connective elements healing

honoring creativity - restoring balance - embracing wholeness

By observing nature, ancient traditions explained all of existence through five elements.  

Connective Elements Healing aims to restore you to your true nature through five healing offerings -

BodyTalk, Coaching, Meditation, Reiki and Yoga. 

Filtering by Category: Intention

Holding Patterns

I awoke this morning not in the best of moods. The weight of the last several weeks here in Pretoria has been enormous. I’ve been riding a roller coaster of emotions about things that I’m not quite ready to openly write about, but soon will. My morning practices wouldn’t budge the heaviness and a hearty breakfast failed to provide grounding. I took a walk to clear my head. With each step down the tree-lined streets of my guesthouse’s Pretoria neighborhood, I unraveled more and more.

My earlier morning rituals of meditation and Morning Pages revealed discomfort in the current limbo state I’m in and the holding pattern in which I find myself. I externalized the feeling and holding pattern, relating it to past situations – home environments that felt toxic, workplaces that failed to contribute to my ability to thrive and relationships that sapped my energy. From my writing, I thought, perhaps, that my current state of exhaustion could be blamed on the last few weeks in which I unexpectedly found myself in Pretoria. The time quickly lapsing, pushing me further and further behind in the programs and projects I tried so diligently to develop in my village. Not being able to communicate openly about what is currently happening in my life combined with physical and emotional fatigue has left me completely depleted.

In my Morning Pages, I brainstormed about activities in the States that typically fill me up, such as kirtan and ecstatic dance, and identified friends whose juiciness inspires. I deduced that my current lack of access to these resources had contributed to my current state. As my morning unfolded, I yearned to unthread the story of this troublesome state of being.

  Verdant -  Pretoria, South Africa

Verdant - Pretoria, South Africa

The brisk fall air here in Pretoria today feels unsettling to my vata. Perhaps my ungroundedness dropped my guard enough to listen closely enough to what was revealed during my walk. I thought about expectations of myself and my Peace Corps service and my current emotional state. I realized that the reasons for my disappointment lie in the fact that I expected these last 16 months to have gone differently. As I walked with that idea, I recognized that the heart of the disappointment is not due to external events, though it felt like many were tragic, but that the true source of my disappointment was that I’d bet on myself to handle things differently.

Years ago, I burnt out of the helping profession. I burnt out from life after infidelity broke my engagement and I sought refuge in a yoga ashram in Colorado. In the nine years since, I’ve developed self care tools, studied healing modalities and adopted new ways of living that I expected would buffer myself from trauma, bolster my abilities and lend to my thriving as a successful Peace Corps Volunteer here in South Africa. Instead, I find myself in a familiar state of depletion, exhaustion and burn out with 10 months left of service. As I walked this morning, I dismantled the notion that it is the external holding pattern of Pretoria or Peace Corps or difficult people sapping my energy.

The sun peeked through the foliage and warmed my face as the thought burst forth that my former relationships, living environments and workplaces did not construct the complex burnout of my past. I understood that these external forces were not and are not the holding patterns in which I find myself.

Rather, I am the one holding the patterns of my current state.

I am the one, due to the lay of my neural pathways, previous experiences and history, from my shadow and my trauma, creating the fog in which I currently exist.

I could easily wallow in the shame of this revelation. I could blame myself for the current state of things. I could chastise my weak will. I could blame myself for the time wasted and the choices I’ve made.

But here, on the fifth anniversary of my mom’s passing, I choose differently. I choose to acknowledge that I’m doing the best I can with what I have. I choose to give myself grace. I choose to voice that it takes courage to reflect and recognize our patterns. I choose to have the patience to sit with the patterns until they themselves dissolve. I choose to accept that I’m the one holding the pattern and that each moment is a choice.

There may be some moments that I may not be my best. I may not be the perfect Peace Corps Volunteer or yogini or authentic spiritual being. There may be times when I want to eat a bag of Simba, sleep too much, binge on mindless tv or trashy romance, ignore my mounting WhatsApp messages and to do lists and not leave the comfortable cocoon of my room and that’s okay.

The expectations I had of myself to do things differently this time around have been fulfilled. There have been so many times I’ve done things differently. I’ve set difficult boundaries. I’ve had challenging conversations. I’ve advocated. I’ve challenged. I’ve walked away. I’ve fought. I’ve made the tough call. I’ve backed down.

I set out on this tour of Peace Corps service to fulfill a long-held dream. I desired to give back. I hoped that this experience in South Africa would promote my ability to stand confidently on my own two feet in this world. In the midst of the experience, I feel like I’m changing. Some days I question if the change is for my betterment or if I’m devolving. I question whether I’m making a difference. Today’s realization that I hold the patterns, rather than external forces being the holding patterns is a priceless gain worth the weight of the journey thus far. ♥

 

Thank you for joining my as I wander and wade my way through Peace Corps service here in South Africa. I vulnerably process my emotional and spiritual learnings in hopes of feeling through, giving back and letting go. I bow in gratitude to you for joining me.

