Shelly taught me Self Acceptance….

Shelly taught me Self Acceptance.

When I was about 26, I worked in Fashion, I guess you would say a very superficial world (although today, there are many brands that are eco-friendly, conscious and responsible), back then, that wasn’t so much the case or at least not to my knowledge. This was a world that I thought I would love for it’s creativity yet to my dismay, turned out to be much less creative than I had ever imagined.  In College, you’re told to be open and inventive, the skies the limit.  I left my university totally unprepared for the challenges that lay before me and after 5 years of working my way up, I finally made it into a design office.  I thought this was what I wanted, but 8 months later, I quickly realized that there wasn’t much creativity in design when you are working for someone else and pursuing their ideas.  Nonetheless, while I worked in fashion, I met many personalities, some who fit right in and some who clearly were trying to fit into a hole that was a different shape.

Here I met Shelly. Shelly was in her early 30’s and she was a bigger gal who struggled to fit in with the average size 6 fashion scene of that time.  She was kind with beautiful wavy red hair and porcelain skin that flushed easily.  She always second guessed herself, and with every defeated word she let out, she convinced those around her that she had nothing significant to offer and so for the most part, everyone believed that.  I could see this was happening and I felt sad for her.

One day, Shelly and I had lunch as we did on occasion. She was about to have gastric bypass surgery because her weight made her very insecure and she felt that fitness routines were unsuccessful.  I tried to discourage her from having such a dangerous surgery as much as I could then one day she said, ‘Do you know what it’s like to not ever feel comfortable in your own skin?”  I did know what it was like, I had felt that way, not every day, but sometimes, in certain scenarios, around certain people. I just had no idea how to put it into words until I heard her say it.  At 26, I wasn’t wise enough to really understand what I felt was a lack of self-acceptance and I know now, that this is what Shelly felt.  Many of us learn to see flaws before we see strengths. When you train yourself to do this for so long, undoing it is a bit of fete.

Adversity: It’s not whether you will face it, it’s how you will face it when you do.

How can you avoid negative or bad circumstances? How can you avoid pain? You can’t.  It’s impossible to not face a negative or painful circumstance at some point in your life. Broken hearts aren’t assigned to the naughty people and in a competitive world, everyone has felt let down, hurt, sad, ashamed, less down or not good enough, etc.  The most important and healthy thing you will learn in life is that how you relate to situations will either make or break your day and for that matter, your life.  This is what separates us from each other and the reason why some become inspiring and some become defeated.  It’s not whether you will face it, it’s how you will face it when you do.

Shelly felt defeated at that point in time and I have felt defeated more times than I can count as I am sure you have.  Her response was to become skinny by having surgery so that she could fit in because she did not have the wisdom to understand that she didn’t have to fit into that unwelcoming fashion world. There was no doubt in my mind that if Shelly just made peace with herself, that she would have found another fantastic group of people that she meshed with harmoniously.  She didn’t understand that the story she attached to herself was probably someone else’s story and that she could easily change hers and that once she fought through the scary parts, it would actually feel good to stop pretending you are someone you’re not.

When someone asked the Dalai Llama how he got rid of his guilt, he said “I didn’t, I just learned not to let it weigh me down”.

Similar to guilt, pain, anger, resentment that is not dealt with, has a way of keeping us from moving forward.  In Buddhism, it is said that one is stuck in Samsara, i.e., the process of repeating the same mistakes, suffering and never learning the lesson. We keep hitting the wall instead of changing direction.  The worst part is that many of us are ignorant to this.

Understand your anger, sit with your pain, reckon with your guilt, learn from it and perhaps be a source of hope for someone else.  That would be the biggest gift you could give someone.  In no way would I ever say forget the hard parts, the sad moments, the challenging times because we need those just as much as the successes.

“to someone who has never fallen in love, you cannot prove that such a phenomena exists” and yet, we all know it does

I can only tell you that it gets easier with lots of reading and practice and then one day, you are just different and the weight on your shoulders isn’t as heavy.  You want to help other people get more peaceful because their pain becomes so transparent to you. You begin to identify the things that you can affect and you move on those and the ones you can’t affect, you try your best to not let them steal your spirit.  Things just don’t bother you as much and people sometimes mistake that for aloofness, not caring or ignoring. It’s actually the opposite. The more spiritual and peaceful I become, the more I care about everyone and everything but I also learn to not attach to expectations, not because I am going to be disappointed, but because I don’t want to limit the possibilities. I also learn to love but not control and to understand that sometimes I may not agree with what someone else’s doing, but I trust that it is their path and their lessons to learn.  Life doesn’t get easier, but you as a person get stronger.

