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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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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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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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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I would rather have 10 solid followers than a 1,000 followers who really aren’t inspired by my work.

I would never want to be a celebrity because although most actors crave attention, it’s the attention of convenience that is really what they seek.  Unfortunately, that’s just not how being popular works. Once you open the door to acclaim, you also open the door to critical acclaim but I don’t think anyone can be prepared to face the ruthless and uncensored criticism of faceless critics.PropertyofVanillaClouds

How can you be offended by someone you don’t know? How can someone who has values, ethics and morals that are not in alignment with yours, make you feel less than a human?  Yet, it happens.

Seeking popularity is nothing more than feeding that little child inside us that seeks approval or validation.   It’s quite sad but once you understand this, it’s an opportunity to be compassionate to yourself and to understand one another better.PropertyofVanillaClouds

I would rather have 50 solid followers than a 1,000 followers who really aren’t inspired by my work.  

Have you noticed that people who have a healthy sense of self worth seldom criticize others. It seems to me that those who have wise and rational well thought out points rarely comment or speak out negatively because they are content in their truth and as a result do not feel the need to defend a point or criticize others.

If you practice the principle of being what you seek, you understand that your vibe attracts your tribe, as they say.  Once you are true to yourself, instead of trying to please the false sense of who you are, you will attract people who share your values and life becomes more harmonious.  Who is the real you? PropertyofVanillaClouds

It’s interesting, because when I was younger I thought those who didn’t fight back were weak and now I understand how strong taking the high road really is.  When you engage in any kind of hurtful battle, no one wins and you enable and continue the behavior.  In addition, that negativity stays with you and if you continue with this behavior, you eventually become desensitized to it.

It’s quite sad because from my own observations, those who criticize and engage in hurtful words or behavior are really quite lost inside. I imagine it to be like a maze, you enter into a certain behavior and when you look back, there is no clear path on how you got to this point or how you can go back.  You forget what it’s like to be anything other than the person you are and the idea of change is incredibly overwhelming.  So you stick to your destructive behavior. PropertyofVanillaClouds

As an artist, I understand that craving for attention.  It’s almost if not entirely a form of narcissism since an artist is obsessed with sharing their point of view because they feel it can transform or inspire you.

But after listening to a recent Buddhist lecture titled “Putting meaning into your life” by Ajahn Brahm, I feel a little better about this whole idea.  If the intention of what you share is because you care and it actually helps someone, then you have succeeded at compassion even if it’s one human at a time.  So, even if I have inspired one person in my lifetime and it’s helped them in some way, I am comfortable with that.  So yes, I am an artist and I quite possibly may be a narcissist. xo

Images above are of our local Yogi, AshleyAnne Brown shot at Goulds Inlet, here on SSI, GA.

 

 

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Don’t listen to those who say, “It’s not done that way.” Maybe it’s not, but maybe you will.vanillaclouds

Don’t listen to those who say, “You’re taking too big a chance.” Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out by today. vanilla clouds

Most importantly, don’t listen when the little voice of fear inside of you ears its ugly head and says, “They’re all smarter than you out there. They’re more talented, they’re taller, blonder, prettier, luckier and have connections…vanilla clouds

” I firmly believe that if you follow a path that interests you, not to the exclusion of love, sensitivity, and cooperation with others,vanilla Clouds

but with the strength of conviction that you can move others by your own efforts, and do not make success or failure the criteria by which you live, the chances are you’ll be a person worthy of your own respect.–Neil Simon

Model above is our local beauty, Lauren Prince. I am available for shoots, please contact me at Josefina@vanillaclouds.com

Also, check out my jewelry in my Vanilla clouds Etsy Shop or click on the shop tab on my page here 🙂 xo

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To be at peace in the center of the storm will be one of your biggest challenges as a learning Baby Buddha.

To be at peace in the center of the storm will be one of your biggest challenges as a learning Baby Buddha.  But how wonderful will it be to be your own beautiful light source and how even more wonderful if you could shine bright enough to help illuminate the way for others, and all of those struggling baby Buddhas around you.

A few tips inspired by my trusty source Ajahn Brahm to help get you to peace. 🙂

1. There will always be something not right, that’s why you have to accept yourself faults and all right now.  It’s the only way to move forward. Vanilla Clouds

2. Lose the guilt.  I personally found so much relief when I read that holding guilt within you is what holds you back because you keep reliving the situation which really serves no purpose but cause you more suffering.  Let it go, and focus on being better and making better decisions.Vanilla Clouds

3. Don’t go through life with a mental scorecard.  Through our lives, we are influenced and conditioned by our surroundings and sometimes we do things out of character, or to blend in or out of fear and insecurity.  This is not who you are, so, don’t mix your performance with your identity.  I love this!!!  My mistakes are not me!Vanilla Clouds

4. Be realistic with yourself.  Most people will not succeed without hard work and those who seem to be succeeding at every thing, well, let’s just say, nothing is as it seems.  Remember, life is about perspective.  No one’s life is perfect, but those who succeed at finding peace, find the balance in life and take the good with the not so good. We all have blessings, but don’t expect to hit a home run if you have never played ball.  It is when you ask from life what you know in your heart it cannot give you, that you will suffer.  Search inside, I am sure you will find a beautiful blessing and put it to some good use!Vanilla Clouds

5. You will eventually be the biggest conflict in your own life that keeps you from succeeding.  Take a deep honest and humble look at yourself and fix what you can, be patient with what you can’t change and learn compassion for yourself.  Let all the heavy burdens go and live.Vanilla Clouds

6. And lastly, oldie but goodie…Beauty is not in the object, it is in the beholder.  When you start to see the beauty in someone else, in life in general, this is when you will see the beauty within yourself.  Practice acceptance and compassion for all life around you and you will develop a kindness and warmth for yourself.vanilla clouds

So, get to work all you Baby Buddhas 🙂

Images above were taken on Jekyll Island with a warm photo filter.

