5 Easy Habits to Get Healthier Now

img_0086

Tongue scraping

This is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that Western medicine is beginning to acknowledge as productive to oral health. Did you know that a coating of residue (including toxins and yucky bacteria) on the tongue is what leads to bad breath? You may have learned to brush your tongue, but I have bad news for you. All that does is push the bacteria around. Tongue scraping eliminates it. Getting rid of the coating on the tongue also leads to greater sensitivity of the taste buds; meaning, your food will be tastier. Wouldn’t it be nice to be satisfied with less food? Less food = less unnecessary weight on the body. We all know this. The process of tongue scraping is so quick and simple, there’s really no excuse to not do it. You simply take each end of the tongue scraper in your hands, start at the back of the tongue, and add gentle pressure, scraping from back to front, rinsing in between. Repeat about 5 times. I’m telling you, your mouth will feel cleaner. You can buy a tongue scraper here.

 

 

Switch to Whole Foods

 

No, I don’t necessarily mean the grocery store. You don’t have to drive to another town to find a Whole Foods market. A whole food means a food that is in its complete form, with no additions. Ingredients: 1. An apple is a whole food. A carrot is a whole food. An almond is a whole food. I like what author Michael Pollan says: “eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” What he’s saying is, avoid stuff with a million ingredients. Actually, more than 5 ingredients and you’re going down a road leading to nothing good. If this is too difficult for you, at least start reading the Ingredients on your box o’ food, and avoid anything with the words “hydrogenated”, “palm oil”, “carrageenan”, “maltodextrin”, and “aspartame”. That’s a solid place to start.

 

 

Drink Organic, Fair Trade Coffee (ditch the K-cups)

 

If you’re like most Americans, you drink coffee. If you’re like me, you have a slight obsession that borders on unhealthy. Nevertheless, we’re not here to judge. Coffee is delicious. However, I encourage you to do the environment a favor and stop using the disposable K-cups in your Keurig. I’m not saying to throw out your Keurig…that would be wasteful. Instead, buy a couple reusable, refillable little cups. Buy a bag of high quality, organic coffee. You’ll find that the coffee will last a lot longer, you’ll save money, and you’ll feel good about helping the planet. You can buy some on Amazon here.

Better yet, get yourself a French press.  You’ll feel like a badass, and the coffee honestly does taste better.  I got this adorable one that I take to work with me – it’s enough for one cup (there are larger ones as well).  Check it out here.

 

Begin a Daily Gratitude Practice

 

Get a cute little journal. Find 5 minutes to yourself either in the early morning or before bed. Grab a cozy spot, a cup of tea, and light a candle. Create a sacred space, and get to writing. Write what you’re grateful for. If you’re having a difficult time and grasping at straws, start with something very basic and primal. “I’m grateful for shelter and warmth”, might be a nice a place to begin, particularly if you live in New England like me, where the winters are bitter cold. “I’m grateful that my body carries me through the day and moves me from place to place.” It might seem silly, but it has been shown that gratitude and joy are directly correlated. This is no coincidence. The more we acknowledge all that we have, the more satisfied and fulfilled we can feel.

 

Incorporate Yoga into your Life

 

If you’re a seasoned yoga, or know the basics, try to fit 30 minutes in a day. No need to go to a yoga class, or pop in a DVD. Just roll out your mat and flow through 10 sun salutations, surya namaskar A (see photo below for instructions). If you have no clue what I’m talking about, click the menu at the top of this website and go to “private yoga instruction”, and schedule a session with me (if you live in CT). Even if you don’t live nearby, feel free to email me and I’ll give you some personal recommendations. So, 10 sun salutations, followed by 10 dirgha breaths, followed by 10 minutes of nadi shodhana, and finally, 5 minutes of meditating on the breath.

img_0503
Sat Nam,

Steph xo

Project Happy

“Happiness is a thing to be practiced, like the violin.” John Lubbock, whoever you are, you’re a smart man.

I was drawn to this quote in particular, because in fact I used to play the violin, for about 10 years throughout elementary, middle, and high school. And as a musician, practice you must! Although I’m sure there were times in which my parents regretted encouraging me to play an instrument.