So, Buddhism acknowledges that the world is full of delusions but it is also full of beauty.  My good friend is an avid reader and loves theology and he explained it in a great way one day to me. He said, “God is in everything”. He is in this computer, he is in this garden of vegetables, he is in this fountain that hasn’t been cleaned but still sounds so beautiful, he is in the bee that stings you but that also fertilizes the flowers, he’s in the bird that sings, this yoga lesson, this hard workout you push through, this refreshing beer, etc ..etc.  When you train yourself to see the world like this and that everything is actually a blessing, it makes the adversity much easier to bear. They don’t disappear, just easier to bear.

I don’t avoid or deny negative situations, I’ve just changed how I relate to them. It’s amazing what happens when you stop fighting all these things…not at first, but slowly, your mind clears, the anger, the hurt, the resentment, the guilt, it all starts to fade to the back as you learn to relate to it and you get more peaceful. xo

 

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“Not Today Demons, Not Today”.

Today, similar to the last two weeks, it was really hard waking up because once I am awake, I must face my thoughts, my fears, my challenges and my anxiety of the unknown.  Yet, every night before I fall asleep, I contemplate a list of things in my head that I know I should be doing to improve my mindfulness.  I have this mental list because I’ve been here before and I’ve managed to get myself out but my demons have a way of tricking me into thinking that hopelessness is the easy way and that fighting is just too much work.

I have successfully climbed over to the other side of hopeless and it feels really good.  Conveniently, my demons manage to hide those good feelings from me but my mind tells me today can be better and I believe it. I tell myself, today, you will begin doing those things again because that is what you need to do to keep yourself on the path of peace, the path of happy, the path of content.

Many days,  like you, I lose this battle and I give in to the demons that want to keep me miserable, sad, hopeless.  But today, I was triumphant.  Today I fought through it and under my breath while taking my downward dog, I whispered to myself, “Not today demons, not today”.

 

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Little dreamers everywhere, it’s ok to change your stories!

Most of our life we spend our days fighting things we cannot control and this is what causes frustration in our lives.

We will develop unwavering attachments to  ideas or dreams and stick to them even when all signs tell us, it’s not for us.

Spiritually, it is said that we align ourselves with this story so much so, that this is what we identify as success and as a result, not achieving this goal becomes a big blow to our self worth.

As a child, we are exposed to many influences and this may sway us from finding our true passions.

The thought process may go something like this….

Long ago and buried in our unconscious is a student of life who mistakenly identified this idea to his/her success.  Day in and out, he/she aligned their lives with supporting ideas to push and keep this dream afloat and when it started to sink, they become depressed, disappointed and their self worth took a tremendous blow and it began to affect every other aspect of their lives.  It was too heartbreaking to give up that dream because he/she felt like the world around them would call them a failure but most importantly they were letting down that little dreamer inside and that is what hurt the most.

How many of us have attached ourselves to the wrong dreams early on for whatever reasons.  We went through all the rituals sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing yet still never feeling intrinsic happiness.  What are we doing wrong?

The truth is, little dreamer in you just wants to be happy and happy comes in all shapes and sizes.  The expectations we have set upon ourselves are sometimes unrealistic and many times based on someone else’s idea of success.  My gut tells me that we are surrounded with little dreamers who are in need of changing their stories.

So to all you little dreamers, it’s time to edit your story and tweak the pages or perhaps it’s time to change the story altogether! And guess what, all of that is ok and actually encouraged. It’s not too late!

xo

 

Images above are of the lovely Lauren Prince, friend and jewelry model for me from time to time.

 

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Why couldn’t I be ok with simply being.

Thinking back… I don’t know that I had enough nights where I just sat in bed and did absolutely nothing and felt no guilt or worry about it.   I don’t recall having many weekends when I felt no pressure to be doing something else or to be somewhere other than where I was.

All irrational and insatiable goals that were destined to keep me in craving mode.  Setting me up to climb a ladder to reach a goal but when you look closely, the ladder is built with no end.  Therefore, the goal is unattainable.  Why couldn’t I be ok with simply being.

Your mind has a wonderful way of allowing you to forget the scenario but not allowing you to forget the feeling.  So, one moment you may be going about your daily life and suddenly this feeling will come over you and somehow you understand what it’s trying to tell you.  It’s sort of a mental reflection of your younger self struggling with something and it is serving as an alert,  that if you are not careful, you can quite easily fall back into an old habit.

For me, the lesson is to be ok in this moment.   Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your husband.  Be ok with not knowing it all and most importantly, receive these lessons that come your way because it is your own wise self trying to help you. xo

 

Photos above are from an older shoot with the beautiful and ridiculously photogenic, Lauren Prince.

