Sitting with Gratitude

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I spoke with a dear friend on the phone about dreams come true. She had just received my book and was living in her new home. We had shared our dreams and struggles over the years and she mentioned how awesome it was that we both had manifested our desires.

I agreed, “It’s amazing, now we have to figure out what we want to manifest next.”

She replied, “I think I’m gonna sit in gratitude for a while with this one.”

I was blown away and humbled by her wisdom. She was so right. The work is done, and instead of continuing to strive, I need to take a breath and sit with the feeling of immense gratitude. My deepest desire of becoming an author has finally come to fruition. It’s time to give thanks and really feel the power of gratitude.

Gratitude is a daily practice for me, but stopping and sitting with it, is not. I am constantly striving, reaching and pushing. I am always looking forward and tend to forget to be present and really dwell. Mindfulness is an ongoing practice and as a recovering perfectionist, I try my best to stay present.

As far as I can remember, I have pushed myself against myself. I was always competing with myself in my mind and striving to achieve. Learning to sit in stillness began 10 years ago after my first bout with anxiety. The effects of the anxious spiral I allowed myself to enter were wearing heavy on my mind, body and soul. I was achieving, but very unhappy. Mindfulness and gratitude have changed my life and brain chemistry.

When the results of hard work occur, it is important to sit in gratitude for yourself, the process and the result.

Everything is an opportunity to be grateful. Taking the time to be still and really feel gratitude is a gift you can give to your heart.

As I take my dear friend’s advice, I am in awe of the opportunity and process that just took place. Now that I stand on the other side of this beautiful opportunity, my heart wells with gratitude. This is an awesome feeling and I definitely want to sit here for a while.

The Catalyst

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Domestic violence takes on many forms and endures for various lengths of time. It takes courage to release the heart’s tight grasp on an abuser. My hope and prayer for this post is that it will encourage men and women to be brave, take a stand against abuse and find the love that resides within.

Here is part of my story:

I was being held up by my throat staring into raging eyes. It was like he had left his body and pain took over which he was now transferring to me. I was begging to be let go of with my hands since I could barely breathe. I was scared and felt my head getting lighter and my body becoming limp.

When he let go, I gasped for air. I felt the warmth around my neck where his hands had been. He stood there staring off somewhere that wasn’t the present moment. I scurried away like a scared animal, retreating to another room to contact my sister.

She was the only person I could think of to reach out to. It was late, even later in her time zone, but she was awake and saved me that night. He had taken it too far this time. From far away, she called the cops.

Everything I had known as love was broken. I thought I was strong enough to deal with the emotional tearing down but this was scarier. I was alone, not by choice, but because something happened and he was taken away. The night that love turned into fear was a catalyst for me.

My first instinct was to pray. I had grown up religious but had put that part of me on a shelf for almost a decade at that point. I fumbled with my words trying to communicate with a God that I hoped was there. It felt awkward at first and I stopped several times to cry. But the prayer was lifted and I repeated “Help me” over and over.

He called me to ask for bail, I refused and hung up. I had the urge to find my Bible, another thing that had been put away for a decade. I searched my closet and found it at the bottom of a box. I opened it and the first thing I read was: “A man of great anger will suffer punishment for if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” Proverbs 19:19

Chills ran up my spine. That passage jumped from a page in a forgotten book and was pertinent to what had just happened. I laid down on my bed and repeated “Please comfort me. I am so sad and lonely.” Almost immediately, I felt a force of comfort come over me. It was heavier than the air and my heart beat calmed down for the first time that night.

“Come back. Return. Love resides within”

I was being called to return to my soul. A place that I tried to mask for years. In order for me to know love, I had to begin with myself at the cellular level and begin to heal. I realized that I had to go within, be alone and find the courage to let go.

This event was a catalyst to my soul. I started a search where I wanted to find what was sparked inside of me that night. I knew it wasn’t the God full of judgement and fear I grew up believing but one that was loving, peaceful and full of grace.

In a moment of fear, I was comforted by something outside of myself. This began my journey to where I am today. It shook me to my core and demanded that I learn to love differently starting with myself.

