mindfulness

Becoming the Person My Dog Thinks I Am

Becoming the Person My Dog Thinks I Am

Contributed by Anita Howard

 

 

 

One summer day in 2012 I happened upon a Ted Talk by Adam Baker entitled, “Sell your crap. Pay your debt. Do what you love.”  In that talk, Adam challenged his listeners to one important question, “What does freedom mean to you?” 

There are certain moments in life that can be traced back to true turning points, where you begin to reconsider, unravel and evolve.  This was one of those moments on my path.

I’m a self-described “Earthy” girl wild about plants and animals and living in harmony with nature on this planet.  For the past 15 years, I’ve followed my heart and volunteered with various animal care and conservation organizations including a wildlife refuge on the Emerald Coast of Florida, a wildlife conservation center in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia and farm sanctuaries, an equine therapy center, City Dog Country Dog and the Oregon Humane Society here in the Pacific Northwest.

So I asked myself, what does freedom mean to me?  This was the answer that I kept coming back to…

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

This passion for animals and the environment ultimately drove me to create an eco-friendly tiny home to minimize my footprint which now advocates for my chosen lifestyle.  The house utilizes solar, rainwater catchment, composting, and wood heat. It is approximately 10% of the average-sized home in Portland.  As a happy herbivore, I grow much of my own fruits, vegetables and herbs. Between whipping up nourishing smoothies and cultivating my meditation practice, I’m rooted in the belief that the earth freely offers the resources to sustain a balanced life.

What is my work?

I am becoming the person that my sweet rescue dog Kingston thinks I am.  I became certified in naturopathic animal care at the Northwest School of Animal Massage in Seattle, WA, retired from my desk job and recently launched a full-time practice nurturing happier and healthier tomorrows for pets through therapeutic small animal massage, holistic aromatherapy, and gentle Reiki energy work in addition to pet sitting. 

Living lightly with natural resources and ultimately choosing to do what I love as a vocation is the happiness that Mahatma Gandhi spoke of. 

Happiness is my freedom.

How do I practice Mindfulness in my community?

I created a “Paw It Forward” program to further my commitment to community service and donate therapeutic massage sessions to hard-working service animals and shelter animals in need. 

What’s the best advice I’ve ever heard?

“When someone you love walks through the door, even if it happens five times a day, you should go totally insane with joy.” – Denali, the dog (and his human Ben Moon)

Why do you do what you do?

To put it simply, I live for the benefit of all sentient beings on this beautiful blue-green world.

Today is a very good day to ask yourself…

What does freedom mean to you?

* * * * * *

Anita Howard is a lover of the natural world, animals, plants, stargazing, altruism, Rumi poetry, open hearts, gypsy meanderings, enchanted forests and is naturally drawn to benevolent spirits that swim against the current.  She is a Master Practitioner and Teacher in the Usui System of Natural Healing known as Usui Reiki Ryoho and the owner of Now and Zen Pet Massage & Natural Care offering pet sitting and holistic pet care throughout the Portland metro area.  To learn more, visit:  http://www.nowandzenpet.com/

 

 

If you would like to follow her journey on Instagram: @nowandzenpet or find her on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/nowandzenpet


Dreamweaving

Dreamweaving

Contributed by Kate Rutter

What is your work?

In the past, coming face to face with this question triggered an immense amount of confusion, shame and deep rooted self-judgement. It has taken me a long time to find my place in this sweet, ever-changing world. I’m not implying that I have arrived. More accurately, I realized I wasn’t ever going to arrive. Our life - made up of wants, needs, desires, expectations, emotions, connections, etc - are always shifting shape and I believe the real mission is to find balance and peace in the present moment on the journey towards nothing and everything, trusting we are right where we need to be. 

I moved to Portland in the summer of 2011. Over the last four years I’ve had more than a handful of jobs most overlapping on on-going. My work has included ::

 

 

shop girl

hair styling

wardrobe styling

art direction

floral design

jewelry design

essential oil educator

co-host of a women’s gathering

 

 

 

 

 

Most of my adult life I have been self-employed, hired freelance or worked as an independent contractor. This type of work has its pros and cons just as anything else, but it definitely takes a lot of faith and hard work. I have solid skill sets in both logistics and the arts. Being able to oversee and envision both aspects of left and right brain is a blessing and a curse. It can easily lead to burnout and control issues but also allows for self-sufficiency and rapid growth.  My dad started his own business and I grew up in the Midwest, thus indicating my work ethic is solid. More importantly, my time here in Portland has helped me realize how important it is to balance work and rest.

