Full Strawberry Moon

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Tonight’s Full moon was named for the time of year when strawberries are ripening; ready for picking. It is an opportunity to reflect on what has evolved in our lives and honor the work that got us there.

A few years ago, I worked in the wine industry and part of my territory was in California’s Santa Maria Valley. I loved this time of year because I could drive through the vast strawberry fields. They seemed to go forever ala The Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever” which I would play as I slowly drove through this part of the valley. The sweet scent of ripening berries would fill my car and last even after I passed them.

There was a stark contrast to the sweet smell as I saw laborers working hard to pick the berries, bent over at the waist. It made my lower back ache to think of the hours spent huddled over the strawberry bushes. Grateful for their hard work and for all the work and time it takes to harvest the food we eat.

Ripening is beautiful, but harvesting the fruit is laborious.

When a seed is planted, the water has to soften the seed casing in order for the plant to break through. Then the plant needs to push through the soil to find the light. After sprouting, growth takes place above and below the soil; leaves and roots take form. Then the bud breaks and blossoming begins. Eventually, the blossom creates the beginnings of the fruit. If the circumstances are just right, ripening can occur and the sweetness can be enjoyed.

A plant goes through months of work to produce a moment of sweetness.

There are definite times of struggle during a growth season. The same can be said for the sweet things in life. There are so many celebrations that we acknowledge: the birth of a child, graduations, a new home, a job promotion, retirement, weddings and so much more.

But there is also a lot of work that takes place before the celebrations are had. Pregnancy, studying, relationship ups and downs, saving money, the daily tasks of a job. All these tiny steps are necessary to get to the end result. Each tiny victory is a step in ripening. Each deserve a moment of gratitude.

Practicing gratitude can create even greater celebrations in life. Instead of waiting for the grand finale, make every day a celebration. Being present enough to notice the small things can cultivate more presence and gratitude when the fruit of your labor has matured.

During this full moon, take note of all your small victories. Offer gratitude for each of them. Then create an intention for what is ripening. What do you want to create? What are you working towards? Notice where your small victories have occurred and celebrate what you are becoming.

Ripening is only a moment in time; bring mindfulness to all the little moments leading up and celebrate.

Reclaiming Time

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I have been struggling with my relationship with time: I feel like there is never enough. When I think back to the days right after I quit my job to travel, I remember the immense fear of “What do I do with my time now?!” As I became more comfortable with my freedom, I felt like I could soar and had no limits. I couldn’t believe that I had created a reality where I could to write, travel and soak up as much sun as possible.

That lasted 2 years. And then I started to get busy with building my business and had to coordinate a schedule again. It was fun and exciting to create something from scratch, but it took up a lot of time. I found myself on the edge of overwhelm.

The frustration that comes from feeling like there is not enough time rob the joy from the present moment.

I found myself no longer enjoying the moment I was in and looked at the time wondering if I had enough to get to the next thing on my long list completed. Then my sleep started to suffer. I would wake up at 3am my mind decided it was the perfect time to think about my schedule and dwell on the feeling of not having enough time.

The feeling of time scarcity created even more fatigue and stress.

I was missing was being in the present moment and embracing what was happening as it was happening. I was spending too much time projecting into the future that I robbed the present moment of my attention. So I decided to break up with my relationship with time in order to rebuild a healthier one.

As I found a healthier way to approach time, I found these tools to help immensely:

  1. Meditation every morning: This grounds me and brings me into the present moment before the day’s events even have a chance to overwhelm. From this new grounded state, I am able to approach the day with focus and intent.
  2. Put the phone down: Having access to the internet, emails, calendars and even time keeps me from enjoying the present moment. I decided to put the phone away while interacting with people in order to fully appreciate their presence and the time we were spending together. I found my interactions became richer and time seemed to feel abundant.
  3. Prioritize tasks: To-do lists are very important to me, but now I make sure that each week, I only write down the “must dos” instead of creating a long list of tasks that aren’t as pressing. When I complete the tasks I set out to do, I realize that I have plenty of time to tackle some of the less pressing priorities.
  4. Make time for myself: All the running around and working made me feel guilty to take moments to myself. But, when I make time for myself, guilt free, I feel more energetic and joyful and time seems to slow down for me when I am not as stressed.
  5. Workout: There is always time to get some physical activity in. Taking walks, bike rides, trips to the gym…can all be fit into a busy schedule. There are apps that have been created to help you get workouts in. Prioritize physical health and the gift will be higher metabolism and more energy to tackle a busy schedule.

The feeling of scarcity that comes from being constantly connected fades when I make time for stillness.

I learned that when I treat time with respect, it doesn’t run out. I feel more abundant with time when I practice mindfulness and step into the present moment.  From this place, I can breathe deeper and notice my surroundings.