*If you or someone you know  is a victim of domestic violence, here are some resources to get help:

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

Surrender

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Imagine a fist held tightly. All it holds is the air and creates tension within the body. Then imagine the fist letting go. Notice the release of tension and free flowing air around each finger. Nothing fell out of the palm, because there was nothing to grasp.

Holding tightly onto something that isn’t there is useless and controlling. I have learned this lesson time and again. Perhaps it’s because I am Virgo or someone who does not like to feel out of control. But the minute I try to generate an outcome that seems forced, I create an unrealistic expectation, stress and anxiety.

Several years ago, I was going through a career transition and I remember thinking “I better get a job soon, I have bills to pay” as I wrote my check for my car payment leaving $23 to my name. It wasn’t for lack of trying to find a job, there just weren’t jobs available. So, I had to surrender and take a job as a courier.

I thought that I deserved a better position because of my background and transferrable skillset. My need for control was keeping me from moving forward. However, if I would not have accepted the position, I would have missed out on the opportunity that later resulted in abundant travel.

I was terrified when I let go. I thought that if I held on for just a bit longer, things would fall into place. They never did until I surrendered to the experience and the lessons that were begging to be learned.

When it feels like you are being blindly led, allow trust to take place.

The act of surrender is not giving up; It is an act of trust. This is a sacred place within the soul. A deep, vulnerable place to enter. To let the walls down around the heart and to open the soul to a possibility that can’t be seen is raw, yet absolutely exciting and brave.

There are several things I still need to surrender but each time I do and trust that everything will be alright; I am surprised by the grace of the universe. Situations that seem hopeless when in my control are completely turned around when I let go of the reigns. The universe lovingly allows me the time to realize I need to let go, and when I do, that’s where the miracles happen.

What we can’t see holds a gift if we allow it to happen. It is amazing when things are revealed after the act of trust. What I thought I needed or wanted is always replaced by something greater. With each act of surrender, I am learning that the universe really does have my back and listens to all the desires of my heart.

When a Friendship Ends

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Our energies did not match any more. We were growing apart. After almost a decade of inseparable friendship, we no longer had the common ground that kept us on the same path. I had traveled continents with her, shared thousands of tears and laughs, we knew each other’s deepest darkest secrets. But that was not strong enough glue to keep the friendship together.

It had been clear for some time that we were growing apart. Our time together seemed almost forced. I had grown to love my friend dearly, but noticed a strange pattern of need growing between us. I felt the friendship had become one-sided and it started to hurt more than uplift.

At first I was devastated. I didn’t think another friendship could compare to our sister-like bond. Then, I became very upset “How could she treat me with such disregard?” I would repeat over in my head. It was painful to know that she was still hanging out with mutual friends. I just wanted everyone to be on my side; but it wasn’t their fight.

Confusion traded places with anger and I went back and forth between the two for a while. I wanted to let go and be okay. In the age of social media, clear boundaries have to be made when a relationship ends. It is easy to assume the other person does not hold any regard or brags in hopes to appear like moving on was easy and seamless. I had to let go of all assumptions in order to heal.

I came to a place of forgiveness after a year had passed. The wound was no longer fresh and I was able to unpack the pain and blame, allowing the openness to feel comfortable. I wanted the new space to be filled with friendship that was autonomous, loving and nurturing.

I got specific on how I wanted to feel inside a friendship and recognized what I needed to work on in order to propagate that.

The lessons that took place during the process of healing were hard. There were patterns that I had created in relationships that I had to recognize and amend. The pain created an awareness that was filled with a softening and grace. I went from “How dare you!” to gratitude.

When a friendship ends, it isn’t easy to forgive and forget. Allow yourself to feel the pain and process the lessons as they come. Healing and forgiveness are on their way. Grace makes sure of that–where that big gaping hole was created, friendship appears. Sometimes not in the same form or what we expect, but the universe loves space. When we give up what we think should fill the gaps, we can be surprised by what is intended for our hearts.

