Okay, Universe. I Get It.

courage

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Steph xo

The Work of Your Life

Tree

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

The Work of Your Life

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

Dreams and Dharma

sunrise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Namaste,

Steph xo

Mission: YOGA

yoga

Soon I’ll be going off on an adventure. What type of adventure, you may wonder? Well, I’m chasing my dreams. They’ve been beckoning me for some time now. In a mere month, I’ll be living and learning at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. I’ll leave my hometown behind for awhile, as well as my corporate job (hopefully forever), to pursue what my spirit wants and what the world needs. This 200-hr program for my yoga teaching certification will be intense. From 6:30 am to 9:00 pm, 6 days a week, I will be quite literally living and breathing yoga.

Embarking on something like this ignites passion in my heart, and inspires me to draw on all my faculties to soak in all the knowledge and wisdom I can. As I draw more and more inward to prepare for this experience, I continue to consider my personal values and mission.

Completing the application for entrance into Kripalu’s Yoga Teacher Training program required much self-reflection and deep thought into why I want to pursue this path. I wanted to share some of my answers to the questions on the application. These will help me in the future, as I compose my vision and mission statements for a studio one day.

Why do you want to be certified as a yoga teacher at this time in your life?

There is a great deal of suffering in the world, and in our communities. I’ve witnessed the transformative power of yoga, and its ability to create a sense of peace, understanding, compassion, and love in people of all walks of life. If I could offer a small piece of solace through yoga practice, and a safe space for people to gather and feel welcomed and accepted, that would be an invaluable life skill to me. I would be living a life of true purpose and meaning, and helping people on a level where they could empower themselves, and find comfort in the deepest part of themselves that perhaps they didn’t even know existed.

I’d like to help others let go of perfectionism, quiet their inner critic, and feel able to live as they were intended – free of anxiety and discomfort. And when they are feeling anxiety, discomfort, depression, and anger, they should be able to use yoga to validate these feelings and perhaps be able to let them go.

When I walk through the hallway of the insurance office I work for, I’ve observed that many people hang their heads low, struggling to make eye contact, or smile, or say “hello.” These people can benefit from yoga. Almost anyone can. If I can offer the gift of potentially guiding someone to find peace in themselves, easing their tension and anxiety, that is awareness I’d like to create for people. Manifesting the peace that is within us, bringing it to the surface, and sharing it with others contributes to an outpouring of kindness in our communities that I hope to see more of.

How do you plan to apply your yoga skills to your life and work?

I’ve always had the innate desire to reach people in a healing sense. Ever since I was a little girl, I struggled with an anxiety that I didn’t understand. As a result, I was shy, awkward, and just felt different, or somehow separate. I want to help people understand that what makes us different is what makes us beautiful.

I suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager and received outpatient treatment; in the rehabilitation center I attended, I met many wonderful, talented, lovely, spirited young women who unfortunately buckled under the pressure of society’s skewed standards of beauty. It was heart-wrenching to be surrounded by these young ladies (and gentlemen) who to me, were gorgeous inside and out, but weren’t able to see it through their own eyes or hearts. I’m grateful for that experience, because a deeper sense of compassion was born out of it. It became my mission to help people find their beauty and truly accept themselves and be kind to their bodies.

Yoga fosters self-love. Yoga helps us cultivate understanding, patience, poise, and presence (among innumerable other benefits). It is a powerful tool that largely contributes to self-actualization, and gently leads us to becoming the best version of ourselves. Applying yoga skills to life and work comes naturally when we nurture a lifestyle of devotion and dedication to practice. The application of yoga comes through our countenance and in the way we carry ourselves, the way we communicate with family members, coworkers, strangers; it changes our perspective on daily life, allowing us to let go of trivial issues and focus on the bigger picture.

Om Shanti

Namaste.

xo Steph