Teach Kindness

Teach Kindness

Contributed by Sheri Louis




A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make new trees.

      -Amelia Earhart



I have read and seen many articles lately calling children entitled, saying that they have a lack of empathy and bad sportsmanship.  I have done a lot of research some of which includes observing children at play and what I have come to realize is that children are inherently kind. They want to be connected and when they feel disconnected some of these negative behaviors can be played out. 

Instead of asking how can we force our children to be kind and grateful, a better question might be, How can adult interactions model and reinforce a childs innate need for connection and kindness?

In the not so distance past, parents and grandparents had an expectation that what they said was valued and the children must obey.  Children were most likely raised in a punitive way.  Today's research shows this is the antithesis of kindness and instead breeds anger, resentment, and unkind behavior.

Having observed many students and children (including my own) at play I have realized that kindness has an amazingly positive impact on children.  It spreads more kindness, gratitude, and love.  I began really practicing mindfulness around being kind but also around being more grateful for everyday moments.  I have been making a conscious choice to change my attitude and notice what is good about my day, myself, and my children.  I have been working on staying present and noticing what is happening right now.  It can have a very simple and powerful impact on yourself and others.

Lastly, kindness helps you become more confident, more compassionate, and a more loving person.  If those benefits weren't enough, kindness also improves your health as it lowers your stress levels. Children and adults can benefit from all of these things so it is time to start spreading some love.


Here are a few simple ways to randomly act with kindness:


  1. Make eye contact and smile when you pass a stranger.

  2. Tell a friend about something kind you noticed them doing.

  3. Prepare a meal for a friend who needs it.          

  4. Be appreciative and gracious when you receive a compliment

  5. Write a teacher a thank you note.      

  6. Take a walk in nature.

  7. Tell one person every single day that you love them.

  8. Tell yourself, every single day, that you love YOU.

  9. Create something.  Sit down and paint a picture, write a journal entry, make a collage, build a birdhouse, or sew a pillowcase.

  10. Do something that makes you feel OH SO GOOD!



by Elissa Cirignotta



Dreaming is part of the human condition. All of life is made up of pure creative energy and it is our birthright to co-create our lives and manifest our dreams. Whether it be Honest Abe’s road to Presidency, Mr. Bell’s brilliant telephone, Queen Beyoncé and all of her bright shiny wonders, or my secret (not so secret anymore) dream of one day becoming Oprah’s protégé.
It all starts with a dream, a seed, an idea. We are intended to be dreamers. The dreams of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers all over the globe are my dreams and my dreams are the dreams of all humanity.

Read the full article here:



Elissa is the co-founder of Happy Mindful People, Certified 200 hour Yoga Teacher,  Certified Special Education Teacher, aspiring author, cat lover, rainbow chasing, Oprah loving visionary, inversion junkie committed to making happiness a daily priority. She's an eternal optimist who believes dreams do come true. Be a part of her 2015 #365daysofsplits journey by following her via:

Twitter: @happymindfulpdx, @ecirignotta

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymindfulpeople

Instagram: @happymindfulpeople, @elissacirignotta


Or send a hello to elissacirignotta@gmail.com


“We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.”  Nelson Mandela


"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.



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.

Yogi Youth, an interview with Catalysta

Yogi Youth

Mind-body activities like yoga tend to favor adults, but Elissa Cirignotta wants to show that youth can benefit just as much, if not more.

Amanda Muench


Image by Tammy Kim

Mind-body activities like yoga tend to favor adults, but Elissa Cirignotta wants to show that youth can benefit just as much, if not more. Developing bodies and minds are at the root of yoga’s rewards. And there are rewards enough to encompass the teacher as well.

Tell us about your work.

Elissa Cirignotta: I am a lead teacher and co-founder of Happy Mindful People. We teach kids, teens, and adult yoga and mindfulness classes. Through movement, mindfulness, and social skills we introduce concepts like kindness, gratitude, developing empathy, and being a compassionate person. Our classes keep bodies active, minds engaged, while simultaneously practicing how to use the breath as a tool for peace and calm.

