Ayurvedic Massage in India: The Blissful & Awkward Truth

ayurvedic massage

As originally published on YogaTravelTree.com

India is a leading destination for Ayurvedic treatments and massage. There is no question of the benefits of an Ayurvedic regime, in fact, we could all benefit by incorporating some of these practices into our daily lives, the way they do in India.

Though the idea and practice of Ayurvedic massage is decadent, rarely have I had a massage outside of the United States that went anything like what I expected. My Ayurvedic massage in India was no different and I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you what you’ll be getting into so you can lay back, relax and fully enjoy your experience.

Four Hands and a Language Barrier

As you enter the small, elaborately decorated and fragrant room, there will be two Indian women ready to disrobe you and begin their work. They do not speak your language and you, most likely, do not speak theirs. If you have any special areas of discomfort you’d like them to avoid, discuss it with the Ayurvedic doctor prior to your massage and make sure your concerns are communicated to the masseuse.

Have No Shame

The two women will motion for you to disrobe. They’re not going to leave and they won’t understand (or have much patience for) your protests if you have any. Just trust that they have done and seen this all before. As you stand there to undress, they will stand there too. We Americans like to leave on an item or two (a masseuse in New Zealand told me this is unique to Americans). Don’t be modest. Take it all off or it will actually be more awkward for all of you. Once you’ve disrobed, they (might) wrap a paper loin cloth around your parts and you will sit on a stool. They will ask you to take your hair down and begin massaging sesame oil onto your scalp. Once you get used to the idea of having warm oil saturating every inch of your face and hair, it is actually very enjoyable and relaxing. Close your eyes and succumb to the process.

Full Frontal

After the scalp massage, you’ll lay on a long wooden table that has channels along the edges for oil and water to drain off. The four hands will begin massaging at your toes and move all the way up to your head. Then you’ll flip over and they’ll do the other side. There is no sheet, there is no towel over your rump, just you, your flimsy loin cloth and the four hands. Let go and let it feel good.

The Scrub-down

After the oil massage and what feels like four hours, they will rinse you off. You’ll think you’re done, but then your super soft, oily skin will be invigorated by a new sensation. The four hands will begin to scrub. You won’t know it’s coming, so you’ll try to lift your head and open one eye. What you’ll see is your body covered in brown sludge. Again, I am writing this article as a service, to tell you what to expect so you can enjoy your experience; so you’ll know what’s coming, appreciate the process and feel good. The four hands will not apply your mud-scrub gently unless you make a big reaction and scrunch your face in pain. Feel free to do just that, from experience, it works…kind of.

Now the Awkward Part

After what must be the fifth hour, they’ll start to pour warm water over the mud to rinse it away. It will feel amazing. It will also feel like you need about 15 more buckets. But you’ll be tapped on the forehead, open your eyes and be motioned to get up from the table. The four hands will usher you into the wet room where they will begin to douse and rub your naked body with buckets of warm water. Most likely, this will be the closest thing you’ve had to a hot shower in weeks and, as weird as it is, you will enjoy it immensely, even if it is administered by four hands that aren’t yours. The four hands still won’t be able to get all the scrub off though, so they’ll let you take over and you’ll dump a bucket over your head and rinse and rinse and rinse until the water turns light brown and your hair maybe doesn’t smell like peanut butter anymore. Then you’ll grab the tiny towel, pat dry and put on your clothes while the four hands stand by, demurely waiting to usher you out.

There are so many benefits of Ayurvedic massage for the mind, body and spirit. This technique is well known for revitalizing the body, balancing the doshas, eliminating toxins, boosting the immune system, relaxing tension and tight muscles, lowering blood pressure, cleansing the lymphatic system and easing stress. The list goes on and on.

Make sure you choose a reputable place and, if possible, get a recommendation from word of mouth. But make sure you get your Ayurvedic massage…in fact, don’t miss it. And know what you’re getting into so you can enjoy everything about the experience and relax into bliss.

