Friday, December 19, 2014

Embrace Yourself

The most adventurous journey to embark on; is the journey to yourself, the most exciting thing to discover; is who you really are, the most treasured pieces that you can find; are all the pieces of you, the most special portrait you can recognize; is the portrait of your soul. ― C. JoyBell C.

As I sit here, sipping wildberry zinger tea, under a blanket in my parents' living room amidst a glorious Christmas tree ... I can't help but feel a sense of nostalgia and home.

I'm staying here for another yoga training weekend on the west side. And I'm full of so many emotions, it's hard to breathe today. The more I'm transforming, opening up, the more intense it all feels. But instead of trying to figure out how to "make these emotions go away," like I always used to, I am trying to sit with them, perhaps even make friends with them. Emotion is tied to memory, to ego thoughts, but the feelings of love and joy, those are tied to my higher self, my heart and soul.

So, whether it's sadness or happiness, whatever it's tied to, it's emotion and it's powerful. And now that I have realized how powerful our thoughts and minds are, I'm learning to respect my emotions, on each end of the spectrum and in between.

Because emotion is evidence of living. And I've spent so many years fearing living that I'd much rather get into the mess of it all than sit neatly in the background. This includes feeling so much love, I'm brought to tears most days at the smallest things, whether an act of kindness or a glimmer of nostalgia, whether discovering yet another small shift inside me or noticing it in a close friend.

This also includes feeling vulnerable and open to both my own pain or hurt as well as others'. And there are a lot of hurting people out there. I encounter them all day long and I have to consciously put up a "mental shield" as my counselor used to tell me to do in order to not let it all affect me so deeply. But it's hard. It's hard to open up and then learn how to flip that switch when you need to.

So tonight, I'm struggling with flipping that switch. With learning balance while also allowing the flow of emotion to pass through. It's a hard one to master and I'm sure it will take me years if ever to get there. But one thing I can say ... I am enjoying the journey. Every scary moment when I feel I might lose my nerve, every break through experience where I rediscover something within myself I'd thought long lost, every peaceful breath and sullen tear, every moment I feel my mind take over and I gently intervene, every time I go to lie down and begin to fixate on old fears and all the people I could lose in my life ... And then gently change my thoughts to the positives in my life instead.

It's all a journey, an ongoing lesson book that I am embracing more and more. My fears, well ... they're gonna disappear one by one as I continue to face them. And my essence, knowing myself, that has been the biggest gift I could have ever given myself. Knowing and loving myself for who I am.

I think back on the day I first went to counseling ... as well as the last day. I remember that first time, I had to fill out papers and papers of background information and then my thoughts and feelings. I shutter to think of all the awful, horrible, negative stuff I had said about myself ... things like "worthless," "undeserving," "pathetic" "unloveable" .... and the truth is, all of those things I felt about myself I then created in the people and situations I attracted in my life, which enforced them.

And it wasn't until now that it truly has sunken in how my self worth, the essence of who I am ... of who we ALL are, once embraced ... is invincible. It cannot be shattered. And once we all realize that, we can truly move through life and our fears much more easily.

So, as I sit here, growing, changing ... feeling, being. I offer this simple sentiment —embrace yourself, your TRUE self. And don't live life ... let life live YOU.

Til next time, be well friends <3


Monday, December 8, 2014

Are You a Victim in Life?

“Manifesting is a lot like making a cake. The things needed are supplied by you, the mixing is done by your mind and the baking is done in the oven of the universe.” 
― Stephen Richards

I used to think when something awful happened to me in life or didn't go my way, it was either somehow my fault or I was doomed to be hurt, unhappy, abused, depressed, etc. The world was somehow out to get me.

I won't sit here and excuse other people's words or actions, there are some really awful, tragic, horrible things that people do out there to other people or to themselves ... but I will sit here and say something that has profoundly impacted my view of life thus far.

It's something a lot of people, especially those who are like I was, will not want to hear. But a lot of times, what is going on externally in our lives is an exaggerated mirror of what's going on inside ourselves.

