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The Story Behind the Magic of Growing with Gratitude

I’m sitting here, sweating, because I can’t make it any cooler, but I am grateful to be in clothes that are soft and comfy, sitting on my couch that is covered in a beautiful and vibrant tapestry, and trusting that we’ll return to the regularly scheduled fall weather soon.

I’m sitting here and thinking about how much I love Growing with Gratitude. I love it for the simplicity, for the community, and for the opportunity to slow down a bit and shift how we come into a season that tends to be pretty hectic.

I’m sitting here and remembering how Growing with Gratitude came to be. Do you know this story? It’s magic.

hannah-and-xandra-riFour years ago, the sweet Mary McConnell came to visit the States and Hannah Marcotti put together a visioning night. This ended up being a gathering of women who had become close in online community, but I had not met them before in person.

This was a huge edge for me – getting on a train to go to a city I’d never been to, to spend an evening with women I had not met in person. It may have also been my first time away from Chloe, probably so.

It was a night of visioning, of laughter, of vulnerability. I cried at Ruth’s feet as she wrote the word trust on my arm.

I gave myself the next day to explore Providence and the next night alone to myself in a hotel room. Even then, I knew I needed time to ease back into ‘real life’ after events like this.

I had come to Providence knowing there was an inking of a program in my mind. I may have even known it was going to be around gratitude. What I did not expect and could never have imagined was that within 36 hours I would have all of the content done for the month-long course. All the quotes, all the prompts, all the pictures, everything in order. It felt like a divine download, truly. I don’t know that I’ve experienced anything like it since.

Each autumn while I’m still in the gentleness of the season, I know the hectic time is just around the corner, and I know it’s time to share this offering again.

And so it is. We start again, for the fourth time, in just two weeks.

You’ll see me sharing some of my favorite parts of Growing with Gratitude, some of the why behind it, over the next couple of weeks. I just wanted to share with you right now the magic that began it, and invite you to come experience the magic that gratitude can gift us, if it lights up your soul.

Feeling the Extremes to Find Center

Lao Tzu quote image

This Is the heart of what she was trying to teach us. As we settled in, she let us know that this class would be different than the others. She would teach us a sequence and then we would be on our own to move with the flow of our own energy.

Do not worry about remembering the sequence. Be guided by your body, by how you feel.

And so we began. She led us through the first sequence and then handed the practice over to us. I felt almost immediately frustrated. I tried to remember. I questioned if I was doing it ‘right’ and I got so lost in my head. All of those things she had given us permission to let go of, I held onto tightly.

The tears that had been burning in my eyes all morning returned and I was deeply grateful when the time came to rest in pigeon pose.

The next time, I went immediately to child’s pose, giving my mind the break, and that’s when the tears began pouring out of me. I could feel that my body needed to move. I could feel that without the distraction of movement the emotion and tears flowed like a river. I felt stormy inside my belly.

I had found two extremes. I found movement that ignited frustration and anxiety. I found stillness that made me feel antsy and soaked in tears.

Sometimes we need to feel the extremes to find the Tao, or the Way.

In our final sequence, I gave myself the permission she had been giving us all along. I gave myself the permission Lao Tzu had given me when he said, “let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

I knew I needed to move my body. I knew I needed simplicity of movement.

I flowed through sun salutations, following my breath, reaching my heart forward, and tucking it back inside, until she guided us to come back to downward dog and then to rest.

She had said before we began that all the waves of the ocean are different, and together they make up the ocean. She likened watching us to this same image, sharing how powerful it was to see our bodies all guided to moving in the way that felt natural for us.

When we tear down the wall of resistance, when we give ourselves the permission to flow with our needs and desires, we not only perhaps catch a glimpse of the Tao, we catch a glimpse of the home that resides within.

With Love and Gratitude,
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Your Life as a Painting

 life is a canvasWhen I was growing up, we spent lots of time doing jigsaw puzzles. I always liked to start with the border; I think it made me feel safe as it created a boundary. I often referred to the box to see what went where because I liked to have a plan. My father, on the other hand, rarely looked to see what the full picture looked like. He trusted in his ability to find the pieces that went together and slowly build the puzzle.

Life, like a puzzle, is finite, though unlike a puzzle, we can’t see the borders and we usually don’t know what the picture is going to look like even when we think we do. As I sat down to explore this more and share with you, I realized that life is more like a painting – the canvas, like the border of a puzzle, gives a finite space in which to explore and work. With a painting, you get to create, recreate, layer and change over time. That’s what you get to do with your life too.