My violin is now collecting cobwebs somewhere in the depths of my closet. I always say I’ll take it out to play again one day…

But whether you play an instrument or not, happiness my friends, is something worth practicing.

I’ve never been the cheerleader type. You know, perky and smiley and all those other exaggerated cheerful qualities. Quite the opposite in fact. I was always an inquisitive, thoughtful, serious sort of child. Perhaps even a dark little thing at times. In second grade, when we were asked to write about a particular topic in our daily journals, such as: “What do you like about yourself?” I would write something like, “I don’t like anything about myself, I’m not good at anything.” Holy perfectionism!

No, a cheerful disposition never came naturally for me. Upon seeing a company of men getting all their equipment ready to cut down some trees at my next-door neighbor’s house, eight-year-old little me marched right over there with an 8″x 11″ hand-drawn sign that read: “STOP KILLING THE TREES!!!” The utter horror and injustice of such a crime was real and important to me. I was jaded by the age of 10.

But as I approach 30, I’m becoming that cheerful, happy person.  I’ve still got my edge and introversion, which are parts of my personality that will never go away, and I’m fine with that.  I’ve simply learned that what I focus on has changed.  Now (not all the time, but enough of the time), I focus on my vision.  That place where I see myself in a couple of years time.  Living on my metaphorical mountaintop, yet more connected than ever.

It’s a rad thought.

Sip a Cup of Positivitea

Whenever I feel happy, I try to record it.  Write it down, snap a silly selfie, wiggle my shoulders and belt out an NSYNC holiday song, smother one of my dogs with hugs and kisses, dig in dirt, stare at some trees, whatever.  I wrote the following in my journal just two weeks ago…and last night I cried and cried until the veins on my temples popped like on the biceps of bodybuilders.  Where had that joy gone?  Why can’t I keep it in my locket and open it whenever I need my mojo back?  It’s so easy to get sucked into the quicksand of sadness.  But the more I get to know myself, the quicker my recovery time is.  Why?  Because I know what specific things I can do to lift my spirits.  I can fake an obnoxious smile until my cheeks hurt (see photo).  I can read poetry, or an inspiring story.  I can curl up under a heated throw and eat dark chocolate chips out of the bag.  I can sip tea and tell myself, “you are worth it.  You have a birthright to be happy.”  And there it is.  My cup of positivitea.  It is my foremost goal in life to discover what it is that makes me/people/communities happy.

10.3.15 Journal Entry

I feel so inexplicably wonderful in this moment.  Full of love, devoid of anxiety, relaxed, and grateful.  I smile because I am blessed.  Suddenly, I noticed that I was brimming with love and I was not trying.  Maybe my metta meditation has worked.  Maybe I’m moving closer to my dharma and that makes me feel hopeful.  Maybe it’s just that there’s nothing going horribly wrong right now.

I feel held by something greater than myself.  Quiet, soft, my body billows like a down comforter.  Self-love, perhaps, is the culprit, the wellspring.  Maybe that’s what this feeling is.  The idea that I am in charge of my life.  That I have the passion and the inspiration to be successful no matter what I end up doing.  Maybe I’m starting to enjoy the journey.  Trust the process.  Know, deep in my gut, that everything will be as it should be, and so I can let go of my worrying about it all.  This is a remarkable feeling.

Next I think, “I hope this never ends.”  Clinging to comfort.  Buddhism says grasping causes suffering.  I am mindful enough to recognize this knee-jerk reaction to clutch to comfort.

As I began writing this, halfway through the page I started to feel that old pang in my chest come up again, like that stubborn eyebrow hair you keep on plucking.  I wonder if that anxiety comes from not wanting this happiness to end.  Or maybe the anxiety comes from the ever-increasing hushed words of the self-critic, who could be suggesting that I don’t deserve this happiness, and it, in fact, won’t last, and I’ll be back to discomfort and dissatisfaction.  Even still, I feel pretty darn rooted in the belief that I can accomplish anything, and I no longer need to seek approval.

I’m an adult.  I have to remember that.  Sometimes I still feel like a child.  But I’m an adult.  A fierce, compassionate, innovative healer.  I can eat popcorn for dinner and soup for breakfast if I want to.  It’s exhilarating to start to release perfectionism, approval-seeking, whatever.  I am happy being me.  Finally!