Since my relocation, I’ve taken solo entrepreneur business courses, a digital photography/Photoshop intensive, classes in textiles, metal-smithing and ceramics, trained under a florist, and studied plant medicine.  I was seeking experience and craving knowledge. It felt like every time I told someone my story, especially in a business course, they all said the same thing - Find your niche. Define your market. Just pick something. But my gut was saying otherwise. My intuition told me to keep looking, keep studying, keep learning. When a new job, partnership or derailed opportunity presented itself, my heart said Try it.

So, that’s what I did. I surrendered to the flow. I let go and I allowed my life to show up for me. All I had to do was accept. I didn't know why I was doing these things and I didn’t know where they were leading me. I had a new plan everyday - I'll be an herbalist, a shoe-maker, a visionary, a farmer, a teacher (these were all real considerations by the way).  There have been moments where it has been hard for me to keep up with me. I realized that although I was surrendering to the flow, I felt more like I was floating away. I was constantly thinking about what job I would have, what I was going to do for a living, what I was going to be. That’s how we are trained to think. We study and then we become something - a nurse, a firefighter, a mother, an architect. I found it more and more difficult to define myself and my work. I wasn’t in a box. I didn’t have a label or title and that was very confusing. But again, in my heart I felt safe and I knew my intuition was leading me somewhere.

When I was asked what I do, I did one of two things. I respond with my work history, usually going something like, "Well, I've been a hair stylist for the last 12 years. I studied fashion design and ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Textiles. And, you know, what do you really do with an art degree? So, since I had a trade I just kept doing hair. Oh, and I make jewelry." And later, when I thought I was moving forward, it went something like, "Well, I used be a hair stylist, but I kind of retired because now I'm only in the salon once a week. I have a company called HeartCave and I design jewelry and make essential oils blends that are connected to symbolism, intention and communion. But, it's more than that. Its bigger than that. I just haven't been able to define it yet. Oh, and I want to be an artist."

What I noticed was, I quickly relied on my past to give value to my current work or spoke of confusing details about my unknown future and desires to be an artist. Why did I feel the need to justify my present with stories of the past or the future? What is an artist anyway and how do I be one? Where was I right now? What do I do?

I began to get curious about myself, my place in the now and what made me unique. It wasn't until I was prompted to write this entry that I really got honest about it, realized where I have arrived and began to feel immense gratitude for trusting my intuition to guide me to a place beyond my wildest dreams. What a blessing this platform has been. Happiness is the immediate emotional response to gratitude. Simply by feeling grateful we conjure up joy and begin to manifest further joy in our lives. Thank you Elissa. Thank you Happy Mindful People. Thank you self - for being brave and getting real.

So, the burning question, What do I do?  Well, still lots. But I've found the common thread! My purpose is to connect and create. I connect with people, plants, myself and Source. My medium for creation shifts between metal, textiles, essential oils, imagery and manifestation. The point is, I feel inspired and balanced. I am safe and I am able to provide for myself. I own a business authentically aligned with my passion and purpose of beauty, intention, symbolism and communion with whoever is called to listen. I softly fell into a position working freelance for a company that I firmly believe in. They too are balanced in creativity, spirit and business. Their work has depth and integrity. My position within the company has a familiar title but my work is beyond a role I could have dreamt up for myself.

Owner of HEARTCAVE - a space devoted to creating and curating of ALL THAT IS :: the timeless and majestic, the oneness between all beings and the collective consciousness.

www.shopheartcave.com

Creative Director at The Wild Unknown

www.thewildunknown.com

 

How I manifested my reality ::

What I haven't mentioned about this journey is my focus on personal development. It began with my relationship to nature and my daily practice of communing with essential oils and flower essences. All beings have a vibration measured in megahertz. Human vibrate between 60-80 MHz. Plants are anywhere between 80 and 320 MHz. Feelings also have a vibration, or frequency. Feeling like love, joy and gratitude resonate higher than feelings like sadness, anxiety and depression and it is difficult for lower vibration feeling to remain in existence around high frequency feelings. Simply by communing with plants we can raise our vibration.

