An act of kindness enriches you and me.

Not much frustrates me these days, but I have noticed in the past few months that a few scenarios have brought me a bit of unease.  It has taken me until now to truly examine what it is about this situation that was bugging me.VanillaCloudsPhotography

Very often, many of us are raised to be quite proud, but what is the real drive behind you being so proud.  Do you refuse acts of kindness? Do you refuse simple help from others? Do you shun or immediately dismiss advice or comments from others without even listening?

One day, I offered a very nice and kind friend a relief from her everyday life. I offered to spend a very tiny amount of money so that she could participate in something with me that I thought would help or at the very least provide some laughter.  She immediately refused but after my insisting, she gave in, only to cancel on me at the very last minute.   I was slightly frustrated but more so disappointed.VanillaCloudsPhotography

You see, when we offer to do nice things, it’s actually an escape from our own selfishness.  My doing a nice things allows me to work on my karma by doing something selfless and kind for someone else.  When I see an opportunity to do something nice for someone in need, it fills me with a very priceless joy.  This is a joy that no one can take from me because it’s a feeling and not an object.  Once we re-condition our minds to understand that how we interact with others is the real gift and blessing to them, we improve our relationships all around us.VanillaCloudsPhotography

The other question here is, why won’t you allow someone to do something nice for you.  Does this make you feel like you have failed in being self sufficient? Why is it so important for you to do it all?  Do you then feel indebted to someone if they do something nice for you?  Are you focused too much on the ego?  All of these are stories and labels that you have conditioned yourself to believe.VanillaCloudsPhotography

A little self reflection told me that at one point in my life, I was also too proud and refused kindness, advice and help.  For many of the reasons I mentioned above. How foolish!!  I didn’t know it all then and I certainly don’t know it all now.  We can always learn from other wise souls and it behooves us to be sponges to those who have learned their lessons a bit quicker than we have.  I also feel that  many times we are so wrapped up in proving who we think we are or want to be, that we mistake kindness for competition or giving in to the act of kindness as a sign of defeat.VanillaCloudsPhotography

From now on, let’s accept an act of kindness as exactly that, “an act of kindness”.  Let’s not look too much into it and instead, allow it to inspire us to also do kind things for others.  Re-condition yourself to acknowledge that giving someone a good memory or feeling is far more valuable than a physical object.  And once you really connect with this idea, you will begin to feel the goodness flow through you when you do something nice for someone.  You will really understand the value of it.VanillaCloudsPhotography

So, next time someone offers to do something kind for you, do something kind for them, and please accept it, it could really help their karma. xo

Photoshoot with the sweet children of Bethany Preston. Shot at Gould’s Inlet, SSI, GA

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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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I pray that I never forget how good it makes me feel to champion others.

Planted goodness is the only thing that you can take with you wherever you go.  No one can take the good deeds you do away from your heart.  Let them enrich you.

The other day while I was in this Barre Toning class that I recently became obsessed with, I remember feeling out of sorts.  Working out is one of  my favorite stress releases and unfortunately, the weather has kept me trapped inside as my only mode of transportation to the gym I belong to, is my bike at the moment.  And my golden rule is, when the temperature drops below 45 degrees, it’s officially too cold for this lady to ride her bike!  Actually, it’s not even the temperature that is the issue, it’s really the wind against my face that becomes intolerable.Vanilla Clouds Note Card

Anyhow,…I digress.  The new studio I enrolled in just for these classes, happens to be about 50 feet from my apartment, so, it’s quite convenient.

I actually haven’t taken a class in while.  I am ok doing free style dance moves but when you ask me to count and move and step at the same time, something in my body goes wrong.  So, as usual,  my uncoordinated butt was having a hard time following the routines and to boot, I’m blessed with the sweat gene, meaning I sweat more than anyone in the class within the first 5 minutes of even starting. Lovely!Vanilla Clouds The Fall NC

Despite what seems like me complaining, I actually really enjoyed the class and it certainly kicked my butt.  I kept to myself since I really didn’t know anyone and as I walked out, this older woman who was way more coordinated than I was, tapped my shoulder and said, your hair looks so beautiful, I couldn’t help but stare at it since I was sitting behind you.  Meanwhile, my hair was in a bun but the Buddhist teacher I listen to says, never deny a compliment, you do yourself a disservice.  So, compliment registered, check.Vanilla CloudsTransform Adversities NC