Jamaica Travel Tips from an American Living the Island Life

Jamaica

As originally published on YogaTravelTree.com

Scott Sylvester had a cush corporate management job in Los Angeles before deciding to pack it up and travel the world. For a year, he traveled through South America, Europe, went on safari in South Africa, ski bummed Stateside in Tahoe and now resides in Kingston, Jamaica where he took a job to make a difference and live the island life. Here’s what he recommended to me, the future yogi traveler in Jamaica.

Rick’s Cafe

Countless visitors and locals have leapt from the ocean cliffs of Rick’s Cafe into the crystalline water below. Visitors from all nations will watch and do some cliff jumping from the highest platform at 35 feet. The scene at Rick’s is a lively place to spend the afternoon at the cliff-side Pool and Ocean Club, take in a world famous sunset and then settle into Rick’s After Dark ambiance. Open all day, every day, visitors and locals alike have designated Rick’s Cafe as Negril’s premier gathering spot and taking in the sunset from Rick’s has become a Jamaican tradition. http://www.rickscafejamaica.com

Blue Hole

Unknown to most tourists, a place that’s just starting to be discovered near Oracabessa is the Blue Hole. A series of deep pools and waterfalls, this secluded spot is tough to get to, but locals know the way and are happy to guide you in for a small fee. You’ll be rewarded by beautiful blue water surrounded by jungle and an opportunity for cliff jumping. Bring your water shoes or rent some nearby.

Portland Parish

A rural area known for great beaches, Portland is Scott’s favorite Parish. The coast is a diverse landscape of caves, bays, rivers, waterfalls and hills. Scott and his friends love a place called Great Huts, an oceanfront resort made up of African huts and tree-house rooms. This resort is close to nature but also near the night life and happenings of Boston Bay and Port Antonio. Guests will enjoy the cliff-side pool, unique hut style accommodations and beautiful views of the ocean.

Port Antonio

In Port Antonio, the laid back capital of Portland Parish, you can visit Blue Lagoon, a beautiful, well-known lagoon 200-feet deep. Take a boat tour or kayak around the tiny, pristine body of water. From the lagoon, go off the beaten tourist path and try to find Winifred Beach, a super chill stretch of sand preferred by locals with fewer tourists and hawkers. Nine miles East of Port Antonio, make a stop at Boston Bay for a known surf swell and don’t miss the Jerk chicken in this particular spot.

Waterfalls in St. Thomas Parish

On the East Coast of Jamaica in St. Thomas Parish, there are numerous waterfalls including spectacular Reggae Falls where you can swim, sunbathe or hike. Also visit out-of-the-way Reach Falls set into the forest. Natural cool and hot springs nearby are reputed for their healing qualities. Visit The Bath Fountain in the foothills of the John Crow Mountains where the weary traveler can rejuvenate and get a relaxing massage.

Treasure Beach

At Treasure Beach, try to catch, or better yet, participate in Scott’s recent challenge, Jake’s off-road Triathlon. Numerous guesthouses are available or stay right at Jake’s and enjoy the natural setting. After the sport, catch a boat taxi out to Pelican Bar for a sundowner. It’s a truly Jamaican experience worth the ride for a chilled out evening. This rustic wooden bar is built on a sand bank a quarter-mile out to sea, halfway between Black River and Treasure Beach. Pelican Bar is the perfect place to spend the day doing nothing, sunbathing, drinking beer, swimming in shallow waters, eating fresh fish or fishing for your own dinner.

Jamaican Sport Culture

Jamaica is home to world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt. It’s a big deal on the island and the home-town star and Olympic athlete has a restaurant in Kingston called Track and Records. Bolt is often there and happy to give out autographs. Jamaicans are crazy about running and there is fierce competition starting in early grade school with high school championships called “Champs” which most Jamaicans from abroad will come back for.