 

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

Burning Expectations

Expectations I had for Peace Corps Service in South Africa:

*       for it to be joy-filled

*       for it to be physically difficult, but emotionally fulfilling

*       that I would be able to use my self care skills to buffer stress and trauma

*       that people would welcome me

*       that people would welcome my help

*       that people would welcome my perspective

*       that people would welcome my ideas

*       ***that I would be valued***

*       to learn a language

*       that I would make lifelong friend both in country and within the Peace Corps

*       that there would be continuity in my service and my projects

*       that I would love my host country

*       that I would make a difference

*       that Peace Corps would support me

*       that I would be kind

*       that I would be open

*       that I would bring an empty cup

*       that it would fulfill my dream

*       that I’d be able to let go of him

*       that I’d be able not to think about him

*       that I’d be able to move on

*       that people would value me

*       that I could bring my skills to make a difference

*       that I’d see interesting things

*       that I’d love it

*       that I had the grit to do it

*       that I’d learn to stand on my own two feet

*       that id be lonely

*       that my relationships would shift

*       that my relationships would change

*       that my relationships would stay the same

*       that I would be able to be here

*       that I had everything I needed to do this

*       that all the tools of healing and self care and introspection would serve me as I served others

*       to grow

*       to be a good person

*       to be a good Volunteer

*       to be an exceptional Volunteer

*       to let go

*       not to think about life in the US

*       to be in the same place for two years

*       to be hungry

*       to not have access to food and others

*       to deal with bugs, spiders, stomach issues and lack of sleep

*       to feel in danger

*       to be in danger

*       to constantly fear sexual assault

*       to bring my skills to Africa

*       to grow as an individual

*       to shave my head

*       to learn a lot about yoga, personal development and all the topics I yearn to know more about since I’d have so much time to read, write and absorb

*       to slow down

*       to release expectations

*       to be instead of do

*       that it would go well

*       that because I’d deferred my dream for 20 years and was finally leaping that now was the perfect time to serve in the Peace Corps

*       that I wouldn’t miss my relationship

*       that I wouldn’t miss companionship

*       that I wouldn’t care that he moved on

*       that I wouldn’t care that life in the States moves on (without me)

*       that I would welcome rebuilding my life

*       that people would come visit me

*       that these 27 months would mean something

*       that I would tangibly give back

*       that I would curb the burnout I experienced as a social worker with my healing tools

*       that I’d be proud of myself

*       that I’d be proud of my accomplishments

*       that I’d carry myself with grace

*       that I’d represent myself well

*       that I’d represent my country well

*       that I’d get so attached I wouldn’t want to leave

*       that I’d love working with kids

*       that I’d teach yoga in Africa

*       that I’d only need support a year in

*       that I wouldn’t miss the States

*       that I wouldn’t look back

*       that I wouldn’t be safe

*       that I wouldn’t be heard if something happened

*       that the Peace Corps has a history of dysfunction and I shouldn’t have high expectations for support or being assigned to a site that matches my skill set

*       that things would go well

*       that I would struggle financially

*       that my monthly stipend wouldn’t cover my costs

*       that I was going into service without expectations

 

I’ve felt the weight of the world on my shoulders for the last year. In my new village, I fell the weight of trying to save a village, which simply isn’t realistic. Though I set out seemingly without expectations, here I listed 85 stream of consciousness expectations in a matter of minutes.

 

How often do we enter endeavors with the weight of the world on our shoulders?

 

  Fire and the Mountain -  Taken in Limpopo Province, South Africa

Fire and the Mountain - Taken in Limpopo Province, South Africa

How often do we pile on the to do lists and endless expectations of ourselves until we are burnt up?

 

How can we free ourselves of the weighty, unrealistic demands we place on ourselves ranging from life changes to mundane, everyday tasks?

 

How can we, instead, grant ourselves grace and breathing room and ease and space?

 

I’ve felt the weight of the each of these 85 expectations and likely more I haven’t even listed. I vow to let these go. Right here. Right now. I want to make an inventory of expectations on a regular basis and let those go, too.

 

I don’t have to carry the weight of the world or a village or a person or a task on my shoulders, my mind or my heart.

 

I choose grace.

 

I choose breathing room.

 

I choose ease.

 

I choose spaciousness.

 

I burn expectations with the intention of grace and breathing room and ease and spaciousness, making room for what is, making space for what will be.

 

I let go.

 

I invite you to do the same. ♥

 

I’m actively processing my 27 months of Peace Corps service with a keen eye towards my emotional and spiritual journey. I bow in gratitude to you for joining me.

 

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

 

Making Space in 2018

I was brought up to equate being alone with feeling lonely. My recent trip over the holidays dispelled that myth. I spent the last days of 2017 fully living my Word of Year for 2017, present, during my first solo trip of my life. I ushered in opportunities to stretch, exploring my own boundaries, experiencing sights, sounds and tastes here in South Africa and connecting with delightful souls.

I dined alone in a sit-down restaurant for the first time. I spent days gallivanting around Cape Town with strangers who quickly morphed into friends. I carved out time to restore, reset and refresh.

As an only child, I was skilled in the art of entertaining myself. I recall one lengthy session of making faces at myself in my mom’s bedroom mirror. As my mom entered her room, she looked at me, rolled her eyes, laughed and said, “you are weird”. I giggled in response and continued with my merriment. My ability to be self contained at an early age contributed to the resilience I required to brave my adolescence.

As I entered my turbulent teens, I sensed my mother’s light dimming. Awaiting her knight in shining armor to rescue her from her life, my mom’s loneliness increased as I moved to college. At University, I shed layers upon layers of my identity and became the most self-assured I’ve been in my adult life. Slowly, over the last 20 years, as I jumped from relationship to relationship, I lost parts of myself. From one relationship in which I was criticized for being “too damn happy” to the next relationship where I was decried for being too negative, I started to believe that I was not enough. I started to believe that I needed someone to fill my gaps, to complete me. As I furthered my spiritual practices, and discovered silent retreats, I craved more and more time to myself. I peeled back the layers of enmeshment and revealed that I’d subconsciously woven my mom’s rescue fantasy into the fabric of my belief system.

Don’t get me wrong, I dream of great love. I love love. However through my spiritual work, I admitted a need to be present to my life, to myself, first. Though difficult, I had to let go.

I’ve endured a tremendous amount of hurt and trauma throughout these last 38 years. Stories and relationships have seemingly bogged me down. I’ve clung so tightly to the past. I am trying to remain gentle to myself as I continue to let go.

This Peace Corps service is, in part, about letting go, making space, acknowledging my needs and dreams and being very much present to myself and my life.  

