You don’t have to have a mental illness to kill yourself, you only need to be hopeless.

I know a ton of people who at one point in their life have been a hair away from wanting to end it all. Life is hard and as we evolve, we aren’t necessarily preparing ourselves with worthy armor.  We spend too much time trying to please our ego driven goals which most of the time leads us to disappointment.

This became evident to me when I read one of Eckart Tolle’s books years ago.  He says, ” We attach ourselves to a story, i.e., I’m on this earth to entertain people at all costs, if that doesn’t exist, I have no identity, no worth“.  This is an ego driven story. Sometimes, the story is very detrimental to our life and health. Spiritual work teaches us that our stories can be very damaging to our health but our ego addiction is very strong and this creates a big conflict within us.  We know it’s wrong, but we get weak, we need the attention, we need the fix, and we do it again, we regret it.. thus creating a cycle of self loathing.  We disappoint ourselves, we disappoint people we love. We get to a point where we just don’t think we are capable of figuring this out.  We are hopeless.

You don’t have to have a mental illness to kill yourself, you only need to be hopeless. The real question here is, how do we get out of hopelessness or better yet, how do we prevent ourselves from getting there to begin with? I have hit many lows in my life and I can only share what has helped me regain focus.  Hopefully some or all of these will remind you of what you should be focusing on and what may lead you to despair.

  • Stop chasing false Gods
  • Understand what your ego is driving and who the real essence of you is
  • Stay away from toxic situations and people
  • Stop looking outward for approval and validation
  • Be strong with your convictions
  • Fight for yourself
  • Learn to see the best parts of you and work on the not so great parts
  • Get spiritual, get intuitive, understand  who you are and what your demons are
  • Get Disciplined
  • Change your environment
  • Change your friends
  • Stop trying to control everything
  • Let things go
  • Let people love you
  • love those people back
  • be your own kind of beautiful
  • Everyone isn’t going to love you and be ok with that
  • Cherish those who do love you
  • Be kind
  • Be ok with moments of nothing
  • Be ok with moments of loneliness… those are the best times to reflect
  • Cry…cry a lot.
  • Forgive and also ask for forgiveness
  • Be compassionate
  • Let people in
  • Help someone and allow that to fill you with worth
  • Consider what you are contributing to your family and the legacy of the world. Fight harder.
  • and lastly, don’t give up.  I promise you that there are a million people out there who have been where you were and have come out of it and are so happy they stuck it out.

p.s. I am extremely saddened by the suicide of Anthony Bourdain.  There will always be conflicting feelings about suicides. In Buddhism, we are taught to have compassion for those who suffer so much that they see no other alternative but we also understand that when we are consumed with our own value and worth good or bad, that this is ego driven.  Most would characterize that as selfish.  Either way, it is extremely disheartening as so many people admired him and looked up to his achievements.  I sincerely hope his spirit is at peace but that people seek to understand and not relate to see this as an option.

 

 

 

 

 

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But what if we were confident in who we were….

#Life Lessons

If we were confident in who we were, we wouldn’t feel threatened by another person’s accomplishments.  So the answer lies within, doesn’t it?  Don’t resent or hate on those around you who have reached some type of success.  Don’t assume it was handed to them.  Just maybe, they worked really hard to get there. Instead, see it as an inspiration.  Allow it to light a fire below you. Go create your own success inside then out. xo

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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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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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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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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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