The Skin You’re In

The relationship I developed with my body as a young girl was confusing and tumultuous at best; appalling and shameful at worst. It all started out well enough. I didn’t even consider gender or body image or definitions of ‘good or bad’ when it came to my own form until I was about eight years old, and then one day, I looked down at my bare thighs spread wide against the seat of the car and gasped at how…big they looked. I vowed never to allow my thighs to rest against the seat like that again; instead, I would delicately sit with my thighs elevated above the seat just enough so the flesh could hang off my bones, and maintain the slim appearance that I considered acceptable. I have no idea why I considered slim to be more acceptable. Maybe I had fallen victim to the media that surrounded me; maybe I had overheard negative remarks at school; maybe it’s because I didn’t want to take up so much space….who knows how it started. It just did.

This skin I’m living in has been through a lot, and it’s likely that the skin you’re living in has been through a lot, too.

It has likely been stretched, pulled, belittled, reprimanded, ridiculed, covered, shamed, ashamed, disregarded, used, abused…sometimes perhaps by others, sometimes perhaps by you.

And yet…it survives, thrives, rejoices, celebrates, dances, moves, holds, beholds, and most importantly, loves.

And I don’t know why we, as a society don’t talk about the beautiful parts of ourselves, as if it is shameful to even admit that you’re okay with how you look and okay with who you are, but I hope that the conversation might change—that we might not only talk about being okay with who we are as individuals, but to celebrate acceptance, innate beauty and the unique differences that make you, you.

Even as I write, I find a bit of hesitation to admit it—but I can finally say that I love the skin I’m in.

I love the bumps, lumps, lines and wrinkles.
I love the parts that change and the parts that stay the same.
I love that my hands look like my Grandmother’s and my nose looks like my Dad’s.
I love that there is an old photo of my Mother that could be me.
I love that there is herstory and history in my bones; and that I carry the stardust of my ancestors beneath my skin.

I love that I can finally look in the mirror and smile instead of scowl at what I see.

This love did not come through external influences;
There have been no dramatic changes to the shape of my body;
or outside sources declaring my worth and beauty;
I didn’t suddenly get prettier or thinner or stronger….
No, this love did not come through outside influences;

This love came from within.

It came because I was tired of wasting energy on not liking the skin I’m in.

It came through quiet moments of early meditation; sitting in the dark; squaring off with my demons; and discovering that inner truth and peace were never lost; they’ve been here all along, just waiting to be seen.

It came through hours upon hours of focused movement: updog, downdog, forward bend, repeat….movement that would peel away the layers of armor that held me from myself. This movement—sometimes slow and sweet, and sometimes difficult and strong—shook it off, bit by bit, breath by breath. It made me soft enough to feel and strong enough to grow.

It came through constant introspection; policing my own mind; noticing the cruel words; the loud voice; the demeaning demands; sorting out the truth from lies; questioning their validation, and ultimately finding the discipline to drop the things that kept me small and weak…

It came through looking in the mirror, and instead of focusing on my flaws; I declared my own beauty to myself, even when it felt awkward, strange and uncomfortable. I said it anyway; I spoke kind words until it felt real; until it felt true; until it became real and became true.

It came through miles and miles of running that helped to flush out stuck emotions; to process; to breathe deep enough to pull it from the darkest depths, and free it out to dissolve with the heat of my breath as it mingled with the crisp morning air.

It came through writing—sloppy, incoherent, rambling—a dumping ground of words and ideas that had to be released; cleaning out the wounds so they could heal.

It came through cleansing tears.
It came through clearing the air.
It came through forgiveness.
It came through trust.
It came through faith.
It came through each and every moment of my life that begged me to stop resisting and start loving.

It came.

And just because I’ve made peace with myself, doesn’t mean I can stop working at it; the work for acceptance is ongoing—up and down, in and out, with constant reminders and practice, practice, practice.

But the return for my dedication toward acceptance is that I can love and celebrate my body for the beautiful instrument that it is.

I live free.
I share.
I give.
I create.
I love.