I'm not saying that makes other people's hurtful or harmful actions OK or even warranted. What I am saying is, we tend to attract energy we either put out or that is within us. It's like the child who grows up in a dysfunctional family who unconsciously plays out those same dynamics over and over again in all the adult relationships in his/her life. It's like the woman who grew up verbally or physically abused or had such low self esteem and lack of identity who then seeks out men who are abusive and play out that same internal dialogue.

Those are more extreme cases of what I'm talking about, but other examples could be as simple as someone having internal conversations that say they aren't good enough, they aren't as good as so and so, they aren't lovable, they are flawed, they are broken ... and then find themselves in one failed relationship after another, or never going far in their career, or seeing their counterparts exceed while they stay stagnant.

What I'm driving at is, we often victimize ourselves in life unnecessarily. If someone cuts us off, we feel wounded. If someone is rude to us in a check out line, we feel affronted and defensive. But if we, instead, changed that dialogue inside, we will see that we have total control over how each and every "negative" situation or stimuli that arises in our lives impacts us. We DO have a choice in the thoughts we think and the stories we weave around our experiences. But it's hard for us to sometimes take responsibility for those choices. Sometimes it's just easier to be the doormat and then get mad when someone walks on us.

Our relationships are one of the biggest mirrors and revealers in our lives, in my opinion. They tell us what our relationships with ourselves are. Our closest relationships/friendships can tell us a lot. When you find yourself constantly attracting the same kind of unhealthy people or situations in life, the first place to look is within. What, inside of you, is going on that could be attracting this energy? What kind of self talk do you have? Are you kind to yourself? The friendship and love that you seek from another, are you even practicing that same kind of love and friendship with yourself? What mind chatter is going on all day long? Do you even pay attention?

Our internal dialogue sets the precedence and tone for the rest of the universe to follow. You are a vibrating being. Ask yourself what kind of vibration you are putting out there day in and day out. Ask yourself how, if you abuse yourself every single day with comparisons to others, with negative thoughts, with self-esteem busters, with inferiority or fear-based ego-centric thoughts, with anger, or resentment, etc., could you possibly expect to attract people, opportunities and situations that are any different?

These are hard questions. The last person we want to look at when we feel harmed or abused or taken advantage of is ourselves. It's a lot easier to look at the external ripple rather than look at the internal pebble. It's like allowing a pet to take food off your plate and then getting angry when that pet takes food off a guest's plate. You ultimately set the example internally for the universe to follow.

When I made this realization, it hit me hard. I didn't want to think it for a long time. I wanted to remain the victim. I identified with it somehow. It still tries to grasp at me here and there, if I'm being honest. It was hard to look within and face the sad, dark or awful parts of myself, to see how I treated myself and how that projected into my relationships with others. But once I faced these things (for the record, I face new things every single day), I realized this was not a reason to beat myself up ... it was the very key to my own freedom and empowerment.

So, take these words as your keys to freedom. Empower yourself. Instead of beating yourself up about the past, embrace the lessons there and move forward taking charge of your present and future. Start with your thoughts. Watch them. Let them show you the places in the mind that need rewiring ... and begin, little by little to change your thoughts into something positive. Whether you get cut off in traffic, and thank that person for teaching you patience, or you get snapped at at work and realize that person is in pain of some kind and taking it out on you, so you instead respond very compassionately to them.

Begin to change your entire vibration and essence. Love yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Tell yourself all the things you would yearn to hear from others. Start with you.

The rest will take care of itself. Don't believe me? Give it a try :-)

Until next time ... be well friends <3



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sad Stories Rip Life Open

“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” ~ Walter Anderson

I am compelled to write tonight.

I've had many things swirling around my heart and mind over the last several months. Most of them just partial thoughts or random musings, some of them reaching so deep, it's hard to breathe when I attempt to put them in writing.

I was going to write tonight a bit more about my grandma, her dementia and what it's been like to slowly watch it take hold of her ... and maybe I can talk about it a little bit.

