Honoring our personal gifts….

Ever thought to yourself, why would anyone work at a cancer clinic and face the inevitable imagined daily sadness one must feel knowing some relationships we build will eventually end at least in the physical form.Vanilla Clouds

Ever thought how someone could work with mentally handicapped children.  Caring for their simple needs as well as their not so simple needs all the while treating them as though they were completely capable.  How hard it is to disguise the sadness in your eyes.  I for sure am not good at this but I recognize the strength in those that are.Vanilla Clouds

Ever wondered how hard it is to be a drug counselor or therapist.  To always find the fine line between support and enabling.  The patience it must take to constantly remain neutral when someone slips and falls off the wagon, as they say.  To practice non judgement and to continue to deliver a strong methodology as well as show empathy. To keep yourself afloat when at times, the stress of their problems overwhelms you and challenges your own personal discipline.

Even the simple task as being a good and supportive friend is no easy job.  To put your own thoughts and needs aside and allow someone else’s world to be your own, even for just a minute, is not easy.Vanilla Clouds

People who are really good at these roles understand that you need to be able to put yourself in their shoes and hone the ability to see yourself, the way they would and need to see you so that you can identify how you can help them.  Complex… It’s a big challenge and certainly an unselfish challenge.  To understand what a cancer patient, an addict, a depressed person needs to see in order to grasp even a little hope in your eyes requires a strong human and emotional connection.  It’s quite a beautiful ability.  Seeing yourself  in their shoes, is also an opportunity for you to be humbled and perhaps appreciate the blessings in your own life.Vanilla Clouds

Many many times,  when I was less wise…I often thought to myself ….why would anyone choose to do such a hopeless, and at times, unbearably sad job.  Then I read an article one day which put into words what we all probably already know.  We all have gifts and those who take on these hard jobs, do those jobs, because they can. It is a gift to be able to walk the fine line between detachment and empathy/compassion and if this is your gift, it behooves you to share it.  It doesn’t mean that you are indestructible, for all of us need to feed our souls and refuel, it is part of honoring ourselves and our gifts. xo

Images above are of a shoot I did with Chibuzoa Aguocha and she is modeling some of my jewelry 🙂 visit my shop section to see the latest jewels I’ve made 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.

Vanilla Clouds

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

Vanilla Clouds

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.

Everydayyougetup

 

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.

Vanilla Clouds

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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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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Learn how to be happy even when life sucks….

When I first heard this statement, I thought, what? and how?   Buddhist philosophy teaches you to be compassionate, to have empathy and to live your life in a virtuous, kind way, only wishing and bestowing the best on others.  I’m sure at the root of most religions the true lesson is the same. However, Buddhism also teaches us to detach from results and have no expectations.  So, if you are like me, this is a very hard lesson to learn.  How do you balance caring for someone but not being affected by them when you feel like they have let you down.   This has probably been my hardest challenge.Vanilla Clouds

It’s certainly not an easy thing to do.  The other day, I was reading a story about a very well known actor who said he suffers from depression.  He said his issue is that he has a lot of empathy for others and finds himself immersed unwittingly in their issues and feels overwhelmed by their sadness. How awful 🙁 He said he over analyzes everything and this mentally wares him down.  Sound familiar?  Similar to my last blog post, the quote I heard a few weeks ago helped me put this whole scenario in a bit of perspective.  This is no easy task especially for someone who suffers from clinical depression but every little bit helps.  Post this sticky someplace where you can see it!

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” Learn to separate the mind from the difficulty that surrounds it” .

This is something I have to practice every day so that I can stay focused and determined.  I love how there are hidden answers (or maybe not so hidden) to our concerns and issues all around us, we only need to be present and aware and find that motivation to be better. xoVanilla Clouds

Vanilla CloudsAbove are some images I took this past weekend at St. Augustine beach while my bf was playing in a volleyball tournament.  Thanks to my anonymous models 🙂 xo

 

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