Give more of what you want!

Most of us who have sought spiritual guidance in some way, have heard this saying… ” Give more of what you want”, but what does it really mean?

The other day, a friend of mine was distraught.  she had been having a hard time with someone she worked with and it had been a daily culmination to what would naturally become an explosion of emotions that day.  Now on a normal day, most of us handle explosions quite well, but on a day when we have learned that someone dear to us has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer and then the carefully crafted coffee we made to soothe us was left on the counter and as we are tardily running down the stairs because we went back to get the coffee, we roll our ankle which makes it harder for us to do what we need to do in a day. Well, you get the picture. (insert crazy face 🙁 )

My cup runeth over….

My friend was having that kind of a week, she had reached her threshold.  Imagine a cup under a dripping faucet that hadn’t been emptied and eventually reaches it’s limit and overflows.  I think we forget that we aren’t invincible and we can tell ourselves over and over that we can handle what’s thrown at us, but unless we are refueling and resting, however you do it, we will reach our threshold as well. Our lack of refueling shows itself in many ways, skin conditions, gastritis, hair loss, ulcers, migraines, debilitating panic and anxiety and of course, cancers, etc.  And if it affects our insides, what do you think it does for our relationships around us?  We become intolerant, angry, guarded, close minded, scared, stagnant, anti social, depressed, etc.

The wonderful medicinal properties of love.

My friend had gotten caught up in what we call the drama of it all.  She, being a spiritual person herself prayed to God often for strength but did not tap into her own ability and wisdom to understand that we choose how we want to engage in situations.  So, while her colleague may approach her in a hostile way, it is how we respond that either empowers us or makes us a victim.

What is it in you that is choosing to see the horrible side of this person?

When i was in NY, I attended the Kadampa Center in Chelsea quite often to listen to lectures.  One lesson that resonated with me was when a woman who was in a similar situation as my friend, asked the monk, ” How should I deal with someone I work with who is what I consider a terrible person”?  His response was what is it in you that is choosing to see the horrible side of this person?  What are you bringing to the situation that may give rise or diffuse your encounter with this person?  When I heard his response, I was completely dumbfounded.  What a challenge it is for us to actually send love and maneuver with heart when what we are receiving is the opposite.  I had no idea that we ourselves had that much control over how someone affected us?  I remember thinking how strong you must be to be able to do this. That little lesson helped me so much after that point.

Love is the most valuable fuel in the world.

From time to time, I need to remind myself and on this day, my friend needed that reminder as well. I explained to her that she had the power to use the love that God has put in her heart. It is the biggest and most valuable fuel anyone could ever use against you and the consequence is always positive for you and the other person.  You may not see it right away, but continued acts of kindness will eventually make you a happier, kinder and a more peaceful person.

So, if you want a certain reaction from someone, you need to introduce it to the relationship. You can’t give up when it’s not reciprocated because everyone is on their own path and will learn on their own time but you can certainly plant that seed.  The best part is, by responding in a positive way and not engaging, we avoid the self loathing and guilt that we may experience when we let our tempers get the best of us.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  So, if you want to be treated with kindness, give kindness freely. If you want tolerance, be more patient with others. If you want to encourage someone to listen, listen carefully to what others have to say.  If you want more respect, learn to give respect, etc. xo

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When you know you know and timing is everything….

“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”

Have you read this quote from the book Beloved by Toni Morrison? I’ve never read the book, but I have been drawn to the quotes from this book for as long as I can remember.  I confess, that I don’t know enough about the author or her books, to really give a genuine opinion but I do know that the little that I’ve read certainly touches me in a satisfying place.  This book “Beloved” is one of her greatest masterpieces and the book was made into a movie in 1998 starring Oprah Winfrey.

I mentioned this quote because in terms of the top 10 poetic and romantic responses to the question ” why do you love her?“, I find this response simply beautiful.  But what does it really mean and how does one know?

Timing is everything.

I hated when people told me that…I always felt it was so unromantic.

