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The Magic of the Dakini

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Tonight, I learned of being a Dakini:

“It is said that women make superior healers because they are able to dive into meditation much more easily than males, as males are afraid of dropping the intellect.  To be naked in the meditation experience is frightening for them, whereas women seem to be able to manage this naturally.

“A female embodiment of enlightenment is called a dakini in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit.  This translates, literally, to “sky-goer” or “space-dancer”,  indicating that these ethereal awakened creatures have left the confinements of our solid earth and have taken to the vastness of open space as their elusive playground. Dakinis embody a special female quality which has a quality of soft sharpness, and a fiercely radical, courageous yet gentle heart, and a clarity of higher mind that cuts through intellectual ossification by pure and cosmic intuitive force.

“On a secret level, this being is seen as the manifestation of fundamental aspects of phenomena and the mind, and so her power is intimately associated with the profound insights. In this, her most essential aspect, she is considered to be the formless wisdom nature of the mind itself. And on an inner, ritual level, she is a meditational deity, visualized as the personification of buddhahood. On an outer, subtle-body level, she is the energetic network of the embodied mind in the subtle channels of energy and vital breath of tantric yoga. Yet, even more so, she is also, temporarily a mortal, living woman.  She takes many forms and may be a mother, a guru, a yogini, a powerful teacher, or a woman who simply teaches directly through her own life example.

 “Dakinis are the most important elements of the Enlightened Divine Femine in Tibetan Buddhism.  They are the luminous.  Subtle, yet spiritually energetic.  They are, at once, the key, the gatekeeper, and the guardian of the unconditioned state. If we are unwilling to invite the dakini into our life, will simply will not and cannot enter these subtle states of mind on our own.

As such, in order to be awakened and enlightened, we need them, and they will appear to us as messengers, nurturers, protectors, lovers, and guides.

…Yet, no matter what form they take, they will appear, and they have one purpose and one purpose only:  To open your heart.”

Do It Anyway

Consider the following quote by Mother Teresa:

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.”

I love this quote because it reminds us that even while we may not always get the response we are expecting or hoping for, we should still do what we love. That we should still act in accordance with our values and beliefs, no matter what the reaction we may elicit from others.

I love this quote because it serves as a reminder that there is nothing in this world that will ever get one-hundred percent approval and we should be true to ourselves despite that fact. I love the permission and the encouragement she gives us as she reminds us to “do it anyway”.

Imagine, for just a moment, what our world would look like today had people in history not followed Mother Teresa’s advice. What would have happened had they not “done it anyway”? Where would we be today if people did not promote their ideas, act on their values and their convictions, no matter how radical? What if our ancestors had not found their voice and had the courage to speak out? Had they not done it “anyway”, there would have been no evolution, no betterment, or change.

So in light of this quote, I too encourage you to “do it anyway”, whatever your “it” may be. Put your best foot forward and take a stand for what you believe in. Raise your voice to speak up and be a catalyst for change. Offer loving-kindness to those you encounter, forgive those who have hurt you, and live an honest and happy life. Do good, have an impact, and show the world the absolute best that you have to offer. Promote progress. Ignite the fire in others that leads to positive change. Have the courage to do these things, whether or not they are met with approval from everyone. And remember that when you meet resistance from people, it was never between you and them anyway.

Keep the Change

So many of us value change and progression, yet we struggle to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves. Why is that? Why is it so hard to make personal changes, particularly when they are important, meaningful, and beneficial? What is so hard about doing what is best for us and achieving what we really want?

In truth, I think that the answers to questions such as these are quite complex, yet simplistic at the very same time. Change is hard. It takes commitment, perseverance, and even courage. Taking matters of life into our own hands involves responsibility, accountability, and the overcoming of obstacles that we would rather not face. Additionally, as we make lasting changes in our lives, we may be put in a position that requires the help of others. We may encounter uncertainty. And we may have to rely on new processes such as insight, self-awareness, and discovery rather than older processes that we were once so comfortable with.

Simply said, change can be hard. Change can be scary. Change can be confusing. And sometimes, change is none of these things and it is unexpected or unintentional. It might even be exciting, or simply the result of something natural or evolutionary. Regardless of what change feels like, though, it is quite often necessary. It is necessary in life because change leads to progression. To growth. To the betterment of one’s self and one’s life.

