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. 

Dissolution in the Desert

It is dawn's first light greeting my tear-filled eyes, as I stand upon the desert sand and recognize my life's purpose.

It is a glimpse of the hole the hammer made on the outside of my locked bedroom door, as I clamored for safety in my bedroom of my childhood home. 

It is the wheezing of the 86 year old, his lungs chasing life-giving oxygen, each noisy breath evolving into a fellow meditator's richest teachings.

It is the palpitations in the chest as one connects with another human being on a level so deep that you hear not only your story in theirs, not only their story in yours, but the story of their lineage, your lineage and the echo of the story of each human throughout time. 

It is the dissolution of tensions in the body so profound that I feel my skeleton shift. It is the calm of my nervous system in a way that feels like lifetimes have been sifted through and healed. It is the stilling of my mind in a way where it feels like I have absorbed with ease the most sacred of knowings and yet let go of everything I've ever known in the very same breath and it is all perfect. It is the softening of my face, my belly and my heart in a way that nothing else - nothing else - has ever been able to evoke. 

This is Vipassana. 

As it is. 

Arising and passing away. Arising and passing away. Arising and passing away.

This is a practice over 2500 years old that transcends religion, transcends the realm of the body, transcends the realm of experience and yet parses everything else in the universe out to allow the practitioner to settle into nothing but their own experience. This is a practice that expands the mind and heart. 

Vipassana retreats in Goenka's tradition take place worldwide and are an incredible way to strengthen your mind, reset your entire life and simply let go. Based on the three tenets of sila (moral conduct), samadhi (concentration of one's mind) and panna (wisdom), Vipassana complements any (or no) spiritual tradition. Regardless of belief systems, we all want to be good people. So in this, Vipassana meets everyone where they are and teaches how to embody presence, compassion and love.  

I am blessed to have just completed another Vipassana retreat. 

I spent 12 days in Joshua Tree at the idyllic Southern California Vipassana Center, meditating about 108 hours with over 50 other meditators. We spent 9 days in silence and adhered to a strict schedule, waking at 4am and working arduously on our Vipassana practice until about 9pm each night.

"The Long, Winding Road" - Southern California Vipassana Center Trail, Joshua Tree, CA

 

About 11 hours each day was spent meditating. A beautiful, winding walking trail welcomed movement and facilitated the release of energy in both the body and mind. We refrained from reading, writing, eye contact and gestures. After the first night, we did not consume dinner, only breakfast and lunch, giving our bodies time to rest and truly digest on all levels. 

Living the lives of Buddhist Monks and Nuns, we relied on the generosity of others, paying nothing for the retreat. Dana, a selfless love-based offering, could be made in the form of service or monetary compensation post-retreat.  

My life has changed in incredible ways a mere day after completing my third Vipassana retreat. The clarity with which I see the world, the past, the future, the present is astounding. This was the toughest retreat I've endured to date. Psychologically, emotionally, physically and spiritually, I was put through the ringer.

However, I wouldn't change a thing. It was a necessary process, a direct experience, that was essential for my growth.

I had moments where I faced the very darkest nights of my soul, where I was literally in the midst of my deepest traumas, feeling them, healing them and releasing them. I had inexplicable moments of incredible sensory perception like hearing the flapping wings of a bird 30 feet away or feeling the atoms, yes, the very atoms, in my arm rearrange in response to someone coughing as they passed by me. Miracles, synchronicities and insights from the mundane to the profound abounded. Vivid previews of the next meal surfaced in my mind's eye. A rainbow appeared in the rainless sky. Soul-knowings about the person on the cushion next to me emerged. In silence and stillness, illusions dissolved.  

I am incredibly grateful for each and every moment I had in the desert. 

Right now, I am enjoying a gentle re-entry back into everyday life. I will likely share more learnings and epiphanies as I assimilate the insights I discovered during this incredibly precious retreat in the desert. 

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?   

three Years ago Today

Three years ago today, I received the phone call. 

Three years ago today, the Officer made small talk.

Three years ago today, he said you'd been found dead in my childhood home.

Three years ago today, I walked out of my workplace, in shock, without a word to anyone.

 

Three years ago today, I felt more alone in this world than ever before.