I also made it a point to start identifying as an artist, creating my life. I think in pictures. I turn feelings into photos and vice versa. I learned how to use my practical, career-based skills to support my true work - being a dreamweaver deeply rooted in trusting the universe and the art of manifestation. I continue to dig deep - figure out what inspires me at the moment, how I want to feel and what I want to call in. I develop a tone, fine tune the concept and direction and create a moodboard. This creates non-duality in my life. My work and my pleasure centers of creation and connection are one. Instead of thinking about what position or career my skills would fit into, I started thinking about how I wanted to feel when I worked. I took note of pleasurable activities. When I sat in the park surrounded by the trees, I left feeling really good. For me, that didn’t mean I should be a park ranger or landscaper. I simply took note of the feelings. I started to write them down, words like - calm, graceful, rooted, free, inspired, alive. I started collecting beautiful imagery of plants, spaces, places and people from print publications and sites like Pinterest. Anything I got online, I would send to be printed on photo paper. It was important for me to see and touch them in real life. I’d pull swatches of fabric that felt sweet on my skin and go to the paint store for colors that reflected those feelings. I began treating my life as I would a client and that allowed me to show up for myself with greater clarity and accountability.

Best advice ::

Be compassionate, first to you. If you haven't felt true compassion for yourself or your circumstance, you're just going around feeling sorry for people. Follow your intuition. Allow your life to take shape without force. Trust your experience. Release resistance. Detach from outcome. Make space for rest and self-care

Ways to support and clarify Who am I? And what am I doing here? Practices to evoke consciousness and awareness of self.

  • Practice the powerful of the pen. Write down goals, desires, feelings you want to have and anything that inspires you.
  • Start a collection of images that motivate, stimulate and awaken your dreams.
  • Have conversation with like-minded people. These people will likely start to form your tribe.
  • Commune with nature
  • Work with essential oils
  • Meditate
  • Move/Practice Yoga
  • Bring awareness to the breathe
  • Eat foods that support your body
  • Read

 

Favorite Books ::

The Book of The Heart Amit Singh

Partner Earth Pam Montgomery

Plant Spirit Healing Pam Montgomery

The Secret Lives of Plants Christopher Bird

Yoga for a World Out of Balance Michael Stone

The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle

Ways to sink into the heart ::

Give thanks

Be kind

Practice non-violence

Speak truth and avoid gossip

Go to nature

Stare at the moon

Buy or pick flowers

Peel an orange, slowly

Donate or give something away, like a compliment

 

Finding a Path

 

 

 

Finding a path

Contributed by Allison Burt-Tilden

 

 

 

 

 

As a small child growing up in 1980's Portland, I felt like I had it all: a loving family, a nice home with lots of other children nearby, and a secure spot as teacher's pet at school. All of this came crashing down shortly after I turned seven. My parents declared bankruptcy, my dad had to sell our home and his flourishing business, and we began living a pattern of chaos that would last more than a decade. My parents fought bitterly until their eventual divorce, I was enlisted as a secondary parent to my two much younger siblings, money was always an issue, and we moved every six months on average, often living with my grandparents in between rentals. Needless to say, I developed some pretty gnarly anxiety and as a result, I started to struggle in school.

By the time I turned 18 I had already dropped out of high school and gotten my GED. Despite having worked full-time for a couple of years already, I had no idea how to manage money or how to find my purpose in life. I went to work, paid the rent, paid the bills, bought some food, and spent whatever was left on make-up and clothes. As a life-long lover of fashion, I used my free time to read high fashion magazines and shop, which was my main joy in life. As far as I could figure out, life was about working so that I could shop.

