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

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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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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.

 

 

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Honoring our personal gifts….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Maya Angelou

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A couple of years ago, when I still lived in NY, there were many instances when I gave someone the power to upset me.  I was fully aware that my getting upset made no sense because this person did not even know me but yet I still could not deny that I let his words hurt me.  I was feeling a little bummed as I walked to the Monday Buddhist meditation lecture, but I almost knew that the teacher would say something, even if it was a little something…that would make me feel better.Vanilla Clouds Jewelry

Anyway, the teacher put a name to something I knew existed but could not identify by definition but I always felt was the case when a person acted this way.  What I am referring to is deluded pride versus wisdom pride.Vanilla Clouds
You know the value of every article of merchandise, but if you don’t know the value of your own soul, it’s all foolishness. – 
Rumi

Wisdom Pride vs. Deluded Pride.

Wisdom pride, as I understand it…is pride based on wisdom.  For example, I know not to do certain things and may give you advice, not because I know it all but because I have done something similar and learned from my mistakes, and would if possible, like to spare you the hurt, pain and disappointment associated with this action.   You should feel a sense of pride when you have accomplished something fully knowing that you have done your very best.  Wisdom pride has the best intentions.

Deluded pride is the sense of entitlement one feels when they put value on things outside of oneself.  It’s the arrogant manner and mistreatment of others based on the illusion that having these “superficial qualities” entitles one to be above another.

The quote I have included below explains deluded pride very well.

‘I got this today,’ they say ‘tomorrow I shall get that. This wealth is mine, and that will be mine too. I have destroyed my enemies. I shall destroy others too am I not like God I enjoy what I want. I am successful. I am powerful. I am happy. I am rich and well-born. Who is equal to me I will perform sacrifices and give gifts, and rejoice in my own generosity.’

This is how they go on, deluded by ignorance. Bound by their greed and entangled in a web of delusion, whirled about by a fragmented mind, they fall into a dark hell. Self-important, obstinate, swept away by the pride of wealth, they ostentatiously perform sacrifices without any regard for their purpose. Egotistical, violent, arrogant, lustful, angry, envious of everyone, they abuse my presence within their own bodies and in the bodies of others. – Bhagavad-Gita

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The sum of me can never be measured by anything outside of me. – VC

We will never be able to control every aspect of our lives and plan every person we encounter.  The only way we can prepare ourselves is to be mindful of the above and to not let these kinds of situations ruin our days and nights.   When your self worth is based on things outside of you, you will always be seeking, searching, upgrading.  It’s a constant insatiable urge that you have to fill a void.  Quite honestly, that is just very exhausting, expensive and time consuming. I have been there.  So, when you encounter someone like this, try to have compassion because a life of insatiable searching for your self worth is a very sad, long and lonely life.  So, take a deep breath, send them a silent blessing and walk away.

Needless to say, I walked out of that evening from the meditation center with a little smile on my face. xoVanilla Clouds Beadwork

I carefully source my beads and put a lot of personal touches into each piece.  My goal is to bring something well made and beautifully styled together.  Each piece is full of color and beautiful energy to partner with your soul and possibly your cute outfit 🙂  

Images above were taken by me at Massengale Park on St. Simons Island, GA.  Model is the gorgeous Chibuzoa Aguocha.  Chewey is modeling my beadwork.  

Vanilla Clouds is sold at Infuse Yoga here on the island and I am also selling on Etsy in my shop.  All my work is handmade and unique(so no two are alike).  

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Everyday you get up and do something you struggle with, you are winning.

“If you’re brave enough to risk…to temporarily live outside of your comfort zone for a short period of time, your big enough to win!”-Walt Whitman

When I read this line, I thought…wow, such a simple thought, but the reality is, that it’s not so simple to live out of your comfort zone.  We all have our crutches, our safety nets, our habits, our defense mechanisms to keep us in a place we built to keep us safe.  But safe doesn’t always help you grow, it doesn’t help you relate to other people and it certainly doesn’t help you learn to overcome your obstacles.   I am not saying that you need to be this huge adventure seeker, but having an open mind will at least expose you to new ideas, new experiences,  opportunities and choices.