I'd spent a lifetime fighting the world alongside you.

 

On auto-pilot, I focused on logistics.

I waded through the legalities.

I boxed everything up. 

I ignored the sympathy, in all its forms, even down to the cards. 

I ignored the grief.

 

I operated for the next year in shock. 

Even when being operated on 6 months later, I was still in shock.

I thought that I, too, was scheduled to die.

 

It's as if you knew.

It's as if you prepared.

 

It's as if I knew. 

It's as if I prepared. 

 

Days before the phone call, I fought hard to get to Wanderlust Chicago. 

A canceled reservation, fully booked rooms, normally I wouldn't have gone. 

Something deep inside drew me there.

A circle, a cycle, unbeknownst to me. 

My heart knew.

My bones knew. 

 

It wasn't until sifting through my childhood home that I discovered my yearning to be in Chicago. 

I was completing a circle, a cycle unbeknownst to me, yet one that I knew.

My heart knew.

My bones knew.

 

I'd been conceived in Chicago. 

You died when I was in Chicago.

Loss.

Gain.

Loss.

Gain.

 

I lost you long before the phone call three years ago. 

I lost you to a lifetime of pain that no one might be able to survive.

Tumultuous upbringing, walking into your father hanging in your childhood home, lost children, infidelity, narcissism, alcohol, struggling to find the manual to create a loving home, awakening one day to find your own tumultuous home had been created. 

A circle, a cycle, unbeknownst to you.

A circle, a cycle, that I'll never know, but that I know.

My heart knows.

My bones know.

 

I lost you in the physical sense, though, long before 3 years ago. 

I lost you in the emotional sense amidst the trauma of my teen years. I lost you each time you lost your mind. I lost you when you lost your hope. I lost you when you lost your light. 

You lost me. You lost me beyond the physical and emotional senses. You lost me on a spiritual level. You lost me when I found my hope. You lost me when I found my light.

 

We slipped away from one another when my path diverted.

We slipped away from one another when I chose.

We slipped away from one another when I started fighting the world on my own.

 

I've learned, since then, to fight through surrender. 

I've learned, since then, to lean into the light.

I've even learned, since then, to peer into the shadow.

 

No, really, it's okay.  

By peering in that shadow, I have gained.

 

I am sorry for my walls. They were necessary. They protected me. They kept me safe. 

I have gained a sense of my own light by examining the cracks. 

These last three years have welcomed experiences that have blown the cracks wide open.

In these last three years, I have gained a sense of my own light, healed and whole. 

 

Angels I associated with God, which I associated with Catholicism, which I associated with harshness.

The last three years have allowed me to soften.

The last three years have allowed me to untether.

 

Three years ago, I gained you as my Angel. 

Since then, you've showed up for me in ways you never could in the physical sense.

I acknowledge your signs, your symbols and your presence. 

Though I miss the gift you had with cooking (it was where you found your light). 

I miss being able to call you (even if it's just the idea of you).

I miss the sheer joy on your face (though seldom seen in your last years on this earth).

 

I have, so very many times over these last three years, felt utterly alone. 

 

I've realized in these last three years that you did the best you could with what you had. 

I now know that your work here in this physically and emotionally-pained body was too much. 

It was hard for you to find love. 

It was hard for you to find light.

 

I've spent many moments in the last three years riding.

Riding the waves of guilt. Riding the waves of grief. Riding the waves of anger.

What I should have done, could have done, didn't do. 

I've ridden the waves and questions out to seek myself, to find the deep ocean of my heart, to bask in the sunshine of my own light, to chase answers I'll never find. 

 

I chose.

I chose this path in which I've unveiled the greatest gifts you imparted that fuel my very light.

You gifted me with an intellectual curiosity in continual pursuit of wisdom.

You gifted me with a kind heart compelled to serve others.

You gifted me with a strong moral compass which always guides me home.

 

In these last three years, I've found my way to forgiveness.

In these last three years, I've unraveled so much mystery.

In these last three years, I've found my way to my own healing - a circle, a cycle, one that's now known to me. 

In these last three years, I've found my way to your light.

 

I love you, Mom.

May all between us become pure light.