Peace Corps outlines three official goals of service to be: 1) helping the people of countries around the world to meet their need for trained men and women; 2) promoting a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served and; 3) promoting a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. Peace Corps Volunteers freely discuss the unofficial “4th goals” to include personal aspirations. From the onset, I identified my fourth goal to be standing confidently on my own two feet in the world. Though firm about my goal, I doubted I could achieve it. However, in the last two weeks, I feel more comfortable in my own skin, confident of my place in the world and excited about upcoming solo adventures.

  Last Present : Cape Town, South Africa

Last Present: Cape Town, South Africa

I started Susannah Conway’s powerful Unravel your Year, using her thoughtful prompts like, “where did you practice bravery in 2017?” and “did anything happen in 2017 that needs to be forgiven?” to examine the preceding year while atop Table Mountain on Christmas Day. Susannah encourages participants to visualize their ideal day in 2018 and ask themselves questions such as, “what would saying YES to your life look at feel like?”

Saying yes to my life in 2018 includes desiring flow, realizing ease, implementing my tools for balance and wellness and utilizing my unique gifts and talents to give back and be of service. I realized that I want to make space for possibility and magic in 2018.

  The Rediscovery -  Atop Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

The Rediscovery - Atop Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

My Word for 2018 is spacious ♥

I want to make space for that little girl inside who knew joy through simple things. I want to make space for that fierce woman in her late teens that spoke with conviction. I want to make space for the brave woman who is slowly rediscovering herself, her value and her place in the world.

 

Susannah Conway’s Unravel your Year and Find your Word 2018 are a gift to us all. I invite you to explore these free and delightfully precious resources to inspire the year ahead.

 

I bow in gratitude to you for joining me as I process the emotional and spiritual 27-month journey of Peace Corps Service here in South Africa.

 

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

The Possibility in the Present

When I chose present as my Word of the Year for 2017, I envisioned living the word through mindfulness, through the cultivation of awareness of the present, through joy and being open and simply aware of what is here, right now. This morning, through my regular meditation and Morning Pages sessions, I recognized that present means much more than that.

  Blooming -  Taken September 2017 in KZN Province, South Africa

Blooming - Taken September 2017 in KZN Province, South Africa

In asking myself the question, “can I make space for possibility”? I triggered several epiphanies. I must allow myself to let go of the past to make space for the gifts of the present. I must stop clinging to the stories, to past achievements, hurts, relationships, traumas and histories to truly empty my cup and make room for the present. I must allow the feelings and emotions from the past to dissipate in order to be present for what’s here, in the present.

I asked myself if I’ve told enough of my story to feel as if I’m free of my past. Though I recognize there is rigidity even there, there doesn’t need to be a fixed stop point with regard to my own healing, my own process. Perhaps I am done telling the stories of my past, clinging to the stories of my past. Perhaps I’m not. And it’s all perfect. And it’s all okay. 

I recognized this morning that present is likewise about letting go of the future. I have been conditioned to plan for the future, to know what’s next. As a Social Worker and a Coach, my career has rested on plan-making. My own safety often relied on the generation of solid plans. However, arming myself with the best-laid plans for the future, I realized this morning, robs me of the possibility that exists in the present and perhaps in the future, as well.

It is so much more than mindfulness. It’s so much more than awareness of the present. It is about the ability to be, to truly be in the moment – to truly be present - to surrender to what is without expectation, without stories, without clinging to the past, without obsessively planning for the future. There is ease here, in its purest form.

All these concepts are talked about so commonly in the self help, spiritual, coaching, personal development and helping communities, but until you experience them in real-time, in your own life, you and I fall short of experience and forfeit the present.

Once we empty ourselves of the clinging, of the constant energy of doing, of the gripping, the striving, the proving, we can truly rest, I can truly rest, and be open to the present.

Herein lies the gift, the very rich opportunity for possibility and ease and freedom and breath and space.

  Illumination  - A gifted candle during a power outage from my Host Mama, KZN, South Africa

Illumination - A gifted candle during a power outage from my Host Mama, KZN, South Africa

May you be present.

May you open to possibility.

May you witness the peace that surrounds you.

May you let go.

 

May I be present.

May I open to possibility.

May I witness the peace that surrounds me.

May I let go.

 

Gratitude for joining me as I process the emotional and spiritual 27-month journey of Peace Corps Service in South Africa. ♥

 

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

 

Africa Soft

My weekends are no longer my own. It took a lot for this American woman to finally relinquish her autonomy. In fact, it took nearly seven months of fighting in country, but today, the light bulb finally illuminated.

I set out with the best of intentions each weekend to live similarly as I did in the US. Weekends in America have always been characterized by sleeping in, vegging out, tackling chores, recuperating from the previous week and preparing for the week ahead. Much room is made for “me time”. Not so here in South Africa.

Peace Corps Volunteers often explain that the first three months of Peace Corps Life, Pre-Service Training (PST), are intended to make volunteers “Africa tough” and prepare one for their subsequent two years of service. PST resulted in my tangible disdain for the phrase Africa tough. My tipping point occurred on a seven-hour van ride traversing some of this country’s most scenic terrain. The smile on my face spoke of my contentment. A fellow volunteer, close to the end of his two years of service, noticed my expression and asked why I was smiling. In explaining the source of my elation, he said, “don’t worry, you’re sure to lose that happiness in the next two years”. Speechless at the time, his words have echoed in my heart and mind many times in the last 5 months since he uttered them.

  Gearing Down -  KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Gearing Down - KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

I can choose to harden to my life’s experiences, whether here in South Africa or elsewhere. I can choose to meet the jaded and be, likewise, jaded, or I can choose differently.