Some choices that are made are done consciously and with excitement. Other times, life brings us challenges that necessitate us thinking about new ways to approach a situation. No matter what appears on the canvas of your life, the light and the darkness, you have the power to create anew in each and every moment. You can take a ‘mistake’ and create something beautiful from it. You can let the paint dry, the situation settle, and decide what your next steps will be.
That’s one of the magical things about life – we are constantly shifting. When we listen to the lessons that life gives us, these shifts bring us closer to our true selves, to what we value most in life. And there’s no need to fear getting it wrong because it changes. What you wanted and believed and lived in the past does not need to define your story now, nor does your now need to define your future.
This moment is where you get to step into your sacred and authentic self. Tomorrow, maybe you wipe the canvas clean and start again or add a new layer on top of what is already there.
Breathe into this moment, find gratitude for it, step back and look at the beauty that is the painting of your life right now.
Peace, Love, and Wellness,
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Does Your Belly Feel Happy?

self love

“Start a conversation with your body,” my yoga teacher suggested when I asked a question about the meaning of where we hold tension in our body and why balance comes easier on one side rather than the other at times.

“Does your belly feel happy?” A question I overheard a mama ask her son in a coffee shop. I love that she asked him this!

It’s the self inquiry that we so often shy away from, as if we fear what messages we’ll uncover.

When you begin to tune in and listen to your body wisdom, you learn so much about yourself, and life starts to shift into place with a little more ease.

When I’m in pigeon pose in yoga class and I notice that my left hip feels more filled with tension I can make a mental note to go online and look up what energy held in the hips represents and see if it resonates with me. Or I can breathe into that space and notice what comes up for me in that moment.

There was one point in time a few years ago where a very specific situation filled me with emotion while in pigeon pose and I found myself realizing, “Oh, that’s where I hold all of that energy.” From that awareness, I could breathe into it and begin to release it with compassion.

The same goes for figuring out how to nourish your body in the way it desires. You can fill it with junk or with the healthiest of food but if it’s not what your body is asking for, it’s not going to land well.

Sometimes bread makes my belly feel full and unhappy. Sometimes yogurt brings a rash back to my underarm. Sometimes coffee makes me jittery. So I back away from them. Sometimes a salad just doesn’t do it for me.

Sometimes a croissant is exactly what my body wants. Sometimes yogurt and fruit is the perfect way to start the day. Sometimes coffee gives me focused energy. Sometimes those greens feel like the best gift in the world. So I enjoy them.

I talked in a recent e-letter about how different our bodies are. They are different from each other, but perhaps more importantly, they are different moment to moment. When you listen to the messages of your body, you become open to the shifts and changes that are happening within, on a cellular level, and you can invite in that wisdom.

What messages does your body have for you? Are you open to listening to them and learning from them? Please share in the comments below!

Peace, Love, and Wellness,

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The Gift of Sharing Ritual

We walked from the funeral home to the church, and that’s when the tears finally started to fall. “I knew they would come at some point,” I said to my mom and my husband. I felt like we were leading a parade which felt strange, but the walk outside was nice. Fresh air always comforts me.

After the funeral mass (not one of my rituals, but one that was no doubt sacred for my grandmother), we traveled to the cemetery. My grandfather was buried here too and it is one of the most beautiful and peaceful cemeteries I’ve been to. Nestled in the mountains, the stone markers are flat and you feel like you’re in a park. The tent was set up and we made our way to the open grave.

Here comes the part where my mother introduced a tradition that she has come to hold sacred to her family, many of whom had never known of it or experienced it before this day.

I’m paraphrasing her beautiful words, but it went something like this…

“We’re going to borrow from a Jewish tradition and cover mom with earth, in a blanket of love. This is seen as one of the highest gifts that you can give to a person because it cannot be repaid. In truth, I think mom prepaid us in so many ways. If you would like to stay and help us with this, know that it will take some time for them to take the tent down, bring the earth over and be ready for us to begin.”

And, in what felt like magic, almost everyone stayed to help. We waited amidst a sea of gnats, swatting them away, taking walks, finding the graves of other relatives who will always be missed and loved, having healing conversations, and then we gathered again.

We covered my grandmother in a blanket of love, all of us taking turns with the shovels, watching the casket disappearing into the earth, and then I heard my mom’s family members come up to her and share their reactions.

“Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.”
“I had seen this before but never participated, thank you.”

I remember when my paternal grandmother died. I was 14 and heartbroken and could not pick the shovel up, even though a cousin of mine told me it would be healing. I could not take on that ritual at the time, but I have since been guided back to it, and found much healing and comfort in it.

One way Sacred Ritual showed up for my grandma was in tending to her roses.