 

 

 

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There is a difference between an ally and a friend and some are both….

Recently I was spending time with a great friend, someone I’ve known since I was 5 yrs old.  Someone who I’m sure knows me better than anyone else in this world. Vanilla Clouds

It’s interesting how we have always been our own individuals yet we were able to bond and stay bonded despite many periods of pursuing our independent dreams.   2 little ladies, one of Irish background, one of Puerto Rican background who grew up with different traditions and different beliefs.  Yet even as little ones, we always treasured the qualities of loyalty, integrity and kindness and continue to this day. When you teach your kids these qualities, they become capable of forming beautiful bonds despite having nothing obvious in common with another person. I guess we should thanks our parents for instilling such qualities in us 🙂

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My friend and I spent some much needed time bonding on the couch and there was a moment when a really warm feeling came over me.  It was the revelation that there was an ally in the room.  Not to say that I have surrounded myself with enemies, for that could not be farther from the truth.  But there is a difference between an ally and a friend and some can be both, which I surely have in this gal.

So, let’s look at this closer.

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An ally knows you, the real you and would vouch for you at any given time.  Sometimes, an ally knows you more than you know yourself and it’s so wonderful to have someone remind you of who you are, because we sometimes forget.  Sometimes, we get lost in our own fog, in our own genuine attempts to compromise and get along with others, we lose some of ourselves in the process.

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Spending time with someone who has known you for a long time reminds you of the strength and will you had before life’s struggles attempted to slowly chip away at your naive little sunshine.

Sometimes, spending time with an ally, is all you need to refresh.  That beautiful, ambitious, driven, hopeful person is still inside you and sometimes, it takes an ally to to shake you up and remind you.  Sometimes your ally is your mom or dad, sometimes a neighbor, a teacher or in my case, a dear friend from your old neighborhood in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. xo

Images above were taken by me.  Model is Lauren Prince, my glamorous hippie, where Vanilla Clouds beaded bracelets.  Available in my Vanilla Clouds Etsy Shop or locally here on St.Simons Island @ Infuse Yoga. xo

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You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Maya Angelou

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A couple of years ago, when I still lived in NY, there were many instances when I gave someone the power to upset me.  I was fully aware that my getting upset made no sense because this person did not even know me but yet I still could not deny that I let his words hurt me.  I was feeling a little bummed as I walked to the Monday Buddhist meditation lecture, but I almost knew that the teacher would say something, even if it was a little something…that would make me feel better.Vanilla Clouds Jewelry

Anyway, the teacher put a name to something I knew existed but could not identify by definition but I always felt was the case when a person acted this way.  What I am referring to is deluded pride versus wisdom pride.Vanilla Clouds
You know the value of every article of merchandise, but if you don’t know the value of your own soul, it’s all foolishness. – 
Rumi

Wisdom Pride vs. Deluded Pride.

Wisdom pride, as I understand it…is pride based on wisdom.  For example, I know not to do certain things and may give you advice, not because I know it all but because I have done something similar and learned from my mistakes, and would if possible, like to spare you the hurt, pain and disappointment associated with this action.   You should feel a sense of pride when you have accomplished something fully knowing that you have done your very best.  Wisdom pride has the best intentions.

Deluded pride is the sense of entitlement one feels when they put value on things outside of oneself.  It’s the arrogant manner and mistreatment of others based on the illusion that having these “superficial qualities” entitles one to be above another.

The quote I have included below explains deluded pride very well.

‘I got this today,’ they say ‘tomorrow I shall get that. This wealth is mine, and that will be mine too. I have destroyed my enemies. I shall destroy others too am I not like God I enjoy what I want. I am successful. I am powerful. I am happy. I am rich and well-born. Who is equal to me I will perform sacrifices and give gifts, and rejoice in my own generosity.’

This is how they go on, deluded by ignorance. Bound by their greed and entangled in a web of delusion, whirled about by a fragmented mind, they fall into a dark hell. Self-important, obstinate, swept away by the pride of wealth, they ostentatiously perform sacrifices without any regard for their purpose. Egotistical, violent, arrogant, lustful, angry, envious of everyone, they abuse my presence within their own bodies and in the bodies of others. – Bhagavad-Gita

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The sum of me can never be measured by anything outside of me. – VC

We will never be able to control every aspect of our lives and plan every person we encounter.  The only way we can prepare ourselves is to be mindful of the above and to not let these kinds of situations ruin our days and nights.   When your self worth is based on things outside of you, you will always be seeking, searching, upgrading.  It’s a constant insatiable urge that you have to fill a void.  Quite honestly, that is just very exhausting, expensive and time consuming. I have been there.  So, when you encounter someone like this, try to have compassion because a life of insatiable searching for your self worth is a very sad, long and lonely life.  So, take a deep breath, send them a silent blessing and walk away.

Needless to say, I walked out of that evening from the meditation center with a little smile on my face. xoVanilla Clouds Beadwork

I carefully source my beads and put a lot of personal touches into each piece.  My goal is to bring something well made and beautifully styled together.  Each piece is full of color and beautiful energy to partner with your soul and possibly your cute outfit 🙂  

Images above were taken by me at Massengale Park on St. Simons Island, GA.  Model is the gorgeous Chibuzoa Aguocha.  Chewey is modeling my beadwork.  

Vanilla Clouds is sold at Infuse Yoga here on the island and I am also selling on Etsy in my shop.  All my work is handmade and unique(so no two are alike).  

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