 Kingston

Coming down to the south coast you’ll hit Kingston, where Scott lives. He recommends hitting Strawberry Hill for brunch and then taking transport up to Jah B’s Guesthouse, run by a family of Bobo Rastas and popular with backpackers and budget travelers. Scott says, “Jah B’s will give you a unique Rasta vibe and they pick, sort and roast their own coffee. Buy some to take home because it some of the best on the island.” He also vouches for the amazing, authentic Jamaican meals made by the hosts.

Blue Mountain Peak

Stay at least two nights at Jah B’s so you can hike Blue Mountain peak. The highest in Jamaica, it is also one of the highest in the Caribbean at 7,400 ft. The traditional Blue Mountain trek is a 7-mile (10 km) hike. If you feel adventurous, start the hike at 2:00am with the locals so you can get to the peak in time for sunrise over the island. Bring a few treats and one of Jah B’s Rasta dogs will follow you up the trail and keep you safe.

Dhammadipa Vihara

This monastery in Kingston rarely sees visitors but offers an authentic and powerful Theravada, Burmese traditional meditation for those who take the time to seek it out. The monks who meditate here are warm and inviting and will likely share a traditional meal with you after their Sunday sessions.

Address: No.1, Duquesnay Avenue off Red Hill Road, Kingston 10 ‪ ‪Affiliation: Tisarana Vihara. London ‪Phone: (876)9603219‪ Email: lokanata@gmail.com ‪Teacher: Ven Lokanatha.

Email teacher Ven Lokanatha at lokanata@gmail.com for more information.

Becoming a Master of Moments

Life is assembled by a series of moments. We can’t buy up a collection of perfect moments and use them over and over again because by nature, they are meant to be unpredictable, spontaneous and fleeting. They can be painful or bliss and the beauty is that no two are identical. As they come to us in the present, they are charged with energy and filled with potential. Our experience of life is determined by how we receive and act on each of these opportunities, presented in disguise. As they approach, do we expand in love or contract in fear? We can spend our moments waiting on a phone call, waiting to find out how someone else is spending their moments, fearing that we’re not a part of their intentions, or we can focus on our own opportunities for growth and expansion. Will you spend yours on hold or living? Waiting or growing?

Coast WaveTo achieve our highest potential, we must constantly pay attention to the opportunities coming our way. Think of them like waves in the ocean. Waves just keep coming; another wave always comes. The waves that come are a perfect metaphor for opportunity because there is always another opportunity to succeed just like there is always another wave to take you to shore. They will continue to come and we should take advantage of the ones we can play on and enjoy. And if the wave of opportunity fizzles out before it reaches the shore, we just wait for the next one. There is no failure; there is no setback, just perseverance, patience and trust.

Every moment brings with it the potential to carry us forward. We can use up all the juice in each one to propel us into the next one and the next one until those individual moments have rolled us into such a strong momentum that we become unstoppable. Then, we have become the master of moments. We can wield our moments and use them to shape a new and better existence for ourselves. People will wonder our trick and not understand how everything we touch turns to gold…but the secret is, we are mastering moments. We are capitalizing on the opportunities the universe gifts us with each tick of the clock and with each step forward as time propels us into the future, one present moment at a time.

The best and most inspiring part for me about learning to master my moments, is knowing that everyone else in the world is out there living in their own moments with unique perspectives and different potential. The combination of energy as people bounce off of one another is limitless. Every time you meet someone new or bump into someone you already know, remember that you’re each living different experiences and doing completely different things with that moment of interaction. If both of you are maximizing your moments, the possibilities are boundless.

Mastering moments is about making creative decisions. By creative decisions, I mean, taking everyday risks like going out for a walk when you might have stayed in. Acting on the question, “who or what might I encounter out there in the world that could maximize the power of this very moment?” Picking a book off the shelf I didn’t know I had, downloading a new song that may inspire me to write my own, calling a friend I haven’t spoken to and learn in talking that I had ideas or advice I didn’t know I had. The best thing about making moves, any moves, is that there are infinite possibilities with each one. It all begins by capitalizing on every single moment. Pick the harder choice, the one that forces you to move and act and hope and believe.