Stillness

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My mind goes a mile a minute. At any time of the day, I have at least 3 things going through my head. I am constantly trying to figure out, fix, plan or contemplate something. I used to pride myself on my brain’s capacity to multi-task until I realized that I was actually less effective in each task because I wasn’t giving each one the full attention it needed.

This whirlwind of activity also caused stress and anxiety when I couldn’t figure things out or when my plans didn’t go as expected. I knew something needed to change and this is when I started to recognize the power of stillness in the form of prayer, meditation and visualization.

I grew up in a home where prayers were said daily at the dinner table and at church. I knew that prayer was supposed to be my direct line to God. Although I thanked him for my food daily and asked for forgiveness for my mistakes, I never really felt connected. There were certain rules and a structure I was told to follow and as I prayed, I remember going through the checklist in my head to make sure my prayer was complete and all the boxes had been marked.

As an adult, I found my prayers becoming less structured and more free flowing. I left the checklist behind and allowed myself prayers of ecstasy to flow through me when I came upon something beautiful that took my breath away. I allowed prayers of desperation, full of run on sentences and tears when I felt at the end of my rope. I allowed prayers of gratitude that welled from my heart and gut when I just knew that sometimes the most normal things were the most amazing things.

The more I allowed myself to veer from the structured prayers of my youth, the more I felt connected to something greater than me. 

Connection was what I was craving. I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone. I wanted to know that there was purpose to my existence and that my desires, worries and emotions were validated. The more I prayed, the more I felt connected to something greater than me.

Then, I started to practice meditation to calm my mind even deeper. I knew that prayer was effective, but I also wanted to learn how to still my mind and just allow my breath to course through me without the interruption of words.

At first, meditation was difficult for me to learn. I thought that I needed to get my mind completely still and that I would have mastered the practice once I could sit without a single thought or word enter my brain. But, I was wrong. I learned that meditation provides the space and time for stillness. Thoughts will come and go, but the key is to let them go.

Mediation taught me that thoughts will never cease, but my attachment can dissipate with practice.

Attachment to outcome and expectations is where a lot of pain is rooted. There is a myriad of possible what if and maybes but the important thing is coming back to the present moment. Meditation is a tool to bring presence into each day.

I enhanced my practice by visualizing the things that I wanted and the feelings I wanted to feel. If something was very important to me, I spent time seeing it as if it had already happened. This practice exercised my trust in the universe and brought a sense of peace. When I was able to see and feel what I prayed for and meditated on, I let go of my need to control and allowed whatever was meant to be happen in its own time.

Visualization released the vibrational energy into the universe saying: “I am ready to receive.” 

When I regularly practice stillness, my mind slows down and calm arrives. The need to control falls away as well as the anxiety attached to it. In fact, on the days when I don’t create stillness, I am off and quickly recognize the correlation. For me it is important to begin each day from a place of centering stillness. Stillness sets the stage for a dynamic day and calibrates the mind and body to be present and react less.

Here are some of my favorite meditation tools to jump start or end each day:

Calm (an app with lovely graphics, guided meditations and soothing sounds)

Headspace (another mindfulness app with options to focus on certain areas of life)

Deepak Chopra 21-Day Meditation Experience (free 4 times a year)

Moonlight Gratitude (my meditation book coming March 15th)

Introducing My First Book: Moonlight Gratitude

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“Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.” -Cheryl Strayed

I’ve had this quote above my desk for over 2 years. I would see it every day as I sat at my desk writing my heart out. I would visualize my book in my hands and seeing my name in print. I would go into bookstores and stand with my eyes closed imagining seeing my book on their tables and shelves.

My creative gestation clock was ticking loud and clear…I wanted to give birth to a book!

I spent most of 2015 sending book proposals out to literary agents and publishers with no luck. There were some responses. One even asked me to send the first 50 pages. That year was spent in a whirlwind of hoping, anxiety and creativity. By the end of the year I had felt rejected more that I cared to feel and put my manuscript away. I realized that I had lost the joy and passion and needed to take a break.

So, on January 1, 2016. I took a break from trying to get published and just focused on coaching and writing blog posts. I was happy to find my passion reignited and excited to spend time creating once again.

Then one day, January 27th to be exact, I received an email from the contact form on my website:

Hello I am an editorial director…I am looking for someone to work with to create a moonlight meditations book. If you would be interested in a project like this please email me at the above address. From reading through your website it seems like you would be a perfect fit.

I read it over and over. Was this real?! I googled the publisher and sure enough they were real. I couldn’t believe it!