Finally, finally,

I am no longer weighed down.
I am no longer ashamed;
I’m not ashamed of my body, and I’m not ashamed to love it, either.
I am no longer holding my thighs above the seat so that my flesh can hang from my bones to maintain a slim appearance.

Finally, finally,

I am in love with the skin I’m in.

And my hope is that you will be, too. That you’ll start with wherever you are by accepting this moment with all of its flaws and all of its imperfections and unknown mysteries and realize that all of that is perfect, too.

That you are perfect.

And that realizing the truth about yourself isn’t about searching somewhere else. It’s about releasing the barriers that hold you back from recognizing your own beautiful image in the mirror.

I hope you’ll fall in love with the skin you’re in;

as it is, right now.

Because, it’s time.

Finally, finally.

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That’s Okay, Too

I must have been a bear in a past life, because the moment the days get shorter, the nights get longer, and the cool autumn breeze drops just a tad below comfortable, hibernation sounds pretty good to me…all I want to do is retreat, go inside, and drink hot tea until the snow melts…

I write a lot about creating on this blog—putting yourself out there, overcoming obstacles, believing in yourself—you know, manifesting.

But what if you can’t bring yourself to change out of your sweatpants, let alone change the world?

Well, that’s okay, too.

Because sometimes the very best thing you can do for yourself (and for the rest of the world, for that matter) is to retreat, go inside, and maybe just stay in bed.

Stay inside, literally and figuratively, if you can.

If you’re tired, let yourself rest.
If you’re quiet, invite silence.
If you’re feeling like you’d like to dismiss yourself from life for a little while…then do that, even if all you can spare is a few minutes to yourself.

Because when you honor yourself and the way you feel, you align yourself with the big picture—the one that’s so big, you can’t see it all with one glance.

…Maybe you need this time because something big is just around the corner, and somewhere deep inside yourself, you know you need this time to rest up for what’s to come…
…Maybe you need this time because you’re still healing from something from the past, or something beneath the surface and it takes a lot of energy to heal an old wound…
…Maybe you need this time because you’re run down, worn out, or just plain exhausted…
…Maybe you need this time for some unknown reason, and you’ll never know why you feel the way you feel…

Honor it anyway.

When you learn to listen, and then follow through, you’re developing a trusting relationship with yourself. And with that, you’ll begin to feel safe within yourself; and you’ll know that you’re being cared for and nurtured by the person who knows you the best—you. And the other thing that’s great about developing a trusting relationship with yourself is that you’ll have an easier time trusting others, and trusting life in general.

So the next time you catch yourself resisting the way you feel, practice compassion. Don’t reach for reasons or excuses, or stumble over apologies…just let yourself be the way you are. Because the way you are, is better than okay. The way you are right now, is right on time, every time, no matter what.

Now, before you give yourself permission to hunker down with Netflix for the next 3-4 months, there is one caveat to spending quality time with your solitude: Don’t let it become who you are. Don’t let it last so long that it becomes your new identity. Never forget that the shadow days are fleeting; they come and they go; so don’t forget to let them go.

You’ll know it’s time to let your shadow days go when the feeling becomes too heavy or suffocating. You’ll know it’s too much when it feels like your quiet mood has a hold on you, rather than the other way around. Remember, that ultimately, you own the way you feel, and sometimes you might need to take action to usher those feeling through. So honor the way you feel, but if the feeling isn’t serving you anymore, you need to take charge of the situation—shake it off, get outside, force yourself to do something, anything...because winter isn’t supposed to last forever, and neither are those shadow days.

But if you’re listening, feeling, honoring what’s there, but also taking action when necessary, then by all means, get quiet, brew up some tea, and stay inside…and if your winter wardrobe consists of a steady rotation of sweatpants…

Well, that’s okay, too.

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You Are Everything

One of the most unexpected benefits of being a yoga teacher is that, over the past ten years of observing my students—observing their movement as they expand, contract, close, open, stretch and strengthen—I have fallen completely in love with the human body. And not just the physical form, but everything it contains—the beauty within—the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects as they are reflected in physical form.