I’ve come to believe more and more that the lack of social emotional instruction is a significant missing link in our society. The curriculum we have written is based on our research on adolescent brain development and reinforces skills needed to combat the emotional changes that often lead to aggression, angst, and lowered self-esteem. Our hope is for all children, all teens, and all adults to have increased control of their bodies, awareness and appreciation of their breath, and gratitude for their magnificent lives.

How does your work make a positive difference to society?

I am lucky enough to get to spend my days teaching kids, teens, and adults how to love bigger! We practice and discuss what it means to love ourselves and learn ways that we can care for our bodies. We talk about the impact our words and thoughts have on our outlook and we collectively practice living our best life. We learn the importance of listening to our breath and we use it as a tool to find calm during stressful moments. As all muscles need strengthening so do our imagination and gratitude muscles! We teach kids and teens how to use their imagination to create their reality and have fun. There is no age too young to practice self-acceptance, calm, and gratitude.

The tag line for our company is “Scatter seeds of kindness and grow peace.” We are all seed planters doing the best we can using the tools we have. My job is to be a reflection of this mantra and help others find personal healing.

As you became committed to a purposeful career, what were the internal doubts or external obstacles that challenged you?

Initially my fears were all financial. I was a special education teacher, behavioral specialist, and Special Ed facilitator for 8 years prior to this leap. Even though my income may have been fairly conservative I still had a set salary, benefits, and job security. How could I possibly make it without those things? I struggled with the fear of financial doom for the majority of the first year. It’s been a practice of re-writing my story and letting go.

What practices or techniques did you or do you use to challenge these obstacles?

I take deep breaths. I jog and take long walks spending time in nature to gain perspective. I make sure my body is getting adequate exercise. I practice yoga, every day. I drink lots of water and tea. I get up and try my very best every single day. I say thank-you all the time.

There are 5 affirmations that I keep tucked into my journal and I say them often.

“I am open and receptive to all the good and abundance in the Universe. Thank you Life!”

“All is well. Everything is working out for my highest good. Only good will come out of this situation.”

“I go forth in perfect faith in the power of omnipresent good to bring me what I need when I need it.”

“I live in harmony with myself and the world around me.”

“I am love.”

There is no turning back. And there’s reason to let fear guide your decisions. The money appears when it is needed. I am learning to trust my instincts and follow my gut while also tapping into local resources and deepening my connection to those that are committed to teaching love and wellbeing.

How did you find a balance between financial stability and a career that makes a difference?

Perseverance and practice. I’m still in a phase where I work really hard and sometimes very long days to sustain myself and that’s ok. It’s a part of my journey and a part of this creative tapestry that is my life. I am just crazy enough to believe that I can change the world and brave enough to try and do it. I’m choosing to trust my struggles and use them as a guide to happiness and global transformation. Each opportunity we are faced with is chance for us to learn, grow, and heal. This year I’ve learned how to live on a very small budget and prioritize my needs and wants. There are no regrets.

What advice do you have for those who want a career that benefits the common good?

There is no reason not to follow your heart. Speak your truth. Find your passion, listen to it, nurture it, and be it. Reach farther than you can grasp because one day you may find you’ve touched the stars. The sky is the limit! Choose love.



For more info visit Catalysta at http://catalysta.org/pioneer-qa/

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.



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/




Mantras for Gentle Parenting


Mantras for Gentle Parenting

Contributed by Sarah Martyn LMT, RYT.




As I reach the end of each Yoga class, I invite my students to contemplate the connection they have made with themselves, and therefore with the universe, in the last 75 minutes of their practice. I ask them to invite peace, harmony, kindness and gentleness into their lives.  It is their choice whether or not they accept the peace and calm they have found on their mat to take with them into the rest of the world. It is also their choice whether they allow external influences to ruffle their feathers and invade their calm, or whether they will use what they learn on their mat and apply it to the rest of their lives. I speak about all of these things…and then I leave my mat and return to the role greater than that of a Yoga teacher. I return to being Mommy.