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My favorite people are the ones who have learned how to smile through the pain.

My favorite people are the ones who have learned how to smile through the pain.  But don’t let this discourage you if this isn’t you because you are supposed to see people like this as an inspiration.  It is meant to create a solidarity between you and the person next to you because although your pain is different, it isn’t unique, for somewhere in this world, there is someone feeling exactly how you feel.  And, how amazing would it be to be the one to show them that despite all of this pain, there is light, there is hope, there is a smile.  A genuine smile that means what it says. We can get through this, one present moment at a time.

We are all connected and it is through our interconnection that we are able to learn and practice being better human begins.

….practice away xo

 

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Allow Your True Self to Shine.

“This isn’t me!”  This is more like  me thinking… ‘what would John like?’  What was wrong with me during that time I dated John?”

Much of our life we spend trying to figure out who we are.  We get lost in others, we want to blend, we want to feel validated.

I was sometimes afraid to be myself for fear of judgment.. But why?  Why didn’t I feel good enough and why did the opinions of certain people affect me more than others.

Many times I would do things to please others.  I would pretend I liked things I didn’t.   Half the time I didn’t realize I was doing it.  All those paths led me to feeling empty again.

This realization of what we need to be happy doesn’t show itself in an obvious way.  I wish I could tell you that all you need to do is snap your fingers and decide that you are going to be true to yourself and miraculously all falls into place.  It’s just not that easy.  You will fall many times and at first getting back up is harder because you lose a little hope. Hope in yourself, hope in the process, but this is all a part of your personal transformation. You just don’t realize it at the time.

How do we get to a place of peace and acceptance of ourselves.  The answer is easy but the process is not easy.  Be present. 

In this very moment, be thoughtful, be kind, be conscientious. Be an example for those around you and ask for nothing in return. Let your acts of kindness be your own reward.   I love this line from the poem, The Loving One by W.H Auden. “If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me“.  Send out what you would love to receive. Send without attachment.

As the beautiful song from the movie Frozen says, Let it go.  Much of what we hold on to and analyze and review in our heads is unnecessary guilt and discomfort that we have already realized.  Why in the world do you think you deserve to feel that all over again? Let it go friends.

Do some spiritual work.  Having spiritual guidance and making it a habit of reading teachings to help keep you stay aligned and conscious of your actions is ridiculously important.

I remember when I was a young gal and I read out loud a spiritual quote from a book I was reading to my mom.  She looked at me and said, “well, that’s just common sense”.  Is it though?  I understand now as an adult, that this was in fact a defensive statement.  Parents don’t know everything but they want you to think they do.  We then pass this mentality on to our kids and make them stubborn creatures.  Thinking that you don’t need reminders, constant conditioning, moments that inspire you to continue on your path is foolish.

I remember reading a status update on Facebook one day from an acquaintance.  It read something along the lines of, “If you need inspirational books or quotes, you are weak”.  I really didn’t like reading that because I immediately personalized it but then when I went to his page, all of his statuses were negative and mean spirited and it all made sense.  We need moments to lift us.

The seeds you feed within yourself blossom. So if you are feeding seeds of jealousy by engaging in that behavior, that seed will rule.  If you perform acts of kindness, that seed within you will rule.  Be conscious of what you feed yourself. Be sure to feed the most virtuous seeds.

Be patient with yourself and be ok with being alone.  Understand that a lot of growth happens during these times of solitude. I certainly learn the most when it’s just me and my teachings or me in nature.

The beautiful thing that happens when you allow your true self to shine is that you begin to attract the same in others. xo

Inspired by a friend and our life talks.  <3

 

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I fight really hard. I’m a warrior.

One day someone told me about the ability of music to elevate your soul and spirit… I didn’t believe it initially.

They say to one who has never fallen in love, you can never convince them that such a metamorphosis exists.  But yet, we know it does…

I feel lonely, confused, lethargic, as if I’ve been running for days but I haven’t, not even close.  I’m just tired, I’m lonely on the inside and it manifests on the outside.  But don’t think for a second that I don’t fight….

I fight really hard. I’m a warrior.

Sometimes I feed my pain with poison and sometimes I feed it with music. Beautiful, harmonious, complicated, compassionate, empowering, noisy and chaotic music. 

There is hope.  I find light in music because I am open to finding light, therefore light opportunities present themselves.  There is light in many things, seek the light and let it in. xo

Thank you to my beautiful friend Alex for posing for me and helping me continue to pursue my art.