Years ago in my former life as a Social Worker, colleagues would often remark on how I responded in crisis. When people react and become increasingly geared up emotionally, I tend to gear down. My upbringing, temperament and spirit naturally choose ease. In some instances in my life, that has indeed escalated situations with some people, but I maintain my integrity and my composure. When the out of control are given time and space, they usually calm.

Sure, I can choose to become Africa tough. I can choose to be incensed at the pandemics of poverty, HIV, ignorance and trauma. I can allow them to permeate my spirit, settle in, fester and harden me. I can choose to internalize the events taking place in the States both personally and politically. I can react with anger, spite, jealousy and hatred. I can meet that fear right where it exists. I choose.

I choose to meet that fear with love - it’s the most revolutionary thing I can do. Today, I choose love. Today, I choose to consciously soften.

A dear friend reminded me this week of the importance of softening - the importance of softening to the people in my life who hurt me willingly and those who hurt me unknowingly. It took me a long time to become the vulnerable creature I am today. I’d proudly say she’s anything but Africa tough. I relish the sensitive, vulnerable, empathetic and open woman I’ve worked diligently to become.

  Softening to the Experience -  KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Softening to the Experience - KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

I sat with all of this this morning and decided that I wish to open and soften to this entire experience of service and the changes taking place, both internally and externally in my life. I finally relinquish control.

So, this morning, when I’d planned to spend the day catching up on my to-do list and my Host Mama told me we were going to a traditional ceremony in 45 minutes and to wear a skirt. I obliged by speed-bathing, donning my new Zulu beads and the requested skirt and proudly stepping forth as Africa soft. 

I invite you to grab your favorite journal and a pen, carve out some me time if you can and reflect on these prompts:

  • In what areas of your life are you feeling hardened? How might you be meeting fear with more fear? Anger with more anger?
  • In what areas of your life might you soften?
  • What are the conscious ways you are willing to soften?
  • Who might be willing to support your softening? Might you enlist them in helping you choose to gear down, rather than amp up?
  • What is one way that you’ll choose to consciously soften today?

This is a collection of writings that chronicles my Peace Corps service. I aspire to relay my emotional and spiritual 27-month journey here in South Africa. I am grateful you’ve chosen to join me. ♥

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

2017: The Present

 "Illuminate" - Gili Air, Indonesia

"Illuminate" - Gili Air, Indonesia

Twelve months ago today, I honored my tradition of the last six years in which I select a word to inspire my year. I literally danced and chanted my way into 2016 while in Bali, setting out to illuminate the last 366 days. Illuminate served as a beacon and she will be remembered for inspiring my decision-making, casting light upon shadow and encouraging massive healing and release. This year, I desired to reflect upon the year's past and prepare for the coming year in a bit different way. 

"Release" - Oceanside, CA

Writing, creative endeavors and retreats invited me to sift through the travel, transitions and resources that emerged throughout this past year. The deep dive into Susannah Conway's Unravel your Year 2017 over the last couple weeks has furthered my examination of the challenges, my embracing of the gifts and has encouraged additional processing of the happenings of 2016. Susannah's thoughtful prompts such as, "what did you embrace in 2016?" combine with visioning exercises, such as describing my favorite moments of the year or imparting forgiveness upon myself and others for certain instances, offered catharsis. Yesterday, on New Year's Eve, I created a ritual in which I set fire to that which still needed to be illuminated, releasing the last remnants of clinging and giving final gratitude to the Year of Illumination. All these efforts were also aimed at making space for 2017. 

"Present" - Oceanside, CA

Working through the rest of Susannah's workbook today, I unravelled the year ahead, confirmed my word for 2017 and powerfully envisioned dreams, plans and possibilities for the next twelve months. Excitingly, I used one of my favorite spiritual tools, Kyle Gray's Angel Prayers Oracle Deck, to draw my monthly forecast, as well as my theme for 2017: New Beginnings! I concluded my year-end-year-beginning rituals in my absolute favorite place - at Mama Ocean.

My word for 2017 is present. I will explore the gift of the present through practice and intention and will surely share more in the coming months about how the present unfolds.  

Perhaps you feel called to choose an intention to guide your 2017? If so, my favorite resources include:

  • Susannah Conway's Find your Word for 2017 
  • Find the time and space to sit quietly and ask for guidance. Spend time in prayer, meditation or journalling and ask, "what intention or word would best serve my highest good in 2017?" This process may take you days or you may intuitively happen upon the perfect word. Provide yourself with time, space and grace to be led to your Word for 2017. 

  

Fighting Spirit

She handed me the envelope with a card and check enclosed. Though years have clouded my memory of the card's exact wording, her sentiments resonated clearly within me as I choked back tears on yesterday's drive. Every fiber of my being recognized the common thread - the connective element.

Many months of reading intended to prepare for my upcoming Peace Corps service, left me, instead, paralyzed by Fear. I sat with this Fear, greeting Her head-on during a recent retreat. As She is not typically my travel companion for ventures abroad, I peeled back Her layers and recognized Her as quite an old friend of mine. I've chosen, since my retreat, to befriend Fear, inviting Her to inspire intentional choices over the last several weeks that have broken cycles and unearthed deep-seated grief, excitement, shame, loneliness, anticipation, regret, despair, much more fear and this memory of my mom from my college graduation. 

Rather than drown in the wellspring of emotion, I've maneuvered through difficult conversations, purged personal belongings, addressed tasks long-overdue, waded (somewhat gracefully) through these emotions and stepped courageously into self defense training.

I'm a yogini. I'm a meditator. I'm a lover of peace. I don't hit. I don't punch. I don't kick. That is, until seven weeks ago. 

I set aside the misgivings I had about my vulnerability's ability to withstand what I'd long-since thought of as aggression-breeding classes. I decided, instead, to approach self defense training in the same way I approach my meditation cushion, with an empty cup - an open mind - and the highest intention of walking alongside Fear and, perhaps, walking through Her.