One way Sacred Ritual showed up for my grandma was in tending to her roses.

Sharing our sacred rituals can be scary. It is an act of vulnerability. But what a gift when we share something new that changes how someone sees and experiences the world.

There are rituals around birth and death, but there are rituals that fall between, during day-to-day life, and those have been the ones that I’ve found to be most sacred because they are daily touchstones to help ground, center, and bring me into the present moment.

My heart is full when I think of what Sacred Ritual Everyday has become, sharing of not only some of my favorite rituals, but a look into what sacred ritual means to some incredible women who I am excited to share with you.

If you are curious about expanding your definition of sacred ritual into something that feels authentically you, Sacred Ritual Everyday may be calling you in….

Peace, Love, and Wellness,

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Quieting the Fight Inside of You

quiet the fightWe fight ourselves so hard. We make things more complicated and more difficult than they have to be. We do this with the little things (what to eat, doing dishes and laundry) and with the big things. But it’s the fighting with all of the little things that really gets us stuck because it’s happening all the time. It’s the pattern so many of us run constantly, like music in the background that is always playing. So how do you stop it, or at least practice quieting that fight?

First, you recognize that it’s happening. This alone can create huge shifts, because this type of message from your inner critic is often so ingrained in how you function that you don’t even notice it anymore. Cues that it’s happening include negative self talk like:

“I can’t do anything right” 
“I messed up again” 
“I don’t deserve…” 
“I don’t have enough time” 
“I have other people whose needs have to come before my own”

Sometimes the cues come in your behaviors more than the self talk:

Resistance
Procrastination
Distraction

These fights can go on for so long and when they do, they start to influence who we are at sour core. Quieting the fight allows you to grow into your authentic self.

When you recognize that you are fighting yourself, you open the door to learning more about what you really want.

In this place of possibility you can ask yourself a simple question, “What do I want right now?”

The question is certainly easier to ask than answer much of the time, but the next step is asking the question and listening for an honest response.

I’ll share an example of a situation that comes up in my life because it serves as a good reminder that this is all practice and that there is not some simple quick-fix that is going to work 100% of the time.

It gets to be dinner time but I’m rushing around trying to finish things from my day. I begin to notice my hunger so I go into the kitchen to see what I have to eat. I open the fridge, and then close it deciding there’s nothing there that I want. I open the cupboard door. Same thing. I check the counter to see what’s out and none of that really appeals to me either. I’ll do this many times, sometimes taking a break to check my email as if somehow, magically, new food will appear in my kitchen and it will be exactly what I want. Each time that I go back, my hunger (and my frustration) is rising.

Many days, I’ll stop myself at some point and say to myself, “Wait. What do I really want right now?”

Sometimes the answer will be “I don’t know” and the loop of frustration will continue. Most of the time though, when I can step away from what I have and don’t have, what feels easy or difficult, I can tune into my body and discover what it is I want, whether it’s protein, salad, a refreshing smoothie or one of my easy go-to meals.

The recognizing and asking are keys to quieting the fight, but the foundation of it all is in creating ritual. 

When you create ritual within your day to day life, all of the little places start to be infused with ease instead of overwhelm. 

You create ritual in your closet by filling it only with clothing that you love. Then getting dressed each morning becomes an act of self-love, everyday.

You create ritual in your eating habits by filling your kitchen with nourishing choices, so no matter what you choose to eat, it fills you on many levels.

You create ritual around the seemingly mundane tasks and suddenly the dishes, the laundry, the cleaning up the clutter become ways to care for your environment, and by extension, yourself and your family.

Ritual does not have to mean whatever you have been taught by others that it means. Ritual is yours to create and define.

In the month of October, we will be gathering as a community to explore in the Sacred Ritual Everyday. If you join us for this journey, by the end of October, you will have taken great strides in quieting the fight within you.

Learn more and join us today.

Peace, Love, and Wellness,

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Starting the Day with Gratitude (and a giveaway!)

gratitude practiceI woke up this morning, after a rough night of sleep. For some reason I was restless, and the birds were chirping at 3am as if to say, we’re up too, come join us! When I woke again, it was almost 8am and I found myself filled with gratitude.

I am grateful for sleep.

I am grateful for my family.

I am grateful for the geese.

I am grateful for this day.

To rise each day with gratitude means to begin each day filled with possibility.

If you’re anything like me, many days begin with you feeling like you are already behind, playing catch to a list of obligations, musts, and shoulds. When that is your starting point, it becomes much more difficult to shine your light and be the best version of yourself that you can be.

