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

Vanilla Clouds

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
Vanilla Clouds
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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One day you will figure out what you really enjoy doing, and you will kick yourself for not doing it sooner.

Life is funny.  You grow up simply being drawn to what you enjoy and don’t think much of it.  You may do it every day all day and never tire of it.  Then you hit the point in age where you start caring too much about what others think of you, and you desparately try to fit in.  It’s during this time, that you forget who you really are and what the real you truly enjoys doing.  You bury inside, what you need to be happy.  You forget it, it gets lost… Then because we replaced who we really are with this false persona, we attract all the wrong people and can’t figure out how we ended down this road.Vanilla Clouds

One day, it hits you, that something is missing…and you find yourself craving the things you used to do, like reading romance novels, painting with gouache, playing volleyball, running, doing makeup, writing, photography, etc.  You find that when you are doing these things, you are intrinsically happy, hours go by and you haven’t noticed, you feel revived, worthy, you have a sense of purpose, even if you are not that good at it, you don’t care.Vanilla Clouds

The hardest part about this realization is, you think to yourself, if doing this makes me so happy and content, why didn’t I start sooner?I am not sure my younger self would have listened had someone shared this wisdom with me, but I certainly would have wished I had.
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We spend so much time chasing falsities in life when we could be living our truths.  So, if you are that person who buried your interests away and have now re-discovered them, bravo! better late than never.  But if you are that person trying really hard to fit in and compromising who you are and what you are, then wake up and smell the coffee because living this way will never truly deep down inside, lead you back to that path of happiness. xoVanilla Clouds

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“There is always a gift in any challenge.” Bronnie Ware

So, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to become a cleaner and more creative cook.  Now, I would like to say that this was a 100% internal growth sort of revelation, but the truth is, my body has built an intolerance to preservatives and bacteria produced in aged and fermented foods.  Such foods are high in histamine production and basically, my histamine intolerance is non-existent.

Essentially, my body cannot break down histamine because I am lacking the proper enzymes.  It’s rather confusing but I know that I need to stay away from foods that are high in histamines. If you google “foods high in histamine” I am pretty sure you will come up with everything you and I love, which as a result has made my food choices vs foods I enjoy a big challenge.

Do I choose between enjoying food or giving in to my vanity of having clear skin. Incidentally, that is my side of effect of eating too many foods high in histamine.  For others, it may be different, the effects may be more hidden, (but not less painful) however for me, it causes inflammation and hives in my face, sometimes my body. It would seem like an easy and clear choice because I have someone in my life who loves me for me, however, the truth is, this kind of thing takes a toll on your self esteem.  It eats at you little by little and you begin to just not feel like yourself anymore and all sorts of things manifest from that.  Not good things!!  It’s only when I really take the time to think about it that I realize that I have strayed from my base level mood.  By that I mean, I am normally a pretty optimistic person, fairly confident …but these kind of things chip away at that and make you less of the person that you normally are.

Now, I am very clear with the fact that this is minuscule compared to some of the challenges people go through in life, nonetheless, we all handle challenges in different ways.

Fast forward to my New Years Resolution of trying to eat clean to improve my skin and therefore my self esteem.  I got the idea of making my own tomato sauce as most if not all tomato sauces destroy my skin.  I was hoping that the fresh tomato sauce would offend my skin a little less than the jar version from the supermarket.   So, as I was cooking, of course I took a few photo’s!

This is the first time that the true authenticity of the colors mattered in a picture to portray my point.20150109_155618  So, I marched over to the grocery story(not really, I actually rode my bike Lucy over)  grabbed a bunch of random big healthy tomatoes, not really paying attention the color. I found a recipe on Pinterest, which you can find on my Pinterest board called Clean Foods which called for roasting your tomatoes for 1 hour on 400 degrees drizzled with salt and olive oil. Well, it turns out that the color of the tomatoes was pretty important, as the gals sauce on the Pinterest recipe was as red as this bowl,..my sauce, not so much.20150109_175652  It was orange, just like the color of my tomatoes.  Nonetheless, I continued with the recipe, sauteing garlic, basil, olive oil and a bunch of other herbs.20150109_175706  The apartment smelled absolutely divine, that is, if you like the amazing smell of roasted garlic and herbs. I happen to love it 🙂  No recipe is ever how they say it will be and I admit, I never follow it to a T.  I merged my sauce and my herbs then tossed in some turkey chopped meat that I cooked separately but did not get to properly grind as it cooked quicker than I had anticipated.  Oh well, all merged!  Taste test time!20150109_180427  I am usually too nervous to do this and have my boyfriend do it, which he usually obliges 🙂  Anyhow the result, the sauce was delicious, but not tomatoey enough?  How can that be?? tomatoes are it’s main component.  Well, my further online research said sometimes you can cook the tomato taste away,or… my tomatoes were not at their ripest. Nonetheless, I can tell you that the dish was very tasty and one of my best creations.20150110_230626  I had a second serving today 🙂

Did fresh sauce make the difference in histamine.  

