healing

A Dream Realized :: Sicilian Summer Yoga Retreat

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A Dream Realized :: Sicilian Summer Yoga Retreat

Elissa Cirignotta

Something fairly significant happened in my life recently and in all honesty I can't stop thinking about it. Even more so, I'm still FEELING it and beaming with gratitude and joy from the entire experience.  

About 7 or 8  years ago a dream popped up in my consciousness. I got an idea that I wanted to travel back home to Sicily for work. At the time I had absolutely no clue what that could look like or what service I would provide. All I knew is that it seemed like a perfect idea! At the time I was a newbie to Oregon, living the Portland dream, broke and having a grand ole time. It seemed like a far cry from reality.

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Now let’s fast forward to 2016 when I traveled back to Sicily as a stop on my honeymoon. I had since changed careers almost entirely and transitioned into a whole new path. Bringing my husband, Don Rosso, back home was its own dream come true. And then again during that trip, the same fantasy from years before was felt, although this time I had a clearer vision. I decided that I would host my very first yoga retreat in this beloved hometown of mine. Still the idea felt farfetched and I was completely insecure in my teaching skills not believing that I could ever pull something like that off.

Meanwhile that tiny seed that had been planted several years prior was now an itty bitty seedling taking on its own life-force. It felt more tangible, still very scary, yet achievable. I spent the following year and a half nurturing, honoring, and watering this seedling of a dream, truly not knowing if or how it could ever grow. Deep down, despite all the fear and insecurities, I believed it in so much that the trust in the dream is what kept me going.

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After several more months of coordination and planning the time came to announce this Sicilian Summer Yoga Retreat. I was expecting no more than 9 people, if that, to be interested. To my complete and utter shock we sold out and had to upgrade our transportation, which allowed me to add additional spots, to which we sold out again.

What this meant, was that I ACTUALLY had to do the thing… with 21 people while being 4 ½ months pregnant! There was no turning back. I poured my whole entire heart into the process. I answered over 200 participant questions, helped many people buy their plane tickets, emailed & phoned back and forth with countless Sicilians, and spent hours and hours of my days considering every last detail imaginable. It seems silly to me now, but there were many nights of lost sleep worrying about whether people would like my town, if the group would get along, liability coverage, how to get 15 yoga mats to Sicily, etc etc etc…

The time finally arrived and on the Summer Solstice we commenced a week long yoga retreat in my treasured hometown of Scoglitti Sicily. Everyone arrived without difficulty, bags in hand, and ready to eat!

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For the next 7 days I had a permasmile tattooed to my face. I had NONSTOP FUN. Our morning view of the Mediterranean combined with a perfect Sicilian espresso and croissant was enough to make me giddy, but it just kept getting better. I'm fairly certain that I've never had more fun  teaching yoga than on the sandy beach I grew up on with a gentle sea breeze blowing in.  No one went hungry. We ate the most delicious meals of pasta, risotto, local fresh caught fish, homemade breads, pizza, and caprese salads. Afternoons were filled with cafes, gelatos, ocean waves, baroque city explorations, interesting conversations, belly laughs, sun bathing, and reuniting with friends and family from Scoglitti. Our retreat cadre became a family. Solo travelers were taken in as part of the gang and everyone was kind and welcoming to one another.  It was dreamy in every way imaginable. 

Something I learned this past month is that the Universe supports intentions that come from a loving place and that dreams come true. That together we are stronger and that our community matters.  

My intentions for this retreat were for individual and collective healing, sweet connections, and rest and relaxation. Every day I made time to take stock of all the things, people, and experiences that make me feel gratitude. Despite being 4 ½ months pregnant and tired from the literal nonstop excitement and adventure I felt so rejuvenated and refreshed after our sacred week together. For me, this wasn't just a yoga retreat, it was a dream realized with some of the most amazing humans I know!  I am fairly certain that I'll be riding this wave for months to come. 

We concluded the retreat on a bright and beautiful Full Moon with happy hearts and full bellies. 

I think I found my calling. 

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Mantras from our Daily Mediterranean Yoga Practice: 

Today I remember to be grateful. 

I choose to bloom into my most potent, powerful, and authentic self. 

I love all dimensions of myself. 

My dreams are the seeds of my future. 

I am open and receptive to all the the good, abundance, and healing in the Universe. 

All is well. May I be safe, healthy, and happy. 