My book’s birthday is March 15, 2017. It is beautiful and filled with words that came alive right below that quote that kept my hope alive. Snow Seychelle illustrated the cover and parts of the book with her beautiful underwater art. I am obsessed with whales and the moon and when I saw that the art included whales and the moon, I could not believe how perfect the pairing was. Everything came together so beautifully.

I wrote parts of the book in the desert, in mexico, at home, by the ocean and among the trees in Washington. I carried a notebook with me everywhere to capture inspiration as it came. And then one day, I had a finished manuscript and sent it off to be created.

My hope with this book is that at the end of the day, it can bring some calm and mindfulness. I suffered from insomnia throughout college and remember the anxiety of sleepless nights. I am grateful for that time because it gave me the empathy to write each passage.

Our trials can blossom into beautiful things.

I remember the day I saw my book on Amazon. I gasped. It was actually a real book. Then, last week I received an advanced copy. Finally holding the book was exciting and seeing my name on the cover was surreal. After so many years of dreaming, my dream came true and was in my hands.

You can find it on pre-sale at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. If you or anyone you know deals with daily stress, anxiety or lack of sleep, this book is meant to bring calm and mindfulness into your day. Please pre-order a copy today and share with friends.

Love and peace,

Emily

Finding Balance

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Saying “yes” has been an issue for me in the past. At times, in my attempt to help others, I have forgotten to be there for myself. Perhaps this is middle child syndrome–not wanting to disappoint and make sure every one is okay. Whatever the case, I have learned that “yes” sometimes leads to a lack of balance in my life.

For the past year, I have been working on balance. This has been an amazing year with the most wonderful things: a new relationship, writing a book, new business ventures and lots of friendship and family time. However, amidst all of this lovely, I have found myself in anxious and exhausted moments feeling off balance.

I allow my equilibrium to falter. The pendulum swings to and fro and I find myself feeling lost in the middle of everything. I learned to recognize the moments when I need to say “no” to allow for the right “yes” to occur. This was a difficult lesson for me, especially when building a business. My desire to be there in my best possible mindset requires that I heed to this lesson in order to show up correctly in business and in life.

I wanted to be able to accommodate each request, but had to continuously return to my values and mission statements to remind myself what I truly wanted to create. If it doesn’t serve the purpose or goal, I had to decide whether or not to say “no.”

Finding space to answer this question was difficult at first. But, there is always a place that brings me the peace to regain my balance–I had to be still and go within.

When I take the time to quiet my mind and surroundings, I can enter a place of peace where I reconnect with my purpose and intentions. This is a sweet spot for my soul. Once I settle into the stillness, answers appear and calm takes over.

To begin moments of stillness, I practice this simple, mindful practice:

  1. Sit down and close my eyes
  2. Begin taking slow, deep breaths
  3. Count each inhale and exhale up to 10 (inhale: 1, exhale, 2…)
  4. Repeat until calm (usually 3-4 times)

This momentary pause to become present with my breath can calm the nerves of anxiety as well as create balance within.

After I find the stillness, I write down what is actually occurring. In this place, I usually find the “no” that needs to be said or the task that isn’t an actual priority. Once I am able to release the unnecessary “yes” or task, I feel free. Although saying “no” the first few times can be uncomfortable, each one brings me closer to purpose, intention and balance.

In a world where busy is easy, stillness and intention must be practiced. Balance thrives when the calendar allows for mindful reflection. When overwhelm takes over, stop, reset, rebalance and sometimes say no.

Harvest Moon: Return to Your True Self

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As we harvest the seeds that were planted in the spring, we can identify the intentions that thrived and the ones that needed to be let go of. Harvest is a time of hard work as well as reflection. Before the cold of winter sets in, we must complete processes and plans. There is also an element of rest and reflection to assess what is truly important.

Since the past two seasons focused on cultivation and growth, we are now drawn to focus on maturity and reward. What has grown and matured during the Spring and Summer? Revel in the fruits of your hard work and persistence. Harvest is a time of celebration. You created results and can now take in the bounty.

After we tend to what has matured, we can also notice what has remained. In essence, our true self. The parts of us that stay the same no matter what season is taking place. In the fall, trees reveal their true colors providing color and warmth to a cooler landscape. Spring and summer invited hope for new things which arrived and transpired, but there is an unwavering part of our soul that must also be celebrated. It is the place where authenticity and inner truth reside.

As the harvest moon lights up the sky, allow for illumination in your soul. Notice if there is anything that is keeping you from expressing your true nature. Release anything that is holding you back or keeping you stagnant. Embrace your true self and the road ahead with bravery.