Early on, my Krav Maga Instructor issued a stern recommendation to tap into our fighting spirit. I left class perplexed, as I'd already worked mightily through my hesitations around hitting, punching and kicking. I latched onto the notion of fighting spirit to mean a physical sense of fight. Aside from faithful class attendance, I wasn't sure sure how else to access this illusive spirit.

A discussion with my Instructor at the next class unveiled that this strictly physical understanding of fighting spirit failed to provide the whole picture. I explained that I felt a hint of fighting spirit beyond physicality, but I wasn't sure how to bring that into my training. He told me, "Krav Maga teaches that technique beats strength. It also teaches that fighting spirit beats strength." He went on to encourage me to draw upon my fighting spirit, in all its forms, within my training.

Sacred Space -  Oceanside, Ca 

This felt like rich territory, ripe for investigation, beyond the confines of my Krav Maga class. So, I took it to the place I take all my sacred inquiries, to my altar. 

In my daily meditation and writing practice, I sat with this idea and feeling of fighting spirit. I immediately recognized Fighting Spirit as another old friend. I recognized Fighting Spirit in the peeling back of my own layers. I recognized Fighting Spirit in the untangling of my shadow. I recognized Fighting Spirit in the revelation of my light. I recognized Fighting Spirit in my grief and my forgiveness and my path. I recognized Fighting Spirit in this leap I'm taking to navigate through Fear. I recognized Fighting Spirit in the pursuit of my dreams of serving in the Peace Corps. I recognized Fighting Spirit in my ability to show up to Krav Maga class when, really, I want to quit because of the overwhelming dissociation and surfacing of trauma that likely isn't even mine.

In front of my altar and at subsequent Krav Maga classes, I realized that Krav Maga was stretching me through practice and philosophy, furthering my physical endurance and, unexpectedly, leading to spiritual and personal growth. I have explored attributes such as courage, happiness, balance, wellness and wholeness. I noticed that I often regarded them as living outside of myself, mostly ephemeral and attained through fleeting acts and passing achievements. In the last 7 weeks, I have started to believe that courage, happiness, balance, wellness, wholeness and Fighting Spirit actually live inside of me physically, emotionally and spiritually. They may be accessed at any time of my choosing. 

As I drove this week, from a financial planning meeting, a session fighting/friending security in the financial form, to my Krav Maga class, a session fighting/friending security in physical form, I recognized the connective element of feeling enough. The sentiments of my mother on my graduation day echoed a feeling of not being enough. Her card uttered a congratulations and stated that she wished the attached check contained another zero, but that life had dealt her a different hand. She, on that day of my college graduation, expressed regret that her gift was inadequate, that she, herself, was inadequate.

At my financial planning meeting, I discovered that my inherited bank account satisfied my student loan debt. In fact, the account equaled, almost exactly, the amount of the check my mom hoped to provide on my graduation day, with that extra zero. Tears sprang forth on the drive from my financial planning meeting to my Krav Maga class unveiling sheer emotion and release. I recognized Fighting Spirit in the form of my mom's resilience, having been a single mom that struggled with the hand that life dealt her, fighting both her own darkness and her own light. Yet, she provided me with a stellar education that served as a springboard for the pursuit of my dreams, the dreams carrying me to South Africa next month.

Tears sprang forth as I wished that my mom recognized even a glimpse of her own light.

Tears sprang forth as I wished that my mom recognized, just for a moment - that moment - the light that she passed along to me as her daughter.

Tears sprang forth at the recognition of her regret on my graduation day.

Tears sprang forth at the recognition of fulfillment, 15 years later, of her very wishes.

Tears sprang forth with recognition that, at the end of the day, she was enough.

Tears in recognition that her dreams were enough.

Tears in recognition that her Fighting Spirit was enough.

Tears in recognition that my Fighting Spirit is enough.

Tears in recognition that my dreams are enough. 

Tears in recognition that I am enough. 

 

I invite you to take a moment, right now, to place your hands on your heart and tell yourself, "I am enough." As you connect with your heart center and the divinity, courage, happiness, balance, wellness and wholeness that lies inherently within you, ask how you might tap into your Fighting Spirit. 

Feel free to share here in the comments below or on Facebook the ways in which you'll exercise your Fighting Spirit. 

 

 

Seven Months of Illumination

It's hard to believe it's almost August! I've been working with illuminate, my word of the year, for nearly seven whole months. Actually, she has been working me. As I take a step back to reflect, so much has been illuminated. My word of the year has revealed herself little by little, with each passing day, casting light upon light and light even upon the shadows. It is all beautiful. 

From the very first day of 2016 where I was serenaded by Michael Franti as I danced and practiced yoga in Bali to being lovingly celebrated for my birthday last week in the most uniquely-me ways in crazy Las Vegas, this year has been filled with incredible light thus far. Though it seems daunting to sum up the 7 months of life between in just one post, I'm ready to illuminate and reflect.

"Red Rock Asana" - Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas, NV 

Bouncing back from 9 months of travel in Southeast Asia wasn't easy. The highlight of the return home in January was reconnecting with some of my favorite beloveds.

In February, the month of love treated me to both highs and lows. Settling into a home that felt furthest from the bliss I'd just experienced in Bali was a rude, but necessary, awakening. Evading the homelessness I'd unexpectedly found myself in was buffered by the beauty of community, the offering of the beautiful seva practice of Love from Mother Bali sessions to nearly 40 people, Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness Meditation, a synchronistic silent retreat and a powerful healing session which released ancestral pain. These supports illuminated my heart, mind and spirit, allowed me to realize my gifts, still enough to listen the supportive voices of the Universe and open to the prospect of moving across country to sunny Southern California.

Immense healing occurred.

Love prevailed.