What dream of yours seems so outlandish, that it couldn’t possibly materialize into reality?  I challenge you to challenge that belief.  Instead, say, “why not?”  Why can’t this dream happen?  Pay attention to what stories you might be telling yourself.  Write them down.  We’re about to turn all of that on it’s head and chuck it into the ocean.

xo Steph

Trusting Your Inner Compass

Remember the times before GPS?  Yeah, me neither.  I do remember typing my destination address into Mapquest’s magical navigator, and scribbling down the directions on a scrap of paper, dashing in my car, and whizzing on my way.

Many times, I still got lost.  But that was half the fun of it, wasn’t it?  It was part of the adventure and emblazoned anxiety.

Now, we set out on a journey and it’s no longer really a journey.  We’ve become so reliant on information systems outside ourselves, and lost touch with our own inner compass.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  We try to control the events of our lives, set reminders on our phones, tweet and post and scroll, clutching fervently to whatever seems to be working for us.  Distractions from ourselves.  Whatever it takes to get us to our pre-determined destination crafted by the thinking (vs. intuitive) mind, that’s what we’re going to do.  Steps A-Z.  In sequential order.

Well what happens when our plan runs off the tracks?  When T comes before B?  When someone throws a wrench in our perfectly prescribed timeline to “Z” destination?  I can tell you what happens for me.  I become disappointed, confused, angry, bitter, sad, and usually, defeated.  I forget the entire journey, throw away the destination, and move on to devise another plan.

Maybe I don’t need to do all that planning.  Hmm, there’s an idea.  Maybe it makes more sense to follow signs, landmarks, breadcrumbs, garden gnomes.  (Ok, probably not the last one).  At least I won’t be so attached to a rigid outcome.

I think by allowing myself to stray, to wander, to try different hats and shoes and scarves on, I can free myself from the anxiety of reaching that pre-set destination.  Maybe I’m already where I’m supposed to be, in every moment.  And the more I’m fully here and awake in each moment, the easier it will become to follow the flags, lights, and arrows pointing me to my next excursion.

This of course, requires trust in some force greater than myself, and also great trust in myself.  I used to ignore, shove aside, and snuff out my intuitive sense.  I’d shush that hushed voice that was actually guiding me.  I did things that didn’t align with what felt right to me, or true to my essential nature.

The more I denied my inner compass, the more lost I became.  But now, I feel like I’m starting to rest in the knowledge that I will listen to ME, and also take some hints and nudges from God/Universe/Spiritual Law/whatever IT is…because that resides in me.

The answers reveal themselves like dominoes clicking gently against each other, spiraling and weaving and knowing exactly where they are headed.

Steph xo

Okay, Universe. I Get It.

courage

I see this magnet every morning when I make my coffee.

Don’t be too timid or squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.

But sometimes, I actually pay attention.  I read this brilliance of Ralph Waldo Emerson and think to myself, “when am I going to take a courageous step, and stop being so timid and scared?”

Have you had a dream that you’ve pushed so far away in the back of your mind, that you hardly remember it’s there?  Maybe as a kid, you had a particularly keen eye for beauty and expression of life, and you took pictures with your polaroid camera, wanting to spend all of your days capturing special moments.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to be that photographer, and throw all of your energy, inspiration, and time into honing your craft.  But this subtle voice of doubt always said: “That isn’t practical.  You’ll have to claw your way through the competition.  How will you find clients?  Better stick to your “safe” job, and “steady” paycheck.  You have to eat, remember?”  Well I think that voice of doubt is full of crap.  And even though I think it’s rubbish, know it’s not really true, and know there are ways to succeed and make your passion work for you in a financially sustainable way, doubt continues to checkmate me.  I get so close to winning the game, and then doubt taunts me, making the final move that I wasn’t confident enough to see.  Freezing me into inaction and disappointment.

 

I think that’s part of the problem.  Not seeing past the doubt to the truth.  Not taking small, courageous steps toward your dreams each day.  Allowing society’s measure of “success” to dictate what you do with your life.  If you know what you’re capable of, and know that you have to take a stab at achieving you dreams, because anything else just feels like a distraction, the first thing to do is to determine your own definition of success.

