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.

Flow

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I recently traveled to Utah with my boyfriend for a quick weekend getaway. Days prior to the trip, I was laid off from a job that I used to help supplement income. Despite my efforts, it felt like a constant struggle and my soul was not at peace. I tried my best and remembered a lesson my dad taught me “Always do your best and keep your integrity intact.”

I created a deadline to leave in a month if the energy didn’t shift into alignment. Two days after I set that goal, I was called into an office and laid off. I was grateful for my renewed freedom, but disappointed with the way it ended. Although I did not see it coming, I offered gratitude for the manifestation blessing.

So, there I was in Utah about to embark on a hike. As we stepped onto the trail, we were welcomed by a rushing river tumbling through the valley. It was breathtaking. It had been a while since I had seen a river so swollen and rushing. The sound was meditative and never ending, staying with us until we made our way high enough to where the path became snow.

The snow was a surprise as we trudged our way through ankle deep snow trying to reach a lake that we were told was magnificent. Now, I am not a fan of being cold, let alone hiking through snow in summer clothes. But, I knew that I needed to keep going. I complained to my boyfriend who seemed unfazed by the new terrain. He encouraged me as I made my way up the icy hill.

After what seemed like forever, we made it to the lake. It was surrounded by snow and was frozen solid. I had a bit of disappointment because my expectation was a lake surrounded by a meadow filled with wildflowers. I sat down on a rock and meditated. I released my expectations. I released my fatigue. I released being cold. I sat there in the sun for 20 minutes with my eyes closed, just breathing in and out.

Off in the distance, I could hear a rock falling from up high. I was amazed at the silence of the scenery and the ability to hear a rock falling. The frozen scene created the stillness to be present. I felt at peace.

When I opened my eyes, I saw the lake through a different lens. It was absolutely beautiful. The mountains that surrounded us seemed to provide an expansive nature making me feel so small, yet very powerful. I made it all the way to 9000′ where the sun had not melted a lake yet. I breathed in gratitude for the newfound appreciation and smiled.

I raised my vibration at a higher elevation.

As we made our way back down, I felt renewed and accomplished. Halfway down, the river started rushing as the ground went from snow to mud to dirt once more. The river once again serenaded our hike and I realized that I needed to welcome flow back into my life.

I recognized for my life to flow freely, I had to let myself melt like the snow.

The rigid constraints that I had made to create security and certainty were blocking flow from occurring. I was in my own way. When I take things into my own hands with control, it never really works. I was pushed out of something that wasn’t allowing flow to continue into my life. I noticed what a tight grip I tried to maintain once again.

From experience, I know that the things I hold tight to are the ones that slip away. In this case, it was security and certainty.

The following week, I approached my business with a new-found focus and intention. I realized that when I let go and allow flow to happen, everything falls into place and it is — effortlessly and beautifully. The resistance and pressure I had created blocked the positive energy that was trying to flow into my life.

I was not expecting such a lesson from a river in the middle of the Utah wilderness. But I am so grateful for the raging river and frozen lake that taught me to change my perspective and release expectations in order to allow flow to occur.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.  – Lao Tzu

An Exercise in Acceptance

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Last year I had several lessons on acceptance. There were times where expectations weren’t met and I had the choice to struggle, fight and live with anxiety OR just accept the circumstances and move on. I’d like to say that I practiced the latter with ease, but no, I allowed the struggle to stay real in many cases. It was in these moments that I truly had to open my arms to the universe and cry:

 “I’m letting go now! Please help me move forward.”

I seemed to repeat this prayer often. And you know what?! It was answered each and every time. But the thing is, the way it was answered was not always how I envisioned and this is where I learned the beautiful lesson of acceptance.

The beautiful thing was at the other side of my resistance, was a new plan that I would not have envisioned. When I surrendered to the new reality, I felt everything inside of me relax. I could breath again and my thoughts were no longer hijacked by the anxious grip of control.

The less I resisted, the easier things became.

When you cry out to the universe, it hears you. In fact, it knows exactly what you need. Which is probably why such prayers are uttered from our core, in moments of desperation and anxiety. It is like we try to hold on with every last bit of control until we are left hanging, desperate to find stability once more.

And then, the answers come in; sometimes in a trickle and sometimes in a flood.

When the answers arrive, acceptance begins. In order to fully accept, there has to be an element of remembering where you were before the prayer was lifted. The ego tends to love this tender spot. It can take the temporary relief and decide to take over once again. This is not full acceptance.

One of the hardest lessons to learn is to accept things the way they are and let go of expectations. This is a struggle. It is easy to place expectations on the outcome. When expectations are set, they leave room for disappointment.

To accept is to receive. To receive is to welcome. There is no control here, only openness.

Imagine letting go of a worry and watching it float away into the ether, like a balloon. As you watch it fly higher and higher, you feel lighter. The weight of control is lifted and hands that once held on so tightly are now free to receive whatever is next.

This weightlessness is available on the other side of control. When the answers arrive, squelch the desire to control with gratitude and acceptance. Practice openness and when anxiety wells up, it is a cue that something no longer serves your soul. Release it. Accept whatever needs to enter your life. All will be well.