Let it be so.

Now. ♥ 

 

The Gift of the Breath

These last 27 days of the Journey of the Breath have been a wild ride! I started the month of May with the intention to explore the breath and share those learnings with you. I expected simple, straightforward facts, tips and techniques to foster improved lung capacity and deeper breathing. What I've received over the last several weeks has been nothing short of miraculous, expanding my heart and mind by the moment. 

As I explored the anatomy of the breath, I realized my own patterns. As I expanded my knowledge of the breath, I expanded my awareness of the breath, my body, my emotions, my limitations and, most importantly, my holding patterns. I've noticed, particularly over this past week, the tension that I hold in my body.

The Journey of the Breath issued an invitation for me to let go.

As I wrote this morning in my Morning Pages, I recognized the process of surrender that I've been undergoing. I've realized that I've struggled so long, that I've fought so long - with myself, the world, situations, entities, my past, the future, my decisions, other people.

"Arms Down, Arms Up" - Dalat, Vietnam

I surrender.

I finally lay down my arms.

As my arms surrender their weapons, I embrace the moment.

I surrender.

I pledge to continue to work with my breath to bring me into the present moment.

One of the most powerful learnings of the Journey of the Breath has been my recognition of the Gift of the Breath. One of Her greatest gifts is to bring us into the present moment.

The Gift of the Breath invites us into the present moment.

 

Over the last 27 days, I experienced many firsts. The breath ushered in awareness and invited me to enjoy these moments. I welcomed my first visitors to my new town. The joy we shared affirmed my decision to move to this beautiful part of the country. I visited Joshua Tree to attend ShaktiFest for breathwork and movement experiences that absolutely rocked my world, which I'm still processing and will likely share more about in the coming weeks. I recognized and released fears around one of the biggest decisions of my life - applying and accepting invitation for the Peace Corps.

Last weekend, I worked with the learnings from the Journey of the Breath to release fear and witness the importance of this long-held aspiration that has meant so much to me for so long. I awoke on Monday morning feeling an indescribable peace after dreaming of my grandmother. I then felt called to engage in a 2 hour breathwork, movement, meditation and writing session that illuminated my entire being. I set out to continue with my morning rituals, about to warm up my lemon water, and I thought to first check my email. As I scrolled down my inbox, the "Congratulations!" lept off the screen. Reflexively, I cried, sobbed, bawled, released. I don't remember feeling such strong emotion and excitement and release.

With the release of that moment and, I believe the work that I'd done over the last several days, came an invitation to serve as a Community HIV Volunteer with the Peace Corps in South Africa in January 2017. It's hard to put into words the rollercoaster I've experienced this week.

I used my breath to process the news, to share and to take a step back. I needed time to sit with my breath. I needed time to process my acceptance of the 27 month commitment and of all the life experiences that have brought me to this point.

I am elated. I am honored. I am humbled, not only by the invitation, but by the outpouring of love and support I've felt from my tribe.

As we we ease into the last 4 days of the Journey of the Breath, together, I welcome the continued expansion, awareness and connection I have to each of you. I know, in my heart, that the gifts of the Journey of the Breath will extend far beyond this month.

I'm grateful for all of you who have ventured with me on the Journey of the Breath! Please share your experiences, questions and revelations below or on Connective Elements' Facebook Page. If you've missed the Journey of the Breath, it's not too late! You've got 4 days of new Facebook posts and I encourage you to scroll up the page to discover a bevy of insights on the breath.

I am incredibly grateful for your love, support and understanding as I transition from my reflections into action, not only today as I answer the neglected texts, calls and messages from this past week, but as I prepare to serve in South Africa.

May this monthlong Journey of the Breath continue to open your heart, mind and body, allowing you to witness the beauty of the breath, explore the magic and mysteries that surround you and embody the wisdom of your inner voice

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.  

I Saw the Light

I died two years and 11 days ago on the operating table.

I realized it this morning amidst tears upon waking from a night of restless sleep.

As I laid there, I questioned it. I unpacked it. I untangled it.

Two weeks ago, my teacher said she saw me as healed and whole. I didn't believe her.

I didn't believe her until this morning amidst tears upon waking from a night of restless sleep.