 

I’ve thought about what success means to me quite a bit lately.  There have been times in my life where I subscribed to the traditional, Americanized version of success: becoming a doctor, lawyer, or fabulously wealthy entrepreneur; owning a house so large that the smallest sounds echo; driving fancy, gas-guzzling “look at me – I have money!” SUVs.  There have been times where I felt unfulfilled, and I tried to fill that void by shopping, buying clothes and shoes and purses I didn’t need.  None of those material things made me fulfilled or happy.  In fact, they made me feel bloated with the hangover of excess.  Somehow, this didn’t seem like right living.  Not when there are children in parts of the world that don’t own a single pair of shoes, and eat dirt cookies dried in the sun to fill their bellies.

 

Success to me, is about real, heartfelt connections.  It’s about giving the best parts of me to the world.  A sense of community and unity.  It’s about people helping people.  It’s about doing my very small part to heal and create change.  Success to me, is having the freedom to curl up under the cozy covers with a book, with my dogs snoring softly on the floor nearby.  Success to me, is staying continually in awe of nature.  Success to me, is having a beginner’s mind.

 

It is only a matter of time before the urge to become who I’m meant to be becomes so strong, that I will have to forego what I’ve been doing and change my life completely.  In the meantime, I’ve begun to change right where I am.  I’ve done this by making a conscious effort  to connect with people at work, even if it’s just with eye contact and a genuine smile, or asking about their children and really taking the time to listen.  Offering someone undivided attention and presence is powerful.  With our electronically-dominated world, this is becoming a rare and needed gift.  More often, I step outside of my bubble and make small talk with the person bagging my groceries.  Giving and connecting, and being radically grateful for all I have, has made all the difference.  I’ve ditched my victim mentality, I’ve stopped belly-aching about the trivial, and I’ve started getting REAL.

 

And guess what?  I will silence that voice of doubt.  I will go for it, fully, and with abandon.  The only question that remains, is…when?  And when will you go for your dream?  Let me know, I’d love to hear your story, your dream.

Steph xo

My Story

treesunset
Everyone has a story.  Your story is unique, and it is capable of reaching others in some capacity that will be received as a gift.  If you have an empowering story, I encourage you to share it.  Not only can this be healing and freeing for you, but it is healing and freeing for others.  It is your story that heals.

Most of my life, I was a private person.  I was overly cautious in friendships and relationships, and hesitant to let anyone into my world.  I flew under the radar, and preferred to be alone.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, with being an introvert who prefers books over social activities.  But by hiding, well into adulthood, and keeping my story locked away, I was missing out on a great opportunity.  The opportunity to build connections with people, especially those who have a similar story.  I realized I was withholding a major gift that can lead to my great work being done in the world.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life.  As far back as my memory will allow, and as soon as I became self-aware as a child, there was a strange sense of pervasive melancholy and isolation.  I lived two blocks away from my elementary school, and would walk to and from school each day.  I’ll never forget walking to school, backpack in tow, feeling this bizarre disconnection from my body.  It was as if I was viewing myself from the sky while sleepwalking.  Later in life, I was able to label this feeling with a legitimate psychological term, which is a phenomenon known as “dissociation”.

I’ve experienced dissociation many times in my life, and still do on occasion.  For those who fortunately have not felt this, the best way I can describe it is an extreme and frightening version of déjà vu.

Anxiety has been with me just as long as depression, at least 20 years now.  For those reading this who have chronic anxiety or have had panic attacks, or both, you know what kind of hell this can be.  I get it.  I’ve been there.  Most importantly, you are not alone.  You are not the story you tell yourself.  You are not what others think of you.  You are not the pithy and insensitive remarks that are directed toward you.  You are not taboo as a byproduct of your depression or anxiety or eating disorder.  You do not need to hide.  Please keep reading.  This story has a happy “ending” (I put this word in quotations because it’s really a lifelong journey).  I will tell you what coping mechanisms have worked for me, and how I’ve found relief from states of mental distress.

Anxiety and depression are often close cousins with eating disorders.  It’s often a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” scenario.  Either anxiety and depression somehow contribute to an eating disorder, an eating disorder worsens anxiety and depression, or some combination of all three exists (which was the case for me).  It’s like back in the day, when finger-painting, and I mixed all the colors together to create this sort of non-specific brown.  My thoughts were all blurred together into that brown.  I felt out of control when it came to the canvas of my life.