When a friendship ends, it hurts. Confusion, anger, sadness and frustration take the place where laughter, understanding and connection once thrived. In order to move forward, there are some things one can do to create a healthy environment in the heart and soul…

  1. Set boundaries
  2. Create an intention for how you want to feel in a friendship
  3. Release judgment and blame to create room for growth and healing
  4. Forgive yourself and the other for whatever happened
  5. Allow the space to be created for the universe to deliver likeminded friendships
  6. Offer gratitude for the friendship
  7. Send the other person love and LET GO

Whether there is a specific reason or several misunderstandings that lead to the end of a friendship, compassion, forgiveness and grace can heal a wound that runs deep. We may never know why the other person moved on, but we can take responsibility for our hearts and souls and fill the space with love. When we let go in love, more love can enter.

Forgive. Let go. Be Open.

Saturn Return

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It has been known as a quarter life crisis. Around the ages of 27-31 it hits and all of a sudden something must or just changes. For some it is a subtle nudge that doesn’t go away until addressed. For others it seems devastating, like everything that had been worked towards was a sham and the feeling of starting over is too much to bear.

This time is known as Saturn Return; a milestone of reaching adulthood. Saturn takes approximately 28 years to make a full orbit around the sun from the time of birth. With each occurrence, responsibilities change, thoughts mature and a shift in mindset takes place.

Each person experiences it differently. It is a time when life does a course correct. Some learn new skills that propel them in the direction that is now waiting to be explored. Others feel this time as a difficult transition, feeling like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. For some, it can be a period of hard work either physically, mentally or emotionally.

My Saturn Return hit me a month before my 28th birthday. I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. Anxiety flooded my days and I doubted my decisions as everything I had worked for seemed to just not fit any more. I knew I needed a change, but I didn’t know what I needed to do. I wanted answers immediately, but they took their time to arrive.

While I was in what felt like an endless loop of waiting, I learned some hard and valuable lessons. I started recognizing my core values and desired to live a life that aligned with who I wanted to be. This is where the pain set in: I had to give up ideas of what I thought I wanted and where I needed to be to align with what I really wanted. It was scary to think about starting over.

The more I resisted this new path, the harder things seemed to be. But, when I embraced the changes that were occurring, regardless of my attempts to control, a peace set in. I noticed that the amount of anxiety I experienced was in direct proportion to the amount of control I tried to exert. I released my grasp and a new career, friendships, cities and outlook appeared.

I had to make room for what needed to take place.

I noticed 4 phases of a Saturn Return:

  1. Humility: I felt embarrassed thinking that what I swore was my life path was actually wrong. Having to admit to myself and others that I was starting over was recognition that I did not know it all and that I still had some learning to do. OUCH!
  2. Growth: I had to learn new skills to move forward in a new career. I had to learn a lot about myself and grow from mistakes. Embracing my authenticity and bravery catapulted growth and helped me to move on and forgive myself and others.
  3. Emergence: After the inner struggle of control, I was able to emerge onto the new path. There was a new found confidence after I embraced the growth. I felt renewed and excited.
  4. Freedom: Finally accepting the end of where I thought I was heading and embracing the next phase brought a sense of freedom. There is a renewed sense of trust that occurs which feels free and lighthearted.

I have coached many people going through their Saturn Return. There are spiritual shifts, career changes, relationship and life transitions that occur. It can be scary and exciting to navigate. There is something beautiful on the other side of the struggle. It is quite lovely to see the transformations from struggle to freedom. These steps differ in time for each person, but at the end, freedom appears.

Like a caterpillar creating a cocoon, this a time of transformation. Don’t let preconceived notions take over and stunt forward movement and growth. Be open and allow the changes to happen. Celebrate each lesson and be grateful for the path thus far. Soon, the butterfly emerges and spreads its new found wings and soars into freedom.

You have escaped the cage. Your wings are stretched out. Now fly.

-Rumi

For more on coaching, email emily@soulsadventures.com

Loneliness vs. Solitude: How to Embrace Being Alone

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There is a great difference between loneliness and solitude. Being alone takes on the meaning that you give to it. The difference is in yearning versus contentment. Lonely breeds longing and roots itself in loss. Solitude breeds stillness and is rooted in contentment.