Here’s what a few others had to say about the experience:

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This retreat by far, was the most magical experience of my life. An experience that I will take with me until I breathe my last breath. The love, beauty, family, community and food were intoxicating. Thank you for this experience.
— Kristina Komorowski
Elissa created a truly amazing and healing yoga retreat experience. It was like a real life experience of Eat, Pray, Love. The mornings were spent with a skillful, but accessible yoga practice on a peaceful Mediterranean beach. Followed by a delicious and healthy seafood and pasta lunch. There was enough time built into the schedule for personal reflection or exploration of Sicily. Every detail was carefully considered. And the best part is that you were welcomed as part of Elissa’s huge Sicilian family.
— Katie Desmond  
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I came for the yoga by the seaside but was captivated by the charm and warm welcome of this small Sicilian village. I found the atmosphere invited whatever level of solitude or socialization I desired. I will cherish the connections that I found with friends new and old as well as the memories of exploring Ragusa, Modica, and Scoglitti. This was not just a yoga retreat, this was an experience of a lifetime! And the food- don’t even get me started on all the delicious cappuccinno, risotto, seafood, gelato, and wine! Elissa and Greg, you made us feel like family. I’m so lucky I got to be a part of it!
— Emily Cogan Nieckarz
This retreat met all of my expectations and then some! I love yoga and Elissa is one of the best instructors I’ve ever experienced. She is truly a master and was sensitive to the needs and limitations of everyone in the group. She brings light and happiness to everyone she encounters. The hotel is beautiful, on an incredible beach and everything is well done from the food to the maid service. I truly enjoyed connecting with my Italian roots - the food, the language, the warm hospitality delivered by the locals - it was all perfect. Scoglitti is a lovely little town; I find myself yearning to return. Elissa did a terrific job in helping everyone in the group connect with each other. I’ll admit that I was a bit apprehensive to go on this trip by myself, but that disappeared immediately. I quickly made new friends and always had someone to eat or walk, or expore with me. I highly recommend this retreat - I came home completely energized and recharged and with some great memories.
— Janice D'Aloia
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If you or someone you know are interested in coming on our annual Sicilian Summer Yoga Retreat, we WELCOME you! There's an early bird special on pricing until November 15th, 2018. Head on over to our retreat page for all the info. 

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?

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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

 

Dirty Feet, Happy Heart

Dirty Feet, Happy Heart

Contributed by Kristina Komorowski 

 

 

Imagine with me a little girl in a white sundress, sitting on her great-grandmother's porch. Now, follow this little girl as she stands up and walks through the screen door into the house. She walks innocently around and  in-between the grown-up’s legs and pensively around the knobby feet of the large armchairs that are scattered around the house. She stops and turns her attention to a brown wispy bundle on the table. She carefully and suspiciously picks it up, making sure the adults do not see. The smell meets her nostrils before the strange bundle does. Curing onions. Beautiful golden bulbs, flaky and speckled with soil.

I was a rebel, or at least I liked to think of myself as one. I turned away from college life, wanting to be free of the obligation to study day in and day out, choosing to fulfill my life with music, parties and as little responsibility as possible. Like most of us do, I eventually realized that I had to settle down and start behaving like an adult. I worked retail and then an office job and finally settled nicely into the role of mother. When asked as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up (in the back of my head, at least) the answer was always the same: A mom! I quickly realized after having two beautiful boys that my dream job wasn't the calling I had thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom and I adore my children but it didn't give me that feeling like I'd finally opened the door and found what I had been looking for.

I became so deeply wrapped up in putting my family before myself that I saw my personal goals become even more distant. I did this for so long that my closest of friends encouraged me to get a hobby. I remember distinctly sitting with a glass of wine in my hand and tears in my eyes crying, “What am I supposed to do?!”

I'll never forget the day I discovered my calling. It was the type of moment where life stands still and if you don’t pay attention to the sign, you could easily miss it. I was hurriedly unloading groceries fully aware of the clock ticking towards dinner time and I grabbed a few onions to toss into our vegetable bowl.The smell stopped me in my tracks. As I lifted the crunchy sweet bulbs to my nose and inhaled ever so deeply, I was immediately brought back to my inner little girl wearing the white sundress smelling great-grandmother's cured onions. Couldn’t I grow these? Shouldn’t I grow these? Surely I can grow these. The thoughts ran rampant. I excitedly began opening this door. I searched for various gardening techniques online, I purchased a few books and read countless blogs about urban gardening. It wasn’t enough for me. I needed more.

I decided to start small, taking a few months of classes through The OSU Master Gardener program. Luck had it that my youngest son was sick the day they presented the vegetable growing portion of the course, so I experimented with the knowledge I read from our handbook, and soon began growing food out of raised beds my husband built. I quickly found out that I got more pleasure sharing what I grew with my friends and neighbors than I had ever imagined was possible. I could hear my passion about the plants when people would ask me basic gardening questions or how I grew my own food. Something was happening and I wanted to continue exploring this new found love. I began to find more farming and gardening books in the free boxes around town, I began following masters in the industry on social networking sites and by reading University publications. I found myself so flooded with accessible knowledge that I needed to hone in my new craft. I knew that I could read sun up to sun down but because that required time that most mother’s do not have, I decided instead to take the plunge and ask for help. I recognized that by putting in the time now this new passion of growing food would likely benefit my family, my community and my soul for a lifetime.