It doesn’t matter how it moves or how it doesn’t move; it doesn’t matter if it is young or old; graceful or awkward; strong or weak; tight or open. It doesn’t matter what it can or cannot do, or how it compares to societal standards.

It is all perfection to me.

Last summer, I had the amazing opportunity to backpack into a secluded high mountain lake and have nothing else to do for an entire afternoon, except stare at that lake.

It was absolutely mesmerizing.

As I watched, the reflection danced between perfect clarity and distorted images; the water rippled and stilled; ebbed and flowed; and the colors in the sky mingled with shadows and light that displayed an exquisite array of colors—light and dark; dull and vibrant—every color you can imagine. It was like watching a light show on the water. It never stayed the same for more than a breath.

It reminded me of the human body.

Your body, and everything within it, is mesmerizing. Sometimes it reflects back perfect clarity and understanding; sometimes it distorts the reflection. It is movement and stillness, and sometimes both at the same time. Your body passes through moments of light and dark; dull or vibrant—every color you can imagine.

You are absolutely mesmerizing.

Have you ever stared in awe at a newborn baby? The delicate features; the light on their skin; the clarity in their eyes? Would you dare to look at yourself the same way, even if only for a moment?

Could you allow yourself to slip away from the barriers of your mind and the rigid ideas contained there so you can have a love affair with yourself?

To feel your skin, young or old, smooth or rough, and adore it either way?

To appreciate the features of your face—the way they’ve been passed on to you like sacred treasure, holding the history of your family and the generations before you?

To look into your own eyes and see what’s there—the love, the hurt, the pain, the strength, and the deep, deep knowing that you are so much more than what you see?

Could you slip away with yourself, if only for one solitary afternoon, or one deep breath?

Would you give yourself the gift of you?

I hope you’ll see what I see when I look at you.
I hope you’ll see that you are magic; that your body is perfect, in spite of perceived imperfections.
I hope you’ll see that your ‘flaws’ are not flaws at all; that they are what make you unique and special.
I hope you’ll see that you are always and forever changing; that this moment now is already gone.

One brief moment of love for yourself will heal you in ways you could never imagine.
One brief moment of love for yourself will show you the truth;
…that you are more than what you see.

That you are beauty.
Grace.
Light.
Courage.
Strength.
Hope.
Faith.
and
Love.
You are so. much. more. than what you see.

You are everything.

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The Magic In You

Within the act of waking this morning, you have started something big. You have set into motion a set of beautifully arranged miracles that will spread like magic throughout the entire Universe. Everyone and everything that crosses your path will be affected.

Yes, you are THAT important.

As you grace the world with your presence, you become a force; your energy spreads, your desires search for their counterpart, and life unfolds to embrace you.

At the center of it all is you.

Every day you have a choice—a million choices—on how to move forward, how to respond, when to stay quiet, and how to act. With every choice, you can either be guided by habitual thoughts, old ideas, fear-based patterns or you can be guided by your heart, clarity and truth.

You have a choice to be guided by a force in you that is so big, so powerful, and so full of magic, yet so simple. It’s the simplicity of it that makes it easy to overlook, and sometimes difficult to recognize. It’s like the keys that go missing, and you search and search only to find that you’ve been holding them all along.

Those keys are your intuition.

And it is with you all the time.

And just like anything, your awareness, practice and dedication to it makes it stronger.

Here are a few ways to fine tune your intuitive pathways and clear out space so you can recognize its presence in your life.

• Care for yourself. Eat well. Exercise. Sleep. These basic components help keep you at an optimal level of functioning. Of course, life shakes things up and you won’t always be able to adhere to a strict and perfect balance; but always, always work toward it. If your body is tired, hungry or overworked/underworked physically, then it will overshadow the delicate and subtle energy of your intuition and make it difficult to feel and hear the truth that lives beneath your skin.