I remember watching the show Sex in the City in the 90’s and Carrie (the main character played by Sarah Jessica Parker) chased her paramour, Mr. Big (played by Chris Noth) the entire time the show was in syndication. Finally, Carrie was certain that her Mr. Big was the one..and there is a scene where she asks him something like this ” You get to a point in life when you want to stand still with someone, don’t you want to stand still with me? “  Hearing that, made my heart stop because very few ultimatums work out well and I had a feeling, she would be left broken hearted and hear is where that phrase timing is everything, comes into play.  You may have done your internal work and be ready for the next serious phase in your romantic life but there is no guarantee that the person you fall for is at the same place in life.   Everyone grows at their own pace.  I don’t exactly remember Mr. Big’s response,…but I can tell you that it wasn’t what she wanted to hear, as he was not ready to make this decision.

So, how do you know?

You hear it in movies and if you are lucky enough, (sarcasm) you have had someone tell you, When you know you know, and as a person who hates cliches, this response always frustrated me.

Fundamentally, I feel that things must occur in each of our lives to make us ready to receive someone else whole heartedly.  I know you don’t want to hear this, but a lot of internal work has to be done and self awareness definitely needs to be present.  In such a big world, I certainly don’t think that there is just one person out there for us but knowing yourself and what you need to be happy certainly helps you find someone you can build a life with. It will also help you recognize similar characteristics in someone else, so that you aren’t investing your time with someone who will eventually show you signs of non commitment.

That said, here are my 2 cents.

When you look forward to your life, sharing it with someone who shares common goals, interests and beliefs, certainly helps ease your comfort with each other and creates the foundation for you to want to get to know each other.  But after that, I think for most of us, it happens unexpectedly… Suddenly you are with someone, and it’s enjoyable. You’re not finding reasons to bicker and you’re also not struggling for power.  Your goal genuinely becomes to make each other happy because that makes you happy.  You certainly have disagreements, but you apologize even when you don’t know exactly what you’re apologizing for because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.  You just don’t want to be upset with one another.  You understand that no one is perfect because you have come to your own realization that you, yourself are filled with tons of misconceptions and bad conditioning that occurred prior to meeting them that has absolutely nothing to do with him/her.  So, instead, their imperfections become human and you develop compassion for them.  You develop patience because you yourself knows that you are a working progress and thus, so is he/she.

And finally, your fear of being without this person, becomes stronger than your fear of commitment.  You help each other grow your best parts and through osmosis you develop an understanding of those areas that need improvement.  You develop a deep trust built on vulnerability and you truly inspire each other in the best ways.  It’s not easy, but you are committed to making it work and there is nothing healthier, prosperous or more fulfilling than a good relationship with the one you love. xo

 

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I Cried this Morning at Yoga.

For many of us, yoga was something hippies do. It was a strange practice we knew nothing about but as ignorance always does, we created this story in our head without understanding what it was.  We decided it was weird. We didn’t bother to learn about it.

The day I found out my father was sick, all my years of practicing Buddhist philosophy and yoga certainly helped prepare me.  I had an understanding that life is about impermanence and that we are all a development of our choices.  That we are on our own paths, that we can inspire but not motivate.  That we can and should always lead by example, make decisions with the heart but also not be foolish.

What it didn’t prepare me for is the sadness I would feel for those who didn’t see life that way….who never gained the wisdom to understand that the very thing they used to escape, is what kept them trapped and suffering. In Buddhism, is it called Samsara, the circle of life.  We in a sense trap ourselves by continuing to make the same mistakes that keep us miserable.

My dad, similar to many folks of his generation, used alcohol to escape discomfort, confrontation and emotion.  He protected his heart fiercely from pain and of course beauty.  For you can never have one without the other.  Our parents are supposed to be the wise ones. They are supposed to be the ones who teach us how to overcome, self worth, to believe in your ability to contribute to the world and how to manage life’s very hard obstacles…. but what happens when you keep growing and they don’t?