In my early twenties, I was overjoyed to make the move from the service industry to an office job – and just like that, I fell into real estate. For a high school drop-out, it seemed like my golden ticket; a good salary, benefits, evenings & weekends off, and most of all, stability. Never mind that the work itself didn't interest me, I was doing what people are supposed to do. Naturally, it didn't take long for me to feel completely dissatisfied. Remembering how easy it had been to fall into my job, I gave my notice and went back to the placement agency to ask for something else. That's when my total disregard of news and current events first bit me in the ass. The year was 2002 and apparently the country was in a recession. After six months of unemployment, I got swept back into real estate after finding a series of dead ends elsewhere. Apparently my experience was quite sought after.

For the next ten years, I slogged my way through the industry. I worked in escrow and in mortgage, I worked for a listing brokerage, I negotiated short sales, I went back to mortgage – and what I remember most of those years is being utterly miserable. I dreamed of quitting and going to school - but for what? My interests were so varied and the harder I tried to decide on a path, the more confused I became. Part of me has always wanted to do something in science or health care, while another part of me desperately wanted in on the fashion world. No matter which ideas I entertained, I always felt like someone who was peering through a thick glass wall and I couldn't imagine ever getting past.

The turning point was slow in coming and in some ways, I feel like it's still happening, like I'm at the halfway point through a revolving door. It all started with meeting people at parties and dreading the inevitable question: 'What do you do?' I didn't want to talk about it! I would reply that I hated my job, that it doesn't define me, that I wanted to do something else, something in fashion, and ultimately, all the reasons why I couldn't make a change. This is where I want to take a moment to thank each and everyone one of those people who were such good sports listening to my negativity, but mostly, I want to thank each and every one of them for also telling me: Just do it.

 

It took years and probably a hundred such meetings and discussions before I had the epiphany. There I was at another social gathering, introducing myself to someone new and dreading the inevitable. 'So what do you do?' came, but this time I answered, 'I'm a blogger'. Granted, at the time my blog was more of a personal thing and I hadn't shared it with many but that simple sentence enabled me to think of myself outside of the real estate box, to talk to someone about something I genuinely enjoyed doing, and to give up the negativity that was really starting to grate on me (I can only imagine how it came across to others). Sure, I was still working in mortgage but suddenly it was just my day job - something understood as just a means to an end and not really worth discussing.

Once that first shift occurred, suddenly, I realized I was indeed a blogger. I started brainstorming new content ideas, I pushed my boundaries (like, a lot), I upped my game, and I started sharing the results with people. Crazily enough, they liked it! Blogging is not my ultimate goal but it has helped me in so many ways. I now understand my talents for writing and photography and how I can apply them to my love of local & indie fashion. Most importantly though, I have learned that not only can I step outside of my comfort zone, I can re-define my comfort zone.

 

Four years later, my blog has a small but steadily growing following and I work as a contributor for a really big blog (honeykennedy.com - check it out!). I'm about to take the next big step in putting myself out there for even bigger jobs in fashion writing and photography - I'll be honest, it's scary as hell! When I look back at miserable me sitting in a cubicle, processing loan applications and hating life, I remember the hard work and determination that has, so far, gotten me out of that cubicle, resulted in a body of work I'm pretty proud of, and helped me make real connections with amazing people doing amazing things.

When I think back to all the praise I received for my writing in school, how much I enjoyed learning photography from my dad, and how much time I spent engaged in anything and everything fashion related, I see that this has been my path all along. Despite having not had the best role models when it came to living a happy and purpose driven life, nor any real education to speak of, I found my path, and not only that, I'm working on forgiving myself for finding it later than some others. Finally, I see a glimmer of light over the horizon and it’s lighting my path. 

Allison Burt-Tilden is a Portland based indie fashion blogger and freelance photographer. She's the creator & editor of Votre Grande Soeur and a contributing writer & photographer for Honey Kennedy. When she's not working, you can find Allison enjoying a burger at one of her favorite spots on N. Mississippi. Follow her on Instagram @votregrandesoeur.