On any given day, nothing is guaranteed to test my Yoga principles like my three rambunctious, crazy, wonderful children. Your own children can test your patience, your temper, and your peace more than pretty much any adult person is capable of. On some days, I leave a Yoga class calm, serene, filled with the peace of the universe, and then thirty minutes later find myself screaming at my children loud enough for the neighbors to hear every word. I am human; these outbursts happen. I am keenly aware, however, that the way we speak to our children becomes their own inner voice. The way we treat our children is often the way they learn to treat the world. If I want them to be loving, kind, honest, peace-filled adults, then it is important that I model these things for them, as my actions speak far louder than my words ever could.  If you are a Yogini mama like myself, and looking to incorporate your practice into your gentle parenting, I offer to you my three mantras not only to help get you through but more importantly to love the days of mess, noise, and chaos.

1.  “My children are not giving me a hard time, they are having a hard time.”


Yoga teaches us compassion; we learn to recognize that even violent acts in this world are born out of suffering and ignorance. Next time your are on your mat, I invite you to contemplate the fact that every sentient being, including your own child, is simply trying their best to find happiness and lessen suffering. Our children are very new to this world, to their own bodies, minds and feelings. Bringing this Yogic concept can help us even when our children are having temper tantrums in the middle of the grocery store. It helps us to be understanding of the fact that our children are not trying to create anxiety and stress for us; they are simply trying to find their way in the world, and sometimes that’s a fairly difficult thing for a little person.

2. “Pratyahara and Pranayama”

This isn’t so much a mantra, but a reminder to myself to practice these two limbs of Yoga throughout my day, and to practice them together. Pratyahara, if you are unfamiliar with it, is one of the eight limbs of Classical Yoga. It is a “withdraw of the senses”.  Our senses are said to be like five wild horses pulling us in all different directions and as Yogis our task is to reign these senses in, to use them as we wish instead of letting them rule us. This comes into practice very well when you have three children, two of whom are wild boys who are ALWAYS feeling the need to make as much noise as possible! When the noise, or the clutter, feels overwhelming, take a moment to consciously draw in your senses, letting any stressful sounds or sights fade into background noise. Some of you reading may think it’s not very nice to “tune out” children, but trust me that this can be a sanity –saving practice! With my Pratyahara I practice Pranayama, or breathwork. We often hold so much tension and stress in our bodies through our breaths (next time you feel overwhelmed, notice the quality of your breath; most likely it is fast and very shallow in your chest). Yoga teaches us that just as our breath is altered by our mindstate, we can learn to alter our mindstate through our breath. Taking just ten conscious, slow, deeeep breaths can be all that is needed to bring us back to a place of peace and calm, better able to truly be present with, and enjoy, the company of our littles.

3). “You have to MAKE time to take care of yourself, because if you wait to FIND time, you will forever be neglecting yourself.”

This is so very, very important. And yes, it is a Yoga principle! Yoga teaches us that it is only when we care and connect with ourselves that we are able to effectively care for and connect with others and the world. This is nowhere truer than in the depths of motherhood, where so many of us feel pulled in every direction, always caring for others before ourselves. Whether it is getting away to a Yoga class, leaving the dishes in the sink in favor of a post-kid-bedtime bubble bath, taking the time to prepare nourishing food for ourselves, or taking a two-minute meditation behind the closed bathroom door while the kiddos watch Sesame Street, we must make the time. When we are nourished on every level, we are better mothers, spouses, friends, and Yoginis.

And remember, neither Yoga nor parenting are about perfection. They are a journey, where each moment, each step, is an opportunity to practice compassion, be present, and find joy. Our children can be our greatest Yoga practice, not only for the ways that they challenge us, but for the ways that they show us the purity of true, deep, unconditional love. When we can learn to find Yoga (unity) in the present moment, it can greatly help us to know that the challenging moments will pass and can be opportunities for growth; it can also help us to be more present in the fun, joyful, loving moments we are given with our amazing, unique, Divine offspring (which of course are the moments that pass much too quickly). Namaste!


Find out more about Sarah at www.sarahtrout.webs.com.