But I also have a friend who is battling cancer ... well, two friends really. One of them is really sick right now, another former co-worker of mine just lost her mom and I guess tonight, I'm just having one of those nights where I have never felt so helpless.

Yet at the same time, I acutely feel the power of life, the universe, the cycle of everything and how incredibly hard it is to "let go," to live and feel life in our veins even during the times we want to cry ... the times when it feels like our whole world is crashing down around us.

It's this paradoxical moment, where you feel both entirely powerless and despondent yet completely, even painfully alive at the same time. You feel like you just want to run from those feelings, from the fears they trigger, but running has never solved anything. And I think, practicing being present, living each moment as though it is THE moment, your ONLY moment, is how we finally relinquish those fears and are truly able to live our lives fully and transparently, letting all emotion in and out, without any barriers or webs to trap them in.

Because once you trap emotions, or resist reality, you create negative emotions that cloud the mind and will eventually manifest in other ways.

So, my reality is ... I am terrified of my grandma losing her memories, losing herself, losing ...

I am scared of my friends being sick and what could happen. I'm scared of Lakota regressing, of him going downhill and never coming back again, of the day I have to part ways with him and Bella and other people in my life. I'm scared of death. I've always been scared of death.

And it's something that, I think as I continue to grow, as I continue down this path of Yoga and meditation, self discovery, transformation, etc., I will begin to chip away at that fear, like all my fears.

But right now, I can feel it gripping me at night, the way it used to when I was a child. Luckily, I've gotten to the point now where I can "be the watcher" as Eckhart Tolle says or as my yoga guru called it, "the witness" to my mind. I watch my thoughts and where they go and most times, I can calmly bring them back to my breath. But that fear will keep coming until I overcome it, just like others.

The reality is, people get sick, some people leave us earlier than we would like, some people lose themselves, some people transform and change and we don't want them to. So many things are constantly in motion and a lot of times our fears make us want them to remain in place.

One thing I've realized with my grandma is ... while she's "in there" always, even the days when she seems far away, I think oftentimes its everyone else, including myself, that is more affected with her losing her memories and her "story" than she is. In fact, in a lot of ways, she's becoming more and more "present" with her living than most of us ever get to be. More and more, it's becoming about her experience with the people she's with and interacting with than what is actually done or said during that time (which she will forget soon after).

She responds to the way I make her feel when I walk into the room, how "present" I am with her and what energy I'm exuding (is it love, compassion, calm, peace, care, respect ... or is it frustration, sadness, anxiety or anger). She can pick up on it right away, even now. And those are the things that matter to her ... and they're the very things that SHOULD matter to all of us, when we aren't in our analytical, memory hugging, compulsive minds.

If we were only more present, more in tune with the energy we put out at all moments of the day, more responsible for the energy we bring into any given situation, the world would be a very different place.

And what's more? It makes me realize just how attached we all are to our "stories," to all the chatter and sentiment and meaning our minds weave around every experience we have, all the good memories and the bad, how we often define ourselves by these stories and harken back to them every chance we get, how we use our stories to rationalize things, to explain things, as a crutch, or as an ego-boost, as a reason why this or that is the way it is.

Watching my grandma lose her memory makes me realize that yes, it is important to honor my own memories and my mind's ability to recall them ... but it's also important to let go of the stories, to cherish the present moment and to home in on what energy I'm offering those around me rather than worry about all that mind chatter and dialogue.

And those who are battling illness, or have lost loved ones ... they remind me that yes, I am scared, I am not immune to fear or so enlightened that I have surpassed fear itself. Fear still cripples me some days. And that's OK, because fear is just a guiding post to truth. And life is sacred, it's precious and it can change on a dime. Our bodies won't always be here, but our energy has the power to transform, to fuel, and to move on.

So, don't waste that energy on anger, frustration, irritation, fear ... don't waste that precious life energy some people — especially those who are sick — are losing more and more of on resentment or the past, the storytelling, etc.