• Clear your mind. Monitor your thoughts. Be selective about what hangs out in there. Is it positive? Is it kind? Is it true? Is it the same damn thought repeating over and over again? Get it out. Bring your awareness to it, so that you can clean house. When your mind gets clear, intuition speaks the loudest, and it’s the only voice you need.

• Understand your emotions. Most of the time, intuition isn’t a thought at all, but a feeling. Get to know the way you feel. Emotions are usually attached to an outside event or physical response. Emotions don’t necessarily warrant action, they can come and go as you allow. A feeling that arises, unattached to any outside force is usually associated with your intuition. A feeling is a call to action; it needs you to listen and respond. Pay attention to the way you feel. Is it an emotional response or is it a feeling that comes from something inside; something deeper?

• Practice listening and act on it. Make a call to the friend who’s been on your mind. Take a rest day when you’re feeling run down. Try that new class that keeps popping into your head. When you practice, intuition appreciates the response and then gives you more and more to practice on. Start wherever you are—what do you feel like doing right now? How does your desire make you feel? If you feel open, spacious, or joyful, then it’s probably your intuition guiding you. Do you have the courage to act on it?

• Trust. Sometimes you may never know why you feel prompted to do what you do. We’re all connected, so sometimes your intuition is in service to someone else. Trust that the messages that come through you are a gift to you, but also a gift to the Universe, and sometimes you will see the purpose clearly, and sometimes you won’t. Trust that no matter what happens you’re right where you need to be, serving on the path you’re meant to travel.

This life that you’re creating with every breath, every thought and every action is your own beautiful creative offering. It is an offering to yourself and an offering to everyone and everything on your path.

Take care of it.
Be selective.
Listen.
Practice.
Honor it.
And be brave.

And if you’re still not exactly sure what intuition is or how to tune into it?

Try.

Your willingness to try is a force so powerful, it’s the only force you need.

Now go and set into motion a set of beautifully arranged miracles that will spread throughout the entire Universe.

Because you are THAT important.

And the world can’t wait to receive the magic in you.

xo,

e.

This post is also the topic of a KSL Studio 5 segment that aired on Friday, October 9th at 11:00. If you missed it, you can catch the replay right here. (If it’s not showing up just yet, check back a bit later…it will be up soon!) xo.

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How to Meditate Without Driving Yourself Crazy

There is no doubt that a regular meditation practice can change your life. It teaches you to tune in and understand yourself in ways you never thought possible. It strengthens your inner resolve to become a conscious observer of whatever comes up—both internally and externally—and opens up an unlimited source of inner space and peace.

It seems simple enough—just sit and breathe—but there’s this unruly, free-spirited influence called the mind—and it loves attention. When we try to ignore it, it just seems to get louder. Sometimes it helps to have a bit of direction, so here are a few tips to help make it more do-able:

