You don’t have to have a mental illness to kill yourself, you only need to be hopeless.

I know a ton of people who at one point in their life have been a hair away from wanting to end it all. Life is hard and as we evolve, we aren’t necessarily preparing ourselves with worthy armor.  We spend too much time trying to please our ego driven goals which most of the time leads us to disappointment.

This became evident to me when I read one of Eckart Tolle’s books years ago.  He says, ” We attach ourselves to a story, i.e., I’m on this earth to entertain people at all costs, if that doesn’t exist, I have no identity, no worth“.  This is an ego driven story. Sometimes, the story is very detrimental to our life and health. Spiritual work teaches us that our stories can be very damaging to our health but our ego addiction is very strong and this creates a big conflict within us.  We know it’s wrong, but we get weak, we need the attention, we need the fix, and we do it again, we regret it.. thus creating a cycle of self loathing.  We disappoint ourselves, we disappoint people we love. We get to a point where we just don’t think we are capable of figuring this out.  We are hopeless.

You don’t have to have a mental illness to kill yourself, you only need to be hopeless. The real question here is, how do we get out of hopelessness or better yet, how do we prevent ourselves from getting there to begin with? I have hit many lows in my life and I can only share what has helped me regain focus.  Hopefully some or all of these will remind you of what you should be focusing on and what may lead you to despair.

  • Stop chasing false Gods
  • Understand what your ego is driving and who the real essence of you is
  • Stay away from toxic situations and people
  • Stop looking outward for approval and validation
  • Be strong with your convictions
  • Fight for yourself
  • Learn to see the best parts of you and work on the not so great parts
  • Get spiritual, get intuitive, understand  who you are and what your demons are
  • Get Disciplined
  • Change your environment
  • Change your friends
  • Stop trying to control everything
  • Let things go
  • Let people love you
  • love those people back
  • be your own kind of beautiful
  • Everyone isn’t going to love you and be ok with that
  • Cherish those who do love you
  • Be kind
  • Be ok with moments of nothing
  • Be ok with moments of loneliness… those are the best times to reflect
  • Cry…cry a lot.
  • Forgive and also ask for forgiveness
  • Be compassionate
  • Let people in
  • Help someone and allow that to fill you with worth
  • Consider what you are contributing to your family and the legacy of the world. Fight harder.
  • and lastly, don’t give up.  I promise you that there are a million people out there who have been where you were and have come out of it and are so happy they stuck it out.

p.s. I am extremely saddened by the suicide of Anthony Bourdain.  There will always be conflicting feelings about suicides. In Buddhism, we are taught to have compassion for those who suffer so much that they see no other alternative but we also understand that when we are consumed with our own value and worth good or bad, that this is ego driven.  Most would characterize that as selfish.  Either way, it is extremely disheartening as so many people admired him and looked up to his achievements.  I sincerely hope his spirit is at peace but that people seek to understand and not relate to see this as an option.

 

 

 

 

 

Share

But what if we were confident in who we were….

#Life Lessons

If we were confident in who we were, we wouldn’t feel threatened by another person’s accomplishments.  So the answer lies within, doesn’t it?  Don’t resent or hate on those around you who have reached some type of success.  Don’t assume it was handed to them.  Just maybe, they worked really hard to get there. Instead, see it as an inspiration.  Allow it to light a fire below you. Go create your own success inside then out. xo

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

“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”.

 

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

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

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

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

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

vanilla Clouds

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).  

Share

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

 

Share