Today, I am a student of the Beginning Urban Farming Apprenticeship program which is a part time farming program that teaches adults the beginning elements of food production. I am confident that I have found my calling! Despite the current Portland heat wave this summer, I’ve been proudly and happily digging, sweating, harvesting, watering, and knowing that my efforts will soon pay off. I’ve cried on the farm numerous times, allowing the soil to absorb the pain of the busy world. Being connected to the soil brings me to this state of tranquility that only those who’ve dug in the earth can really understand. The soil is a healer and not only of the body and mind, but of the soul. It brings out your angels and demons. It will make you feel strong and it shows you your weaknesses. Listening to the bees hum, the leaves rustle, my breath as it exits and enters my body, the groans of pain and the cheers of excitement over a newly harvestable food source is what makes my soul come alive. I am a totally different person in the elements. I have found a new side of myself that I never knew existed. I am powerful and yet weak, open, vulnerable, humble and thankful. Working with men and women who share the same goals only intensifies my experience. I am beyond grateful for being able to be a part of a community where we all ache for the ability to share our food and knowledge with the people around us.

I want to share this journey with everyone I meet. It was the soil that helped me see what my gifts are.  I am a nurturer. I nurture the soil, I nurture my children, and I will forever continue to nurture my soul. 

Trust your inner voice, your inner child. Stay inspired and honor your gifts. Lastly I encourage you to ground yourself daily. Go stick your hands in the dirt.

I dare you.

“The Meaning of Life is to find your gift. The Purpose of life is to give it away.”  -William Shakespeare

Kristina Komorowski is a Texas native who moved to Illinois after high school. She fell in love with a Polish man and together in the Winter of 2010 they created a home in  Portland Oregon. They have 2 beautiful children in SE Portland and dream of life on a small farm. They love everything nature and get great joy in sharing their rich bounty.

Kristina is currently a student of the Beginning Urban Farming Apprenticeship program. See more at their website to learn more:http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/beginning-famers/BUFA

If you would like to follow their journey look for Kristina on Instagram: @Mamakomorowski or send her an email: kkomorowski13@gmail.com

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.

Intervening

 

Intervening 

Contributed by Robbyn Peters Bennett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing that I speak openly about the need to end spanking, people often ask me for advice on how respond to a parent who threatens or spanks their child in public.  Their fear of course, is the offending parent will strike back with the classic response, “mind your own business” or “who the hell are you to tell me how to deal with my child!”  And then later on, is the child the worse for it?

Alice Miller, author of “For Your Own Good,” talked about the importance of the Witness in helping a child buffer the effects of abusive treatment. A witness sees and acknowledges the suffering of the child.  I suspect in some cases, a witness who voices disapproval may cause a parent to feel shame, which may further provoke the parent to blame or attack the child at home. At the same time, the child does hear another point of view beyond the message of “I am bad. I do bad things and deserve to be hurt.” The child also hears, “it is not OK for me to be hit.” This is a very powerful message.

Sometimes, witnessing may be the only thing we know to do.  The role of being a witness for a child has often left me with a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction.  Yes, I spoke up, but I still felt I was abandoning the child to his fate and was unsure if I had really helped the parent.

Awhile back, I tried something different. I was at the airport with my granddaughter who was six at the time. She was getting ready to return home after a sweet summer visit.  We were both pretty sad.  We wandered into a gift shop looking for some kind of craft she could enjoy on the plane ride.  As usual, I was overloaded with bags and suitcases and I accidentally knocked over a toy from the display. I’m not always the most graceful and my granddaughter started to giggle at my exaggerated “oops” face. A woman standing nearby let out a sigh of relief, “Oh god. At least it isn’t my son!” A young boy about my granddaughter’s age was launching through the isles flopping his legs and arms about nearly missing the candy trays and dental floss display. It was like his body was floating through space where there was none.  His mother grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the store. Just watching those two gave me a pit in my stomach.

My granddaughter and I found our way to the waiting area after we purchased some greasy airport pizza. The worst. We ate a few pieces just in time for the intercom announcement, which was urging her to board. She waved me goodbye after our elaborate hug, handshake, love you more than the ocean is deep goodbye ritual. My heart ached with that deep sadness that comes from your children and grandchildren living too far away, followed by waves of love and gratitude. My husband and I decided to wait and watch the plane take off, a sweet and lost ritual in today’s airport experience where usually only passengers can linger at the gate.