 

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Even when she enters hell, she will lighten up hell with the sound of laughter.

Vanilla Clouds - Capacity

Your tiny heart does have the capacity to grow if you surround it with light and depth.

In Buddhist philosophy, it is said that a person who is able to provide a community or group of friends with unconditional friendship, love and understanding, is skilled in the Base of Capacity.  How wonderful to be gifted with Capacity.  We all struggle with life’s up’s and down’s and this isn’t something you achieve overnight.  It is a practice, an understanding, a life mission to choose to be peaceful in times when it’s easier to join the chaos.

For you my friend, I wish Capacity. xo

 

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Are your irrational thoughts holding you back?

Are your irrational thoughts wreaking havoc on your life?

I was watching a show last night and one of the featured people talked about how he began to use drugs because he was unable to cope with his high stressed job.  One day while he was working, he had a panic attack in front of his peers.  He went to see a doctor, who explained that his body could not tolerate the drugs he was taking and the panic attack was his warning.Vanillaclouds-shells

After seeing many doctors and therapists, he said the best advice came from a Buddhist teacher who asked him an important question: Is all this panic and stress going to improve or change the situation you’re stressing about?  He said when he thought about it, something clicked.

How much of our time is wasted on stressing and worrying about things that we cannot change?vanillaclouds-shells2

In addition, to help discourage the panic attacks, the Buddhist teacher  suggested meditation.  If you are not familiar with meditation, it is the act of basically doing nothing. Many people confuse it with the act of controlling a situation but it is actually the opposite.  You release all thoughts from your mind.  You in essence give your mind a break from all the chaos that you take in.  It allows your mind a chance to refresh.  You breathe and you watch your breathe and this encourages relaxation.vanillaclouds-shells3

As a result, the man explained that understanding that his behavior was irrational and adding the practice of meditation,  has made him a more patient person, a kinder person and a better husband and father.  Please keep in mind, there is no need to become a Buddhist to adapt this practice.vanillaclouds-Shells5

I haven’t read a fashion magazine in a long time since I increased my spirituality.   Mostly because I grew frustrated with the failed promises that having the newest lip gloss would change my life or make me cooler. I’ve spent so much money trying to improve my outsides by superficial means, when the answer has always been to challenge these irrational thoughts.

Why does it terrify me to speak in front of crowds? Why don’t I ever feel good enough? Why is no accomplishment enough? , etc..

While a new haircut, a new dress or a new home can really bring us joy, if it’s just a band aid to cover up a bigger issue, you will be always be chasing the next high and that’s how these fashion magazines cash in.vanillaclouds-shells4

Understanding why we do certain things can be very powerful because we can then look it straight in the eye, acknowledge it and either accept it or work on it.  Having a healthy mind is so powerful because like the man I mentioned earlier, it can make you more peaceful, more kind and just a better person overall.  Most of us go through life allowing circumstances to predict our course.  Why not grab a hold of your life and make it have purpose!!  I certainly don’t see the downfall.  xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The many things that children teach us….

Children can teach us so many things… Vanilla Clouds Photography Vanilla Clouds PhotographyThey show us how to still be amazed. They show us wonder, surprise and excitement.
Vanilla Clouds PhotographyThey remind us that beauty is found in the simplest things; a bird, a rock, a puddle, a blue sky.
Vanilla Clouds PhotographyThey remind us how to be content and to not always searching for the next best thing.  Sometimes, a pretty flower is just the right amount of joy.
Vanilla Clouds PhotographyOne of the most important qualities to have is patience.  We are not all learning at the same capacity and sometimes some of us need a little more patience than others. Children remind us of that.

 

Vanilla Clouds PhotographyChildren are oddly braver than we are.  It makes us squirm to see a child carelessly cross a rocky creek but deep down we know that we want our children to live their best lives and being fearless is an important part of that.  Many of us have forgotten what it’s like to be fearless, to feel unstoppable.  Children remind us of that.
Vanilla Clouds PhotographyChildren are accepting. They teach us kindness, encouragement, unconditional love. All very important things that we forget as adults.
Vanilla Clouds PhotographyThen all of a sudden, children seem to know more than we do. They have their own preferences, their own opinions and a sense of pride.  Somewhere along the way, as adults, we forget to be our powerful selves, we are afraid to be proud, we stifle our opinions.
Vanilla Clouds PhotographySo, next time you feel a little lost, spend some time with children.  Admire their curiosity, appreciate their fearlessness, don’t try to tame their excitement.  Then, relax….and try to be more like them. xo

Photo Shoot with these lovely little ladies, Anna Kelaiah and Selah Presten

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