Acupuncture and the Lesson of Impermanence

 

 

 

Acupuncture and the Lesson of Impermanence

Contributed by Anne Carruth, Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner

 

 

 

 

 

As an acupuncturist, I am regularly asked how I got into Chinese medicine.  I think people assume that I had an awe-inspiring acupuncture treatment that jump-started me onto this path.  Or perhaps a longtime fascination with Chinese culture that evolved into a study of Chinese medicine.  Truth be told, I leapt into acupuncture almost by default, and wound up learning how to both wield needles, and embrace the ebb and flow of life.  

Back in the day, I was searching for a complete and holistic style of healthcare.  One that emphasized preventative medicine and physical touch, and focused just as much on a patient’s emotional stress, lifestyle, and diet, as it did on their physical symptoms.  When I couldn’t find this in traditional western medicine, I visited a rolfing institute, toured a Buddhist liberal arts campus, researched nutrition programs, and personal trainer certifications.  I pin-balled from one option to the next, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon the Colorado School for Traditional Chinese Medicine that I found a path I truly resonated with.  The program encompassed everything I was looking for in healthcare, so I decided to trust the universe and jump in.

That was ten years ago, and my work as an acupuncturist has proven to be immensely fulfilling.  Chinese medicine is an incredible field that has educated me on disease processes, herbal remedies, acupuncture points, meridian theory, nutrition, the management of stress, pain, emotions, and more.   But the most valuable lesson acupuncture has taught me, is that of impermanence.  I see it in both my patients and myself every day, and it has changed the way I view my life and my health.

Acupuncture ultimately boils down to movement.  Our bodies and minds are constantly moving, regulating, thinking, responding, filtering, adjusting, pumping blood, breathing air, taking in fuel and excreting waste.  My role as an acupuncturist is to enhance wellbeing by balancing these movements within the body.  Stagnation of qi, blood, or nutrients within us allows for pain and disease processes to set up.  Acupuncture prevents stagnation by promoting the smooth, even movement of these things within our bodies.  In fact, the only time we are ever static is when we die.  Wellness = Movement = Impermanence.  Thus, we are impermanent.  We are constantly changing and so is the world around us.  And acknowledging that you are impermanent – that everything is a balancing act, a cycle, a flow - is as liberating as it is motivating. 

Impermanence means that everything you are experiencing right now – in your mind, body, and environment - will change.  Negative things will eventually shift, good can become great, and great cannot be taken for granted.  It means that poor health can always be improved upon, and that good health needs continual support to remain good.  Knowing that everything I am right now will evolve, motivates me to set positive intentions, and gives me solace when things aren’t going as planned.  Impermanence provides opportunities to improve all aspects of your life.    

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have given me knowledge about healthcare in all the ways I was hoping for, but more importantly, they have taught me that we are truly impermanent, that we are constantly changing, and that life is supposed to work this way! 

So, in my professional opinion, I recommend that you:

  • Embrace change! 
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff…it’s not permanent.
  • Set intentions to move forward in all aspects of your life.  Don’t let anything get too stagnant.
  • Remember that it’s never too late to start.
  • Be present.  THIS moment only happens once. 
  • And smile.  It just makes everything better
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Anne Carruth is a Midwest girl, who has followed her career, family, and love of the outdoors from Ohio, to Colorado, and finally to Oregon.  After completing her undergraduate studies in Ohio, she earned her Masters in Denver at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  She now holds a Masters of Science in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).  

Anne’s philosophy on health is founded in preventative medicine and a holistic view of the mind, body, and spirit.  She embraces the traditional Chinese model of treating the “branch” and the “root”; thus treating one’s symptoms, as well as their underlying cause. This approach enables her to treat a wide variety of health concerns, ranging from pain to the common cold.  Anne loves her work as an acupuncturist and feels privileged to help others achieve their wellness goals.  Her gentle needling technique and compassionate approach make her an ideal practitioner for children, sensitive patients, and those new to acupuncture.  While her extensive training and clinical experience enable her to tackle the most difficult of cases.

 

Schedule an appointment with Anne at Portland Natural Health. (Portland Natural Health Bio Page)

You can also find her at the next Taking Care event.

"I make Chocolate."

I Make Chocolate.

Contributed by Sinead Byrne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I tell people on the mainland that I live in Hawaii they usually express some degree of amazement or wistfulness. When they ask what kind of work I do I often answer in an almost off-handed way, trying to soften the double-whammy of my life circumstances...