  • You can practice anywhere, anytime, for any duration. And you don’t have to sit still. The important thing is that you’re comfortable, so if sitting in a pretzel position on the floor isn’t your thing, try a different position. And if sitting still makes you feel crazy, try a moving meditation instead. There are no rules, so be creative in your approach.
  • It’s important to recognize who’s in charge. I know it might feel like your thoughts are running the show, but truly, it’s the other way around—you have the power to control your thoughts—and meditation is a great way to get them organized and under control. Take a moment to observe your thoughts; if you’re observing them, then you can see that they are separate from ‘you’ as an observer. When you recognize the distinction, you can determine which thoughts you choose to keep and which ones you want to release. Furthermore, when you separate yourself from your thoughts, you’ll see that you can meditate on the essence of you that contains your thoughts, rather than be swept away by them. You can still meditate while there is some thought activity still going on—you’re just not getting wrapped up in whatever story is playing out.
  • Your mind loves to be busy, so give it something to do. Select a mantra (a word, phrase, or sound repeated to aid in concentration), or you can simply count from 1-10 over and over again. Using the counting method, the idea is to start back at one again when you notice that your thoughts have started to drift. (When I first started to practice meditation, I never made it past four). You’ll notice that in the beginning it’s hard to get the mind to stick to one thing—it’s sort of a free spirit—but meditation is about disciplining the mind so that you can use it as a tool, rather than the other way around. It’s just like anything else; it takes time and practice to develop strength and discipline—so keep trying.
  • It might help to think of your thoughts as creative little sparks of imagination, (sort of like little kids). Without direction, they dance and bounce all over the place, but once they gain a bit of focus, the possibilities are endless. So be kind and patient as you work with your thoughts. Politely ask them to settle down; give them some direction, and keep working on it. You may have to redirect your focus 30 times in two minutes—that’s okay! That’s why it’s called a practice, and it does get easier.
  • Another thing to keep in mind as you start a meditation practice is that you don’t have to try to figure anything out, or try to seek peace, because inner peace and wisdom is your natural state. All meditation does is help you slip into that natural state, which is sort of hiding beneath the static noise of the mind. As you practice, you’ll open up more and more space and you’ll realize that the peace you crave has truly, always been there.
  • One of my favorite methods is to just let it be. Rather than allow your mind to take center stage, simply allow it to remain, but turn the volume of it WAY down, so that it’s like a soft murmuring of noise far off in the distance somewhere. Then place your direct focus on your breath, your body, a mantra, or whatever you choose as an anchor point.
  • And, if in spite of all your efforts it still isn’t working out, simply try again later. Next time, maybe try a different time of day or a different approach. Whatever you do, try again.

The important thing to remember about meditation is that it is a practice and it does get easier. Let go of what type of experience you think you should be having or how it should feel—because if you get stuck on an idea of how it should be, the experience might make you feel even crazier than before you started.

And stick with it. Even if it feels like nothing is happening during the time that you actually spend meditating, it is having an influence on the rest of your life. Your intention to simply be present with yourself sends a powerful energetic vibration to the Universe, letting it know that you’re ready to expand your consciousness. Give yourself permission to experience whatever comes up and accept that your process is perfect in whatever way it manifests for you.

To help get you started, I’ve added an audio recording of a brief 3-minute guided meditation. I hope it helps. You can listen to that right here:

 

Also, I spoke about this topic on  KSL Studio 5 recently. You can watch the clip right here. I hope it helps.

I’m sending loads of love your way; happy meditating!

e.

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Your Whole Life is a Masterpiece: Four Ways to Keep On Creating

No matter how you look at it, you’re an artist; a creator; a life and love maker. Whether you’re sculpting a solid relationship, a moment of beautiful self-expression, a crazy-happy lifestyle, or a body that feels like home—you are working on a masterpiece—your whole life is that masterpiece.

The beauty of creating a life you love is that it’s not a one-time event—it’s a whole-life event. It is crafted, refined, molded and transformed over and over again. And as you refine and re-define whatever it is you want to create, you’ll find yourself deeply in love with the process of it all.

However, there are a few steps that might help in those moments that make you feel like an outsider in your own life. You can think of them as the foundation for whatever you’re trying to create, no matter what your creation might look like or how many times it transforms. Whether you’re working on a relationship, your lifestyle, a healthy body, or creative self-expression, align yourself with these four key elements to help keep you in the creative flow as you create your masterpiece called life.

First: Know what you want.

This isn’t meant to be a concrete idea fixed in stone. Knowing what you want is about knowing how you want to feel. Once you’re clear about the feeling you want to embody, then you can create whatever you want around it. Some days, feeling loved is about being surrounded by friends and family, and other days, feeling loved will be about a quiet moment in nature. Either way, the feeling remains at the center of it all.

Second: Show up.

Nothing happens without you. That means you need to be consciously present for your life. Be alert, present, and aware of your head space and your heart space. Pull your awareness into the present moment as often as possible, and simply show up in that space. Furthermore, showing up means that you physically step up to the work: lace up your shoes; make the call; initiate the conversation; sit for meditation even if you can’t.stop.thinking. Just show up.

Third: Do the work.