I learned this lesson while living in a small coastal town when I had come home from work one day to find that my boyfriend had packed up all of his belongings. He was leaving in the morning. He was my only true connection in this location. Loneliness washed over me when he drove away the following morning.

I cried and mourned for weeks wondering how I could survive in that town alone. It was one of the loneliest times of my life. My family and friends lived far away and I was on the road a lot for work which left little time to nurture local friendships. No matter what I tried, all I felt was sad and lonely.

One day, I opened my eyes to the lesson that was being provided to me. In stillness, I began to hear my intuition and noticing what my soul had been trying to tell me. My intuitive sense was dulled and I was not practicing the gift that was inside me the entire time.

I started exercising this gift and appreciating the fabric of my soul. And what was once the loneliest times of my life soon became one of the richest times of my life.

Without this solitude, I would not have taken the time to search my soul to get back to myself. I realized my identity was tied to a person and a job and lost my authenticity. I had a choice to wallow or grow.

Embracing the growth was difficult but I learned so much about myself and the differences between loneliness and solitude. Some of the differences I was able to pinpoint were…

Loneliness: Depleted my energy and made me sad. Loneliness was able to permeate since I based my happiness on another. I was in a state of contraction and longing. Anxiety and depression visited more often. Discontentment fueled sorrow and perpetuated the feeling of isolation.

Solitude: Re-energized me. I found that happiness comes from within. Solitude created space for growth and the state of expansion and contentment. Meditation and prayer became daily routines. I began to find comfort in times of solitude because I started to enjoy my own company.

The more I fostered the beauty of solitude, I found peace where I once felt anxious. Learning to tap into my intuition and wait for answers and inspiration reconnected me to my soul and my spirituality had room to blossom.

Through this lesson, I learned to be compassionate towards my loneliness in order to foster the state of solitude. Without a compassionate approach, I may have become stuck and not have welcomed growth. All things deserve compassion and understanding, including mindsets.

Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self. – Mary Sarton

Embracing Ambiguity: The Beauty of the Unknown

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Ambiguity is like a fog where you can see the outlines of things, but nothing is really clear. When life is vague and answers are desired more than anything, it can lead to anxiety, restlessness and at times depression. Not knowing the outcome or direction is such a common theme; everyone has felt the anxious grip of ambiguity at least once.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to write a book. Writing has been in my life since I was a child. I would write stories, journal and read as many books as I could get my hands on, hoping one day to have one of my own.

When I quit my job in 2014, my goal was to travel the world and write. I wanted to write a book and try to figure out how to get it published in my free time. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I even had a coach put me on a writing schedule. When I felt like the book was complete, I started the process of finding a literary agent.

I created a book proposal with my writing ready to be submitted. I sent letters out to several prospective agents and waited and waited. It was painful to be so vulnerable with something that I had been dreaming about for 25 years. I knew that in order to make it happen, I had to put myself out there.

Then, the rejections started pouring in. The first one made me cry and I was used to them once the fourth one came in. One agent asked for my first 50 pages. “YES! That’s hopeful!” I thought and called my close friends to share and calm my nerves. I sent out the work and waited some more.

Eight weeks later, I received my final rejection. It hurt. I needed to take a break and revisit the book in a few months. I decided to solely focus on my business and let the book wait for its birthday.

In January, I set an intention to let go of my expectation of getting published. I was tired of receiving rejections and noticed that it started affecting my passion for writing. I thought that taking time off would bring clarity. Three weeks later, I received an email that rocked my world — an offer to write a book.

I let go and the universe delivered my dream in a way I would have never expected.

The email was from a publisher who had stumbled upon my website. It was unbelievable the way it all happened but the universe is mysterious, magical and amazing. It all made sense and the day I accepted the offer, I sobbed giant tears with gulps for breath. It was emotional, messy and very joyful.

There was a release that set in when everything came together. Grace kicked in and offered relief to the waiting and wondering. In that moment, gratitude overflowed and a feeling of astonishment enveloped me.