Overcoming Fear

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I felt extremely small and terrified to embark on something I had very little experience in. I looked down at the canyon and felt my knees tingle, like they wanted to buckle. The Grand Canyon is enormous and steep and I was about to hike my way down to the bottom with a pack on my back.

My idea of hiking consisted of trails around California that were shorter in distance and less strenuous which definitely did not involve carrying a 30 pound pack on my back. I had trained for the hike by running for endurance, conditioning for strength and hiking the trails around San Diego to work on elevation. However, I soon learned that my training did not compare to the demands of the Grand Canyon.

Everything was fine inside me until I faced the hike. The months leading up to it, I was excited and sure of myself and physical ability. But, when I saw the other hikers in their real gear, I realized that I looked like a novice in my borrowed pack and 1 water bottle. My feelings of inadequacy continued to grow inside me.

It is amazing how fear can permeate and almost paralyze.

The morning of the hike, I woke up with the sun afraid that I was going to fail and wanted to stop before it even began. I stopped at the gift shop to pick up another water bottle so I didn’t dehydrate and made a step closer to committing to the hike.

As we began hiking down the South Kaibob Trail, my fear was replaced by courage. The farther we hiked down into the canyon, the more diverse the terrain became and I found myself in awe of the beauty around me. I remember my first glimpse of the Colorado River after 4 hot hours of hiking switchbacks and felt wonder excitement at the sight of the canyon’s bottom.

The more I got out of my head, the more my fear dissipated.

After 5 hours, we made it to the bottom. My knees were shaking with fatigue, sweat had soaked my hat and shirt and then the sky opened up and rain started pouring down. It felt so refreshing on my tired and overheated body. I took off my pack and sat down on the shore of the Colorado River and waited for the rest of the group to arrive.

Nights at the bottom of the Canyon are peaceful and enveloped by stars. The lack of technology provided a detachment from everyday life and I was able to sit and think without distraction. For the first time in a very long time, I was completely in the moment and quite enjoyed it.

I realized that my fear was also in anticipation for something great. Pushing myself to the limits was both frightening and exciting. This realization changed my outlook for the hike back up the canyon.

Early the next morning, we began our trek up the Bright Angel Trail which is just over 9 miles and very steep. Each of us climbed at our own pace and I stopped several times to catch my breath as elevation began to affect my breathing. This was by far the more difficult of the 2 hikes.

My pack felt much heavier than on the hike down and by the time I reached the top, I was exhausted. I looked down and could not believe how far I had come and the fear that I once felt was transformed into courage. Sometimes the scariest treks can reap the most rewarding gifts.

Through this journey I learned that to transform fear I needed to:

  • Stay present:  When I allowed myself to think about things that could happen or judged myself based on limiting beliefs, fear took over. Taking a moment to just be and notice where I was and what I was doing in that moment allowed the anxiety to dissipate.
  • Breathe: I noticed I was holding my breath in fear. When I took a breath and brought myself back to the moment I was in, all of those fears lost their power. Breathing brings us back to the moment and slows down panicky thoughts.
  • Reframe the narrative: Fear is a liar!! By turning a negative thought into an empowering thought, I was able to motivate myself even during the hottest part of the day and steepest part of the hike. There was a point where I chanted “I can make it, I are strong” to myself while climbing back up the canyon.
  • Take action: Taking each step one by one helped me move forward and leave fear behind.

Whatever fears are occurring, take the time to reevaluate and reframe. Push past the discomfort and find the new found strength that is waiting to be gained. Before reaction creates waves of fear, find stillness and your breath. It is possible to move forward from the paralysis of fear and come out with a more limber mind, body and soul.

Great adventures always begin with anticipatory excitement, don’t let fear lie to your soul.

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

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.

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.

Summer Reading Recommendations

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The Light Between Oceans by M.J. Stedman: It is rare that fiction captures my attention but this was one that I could not put down. This is a riveting story of love, loss, adventure and the stories we tell to protect our hearts. There is a movie coming out soon, but I would definitely read the book first. The writer does a wonderful job of storytelling and painting the picture for the reader.

You are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh: Mindfulness is an important practice in order to be present and aware. It is a beautiful, short read that encourages being present, right here, right now. This is a powerful book to remind us that the present moment, the person you are sitting across from, the space you create for yourself is important to pay attention to, especially in a world full of distractions.

The Power of the Other by Dr. Henry Cloud: I strongly believe that we are the sum of the people we surround ourselves with. This book outlines how others affect our performance in all areas of life. Although we can try to not let others hold power over us, their influence can be quite strong. With interviews and research, Dr. Cloud demonstrates how our relationships and communication shape our performance, well-being and growth both personally and professionally.

The Crossroads of Should and Must by Ella Luna: This book was given to me by a friend and she proclaimed “You have to read this, it’s amazing!” I agree. It is artistic, inspirational and beautiful. The main theme of following your passion resonates deeply and is the perfect read for anyone who has ever gone through/going through a transition, created something or has struggled with taking a leap. If you want to harness your bravery, this will help and inspire.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: A beautiful manifesto for the creative soul, with the premise that each of us contain an inner creative spark that should be expressed. It encourages creativity in a ethereal yet practical manner. I gained so much inspiration from this book and reference it often when feeling stuck in my creative pursuits. It is like having your own creativity coach wrapped in a beautiful package.