Untangling truth.

I find myself in a constant state of untangling truth.

I realized this morning that both my death and my healing/wholeness result from choosing love.

I was raised in fear.

I was raised by a mother who didn't have the privilege of recognizing her own light.

Bipolar Disorder, untangled mental health issues and trauma dimmed any hope she ever had of realizing her own light. Being susceptible to that darkness, that Bipolar Disorder, those mental health issues and that trauma have long since been my biggest fears.

The closer I come to my spiritual Self, the more I dance with Angels, feel Spirit and know the unknowable, the greater my fear is triggered. Am I becoming like my mom? Am I delusional? Have I inherited the darkness she inherited?

I was taught to fear my dad. I haven't seen him in 29 years, but that residual fear was ingrained long ago. I festered hatred for him for many years. Stories of infidelity, instability, mistrust and addiction were relayed. My mother had no choice but to fear him. Her culture, beliefs and past behavior served her up with no choice, with no accessible light.

"Child of the Light" - Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia

 

I forgive my mother.

She did the best she could with what she had.

May all between us become pure light.

 

I forgive my father.

He did the best he could with what he had.

May all between us become pure light.

 

I closely held my parents' darkness as the largest fear of my life until realizing a greater fear two years and 11 days ago, when I thought I was going to die on the operating table.

This morning, I realized Truth.

I realized that I trust no thing. I realized that I trust no one. 

I also recognized, perhaps for the very first time in my life, my Light. 

I acknowledge that I realized my greatest fear. I did die on that operating table.

Benign tumors, my uterus, ancient issues, lineage trauma, parts of my Self, parts of my mother, parts of my father, parts of anyone who ever has or will hurt my heart, parts of my darkness, parts of their darkness were all cut out.

They were sacrificed so that I could realize, in this very moment right here, my own Light.

"Muck Blooms" - Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

I choose to recognize my wholeness.

I choose to recognize that I am healed.

I choose to recognize my Light.

I choose light. 

I choose love.

As an introvert raised by fear, every choice I make to connect takes courage. Every revelation takes courage. Every word of this blog takes courage. Every phone call, text message, email takes courage. Every relationship I enter into takes courage.

Every choice of light over dark takes courage. 

Every choice of love over fear takes courage.

Each and every time I choose to come closer, rather than crawl in a hole, I choose courage. 

Each and every time I choose the light, I choose courage. 

Each and every time I choose love, I choose courage.

Taking/Choosing Giving/Receiving Same/Same

May this ancient prayer of ancestral forgiveness guide you to your healing, your wholeness, your Light, your Dark, your love and your death. Same/same: 

If I, my families, relatives or ancestors have offended you, your families, relatives or ancestors in thoughts, words, or actions from the beginning of our creation to the present, humbly, humbly we ask everyone for forgiveness for all of our errors. We ask that together we now be released from all unwanted bonds and memories, and that all between us become pure light.

Obeisance to you, Oh, gentle ancestors

 May the traumas of all ancestors, living and passed on, be healed.

May it Be So. Now. Shanti Shanti.

Infinite love and gratitude to my teachers, friends, family, relatives, ancestors and every being who has recognized the Light in me. Thank you for inviting me to gracefully seek and find the Light within me. ♥

Growth, Love and Church

As I gaze out at the trees, I am serenaded by the songs of the birds in a small town in North Carolina and I am grateful. Having just completed the most difficult retreat of my life, I reflect on that experience and remind myself how lucky I am to practice, how lucky we all are to carve out time for our growth. 

Upon completion of my retreat, I made the drive from Maryland to North Carolina. When passing through Virginia, I was treated to an impromptu tour of my elementary and middle school. Roaming the halls and stepping into classrooms I hadn't been in in nearly 30 years can't help but conjure up nostalgia. Growing up Catholic, attending parochial school from preschool to 12th grade, I was raised with the doctrine. I went to church twice a week. I believed much of what I was taught. I've learned since then that church comes in many forms. 

When I went to college, everything changed for me. I changed - for me. I learned that the "other" was not to be feared. I stopped attending Mass, much to my mom's dismay. I studied the world. I studied the "other." Majoring in Social Work, I volunteered actively, I sought out the most diverse populations to serve, so I could stretch and grow. I learned to love the "other." Serving others was the closest I'd ever come to God.