If I would have known this back when I started this process, the gratitude would not have been as great and the relief would not have felt as powerful. The anticipation was part of the joy. The ambiguity set the stage for amazement and wonder. In that moment, I realized the beauty of the unknown.

*stay tuned for more information on this book project later this year

Be Here Now: A Lesson in Contentment

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I was laying in bed in a state of utter discontent, asking “What am I missing?” wondering when whatever I felt was missing was going to happen. I wondered if there was some place that I needed to be. My wanderlust was raging, feeling the sense of needing to be elsewhere; always.

The endless loop that plays in my head is like a pop song, once you hear it a couple times it gets stuck there. The world beckoned, but I was being planted. I felt myself tugging at my roots causing things to die and fall away. I couldn’t bloom in this state of agitation and fear of missing out or ‘FOMO’. I had to learn to sit still and listen.

Anxiety is fueled by discontent. I learned this lesson a while back when I found myself craving something other than what I had. I dwelt on the missed opportunities and did not see the greatness that was right in front of me. The whirlwind of restlessness prohibited me from appreciating what I had.

It is easy to fall into the trap of restless discontent. Patience is hard to come by and while waiting, our minds can create several scenarios of better alternatives. However, when I learned to ease into the discomfort and practice gratitude, it helped to lead me into a state of contentment.

Being hyper connected and seeing everything that is going on, opinions and comments take away from the present moment. Comparisons start to be made and discontent creeps in. In fact, we are training our brains to look at our phones instead of faces. Although technology is an amazing thing and we need it, taking the time to step away from hyper connectivity and sitting still can bring our minds back into balance.

In stillness I can reflect and see the things that I once wanted were actually happening. Contentment is a practice that when put aside results in impatience and anxiety. By practicing gratitude daily, contentment reminds me that being where I am is exactly where I need to be. That lesson is powerful and beautiful to me. I can watch the beauty of life unfold when I take the time to be present and understand that everything is happening when it supposed to.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

– Epicurus

Dancing Alone: Healing After a Breakup

FullSizeRender (4)I waited for him to leave. He slammed the door, I stared at it making sure it really happened. Then without notice, my tears started to fall. Something inside of me told me this was the final time. We would never get back together. There would not be a reconciliation after a few weeks apart. Our time together had expired and my heart sank, even though everything inside of me knew it was time to part.

It took me some time to not cry about it. There were several people letting me know it was for the best, but my heart still felt broken and raw. I loved this person and now I would never have that extension of my heart back. I was tempted to contact him; an all too familiar pattern. I stopped myself. I distracted myself by taking a walk. I would walk until my sadness dissipated. One day, I walked seven miles.

A few months passed and I started to feel better. I was healing and working on letting go. I was determined to learn how to let him go once and for all. The back and forth proved to me that it wasn’t right, but my heart didn’t want to listen.

Finally, my heart and mind started to sync up and I started putting myself out there to meet new people and date; something I hadn’t really done since I had met him. Dating was awkward and brought up even more things that I needed to resolve. I had no idea how much work it took to heal, really heal, after a breakup.

These were a few things that really helped me heal and grow through the process…

  1. Forgive. I needed to forgive him and myself. There were things we had both said and done that were not versions of our best selves. That happens in a relationship and I wanted to grow from it instead of wallow in what went wrong. I wrote out everything that hurt and upset me. Then, I went down the list and consciously forgave him and myself for each offense. I had to do this a few times, but it helped.
  2. Let go of the expectation of “getting back together”: false hope kills healing. I had to remind myself that “it ended for a reason”.
  3. I looked for any co-dependant residue: after being in a relationship for a while, sometimes our identities can get wrapped up in the other person. I noticed where I may have “lost” myself in the other person and resolved to regain my sense of self back. This could not be done alone. I sought out help through a spiritual coach and that was when the healing really started.
  4.  Let go: Recognize the loss and release. I created a ritual to let him go. I needed a physical release along with the emotional one. Letting go happens over time and after I healed, I was able to finally release ceremoniously.
  5. Start dating. I very carefully dipped my toe back into dating at first. It was awkward and I felt like I was out of practice. But after time, it became fun again and I met some very lovely and some interesting people.