Instead, lets practice gratitude, every second of the day, for every breath we take and those we love, the pets in our lives, the moments of laughter and joy, the amenities we have that some people never have, the support systems in our lives, the way nature smells, the way the air feels ...

Because it's not our stories that define who we are.

It's how we live.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Life Can Change in a Blink. But Are You Even Living?

Life ... it's this fickle, beautiful, devastating, wonderful, awe-inspiring, heart-wrenching, fleeting thing.

It's so hard to pin down and just when you think you've got it defined, that you have it within your grasp once and for all, it somehow evades you, leaving a wisp of smoke in its wake.

Lately, I've been reminded in quite a few ways just how precious this thing we call life is. It's not really a thing ... it's a state of being. It's "being." But how often are we truly being? How often are we really living?

Most days, we are living in the mind chatter of the ego ... caught up in the drama, the pain, the past, the future, the worry, the doubts, fears, grievances, resentments, anger, love, passion, highs, lows, offenses, obsessions, fixations, indifferences, cares, reactions, judgements, comparisons, sadness and giddiness of the mind-made world we live in. It's almost madness when you think about it.

We are all over social media, our phones, the TVs, video games, ear buds, iPods, work, stress, work, stress. We are mindless droids some days and overly anxious, scared, passionate, emotional, irrational humans the next. We are amazing creatures, the capabilities we have, yet we still take for granted all that we have to offer the planet, the universe, the moment.

I guess, in seeing most recently, just how fragile life can be, just how quickly it can change, I realize how pointless the above worries, extreme emotions, fixations, ego chatter, etc. really is in the grand scheme of life.

All of that distracts us from the very act of living. And living is going on all around us ALL the time, if only we tapped into it more. It's shown in nature every moment of the day. It's shown in our pets, in those few moments of completely present awareness when we feel our actual bodies living, when we step back and just exist without trying.

I guess what I'm saying is ... all those cliches about living each moment as though it was your last, stopping to smell the roses, seizing the day, living in the moment, etc., those have become cliches for a reason ... because so many humans have stumbled upon these realizations over and over again in the history of our existence and expressed them in one form or another that they've sadly become redundant and lost their staggering power.

Those mantras lose their power until that very moment, when you're life does, indeed, flash before you, when something does drastically change either personally or to someone close to you, bringing you face to face with your mortality (at least your body and mind's mortality). And my question to myself and all of you is, WHY do we wait until something "happens" to embrace this wisdom we've held within us our whole lives, that has been passed down to us by our former human ancestors?

Why do we let our minds run the show and distract us from truly living each day to its fullest as they say?

I can't answer those questions for you ... I'm still working on them for myself. But what I do know is, continuous practice of present moment awareness, using my compasses (like Lakota and Bella, nature, yoga, meditation, my breath, my heartbeat) to bring me back to that place whenever I can, that's going to be the key to me living more and more fully. Because time is, indeed, moving. We are aging. Life is happening.

And the only thing there truly ever is ... is the present.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Inspiration Incarnate

As I sit here, in my parents' living room — my childhood home — the indoor porch is open, birds are singing and I'm brewing tea in the kitchen.

It's the first warm, sunny day in awhile. It finally feels like Spring has arrived after a very long, very brutal winter ... the kind of winter that made me actually wonder a few times if it would ever be warm again.

Today reminded me yes, it will be. It is. And nothing is ever permanent.

My dog Lakota is teaching me once more. I'm not sure he even knows it. He hurt himself a week and a half ago — a herniated disk — and can no longer walk on his own. At least not now. Surgery was the farthest thing from my mind when my parents and I took him to the emergency vet. In the days that followed, like bread crumbs, I was lead down a path that took me to a crossroads: Surgery (costly surgery) or therapy that isn't looking promising considering the degree of his nerve damage.

Without getting into all of the details, I opted for surgery. I had to know I gave him the best chance I could. You see ... Lakota isn't just a dog. He isn't just a companion animal I've cared for all these nine years. Sure, he offers me unconditional love, loyalty, friendship and protection.