Everydayyougetup

 

There are so many things that scare me and I have no idea why and I’m super embarrassed to even share some of them.  So, if you have ever thought this, please know you are not alone.  Every time we push ourselves to do something that scares us, gives us anxiety, makes us nervous, we are winning.  When I push myself, I also know that I am building healthy pride, integrity and self respect.  All of these things will help me face life’s challenges just a little bit better.

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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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Less blame and more understanding…the answer lies somewhere in the middle

I have had a lull of inspiration, it happens…sometimes life challenges you and you struggle inside or outside.  Your gut tells you, it’s best to just wait to be inspired,  instead of delivering something that’s not authentic.Vanilla Clouds Copyright

Recently I shot a local yoga instructor, AshleyAnn Brown, who I shamelessly promote every chance I get 🙂  Anyhow, I had been waiting for the right post to support the images..and lo and behold, I came across this poem in my studies about compassion.  Reading this poem, challenges me to mentally walk in someone else’s shoes. Something, I am lucky enough to never actually have to do.

There are so many topics that come to mind when I read this poem. For instance, the controversial topic of immigration.  I certainly don’t have the answer, but I do try to understand how it could feel to be born in a place that you had no control of,  raised in a corrupt, poor, poverty stricken environment and when presented with a 10% chance of having a better life, even if it means you may not survive but in your mind, those odds are still better than what you are dealt with everyday.  Well, I have to say, that I understand the mentality of taking that risk when there is nothing to lose.  I also understand that we cannot support the constant in flow of boats and truckloads of people. I understand that many of these visitors don’t pull their wait, don’t assimilate, don’t contribute and instead bring down the quality of communities as a result.  Not all, but I do understand that this happens.  So, what is the answer? I sure as heck don’t know it,…but those guys who have it real cushy, who never really have to deal with this kind of thing because they are so detached to communities…the guys we pay tons of money to make the big decisions, should certainly come up with one.  As one Buddhist teacher I follow has said, less blame and more understanding.  I think, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.Vanilla Clouds Copyright

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
loving.Vanilla Clouds Copyright

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.Vanilla Clouds Copyright

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Images above were taken by me on St Simons Island, GA.

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Learn how to be happy even when life sucks….

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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What’s meant to be is not what’s meant to be. What’s meant to be is what you make it be!

How incredibly paralyzing is the statement, “What’s mean to be is what’s meant to be“?  When I hear someone say that, what I hear is, I don’t deserve to get what I want or worse, I’m too afraid to go after what I want, and so, I’ll just be complacent and hope no one notices. I will tell everyone that I actually believe I have no control over my fate and I hope they believe it because the thought of taking fate into my own hands terrifies me.  Sound familiar?  The next time you hear someone say that, you be sure to tell them….Vanilla Clouds

Nothing is meant to be, you make it be, your fate is not scribbled on some ledger.  Don’t accept patterns in your life that make you unhappy.  And don’t settle for living vicariously through other peoples happy lives.Vanilla Clouds

Find the strength to go through the ugly moments when you feel alone, hopeless and you feel like maybe you took things one step too far,…it’s when you get over that summit, that you realize that you have been settling this whole time and you will kick yourself for not taking charge sooner.  When you embark on the unknown, there is always fear, that is perfectly normal, but don’t let fear stop you. Vanilla Clouds

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No one is born perfect, we all have strengths and weaknesses, but the question is, what are you doing with what you got? VANILLA CLOUDSSONY DSC
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Vanilla Clouds

Photo’s above are a bunch of random pictures I took at this beach this past weekend!  I’m officially a creeper at the beach with my zoom lens :-p

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