Now I know you’re thinking, that that little compliment doesn’t seem like a big deal but the thing is, even the strongest person has bad days and although they shield it with a smile or a grimace, many people are suffering inside.  I’m certainly not the strongest, actually, I’m a wimp and sometimes, I need a little boost just like everyone else who doesn’t like to admit it does.  This simple moment just reminded me that sometimes all it takes is a kind gesture to make someone’s day. It may require you to leave your comfort zone for a bit but it’s such an honorable thing to do.  So this blog post is about kindness.

I pray that I never forget how good it makes me feel to champion others.  I pray that I always remember how it pleases my heart to know that I made someone’s day just a little bit better.

Post cards above can be found here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/VanillaClouds?section_id=16512533&ref=shopsection_leftnav_7

 

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Escaping the prison you created….

I am committed to having better days and some day, I hope to be a treasure chest of wisdom but as I’ve learned and shared in past posts, everything in life must be cultivated if you want it to be better or to continue on the right path.  However you cultivate it, is subjective to what truly inspires you.  But there are days when I create my own prison and don’t even realize it.  Do you? SONY DSC

You escape from a prison by deciding that you want to be there.  When I first heard this phrase by Ajan Braham (google him :)) I thought, what? Why would I choose to be in a prison and how could choosing to be in my prison theoretically allow me to escape?  Well it takes a lot of spiritual guidance to get to this point or even to understand this point.  I am still grasping it myself.SONY DSC SONY DSC

Scenario 1: I come home, seemingly in a good mood expecting my significant other to know where I am coming from mentally and what I would like him to say.  He of course is in his own frame of mind and says something completely different from what I want him to say.  Albeit, sometimes our partners can say things that are insensitive in a very innocent way, nonetheless, we take offense to it because we don’t want to see it in that innocent way.  It’s almost as if I am choosing to be offended, hence, creating my own prison. SONY DSC

Why would I do this? I asked myself this one day after a terrible fight with the person who’s heart I cherish.  All I could come up with was,..there must have been a bad experience in my mind that I am trying to recreate to keep me suffering.  It’s as if I am fighting against myself.  When things become difficult, our first instinct is to run away from this fight, to in a sense “escape the prison” because it feels absolutely awful.   But what if we are tired of running, then in this case, we decide to be there.  I decide to fight through the uncomfortable feeling. I decide to swallow my pride, push my ego aside because I want to understand why this fight happened.  You escape from a prison by deciding that you want to be there. SONY DSC

Never believe you have to be comfortable to be free.   There is always going to be a rough phase right before your period of epic growth. Much of life you cannot change, but you have a chance of being free if you change your attitude and this is something you can certainly change. SONY DSCSONY DSC
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The images above were taken at Jekyll Island, GA.

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Epic growth occurs in an ocean moment….

A couple of weekends ago was a warm one here for us.  I was able to go out to the ocean and spend some time shooting the waves. After every couple of shots, I would examine my progress and see if my camera focused in on a good part of the wave.  I can’t tell this immediately because I usually crouch down really low and shoot straight into the ocean, without really seeing what I am shooting.VanillaClouds Sometimes, this is a complete failure, but sometimes, it’s a wonderful surprise.  Actually, I shouldn’t say it’s a complete failure because without those failures, the successes wouldn’t feel as good and I would not be as inspired to continue striving for a better picture.Vanilla Clouds

At times, there are people around which at first used to make me a bit shy but I am getting better at phasing my surroundings out.  I understand that their curiosity gets the best of them sometimes and I hear giggles, which would have really bothered me a few years ago, but now, I just smile to myself when I hear it and carry on. As I shoot, I remind myself to really try to absorb the moment, enjoy it, look around, think it through and try a new way of shooting. Vanilla Clouds

That night as I lay in bed thinking of the millions of things I want to do in the future, just as I do every night, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.  I sometimes try to pack my head and consequently my days with so many ideas and goals that I don’t allow myself to enjoy what is happening right now.  As a result, it creates anxiety within me, which is not pleasant for me or for anyone around me.  I thought to myself, how can I be more positive and appreciative of the moment. Vanilla Clouds