It was then that I saw the mother and that rambunctious boy sitting on the floor, also watching my granddaughter’s plane.  The mother was yelling at the boy, threatening to spank him “if you don’t knock that off!” Things were escalating and the mother rose up to grab hold of him. It always makes me cringe when I hear a parent threaten a child. My initial feeling is always an urge to retaliate against the parent. It enrages me.  I took a deep breath and heard myself exhaling. Her son was becoming more and more upset, yelling back at her, and then it happened. He punched her and ran away. He did to her, what I felt like doing.

Maybe it was my grieving heart that opened me up to the suffering of this mother. Maybe it was because he hit her. But when I looked at her furious face, I could feel her exhaustion. I could feel her feelings of being defeated, overwhelmed, and completely alone. I walked over to her.

I just let all the judgment and anger go.  I opened my heart to her and felt tears welling up inside of me.  I gently rested my hand on her back and said, “Be kind to yourself, mommy. I can see you are doing the best that you can.”

I guess in that moment it didn’t occur to me that she might turn her fury on me. She slumped down and started to weep. She cried and cried and told me everything.  Everything. How her son is autistic and he gets crazy, how her teenage daughter who is on the plane hates her because she didn’t do right by her when she was younger, and yet she did the best she could and didn’t know what to do, and how she is working full time and moving soon and needs more time with her son, and isn’t sure about how to make ends meet.  She talked and she talked, sharing her worries and pain. I mostly listened, while rubbing her back and smoothing her ponytail, gently pulling the bangs from her eyes. I listened. As she talked, she softened. I listened, nodding, and understanding. Her son, who had been ramping up for a fight, started rocking himself moving a little closer over time.  The mother didn’t seem to notice.  She had so much she needed to tell me. As her tears subsided, her son crawled into her lap. She held him, kissed his forehead and started rocking herself with her son in her arms. “Thank you,” she said, as I stood up to go. I don’t remember what I said at that point. The whole day was so surreal.  I know I didn’t change her life, and that her son would continue to struggle along with her. But somehow, the harshness of life seemed a little less so.  There was this moment where this mother found relief and her son found comfort, and I felt compassion where I often mostly feel despair.

What we see in others is so often just the surface of their deep struggle and suffering.  Parents who bully and aggress their children are parents who are out of control and who need those of us who can, to connect with them. Feeling into the world of another person and problem solving with them takes time. In neuroscience, it is called co-regulation.  It sounds scientific, but it really is an art form. We all want our children to manage their emotions and relate to others with courtesy, warmth, and empathy.  Children learn these skills by developing the self-regulatory equipment of the brain and this essentially happens through our connection with them.  Deep connection is the art of co-regulation.  Psychiatrist Alan Shore, MD explains how the development of self-regulation occurs within relationship with another brain. We essentially are our relationships. The beauty of co-regulation is when we are able to stay connected with another person who is distressed, feel into their world and create a sense of safety, we feel better.  When I was able to connect to the mother at the airport, when I was able to listen and rub her back and understand – I felt better. I felt connected.  Connected to her, to my family, to the little boy, to my granddaughter, to all the mothers and fathers that struggle and to myself as a mother and even to myself as that vulnerable child.

Robbyn Peters Bennett is a psychotherapist, educator, and child advocate who specializes in the treatment of mental health problems due to early abuse and neglect. She also helps parents whose children struggle with tantrums, anxiety, bullying, and ADHD using sand tray therapy, with a sensitivity to advancements in neuropsychology. She believes children do well when they can and that behavioral problems stem from unmet developmental needs and lagging skills.  Her work with children supports the attachment between the child and parent,  so that the child's developmental needs can be met within the parent-child relationship. 

Robbyn also works with adults suffering from anxiety, depression, and symptoms of post traumatic stress.  She works from a Jungian perspective, and believes that the psyche contains the seeds to its own cure. To learn more about her work, go to http://robbynpetersbennett.org

 

The Ritual Reveals Itself

The Ritual Reveals Itself

Contributed by Kelly Sunrose

 

 

 

 

 

The spring is a special time for my practice. I celebrate the anniversary of my practice (18 years, half my life) as well as the anniversary of my becoming a yoga teacher (9 years, a quarter of my life). It’s only natural to reflect on how things have changed, the expansions and contractions, the elements that have remained constant (in a sense) through all of that time.

I carried around a book about meditation for 7 years before I started to sit still. “You can’t hurry love, no you just have to wait.” The Supremes sang the truth.