One morning I woke up and felt absolutely awful.  The air was thick, my head was pounding and it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.  I had two choices…I could lay in bed all day and allow the sadness to swallow me.  I could give in to the pull to drench my spirit and as a result, drench my husbands spirit and anyone around me.  Or I could get up, take a hot shower and make an effort.  I could go to yoga and try my best to release.  I could sincerely try to receive the spirit of yoga which is really about letting go. Letting go of what you cannot change, but also believing in the power of compassion.

And so, that morning for the first time, I really used yoga to my advantage. I closed my eyes when it was safe and allowed the tears to fall down my cheeks.  I know what you’re thinking, how sad, but I can tell you, that it felt the exact opposite way.  With every movement and every exhale,  I let go of the need to save my father. For weeks, it felt like I was a dam holding a ton of water and suddenly, I was able to just lift the dam and the dam was me.   All that pressure, the elephant that had been sitting on my chest for a few weeks, got up and walk away.  The air thinned a bit and I felt a slight sense of relief. Enough relief for me to know that I had made some progress.

After that day, I immersed myself in prayer, meditation and spiritual practice for weeks.  During his last 2 weeks, I spent every morning with my father…present, crying when I needed to and accepting that this is part of life.  When he left us, I prayed that he had made peace with his shortcomings for most of us have some guilt we carry that serves us no purpose.

Yoga gives us permission to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings. It gives us an opportunity to pause, and give our minds a break from chaos.  Yoga made me cry that morning and has since made me cry a few more times and every time it has happened, a huge amount of pressure is lifted from my shoulders and I walk just a little bit lighter that day.

Wishing you peace to your heart. xo

 

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In 2018, when it get’s hard, let’s push through.

Just like the emotions of falling in love, the sense of spiritual transformation can feel quite new and scary each time you experience it.  Falling in love and spiritual transformation can happen as many times as we seek them, as long as we are open to it.

However, what I find most fascinating is that when we embark on a new path, we tend to forget how hard it is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to accept the blessings we seek. We panic and think we can’t do this, this isn’t for us, we tend to throw the towel in too soon. Sometimes, it’s easier to stay miserable then to try for something.

Love and Transformation

I feel sick. Physically sick but not from any food that didn’t agree with me.  It’s a sick that I can’t take tums for.  I’m paranoid from the moment  I wake up to the moment I fall asleep; just waiting for someone to pull the rug up from under me and this temporary feeling that I actually deserve something wonderful will be ripped from me.  I constantly second guess myself and what it is that I am seeking.   I’m confused, lonely and the most random things can spiral me out of control or bring me to tears.  I have moments of weakness and make bad choices. 

The Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron would say that our hardest struggles are the signs that you are transforming because living in stagnation takes no effort. Sound familiar? Welcome to the feeling of falling in love or personal transformation. It’s certainly not easy but it’s definitely personally rewarding.

Fake it until you make it.

Who hasn’t heard this saying. It’s similar to the line, “Dress for the position you want, not the position your in”.   The understanding is that if we surround ourselves with the same wisdom we have, there is no inspiration to grow, we get comfortable.  But if we seek wisdom via any medium; people, books, therapy, podcasts, etc, we expose ourselves to growth.

In the literal sense, the word fake means inauthentic but in this context, I would say that it means pushing through the uncomfortable parts and not giving up at the first sign of fear or challenge.  It means that you practice it before you believe it.  You read about it before you understand it.  You trust. You sleep on it.  You try not to panic. You allow yourself to be open.  All of this is ok and necessary because it means you are one step closer to whatever it is you seek.

Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to allow something wonderful to happen.  We must learn to relinquish control, to lose ego and to not be so stuck to stories embedded in us long ago.  The roots of these stories are old and it’s time to plant new seeds.  I love this quote from the movie, Eat Pray Love, “To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.”  You must be ok with moments of unease and discomfort.  Trust that they will pass.