March rushed in with a scouting trip to find a new home, the Purpose Fairy's 21 Day Happiness Challenge, reflections on my own healing, Deepak and Oprah's "Shedding the Weight" 21 Day Meditation experience, my "Lovefest 2016" experienced through reconnections and goodbyes throughout the country as I relocated to the West Coast. I completed my application to the Peace Corps on the last day of the month, potentially opening a new chapter of my story beyond even the immediate next chapter here in California. I received great clarity with each connection, practice and reflection in March.

April heralded two opposing energies, settling in and uprooting. As I was settling into a new home and establishing roots, I received word of a Peace Corps interview in May, fruition of a dream I've held for half my life. These opposing energies brought forth many feelings. My regular daily practices aided in sifting through and illuminating the feelings within me, inspiring me to create and share the Journey of the Breath in May. 

The Journey of the Breath illuminated my own patterning and introduced me to new ways of breathing and new ways of being. May also brought illumination through connection via technology, volunteering and travel. Technology gifted me with the Shift Network's "Inspiring Women with Soul" Conference and the Hay House World Summit growing my wisdom and perspective. Service opportunities including volunteering at Wanderlust and taking part in a local Reiki Circle lit me up in May. A visit from my sweet cousin and a new friend invited me to explore and fall in love with my new city, my first visit to Joshua Tree for the ShaktiFest allowed for unexpected reconnection with friends from previous chapters of my life and an invitation to join the Peace Corps in South Africa issued an introduction to the potential next chapter of my life.  

"Illuminated Dancer" - Las Vegas, NV

To welcome June, I signed up for Mama Gena's Self Love Challenge affording me a gentle means of self care during the anniversary of my mom leaving her body. I illuminated my own resistance to receiving during the proceeding Mama Gena's Receiving Challenge, which I'm continuing to sit with. Sounds True's Meditation Summit, a joyful visit from my college roommate and dear friend, a Nahko show, seeing the Dalai Lama and becoming an active part of my new community through more volunteering and activities imparted sweet medicine as I reached the halfway point of this year of illumination. 

My birthday month opened with an illuminated bang that included a labyrinth walk through a volcano, my first local ecstatic dance gathering and a front row seat for the fireworks. I introduced the Monday Minute, live Facebook videos sharing tidbits of connection, which are a big feat for this introvert! Sandcastles, bike rides, ocean time and birthday freebies have made July a true delight. I hadn't planned to participate in Deepak and Oprah's "Getting Unstuck" Meditation Experience, but I'm on Day 17 and have gratefully revealed many hidden corners of my own stuckness. 

As I look back upon these seven full months of transition, travel and vast illumination, I revel in all the fullness.

I am grateful for each moment.

I rest in the present moment. 

In August, I will honor life through the lens, slow down and participate in The August Break. Might you feel called to join me?   

Learning to Breathe

"Held" - Dalat, Vietnam

I've held my breath.

I'm not sure how long it's been happening. My guess is that it's been years, perhaps even decades, of breath-holding.

As I rolled out my far-too-neglected yoga mat and centered myself earlier today, the personal asana practice I attempted to rekindle quickly took a back seat. As I stilled myself, this breath-holding pattern immediately unveiled itself within my being. The pattern then commanded my attention for the next two hours. 

I sat with my breath, worked with my breath, moved with my breath, gave space for my breath. 

I became absolutely illuminated - physically, emotionally and spiritually. Questions and deep knowings emerged about the connection between breath and life.  

 

Yoga teaches us that breath is life. 

Breath is the foundation of yoga, meditation, exercise, health, wellbeing and balance.

Breath connects us to our life force, our energy, our vitality.

 

 

I yearn to voyage more deeply into this transformative connection between breath and life. I am inspired to embark upon a Journey of the Breath during the month of May and I welcome you to join me!

Throughout May, we'll place intentional focus on the breath. Daily, I'll share research, tidbits, knowings, questions and tips about the breath (and breath-holding) on Connective Elements' Facebook Page to support your practice.

Together, we'll explore breath.

Together, we'll explore life.

I'm not sure where we'll end up, but I look forward to connecting with the beauty of the breath.

I look forward to the inhale.

I look forward to the exhale.

I look forward to the release.

I look forward to learning to breathe again.  

Illuminate 2016!

I quit resolutions, cold turkey, 5 years ago. Since then, I've never looked back. Instead, I've welcomed each New Year with intention in a myriad of creative ways that celebrate me, my unique journey and the aspirations I have for each New Year. Ushering in 2016 was no different. 

2016's blessings made their grand entrance days before January 1 through Facebook of all places. A friend shared Susannah Conway's course "Find your Word 2016." I didn't gravitate towards the free course right away, as I'd found my way to other expressions of New Year's intentions over the last several years.

"Blown" - Taken in Portland, Oregon 2012

2012, my first year of trading resolutions for intentions, was one of my favorites. I deemed it the The Year of my Creativity. I buddied up with my pal, Groupon, to explore the cultural offerings of my hometown at the time, Portland, Oregon, on the cheap. I lived out my year of creative expression through African drumming, aerial yoga, glass blowing, hip hop, photography, sewing and creative writing groups and classes. I stretched physically, emotionally and creatively. This New Year's intention thing was a success and I was hooked! It was so much more enriching than setting a New Year's resolution that wouldn't make it out of its first month.

"Balance amidst the Grief" -  Taken in Chicago, IL 2013

 

In 2013, I fittingly chose two intentions for my first full year living in Nashville, TN - balance and harmony. Little did I know that these two words would serve as a beacon guiding me through one of the hardest years of my life. Balance and harmony encouraged me to choose self care and opportunities for support and community and provided me with the necessary grounding and healing through the unexpected loss of my mom, a scary diagnosis and the preparation for surgery the next year. 2014 gifted me with Danielle LaPorte's The Desire Map. I stepped up last minute as a bookclub leader and unknowingly stepped into a life-altering experience. 