Enter eating disorder, or ED.  At age 14, the battle began.  Controlling my food and exercise gave me a false sense of control in my life.  I could not yet accept that there were things that were outside of my control.  I had to reign everything in and use my puppet strings to create idealized, unrealistic outcomes.   Everything became black or white.  I didn’t allow myself to consume ANY foods that contained fat.  I HAD to exercise excessively every day.  At the time, it felt like it wasn’t a choice.  ED had me in shackles.  It was a dire demand.  It was the difference between failing and succeeding.  It was an ABSOLUTE requirement that I kept my calorie intake below 500 a day, no exceptions.  This was meticulously recorded and poured over every night.  If something was out of balance, if I ate one too many apples or rice cakes, I panicked.  I would then need to sneak out of the house at night to go for a run.  I took ephedrine (which of course is now illegal because of its harmful effects on the body), wrapped food in napkins and threw them away or hid them underneath a sweatshirt until I could be excused from the table, made excuses for missing dinner because I had “homework”, told my parents I had a stomach ache, became vegetarian so I could cut out entire food groups, avoided like the plague social or family events where large amounts of food would be present, and the diversions go on and on.

My anorexia, from a clinical perspective, did not continue long, probably two years.  But for me it was a lifetime of living in my own prison.  And it was about to get worse.  My body couldn’t sustain itself, especially since I was involved with physical activities such as dance team in high school.  We’d have 3-hour practices after school in the cafeteria; following that, I walked 2 miles home.  For all that exercise, I’d have the smallest possible bite of a Power Bar.  You don’t have to be a dietician to understand that’s not enough food.  After a summer of extreme restricting and over-the-top workouts, entering into my freshman year of high school, I stepped on the scale and felt an electric current of fear rush through me.  I was 97 pounds.  Oh and by the way, I’m 5’9”.  I was emaciated, dangerously underweight.

That number on the scale, and the emotions associated with it, will stay with me for the rest of my life.  (Only now, 14 years later, can I be weighed at the doctor’s office without losing my shit).  I looked in the mirror and was unrecognizable, miserable, and desperate.  I often had heart palpitations, hadn’t had a menstrual cycle in months, and couldn’t sleep at night because my bones jutted out to the point where I couldn’t find a comfortable position, even on a soft mattress.  I suddenly understood the magnitude of the hole I was in.  That was the first day I ever binged.

I raced downstairs and all but unloaded the kitchen’s contents.  I gorged on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cereal, cookies, ice cream, whatever I could get my hands on.  My parents were more than puzzled at the mysterious disappearance of vast amounts of food from the cabinets and fridge.  They had to start labeling Tupperware containers with a note that said “Do Not Eat”.  I was embarrassed, humiliated.  I only binged while I was alone, and barely ate in the presence of others.  For obvious reasons, I gained weight rapidly, and ED didn’t like that one bit.  So it took on a different form.  A seamless transition.  Bulimia.

In many aspects, this was without question the worst period of my life.  Everything I did was dictated by my eating disorder.  I would skip school to walk home, binge, and purge.  I made choices that would change the course of my life.  I’m still working on mending those mistakes.  I experimented with a number of harmful substances.  I’ll never forget my rock bottom; most people don’t.  They may block it out temporarily, but a traumatic experience is usually committed to long-term memory.  There are often triggers (a sound, a smell, an image, a word) that bring the experience back to the surface, the forefront of the mind.

Like any other ordinary day, I skipped class.  I walked to Dunkin Donuts, and bought myself a bag of donuts.  Yes, they were all for me.  Knowing what would come next, I had a new idea.  I had heard of people using ipecac.  For those who don’t know, Ipecac is an over-the-counter medicine intended to induce vomiting following ingestion of a poisonous substance.  With my bag of donuts, I walked to the grocery store.  Heart racing, mind reeling, I stole a bottle of ipecac.  I was too paranoid about being questioned at the counter to purchase it.  Back at home, I binged, gulped back a couple teaspoons of the disgusting liquid, and waited.  I’ll spare you the details of the events that followed.  I collapsed on the floor and blacked out.  I came back to consciousness an undeterminable time later, on the cold tile of the bathroom floor, my head throbbing.  I was overwrought with anxiety and despair.  In that moment, I wanted to die.  I wanted to be released from the grips of my eating disorder.   I had hit the very bottom of my well.  I would have more lows to come in my life, but I believe this was one of my all-time lows.  As I write this, my hands are shaking and my chest is tight.  This is a painful memory to share.