Gratitude goes much deeper than a powerful way to begin your day, and that’s why I’m excited to be offering Growing with Gratitude in the Rise and Shine Giveaway that runs through May 2nd. I am one of 25 women offering our gifts to you so that you can rise each morning, believing fully in the possibility that is you.

You can check out the giveaway here and choose your gifts, finding the ones that resonate most.

Here are a few that I’ve grabbed for myself:

The Inspired Mama’s Resource Guide from Becky McCleery

The Story of Stuck from Nancy J. Pigno

7 Real World Steps to Embracing Your Intuitive Gifts from Jessica Lee

After you look through the gifts, come back here and leave a comment letting me know which ones most inspire you to rise and shine!

Peace, Love, and Wellness,

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Gathering in Community So We Can be Mirrors for One Another

When I step onto my mat, I take myself on a journey inward. Yoga is not just a way to move my body; it is also my spiritual practice. I reconnect to myself deeply, and most of the time, if you watched me practice, you would see that my eyes are closed. This helps me to keep the focus on what’s going on for me internally – What am I feeling? Where do I want to create more space? What connections can I make between my body and my mind?

Recently, I have been practicing in two spaces that have mirrors, and this was a first for me. In the beginning, it threw me off balance – literally. I’d be searching for a drishti (a focal point), the small hole in the window blinds at my old studio now gone, and I’d see moving parts of the other people in the class, and sometimes, if I was close enough, I’d see me. As I’ve gotten used to it, my own eye is my best drishti for poses like eagle, wrapped up in myself, focusing on the one eye that is visible, a reminder to myself that I will always be there.

I’ve been thinking about mirrors a lot lately, not just because they are becoming part of my practice. I’ve been thinking about how we are not only mirrors for ourselves, but about how we are mirrors for others.

being a mirror

I’ve spent days trying to find the words to explain this, because in my heart I feel it so deeply.

It is so easy for each one of us to feel incredibly alone in our life – in our day-to-day struggles and triumphs, both big and small. It is so easy to tell ourselves that no one else could possibly understand, that no one else has experienced something quite like this, that no one else is like us, and therefore that something must be wrong with us.

We are so good at weaving these stories for ourselves, at closing our eyes and bringing our practice inward, that sometimes it’s not until we feel so off balance that we’re about to topple over that we open our eyes. When we do, what do we see?

When we have been lucky enough to find our community, our tribe, we open our eyes and see that we are surrounded by love and support, and that we are absolutely not alone. We reach out, we find the courage to speak our fears, our desires, our deepest hurts, and we find that we are not alone.

Being a mirror for another can be a powerful act of community and spiritual communion. We can do this in each and every action and reaction that we have, with ourselves and with others. Holding space for one another so that we all come to learn that we are not alone is what gives us the strength to take the next step, and the next, and the next, on this journey that at times feels painful and overwhelming but is always, no matter what, a blessing.

Some questions to think about as your journey through your day…

How am I a mirror for myself?
How am I a mirror for others?
What makes me feel most alone?
Where can I go to find my community, my tribe?

Peace, Love, and Wellness,

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Let It Go (and watch the magic happen!)

“I recently realized something,” I said to my mom. “I used to run really fast. I always won on field day in elementary school. I was fast. And the teachers never encouraged me to pursue that, never helped me see that as a strength. I feel like they took something from me by not helping me to cultivate that part of me.”

She agreed, and we had a brief discussion about how we can’t really go back and change things, but we can learn from them.

The truth is, I grew up hating gym class. I don’t like to use the word hate now, but I definitely hated gym class. I really didn’t enjoy any form of movement, and I was never really taught that it was important. It’s not that I didn’t see it from my parents – my dad played basketball and cricket, skied in the winter and worked out regularly. My mom was an avid runner. So why did I hate gym class?

Clearly from my memory, there was a time when I didn’t hate it. I enjoyed being out on that field, running as fast as I could.  I can remember playing soccer and being good. So I found myself wondering where the origin of this shift came from. I imagine part of the reason was that springtime often left me behind in gym class, relegated to running errands for the gym department who didn’t know what to do with the girl whose allergies were so bad that she couldn’t go outside without getting a bloody nose and having her eyes practically sealed shut. I wasn’t taught then about the importance of movement, and about the power that I had within me. I was taught (yes, by my teachers) that I was different and undeserving of support if I couldn’t be outside with the rest of the class.

This message stuck with me for a long time. Eventually, after years of feeling like it was completely natural that I was sedentary and that I didn’t really need to do anything differently, I found yoga. My view on movement changed a bit, because I found a space on my mat that was not just about exercise, it was about spirituality. My eyes also began to open to the importance of regular movement beyond yoga, especially as I was preparing my body for pregnancy, but I just couldn’t make it happen.