18 long years ago, I selected a Yoga course to fulfill one of my college requirements. The class planted seeds that I unknowingly cultivated until my early twenties, when I found my way to spirituality. Spirituality drew me in in the form of a belly dancing class. Church comes in many forms. Illuminating my path since then, my most beloved teacher, RoseMa, has served as a beacon in both my darkest and brightest days. Her practices and unschooling educated me about the goddess that I am. 

This spiritual path has bolstered reflection, forgiveness and spaciousness. I've been open to the myriad of sacred manifestations in my life. Dancing invited community and sisterhood. Movement gave way to meditation. Meditation issued an invitation for self reflection. Heartbreak ushered in the pursuit of refuge in an ashram in Colorado where I fostered my knowledge and practice. I earned my Yoga teacher training and the opportunity to receive training in bodywork. Giving back to others in this kinesthetic way left upon me an indelible mark. 

"Set Free" - Butterfly Release in Monteverde, Costa Rica, 2009

 

 

From Colorado to Costa Rica to North Carolina to Portland, Oregon, I met the embrace of nature. She became my church. I spent time listening and gazing at the beauty around me. I learned to recognize Her as a reflection of the beauty within me.

"Love in the Mountains" - Hike with Indigenous Women in Sapa, Vietnam 2015

 

 

 

In Portland, church took the form of Sunday morning ecstatic dance classes which expanded my heart, mind and boundaries. Returning to dance as the form that first drew me into spirituality felt like a full circle evolution. Evolution gave way to finally stepping directly onto my path as a healer. I found my way to BodyTalk, started facilitating weekly meditation groups, became attuned as a Reiki practitioner and actively worked as a Coach.

Travel and starting over has also been, for me, a form of spiritual practice. I continue to work with the elements and connect with others in my travels. Each new place is an opportunity for a fresh start. Each new place is an opportunity for new connections. From Nashville to Asia and now remotely, healing has become my church, my spiritual practice, the way I see God in myself and others. 

I am awed as I witness the growth around me.

I am awed as I reflect on the growth within me.

I am awed by the love around me.

I am awed by the love within me.  

I've Made My Bed

Regardless of where I am in the world, I make my bed every day. I can't remember when it became a part of my non-negotiable routine, but since reading about the benefits of this simple action, I feel incomplete if I leave the bed unmade. Since experiencing the tangible rewards of bed-making, I have no plans to unlearn the habit now. I know too much.

Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project" reinforced the daily merit I've received from making my bed. She reports that the single action that contributes most to one's happiness is making his or her bed. Read that again, "the single action that contributes most to one's happiness is making his or her bed."

Don't believe it? Consult the infinite wisdom of Google. Countless articles site this bed-making-happiness connection. Rubin explains that, "your bed is a symbol of you. There’s something about having your bed feel orderly that makes your life feel that way." From the aesthetic appeal of a neater room to yielding a sense of accomplishment to lowering your stress level to inviting deeper sleep and even serving as the gateway habit to other good habits, making your bed is where it's at in terms of productivity and happiness.

The state of my physical space nearly always reflects the state of my mind. I've said this for years. Historically, when my room, home or office is a mess, something is out of balance. As much has been written about the inverse relationship, the benefits of decluttering a space to declutter your mind, I was excited to find the quote, "the state of your bed is the state of your head" to validate my experience. When my bed isn't made, something is going wrong.

Simply getting out of bed is hard on most days. I get it. It's hard for me, too. But taking two minutes to make your bed serves as mental training to prepare you for the things you don't always want to do. I like to think that making my bed each morning prepared me for the unexpected over the last several days.

"Giving" - Taken at the coast in Oregon

Since returning to the US from my travels in Asia three weeks ago, the less than ideal transitional living situation I'd establish erupted into a full-blown unsafe environment this past week. A discussion emerging out of left field turned into an actual threat of violence. Luckily, a steady mind gifted me with the ability to pause. A steady mind gifted me with the presence not to escalate the situation. A steady mind gifted me with the ability to do something I didn't want to do, listen rather than talk, since so much was yearning to be said - to defend, to attack, to set the story straight.