Start. Something; anything; just start. And don’t be discouraged if the work isn’t your greatest. Usually, your very best work doesn’t appear right away. There’s a period of ‘flushing out’. This means that initially whatever you’re doing won’t be your greatest work—whether that means initiating a difficult conversation, or writing the first draft of your resume—just start working on it. The words will start to flow; the art will begin to take shape; your body will ease into the movement. Whatever it is you’re working on, allow space for the ‘awkward phase.’ It’s only temporary. Soon enough, you’ll find your stride and the action will begin to move through you with ease and grace. And when it starts to feel too easy, step into something new, and expand again.

Fourth: Let go of the outcome.

This part is important. Very important. You’ve got to let go of any attachments you have to the outcome. Trust that whatever happens is the very best scenario for the path that you’re walking. It might not look like the best scenario, and it may not feel so great when it doesn’t work out as you had hoped, but trust that you’re right where you need to be. I know this is hard, but it’s important for two reasons: One, because if you get hung up on wishing things were different, then you’ll end up wasting a lot of energy and losing momentum. And two, if you’re so laser-focused on how you think things should play out; you might overlook the real gift or opportunity. Your vision might be closed off to what’s waiting for you if you just expand your view.

Creating a life you love is always a work in progress, but having a foundation will keep you grounded and connected to what’s important. Know what you want, show up, do the work, and let go of the outcome. And if things don’t seem to be working out, trust in the process and stay true to yourself and what’s important to you. At one point, you’ll look back at this moment and realize that everything is as it should be and you’re right where you belong.

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Photo: Anna Ristuccia

20 Mantras to Help Make Miracles Happen

Maybe you’ve been plugging along for a while—same thing, same day; same thought process. Or, maybe you’ve entered something completely new, and you’re not quite sure what to think of it all.

In order to create a life you love, you’ve got to be aware of where your mind is taking you all the time. External reality begins internally—and your thoughts are a big part of that. That’s good news, because you have the power to control what you’re thinking. The mind loves to wander. It is curious, quizzical, and has a tendency to run the show; but give it something to play with, and it can become your very best ally.

Enter the work of the mantra: A mantra is sort of like an anchor; something the mind can hang onto to keep it focused on what’s most important. It might be one word, or it might be a whole sentence. I tend to favor a statement that places whatever I desire in the present tense, so that as I repeat it in my mind, I begin to feel like it is actually happening. And if you can evoke the feeling that goes along with whatever it is you want, then you are paving the way for big things to start manifesting.

Another powerful aspect of the mantra is that it will burn up old thought patterns so that you can start to create something fresh. You’ll begin to recognize which thoughts are serving you and which ones aren’t, and as you discipline your mind, you’ll be able to flush out, burn up and transform anything that isn’t helping you to create the life you know you’re meant to live.

To help you get started, I’ve put together a few of my favorites. Borrow one of these, or make up one of your own. And one more important note: since many of these mantras are written as if they are already happening, they might not feel real to you yet. That’s okay. You’re in a process of growing into the feeling and the reality of what you’re creating, so it might feel a bit awkward or uncomfortable while you adapt.

Approach it like this: read through the list and pay close attention to the mantras that really resonate with you. Make changes to it if you need to, or simply use the list as inspiration to create something brand new. The key is that it sounds fluid and easy to repeat. Then, write it down, stick it in your head on repeat, and then anytime you catch a thought that pulls you away from who or where you want to be, return to your mantra and watch the magic happen.

-I am in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.

-I am enough.

-My life is full of love, and I am open to receive it.

-I am abundant.

-My whole life has prepared me for this moment.

-I delight in that which is before me.

-Today I receive the gifts of what has already been planted.

-The best thing I can do for others, is give love freely to myself.

-I am in perfect health.

-I am in love with my life.

-I am grateful for this moment.

-I am blessed beyond measure.

-I am supported.

-I am now living in my full creative power.

-My life unfolds as an expression of love.

-I have perfect work in a perfect way; I give perfect service, for perfect pay.

-As I heal myself, I heal others.

-All that I desire lives through me now.