Those things alone are worth giving him his best shot. But he's much more than just those things. Lakota is a soul mate, a guide, he's a teacher, a best friend, a piece of heaven meant to remind me what life is all about, that life is happening in the moment, that the present moment is truly all we've got.

He is inspiration incarnate.

I know, if I'm lucky enough, privileged enough ... blessed enough to have him in my life a few more years, there will come a time when he will move on to the next realm — from form to the formless, as Eckhard Tolle calls it.

But that's then. This is now. And right now, I'm hopeful that with enough patience, enough positive energy, work, therapy, love and care, Lakota will walk again.

Where am I going with all of this? I guess ... I'm not quite sure yet. The entire experience has been transforming. Over a week ago, I was stressing about over committing myself to too many things, having way too busy a schedule to stop and take life in the way I need to to stay grounded in myself, to stay true to myself. I was trying to prioritize everything and fitting walks in with L where I could. I was trying to enjoy my time with him more, having a strange feeling something would be changing soon ... I just didn't know what.

And just like that, everything did. My life changed. I can no longer just drop everything and leave. I can no longer just flutter around from this engagement to that. Will it always be this way? Of course not. But I'm learning to accept what is. To work in tandem with what is ... with the present moment and situation. To resist it, longing for some future, better moment, is living in the mind and in illusion. And that's not living at all.

Sure, to some people, it's "just a dog." And I get that. However, I don't have children. So to me, Lakota is my heart. He and Bella have been through quite a few chapters of my life ... very big ones. And what this reminds me of is, nothing in life is permanent. So, nothing should ever be taken for granted.

I'm sure I'll continue to learn more, and share it here ... but all I know is, what happened to Lakota brought some MAJOR fears to the surface for me that I thought I'd buried or, quite frankly, overcome. The fear of losing those I love. The fear of being out of control.  The fear of being alone. The fear of the unknown. The fear of the dark. The fear of what the future will bring.

And instead of doing everything I could to get away from those feelings, I stayed with them. I breathed through them. I cried, I fought with my mind, my ego, I fought through sleepless nights, a suppressed appetite, depression ... I continued to view all the things I felt from a lens that was almost in the background of it all, like the awareness behind the emotions. And all those fears, I worked through them one by one, plunging into the dark without a candle, feeling my way back to the light of each tunnel.

Instead of crying, "Why him? Why us?" I went inward and asked what it is I can learn from this. What is the lesson, what is the teacher ... what is the challenge, because I'm open. I'm utterly terrified, but I'm open.

And one of the biggest things I found ... faith, hope and an overwhelming response from people I did NOT expect. I thanked people over and over again for their responses, for their private messages, for their understanding, for making me feel less alone. Yet, I don't think I can quite express right now how much all of that impacted me. I was in deep at that moment when I reached out and needed some help back to the surface. And all of that support lead me there.

So to all of those who reached back — thank you, from the bottom of my heart <3

I suddenly have a deeper appreciation for the hardships of others, for those who have to be caretakers, for those who have heavy burdens in their lives they struggle with day to day. Not that Lakota is a burden. He isn't. But I appreciate the people who do sacrifice for those they love.

Because, if Lakota can go through what he went through. I can go through this with him. And every day, he inspires me. He reminds me of what love is, every time I look into his gentle brown eyes.

And so, my life has slowed down. It's grown very simple in a matter of a week. And I'm OK with that. Because I know if I go with it, rather than resist it, I will gain so much more than I ever would otherwise. And anything else that seemed so important to get to before ... no longer does.

After all ... as the quote goes: "Finding myself through process of elimination." ~Jonathan Stefiuk



Monday, April 7, 2014

Do Only a Few Things and Do Them Well

Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow. ~ Aesop

There are a few good quotes on this topic, but it's one that's been on my mind of late so I figured, it's time to sit down and write about it.

As most of my close friends and family know, I've recently LLC'ed myself as a yoga instructor. My business name is now Luna Sidera Yoga & Wellness, LLC. Or, in English, Moon and Stars Yoga & Wellness.