Time is important, but so is the mindset of healing. Only after I resolved to heal was I able to do the work. Each step was difficult in their own way, but I am grateful for the journey. I learned about myself, created healthier boundaries and opened my heart again.

The most important lesson was learning to love being alone. Embracing my true self and the love that comes through the process was the greatest lesson the breakup could offer. I learned to listen to my intuition and that dancing alone is liberating and creates the space needed for the right things to come.

*for more information on letting go or healing after a breakup, email me at emily@soulsadventures.com

The Gravity of Memory: Healing after Miscarriage

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It was a snowy night when I experienced one of the greatest sorrows of my life; I was suffering from a miscarriage. I was young, my dad drove methodically through the freak snow storm as my mom held me in the backseat. I was inconsolable, sobbing with deep emotion. Although the pregnancy was a surprise, I had grown to love and cherish the little one growing inside of me. Anticipation for his arrival filled my mind with hopes and dreams the longer I carried and after I felt him move; like a butterfly fluttering within.

At the hospital, The doctor searched for a heartbeat and I thought I heard the precious “whoosh whoosh” sound but it turned out to be my own heartbeat. I clenched everything inside of me trying to keep the baby inside. The nurses kept telling me it was already gone. The ER doctor kept calling it a ‘spontaneous abortion” it didn’t sit well with me. When I asked the doctor why it had happened he said “some babies just fail to thrive.” It wasn’t the concrete answer I had hoped for. It would have made me feel better if the answer told me what exactly happened. It was traumatic, painful  and sad.

The thing about miscarriage is that the pain is silent and mysterious. There are so many things that can create grief; the due date, the anniversary of the miscarriage, what they child would have looked like, the pain of a missed future. I had a hard time finding help talking about it. I was referred to a grief counselor who was confused by my immense sorrow only to be told “I usually help parents who had live children pass away” Her words were seared into my memory. I looked for books about miscarriage only to find myself in indexes pointing to a few pages that referenced it in pregnancy books; books I couldn’t bear to look at.

People tried to comfort me by telling me “time will heal” and “I understand your pain” which did the opposite of comfort me.

Miscarriage is ambiguous and painful. Each woman suffers in her own way. Whether the baby is planned or not, the loss of a pregnancy leaves questions and doubts about fertility and health. Perhaps it would be easier to recover from such a loss if there was an answer better than a statistic about the odds. I loved the baby I carried and considered it more than just a statistic.

It took me years to get over the pain. Seeing other pregnant women was hard. I felt defective when I would discuss what had happened. It is an uncomfortable subject but I believe it needs to be shared. There are too many of us with this silent grief which makes letting go and moving on just a bit harder.

The anniversary of my miscarriage passes each year with a tug on my heart. It happened 16 years ago,  yet the memory is clear and vivid. It was a catalyst for me and my life changed when I left the hospital. I became more determined by shutting out the pain and moving through college and my first career with a stoicism that hid my vulnerability well.

Looking back, I see that what transpired was a blessing in disguise. However, I was only able to see that after the grief was processed. Without having something to bury, I needed a way to let go and memorialize so I got a tattoo soon after.  Later on, I created a ceremony to let go of the pain and help me move on. It wasn’t until I started honoring my vulnerability and talking about this specific pain that healing began. I needed a safe place to talk about it and feel heard. I needed to know that my pain was valid.

I want to hold a safe place for women who are suffering from the grief of miscarriage. The pain is personal and deep. What I can do is listen with empathy and understanding. Talking about the pain helps with the healing process and honors the child that was lost. One of the reasons I wanted to become a spiritual life coach was because of this specific pain. I have learned the beauty in letting go with remembrance. A miscarriage is not forgotten but it does not have to hold you back.

A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven’t. Most don’t mention it, and they go on from day to day as if it hadn’t happened, so people imagine a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had.

But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she’ll know.
― Barbara Kingsolver