Less is more. When I think back, for much of my life, I had the mentality of fitting in as much as possible but what I realize now is that when I had 4 distinctive plans in one day, I barely remembered what happened with each friend or event. I was so busy trying to be busy that I wasn’t absorbing the time spent at these events or with the people.  I now believe this is essential in having a continuous happy life, i.e., taking the time, as they say, “to smell the roses“.  Vanilla Clouds

When I got home that day after shooting at the beach, I reviewed about 50 shots of just the ocean waves. I carefully reviewed them, examined the colors, the depth, and I really allowed the joy that shooting nature gives me to fill me up and I found myself feeling gitty. SONY DSC

I heard this simile regarding this same idea.  It related the process of enjoying the moment to developing a photograph via the old fashioned process of utilizing Polaroids. in the 1920’s Polaroid photographs were produced by instant cameras and were developed in a dark room by placing the film in a series of developer liquids, then allowing the images to dry in the dark room. The best photographs were the ones that you took your time with and allowed to fully absorb the chemical process.  These photo’s were the ones that truly absorbed the potential of the image.  These photographs were the brightest, the most clear, the most rich.  I remember my dad had a Polaroid Camera when I was a child.  It was really quite exciting but I do recall there was a waiting period to see the final picture and any premature touching would disrupt the process. Vanilla Clouds

The slower you go, the deeper you feel. So for the past two weeks and now as a daily process, I remind myself to smell the ocean air, to listen to the waves, to feel the sand, the sunshine, the rain, the grass, the laughter, to listen to the kindness and let it touch me, to really listen to my friends, to take the time to feel the fur of the kitties roaming my community, to smell the food I’m cooking, to smell my boyfriends cologne while he is sitting next to me, to laugh at his jokes and most importantly to ignore anything around me that tries to steal my peace. Vanilla Clouds

I used to feel incredibly guilty about taking a nap on a beautiful day or simply taking some time to do absolutely nothing.  I have the wisdom and the confidence now to understand that when I feel guilty, I am identifying with negative thoughts instead of my potential.  The truth is, it’s in those “nothing” moments that the greatest ideas come to me.    When I crave a nap, I realize it is because my mind needs a refresh and that is a good thing and it’s also important that I listen to it. The images above were taken at East Beach on the island.

Below I got a big creative and turned our ocean into a Turquoise Caribbean sea, just for fun! Vanilla Clouds

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Meaning in life comes from what each of us do, to make it mean something…

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Meaning in life comes from what we each do.  Have you ever given this sentence much thought.  Although this seems like an obvious observation, how often do we actually take responsibility for our lives and what we do to enrich it.  So, that infamous statement, “Life sucks, and then you die” actually means, we have failed to give meaning to the moments, days, months and years of our lives.  Who shall we blame that on?  I love this quote “ we are all unique artists with the ability to create our own masterpiece “  vanilla clouds

This holds true to our lives as well. We are all human and we have our moments of feeling like we have been dealt a bad set of cards but the truth is,  we are only sad because we are holding onto what we thought our lives would be.  We are holding on to what we thought would give our lives value based on what we have read, or watched or heard since we were little ones.  vanilla clouds

But what if you let go and just forgot about what you have read and what you had heard as a little child…and you stop caring about what your friends paths were or your cousins..and you just decided to let your path be what it is and you truly relinquished control (I love this saying!!).  vanilla clouds

Do you think that if you let go of the way you thought things should be,  perhaps you would be more open to other opportunities, perhaps you would see or try things, you never considered and this might just be a wonderful fulfilling thing as opposed to living someone else’s dream, expectations, story. vanilla clouds
Live your own unique life, stop worrying about where you thought you should have been or could have been.  A Buddhist teacher taught me one day that guilt and shame only hold us back because they don’t let you progress spiritually or physically for that matter.  You can’t move forward if you feel like crap.  So let go of it…because it is never too late to start a new journey.

Photos above our images of a friend daughter.  She is utterly photogenic and such a joy to shoot 🙂

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Making your house, your home….