Hmmm, that is a tough question because I did consume a few things that could have also been culprits, however, I am sad to report that this morning my skin was a bit swollen and I had an abnormally more amount of red tiny hives.  The hives were not itchy nor were they terribly disruptive to my day, but I knew that they were there and it bothered me.  So, back to the old drawing board.  I will say that I have bought more tomatoes today, but really ripe ones, as I am determined to get the recipe right.  Sometimes the sense of accomplishment can help me tolerate the consequences.  What started out as a resolution to help heal my skin has sparked a true creative interest and enjoyment in the culinary arts 🙂  How wonderful!

 

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The Power of Silence

Vanilla Clouds

The power of silence is priceless.  Over the past few weeks, I have been seeking inspiration and hope.  I was reading through my notes taken while listening to past lectures and books I’ve read and I came across a section called “the power of silence“.   I thought to myself, how can one find the strength to be silent when you are angry and have so much to say.  How can you hold your tongue when you hear someone speaking completely lacking empathy, compassion, kindness.  The truth is, sometimes, it is impossible to hold back your emotions but at times, being silent is the best response.

I love this quote by Ajahn Brahm, ” it’s the empty things that make noise, would you rather be a babbling brook or a great river that flows silently, majestically through your life? Vanilla Clouds

Sometimes the best, most powerful and peaceful answer is silence.  I would never wish anything bad on someone because I understand that people who are negative and express hateful and mean words are suffering and only projecting what is inside of them.  I feel pity for them because they have to live with themselves and their negative minds. So instead, it’s important for our own health and peace of mind to relinquish control and allow Karma to take it’s course.  Vanilla Clouds

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I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not. – Kurt Cobain

Are leaders born or are leaders made?

Is there such thing as a natural leader, i.e., someone who marches to their own beat and does not necessarily seek to be the leader but does appear to be a leader to his/her peers because he/she has the courage to do what most don’t.

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or…a learned leader, i.e., someone who has been promoted because they have excelled in their job  or outlasted others and has now found themselves in a position of leadership, not always being qualified to lead but nonetheless must do it. Vanilla Clouds

I wonder about this question a lot…because at some point, one needs to decide whether we are complacent in our position of following or do we want to excel, grow, take a stand and risk not being liked.Vanilla Clouds I have had a handful of assistant roles.  Most recently, I was an assistant to someone that I respected greatly for his ethics, values and integrity but I have to tell you that the weight he carried on his shoulders scared the crap out of me.  Yet the most impressive thing to me was his ability to filter the stress.  There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, he was always calm and cool as a cucumber.  I admire that so much.  I have seen him put his foot down as well, as most great leaders must do.  The idea that people may not like what he had to say, didn’t phase him as he was not concerned about being like, only about the job that needed to be done.  If a leader has honorable qualities, you may not like him, but you have to respect him.   I think I could live with that, or can I?Vanilla Clouds

The question is, do you respect and appreciate yourself enough to be able to deal with other people not liking you and still push with full steam ahead.  Do you believe in your personal mission statement enough to ignore the grunts and hisses you’re going to receive when you are trying to share your vision?  Can you stay consistent and motivated until everyone is on board and you have made the appropriate changes to create the culture you need to be successful. ughh,..it sounds exhausting, (as my boyfriend would say 🙂 )Vanilla Clouds

It’s something I have been thinking about for a while as one of my challenges in life was being true to myself and what went along with that…despite it not being the popular choice and risk feeling left out or unappreciated.  If you can separate the emotion and personal feelings attached but yet still be compassionate, strong and inspirational, I think you have a chance at being a good leader.  No one wants a leader who cries at every event,..haha, so you have to get that in check but yet find the fine line between conveying compassionate and inspiration supported by strength, integrity and resolve.