Pay attention to the way one moment flows into the next and the next and the next. Witness the way opportunities abound when you pay attention and move with the flow of the universe.

Things can change overnight; with one phone call or one email or one boss having a thought that leads to one creative decision. There is infinite potential in every single moment for excellence, abundance and success.

As originally published in Soulwoman eMagazine.

Bali, Indonesia: 8 Can’t Miss Experiences for the Traveling Yogi

bali

As originally published on YogaTravelTree.com.

People from all over the world flock to Bali for its lush landscape, crystal blue waters and to connect with its long history as a healing and spiritual center. It is a soft, safe place to land for the spiritual seeker and offers many opportunities for the international yogi and yogini.

Find Your Center in Ubud

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Rich in art and culture with a long history as a hub for natural medicine and healing, Ubud is the spiritual center of Bali. It is the perfect place to restore from long hours of travel, begin your journey, find your footing and ground back into your uprooted center of self. Gamelan music performances, cultural dances and leisurely strolls along the avenues watching the grinning Balinese working on their art and crafts are perfect ways to get into the spirit of the island and begin to understand its rich culture. With the excitement and energy you bring to the beginning of a trip, you’ll enjoy wandering through Monkey Forest, hiking around the area and visiting local artists in working studios. Make sure to spend some time sipping coffee or a smoothie at one of the many cafés backing up to the lush and peaceful rice paddies. There are also a wide variety of yoga classes available in Ubud and Yoga Barn is a notorious stop for yoga inspired travelers.

Get quiet and go Within at Balian Beach

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This rich, black sand beach is off the beaten path and offers its low key travelers majestic waves, long beaches, sacred waters, lush tropical forests and a peace perfect for meditation and self reflection. There is a drastic separation here from the commercialism and tourists you’ll find in other parts of the island. Come here when you’re ready to go deep within and have some peaceful alone time. Yoga classes, healthful meals and retreats are close by at Shankari’s Bali Retreat.

Take in a Spiritual Sunset at Tanah Lot Temple

One of seven sea temples around the island of Bali and one of the most important temples for the Balinese, Tanah Lot brings in a large number of tourists in the high season. As one of the most recommended places to go, you’ll want to make sure to bring a little cash and a lot of patience for the local vendors and their wares. There are many opportunities from the surrounding areas to go for a day trip and take in a stunning sunset. Wear your water shoes, you’ll have to get your feet wet to get to the little rock/island temple, but the excursion is well worth it.

Let Your Spirit Soar Atop Mount Agung

When you’re ready to take your spirit to the next level, book a guide and hike up this ancient but active volcano. It is the highest mountain on the island and the place with the most spiritual significance for the Balinese. The Besakih temple on Mount Agung miraculously survived the devastating eruption in 1963 reinforcing its spiritual substance for the island population. Begin your climb in the lush forest at the base and make your way up through the barren volcanic rock at the top giving way to spectacular views. There are three intermediate to advanced climbing routes, guides should be organized in advance.

Choose Your Own Adventure in Padangbai

This port town is the perfect point to intersect with other travelers on their way out to the exterior islands. This small backpackers spot is a high energy and transient place to go when you’re ready to get moving and need direction; come to Padangbai and let it launch you into your next adventure. Spend the day at Blue Lagoon Beach then charter a small boat out to the Gili Islands or Nusa Lembongan. Make sure to negotiate a snorkel as part of the ride.

Return to Civilization by way of Kuta & Seminyak

Kuta is a bustling city with the best nightlife in Bali. When you’ve been secluded on a quiet island for weeks, it’s just the ticket to get you back into the swing of civilization and get socialized and ready to re-integrate into the world. There are many interesting spots where you can spend your remaining rupiah on a hot shower, some fresh seafood and a live show during dinner on Jimbaran Beach.