"I make chocolate."

Eyes get wide. They laugh and shake their heads as they sandwich these two facts together; not only do I literally live in a tropical paradise, but my work-life is centered around the most universally loved and joy-inducing edible item known to man. There's almost a hint of a shrug in my bearing as I nod and smile in response to their disbelief. The smallest trace of an apology colors my face as if to say, "Yeah, who knows how I got so lucky." Truth be told, however, I know exactly how it's happened.

My life has been a series of crystal-clear decisions. I've always had a knack for teasing out my soul's desire and heading off in that direction (however unlikely) with determination and level-headedness. This has left me with a wake of experiences that might seem quite randomized to the casual observer, but which were all necessary, natural steps on my journey. By the time I turned 22 I had completed an intensive theatre program in London, participated in a 3-month teaching internship in a rural village in Ghana, written a thesis and received a BA with magna cum laude honors, worked in a backcountry chalet in Glacier National Park, successfully thru-hiked the entire length of Pacific Crest Trail, and moved across the country twice on my own dollar. It wasn't until this second move, when I landed back in my homeland of upstate New York after 5 and a half years of flitting from place to place, that I reached an interesting impasse. Upon my return to my geographical starting-point I found myself struggling with something I had never felt before: lack of direction. I had a degree. I had gone on adventures. Going back to school didn't seem right (there wasn't anything I particularly wanted to study). Going on more adventures didn't seem right (I was out of money, and, though I'll probably never tire of adventuring, aimless travel without a purpose to tie my experiences together didn't strike me as the thing to do.). I had reached the foggiest fork in the road of my young life. I was face to face with one of life's trickiest balancing acts; how do I honor the past, enjoy the present, and provide for the future? How do I compose a perfect harmony of time?

There's nothing like a good moment of clarity, and my subconscious breathed a sigh of relief when I finally had mine that winter. In a word, CHOCOLATE. I thought about chocolate everyday. I ate chocolate everyday. I daydreamed about growing my own cacao and opening my own chocolate cafe- everyday. It may sound silly, but when I got real with myself and took stock of my passions and dreams, chocolate really stood out. It was a part of my day-to-day life in a way that nothing else was. I started to spread the word amongst my friends and family ("I think I want to make chocolate for a living"). Some of them were supportive, others were not, but most were confused-- after all what did chocolate have to do with theatre, academia, humanitarianism, or outdoor pursuits? Where was the logic here? I would have agreed that this latest goal had come entirely out of left field, had I not known that it originated (just like every other venture I'd undertaken) from that reliable place of calm certainty smack dab at the center of my being.

So, why Hawaii? If my original moment of clarity can be summed up by the word "chocolate," then the key word for my specific approach to this line of work would have to be CACAO. I was not content with the idea of mere chocolate making; in the spirit of the whole know-where-your-food-comes-from energy sweeping the nation, I wanted to be involved in the entire process, from tree to bar/truffle.  Like most tropical plants, cacao is a great lover of rain, shade, and temperatures above 60 degrees Farenheit. As such it can only be found growing in a band 20 degrees North and South of the equator. Hawaii just barely sqeaks into this category at it's position of 20 degrees North and is therefore the only state in the U.S. that can cultivate cacao. Though the Hawaiian cacao industry is still in its infant stages (with only about 100 acres planted state-wide) anyone in the business will assure you that Hawaii is destined to become the Napa Valley of chocolate. As consumers continue to become more and more rigorous in their demand for locally/sustainably/ethically sourced products, the future of Hawaiian cacao is looking brighter by the minute. So it was simple, really. If I wanted to grow cacao, and I wanted to stay in the United States, I had to move to Hawaii. What a bummer, right?