So, just for fun, here are Forbe’s top ten qualities of a good leader from and article in 2012, paraphrased here.  Also it’s something to think about for the new year:

Honesty – When you are responsible for a team of people, you have to set the bar even higher.  If you set it, your team will most likely follow, and if not, you can easily weed out those that don’t follow suit.

Ability to Delegate – Trust your team.  Delegating is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you don’t delegate and spread yourself too thin, the quality of your work will be sacrificed.  Find the strengths in your team members.

Communication – If you can’t relate your vision to the team, you all won’t be working towards the same goal.

Sense of Humor – Encourage your team to laugh at the mistakes instead of crying.  Make it a point to crack jokes with your team and encourage personal discussions of weekend plans and trips. It’s these short breaks from the task at hand that help keep productivity levels high and morale even higher.

Confidence -Part of your job as a leader is to put out fires and maintain the team morale.  Remember, your team will take cues from you, so if you exude a level of calm damage control, your team will pick up on that feeling.

Commitment -If you expect your team to work hard and produce quality content, you’re going to need to lead by example. There is no greater motivation than seeing the boss down in the trenches working alongside everyone else, showing that hard work is being done on every level.

Positive Attitude -You want to keep your team motivated towards the continued success of the company, and keep the energy levels up. Whether that means providing snacks, coffee, relationship advice, or even just an occasional beer in the office, remember that everyone on your team is a person.

Creativity – As a leader, its important to learn to think outside the box and to choose which of two bad choices is the best option. Don’t immediately choose the first or easiest possibility; sometimes its best to give these issues some thought, and even turn to your team for guidance.

Intuition -When leading a team through uncharted waters, there is no roadmap on what to do. Everything is uncertain, and the higher the risk, the higher the pressure. That is where your natural intuition has to kick in. Guiding your team through the process of your day-to-day tasks can be honed down to a science. But when something unexpected occurs, or you are thrown into a new scenario, your team will look to you for guidance. Drawing on past experience is a good reflex, as is reaching out to your mentors for support. Eventually though, the tough decisions will be up to you to decide and you will need to depend on your gut instinct for answers. Learning to trust yourself is as important as your team learning to trust you.

Ability to Inspire – Inspiring your team to see the vision of the successes to come is vital.  Make your team feel invested in the accomplishments of the company. It is your job to keep spirits up, and that begins with an appreciation for the hard work. 

Here is the full article! 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyaprive/2012/12/19/top-10-qualities-that-make-a-great-leader/

p.s…I realize the images above have no rhyme or reason with my blog topic.  I just love the images 🙂

 

 

 

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Getting through the chaos that is the holidays….

The holidays have always been super challenging for me.  While my normally positive disposition wanted to be happy and enjoy the excitement, this time of year usually brought up a lot of memories. Sometimes these memories were good and well, sometimes they were not so good.20141129_123655

It’s this time of year that we also think of old friends that we don’t speak with anymore and wonder where they are and hope that they are doing ok.VanillaClouds

In our lifetime, we share so many moments with different people at different points in our lives.  When I was younger, the thought that I would loose touch with someone that I loved or was super close with literally broke my heart and I just didn’t think it was possible.  Thus, it has happened.  I used to ponder, miss them, be sad about it but then one day I saw the movie, Eat Pray Love and I heard this quote and it has stayed with me and offered lots of comfort. If you have experienced this type of emotion as well, then I recommend you watch this movie.  Here is the quote and to explain the context, someone is explaining to the main character how she should move past a person she loved and missed 🙂

“Problem is, you can’t accept that his relationship had a real short shelf life. “But I love him.”  “So love him.” “But I miss him.” “So miss him. Send him some love and light every time you think about him, then drop it.”

and that is what I do now.  I silently wish them light and love..and I move on.  It’s worked for me and I hope it can work for you.VanillaClouds

How do you find peace, in a family of chaos?

A lot of my sadness came from  not having a significant other to share it with, but a significant amount of it came from within my own family.  I love my family very much, but I grew up in a family that was rarely at peace during the holidays.  I craved that loving environment that some of my friends talked about or what I had seen on TV.  There were years when I absolutely dreaded the end of the year because there I was alone in the same scenario reliving the same memories.  Gosh that sounds dreadful!!, but it’s true.