Inside:What if we had never met?
I’ve been doing a little research on the importance of making your house, or apartment, your home.  By this I mean, making it someplace you want to come home to, a place that is symbolic of you, a place that makes you feel good deep inside.  A place that when you wake up, you actually smile and think to yourself, this feels beautiful.   I always aim to make my place feel this way,..having a spiritual connection to my surroundings is very important to me.  Having a place that nurtures my talents, needs and goals has become an essential part of my life.   So, if you are like me…and your house is your home or you want to make it your home.  Here are some tips, I’ve lifted from Oprah’s site:
Oprah says there are 3 rules that should guide you when making your house your own:
1. Everything you own should have value, either because it’s functional or beautiful or you just love it. I fally prey to this often. I’m a super impulse buyer and if I feel somethings speaks to my nature, I immediately want to buy it, even if I have no space for it, or have too much of the same, etc.. I’t becomes harder when you’re the kind of person that has many interests.  I was always very crafty, so by the time I had hit my mid-twenties, I had sewing crafts, painting tools, jewelry making gadgets, how to books on everthing, etc.  Through the years, I have toned down my impulsiveness thankfully and now just focus on one kind of art at a time although there is a large trunk under my bed filled with a few things I have not been able to part with. 🙂
2. Every item needs a place where it “lives.”   I think this is super important and I am definitely guilty of this especially with my mail.  I do know that when I spend an extra 10 minutes hanging things up, sorting the mail, doing the dishes, picking up random things I’ve tossed around during the week, I feel so much more at peace.  I almost feel like I have it together, and if someone happened to come by, they would be impressed with my place’s tidy appearance 🙂  Afterall, your place is a representation of you..and if you’re living in a cluttered place, there’s a chance that you might portray this to the outside world as well in some way or another.  It may not necessarily physically, but perhaps in the choices you make or the way you process things.  It’s something to think about.
3. Focus on one thing at a time.   We have all probably been guilty of this,..we start one project, get can’t afford to finish, get distracted, then begin another project, stop that, go back to the first, etc.   Having uncompleted projects creates clutter and is just all around unsettling.  It’s important to see things from start to finish, it builds a sense of accomplishment within you.   Luckily, this is one trait I am not too bad at.  I try and set tangible goals so that I can get them done.  It’s probably my impatience that doesn’t allow me to leave things undone, but in these cases, I think my impatience may be helpful.
The above postcard is one of my own postcards.  If you are interested in it, please feel free to email me at josefina@vanillaclouds.com.
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“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi

I came across this quote and I thought it was a very non-selfish and beautiful way to look at the idea of losing someone.  And well, I am always looking for beautiful and challenging ways of letting go of resentment and other feelings that I don’t need!   I think I might almost be there, but alas, there is always more to learn.

It’s always hard letting someone go that we have loved but it’s also hard letting someone go that we had a whole lot of like for because unless the ending was mutual, most of the time, one of you is left with the longing of what could have been.   Whatever the reason is that this union ended, we cannot tell the heart to just move on.  It just doesn’t work like that.  As we get older, we understand that there is more to a match than a hot steamy make out session.

But here’s a thought….

How wonderful would it be if we were able to, and I know this is stretching it, but if we were to sort of pleasingly accept that someone we loved, will now be in a better place or be in a better position or be happier and that we could honor our sadness but honestly be happy for them. 

How can we let go and move forward.

It is ok to mourn the loss of a relationship but don’t let fear force you to hold on to something that you should let go.  Don’t allow yourself to be a victim but instead be empowered. This is a very important time in your life because the minute you decide that you aren’t going to settle for less than you deserve, is the minute you become a stronger and empowered person with a healthier sense of self worth.  I promise you that all of these qualities bring your closer to finding a compatible mate.  Break ups happen for many reasons, so at the same time, understand that the other person is also on their own path and are themselves being pulled in many directions as they navigate this life as well. Develop compassion for yourself and develop compassion for them for no one who allows themselves to love is protected from a broken heart at some point in their life. For what is the purpose of life after all, if not to love.

Quote above is from, Mitch Albom’s, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Inspired by a tremendous heartbreak. No amount of wisdom can prevent a heart from hurting but it can provide you with a sense of understanding and ability to apply the lessons you have learned through the years.

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