Somewhere between my very first class and today, the state of being that is yoga began to reveal itself to me until I had the visceral, embodied memory that it is, indeed, my natural state. The times of longing for it were manufactured by my own ego. My attachment to the story that I’m separate, less than or greater than everyone else.

abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah

stillness is the result of practice for many years without attachment to the outcome.

-Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.12

My morning practice has the potential to set the tone for my entire day, so I am devoted to it. The work is to remain open to whatever happens during that practice.

At least five days a week, this is the sacred ritual that begins my day.

My morning ritual really begins the night before. I create conditions that support an early morning by winding down early. When my 4 year-old daughter gets in bed at 7pm, I slip into my evening-wear, tidy the house, turn on the robot vacuum (game-changer for a working mom, by the way), shower & lay out my clothes for the morning and retire to my bedroom to read or watch something on my iPad. (This is my social-time with my husband, so I am looser with the rules about “no tv in bed.”) We are usually fast asleep by 9pm (we adopted this particular ritual about 9 years ago).

I wake up feeling super-refreshed between 5 and 5:30am. (I do set an alarm as a back-up, but don’t really need it if I adhere to the 9pm bedtime.)

Quiet as a mouse, I tip-toe downstairs once I’m dressed and washed.

While I wait for water to boil, I step outside into the first sounds and smells of morning. Non-attached listening is one of my favorite meditation practices. Morning is so good for this.

I make myself a brew of hot water with lemon, and sometimes ginger, turmeric and honey. This practice is newer for me, but it feels SO good to start the day with water. It’s usually too hot to drink right away, so I carry it to my meditation cave to hold in my lap while I ready to sit.

For the last 9 years, I’ve meditated consistently. Mostly every day, but I like to be loose about it because… practice without the non-attachment for me is the road to suffering. There were times when I was still practicing law and again when my daughter was a baby where I would make myself a little crazy just to get in a 20 minute sit, and that very rarely leads me to Yoga, so I am loose about it. I know that I am a kinder human, a better mother, a more loving wife when I meditate, so I treasure the practice. I treat it like my sweet necessary luxury.

After I sit, I move a little bit. Many days, it probably looks like I am just rolling around on the floor, but there is a lot of intention behind that rolling. Locating the balance of effort and ease in the movements requires attention.

After practice, I drink tea or (on occasion) coffee. A hot drink in the morning is a practice in mindfulness. Boiling the water, selecting the cup, steeping the tea, pouring the milk, holding the cup, smelling the brew, the very first sips. It’s a ritual of joy.

When I begin my day this way, the rituals keep on coming. I am in relationship with presence and able to attend to what and whom are with me. I am so grateful for this practice.

 

 

Kelly Sunrose began practicing yoga 18 years ago under the glow of the Hale Bopp comet. Kelly is grateful for every teaching that has illuminated the path, from the grocery store parking lot to the top of Meditation Mount. Kelly has been teaching her signature blend of investigative, devotional yoga since 2006, when she was certified to teach by the Shambhava School of Yoga.

Kelly continues her studies with Kira Ryder, Erich Schiffmann, Patricia Sullivan and many beloved others. Since 2009, Kelly has shared full-length videos and audio recordings of her classes at sunroseyoga.com. In 2015, she joined the teaching family at Yoga Anytime (http://yogaanytime.com). She creates spaces and experiences for transformative practice in-person and online.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her family.


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.

Attitude of Gratitude


 Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life. ~Rumi

The attitude of gratitude is one of the most reliable methods of developing inner joy. It’s an attitude that humanity should adopt 365 days a year. This isn’t a profound blog entry; it’s more of a reminder to say “Thank-you”… all the time. It’s good for you and it’s good for others around you. We are constantly faced with obstacles and new challenges and it’s through modeling how to embrace life that we teach those around us how to embark on their own journey of self-study. That’s right, showing gratitude for all of it, the ups AND the downs. As though it isn’t important enough in and of itself, remember that our younger generation, the littles, are watching our every move. They are learning how to tackle life through our example. It’s a big deal and a big job. That’s why we asked moms and dads around the world how they help teach gratitude to their children.

This is what they had to say:

 

  • Our family has a gratitude jar on the dining room table with slips of paper and a pencil.  If anyone in the family notices or recognizes that someone is being kind they write it down and put it in the jar.  Once a week, we read the pieces of paper and discuss the kindness that was associated with the action.  It helps refocus our entire family on acts of kindness and the feeling of gratitude to others.~Sheri Louis, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

  • Every night we each (including parents) share at least one thing we are grateful for and one kind thing we did that day. It is amazing the refocus it has created in our daily reflections and in the valued importance we as, a family, place on gratitude and kindness. ~Colleen Reuland, mother of 3, Portland OR

 