As most of us well know, the journey online casino of life does not happen in our comfort zone. There are times in our lives that we must venture out to unknown territory and test our limits. There are times in our lives that we must be a bit uncomfortable. That we must do something a bit differently and make a change that is important, meaningful, and for the better in the long run. This is important, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable, for it is during these times that we learn what we are made of, discovering who we really are, what we really want in life, and what incredible feats we are really capable of.

Venture out of your comfort zone and into new territory. Challenge yourself, and attempt to do something differently. And remember that most of the beautiful rewards in life would never had been achieved had a change not been made.

Magic Words

I once attended a wedding where the pastor ‘s homily revolved around four short phrases of three simple words that loved ones should say to each other every day.

The first phrase he told us to say to one another is, “I love you”. For many of us, it seems, this phrase comes with relative ease. We say it to everyone we love when we feel affectionate, as part of our farewells, and quite often, we say it as much for ourselves as we do for those that we love. The words “I love you” expose our truest selves to others and welcomes them into our hearts.

The words “I love you” are important, as they express some of the deepest emotions that we may ever know. Love is such a fundamental part of life, and it is the cornerstone of everything good and rewarding in this life. And by expressing love for someone, we allow it to flow freely while making it known that we have invested our hearts in them.

The second phrase he told us to say each day is, “I thank you”. Again, “thank you” is a relatively easy thing to say. And while we often say thank you as a formality, the “thank you’s” that matter most are those that are an intentional and meaningful expression of gratitude and appreciation. These heartfelt messages are important amongst loved ones because they remind us that we have not been taken for granted and that we are cherished by those closest to us.

The third phrase the pastor instructed us to say is “I am sorry.” As I have written in the past, “I’m sorry” can be a hard thing to say. It can be hard to admit fault, to give in, and to face the pain that we may have caused in others.  Yet even while a genuine apology can be difficult, it is important because it acknowledges the feelings of our loved ones, it offers humility, and shows that we are sensitive to the experience of others.

The final phrase to include each day is  “I forgive you”. Much like apologies, words of forgiveness can be difficult to say. Sometimes, it does not occur to us to even mutter these words as we assume that forgiveness has been implied by our actions. Yet then again, forgiveness in and of itself can be difficult because it may feel risky.  When we forgive, we may feel that we are “giving in”, negating our feelings, or even putting ourselves in a position to be hurt again. Yet forgiveness is such an important part of our relationships because it signifies love, trust, compassion, and forward movement.

Today, I encourage you to reflect on the four phases listed above. Consider who you might say them to, and think about who you may need to hear them from, whether that is your significant other, your child, your friend, or yourself. Take a moment to reflect on your feelings in these relationships, and the, go ahead and tell them how you feel.

OwieZowie

Has something ever happened to you that cut deeply into your soul?  Have you ever allowed someone access to your heart and you ended up being hurt by them?  Have you ever loved someone unconditionally, given them your trust and found that they misused it?  Have you ever been blind-sided by an event in life involving someone you love?

Have you ever been the perpetrator of such hurt?  Have you ever been responsible for the pain of a loved one or a broken heart?  Has something ever happened in your life that you have felt the heartbreak that accompanies the knowledge that you have done damage to someone you love?

If you have been one either side of this spectrum, you are not alone.  Unfortunately for everyone, it seems that most of us have been hurt beyond words.  We know that feeling of betrayal, the sense of deceit, the break of a heart.   And likewise, many of us have been the source of a loved one’s pain and are familiar with the heartache and the broken spirit that is the result of hurting someone you love.  Many of us know that it hurts just as much, albeit differently, to be the broken hearted or to have caused the broken heart.

So when this has happened, when we are dealing with hurt feelings of this magnitude, what do we do to move on from the pain?  It certainly can be hard to be sure.  It can be quite difficult to know the best way to tend to such deep wounds while also moving forward, both with your relationship and with your life.  There is no easy way to decide if it is time to let go and when it is time to continue fighting for something you love.  Rarely is there a right or wrong way to nurse our wounds while also experiencing life as best we can.