My parents soon caught on to my behaviors.  I was pulled out of school to receive outpatient treatment for my eating disorder at the Institute of Living in Hartford, CT.  It was there that I met some of the most authentically beautiful souls I’ll ever encounter.  These women and men ranged in age from 12 to 60.  Each was at a different stage in their recovery.  Even in the depths of my own need for healing, I recognized how sad it was that we were there.  How fundamentally fucked up it was to be caught in the crossfire of self-deprecation.  That society’s messages had, in any way, a role in causing this dis-ease.  It was there that the seed was planted.  It was there that a flame was sparked inside me to challenge and to combat the way we, as a society, reward or deny people based on their appearance.  It was there that I had my first brush with meditation and yoga.  I experienced firsthand the transformative, healing power of meditation, coupled with the intuitive wisdom of yoga.  I observed how my friends with eating disorders responded to guided meditation.  They were calmer, they were breathing deeper, the light returned to their eyes.  Those shifts alone were huge triumphs.  In a nutshell, meditation and yoga became my healer, my relief from anxiety and damaging thoughts about myself.

Fast forward to today.  Since my last treatment at IOL ended, I’ve healed and transformed in a big way.  I’ve continued therapy on and off with different people.  I’ve learned to listen to my body.  I feed myself with what truly fuels me, from a literal perspective of nutrition, to a visceral level of intuitive life choices.  I’ve continued to meditate often.  I became a certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher.  I went back to school.  I landed a job I thought I was unqualified for.  I got married, bought a house, and am starting my own business.  I’ve been called “a leader”.  Never would I have imagined myself emerging as a leader.  That is truly astounding to me.  I am slowly learning how to stand in that truth with confidence, and firmly, unapologetically, take my seat as a teacher and leader.  That is the happy ending, or better, happy beginning.  Each day, I begin again.  I show up differently each day, but I show up.  And that’s what matters.  From my life cred even more than my formal training, I am qualified to lead and to teach.  I now seek progress instead of perfection, and try to my best ability to delight in simple joys.  I want to help others heal, grow, and bloom fully.

If your story has yet to be told, tell it.  Talk about it, share about it, stand in your truth.  Reach out to others.  Reinforce to yourself that you and everyone else deserves to be happy, to be healthy, to be free from danger.  Be in support of yourself first and foremost.  Become your own best friend.  Tell yourself a new story, and discard the old one that says “you can’t”.  Because you can.  And you will. 

I hope that sharing my story will serve someone in some capacity.  If you have questions, comments, or want to share your story with me, please do.  I’ll do my best to respond and support you in any way that I can.

The Work of Your Life

Tree

It’s no secret that I love to write.  Once in awhile, I take a stab at poetry…

The Work of Your Life

The work of your life is calling
It is up to you to answer
First, get quiet
Make space for stillness.
Unplug.
Be the seeker.
Find the fire within.
You may search inside
And find only coals sizzling
On the hearth of your spirit
But look closer, friend
Do you see the smoke
That still rises from the ashes
Of wounded dreams?
The fire awaits kindling;
Action and self-inquiry.
Fan the flames, friend
Overcome limitations
Set by your own inner critic.
Silence the voice
That beckons stagnation and mediocrity.
Stand on the platform
At the edge of insecurity, and
Dive into self-assured intention.
I say, dream on my friend
You may find that the work of your life
Has no end.

Dreams and Dharma

sunrise

Is there a difference between dreams and dharma?  For those of you who have read the Bhagavad Gita, you may recall that dharma refers to an individual’s life purpose.  Without getting too heady, dharma is about your duty to your true gift.  You may ask: well, how do I know what my purpose, or true gift is?

Some people are already living their dharma.  You’ll recognize these people by the shining light in their eyes.  By the energy and passion they bring to their work.  These are the people who become so engrossed in a project, they forget to eat, or go to the bathroom.