  • Teaching my children gratitude doesn't come in a form of a plan or formal training...it comes from a way-of-life, a flow of gratefulness that comes from the heart. As a mom I have to lead by example even when I don't feel like being or expressing gratitude. Other ways of teaching my children gratitude include reminding them to say "thank you," talking about what they appreciated about their day at the dinner table, asking them what they are thankful for during holidays such as Thanksgiving, etc. I also think it's important for them to understand how to be thankful for each other so we often talk about what we appreciate about one another. ~ Valerie Reed, mother of 3, Belleville PA

 

  • At dinner time we discuss the days "highlights" and one thing they are thankful for today. Even though it will move toward low lights inevitably, it is an opportunity to notice what is going well first, and then what is difficult. Putting the positive in first seems to create a nice balance of positive reality in order to make space for the challenges in life. ~Christy Strange, mother of 2, Portland, OR

 

  • We take a moment together to pause and be thankful for both the big and little things in life -- from taking in the awe of the sights and sounds of Mother Nature on a hike, to the cozy perfection of a mug of hot cocoa together. We also try to go around the dinner table and say one thing that we are grateful for from the day, or sometimes we do that same thing just before going to sleep at night. ~Marie Tindall, Mother of 2, Portland, OR

 

  • My daughter taught me gratitude. You can see she is grateful for every hug, every kiss and every “I love you”. ~Karen Blomstedt, mother of 1, Portsmouth RI

 

  • We talk a lot about water and food waste. Last year my 6 year old son raised over $800 for Charity Water in Kenya. ~Sarasvati Hewitt, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

  • I teach my daughter about gratitude by seeing her share her gifts to the world. I honor that and then tell her "thank you."  I feel so grateful to see her light shine in that! ~Kelly Sunrose Conner, mother of 1, Portland OR

 

  • I talk about gratitude with my son during dinner. We don't say "grace" but rather offer a blessing which usually involves putting words to the gratitude that we have for all of the gods and goddess' and all of our guides and teachers. We thank them for our health, our strength, and any other quality we feel important to offer thanks for on a given day. We offer gratitude for the farmers and all those involved in making our food accessible. And finally we offer gratitude for one another, I thank Zion for his compassion and his kindness, and he often will thank me for my presence. We take turns doing the blessing. It is a part of our day that really touches my heart. I love this time where we are able to look inward and express our love of life with clarity. ~Sondra Bloxam, mother of 1, Portland OR

 

  • With my oldest we talk about what we are thankful for and why. We practice gratitude by saying thank you. I think kids learn by example and repetition so we sometimes play a game of gift giving where they can practice how to show gratitude for a gift.  ~Denae Weaver, mother of 2, Green Bell PA

 

  • We volunteer at a food bank. At night during prayer we talk about the non-material things we are grateful for. We try to teach gratitude through modeling it. ~Ursula Rocha, mother of 3, Alexandria VA

 

  • One way in which we teach gratitude to our kids is by taking them camping for a week every summer. When we return home after a week of being outside in the elements, our small house with its running water and air conditioning seem like a palace! ~Molly Cohen, mother of 3, Franklin MA

 

  • My boys are 8 and 10 and for as long as they remember we have taught them to give on their birthdays. Every other birthday they choose an organization to donate to in lieu of receiving gifts. The process of choosing the organizations and presenting the gifts has humbled them. In their preschool years, we would make a gratitude tree that hung in the house. We would add paper leaf cutouts with grateful notes on it. It was always overflowing with leaves that didn’t fall with the change of the seasons. Now I think the best way to teach gratefulness is to model it. Hearing dad thank mom for dinner, hearing mom thank dad for all the time he puts into coaching their teams, telling the boys how wonderful it is when they help around the house… it all makes an impression on them. One I hope they carry into adulthood. ~ Caitlin MacNeil, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

  • Every night at bedtime we each talk about one thing we are grateful for. I try to expose them or increase their awareness at least to the fact that there are other children in the world who might be homeless or ill. I think stepping outside of their paradigm is important and it fosters gratitude. ~Jill Whitchurch- Dixon, mother of 2, Vancouver WA

 

  • In general I try to model gratitude by thanking people for even the littlest of things, like, “Thanks, Ms. Maria, for putting a clip in my hair so I can see better.” I also try to point out the beauty in nature, like an interesting cloud, how the breeze feels on your face, or the color of the grass. I see my daughter starting to do the same now! ~Elizabeth Wegner, mother of 2, Alexandria VA

 

  • Through yearly giving tree projects we buy gifts for families that don’t have enough money to afford them. We also donate all of our old items- including scooters/bikes/clothes to homeless shelters that house families. We talk as a family about our good fortunes and do what we can to help others in need. ~Michele Bell, mother of 2, Lake Oswego OR

 

  • Children know how to say thank you but they must learn how to feel thankful. I think modeling thankfulness and kindness are the most powerful instruction tools we can offer our children. ~Kristina Komorowski, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

 

The Body is Here and Now

The body is here and now.

