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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Little dreamers everywhere, it’s ok to change your stories!

Most of our life we spend our days fighting things we cannot control and this is what causes frustration in our lives.

We will develop unwavering attachments to  ideas or dreams and stick to them even when all signs tell us, it’s not for us.

Spiritually, it is said that we align ourselves with this story so much so, that this is what we identify as success and as a result, not achieving this goal becomes a big blow to our self worth.

As a child, we are exposed to many influences and this may sway us from finding our true passions.

The thought process may go something like this….

Long ago and buried in our unconscious is a student of life who mistakenly identified this idea to his/her success.  Day in and out, he/she aligned their lives with supporting ideas to push and keep this dream afloat and when it started to sink, they become depressed, disappointed and their self worth took a tremendous blow and it began to affect every other aspect of their lives.  It was too heartbreaking to give up that dream because he/she felt like the world around them would call them a failure but most importantly they were letting down that little dreamer inside and that is what hurt the most.

How many of us have attached ourselves to the wrong dreams early on for whatever reasons.  We went through all the rituals sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing yet still never feeling intrinsic happiness.  What are we doing wrong?

The truth is, little dreamer in you just wants to be happy and happy comes in all shapes and sizes.  The expectations we have set upon ourselves are sometimes unrealistic and many times based on someone else’s idea of success.  My gut tells me that we are surrounded with little dreamers who are in need of changing their stories.

So to all you little dreamers, it’s time to edit your story and tweak the pages or perhaps it’s time to change the story altogether! And guess what, all of that is ok and actually encouraged. It’s not too late!

xo

 

Images above are of the lovely Lauren Prince, friend and jewelry model for me from time to time.

 

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Allow Your True Self to Shine.

“This isn’t me!”  This is more like  me thinking… ‘what would John like?’  What was wrong with me during that time I dated John?”

Much of our life we spend trying to figure out who we are.  We get lost in others, we want to blend, we want to feel validated.

I was sometimes afraid to be myself for fear of judgment.. But why?  Why didn’t I feel good enough and why did the opinions of certain people affect me more than others.

Many times I would do things to please others.  I would pretend I liked things I didn’t.   Half the time I didn’t realize I was doing it.  All those paths led me to feeling empty again.

This realization of what we need to be happy doesn’t show itself in an obvious way.  I wish I could tell you that all you need to do is snap your fingers and decide that you are going to be true to yourself and miraculously all falls into place.  It’s just not that easy.  You will fall many times and at first getting back up is harder because you lose a little hope. Hope in yourself, hope in the process, but this is all a part of your personal transformation. You just don’t realize it at the time.

How do we get to a place of peace and acceptance of ourselves.  The answer is easy but the process is not easy.  Be present. 

In this very moment, be thoughtful, be kind, be conscientious. Be an example for those around you and ask for nothing in return. Let your acts of kindness be your own reward.   I love this line from the poem, The Loving One by W.H Auden. “If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me“.  Send out what you would love to receive. Send without attachment.

As the beautiful song from the movie Frozen says, Let it go.  Much of what we hold on to and analyze and review in our heads is unnecessary guilt and discomfort that we have already realized.  Why in the world do you think you deserve to feel that all over again? Let it go friends.

Do some spiritual work.  Having spiritual guidance and making it a habit of reading teachings to help keep you stay aligned and conscious of your actions is ridiculously important.

I remember when I was a young gal and I read out loud a spiritual quote from a book I was reading to my mom.  She looked at me and said, “well, that’s just common sense”.  Is it though?  I understand now as an adult, that this was in fact a defensive statement.  Parents don’t know everything but they want you to think they do.  We then pass this mentality on to our kids and make them stubborn creatures.  Thinking that you don’t need reminders, constant conditioning, moments that inspire you to continue on your path is foolish.

I remember reading a status update on Facebook one day from an acquaintance.  It read something along the lines of, “If you need inspirational books or quotes, you are weak”.  I really didn’t like reading that because I immediately personalized it but then when I went to his page, all of his statuses were negative and mean spirited and it all made sense.  We need moments to lift us.

The seeds you feed within yourself blossom. So if you are feeding seeds of jealousy by engaging in that behavior, that seed will rule.  If you perform acts of kindness, that seed within you will rule.  Be conscious of what you feed yourself. Be sure to feed the most virtuous seeds.

Be patient with yourself and be ok with being alone.  Understand that a lot of growth happens during these times of solitude. I certainly learn the most when it’s just me and my teachings or me in nature.

The beautiful thing that happens when you allow your true self to shine is that you begin to attract the same in others. xo

Inspired by a friend and our life talks.  <3

 

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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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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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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.
Vanilla Clouds

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!

SONY DSC

” 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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Doing what you want by your own rules….

Nothing in the world can bother you as much as your own mind.  I tell you.  In fact, others seem to bother you, but it is not others, it is your own mind. – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.vanilla Clouds

If we could only learn to control our minds and where our minds go when left unattended, we could quite possibly learn one of the most important ways to keep our peace on the inside.vanilla Clouds

The past few weeks, I was struggling with trying to relax.  I’ve had endless nights of tossing and turning and in some sort of dream/awake zone. I find myself going into some strange reenactment of a scene in my life and have no clue how or why I’m there.  It is so incredibly frustrating that I’ve almost dreaded going to sleep some nights.  Then one day last week, I heard this quote in a Buddhist lecture I was listening to and something clicked.

Separate the mind from the difficulty that surrounds it.Vanilla Clouds

There is a fine line between caring and immersing yourself into something that you cannot change or affect.   Finding that fine line is the key.  I placed this quote on a sticky and it’s now stuck to my monitor so I see it every day and it reminds me that stressing or worrying too much takes me to a place I don’t want to be.  I always thought being sensitive and intuitive to things and people was a great quality, but there is a healthy balance to everything. Sometimes, we are too sensitive and lose our strength in the ability to make rational and healthy decisions.Vanilla Clouds

Anything you want to change, requires a constant conditioning. But it’s ok, you are in good company, as we all have our little challenges we are trying to overcome 🙂

I got super creative and decided to do a self portrait sequence(above).  I’m at the age where I really feel comfortable expressing my creative ideas and not feeling self conscious about what others think. One other great benefit of getting older and wiser 🙂 Here’s to hoping you too find your inner power to do what you want by your own rules! xo

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