-This moment is exactly what I need for the evolution of my consciousness.

-I am love.

Do you have a good one you’d like to share? If so, drop it in the comments and inspire others with your wisdom and wit.

Now, go make miracles happen.

Much love,
e.

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Discipline: The Good and the Bad of it

Meet the deadline. Check the box. Hit the mark.

Structure. Boundaries. Organization.

It’s all good when it helps you stay on course.

It’s not so good when it holds you back.

After I had my first baby, I had an epiphany that sort of went like this: ‘Oh, my body needs to be cared for; my mind needs to be cared for; my heart needs to be cared for…huh…I guess I can’t just sit back and wait for all of that to happen…’

And so it began: my love affair with discipline.

I fell deep.

Every day, no matter what: I did what I thought I had to do to take care of myself—my body, my heart, my mind, my work. Meditate.Yoga.Running.Writing. On task. On course. Disciplined. Dedicated. Devoted.

And it worked really, really great…until it didn’t.

It’s funny how something that is really good for you can shift into something that, well…isn’t anymore.

That’s what happened to me. I found that I had become so rigid in my structure that I was missing out on the spontaneity of life—the joy, the freedom, the expansion. Yet, I was so afraid that if I let things go…even just a tiny bit…everything would collapse.

It took my third child to snap me out of it. Babies have a very unsubtle way of shattering any and all structure. And this one really shook things up. No matter how hard I tried he would not conform to any type of structure, whatsoever. The only thing I could count on was that he would definitely not sleep, eat, or poop on a regular schedule.

So, I had to let go of it all: the yoga, the meditation, the reading, the writing, the running…I grabbed a moment here and there, but for the most part it all just dissolved for a while.

And you know what?

It was one of the very best things that could have happened to me.

You know why?

Because instead of falling apart, it all just fell into place.

Chaotic. Messy. Unstructured. It was a perfect storm.

Since my meditation practice was no longer a scheduled seated event, I practiced all day: while breastfeeding, changing diapers, rocking him to sleep. My writing became quicker, clearer and more focused. The precious moments I spent on the yoga mat were sublime, and despite my significant decline of exercise, I felt healthier and stronger than ever before.

Furthermore, letting it all go gave me something else to slip into:

Trust.
Surrender.
Faith.

And ultimately, a lot more freedom.

My suggestion?

Build a structure. Create something that will hold and sustain you; especially as you’re starting something new.

But, be flexible.

Don’t allow discipline to be so rigid that it boxes you in—use it as a springboard so you can soar even higher. Let things slide; let things slip; and take a break now and then, just for the hell of it.

You just might discover that you no longer need that worn-out map of discipline…

…because you’re flying now.

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PHOTO: REUBEN WU

Make An Observation

I’ll be honest: I want Make it Manifest to leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy. I want the blog to be inspiring and authentic; I want the Instagram photos to be beautiful, and the Facebook page to be something that makes you feel good as you scan through updates.

But the thing I want more than anything is to help you take action. I don’t want you to just read about creating a life that you love, I want you to actually do it.

So, this post and the few that follow will include a little exercise. It doesn’t take any time at all. You can even do the exercise as you go about your day. In fact, I encourage you to do the exercise as you go about your day, because that’s when the magic happens.

Today, we’re going to make an observation. This is all about looking at your situation without judgment. Seriously, NO judgment. Learning to observe without judgment takes practice. If it helps, you can think of yourself in two parts; there’s the ‘you’ that consists of your mind, your body, and your emotions moving through the events of your life, and there’s the ‘you’ that can observe it all. For today’s exercise, be the observer.

Ideally, observation is something that happens in every present moment, and I encourage you to work toward that. For now, let’s just focus on one area of your life where you can fine tune and sharpen your practice of awareness.

Life is very full and complex and there are many different parts and pieces of parts. So for now, I’ve narrowed things down into four categories that you could more or less cram all of those pieces into. They are:

Health: This includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

Relationships: This is about the relationship with yourself and also the relationships you have with others.

