wisdom.
Imagine if we all found a simple way to give back, to do something different with a small portion of our time or resources that would instill that feeling of joyfulness in others. Imagine that.

Do You Know Your Neighbors' Names?

This piece originally appeared on elephant journal, here.

It took me awhile to figure out why I enjoy chanting an Om mantra in yoga class.

I like feeling the united vibration from everyone in the room.
We need others for their perspective and input, their teachings, ideas, and companionship. You’ve probably heard the stories of the premature twins that were not doing well, but once put together in the same incubator, against standard protocol, their health rapidly improved and they thrived.
We’ve all seen society come together after a natural disaster.
I crave that connection (hopefully without the disaster).
We’ve all had nightmarish neighbors or maybe we’ve even had brief stints playing that role ourselves. The fast food wrappers haphazardly thrown in our yards. The overzealous neighbor that gives you a fertility statue and invites you to their church within the first 30 seconds of meeting.
Maybe we’ve come home laughing loudly with friends, waking up others close by. Maybe we’ve had to pound on ceilings and invest in ear plugs. Maybe our boots have seemingly honed-in on that pile of dog poop that wasn’t picked up (now that’s a sh*tty neighbor). I couldn’t tell you any of their names (well, maybe their dogs’ names).
If we’re lucky, we’ve caught glimpses of community, people helping each other along the way. Neighbors doing yard work for the person next door not capable of pushing a lawnmower. Coaches taking players to visit colleges. Friends calling to check on each other. Neighborhood kids asking if we need help on moving day. Being rescued by a woman in a minivan when being circled like prey by a vicious dog.
How do we create a stronger sense of community? I’m an outgoing introvert and am perfectly content recharging inside my house solo. I’ve found the following tips help get me out there and learn about my cul-de-sac community:
1. Initiate contact.
Rally the neighborhood to do a group volunteer activity like a trail clean up. Start a book club, host a game night, coordinate a Nerf gun battle complete with war paint and barrel-rolls down hills, or plan a potluck dinner. Challenge everyone to an excessive Christmas decorating contest.
If that’s a little aggressive, at least let’s nervously knock on our neighbors’ doors with sweaty palms and laugh just a little too heartily and find out their names. Let’s assume they also want cool neighbors to throw Halloween parties with, where they use their baby monitors instead of hiring sitters because they are so close to home.
When someone new moves into the neighborhood, let’s kick it old school and bring them a casserole in a glass dish along with their Nerf gun for the next battle. Time to dust off that crockpot!
2. Slow down. 
When is the last time we’ve sat around to catch up with friends or family and were truly present? No cell phones on the tables. Not formulating responses while people are talking or cutting someone off mid-sentence to jump in with our own brilliant response. Instead, we could ask an open-ended, follow-up question to show our support, encouragement, and interest.
Let’s be content and happy to be there, really there, with our comrades. Isn’t that why we came?
A cursory wave as neighbors drive by isn’t good enough.
I want that sense of community and belonging, the peace of mind in knowing that we will all band together and share our skills and means when one of us is in need.

And I don’t want to step in dog poop anymore.