Dreams and dharma are often not synonymous.  Dreams are idealized future outcomes that we write a story in our minds about.  I’ve always been a dreamer, though I confess that it sometimes prevents me from living my life right now.  I can identify with the need to escape an uncomfortable present-moment by retreating to the comfort of imagination’s constructs.

I’ve always had this nagging sense that I am meant for something different than what I am doing with the majority of my time now, which is working for an insurance company.  But this is a split mentality, because other times, I experience enormous guilt for not being grateful for my situation.  My job affords me a comfortable lifestyle with the ability to purchase things.  There is one huge flaw to this.  “Things” have never led to sustained happiness for me.  They are temporary distractions, justification of staying in a present-moment situation that is not aligning with my gift, my purpose, my dharma.

Misalignment vs. guilt.  Neither reality is attractive.  So, what’s left?  Either I accept my current job, and keep dreaming, or I pull the bow back and let go, hoping that my arrow lands smack in the center of my dharma target.

Do I know what my dharma is?  Not with totality.  I feel a pull toward the transformative qualities of yoga and meditation practice.  I come home to my true self when immersed in the wonders of nature, no matter how simple.  I am enthralled by great writing, and feel safety and confidence when I write.  I have wildly creative dreams each night, ones that catapult me into a different realm altogether.  While I haven’t got all the chips to fall in a way that makes complete sense to me, I am getting there.

Meditation is so important to uncovering dharma.  Meditation has allowed me to access memories that I’ve wedged into the corners of my mind.  I can remember being whisked away into the mysterious prose woven by Shel Silverstein (The Giving Tree still leaves me in tears), C.S. Lewis, and later, Tom Robbins, and Jane Austen.  Hopping up on a picnic table in my backyard to pretend I was a character in a novel is a memory which foreshadows my budding creativity and imagination.  Building forts in the woods behind my house, and inventing ceremonial practices in the company of my own wistful spirit was another common occurrence.  I’ve always been reflective, contemplative, naturally drawn inward.  Somewhat of a recluse, like Thoreau I suppose.  I think it’s so important to encourage these childhood memories back to the forefront of our mind, so we may be reminded of what brought us the special brand of pure, untainted joy that can’t be broken.

One thing that has helped me move closer to my dharma, is being hyper aware of the potential signs all around.  These messages can show up in unexpected conversations, an animal you keep crossing paths with (for me, it’s a hawk), a fantastically painted sunrise, or a gut feeling.  Stay in tune with where the universe is trying to navigate you, and simply allow.  Observe with curiosity.  Take steps toward your gift, nurture the gift, and soon you’ll be living your dharma.

Namaste,

Steph xo

5 Ways to Love Yourself Today

Image

1. Stop comparing yourself to others.

You are uniquely you for a reason….God makes no mistakes.  Remember this truth everyday.

 2.  Find your beauty.

Look at yourself in the mirror without judgment.  Shift your experience to one of love, and take note of the things you like, even if it’s as seemingly insignificant as thinking your ears are cute, or noticing the beauty of a birthmark.

3.  Indulge…without guilt!

Have a piece of your favorite, rich dark chocolate (or whatever you LOVE, but are currently depriving yourself of).  Take a moment to yourself, without distraction, to really fully enjoy the taste.  Don’t look at the calorie count.

4.  Compliment another woman.

Too often, womens’ insecurities lead to jealousy of one another.  Instead, be a leader and choose to lift your fellow females up.  Encourage each other and build confidence together.  If you think your co-worker looks fabulous in that shade of blue she’s wearing today, let her know.  Chances are, spreading love in this way will help you love yourself.

5.  Stand for something.

Giving back feels good, and benefits others as well as ourselves.  If you love animals, maybe consider switching to a vegetarian diet, or if you’re able, fostering/adopting a pet.  Another great option is looking into volunteer opportunities; Foodshare and Rebuilding Together are fantastic organizations that help the hungry and people with at-risk homes, respectively.  Simply giving up a Saturday morning to volunteer your time will touch many, and likely inspire you, too.  It helps us put life into perspective, and be grateful for all we have, rather than focusing on what we lack.

 

What do you do to love yourself?  I look forward to your feedback!

xo Steph