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.

 

 

 

 

 

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When you know better, you do better – Oprah Winfrey

#Life Lessons

I struggled to accept this for a while but I’ve reconciled that the fact that you don’t see my light and my value is really your issue.  Yes it affects me in the short term, but the continued lack of insight on your end will surely bring you to your own demise.  This doesn’t bring me any joy but I release my attachment as I understand this lesson will come to you on it’s own time. The best that I can do for me, is to take the lesson and be better and When you know better, you do better. – Oprah Winfrey

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When you know you know and timing is everything….

“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”

Have you read this quote from the book Beloved by Toni Morrison? I’ve never read the book, but I have been drawn to the quotes from this book for as long as I can remember.  I confess, that I don’t know enough about the author or her books, to really give a genuine opinion but I do know that the little that I’ve read certainly touches me in a satisfying place.  This book “Beloved” is one of her greatest masterpieces and the book was made into a movie in 1998 starring Oprah Winfrey.

I mentioned this quote because in terms of the top 10 poetic and romantic responses to the question ” why do you love her?“, I find this response simply beautiful.  But what does it really mean and how does one know?

Timing is everything.

I hated when people told me that…I always felt it was so unromantic.

I remember watching the show Sex in the City in the 90’s and Carrie (the main character played by Sarah Jessica Parker) chased her paramour, Mr. Big (played by Chris Noth) the entire time the show was in syndication. Finally, Carrie was certain that her Mr. Big was the one..and there is a scene where she asks him something like this ” You get to a point in life when you want to stand still with someone, don’t you want to stand still with me? “  Hearing that, made my heart stop because very few ultimatums work out well and I had a feeling, she would be left broken hearted and hear is where that phrase timing is everything, comes into play.  You may have done your internal work and be ready for the next serious phase in your romantic life but there is no guarantee that the person you fall for is at the same place in life.   Everyone grows at their own pace.  I don’t exactly remember Mr. Big’s response,…but I can tell you that it wasn’t what she wanted to hear, as he was not ready to make this decision.

So, how do you know?

You hear it in movies and if you are lucky enough, (sarcasm) you have had someone tell you, When you know you know, and as a person who hates cliches, this response always frustrated me.

Fundamentally, I feel that things must occur in each of our lives to make us ready to receive someone else whole heartedly.  I know you don’t want to hear this, but a lot of internal work has to be done and self awareness definitely needs to be present.  In such a big world, I certainly don’t think that there is just one person out there for us but knowing yourself and what you need to be happy certainly helps you find someone you can build a life with. It will also help you recognize similar characteristics in someone else, so that you aren’t investing your time with someone who will eventually show you signs of non commitment.

That said, here are my 2 cents.

When you look forward to your life, sharing it with someone who shares common goals, interests and beliefs, certainly helps ease your comfort with each other and creates the foundation for you to want to get to know each other.  But after that, I think for most of us, it happens unexpectedly… Suddenly you are with someone, and it’s enjoyable. You’re not finding reasons to bicker and you’re also not struggling for power.  Your goal genuinely becomes to make each other happy because that makes you happy.  You certainly have disagreements, but you apologize even when you don’t know exactly what you’re apologizing for because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.  You just don’t want to be upset with one another.  You understand that no one is perfect because you have come to your own realization that you, yourself are filled with tons of misconceptions and bad conditioning that occurred prior to meeting them that has absolutely nothing to do with him/her.  So, instead, their imperfections become human and you develop compassion for them.  You develop patience because you yourself knows that you are a working progress and thus, so is he/she.

And finally, your fear of being without this person, becomes stronger than your fear of commitment.  You help each other grow your best parts and through osmosis you develop an understanding of those areas that need improvement.  You develop a deep trust built on vulnerability and you truly inspire each other in the best ways.  It’s not easy, but you are committed to making it work and there is nothing healthier, prosperous or more fulfilling than a good relationship with the one you love. xo

 

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I Cried this Morning at Yoga.

For many of us, yoga was something hippies do. It was a strange practice we knew nothing about but as ignorance always does, we created this story in our head without understanding what it was.  We decided it was weird. We didn’t bother to learn about it.

The day I found out my father was sick, all my years of practicing Buddhist philosophy and yoga certainly helped prepare me.  I had an understanding that life is about impermanence and that we are all a development of our choices.  That we are on our own paths, that we can inspire but not motivate.  That we can and should always lead by example, make decisions with the heart but also not be foolish.

What it didn’t prepare me for is the sadness I would feel for those who didn’t see life that way….who never gained the wisdom to understand that the very thing they used to escape, is what kept them trapped and suffering. In Buddhism, is it called Samsara, the circle of life.  We in a sense trap ourselves by continuing to make the same mistakes that keep us miserable.

My dad, similar to many folks of his generation, used alcohol to escape discomfort, confrontation and emotion.  He protected his heart fiercely from pain and of course beauty.  For you can never have one without the other.  Our parents are supposed to be the wise ones. They are supposed to be the ones who teach us how to overcome, self worth, to believe in your ability to contribute to the world and how to manage life’s very hard obstacles…. but what happens when you keep growing and they don’t?