This isn't a self promotion piece, but rather, the example that I want to tie into the above quote and my present challenge — Focusing.

A little bit of context ....

I am a full-time journalist/editor of three papers. I am also trying to get my novel published by a small local printing press. In the meantime, I teach Yoga in Wickliffe and am about to start a class in Willoughby in addition to wanting to get certification in Reiki Therapy to supplement what I offer my clientele, a.k.a. my students. I eventually want to take the 500 hour training to be able to teach Yoga Therapy in hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

Those things are all in addition to a wonderfully flourishing social/personal life and a mom of two pet kids ;-) as well as someone who desires to spend more time with family, especially my grandparents (in particular my grandmother, who is slowly losing her memory).

I recently read an article that summed up 600 letters/emails from random people ages 37 and up about what they would tell their 30-year-old selves if they could go back. Among all the items listed, one was to focus on doing a few things well, rather than doing several things half as well ... or something along those lines.

Basically, narrow your focus and put all your energy there. That one really hit me hardest — I suppose because that's been my biggest struggle lately. I feel like parts of my life are really taking off in the recent months. And a lot of it has to do with me deciding to stop resting on my laurels and finally get moving on my teaching and expanding my reach.

But I've also really, really been struggling with NOT focusing on publishing my manuscript, the way I wanted to last year. Yoga took me in a completely different direction last year, so the book publishing went on the back burner. And now I think it might have to go on the back burner again. Which, my ego feels is a form of "failure," or "laziness." But in reality, I can't possibly do the things I want to with that manuscript while developing my business and working my full-time job. Not to mention ... having a social life, dating and spending quality time with my pets (who are getting older and older every day, making each moment I spend with them that much more precious) and my family.

Because the reality is, the biggest "pull" I feel right now is in the direction of my yoga teaching, getting organized, truly doing the best I can in that area to help it flourish ... otherwise I feel like it's going to suffer, the way other areas have suffered that I haven't paid attention to.

It's like lighting several fires and only having enough oxygen and fuel for a few of them. The others slowly die as a result. They turn into embers and eventually ... ashes.

So, my point ... the thing I wanted to share in the hopes others might benefit as well, is simple. If you find yourself trying to do a million things at once — pause. Take a moment, perhaps write them all down and decide what the top three priorities are (as my best friend Katie Khoury recently reminded me to do). Don't disregard the rest altogether, but put them aside for now and pull together all of your energy, harness it and focus it on those three areas ... don't resist "what is," don't think about getting to this and that in the future ... stay present with those three things and focus on each individual step as you reach it in the "here and now."

It seems to help me feel less overwhelmed. And when life starts pulling you in a bunch of different directions again and the universe is telling you to "slow down," listen. Take a step back, refocus on that list and begin once more. You might not realize it at first (I know I didn't), but suddenly you'll witness things just take off. If you're putting your energy into the flow and not against it, things will just happen. But don't lose your nerve, or your breath. And don't let fear stop you either.

Always keep breathing. And eventually, you'll see how quickly you cross all of those things off your list and continue down it to the rest. I've had some recently packed weeks and weekends. And my body has finally made me pay for not taking down time.

A question hit me in that moment: How can I possibly teach yoga to all my students and grow and develop as a teacher as well as an ever-learning student when I'm not taking time to practice for myself?

So, I'm on a journey to regain some balance in my life, to weed out the things that are sucking energy and replace them with a more narrowed focus on the things that nourish and produce energy ... like my yoga teaching, meditation, making time for my own personal sadhana (daily again, the way I used to practice it), reading, sketching, playing guitar and piano ... spending some more time with my grandmother and those sustaining forces in my life. And spending less time on things that aren't necessarily "bad" things, but just time-consuming things that perhaps I'll get to another time.

I implore you to take this journey with me — those of you who wear many hats and feel out of balance. Let me know how you are faring. And remember, I'm always here to listen if you ever need me.