Wealth: Everybody has their own definition of wealth, but it more or less includes your home, money, lifestyle, and the feeling of support and stability.

Self-Expression: This is what you put out into the world—your work, service, talents, hobbies and creative expression—any way you choose to express yourself—which may be something you share with others, or choose to keep to yourself.

(You’re welcome to move these around to your liking; add, rearrange or takeaway…I won’t mind).

These four parts of your life are all important, but some will be more significant than the others on any given day, so let’s just focus on which one of these areas speak to you today, right now. Pay close attention to the area that pops out, and also pay close attention to the area that you really want to ignore. (Your tendency to avoid one aspect could be a sign that it really needs some attention). If you want to get more specific, select one part within one of the four categories that you know needs some extra TLC. Narrow it down as much as you like. That will be your focus for the next few days.

Got one?

Okay. Now, don’t think about it; just tune in to how you feel about it. Heavy? Open? Agitated? Excited? Nervous? Quiet? Where can you feel it in your body? Your heart; your gut; your hands; Are they tense? Tight? Sick? Anxious?

Now, this is important: Is your mind spinning stories about it? Stories might sound like excuses, scenarios, limitations, blame…anything that labels your experience or takes you out of the present moment. If you’re spinning stories, you’ve slipped into the ‘you’ that lives in your body. Slip back into the ‘you’ that observes; catch those thoughts and kindly ask them to fade out for a while and make your awareness bigger so that you can observe the ‘you’ that is judging. Bring more of your attention to the part of you that is observing, until you are holding the entire experience in a space without judgment.

Return to feeling.

Take one full breath all the way to the top of an inhale; feel the pause just before the breath turns around to release. Exhale it all out; all the way to the bottom of the exhale and notice the pause again. Repeat if you like; slowly, consciously.

That’s all there is to making an observation; it’s just a process of seeing what’s there. It gives you a broader perspective and it helps to flush out the stories so that you can actually facilitate some positive change. Those stories that your mind is constantly spinning keep you stuck and small and barely breathing, and when your mind keeps you stuck, it’s pretty hard to find your way out. Observation gives you a grander view so you can see that you’re actually not stuck. In fact, you have so much space, your mind can’t possibly fill it up; the space is unlimited.

Keep in mind; awareness and observation doesn’t always make you feel better or change things. It’s just a different vantage point. So if you still feel anxious or irritated, that’s okay; just observe the irritation; observe the annoyance; observe whatever is there and have some compassion for yourself. Be extra kind and gentle with your inner dialogue. Take a moment to rest or breathe consciously. The simple act of observing offers so much, but it may take time before it starts to usher in a sense of peace and clarity.

It’s that easy. The hard part is remembering to do it. The beautiful thing is that your body acts as a constant reminder; sending you the message to stop, listen and observe. Every time you feel tired, anxious, achy, irritated, frustrated, angry, sad, or any other physical or emotional sensation that doesn’t feel so great, that’s your body telling you to check in, get clear, get focused and make space.

When it’s been a while since you’ve experienced the feeling of clarity and peace, you start to think that it’s normal to feel less than great, and when you think it’s normal to feel shitty…well, you stop recognizing the messages from your body as signs to stop and observe. When you practice observation, you’ll start to feel and recognize tiny glimpses of peace that will expand each time you practice. Those glimpses of peace are the real you—your true nature and the essence of who you are.

Eventually, with practice, you’ll flip things around; instead of living in unease with brief glimpses of peace, you’ll live in peace, with brief glimpses of unease—which, of course, will be the simple reminders to return to peace.

So for the next few days, practice observation. You can focus on one of the four areas mentioned earlier, or just observe the present moment. Notice when you don’t feel great and use it as a reminder to tune in. Get bigger than the feeling until it loses some of its power. See if you can return to peace.

And please, please, let me know if you’re confused or if you have any questions that come up. Furthermore, let me know if you have any suggestions, or share your experience. I want to learn from you, too.

You’re well on your way to creating a life that you love. It’s happening now. Can you feel it?

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