One morning I woke up and felt absolutely awful.  The air was thick, my head was pounding and it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.  I had two choices…I could lay in bed all day and allow the sadness to swallow me.  I could give in to the pull to drench my spirit and as a result, drench my husbands spirit and anyone around me.  Or I could get up, take a hot shower and make an effort.  I could go to yoga and try my best to release.  I could sincerely try to receive the spirit of yoga which is really about letting go. Letting go of what you cannot change, but also believing in the power of compassion.

And so, that morning for the first time, I really used yoga to my advantage. I closed my eyes when it was safe and allowed the tears to fall down my cheeks.  I know what you’re thinking, how sad, but I can tell you, that it felt the exact opposite way.  With every movement and every exhale,  I let go of the need to save my father. For weeks, it felt like I was a dam holding a ton of water and suddenly, I was able to just lift the dam and the dam was me.   All that pressure, the elephant that had been sitting on my chest for a few weeks, got up and walk away.  The air thinned a bit and I felt a slight sense of relief. Enough relief for me to know that I had made some progress.

After that day, I immersed myself in prayer, meditation and spiritual practice for weeks.  During his last 2 weeks, I spent every morning with my father…present, crying when I needed to and accepting that this is part of life.  When he left us, I prayed that he had made peace with his shortcomings for most of us have some guilt we carry that serves us no purpose.

Yoga gives us permission to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings. It gives us an opportunity to pause, and give our minds a break from chaos.  Yoga made me cry that morning and has since made me cry a few more times and every time it has happened, a huge amount of pressure is lifted from my shoulders and I walk just a little bit lighter that day.

Wishing you peace to your heart. xo

 

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Shelly taught me Self Acceptance….

Shelly taught me Self Acceptance.

When I was about 26, I worked in Fashion, I guess you would say a very superficial world (although today, there are many brands that are eco-friendly, conscious and responsible), back then, that wasn’t so much the case or at least not to my knowledge. This was a world that I thought I would love for it’s creativity yet to my dismay, turned out to be much less creative than I had ever imagined.  In College, you’re told to be open and inventive, the skies the limit.  I left my university totally unprepared for the challenges that lay before me and after 5 years of working my way up, I finally made it into a design office.  I thought this was what I wanted, but 8 months later, I quickly realized that there wasn’t much creativity in design when you are working for someone else and pursuing their ideas.  Nonetheless, while I worked in fashion, I met many personalities, some who fit right in and some who clearly were trying to fit into a hole that was a different shape.

Here I met Shelly. Shelly was in her early 30’s and she was a bigger gal who struggled to fit in with the average size 6 fashion scene of that time.  She was kind with beautiful wavy red hair and porcelain skin that flushed easily.  She always second guessed herself, and with every defeated word she let out, she convinced those around her that she had nothing significant to offer and so for the most part, everyone believed that.  I could see this was happening and I felt sad for her.

One day, Shelly and I had lunch as we did on occasion. She was about to have gastric bypass surgery because her weight made her very insecure and she felt that fitness routines were unsuccessful.  I tried to discourage her from having such a dangerous surgery as much as I could then one day she said, ‘Do you know what it’s like to not ever feel comfortable in your own skin?”  I did know what it was like, I had felt that way, not every day, but sometimes, in certain scenarios, around certain people. I just had no idea how to put it into words until I heard her say it.  At 26, I wasn’t wise enough to really understand what I felt was a lack of self-acceptance and I know now, that this is what Shelly felt.  Many of us learn to see flaws before we see strengths. When you train yourself to do this for so long, undoing it is a bit of fete.

Adversity: It’s not whether you will face it, it’s how you will face it when you do.

How can you avoid negative or bad circumstances? How can you avoid pain? You can’t.  It’s impossible to not face a negative or painful circumstance at some point in your life. Broken hearts aren’t assigned to the naughty people and in a competitive world, everyone has felt let down, hurt, sad, ashamed, less down or not good enough, etc.  The most important and healthy thing you will learn in life is that how you relate to situations will either make or break your day and for that matter, your life.  This is what separates us from each other and the reason why some become inspiring and some become defeated.  It’s not whether you will face it, it’s how you will face it when you do.

Shelly felt defeated at that point in time and I have felt defeated more times than I can count as I am sure you have.  Her response was to become skinny by having surgery so that she could fit in because she did not have the wisdom to understand that she didn’t have to fit into that unwelcoming fashion world. There was no doubt in my mind that if Shelly just made peace with herself, that she would have found another fantastic group of people that she meshed with harmoniously.  She didn’t understand that the story she attached to herself was probably someone else’s story and that she could easily change hers and that once she fought through the scary parts, it would actually feel good to stop pretending you are someone you’re not.

When someone asked the Dalai Llama how he got rid of his guilt, he said “I didn’t, I just learned not to let it weigh me down”.