I think I was still holding onto this belief that I wasn’t an athletic person and that there was no point in trying. That all changed the other day when I stretched myself way out of my comfort zone. Remember how I have talked about how that’s the place where the magic happens? Well, in 45 minutes, I deconstructed this limiting belief and shut the old patterns down. Yes, in 45 short and sweaty minutes, everything changed.

photo by Justin N Thompson

photo by Justin N Thompson

I surprised myself quite a bit when I walked into Focus Fitness at 9:30 on a Sunday morning and signed in for a class unlike any I’d taken before – a class that combines spinning and yoga. I think the idea of the yoga part settled some of my nerves, but I wondered what in the world I was doing there, mostly-sedentary-little-me, getting ready to walk into a room full of strangers and hop on a stationary bike for 45 minutes.

I was lovingly welcomed into the group with full support. Someone even lent me a pair of sneakers (because I didn’t even think to bring those, see, my head really was on the yoga part!).

Here are some of the thoughts that ran through my head:

What the hell am I doing here?

There’s no way I’ll make it through this class!

Am I doing this right?

Oh my god this is HARD!

Okay, I’m pushing myself, I can DO this!

Wait, did I really just do 15 miles in 45 minutes?

I don’t know if I liked this.

I have to come back and do this again.

I AM capable of this!

I gave myself a gift the other day that went well beyond an intense cardio workout. I taught myself that for all of these years I’d been living a lie, and I don’t need to live that lie anymore. I do like how it feels when I move my body like this, and I am more than capable of it, I can rock it!

I limited myself by continuing to tell the story that I didn’t need a lot of movement in my life and that I wasn’t good at it and wouldn’t enjoy it anyway.

I kept living out that same pattern again and again – the one that told me I wasn’t like everyone else, that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t capable of this.

I’ve learned the importance of stretching myself beyond my comfort zone a lot in the last few years, and especially in the last few months as I’ve put together the Creating Fertile Ground Virtual Conference.  It wasn’t until this spinning class that I saw so clearly how quickly we can release our limiting beliefs once we recognize what they are and push ourselves to taking action to boldly step away from them and in the direction of growth.

So what’s holding you back?

What beliefs have been so deeply part of how you view yourself that it’s hard to imagine they’re simply not true?

And what can do to stretch yourself so immensely out of your comfort zone that you give yourself no choice but to release these old beliefs and make space for your Truth?

This is safe and sacred space, so please share here on over on the Facebook page.

Peace, Love, and Wellness,

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Taking Care of Your Future Self

self care for healthy pregnancy
I make my bed in the morning so it is there to welcome me into restful sleep at night.

I make a week’s worth of granola so nourishment comes with ease.

I get the sleep I need so I feel ready to take on the next day.

I choose my clothes and set them out so the morning has a sense of ease.

I wash the dishes so my kitchen is a clean canvas ready for my next creation.

I email myself tomorrow’s to-do list so I can dive right in.

I vision to prepare myself for what’s coming next.

These are some of the ways I take care of my future self.

This concept, first solidly introduced to me by Hannah Marcotti, seems simple, seems obvious, but it can take practice.

I wake up late and when I am ready for sleep, my sheets are a tangled mess, and one more thing keeps me from rest.

The morning moves quickly and I wish I had a simple breakfast at my fingertips.

I am groggy and wishing I could close my eyes before trudging through the day.

I struggle to find what feels right on my body, for this moment, for my now.

I am too tired to clean the kitchen, so dinner becomes a rice cake with almond butter.

I don’t know where to start, and I feel overwhelmed that all that is yet to do.

I find myself lost in my way, in what dreams I am guiding myself towards.

That is what it can look like, can feel like, when I don’t take care of my future self.

Messy. Groggy. Struggling. Overwhelmed. Unguided. Hurried.

The magic of a few moments can completely shift your day, your life.

That’s right, all it takes is a few moments:

Make the bed – 2 minutes

Make granola for the week – 10 minutes, plus inactive time waiting for the baking

A slightly earlier bedtime – that takes no time, just shifting priorities

Choosing tomorrow’s clothes – 5 minutes

Doing the dishes – 15 minutes to fully unload and reload, yes really, I’ve timed it.

Emailing my to-do list – 10 minutes max

Visioning – okay ,that can be more than moments, can be hours, can steal sleep, but it’s this.

How can you take care of your future self today? How will she thank you tomorrow?

Peace, Love, and Wellness,

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