Seven months later I found myself living on Oahu working for a totally rad bean-to-bar chocolate company. I had never visited Hawaii before I moved out here. I didn't know anyone who lived here (although I did have the job lined up ahead of time). I had never even dabbled in chocolate making. I didn't really have much except for my passion and conviction. In this situation, that turned out to be enough. I spent six months working on Oahu before moving to Maui where I currently live and work for a visionary company called Sweet Paradise Chocolatier. I spend two days a week in the kitchen making truffles, two days a week working on the cacao farm, and one day a week selling chocolates at our boutique retail shop. I have the honor and joy of spending my work week creating one of my most favorite things in the world. I get to learn the ropes from an accomplished chocolatier and business woman. I get to spend lots of time outside in a gorgeous place. I get to help spread the gospel of fine, craft chocolate, reworking the public's approach towards chocolate one farm-tour at a time. I get to eat lots of chocolate.

My three-part time harmony is currently humming along quite nicely. I still have to give it regular attention, tuning it slightly here and there, endeavoring to never leave a single note neglected. With so much tugging at us all the time it's often too easy to drop out of key, or to let one part overshadow the others, and it's only through constant reevaluation that we can keep ourselves from falling into discord. I'm continuously seeking the perfect blending of past, present, and future chords, guided by those moments of clarity that resonate within my being on all three levels. So yes, I live in Hawaii and make chocolate, and sometimes that can strike even me as being too dreamy to be realistic in the long run, but, at the end of the day, I'm so deeply certain that this is where I'm supposed to be that the thought of doing anything else seems truly disingenuous. Life goes on, and there's no predicting what's around the next bend, but for now I can say with a delicious mixture of solemnity and delight that chocolate is at the center of my life, nourishing my soul, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sinead Byrne is a backpacking, adventurous, bright eyed chocolatier living in Maui. Check out what they do at Sweet Paradise http://www.sweetparadisechocolate.com/ or order some delicious chocolates just in time for the Christmas Holidays.

Mindfulness vs. Mindlessness

Mindfulness vs. Mindlessness

Contributed by Justina Hertzler

 


Mindlessness, aka losing my mind, often overwhelms me when I'm at my most vulnerable. Those times when I have to accomplish something in a short period of time while maintaining the calm amongst two tiny people who can sense my growing anxiety. A place I've been in several times over the course of writing this entry.  "Just a minute," or "give me a sec," are flying out of my mouth left and right, while my brain switches into multitask mode.  As if on cue, tiny number two hones in on my location, starts yelling, signing "milk," and demanding to be picked up.  This causes tiny number one to scream and run around the house, inciting dog, assuming the loudest gets the most attention (which is mostly true).  I check the time, feel my anxiety level ratchet up a notch, and push on, despite feeling paralyzed by the noise, and growing needs of the kiddos. Insert favorite mindfulness practice.  Slow down.  Stop multitasking all. the. time.  When I calm my mind, peace settles around us, and time seems to slow down.  It allows me to get down on my children's level to assess their needs, and block out the distractions whirling around in my head.  It may be but a lingering moment, but it feels like an accomplishment.  It’s my answer to my despair about the speed of life.  Intentionally taking one task at a time, literally keeping a slower pace, has been a relief.

 

One might wonder why, if I so desire to slow down, am I'm often hurrying my three year old.  "Lets go, we have to hurry" was a common command at our house until recently.  Resisting the urge to constantly hurry my children, mostly the three year old, is a daily practice  That's not to say that I'm never in a hurry, or that I don't try to quickly usher my children out the door at times.  I've just decided to remove "hurry up" from my vocabulary, attempting to respect the environment we all share.  It also makes for a more pleasant exit.  I adopted this the instant I read Hands Free Mama, "The day I stopped saying hurry up."  My three year old is always mindful, always noticing, always with insight into our adult lives, and she is slow.  As she should be, that is the freedom of childhood.  Instead of rushing her, I give her more time to process.  Instead of hurrying her out the door I make time to engage in what she is doing at the moment, and take it in with her.  Deleting "hurry up" is a reminder to savor this time with my children, rather than rushing mindlessly from activity to activity.  