Sunday, February 2, 2014

Winter Blues Chasers, Piano Music, Memory Loss

It's been ... well, about three months since I last posted.

It wasn't writer's block, per se. More like, everything I've been feeling inside has been marinating gently in the backdrop of my life, waiting for a time when it was ready to emanate.

And yet, I'm not sure it will all lay itself out here tonight. In fact, I know it won't. But that's OK ... I gotta start somewhere don't I?

It's a Sunday night ... and anyone who's followed my writing over the last two years or knows me at all, knows my relationship with Sunday nights ... especially cold, wintry Sunday nights.

But, perhaps because my entire perspective on life has shifted greatly in the last two years or maybe I'm just more comfortable in my own skin for the first time in ... well, possibly ever, I have learned to make friends with Sunday nights. In fact, I've learned to make friends with winter. I have learned to chase its bitterness with breath and peace, to counter its hits with a few of my own. And to envelop it when I feel as though I've had enough.

Because winter is not just about death, hibernation, dormancy ... it's also about rebirth, transformation and the peaceful quiet within the stillness.

The funny thing is, the year I decide to do this of course is one of the harshest winters of my entire life, at least cold-wise. The snow (besides driving in it) has never really bothered me. It's the darkness, the constant darkness and the cold, the kind that steals your breath and never gives it back entirely.

However, besides a few bumps here and there, a few challenges Old Man Winter has given me this season, I've rolled with the punches and embraced the bruises. I think it's a combination of now having many many "healthy" tools to choose from to fight my depressive episodes, maybe it's because I've learned to love myself, including my flaws and my sadness, my fears, my smiles and tears. I've learned to be kinder to myself ... to listen to music again, to play piano and listen to piano and violin compilations with the fervor I used to as a child and teenager, to smile as I watch the snowflakes fall ... to look at my dog, who is older and grayer now, with such love, appreciation and gratitude for the time I have with him, to caress Bella, my faithful, purring, wise green-eyed feline and take in the moments she offers.

The energies I've drawn into my life in the last year have been very precious and meaningful ... the connections I've had for some time that had grown and flourished with me, I feel that much more grateful for. And those that have come and gone, I find myself loving them still, feeling each of them in my heart every single day.

Last November, I said goodbye to my 20s ... and I did so with mixed emotions. That decade was a whirlwind roller coaster, and the force behind it peeled every single layer off my body and left me wondering who the hell I ever was. That decade I floated, I fell, I rose up again, I got lost, I got found ... and I crawled back into my shell. And then I curled up with my transformation ... and I let go.

I took a trip to Romania ... took a trip on my own, to my roots. I took a trip for my soul.

The self discovery continues and is an adventure worth every up and down. I'm excited to see where my yoga teaching takes me, where finally getting my book self published and out there for whoever cares to take a dive into takes me, where my work, my personal life, my dreams ... my loves ... take me. It's not about waiting for some future moment, it's about completely loving every moment of the journey as it happens.

And lastly ... I have come face-to-face with the reality that someone very, very close to me, is losing a piece of herself more and more as the days go by. My grandmother, perhaps one of my biggest soul mates, is losing her memory. If counseling and yoga has taught me anything, it's that life is never linear and it is never just roses and smiles, that sadness and challenges and pain are a part of life and you can't truly live life without it all.

Seeing her, spending time with her has become a priority in my life more now than ever before. It's hard, being across town, working full time and teaching yoga on the side not to mention an active social life ... but if not now, when? There is always time for things, it's there, you just have to get out of your own way and carve it out.

There will be more on this topic ... I don't honestly have it in me tonight to delve in. All I will say is, my grandma, even now, teaches me. She teaches me to live in the present, to enjoy my moments with her, to be grateful for the memories we've shared, the stories she's told me  — her life stories — to cherish what I have, because one day it won't be as it is now. Everything changes. Everything.

And with that, I'll leave you with a poem that comes to mind ... one to curl up with on these cold winter nights ...

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Jelaluddin Rumi,
    translation by Coleman Barks