If you don’t put meaning into your life, the result is, your life will be meaningless.

There are so many,  but let’s start with these.  Quotes or reads from my 2015 studies that have influenced me and shown me a light along my path.  🙂  Happy New Year 2016!!

The blog title is my number 1 quote because although very simple, it’s also very deep.

  1. If you don’t put meaning into your life, the result is, your life will have no meaning.  The only way your life will have satisfying moments is if you seek to do things and spend time with those that feed your soul.Prop of Vanilla Clouds
  2. You are the owner of your own karma.  There is no surprise here, but also remember that the biggest importance with karma is intention.  What was your true intention behind an act.  Catching the flu isn’t the result of your karma coming back to get you.  It’s simply the result of coming into contact with the flu virus.PropofVanillaClouds
  3. People often meditate hoping that some light will go off and give them the answers they are seeking.  You meditate not to get things but to let things go.  Meditation is a way to let go of the baggage that we often carry around. It’s a way for us to have 10 minutes of non activity. It gives our brain a rest so that we can refresh and begin again with a free and less heavier mind. PropofVanillaClouds
  4. Often, our first response is to put someone down for doing something we don’t approve or feel is not helpful to the person. To really help someone or make progress in a situation, you must understand someone or something,  from the mind of the person and empathize with them.PropertyofVanillaClouds
  5.  Most of our lives, we feel shame and hide from our imperfections, feeling terrified that someone will call us on it and this discovery will be the worst possible thing.  The truth is, there is a big freedom that comes from understanding our flaws.  Once you understand, you can either embrace or improve them and that fear begins to disappear.

Model is our local Yogi and Dance Teacher, AshleyAnne Brown.

Article was inspired by the teachings of Ajahn Brahm.

 

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The difference between non violent protest and non action.

Ignoring something doesn’t help make the world a better place and according to a Buddhist teaching I listened to, I now understand the difference between non violence and non action.

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For a long time, I thought the best position to take was that of no comment.  Not because I didn’t have an opinion, but because I hated confrontation.  Then one day, while I was talking to my boyfriend who quite often brings up controversial topics,  I took my usual neutral position to which he grew flustered and basically said, that I couldn’t continue to ignore everything.  At that moment, it occurred to me that having no position isn’t necessarily the best way to be because people just assume that you live in a bubble and aren’t aware or don’t concern yourself with what is going on.  When that was in fact, so far from the truth because I care, actually, I care a lot.

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Is there a karmic result for not helping a situation?

When I work on some photo editing, quite often, I listen to either music or something spiritual depending on what I need most that day.  On this particular day, I listened to a spiritual talk called  ” the karmic result of not helping a situation“. Referring to many countries who are experiencing countless atrocities and being forced to flee their lands or convert to whatever the hostile side is demanding; one of the audience members asked the speaker,  “How can someone who’s ongoing nature and path is to peaceful, avoid being involved in controversial situations whatever scale they may be? “. “Is the answer to run away to avoid it? “

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Doing nothing to avoid conflict isn’t always the answer.

When I heard the response, it was as if another window was opened along the road to my spiritual path.  If you don’t stand for something, you will always be running.  Ignoring a situation that hurts others with the mentality that it’s not affecting you will almost guarantee you the karmic result of that same issue being at your doorstep one day.  I think it’s fair to say that in the most basic general way, every person deserves a chance at happiness. When that chance is taken away from someone, we all become at risk of it being taken from us.

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So, although the speaker did not encourage violence, he also did not encourage passivity.  

I could not even begin to suggest solutions in such horrific situations and I do not think there is any one solution to finding ways to help a situation like that but I certainly think about it often.

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In our own daily lives, just being an advocate for compassion can take a tiny bit of anger out of a conversation and create the scenario for a more open mind.  As we all know, the result of these hostile situations has created a domino effect in the migration of millions of displaced families to our own lands.  How would you feel if you were in the shoes of those families.  I personally cannot imagine.

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So my big lesson that day was not to always avoid conflict for fear of confrontation but instead to be courageous and risk adversity and hope that in the very least, with having done my own research, I can properly support my position and be respected for at least having one.  xo

Inspired by the talks of Ajahn Brahm.

Images above are of our local yogi, AshleyAnne Brown.

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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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Everyday you get up and do something you struggle with, you are winning.

“If you’re brave enough to risk…to temporarily live outside of your comfort zone for a short period of time, your big enough to win!”-Walt Whitman

When I read this line, I thought…wow, such a simple thought, but the reality is, that it’s not so simple to live out of your comfort zone.  We all have our crutches, our safety nets, our habits, our defense mechanisms to keep us in a place we built to keep us safe.  But safe doesn’t always help you grow, it doesn’t help you relate to other people and it certainly doesn’t help you learn to overcome your obstacles.   I am not saying that you need to be this huge adventure seeker, but having an open mind will at least expose you to new ideas, new experiences,  opportunities and choices.