So, in light of the New Year coming upon us, I ask that you be open to transformation, whether it be love, adventure, or a spiritual path that will help you and encourage a healthier mind, body and soul.   I strongly encourage you to push through. Practice, practice, practice and push through.  Surround yourself with those who have excelled at this, you will need all the support you can get! XO

 

Photos are from a photography yoga session with Lauren Prince, local friend and yogi on St. Simons Island, Ga.

 

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The power to affect your Faith lies within you.

What exactly does it mean to have faith?

A quick look up on the internet will tell you ” it is a strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof ” 

My biggest challenge with this definition is that it takes the power away from me or you from being able to influence our future.  That just doesn’t sit well with me.  Can we influence our fate?  I would most certainly like to believe that we can.

While enjoying a delicious latte this morning, I read a wonderful Buddhist article on this exact topic that put into words what I had been thinking but could not quite articulate until now.

When our faith comes from wisdom, insight and understanding, it sets us on a path with fruitful results . 

I guess I am not a believer in blind faith.  I truly believe that in order to have any influence on our future,  we must have a history of putting into certain practices, that which would align us with a certain goal or desire that we see for ourselves in the future.  In other words, we have to do the work, be prepared and then pursue our goals.  Quoting the definition of faith from my text this morning  pretty much solidified that for me;” Faith is the confidence we receive when we put into practice a teaching that helps us overcome difficulties and obtain some transformation.  How wonderful to know that we can affect our faith.

Preparing for a presentation is what we should do, attaching ourselves to the outcome is not. So, the goal would be, to prepare for the presentation and have faith that we did our best and be at peace with that.  

This may be a difficult concept to absorb because coming short on something you have prepared for will understandably disappoint you but don’t let it derail you.  When we are steadfastly focused on one goal, we tend to miss the opportunities around it.   Sometimes, we focus on goals that someone else has set for us. Sometimes we haven’t really given much thought to what it is that will make us happy.  Being open to the possibilities brings us closer to founding out what will truly make us happy.

We relinquish any attachment to the outcome because if we know we tried our best, we must learn that that is enough.  

Ideally, if I can combine both of these definitions, I would say that having faith is being empowered that with proper and diligent practice, we have the ability to reflect change in our future and trust that God will guide us along the way.

Now this is something I can work with! xo

Based on one of the Five Powers, Faith. Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh.

 

 

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Mama told me, even the brightest stars fall from the sky. 

Mama told me, even the brightest stars fall from the sky. 

She would tell me this every now and again and I didn’t really grasp it until I got older.

We have these fleeting moments of success or what we think is success and we quickly forget the struggle. We gloat, we walk with our heads so high and our nose tilted up, that we forget what hard work looked like and smelled like.

We fill our minds with superficial ideas of success not grasping that the road to this kind of success is a never ending climb on an infinite staircase.  We surround ourselves with like minded people who don’t care about you but only about what you can do for them but we don’t grasp this concept. We think we have moved up…but have we?

Eventually, we start to fall for various reasons.  We can’t keep up with the pace, no matter what we do, we are never satisfied, never happy.  That superficial high has left us feeling empty, hollow and hopeless with nothing substantial or intrinsic to feel worthy about.  We thought we were working towards something that would make us proud, but somehow it doesn’t and that in itself is a huge let down.

We have lost our essence in an effort to fit in and then we realize that everyone around us is on their own path trying to grasp this same concept.  So this whole time, we have been trying to fit into an environment that is just as delusional as we are.

Share the sky among the beautiful stars.

Stay humble and stay close to the pulse of humanity because it is the only way you can be truly affected by the beauty and kindness of the world. It is the only way you can have an effect on the world and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

The wonderful blessing about adding value to the lives of others, is that it consequently increases your self worth.  With a healthy self worth, your ability to handles life’s challenges increases tremendously.  Appreciate your earned success physically but more importantly, build substance within you, and honor and strive for personal growth.

xo

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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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