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

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

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

Love and Transformation

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

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

Fake it until you make it.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Share

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

 

Share

Even when she enters hell, she will lighten up hell with the sound of laughter.

Vanilla Clouds - Capacity

Your tiny heart does have the capacity to grow if you surround it with light and depth.

In Buddhist philosophy, it is said that a person who is able to provide a community or group of friends with unconditional friendship, love and understanding, is skilled in the Base of Capacity.  How wonderful to be gifted with Capacity.  We all struggle with life’s up’s and down’s and this isn’t something you achieve overnight.  It is a practice, an understanding, a life mission to choose to be peaceful in times when it’s easier to join the chaos.

For you my friend, I wish Capacity. xo

 

Share

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

Share

You have accomplished a lot in this life so far, take a second and allow yourself to receive that encouragement.

Always remember who you are and where you are, are different things. You are not stuck, it’s simply time for a detour. Vanilla Clouds Photography

During our time as little people on this earth, very often, we see a glimpse of who we want to be in other people.  I can think back and see snippets, quick flashes of images I memorized in my head of woman I admired and who I aspired to be.  Sometimes these woman were just illusions of what I thought it was to be an important adult and sometimes these woman were symbols of freedom and self expression.  Sometimes these woman were symbols of strength, discipline and success.Vanilla Clouds

If you think back to when you were a little child, I’m sure you can imagine what I am referring to.  I recall many times thinking while traveling on the subway in my teens on route to my internship at Time Warner how beautiful and successful some of the woman looked.  It was the peak of the 80’s power suit.  I was in awe of how  focused they were and how strong they looked in their carefully coordinated outfits and how beautifully their makeup was applied.  I would always think to myself, will I ever get there. Is that even palpable?  Then one day 10 years later, while working at a Hedge Fund in NY, it hit me, that I was that woman but I now had other aspirations… and thus, that is how life is.Vanilla Clouds Photography

Many times we reach points in our life that we have aspired to and don’t give ourselves the proper credit or pat on the back.  We don’t consciously acknowledge that we worked towards something and we earned it and so this is a moment to be proud of.  Despite the fact that we will have many aspirations in life, and some may seem nonessential to us as we become wiser in life, it is still important to acknowledge these accomplishments.  Vanilla Clouds Photography

Recognizing that we have grown and that we have completed something we set out to do strengthens our self worth.  Continuously setting new aspirations, will continue to polish us, to hone our wisdom and hopefully make us better humans. And the world could always use better humans. xo

Modelling my jewels is a dear friend Lauren Prince.  Taken at Gould’s Inlet, SSI GA May 2016.

Share

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.

 

Share

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.

PropVanillaClouds

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.

PropVanillaClouds

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? “

PropVanillaClouds

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.

PropVanillaClouds

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.

PropVanillaClouds

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.

PropVanillaClouds

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.

Share

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.

 

 

Share

Shop local today and spread the love!!!

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

Share

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

 

Share