Rising Strong by Brene Brown: Brave souls unite! If you have ever experienced failure this book shows how getting back up again and again. Rising strong is a sign of inner strength. Failures are inevitable, but the way we choose to deal with them sets us apart. As always, Brene Brown backs her beautiful words up with great research and by the end of the book, you will feel empowered to try regardless of possible failure.

What are you reading this summer?

Finding a Coach

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The growth of the coaching industry has raised the important question of “How do I find the right coach?” When choosing a coach, it is important to find someone who you jive with, is willing to hold you accountable and will help you achieve desired results.

There are several reasons to hire a coach….

  • Set goals and get results
  • Motivation to start, continue and finish
  • Accountability partner to drive results and keep you encouraged and inspired
  • Gain clarity on your life’s purpose, career path, relationship and specific goals
  • Grow spiritually, mentally and physically: There are coaches that specialize in spiritual growth, business/career, fitness and personal growth
  • Provide support and encouragement

When hiring a coach, it is important to know that results are obtained in time with dedication to the coaching plan. Although one session can be helpful, is just a launching pad to working towards desired outcomes. In order for coaching to be successful, scheduled meetings should be made and kept, this is where accountability can work its magic. Depending on your goals, packages can be purchased for 1-12 months with savings per session being greater the longer the time commitment.

A good coaching relationship will empower you, inspire you to go above and beyond what you thought possible, tell you the truth and ask questions to stretch you.

Here are 5 things to consider when choosing a coach:

  1. Offerings and Packages: What type of coaching do they specialize in? Do they offer packages that fit within your time frame and needs? Can you customize or upgrade? These are things to consider and good questions to ask a potential coach.
  2. References: Do you know anyone that has utilized a coach and achieved results? Does the coach have customer feedback on their website? Read the reviews and see if any of them resonate with you.
  3. Personality: Many coaches offer an introductory call or email where you can see if the energy is a good fit as well as map out a plan of action for the coaching relationship.
  4. Certification and Training: What type of certification does the coach have and what training was involved? Certification is important but so is ongoing training. Does the coach continue to develop their practice and stay on top of their own development?
  5. Pricing: Does it fit within your budget? Part of creating a successful life is staying within your means. Coaching is worth the investment and financial growth can be a goal, but make sure the services meet you where you currently are to propel you in the direction you envision.

A coach can be seen as part of your team of experts. In the effort to live at your highest potential it is important to have a team behind you, keeping you healthy, in tune, motivated and accountable. Doctors, therapists, personal trainers, spiritual leaders, chefs, nannies, teachers, mentors, CPAs, financial advisors, trusted friends and coaches are just a few of the possible people who can help you enhance your life.

If you have been considering coaching to help you move towards a goal, gain clarity or take your life or career to the next level, please contact me at emily@soulsadventures.com to schedule a complimentary 15 minute call. We can talk about how coaching can enhance your life and create a plan of action.

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

– Timothy Gallwey

30 Day Challenges

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Living with intention is the cornerstone of my coaching practice. Whether I am working with a client on their career or spiritual journey, intentions are key to creating a life with desired outcomes. One of the tools that help are 30 day challenges. The fitness industry has greatly utilized this concept and a quick google search will result in several ways to get tighter abs, stronger arms and a sculpted physique.

All you need is the desire to make a change, the will to achieve the it, a plan and an accountability partner. Think about all the things that are on your to-do or wish list. Pick one of those things and see where you are in 30 days.

The key to these challenges is understanding that they are only a launch pad to healthier habits. Neuroplasticity is at work here and neural pathways are changing in the brain during these challenges. After 30 days, you will probably want to continue with the new habit or push yourself even further. Whether you choose to start a new habit or quit an old one, 30 days is a good time frame to build a foundation and you can then choose to continue to strengthen the new pathway or try something new.

I have had clients who wanted to produce more sales leads in their business, network with more likeminded individuals, read more, run more miles, spread more love and practice gratitude. Each challenge was tailored to their need and with some planning, accountability and encouraging vibes, results were created.

There are a few ways to be successful in a 30 day challenge:

  • Accountability: whether through a coach, group or trusted friend, accountability works and keeps you on track.
  • Check In Daily: send a text or email every day during the challenge to stay on top of the goal. This is a place to voice success and challenges during the 30 days.
  • Weekly Calls: Spend some time each week chatting on the phone about how the week went. Offer encouragement to each other and celebrate overcoming obstacles and milestones.
  • Reward: What is the reward for completing the challenge? Decide before starting. Reading for 30 days straight? Perhaps buy a new book. Love going to the gym now? Perhaps a new workout outfit.

Another month is just around the corner…such a great time to start something new. Let me know what you choose to challenge yourself with. If you need help creating a plan and want an accountability coach, email me at emily@soulsadventures.com.