 

During the day I have very little time to myself to just think.  My youngest still naps twice a day, but her sister is on overdrive from morning until night.  Talking to me or at me, engaging me at every possible moment, is a trait that I work hard to embrace, but gets the best of me at times.  I really enjoy peace and quiet.  No background music during the day (unless we are having a three year old dance party), no ear buds on runs, no special play lists for long drives (probably a pod cast or two, I'm not that crazy), so the all day barrage of three year old banter is tough.  My reprieve comes when I'm nursing the baby to sleep, in three 20-minute windows.  It's tempting to take my phone into the quiet dark room and mindlessly browse the web while she is nodding off to sleep.  But this time feels sacred.  Instead I've committed to just being during naptime.  Rocking back and forth with a sleeping baby and just looking at her, being mindful of this place in time.  No phone.  It's my favorite.  There really isn't an email or text that can't wait.  My children notice when I have too much going on during the day.  Having time to collect my thoughts rather than checking status updates, keeps us all sane.  

 

I want to be here, in this season of life as long as possible.  My three year old can't wait to be a "mommy with a kid, a baby and a daddy (husband),'' but I'm hoping to take the slow road to that party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justina Hertlzer lives in Lancaster Pennsylvania with her two beautiful daughters and Brew Master/Frisbee throwing husband. She is a Registered Nurse and Magical Mama committed to holistic health, mindful parenting, and global transformation through personal healing.

Wash Yourself of Yourself

Wash Yourself of Yourself

Contributed by Hannah Sternberg

 

 

“It’s complicated” is something of a joke on Facebook, ever since it was added as a relationship status. Plenty of my friends have used it in jest -- mocking the sense of drama it creates. But the same people, in seriousness, have often come to me privately with relationship problems, trying to explain how all the complications of their lives make their romances difficult, or prevent romance entirely.

 

Usually my answer is, “It’s not really that complicated.” Because few things really are. Often facts are simple; what is complicated is the process of opening our hearts to that simplicity and understanding the true nature of the people and events that fill our lives -- and the true nature of ourselves.

 

“It’s complicated” has branched out from romance, to become the universal description of difficult situations. “I’d love to change jobs, but it’s complicated.” “I’d love to meditate more, but it’s complicated.” “I’d love to be closer to my family, but it’s complicated.”

 

“It’s complicated” represents the strands of personal history, self-identity, fears, resentments, attachments, and desires that we imagine tie us down, and prevent us from becoming the “heirs of our actions.” We imagine, instead, that we are heirs to the actions of others, heirs of circumstance, heirs to a personal history we can’t change, helpless in the face of complication. “I really wish I could pursue inner peace, but...it’s too complicated.”

 

“Complication” only exists as far as we’re willing to believe in it -- and it only restrains us as much as we’re willing to allow. This doesn’t mean, in the real world, that anything is possible and all obstacles can be overcome. It just means that when we free ourselves from the perception that everything’s “complicated,” our choices become naked, stark -- simple, as they’ve been all along. Every moment is a blank slate when we break the bonds of “complication.”

 

Simple is difficult. Let’s make it even simpler. Breaking free of your past, your desires, your identities, for the rest of your life is a daunting task -- the word complicated creeps into the edge of sight. But for a single moment, you can choose freedom. In this moment, you are a good and kind person. In this moment, you choose to be compassionate. In this moment, you choose to let go of all those strands that held you down -- strands you realize now were lifelines that you held onto, in fear. Good, that was a wonderful moment! Let’s do it again. Even if you fear you failed in the last moment, the next moment is still a blank slate. This moment is a new opportunity to be kind, generous, loving. Your past mistakes don’t restrain you, but inspire you. Unkindness is replaced with kindness. Uncomplicated.

 

In meditation, when a thought intrudes, you can forgive yourself and resume with compassion toward all the fidgeters in the room, and kindness toward yourself, because this next moment -- and this one too! -- is a blank slate. Meditation is a practice; and it’s practice for the freedom you can take with you into the rest of the world.


The thirteenth-century poet Rumi wrote, “Be melting snow -- wash yourself of yourself.” Complications are the things that freeze us, that prevent us from washing ourselves of ourselves. Unfreeze, and when you wash yourself of yourself, you see an abundant emptiness -- a fresh start.

 

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Hannah Sternberg is a published novelist and freelance writer, editor, and video/audio tech. She has just released her second novel, Bulfinch, a whimsical tale about a time-traveling knight.  Check out her journal for news about the book business, recipes, free short stories, travel tales, and more. http://www.hannahsternberg.com/