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There are so many things that scare me and I have no idea why and I’m super embarrassed to even share some of them.  So, if you have ever thought this, please know you are not alone.  Every time we push ourselves to do something that scares us, gives us anxiety, makes us nervous, we are winning.  When I push myself, I also know that I am building healthy pride, integrity and self respect.  All of these things will help me face life’s challenges just a little bit better.

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When you do what you set out to do, that injured little soul inside you gets stronger, your inner score card gets more points 🙂

It doesn’t happen overnight and to be honest, new fears will continue to pop up as you continue to live outside of your comfort zone.  So, be kind to yourself and be patient with those around you because we all have fears we struggle with that we would never admit to for fear of being shamed.Vanilla Clouds

Sometimes I have found myself pushing a friend to take a chance that to me is an obvious opportunity but to them is very frightening.  I have to remind myself that we are all on our own path and we are all fighting our own inner battles.  I certainly don’t like it when I’m pushed.  It doesn’t mean that I will give up on that friend, it just means that I won’t attach any expectations to the advice I give her.  I will support her and continue to plant seeds of goodness, encourage her and empower her.  Every little bit helps.Vanilla Clouds

So, talk yourself into taking a baby step when no ones looking.  Push yourself even when your scared and I promise you, you will make yourself so proud and that is one of the best feelings to have. xo

Images above were taken by me on St.Simons Island this past week. The model is my friend Chibuzo Aguocha 🙂 I’m so lucky to have all these beautiful souls to pose for me!! More to come. xo

 

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When you stop being able to walk away from something not helping you is when you stop growing. – Ajahn Brahm

The most obvious example of this would be drinking excessively or taking drugs in excess and using these as escapism.  No one assumes they will become addicted when they first try it to distract themselves or numb themselves from the pain of life.  It’s the kind of thing that creeps up on you and if you’re not wise, will completely bewitch you and wreak havoc on anything and anyone around you.

However, this can also easily apply to an unhappy job situation, unhealthy habits,  and unhealthy relationships.Vanilla Clouds

When you are unable to walk away from something that is holding you back, you become trapped in your “cycle of life” or as Buddhists would say, trapped in “samsara“.  From my Buddhist studies, I have interpreted that anything that distracts you from your personal progress and path is a delusion.  So, the above would be considered delusions.  Now, it’s unlikely that my life will ever be clear of delusions entirely 🙂 but I hope to keep it as clear as possible so that I can continue to grow and be a positive influence to others.

Delusions: According to Buddhism, any unpeaceful, uncontrolled state of mind  is a delusion. All delusions are unrealistic minds arising from so called “inappropriate attention”, or thinking about things in a false way.whats left for you

It’s not always obvious when you have fallen into something that stops your growth.  I remember being in a relationship many years ago and at first it was very exciting and the relationship was actually bringing out a side of me that I never knew existed.  I was showing emotions and feeling this overwhelming love growing every day inside of me.  I felt validated that someone loved me and I had a new motivation to get up every day.   I completely understood the metaphor “lovesick” because you are nearly sick and up until this point, the only thing that had made me sick was food.  ;-/

When the relationship started to fail, I almost felt paralyzed.  It’s amazing how something can take a hold of you emotionally and it almost feel as if your legs were strapped into a roller coaster.  I know that some people become co-dependent to the ups and downs of that roller coaster, but I was simply hopelessly in love and I clearly loved the other person more than I did myself.  I was stuck and allowed this person to continue mistreating me.  I stopped growing.

lovenotcontrolLove without control.

It’s interesting what kind of wisdom and when the wisdom you have learned decides to show itself and just sort of smacks you over the head.  It may have always been there, but for some reason, we choose not to search for it.

One day, despite the heartache, it just hit me and I knew this person would not make a good husband, father, role model and at this point, I felt that I was betraying myself because his ethics and morals did not match mine.   If I had continued the relationship with this person, it may have not only stopped my growth, but actually made me compromise a lot more of myself and what I believed in.

so beautifully complicated

I am so glad that it clicked for me because despite children and marriage being so far away from that moment, I was still very sensitive to the qualities I needed in a partner.  I was also glad to get past that part of my life because that was only the first of many lessons I was to learn and continue to learn.  Emotional intelligence is so important.  In the most simplest terms, emotional intelligence is understanding your emotions and therefore understanding the emotions of others and the sooner you learn it, the better capable you are to make better decisions for yourself and others. xo

Images above were taken by me.  Model is Lauren Price and she is beautifully modelling my new jewels soon to be sold at Infuse Yoga Studio here on St. Simons Island, GA. 

 

 

 

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I don’t want what’s for her, I don’t want what’s for him, I want what’s for me.