Spend a Day at the Beach in Sanur

When you’re ready for a break from adventuring, this upscale resort town offers one of the biggest and best beaches in Bali. You can sit in a lounge chair on the beach or swing in a hammock, frozen cocktail in hand. There is a long stretch of oceanfront boardwalk, ideal for gift shopping or a romantic stroll. The sand in Sanur is white and soft, not rocky underfoot like most other beaches on the island. There are lots of places in town for healthy eats and a beautiful spot for yoga on the beachfront at Power of Now Oasis.

Get Back to Basics on the Island of Nusa Lembongan

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Escape the main island and ferry or charter a boat out to Nusa Lembongan to experience the simplicity of island life on this speck of map. You’ll spend easy days napping, diving, doing yoga, sipping smoothies and watching beautiful sunsets. Rent a bicycle and cruise through the mangroves to the Beach Club at Sandy Bay for lunch, a cocktail and a swim overlooking a stunning ocean view. On Lembongan you’ll witness the simple life of locals who work as seaweed farmers in this small working town. If you’re a diver, spoil yourself in the crystal waters with instructors and masters at Big Fish Diving and get to a yoga class with Yoga Travel Tree writer Caroline Layzell at Yoga Shack.

When traveling in Bali, it’s important to take advantage of the balanced experience the island allows for. Spend some quiet, healing moments in reflection, meditation and yoga and then explore her many opportunities for adventure, diving, climbing, snorkeling and surfing. Bali is a special place. Enjoy your exploration of her countless treasures.

Off the Beaten Path: A Bali Yoga Retreat

bali retreatAs originally published on YogaTravelTree.com

315704_10150425029770086_1095314045_nI left the bustling art town of Ubud and rode for 2 exhausting hours in a non-airconditioned van in sticky hot temperatures. I was on my way to Shankari’s Bali Retreat in Suraberata, a place so off the beaten track, not even my local driver knew quite where we were headed. Exhausted as I was, I arrived at the retreat and felt immediately at peace. The sprawling compound sat in the middle of a tropical jungle, a short walk to a rushing river that opens into the sea over a wide black sand beach. This place held a sort of spiritual magic and presence; it felt sacred and I was anxious to get settled and regroup after my travel across the island.

The Balinese are always smiling and a helpful staff member with a familiar broad grin showed me to my Ganesha Yin Yang bungalow. The room was decadent compared to the backpacker accommodations in Ubud and still affordable on my budget, although only for a couple of nights at the $30 off-season special rate.

My bed was draped in white mosquito netting and I had a private patio overlooking the jungle below. I unloaded my heavy pack onto the wood floor and went to sit out there, letting the ringing in my head soften with the jungle’s heavy sense of peace and quiet stillness. It was the first peace I’d had since my journey began.

Balian Beach

I headed down to the beach and held up my loose pant-legs as the water rushed across my shins and my heels sunk into the heavy black sand. An ancient part of me wondered at the audacity of wearing white pants to a black sand beach on a rainy day, but the new part, the free part, laughed and her heart pounded with happiness and liberation. I’d never seen the river meet the sea before, though I’ve seen it many times since. It felt so indicative of my life at the time, like a metaphor. It felt as if the current were trying to take me to a bigger and broader set of experience and I was in awe that I’d never seen the expanse of opportunity laid out before me this way.

Here in this quiet retreat, off the beaten tourist path, Bali was beginning to heal me. It was working to shape this new version of myself and I was letting the rapid current soften the hard stones around my soul and erode the walls built up to protect my heart. I felt the place working on me like a masseuse and I knew, standing there in the river, looking out at the Balian Sea, that I would never be the same and that was exactly why I came; to be changed.