"Rising" - Taken during my first yoga practice post-op in Nashville, TN 2014

Courageous, ease and happy coursed through my veins and influenced nearly every decision I made in 2014. In lieu of intentions, I worked with The Desire Map's core desired feelings (cdfs) which prompted actions and choices based on feeling the way I wanted to feel. Last year, I continued with my cdfs, though they shifted a bit, to courageous, ease and ecstatic. I coupled them with Thich Nhat Hanh's poignant question, "will the New Year really be a new year, or will it be just a repetition of the old year?" I gathered my core desired feelings and answered Hanh with a resounding "no" by uprooting my entire life and traveling through Southeast Asia in 2015.

 

Last month, rather than giving thought to the quickly nearing New Year, I was rightfully knee-deep in the final weeks of my travels. Thankfully, my friend's Facebook post entered my newsfeed for the second time, finally grabbing my attention to join the 5 day free course to find my word for 2016. Free being even better than Groupon, the quality of the course content surprised me. Through daily email guidance, I narrowed the 50 words the thoughtful prompts engendered to one word, my word, for 2016: illuminate!

"Illuminate" - Taken in Portland, OR 2010

The last 31 days of 2016 have illuminated my whole being. I greeted 2016 by chanting, singing, dancing and meditating with kindred spirits at Anand Ashram on New Year's Eve in Ubud, Bali. I continued to illuminate 2016 by practicing yoga and dancing my heart's song with Michael Franti at the Yoga Barn on New Year's Day. By illuminating my life, I infused my last days in Bali earlier this month with a vibration that was the highest it's ever been. I felt resolve and clear-mindedness like I've never experienced. I treated my body with the purest foods and my heart and mind with the richest experiences. I honored my path and literally went wherever the illuminated path lead.

I continue to illuminate through thought, word and action since I've returned to the States. I aspire to illuminate the lives of others and extend the love of Mother Bali through a month of free healing sessions.

As the next 11 months unfold, I resolve to illuminate 2016! Stay tuned for all the light

Connect with these questions and ideas to celebrate you, your unique journey and your aspirations for 2016:

  • How do you plan to live 2016?
  • What can you do to ensure that 2016 will truly be a New Year and not a repetition of the old year? 
  • How might you live with intention in 2016? 
  • Would it serve you to choose a word, theme or feeling to guide you in 2016?
  • If so, try these on: 
    • Go with your gut, as I did in 2012 and 2013. Sit in meditation with intention. Have a journal or piece of paper handy. Sit uninterrupted for at least 5 minutes. Close your eyes and ask, "what word or theme would best serve my highest good in 2016?" As words or thoughts arise, write them down. Spend time with each of the words after your meditation. Narrow to one or two words and commit to them. Set them as your intention for 2016!
    • If you'd like more guidance to select the feelings or words to inspire you in 2016, try Danielle LaPorte's The Desire Map and Susannah Conway's Find a Word 2016. 

My Own Two Feet

Written September 2015

I've spent my entire adulthood in partnership to make up for a childhood of uncertainty. Never having to stand on my own two feet, I'm ready for independence. I'm ready to step forward into my authentic, courageous self. I'm curious about the choices I'll make. I'm curious about how I will survive. I'm curious about how I'll thrive.

"Let Flow" - Gili Air, Indonesia

It is only when I set forth on a journey halfway around the world that I realized my deep need for independence in this way. It is only when I set forth on a journey halfway around the world that I recognized my need for a high degree of enmeshment. I am ready to let go. I am ready to breathe. I am ready to venture forth on my own.

I'm scared. I'm excited. I'm proud of myself. As I glanced at my feet on my yoga mat this morning, I wondered how they will hold up. I breathed into the connection, grounding and stability inherent in my own two feet. I felt the strength and stability in my feet and breathed in groundedness and connection. I breathed in capability and confidence and breathed out fear. I breathed in courage. I released fear.

This opportunity to recreate my life is exciting. It's scary, no doubt, but it's fresh, it's new. I want to live my way to the answers. I want to live the questions. My soul yearns for this choice. My heart trusts that my path serves my highest good. I recognize that it may not be easy. I also recognize I've laid the groundwork for a path filled with ease. As I near my fullest purpose, placing one foot in front of the other, I'm confident that I'm walking the path I was meant to walk, one step at a time.

Invite yourself to try this meditation, linking breath with intention. 

Find a stable, quiet place in which to stand.

Breathe into the connection, grounding and stability inherent in your own two feet. Feel the strength and stability in your feet. Breathe in groundedness and connection.

Feel the groundedness and connection coming up from the earth, seeping into your feet, your legs and spreading up your body all the way to the top of your head. Breathe in capability and confidence and breathe out fear.

Allow capability and confidence to likewise ascend from the earth, to your feet and then up your body.

"The Way" - Mui Ne, Vietnam

Finally, breathe in courage.

Allow it to seep in from the earth through your fee. Allow courage to it fill your entire body.

Exhale and release any and all fear.

Finally, one last time, breathe in courage and exhale fully. 

 

 

 

My Own Two Feet is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my inner journey through Southeast Asia.

Untethering

Early August 2015

It took me 36 years and 13 days to realize I've lived my life in full-on heart protection mode. The carnage has included countless missed opportunities in which to revel in the moment, cherish the relationship and simply be. The utterance of four words several months ago changed everything in my life as I knew it. Since then, intentional unbinding has been my modus operandi. My life has been comprised of intentional acts to cultivate freedom, untangle and release the ties that bound my heart. 

It's a process that by no means is over. However, today as I put it all together, I realize the nature of my bound heart and vow to take conscious action to continue the unbinding process. 

"I feel dead inside." As the words escaped my lips, intuitively, I knew they were a soul cry. Those four words unlocked a portal to change. As my heart and my soul cried out, yearning for something more, something better, they craved to be unbound, to taste freedom, to embody purpose. 