Similar to guilt, pain, anger, resentment that is not dealt with, has a way of keeping us from moving forward.  In Buddhism, it is said that one is stuck in Samsara, i.e., the process of repeating the same mistakes, suffering and never learning the lesson. We keep hitting the wall instead of changing direction.  The worst part is that many of us are ignorant to this.

Understand your anger, sit with your pain, reckon with your guilt, learn from it and perhaps be a source of hope for someone else.  That would be the biggest gift you could give someone.  In no way would I ever say forget the hard parts, the sad moments, the challenging times because we need those just as much as the successes.

“to someone who has never fallen in love, you cannot prove that such a phenomena exists” and yet, we all know it does

I can only tell you that it gets easier with lots of reading and practice and then one day, you are just different and the weight on your shoulders isn’t as heavy.  You want to help other people get more peaceful because their pain becomes so transparent to you. You begin to identify the things that you can affect and you move on those and the ones you can’t affect, you try your best to not let them steal your spirit.  Things just don’t bother you as much and people sometimes mistake that for aloofness, not caring or ignoring. It’s actually the opposite. The more spiritual and peaceful I become, the more I care about everyone and everything but I also learn to not attach to expectations, not because I am going to be disappointed, but because I don’t want to limit the possibilities. I also learn to love but not control and to understand that sometimes I may not agree with what someone else’s doing, but I trust that it is their path and their lessons to learn.  Life doesn’t get easier, but you as a person get stronger.

So, Buddhism acknowledges that the world is full of delusions but it is also full of beauty.  My good friend is an avid reader and loves theology and he explained it in a great way one day to me. He said, “God is in everything”. He is in this computer, he is in this garden of vegetables, he is in this fountain that hasn’t been cleaned but still sounds so beautiful, he is in the bee that stings you but that also fertilizes the flowers, he’s in the bird that sings, this yoga lesson, this hard workout you push through, this refreshing beer, etc ..etc.  When you train yourself to see the world like this and that everything is actually a blessing, it makes the adversity much easier to bear. They don’t disappear, just easier to bear.

I don’t avoid or deny negative situations, I’ve just changed how I relate to them. It’s amazing what happens when you stop fighting all these things…not at first, but slowly, your mind clears, the anger, the hurt, the resentment, the guilt, it all starts to fade to the back as you learn to relate to it and you get more peaceful. xo

 

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Why couldn’t I be ok with simply being.

Thinking back… I don’t know that I had enough nights where I just sat in bed and did absolutely nothing and felt no guilt or worry about it.   I don’t recall having many weekends when I felt no pressure to be doing something else or to be somewhere other than where I was.

All irrational and insatiable goals that were destined to keep me in craving mode.  Setting me up to climb a ladder to reach a goal but when you look closely, the ladder is built with no end.  Therefore, the goal is unattainable.  Why couldn’t I be ok with simply being.

Your mind has a wonderful way of allowing you to forget the scenario but not allowing you to forget the feeling.  So, one moment you may be going about your daily life and suddenly this feeling will come over you and somehow you understand what it’s trying to tell you.  It’s sort of a mental reflection of your younger self struggling with something and it is serving as an alert,  that if you are not careful, you can quite easily fall back into an old habit.

For me, the lesson is to be ok in this moment.   Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your husband.  Be ok with not knowing it all and most importantly, receive these lessons that come your way because it is your own wise self trying to help you. xo

 

Photos above are from an older shoot with the beautiful and ridiculously photogenic, Lauren Prince.

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My favorite people are the ones who have learned how to smile through the pain.

My favorite people are the ones who have learned how to smile through the pain.  But don’t let this discourage you if this isn’t you because you are supposed to see people like this as an inspiration.  It is meant to create a solidarity between you and the person next to you because although your pain is different, it isn’t unique, for somewhere in this world, there is someone feeling exactly how you feel.  And, how amazing would it be to be the one to show them that despite all of this pain, there is light, there is hope, there is a smile.  A genuine smile that means what it says. We can get through this, one present moment at a time.

We are all connected and it is through our interconnection that we are able to learn and practice being better human begins.

….practice away xo

 

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Allow Your True Self to Shine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inspired by a friend and our life talks.  <3

 

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I fight really hard. I’m a warrior.

One day someone told me about the ability of music to elevate your soul and spirit… I didn’t believe it initially.

They say to one who has never fallen in love, you can never convince them that such a metamorphosis exists.  But yet, we know it does…

I feel lonely, confused, lethargic, as if I’ve been running for days but I haven’t, not even close.  I’m just tired, I’m lonely on the inside and it manifests on the outside.  But don’t think for a second that I don’t fight….

I fight really hard. I’m a warrior.

Sometimes I feed my pain with poison and sometimes I feed it with music. Beautiful, harmonious, complicated, compassionate, empowering, noisy and chaotic music. 

There is hope.  I find light in music because I am open to finding light, therefore light opportunities present themselves.  There is light in many things, seek the light and let it in. xo

Thank you to my beautiful friend Alex for posing for me and helping me continue to pursue my art.

 

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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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