Vrksasana: Balancing Life On and Off the Mat

On a blustery day there is movement in everything the wind touches. Even the river seems to be carried faster by the rushing air. Nothing in nature is still except the trunks of the strong trees; they are solid, constructed by God and the universe to withstand the torments of nature. We are built this way too. Through experience, the roots of who we are become deeper and stronger making us more resilient to the major blows as we age and grow. These roots hold us steady when the winds of change and challenge arise. Our roots, an ever expanding system of support, allow us to stand alone and stand strong in the face of judgment and adversity. Our roots keep us balanced and provide the spiritual sustenance we need to learn and grow and experience the world using our full span of branches, blooming above ground.

Photo Credit: SAMsāra Yogā.

Photo Credit: SAMsāra Yogā

In yoga, the slow and concentrated movement into Vrksasana simulates the growth of a tree. If the foundation and roots are solid, the tree will stand healthy and strong. This is the same way we feel in Vrksasana (tree pose) on the days when we are mentally and physically balanced. Achieving this state is hard though, whether you’re balancing on one leg or juggling kids, job, spouse and a social life. As in yoga, balance is about practice and using your tools of focus, concentration and determination which are key in achieving results on or off the mat. When the mind is single-pointed on a purpose, all the distractions fall away and your full energy lies with your intention. One success leads to another and another and next thing you know, you’re standing on one leg, one arm, your head or you’re done with work by 5:00 with kids in bed by 8:00 so you can snuggle with the hubby or get a glass of wine with the girls. The first step is seeking balance in whatever area of your life feels like a runaway train.

You don’t need experience in yoga to practice Vrksasana. The biggest challenge of this pose, is being nice to yourself by not getting frustrated when you fall out of balance…and you will fall out of balance. We fall out of balance in more ways than one every day. Your efforts with Tree Pose will help curb this sense of frustration on a mental and physical level so you can fall back into step, keep moving, keep trying, and keep growing. Remember that as you experiment with Vrksasana.

As with all postures, be mindful of the limitations of your body. Be careful if you have weak ankles and stand next to or against a wall if you are prone to dizziness, have vertigo or if you feel unsteady for any reason. Choose a space that has firm flooring and that is unobstructed by furniture or other objects. Read the instruction completely before moving into the posture.

Begin growing into Vrksasana by standing with both feet together, visualizing them rooting through the floor into the earth, the four corners of each foot evenly holding the weight of your body. Lift your toes and feel the firm pressure in the balls and heels of your feet. Replace your toes on the ground and lift your kneecaps. Feel the strength growing upward as your quadriceps are engaged. Visualize that strength moving up through the roots you planted with your feet. Tuck your tailbone under and engage your core, feeling yourself rise and grow taller. Roll your shoulders down your back, elongating your neck. Your chin is level with the earth and your face is relaxed. Your arms are relaxed at your sides and your hands dangle at the ends like the leaves on a branch.

Feel the way you are planted and balanced, yet flexible as a tree which might sway with the wind. Close your eyes and spend some time here tuning into your body. Trees need oxygen, so remember to take in deep breaths, expanding your belly like a balloon and sending the air up through the ribcage of the thoracic region and into the chest. When your body is full of oxygen, compress the air out from the chest down through the ribcage and use the abdominal muscles to press it out.

Once you feel firmly rooted, bring your hands to your hips. Reach for your right ankle with your right hand and place the sole of your right foot on your inner left thigh, as close to your perineum as possible with the right knee pointed out to the side. If this is too difficult, you can bring the sole of your foot to your calf, but never against the inside of your knee. For an easier modification, flex your toes against the floor and place your right heel against your left ankle like a kickstand.

Wherever you begin, as your foot rises up your leg, visualize yourself energetically growing, as a tree, from your roots firmly planted on the earth. Imagine the steadiness being initiated from under the ground and up through your planted foot and standing leg. When you are balanced, bring the hands to prayer, palms pressed together, at heart center. Remember to keep breathing and not to hold your breath. When you are steady here, slowly begin to grow your arms overhead, keeping the palms pressed together and straightening your arms next to your ears. As with all things in our lives, it helps to have a point of focus. As my yoga teacher said during my training in India, “Find your coconut.” Find something in front of you to concentrate your gaze and focus your energy toward. As you stand with strength and purpose, maybe on your first try, maybe on your 50th, imagine yourself as a tree standing strong against the rain, wind and snow, transforming with the challenges of every season; standing strong, alone and powerful against them.