With each full moon, there is an opportunity to set intentions for the month to come as well as release anything that no longer serves us. Here is a 5 step process that I cultivated a few years ago for setting full moon intentions…

How to Set Full Moon Intentions

  1. Meditate: sit quietly and meditate on what you want to achieve
  2. Write it Down: write down what you want to achieve, create, change or focus on
  3. Visualize: create a picture of what this looks like
  4. Let Go: release what no longer serves you and let go of anything that may be holding you back (physical, mental and spiritual)
  5. Offer Gratitude: the universe is constantly listening to our deepest desires. Offer gratitude for each gift and blessing and for the outcome of your new intentions as if they have already happened

Everything that happens in the universe starts with intention.

– Deepak Chopra

For a free intention setting worksheet  or more information on intentional living or spiritual life coaching, please email me at emily@soulsadventures.com

On Resting

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It is difficult to rest when there are things that need to get done. You may have noticed my usual post was supposed to go up last Wednesday but I knew it was not going to be done. The perfectionist in me was suffering but I had to let go of the expectation I had on myself to rest.

This past month flew by, I had a deadline to meet, a cold to get over and work that had piled up because I was sick. I felt defeated, behind and frustrated. I chose to stop my upsetting thoughts and recognized that my body was begging me for rest.

There was a need to prioritize and reshuffle my timeline. I looked at what needed to get done and weighed whether or not the task could wait. My book draft deadline and some other work could not wait and other things, like a blog post got pushed further down the timeline.

Rest became one of the top priorities. I knew that if I kept pushing myself, I would not get better nor would I have the ability to write or coach. I started to allow naps and went to bed earlier.  Within days, I was much better, my mind was clear and ready to tackle the remainder of the list.

Rest is extremely important and in our hyper connected world, it almost seems like it is more difficult to get our minds to settle down. For super productive types, rest seems like a waste of time. The praise of busy and the criticism of rest can keep us overstimulated and our calendars full.

Being busy does not necessarily mean being productive. As I was making my prioritized list, I realized that there were things that I was doing just to fill time. I never stopped to even think about them since I was “so busy.” When I recognized this, I easily cut them out of my schedule and was able to rest with even more ease.

In rest, a stillness is created which can result in deeper peace. Releasing the need to get everything done will focus attention and create space for relaxation.

There are definitely things that need to be done, but my challenge to you would be to look at your schedule, prioritize tasks and see what you can cut away to make room for rest. Start small and let go of at least one thing. Slowly remove the excess from your life to create balance and peace.

Take a rest. A field that has rested yields a beautiful crop. -Ovid

Mindfulness at Work

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Its the beginning of the day and you open your calendar to see the tasks and appointments for the day. There is a sense of restriction within your throat as you think about the day unfolding. You think about all the possible distractions and interruptions that may occur, stress begins to well within your gut, your heart beat starts to race, the phone rings and it sets you off. You’ve only been at work for 10 minutes and you’re ready to go home.

This is common for many people, especially on Monday mornings. This was my story for years — I would stress myself out just anticipating stress. Then, I decided to change that part of me. I knew the trigger well. I allowed it to send me into a deep spiral. I was done spinning. Focus was what I craved. Results desired to be attained. The first step was to stop myself and just be where I was and not off in the “what ifs”.

“Do you know about living in the present?” is a question that I am frequently asked by clients. The answer is more than a simple “yes” or “no”. Living in the present takes practice because it requires mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and in the moment. I started learning to be mindful after a particularly rough breakdown. I was suffering from intense anxiety which gave way to an occasional panic attack. I talked to doctors and therapists and didn’t find the relief I knew was possible until I learned to be still and present.

I was a bulldozer/whirlwind/lightning bolt who did not like to be still. When I found myself sitting in silence at first, I was uncomfortable and tried to control the outcome.

Slowly, I let go. Slowly, I learned to be present. Slowly, my reactions faded from thunderous panic into deep cleansing breaths.

Here are a few things to do the next time you are at work and feel that stewing/panic/rage/annoyance bubble up. Try these steps for a month. Notice the changes you experience. Many of these can be done right at your desk or even before you enter work. With the intention of practicing mindfulness, you will find a new way to cope when work sends you reeling:

  • Breathe: Take 3-5 cleansing breaths in and out your nose. We can forget to breathe during stressful situations which can constrict breathing, thus creating a secondary stress.
  • Reframe your thought: When you find yourself in a negative thought pattern, recognize your thought and reframe it into something positive. Create a mantra or intention for the rest of the day.
  • Write it out: Taking a moment to write out the stress can give your brain the time to process the situation and thus take it off your mind.
  • Practice gratitude: Take a moment and offer gratitude for something.

By actively taking the steps to create a change in negative thought patterns a change is occurring inside the brain. Mindfulness practices can change the way we react to negative situations. As the practice becomes stronger, the reactions become weaker.

For more information on mindfulness and dealing with stress at work, please email me at emily@soulsadventures.com