Just because I'd made my bed didn't mean I had to lie in it.

Instead, I chose to pack my things and flea. Luckily, I was not alone. Luckily, I have resources and community, despite feeling alone and utterly obliterated over the last couple days.  Though I'm still reeling from the situation and continue to process it, I work diligently each day to ensure that the states of my head and heart are clear.

"Me and the Sea" - Taken on the coast of California

Through meditation, writing, prayers, intentions and ritual, I actively cultivate a steady mind and an open heart. I am kind and giving. I engage in acts of service, even on my darkest days. I aim to lift my spirits and the spirits of others directly and indirectly. I even choose to send love to the perpetrator and instigator of the threats the other night. May they find their way to the peace. May they resolve the pain in their hearts.

I am grateful for the friends who have stepped in to selflessly give of their resources. I've actively sought self care to ensure that I am balanced. The past few days have not been easy. I certainly have moments where anger and upset flood my thoughts.  Nothing can prepare any of us for violence or threats of violence. My friends, violence, towards yourself or others is never the answer.

Seek help. Pray. Get a breath of fresh air. Dance. Write. Spend some time in nature. Take a deep breath. Cry. Seek solace in the company of a trusted friend. Schedule a healing session. Move. Close your eyes. Center. Know that all is well. Trust that you will be okay and for God's sake (and for your sake) make your bed.

If you or someone you know is in danger, please seek help. Battles are not meant to be fought alone. If you or someone you know is hurting, please help them in any way that you can without putting yourself in harm's way. We can't do these things alone. Love one another. There is help out there. Some resource numbers include: The National Suicide Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255 and 1−800−799−SAFE (7233). 

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. 

I ♥ Cambodia

Written November 28, 2015

"S 21" - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cambodia has helped me feel again. It's broken me wide open.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps it's from the collective trauma here or from the light reflected in the beautiful childrens' smiles, I don't know what it is I've connected with, but it's broken straight through.

"Angel in the Temple" - Preah Ko Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

I am so very grateful to once again feel the flow of tears. I am so very grateful to again feel the burn of desire.

"Touching Spirit" - Bakong Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

 

 

 

 

 

I'm so very grateful to FEEL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven't felt in so long. I can't explain it. I can't put it into words, but this place is magic. Cambodia has worked its magic on me in ways I may not even recognize. I am so incredibly grateful from the tips of my toes to the top of my head to the entirety of my heart. 

"Love to Cambodia" - Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

I am grateful.

 

 

I ♥ Cambodia is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my current inner journey through Southeast Asia.

moving towards

Written November 28, 2015

I want to move towards honesty

and no longer hide in the shadow of secrecy.

I want to move towards love

and no longer reside in the shadow of bitterness.

I want to move towards light

and no longer linger in the shadows of the dark.

 

I want to untether my wild, courageous heart.

I want to breathe in ease and breathe out love.

I want to release all that isn't serving my highest purpose and let all be pure light.

I want to resolve any tension in my heart

and allow honesty and love and light 

into every corner and crack and break.

I want all that is unseen to be seen.

I want all that is unspoken to be spoken.

I want all that is unheard to be heard -

from the whispers, to the cries, to the wails.

May they all be given voice.

and may all be released into the ethers.

May all become pure light.

May we all become pure light.

May all be pure light.

So it is.

 

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

 

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.

mending

I've had room to breathe

and vent 

and collect myself.

I am grateful to be able to pick up

the pieces.

By doing so, I am already

mending my heart.

I am full of grace and

gratitude. I am love.

I am love.

I am love.

 

 

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

breathe

Written early July 2015

I can breathe easier now that I know what lies beneath.

   My soul has always known.

I can feel myself unraveling.

   The gateway to my soul was broken open

and cleansed by the river of my tears.

I feel free and I feel as if I can be me.

 

I feel as if I am getting stronger. I know I am. I have courage and believe in my strength.

I am powerful.

I am courageous.

I know the power of my soul. 

I am intimate with the power of my heart. 

I feel free and able to breathe.

 

I am happy. This is the right choice. 