Contributed by Anna Chapman.

 

 

 

 

 

The body is here and now.

That is all it can be.

 

I love food and always have. I love the way it tastes, how it looks, the colors, and the smells. Growing up I was raised by a father who showed love through cooking and preparing food, and a mother who showed love by removing food through portion control and eating restrictions. As you can imagine for a small child this was very confusing and caused turmoil in regards to what and how much I should eat. Compounded by the media’s obsession with how a woman’s body should look this was a recipe for a very confused little girl.

Growing up in Guam and Hawaii with typhoons, earthquakes, home robbery, and racism as the norm, added to the internal turmoil I felt.  My home was full of love and food yet I was living in a turbulent environment with a slightly confused state of mind. There were and continue to be many extraneous circumstances that shaped the person I have become and one of the coping skills I developed early on was that food was safe.

By the time I was 11 I was on my first diet, and had a gym membership. At 15 I was “diagnosed” with over eating disorder (Which I now believe to be a sham), and at the ripe age of 22 I weighed in at 417 pounds in the unhappiest mental state a person could exist. Until I had hit what I could only assume was rock bottom, I hadn’t truly felt anything in years. I was sad all the time. It was numbing; an overflowing of sadness that didn’t evoke anything but avoidance. Until that point I had not wanted to deal with, let alone understand why I couldn’t stop eating or why overeating was so physically painful yet emotionally nurturing. Why was I broken?

After seeking help from family and friends I initiated a change. I began researching, working out, and eating healthier. But the real problem I’ve come to understand had nothing to do with food.

Let’s fast forward 5 years, where here I stand more than 100 lbs. lighter, equip with a wealth of knowledge about food production and nutrition. But none of that matters to me anymore, I no longer weigh my worth in pounds.

In the past five years I have been pealing back the layers of who I am, and why I am the way I am. I’ve dug deep into my childhood and healed many old wounds. I have found and reclaimed my relationship with this perfectly amazing body. I’ve developed compassionate self-talk that nurtures myself when I need love over food. I have realized that my body was never against me that it kept growing to keep me safe because I was never able to tell it that I could take over as an adult. I no longer need to worry and go into starvation mode, because I am safe. And the most profound wisdom I can give you is to start an open line of communication between your mind, body, and soul.  Be curious and open about what it is that you do not want to feel.

Mindfulness has been my biggest gift within this work of self-discovery. The moment I check out of my experience my body goes into autopilot and I start doing things I haven’t done in years. Two of my favorite tools that link mindfulness and the body require nothing but an open mind and a playful curiosity.

  • #1. Mindful Eating: Start by creating your meal, whatever it is prepare it with all your senses. Smell your food, take it in with your eyes, and be present while you are putting the meal together. Once its ready dim the lights, turn off all devices (even music), set your place beautifully with a candle on your favorite plate. Sit down and take three deep breaths, arrive in your seat with this beautiful life force meal you have created. As you start to eat chew your food, take it in with all your senses, feel into your body as it goes down your esophagus and into your belly. Don’t rush the next bite, enjoy every mouthful and only eat what appeals to you. If part of it is not feeling good in your body, don’t eat that part. Take in only exactly, and as much as your body wants. If you aren’t sure what this feels like, be present and see what happens if you physically ask, “Body, do you want more? Are you satisfied?” When you are done take a few deep breathes and just give your body a moment to let the experience sync. Feel gratitude for the fullness of the moment.

 

  • #2. Body Awareness Appreciation: I’m a big advocate for self-talk. Throughout the day I am usually having a conversation with my body and soul… often even out loud. When I used to workout my words were very aggressive, “DON’T STOP, KEEP MOVING, PUSH PUSH PUSH!” What I realized years later, is that my body didn’t like being spoken to in this way. Now I practice appreciation, if I go for a run I’m saying, “Wow look at you run, legs you are amazing pushing me forward, arms you are so strong, belly thank you for the strength.” I usually throw in a few, “You are such a brilliant goddess, I am in awe of you” moments as well. When I dance I feel into the movement and delight in the new ways I am able to move. When any part of my body hurts I give gratitude to it for working so hard and for holding me up and for being so strong. This little shift in body awareness and appreciation can be profound; it makes movement more fun and much more fulfilling.