But, I must say that even while it may be hard to know how to best recover from your pain and move forward in some way, many of us do have an idea about what we need and what might be most right for ourselves and the relationships that we are in.  Many of us have a voice that resides deep within us that whispers to us, offering us guidance and direction towards healing.  Many of us know, somewhere within us, the path it is that we should follow.  Most of us have something within ourselves that has utmost faith in our ability to recover, to carry on, and to flourish.  Something that trusts, something that wants to guide us toward love again.  Something helps us look inward in order to move forward, mending both the wounds in our hearts, as well as our loved one’s.

Even while that something within you might be difficult to hear or understand, it is worth your while to at least give it a chance.  Pause, listen and reflect on what it is trying to tell you.  Consider the message it is giving you about yourself and those you care about so that you may tend to your wounds, give and receive love, and begin to experience life as fully as possible once again.

“Unseen Others”

When I was in grad school, I was introduced to the concept of “unseen others” by one of my professors. According my professor’s theory, we all have them. They are the people in the world that we choose not to see because our reaction to them makes us uncomfortable.

I would like you to take a moment and consider who your unseen others are. Is it someone of a different religion, race or ethnicity, sexuality, or socioeconomic status? Perhaps it is someone of a specific profession, age bracket, range of ability, or political belief? Or maybe there are certain appearances, interests, or personality traits that come to your mind.

Regardless of who these unseen others are or what it is about them that makes us uncomfortable, we all seem to have such reactions to a certain group of people. Most often, we avoid our unseen others because we are uncertain of how to relate to them, or we have made assumptions, passed judgments, or developed biases or prejudices against the type of person we believe them to be.

I find this to be such an interesting phenomenon. How curious it is that we have a hard time seeing people as real simply because they are different from us. How unfortunate it is that we short change people because we have unfairly made up our minds about them. What a disservice it is to everyone when we cannot look deeper into one another simply because we are unsure of how to relate to who we think they are. And isn’t it interesting that we tend to validate certain people based on their likeness to our own self-image?

If you have been able to identify your unseen others, I challenge you to consider what it is about you and them that makes them so difficult for you to see. Invite your unseen others to hold up a mirror to you, and take a long look at yourself in the reflection that you see. Ask yourself questions about what you see. Too, ask yourself if you are willing to challenge your beliefs about yourself and the people around you. Are you willing to learn from someone that you have always thought has nothing to teach you? Are you willing to allow them to touch you? Are you willing to reach out and touch them? Are you willing to venture out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons?

Although it can be difficult to deconstruct our personal biases, it is rather easy to approach people with curiosity, rather than judgment. To be kind, respectful, and accepting. It may be easier than we think to have a positive influence and be positively influenced ourselves, even when we least suspect. Just think about a time when you were surprised by someone. How good it feels to be treated as a whole person worthy of understanding and acceptance.

Take a moment today and think about what a wonderful thing it is see the goodness in one another. See that we are so much more connected by our similarities, our vulnerabilities, and our very human nature than we realize. Celebrate and embrace our differences as a source of richness, rather than a point of division. Give all people a chance, no matter who or what we assume them to be.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

Have you ever been subject to unkind words, insensitive comments, or criticism? Have you ever felt that something you did or said was misunderstood, misconstrued, or picked apart by others? Have you ever invested your time and energies into something meaningful to you, something that you cared about dearly, only to learn that your efforts would be met with negative feedback? Has there ever been a time where you invited dialog from others, hoping for help and constructive suggestions, and instead received messages about what you have done wrong with no mention of alternative solutions? Have you ever felt judged unfairly or labeled because of a single trait, decision, or characteristic of yours? Have you ever felt that you were, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t”?

I am willing to bet that you have. It seems that each and everyone one of us can relate to these feelings. We have all been criticized, fairly or not. Therefore, we are all familiar with the sting of harsh words. We all know that criticism can hurt.

Criticism can hurt, not just because people disagree with us or because there are people that do not prefer us. It is hurtful not only because it points out our mistakes, faults, and imperfections. Rather, criticism seems to be most painful because it leaves us feeling misunderstood, mistranslated, misconstrued. It leaves us feeling short-changed, judged, and undervalued. Quite often we feel frustrated, picked apart, ganged up on. Criticism often leads to self-doubt, insecurity, and self-consciousness. Criticism is deflating. It is discouraging. Disheartening.