I know that I can and will be in this

place where I can return -

this place of strength.

This place of knowing. 

   My soul has always known.

   I honor Her.

I bow to Her.

I am humbled by her wisdom.

I am renewed by her strength.

 

I am making the right choice.

I am light.

I am love.

 

 

breathe 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.

My Three Teachers in Luang Prabang

Written August 12, 2015

I stepped to the side to let him pass me on the sidewalk. He approached me and pointed to what I thought was the ground. As the rain steadily fell, my feet stood in a bit of flowing water. I thought, at first, that was what he was pointing to. His eyes met mine. I studied what few teeth he had left in his mouth. His skin was dirty. His clothes were tattered. He had a cloth bag draped over his body, attached was a plastic sack containing some fruit.

As he pointed his crooked finger again, he crouched, lowering his body until his hands made contact with the top of my flip-flopped feet. He touched my big toe, then my little toe, then flattened his hand over the entire top of my foot. I thought at first that the couple of walking meditation rounds I literally just completed a block away at the oldest stupa in Luang Prabang, Laos, had earned a blessing in a very direct way.

"Inspired" - Luang Prabang, Laos

I stood agog, just observing. Then, he started trying to pick my feet up, trying to turn my right foot over while still in my sandal. I wasn't sure what to think at that point. I was simply in the moment, knowing full well that I didn't understand what was happening. 

Things started to shift. All of a sudden, he lowered himself to the soaking wet ground with his back to my lower right leg. At that point, panic set in. I repeated, "no, no, no, no, no" in Laotian, but he didn't budge. Finally, I had to physically remove his fingers, then his right arm from my body. Leaving him on the soaking wet ground wouldn't have been my first option, but as fear set in, I wasn't sure what to do. Had I been able to communicate with him, I would have wanted to help him up. 

As I walked away from him, I noticed 3 young Laotian women standing in the doorway of the nearby shops, taking in the exchange and laughing. In that moment, I experienced shame and was embarrassed about the last five minutes. I kept walking slowly in the rain, turning back time and again to ensure I wasn't being followed. 

My fear dissipated as soon as the saffron robes entered my peripheral vision. As the young monk quickly passed me, I centered back to the present moment, focused on the rain's steady pitter patter on my umbrella and the ground beneath my feet, the monk up ahead and the Nam Khan River to my right.

My soaking wet feet beckoned me to find refuge in one of the nearby temples to process all that just happened. The first temple I reached was closed. The second welcomed me with an empty meditation hall. As I sat down, the message was clear, I was to sit with shame, my own shame, but more so collective shame.

As I sat with the collective shame, images quickly flooded my mind. First, of the man recently at my feet. Then visions of another begging man and a young child at a local Buddhist temple entered my awareness. Three days before, while attending a temple ceremony, an older man sought our attention, squinted one eye, "aimed" his cane to the sky, aligned his face with the rounded handle of the cane and proceeded to "shoot" down what I can only imagine was my likeness. 

"Soles" - Luang Prabang, Laos

Seated next to me during the Buddhist celebration was a young child. As he sat next to me on the ground with his legs folded underneath him and his delicate hands clasping one another resting on his lap, I could feel the tears welling in my eyes. His little three year old body sat incredibly still as he patiently awaited the monks' procession through the temple grounds. He wiggled only his tiny fingers every couple minutes. Something about this little boy immediately etched itself into my mind and heart. 

These three males, their similarities, their differences flashed through my mind as this collective shame settled heavily upon me. Tears again welled in my eyes as I sat alone in the temple. Then, the flick of a light switch, literally snapped me out of my mediation. At two minutes after 12, a monk entered my empty mediation hall to turn off the lights as a gentle sign for me to move on, as it was time for the monks' lunch.

As I exited the temple, the downpour that had started the night before, ceased to a light drizzle and the sun started to emerge from the clouds. I stepped away from the last two hours' events realizing that direct experience is all there is. I experienced all the emotions I utter in my daily metta mediation - fear, anger, guilt, sorrow, shame, anxiety and regret. As I walked the sidewalks of Luang Prabang, careful not splash in puddles, I experienced each of these emotions in my heart, mind and body. With each step, I felt unburdened by each.