 

I invite you to try these tools, and to be conscious of what you are feeling; specifically when you are checked out of your experience with regards to food and body awareness. It seems easier sometimes to disengage rather then open up to the seemingly hard and uncomfortable parts of life. But this is where growth happens, it’s in the uncomfortable places that we see how strong and stable we are. Trust life and know that you are divinely supported... that you were given the perfect body. Live from a place of love and openness where everything is possible.

 

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Anna Chapman is a hippie-goddess-yogi-cat-lady, living in Portland Oregon. She is passionate about healing her body and discovering the beauty that shines from within. She is offering a workshop in collaboration with Soul Coach, Kathy Carlisle November 15th and 16th called “Dare to live from the inside out”. Inspiring attendees that this life is happening for you not to you, offering tools to live a full, vibrant, and magical life. She also offers one on one Body Love sessions to help bring in positive self-talk and body appreciation through compassion and love. She is a firm believer in the fact that no one is broken, and once we can shine a little light on the dark parts of ourselves we see there is only love there. To find out more about Anna, visit www.iamannachapman.com

 

 

 

Become interested in your body, we are not interested in it most of the time. We have ideas about it, ideas about the shape of it. We objectify it, we label it, but we are not particularly interested in it. Your body is your piece of the universe you have been given, you have been handed this body for the time you are here on earth. So you might as well become interested in it, because unless you begin the process about what its like to be where you are then you can’t be grounded. The mind will bounce from the past to the present with ideas, but the body is here now, that is all it can be!
— Geneen Roth

 

Art as Healing

Art as Healing

Contributed by Rhoda Miller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don't know if creativity is an innate or cultivated characteristic. I do know that what creativity I was born with was nurtured from a young age by my parents and an influential art teacher I was blessed to learn from for 11 years through my childhood. I also know that at the lowest, darkest times of my life, I have clung to my creativity and art like a life preserver in the middle of a raging ocean, and without fail, it has held me up every time. I've often heard people talk about having pets for their ability to love unconditionally, and it may sound silly, but that is what art has done for me. Art has always given back to me in a way no human or pet ever could. 

Art pulled me from the depths of what could have been a vast depression after my sister, SaraLisa, ended her life when I was 19. A sophomore in college, having recently changed my major to art, I poured myself into creative expression as a form of healing for the first time in my life. For several years after SaraLisa's death, I was very resistant to traditional counseling; I have later come to realize that I am a very internal processor, one who can sit on my thoughts and emotions for weeks without being able to make sense of them. In the early stages of grief, often my only moments of great clarity were found through creating art. In the lowest times following my sister's death, I sank deep into myself and was often only pulled out through visual expression, writing, and the sheer determination to continue living. 

Throughout the years, many people have told me that something good would come of her death. Life events of such enormity are never able to be quantified, nor would I ever begin to find equal the exchange of my sister's life for my expanded artistic repertoire. What I do know is while my loss has brought me great pain, my pain has inspired multiple facets of creative expression that I may have never otherwise experienced. 


Years later, I had the wind knocked out of me again, slowly and repeatedly this time, over the course of a six year relationship and a series of lies I desperately wanted to believe. My therapist likened it to Chinese water torture, each lie another drip. Divorced, childless, and paying a mortgage on a non-profit salary was not where I pictured myself at 31. However, even as I felt the ground shifting again, I was overwhelmed with a vast sense of inner calm; I had already overcome more than I could have imagined and certainly I was stronger than ever before. Also, hadn’t millions of individuals in the history of the world faced tragedy and hardship and yet prevailed? Surely my human experience was not inherently unique.

Again I found myself purging my emotions through creative expression. Tired of keeping secrets and pretending at normalcy, I found huge reprieve in creating a series of paintings I shared with my community in a solo show just 8 months following my separation. Titled “Within”, the series explored depth and layers and sparse barrenness. While my art is incredibly nonobjective in nature and I was purposefully sparing in my artist statement at the time, sharing my work left me feeling inside out and scrubbed raw for all to see. It was necessary for me to realize hiding would no longer suffice for surviving. I wanted more from life.

I credit art more than any other one thing in my life for bringing me great healing. Art has taught me to be gentle with myself, as nothing ever comes out on canvas in the way I imagine it, and I have learned vulnerability by sharing my work with others. Healing never happens in a vacuum or through one mode of processing alone, and I believe the proper combination of these is different for each person. Art is something I take with me wherever I go and I know as long as I have the ability to create, I will feel like a whole person with a world of possibility at my fingertips. 

 

The italicized portions are featured in the book Be Your Finest Art by Joanne Miller and Dorsey McHugh, published this year.

 

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Rhoda Miller is an Ohio transplant living in Harrisonburg, Virginia. When she’s not busy running, creating, hiking, or catching up with friends, you might find her at her day job as a Crisis Response Coordinator at the Collins Center. She shares her art and other musings on her website.

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/