And yet, criticism serves a purpose. When delivered with care, criticism can be eye-opening. It can lead to growth, self-discovery, and awareness. Criticism, when constructive, can lead to much better outcomes for ourselves and others. It can help us learn, overcome difficulty, and master our skills. Criticism is necessary for objectivity, critical thinking, and honest feedback. At its best, criticism allows us to better understand ourselves and strive for improvement. At its worst, however, criticism is damaging and destructive.

So how do we handle criticism, if it is such a necessary part of communication and understanding? How do we tell someone something negative, knowing that such a message has the potential to hurt them? Do we tiptoe and skirt around sensitive issues, forgoing such honesty? Do we avoid an opportunity to help someone because it might be uncomfortable for them?

No, we do not. Instead, we ensure that our messages, if they are necessary at all, are delivered with compassion, empathy, understanding, and balance. We give careful consideration so that we are helpful, constructive, and supportive. We may even consider offering suggestions and alternative solutions, ideas, and perspectives and providing an explanation of the rationale behind them. Additionally, we make certain that we understand what it is that we are discussing, and we take into account the perspectives and experiences of the people involved.

So how then, might we better receive such criticism, especially when it is not delivered with care? Do we take offense, particularly if we are insulted? Do we disregard everything we heard about ourselves that we do not agree with? Conversely, do we internalize any and all criticism and assume it to be true? Do we allow it to alter our self-image or our belief in ourselves? Should we apologize, excuse, or deny parts of who we are because they were subject to criticism?

No. Not at all. Instead, I encourage you to listen to criticism with strong ears and considerate it with an open mind. Refrain from all-or-none thinking, and do not assume everything you hear to be true. Instead, adopt an objective perspective when making sense of such feedback, and take it for what it is worth to you. Ask yourself what can be learned from it, if anything, and do what you would like with such information.

Take a moment to consider criticism from a new angle. Recall what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such messages, and show compassion to those that you speak to. Ensure that your words come from your heart, and be selective with what you choose to share with others. As you take the time to reconsider criticism, also reflect on how you might better receive such messages the next time you are criticized. Assume an objective stance if you can, and be selective with what you let affect you. Remind yourself that there is nothing on this earth that cannot be criticized and do not allow yourself to be negatively impacted by the opinions of others. Instead, try only to learn, grow, and evolve from such experiences, or do not allow yourself to be affected at all.

You are unique. You are beautiful. Capable. Loveable. You have a calling, you have dreams, and you should absolutely follow your heart and know that you are a precious rarity. Hold this to be true, revel in who you are, and let no one take that from you. No matter what they have to say about it. Ever.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: February 21-27th, 2016

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week : February 21st-February 27th, 2016

As a mental health professional and an Eating Disorder survivor-and-thriver, I will be one of the first to agree that Eating Disorders are incredibly difficult to understand. Because, really, they don’t make sense on a rational or logical level, which makes them all more confusing and frustrating. And because they are so difficult to understand, and they are so often misunderstood, it is all too common that they are stigmatized, oversimplified, overlooked, and undertreated.

…So, if you are to know one thing about Eating Disorders, know that they are far more complex than being just about FOOD, and despite what it may look like on the surface, they are not about VANITY, either.

Rather, Eating Disorders are “about” much more complex mental and emotional issues that manifest themselves through food and through the body.

…They are about self-love, self-loathing, self-esteem, and worth. They are about anxiety, depression, and seemingly uncontrollable emotions and moods. They are about addiction, self-medicating, and numbing intense pain. They are about perfectionism, control, or a lack there of. Trauma, abuse, objectification, and victimization. They are about family dysfunction, peer relations, trying to stand out, and trying to blend in. They are about stress and unhealthy coping mechanisms…

The list obviously does not stop here. Because the underlying issues are just as unique as the beautiful soul that struggles. And if recovery is to be successful, they need to be treated accordingly. They do not need pathologizing, oversimplifying or overlooking. They do not need shaming and insensitive remarks and stigmatizing. Rather, they need empathy and compassion. Patience and hope. They need to be supported, taken seriously, challenged, and reminded of who they really are. They need help. And most of all, they need love. Love from others, and eventually, love to and from themselves.