"Heart Aflame" - Vientiane, Laos

With each conscious untethering, I've tentatively tiptoed out of the bounds of each previous constriction, testing the waters, dipping a toe into each new, uncharted territory. What I've found is that with each new space, countless emotions arise. I honor each emotion by providing it breath and space to show up and full occupy that space. The emotion then dissipates and a new version of myself emerges. 

Since the day of my soul cry, I've chosen to forgo the security of job, home, relationships and nearly everything I own to give space for my heart. My heart desperately craves space in which to thrive. By recognizing my truest feelings and honoring my deepest desires, I hope that I may learn unconditional love.

Unconditional love starts with the self.

I must love myself first - unconditionally. I must recognize the cries of the soul and honor the desires of the heart. The next steps on my path are unclear. However, the spiritual practices that resonate with me most have led me here, to this moment, one step closer to an unbound heart. 

Connect: I invite you to honor your own heart through this meditation practice.

Find a quiet space and at least five minutes of uninterrupted time. Tune into your heart center. It may help you to rest one or both hands on your heart.

Breathe into this space.

Draw your breath into your heart.

Ask your heart what constrictions exist. In what ways is your heart bound?

In the safety of the silence, ask how you might untether any heart wishes that lie just on the surface of the heart. 

When you feel ready, ask what desires lie deep within the heart and if there are any messages that might be helpful in realizing those desires.

Throughout the meditation, as emotions arise, pause. Give them space and breath.

Allow the emotions to occupy the space until they start to fade, and they will. Simply trust the practice. Give each emotion breath as it arises. Give it more space and more breath. Let the emotion untether with each breath and gradually fade into the space.

Sit with your breath. 

As more emotions arise, rinse and repeat.

Take note of the heart wisdom that arises throughout your meditation. With regular practice, your ears will attune to the whispers of your heart so that you, too, may become untethered.

 

Untethering is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my inner journey through Southeast Asia.

New Year, New You, New Me

The New Year ushers in a fiery spirit that engenders change. However, this week I noticed the treadmills that thumped with resolutions over the last 30 days have gone silent. The waiting lists at the local yoga studio have vanished. Rather than grabbing the last bunch of kale at Whole Foods like I have over the last four weeks, I had my pick of the stack this past Saturday. How have the goals created a mere month ago already slipped from daily routines?

As a Coach, I know what goals look like without support and accountability. On my personal path, I’ve realized what goals look like without intention. Over the last year in my own life, I’ve replaced goals entirely, using intentions and my feelings to light my way (more on that in another blog post).

Thich Nhat Hanh, an incredible visionary and Zen Buddhist Monk, asks us to ponder a poignant question in this talk, "will the New Year really be a new year, or will it be just a repetition of the old year?" His answer? It depends entirely on us. He continues to say, "so in order for the New Year to be new, you have to renew yourself. You have to make yourself new. That is why in Plum Village this year we have the sentence: 'New Year, New Me'. I need to have a new me in order to really enjoy the New Year…If we know the practice of mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful dealing with pain, sorrow, and anger, we can improve the quality of our actions, improve the quality of our life, improve the quality of our days, and months, and years."

  Connect  with the photo: Mindfully walking one of my favorite paths at Radnor Lake in Nashville, TN.

Connect with the photo: Mindfully walking one of my favorite paths at Radnor Lake in Nashville, TN.

The path to mindful living is here, AWAITING you to step UPON it.

Start now, with these three tips for mindful living:

1) Connect with your breath, right now, in this moment. This can literally be done in less than one minute:

Close your eyes. Feel your connection to the earth through your feet if seated in a chair, and through your Sitz bones (the bones at the bottom of your pelvis), if seated on the floor. Take a deep inhalation, breathing into the present moment. Release a deep exhalation, letting go of anything that isn't serving you in this moment. Inhale again deeply, feeling the expansion of your body with the breath. Exhale, letting go, sinking in more deeply to your seat. Inhale one last time, tuning into the sensations within your body. Notice where you might be holding any tension. Finally, exhale, releasing any tension. Feel your body and mind come to quiet.

2) Extend your intentional breathing into a 5 minute daily meditation.

You may choose to use the three breaths described above to start a meditation in which you simply tune into the sensations in your body. Notice the rise and fall of the body with each cycle of breath. Notice where the body is heavy and where it is light. Notice where you hold tension, releasing it with each exhale, when you are ready. Notice any temperature sensations that arise, where you are hot, warm, cool or cold. Practicing in the same place, at the same time each day, holds space for routine and invites habit.

3) Practice mindful eating.

Mindful eating allows you to fully taste your food, aids digestion and leads to a beautiful appreciation for your food sources and the time (and choices) you make to nourish your body. It takes 20 minutes for the body to realize it's full. As you learn to eat mindfully, your meal may extend to the point at which your body indicates it's full within the meal itself, assisting you with portion control.

Start with one meal per week, in which you eat mindfully for several minutes. To prepare for mindful eating, reduce distractions by turning off your phone, computer and tv. Sit at a table that is uncluttered. Take a deep breath, preparing a smaller bite than you usually would intake. Take a bite, placing your fork or food down after this first bite. If you would like to, close your eyes as you chew. Notice the textures of your food. Masticate longer than you normally would, breaking down the food slowly. Notice the flavors that stand out and which are barely perceptible. As you finish swallowing, take a deep breath. Notice how your body feels as you nourish yourself.  

I encourage you to rekindle the fire of the New Year, stoking it internally, through mindful living to foster more sustainable change. There are many opportunities throughout our day in which we can truly create a new experience. Ask yourself, “how might I create a new me in this New Year?” "In this month?" "Today?" "Right now, in this moment, how can I create a new me?"