We are all faced with situations or scenarios that sort of remind us of something we may have wanted or dreamed about and perhaps let go or didn’t pursue hard enough.  Sometimes, we really can’t control it but then…sometimes we can.Vanilla Clouds

I don’t want what’s for her, I don’t want what’s for him, I want what’s for me.

And the only way you can find what is for you, is if you work hard for it, work through the obstacles and then work past the suffering and setbacks. You have got to dig deep inside and learn who you are, why you are, what makes you tick and what makes you power down. Vanilla Clouds

“A lot of people get so hung up on what they can’t have that they don’t think for a second about whether they really want it.” -Lionel Shriver.

The problem with coveting the dreams of others is precisely that….they are the dreams of others.   Someone else’s dreams will never satisfy you deep down.  Being blinded by what society feeds you as important, will also never satisfy you deep down. Vanilla Clouds

“The thought of being whoever I want is a terrifying thing, because I have only ever been who everyone has wanted me to be.” – Dianna Hardy

The only way to really find that intrinsic happiness is to be true to yourself, find what you need to be happy and go after it without worrying what others might think.  It may take your whole life but at least you will live your life fighting for something that really matters to you…something that makes you grow inside a little bit each day. xo Vanilla Clouds

 Pictures above were taken at the John Gilbert Trail on St.Simons Island.  Still working from a group of selfies I shot with a new tripod I was trying out.  Getting creative and trying new things!!

 

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Patience is one of the best gifts we can teach ourselves and it is also one of the best gifts we can give to others.

This morning on my run, lots of ideas were popping into my head, which is why I love running so much.  I felt an overwhelming emotion of thanks but the thanks I felt was actually directed towards myself.
I was thanking myself for practicing patience over a situation that happened months ago.  The scenario had just popped into my head…I guess that was my subconscious telling me that I needed some sort of closure or reckoning.  It was a small situation I had with someone that really challenged me to remain neutral and not take the actions of the other person so personal and be offended. It was a conversation that challenged my ongoing conscious effort of having a peaceful, patient and compassionate heart.Vanilla Clouds Clearly it’s not easy, as it took me a couple of months to calm down and to realize not reacting was the right thing to do.  But I can assure you that had I reacted, I would have felt tremendous guilt because eventually, I would have had time to think about the fact that we are all fighting our own demons and although I may have a bit of a head start on mine, we are all not at the same pace or place in our journey.

So, just as I should have patience for myself in my growth, having patience for those around me is also important as they too are fighting demons. Vanilla Clouds

I don’t think anyone consciously wants to sabotage their own future and the relationships around them, but it is an obstacle some of us are fighting in our journeys.  So, when I really think about it, that small disruption in my day, was not about me, it was about that person and their ongoing journey.  The best that I can do, is to let it go and keep myself on my own path of progress.
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Choosing to keep someone in your life who continually chooses to make decisions that keep them in a downward cycle of life(when they themselves admit this) is another topic of discussion. Vanilla CloudsThe world is filled with angels, and some are strictly gifted in lifting others up.  It’s not an easy job and we all have our strengths, but at the very least, we can provide a bit of patience and compassion to those around us and just opt to remain quiet until we have the strength to respond in a better way.

Patience is one of the best gifts we can teach ourselves and it is also one of the best gifts we can give to others.

Images above were taken at the John Gilbert Trail in St.Simons Island, GA.  I added a cooling photo filter for a moody affect in photoshop!

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The Beauty of an Acorn…

The other day as I was riding my bike, I came across a bunch of acorns. These acorns were a bit older and the colors were fading to a pale gray or very light brown.  Acorns are one of the things that I actually really enjoy shooting because every single one of them is different.The Beauty of an Acorn-Vanilla Clouds

Before the summer began, Brian and I were riding our bikes along a back road and he was a bit ahead of me.  I saw a bunch of fresh acorns sprawled across the road and I stopped to snap them.  He looked back at me and saw me squatting on the ground and yelled, “what are you shooting?” I said, “acorns” he said, “why, they all look the same”.  I smiled.The Beauty of an Acorn-Vanilla Clouds

The Beauty of an Acorn-Vanilla CloudsIt’s moments like these, that remind me how different everyone’s eye is. I can see the varying shades of an acorn and identify beauty in the bark of an old tree.  I can spot a pattern of trees against a blue sky and love shooting the wood of carefully crafted bridges.  I feel so lucky that there are so many things that I allow to lift me up if I just pay attention.The Beauty of an Acorn-Vanilla Clouds

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“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
Mary Oliver

Pictures above were taken at the John Gilbert Nature Trail(first 3) and Jekyll Island (last 3) Golden Isles, GA Coast.