I bless each of my three teachers, the man at my feet, the man with the cane and the sweet little soul with the wiggly fingers. I am grateful for their teachings and wish them happiness, health, wellbeing and metta in this moment, and always.

My Three Teachers in Luang Prabang is part of a collection of writings that chronicle my "inner journey" through Southeast Asia.

soul cry

Written July 2015

My soul

My soul cries.

Listening to my soul cry.

I witness the

   heaving

the breathing

   the gasping for air.

My soul cries

my soul's cry.

 

I am finally listening

   to my

   soul.

I hear you. I hear the very you that is me. I will miss. 

 

I will miss this love

I will miss this companionship.

What I will not miss is the imbalance

 The unbalanced way we care for each

other or one another,

the imbalanced ways we care for

our individual souls, our individual

selves

   crying.

It is loose.

   This love,

It is loose

this relationship

we lose

   this relationship

 It is gone.

It has been gone.

I am free.

I am free to follow my soul. I am free to follow the blow of the wind. 

I am free not to crumple up in a 

ball and crumble.

I am free to be strong.

I am free to follow my strong will.

I am free to breathe.

I am safe.

 

I am free and loose and following this one wild and precious life and I am free to do as I please.

I am free to let this soul go. I am free to let this soul go.

I am free to give him permission to grow.

I am free to give him permission to go.

I am free.

 

soul cry is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my current travels in Southeast Asia. 

Code Blue

Written July 31, 2015

 

"I feel dead inside." As the words escaped my lips a couple months ago, I knew immediately that they were the truest four words I'd spoken in a long time. Everything felt wrong. My life, itself, felt like it no longer fit me. My home, my workplace, my relationship, everything no longer fit my heart, my mind nor my soul. I wanted to escape.

Sacred Heart - Luang Prabang, Laos

Since I uttered those words, everything has changed. I intentionally gifted and sold nearly everything I owned, I quit my job, canceled my lease and shaved my head. Certainly being willfully unemployed and homeless at 36 may not have been my vision for my life, but as I sit here overlooking a lotus pond surrounded by the hum of motorbikes and the faint breeze whispering through the palm trees in Luang Prabang, Laos, I affirm the choices that brought me to this point. 

I have to be honest, as I stand amidst the rubble of an eight year relationship, I've chosen to continue this trip with him. It's not easy, this commitment thing - in or out of a relationship. it's hard. It's hard to look at him the same way or even a different way and not feel nostalgia, not feel how easy it would be to slip back into an ill-fitting relationship plagued by bickering and anger. It no longer fits me. Just as I wouldn't want to go back to the same home, the same job, the same situations that precipitated my code blue. 

Offered Heart - Luang Prabang, Laos

I have no idea where my choices will lead. I have no idea when or how or where I'll end up. I'm going by faith and trust in my self and my choices. I continue my daily spiritual practices and continue to take things one day at a time. It's all I've got to feel alive, one day at a time, to resuscitate my heart, my mind and my soul. 

Find a quiet space, bring your journal and invite yourself to connect with the following:

  • Do I feel my most vibrant self in each area of my life (emotional and physical health, abundance, education, career, spiritual life, relationships)?

As you sit and reflect on each area of your life, notice in your body if there is sensation that arises as you consider each topic (heaviness, lightness, absence of feeling, temperature sensations). Notice where in your body you feel the sensation. Tune into the sensation by focusing on it.

If you feel called, ask the sensation what message or meaning it has for you. Our bodies are magnificent barometers to transmit both meaning and messages about our experiences. With the conscious practice of tuning into our bodies, we can free our emotional and spiritual selves, realize our unbound nature and experience unconditional love for our truest selves. 

  • Are you feeling an imminent Code Blue in any area of your life?

If so, make the commitment to yourself for the next week to take at least 5 minutes each day to journal, meditate or otherwise check in with yourself. During this time, use the meditation above to tune into the area of challenge and provide your emotions with the space and breath to come to the surface. Again ask what messages or meanings the emotions and sensations have for you in each area of challenge, using them as a springboard for healing and resolution. 

Code Blue is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my current travels in Southeast Asia.