I finally got to the bottom of my well of despair and I literally got sick of feeling sad and hopeless.  I knew that I needed to change my mindset or I would never feel happy or find peace inside.VanillaClouds

“Just as the manure in your garden can enrich your plant, so, can the adversities of our lives make us wiser” -Ajahn Brahm

Getting through it was not easy but slowly and surely, I sought wisdom.  I read books, went to lectures, began mediating and emmersed myself in things that made me happy. For me, that was art and photography, for you it can be something else.  As long as the happiness it brings you is an awakening of something inside you, it will help you grow.  I tried to stay away from superficial things and distanced myself from superficial characters in my life.  Getting better takes courage and determination.VanillaClouds

When life hands you lemons…or shit, you need to learn to find its meaning and transform it! Because what is the alternative.

I can’t tell you that I understood the chaos in my life when it was happening, but as i grew more in tune with myself, and developed more compassion, some things I understood and other things, I was able to let go because they did not matter.  I embraced the adversities that happened in my life, tried to understand them, accepted them, did not judge them and slowly they dispersed.  It’s really quite amazing, once I acknowledged them, accepted it as part of my growth, these things no longer kept me up at night.  They no longer made me sad on long train rides, holding my gaze out the window thinking and staring at absolutely nothing.20141129_124245

You can’t change the world but you can change yourself…and the best part is, when you do, you have an affect on people.  You may not see it at first, but have faith that the little peace you bring into a situation is bigger than you realize.  After all, the true and most satisfying measure of ones life is in it’s ability to touch another’s.  Once you are in a better place, you are in a better position to support your family, your friends and anyone else you come into contact with.Vanilla Clouds

I hope this holiday beings you lots of blessings, I hope you find strength and courage to seek what you need to grow into a better human being inside and out. xoVanilla Clouds

This year was a blessing. It will be the first Christmas, B and  I will celebrate together in our own home.  It took many years for me to get here and I am super grateful I was ready to receive this beautiful blessing.  The photos above are of our trip to the Christmas Tree Farm 🙂 It was an amazing experience!

 

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Converting Negatives into Positives….

There were times in my life when I  encountered someone who had such a strong sense of confidence and I will admit, part of me was quite envious. Sometimes, that pride made perfect sense to me, and sometimes, it was confusing to me because it seemed unearned and and kind of a non-virtuous pride.SONY DSC

I was quite Naive as a young girl, but I certainly knew the difference between working hard and earning something and getting things by taking advantage of a situation.  Earning it seemed the more noble method to me, the other was just plain lazy.

“Never dull your shine for somebody” Tyra Banks

I love writing this quote because I know that many of us have done this at some point in our lives, i.e., faded into the background, dulled our strengths so that someone else could shine.

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I’ve learned along the way, that we build character through challenge, experiences and adversities.  These experiences build in us a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of worth but I suppose they could also build in us a sense of entitlement, resentment and fear. If what  we experience is the latter, the key would be to convert this experience into something positive.  How do we do this? It’s as simple as being at peace with not getting a job you applied to and believing that there must be a better suited position out there for you.. or that you need to step up your game in interviews. See what I did?  I just made a negative situation something positive and now I can focus on the next interview as opposed to dwelling on this one. Maybe not so simple??  The idea behind this thinking is to empower yourself with the belief that you can personally change your behavior and thus receive more pleasing results in the future. SONY DSC

How can I convert this experience into something positive.  

This kind of conversion is evident in the drug treatment centers when the drug counselor is a recovering addict themselves. No one could ever know the feeling of being addicted unless you yourself had experienced this and so, how powerful it is to be able to say to someone, I know how you feel, but it gets better, you can get better.  This is what it means to convert your adversity to something positive.  SONY DSC

 

When you feel good about yourself,..you try even harder to do those things that bring happiness.

What I have noticed along my journey, is that it is so important to go after things in life, because even if you don’t accomplish your goal or you don’t get what you want, there is something about that journey that affects you.  It is up to you to convert it.SONY DSC

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When you refuse praise yourself,..you are discouraging your spirit and thus losing this wonderful opportunity to encourage more of the same.SONY DSC
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So, next time someone compliments you, accept it, say thank you and let that seed grow and bloom inside you.  Create a garden for more seeds to grow and bloom.  Be humble but confident in what you bring to this world…and quoting a friend of mine who gave me this same pep talk a few weeks ago,..Be proud, of what you accomplish, you earned your Stripes.

Images above were taken near the King and Prince Hotel and on the beach on St. Simons Island.

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