 

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Less blame and more understanding…the answer lies somewhere in the middle

I have had a lull of inspiration, it happens…sometimes life challenges you and you struggle inside or outside.  Your gut tells you, it’s best to just wait to be inspired,  instead of delivering something that’s not authentic.Vanilla Clouds Copyright

Recently I shot a local yoga instructor, AshleyAnn Brown, who I shamelessly promote every chance I get 🙂  Anyhow, I had been waiting for the right post to support the images..and lo and behold, I came across this poem in my studies about compassion.  Reading this poem, challenges me to mentally walk in someone else’s shoes. Something, I am lucky enough to never actually have to do.

There are so many topics that come to mind when I read this poem. For instance, the controversial topic of immigration.  I certainly don’t have the answer, but I do try to understand how it could feel to be born in a place that you had no control of,  raised in a corrupt, poor, poverty stricken environment and when presented with a 10% chance of having a better life, even if it means you may not survive but in your mind, those odds are still better than what you are dealt with everyday.  Well, I have to say, that I understand the mentality of taking that risk when there is nothing to lose.  I also understand that we cannot support the constant in flow of boats and truckloads of people. I understand that many of these visitors don’t pull their wait, don’t assimilate, don’t contribute and instead bring down the quality of communities as a result.  Not all, but I do understand that this happens.  So, what is the answer? I sure as heck don’t know it,…but those guys who have it real cushy, who never really have to deal with this kind of thing because they are so detached to communities…the guys we pay tons of money to make the big decisions, should certainly come up with one.  As one Buddhist teacher I follow has said, less blame and more understanding.  I think, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.Vanilla Clouds Copyright

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
loving.Vanilla Clouds Copyright

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.Vanilla Clouds Copyright

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Images above were taken by me on St Simons Island, GA.

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“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.” Rumi

Recently, when I turned 40, I had come to a pivotal point in my life.  I realized that no one else was going to fight for that little girl inside of me, but me.  This took years of reckoning.  All the while, I was accepting mediocre treatment in relationships, whether they were with friends or lovers. It included that utter feeling of inadequecy when I would attend interviews.  I would sit there and feel like I was being judged by this person who knew nothing about me except for the energy that I was exuding in the interview.  I don’t blame them, I blame myself because it was me who wasn’t believing in my potential.  These thoughts were formed from years of feeling like I had to blend in, because who I really was, wasn’t good enough to stand out.  All of these misconceptions that I had developed in my mind were what I based all of my decisions and feelings on.propertyofvanillaclouds

Generally speaking, I figure, by the time you are in your late teens and after you experience your first real heartbreak, you probably have formed your core character, demons and all.  That said, I was 23 when I had my first devastating heartbreak, so, according to my calculations, it has taken me 17 whole years to figure out that there is no one in this world that is responsible for validating my self worth but me.  It has also taken me this long to figure out that there is no one who will fight for me, but me.PropofVanillaClouds

Interestingly enough, I was speaking with a friend of mine, who admitted that she hadn’t figured this out until her mid-50’s.  I asked myself, what is it that allows some of us to come to terms with why and what is holding us back in life before others.  What is it that allows some of us to embrace the issues, accept them and seek to fix the misconceptions we based our decisions on-our entire lives before this point.  According to this article I read a few weeks ago, the answer is partially humility.

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Humility: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble.  Humility is not just about being the opposite of a cocky person, it’s actually admitting to yourself that you don’t know it all.  Allowing yourself to be vulnerable.  Telling yourself that you don’t have all the answers and that perhaps you could benefit from some insight regardless of where it came from. And that this is all ok.

I think when we are really genuine with ourselves, and choose to face the truth head on, we can un-do the damage that was done to us when we were innocent children.PropofVanillaClouds

True freedom comes when ego goes.

In our early forming years, we are tested so many times and even as an adult, I found myself challenged with fitting into various types of social settings.  If we can admit that doing drugs is not our thing and that the whole concept of fitting into a scene you don’t even like is bullshit… When we can acknowledge that getting drunk to the point of disaster is not what cool kids or adults do and even if it was, maybe we don’t want to be that kind of cool because sometimes it just doesn’t bring out the best in us.  If we can admit that very often after drinking, we hate the way it makes us feel on many levels and that we are embarrassed and have let ourselves down.  If we can believe in ourselves enough to not need the attention of every guy or girl in the room, or if we can just admit that we aren’t into designer clothes that everyone wears,..or if we can give up the need to compete with our knowledge on whatever topic because that’s how we validate our inteligence,..I mean the list goes on, and on.PropofVanillaClouds

Quoting this article I read from Tricycle magazine…I misplaced the author’s name: Spiritual change is precisely a process that is bigger than you.  You don’t control it.  You surrender to it.  You don’t reinvent yourself, you face yourself, and then you must let go of everything you find.

Once you do this, what you attract afterwards,  will surprise you and may even change your life for the better. xo

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