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.

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)

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.

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

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

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

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

The Power of Prayer

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One of the themes that comes up often with spiritual coaching is prayer. I have coached a few people who have left the religions they grew up in and are seeking ways to connect with their spirituality. Each of these experiences have their own path to understanding. Since I have gone through a similar process, I appreciate and acknowledge the desire to slough off strict religious conditioning to embrace a search for meaning and spiritual practices.

This is my story about prayer…

When I was a child, I learned how to pray. I would confess my sins, express gratitude and request things from a God that seemed so far away. I remember spending most of my time wondering if my prayers were effective; if this giant force in the heavens was hearing me. I never really understood prayer much further than confess, give thanks and ask. It seemed rote and methodical.

I also remember learning the structure of a “proper” prayer. But sometimes, it was hard to follow the structure because I was sobbing through my words trying to find meaning, direction and hope. I would lay all my questions, pain, confusion and pride down to just bear my soul.

As I left the religion, prayer came with me, but in a different capacity. I noticed that prayer has always been a comfort to me and recognized the power that it holds.  I wanted to learn more about this ritual and find a more meaningful explanation than what I had learned as a child. There are different types and purposes of prayers and each religion has their own ritual around prayer. And although prayer has religious undertones, I wanted to discover a more personal practice to this ritual.

Looking back on everything that has transpired in my life, there are certain events that I can pick out that turned out better than I could have ever imagined. This is grace and it’s powerful. I recognize that I did a lot of hard work to achieve goals and get places, but I found strength, clarity and guidance with prayer during those times.

The more I willingly opened my heart and mind to this practice, I noticed a shift in my mindset. I was able to stress less and trust that the universe had my back. Every single time that I had great stress and anxiety, I realized it was because I was trying to tackle the issue on my own.

Here are the things I have experienced from prayer:

  • Having direct communication to God where I can pour out my heart is overwhelmingly sacred.
  • My mind is more focused on gratitude and I stop when something wonderful happens just to offer thanks. I notice beauty all around me because gratitude is a key element to prayer.
  • Knowing that I can have a conversation with God, no structure, just talk and process is very comforting and deeply personal.
  • There is no room for guilt because I can come with a contrite heart and receive grace and forgiveness for myself and others.
  • I can feel an energy shift during and after my time in prayer.
  • Letting go is easier.
  • Clarity often follows especially when sitting in meditation after prayer.
  • Stress and anxiety are reduced

There are so many powerful attributes to prayer and I love learning more and evolving my practice. If you find yourself trying to shed strict religious conditioning or would like to delve deeper into your spirituality, please email me at emily@soulsadventures.com.

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It does not change God – it changes me.”

-C.S. Lewis

Guided Meditation: Thunder Moon

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For the past year, I have been practicing setting intentions and letting go of what no longer serves me. The first time I did this practice was a stormy night in Bali last July. The rain seemed endless and I researched ways to change my mindset. I came across setting intentions and created a ritual that I have practiced and honed over the past year.

The clouds parted and the full moon peaked out. I sat in moonlight and meditated on my intentions for the month. I recognized things that were holding me back from my intended outcomes, and I resolved to let them go. This was a process for the month as some things are held with a tighter grip. However, I realized that recognizing the hindrances was the first step of letting go.

This practice has created clarity and calm. I look forward to each Full Moon as a time to reflect and reset. Tonight is the Full Moon. This moon is known as “Thunder Moon” to symbolize summer thunderstorms. While I was recording this guided meditation yesterday, the sky started to rumble with thunder. I was excited for the synchronicity of events. I created this recording to share part of the ritual. My hope is that it brings peace and clarity to listeners.

If you are interested in learning more about setting intentions, please email me at: emily@soulsadventures.com

Peace and Clarity,

Emily

P.S. If you enjoyed this recording, please share it with friends and family. Thank you!