To come out, inhale deeply. As you exhale, slowly begin to lower the raised arms back to heart center. As you release your arms to your sides, slowly let your right foot slide back down to the floor in a controlled manner. Take a few deep breaths, shake your legs out and attempt the other side.

A tree represents steadiness. It’s hard to imagine a tree being unbalanced or having a scattered mind. When you’re feeling at your most restless, unsure, worried or out of control, envision yourself as a tree. Regular practice of Vrksasana helps us develop poise, concentration and single-pointed focus. You can practice this same concentration while sitting at your desk by closing your eyes and turning your awareness to your breath. When you concentrate on that one thing, your breath, your mind begins to become still. In quiet and stillness the mind is reset and the answers to life’s problems become clear as you become mentally and spiritually balanced.

Thanks to Kru Sam and SAMsāra Yogā in Bankok for the beautiful image in this post. Visit www.facebook.com/samsarayogashala for more information and photos.

This article was originally published in Soulwoman eMagazine. Visit the Soulwoman Sanctuary online to find the current issue at www.soulwomansanctuary.com.

A Time for Reflection and Growth

I came across this post on my other blog while preparing for a workshop I’m hosting at my yoga studio on Reflection and Resolutions. I thought it a fitting time, days away from the new year and my birthday, to see exactly what difference a year makes. I did lots of hard work and some serious manifesting in 2013! Here is the post as originally published on the Kristin Daemon journal blog.

Today is my birthday.  I feel fortunate that my birthday comes along with the fresh start of every New Year.  As an adult, I have come to appreciate this and take advantage of that opportunity to check in with myself and look at how far I’ve come, not only in the scope of a new year, but also in the greater scope of my life.  

Our lives stack up so quickly and so densely that it’s necessary for us to look back at intervals after time has made sense of our experiences and removed us from the emotion and fog of it all.  Every year we take on new responsibility and obligations.  We meet new people and have new relationships; we also mourn the loss of people and relationships, and alternately welcome and resist change.  As beings in constant motion, experiencing things on both physical and emotional levels, it’s rare that we take time to sit still and reflect and recognize our process and acknowledge our progress.  When we do take time to do this at the beginning of each year, it’s important to look at these experiences objectively and not to judge anything we did as a mistake or a misstep.  Everything positive and negative we go through leads to a bigger bank of knowledge about ourselves and the world and helps us evolve and make better and better choices moving forward. 

It helps to consider that we often don’t notice the little changes a thing takes to grow, be it a child, a pet or a plant.  But to an outsider looking in who only sees that progress intermittently, the small changes along the way contribute to a great body of change over a period of months or years.  Our lives and our personal progress work like that too.  When I think about all the little changes I made over the course of this year that stacked up to put me here in this time and place under an entirely different set of circumstances than the year before, the progress I made, though it didn’t feel like it along the way, was quite significant. 

Like most people, I think, I tend to get wrapped up in the discomfort of a moment or a series of moments and it’s hard to see the big picture and see that the moments of discomfort I’m feeling during this period of great change are actually baby steps in the right direction; a direction that will take me to my end goal, a life where I get to live my dreams and my passions.  So instead of looking at the discomfort in these moments as obstacles or challenges and dwelling on the sense of unease they create, I need to start looking at them as growing pains.  Instead of feeling down or sad or impatient that I’m not exactly where I want to be right now, I need to appreciate that these moments are exactly what I need to be going through in order to experience expansion.

So now, I set my intentions for a year full of surprises and gifts, challenges and knowledge.  I will leave behind my fear, anxiety, stress and worry over the unknown and choose to embrace it instead.  I will leave behind my unhealthy attachments and create a life of freedom, choices and adventure. 

Happy New Year!