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!

Cultivating Peace

It’s late and I’m sitting in a cozy spot by the fire. The tree is lit by a strand of little red lights that sparkle as they reflect off keepsake ornaments. I’m sipping tea that smells of fresh peppermint and sweet chamomile. The tea and soft blanket around my shoulders warm my body and mind and I look at the gifts, prettily wrapped with heart-felt intentions, under the tree. I remember that the holidays are about love and a special kind of light that glows soft and steady.

I withdraw to the peace of this moment when I need a break from the hustle of the holiday Cultivating Peaceseason. I visit this peace every day by closing my eyes and breathing into the gaps between the chaos. I escape to that peace by the fire before getting out of my car to go into the next store. I can rest in it before opening my laptop to shop online or email the family about holiday plans. It’s so important during this special time of year, to create pockets of time to remember what the holidays are about. There will be chaos, there will be obligations, we will encounter the greed, guilt and consumerism that come with the holiday season. But we can withdraw from all of that. We can look within and return to that cozy place by the fire. We can breathe into silence and keep the stillness with us throughout these crazy days.

Once you create a place for peace within and learn to return to it, create your scene for others. Sit close by the fire and let the silence comfort you and your loved ones. Share a cup of peppermint tea and a blanket. Enjoy a soft, heart-felt conversation. This is the warm holiday spirit we’re all trying so hard to create and provide for our families and friends as we move frantically about the season. Remember that spirit resides in peace; peace within, peace with the members of our families, peace with the universe, peace in silence and stillness. Cultivate holiday spirit and peace this season and bask in the warm, soft glow of love and light.

As published in the December 2013 issue of Curious the Tourist Guide

Invoking Lakshmi

Lakshmi is the goddess of abundance and good fortune.  She is the embodiment of balance, beauty, grace and wealth. We call to Lakshmi with gratitude when we get a raise at work, discover our purpose or witness a spectacular sunset. We must not forget to ask her blessing when we pray for financial freedom or creative inspiration. Lakshmi’s presence and energy in our lives, whether we are aware of them or not, bring us to appreciate the beauty of our relationships, our surroundings and our experiences. She eases us out of one beautiful moment and leaves us with an innate knowing that another moment will come to capture beauty in a different way, so that we are ever in love with and inspired by life.

Lakshmi is feminine, powerful and the essence of all things that are beautiful. When we consciously invoke her, she is the means to all things we crave in life.  She is the polar opposite of filth, lack and fear. She is a radiant beam of light, love and fulfillment.

What can we do in our everyday lives to embody that radiant energy of the goddess? We can start by making our homes clean, clutter-free environments where we cook healthful meals that nurture our bodies and those of our families.  We can take responsibility for our finances by paying our bills on time. We can stop spending money and energy on material things that will do nothing to improve our quality of life in the long run. Sit and listen to beautiful music that warms the soul instead of zoning out in front of the television, think fondly and without bitterness of past loves. Send light and love to them and to friends and family you miss or who may be ill or depressed. The universe responds to these gestures. When you pay attention and begin to shift your perspective from negative habits and reactions toward positive ones, your soul and spirit will feel light and pure and your body energized, healthy and strong.

Let the goddess into your life and embody her brilliance and beauty. Make your life a place she wants to visit, stay and live. Bring in fresh flowers, light candles, burn incense. Build her a beautiful shrine and pay homage to her presence in every aspect of your life. Have gratitude for the blessings she bestows on you, whether her gift is the money you use to buy groceries, the sweet smell of a garden, or a view of sunlight glimmering on the ocean. And remember that, if you surround yourself with vulgarity, Lakshmi will not stay. She wants to live where there is warmth, respect and appreciation, just like the rest of us.

LakshmiSoften your angry, worried face. Put away doubt and insecurity. Take a deep breath and feel into the beautiful softness of your heart. You have a choice in everything you do; in every action you take. You make a choice to insult or inspire. You choose to compliment or condescend. You can choose to clean your dish or let it sit dirty in the sink. You decide whether to have a cigarette or take a deep breath. The decisions we make slowly become habit. These habits turn into negative or positive cycles and the momentum builds so the pattern, no matter how healthy or unhealthy, becomes a lifestyle. It is harder to change an entire lifestyle than it is to make consistent, positive choices and to have gratitude for the results in each moment.

Whether you’re witnessing beauty in another person, in an experience or in your surroundings, know that true beauty has the potential to wake up the heart and is strong enough to feel like an emotion.  When we express gratitude for these moments, Lakshmi and the universe conspire to send us more.

As published in the October 2013 issue of Soulwoman eMagazine. Visit the website and find my contribution to this month’s issue, Traveling a Path Paved by Purpose on page 53!

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My Beloved Sahara

This was not the fancy tourist bus station.  There was nothing fancy or even civilized about this bus station in Marrakech and mine was the lightest, blondest head in the place.  Even with my shesh wrapped around my painfully distinct features, I could feel every eye in the place on me as soon as I negotiated my fare and stepped out of the dirty yellow cab.  I slung my small, bright yellow pack over my shoulders and confidently made my way through the masses to the interior of the station.  My peripherals and sight line were attuned, not only to the signage that would lead me to the right counter, but also very aware of any potential trouble around me.  I was not afraid of or intimidated by the Moroccans, I had been in Morocco for 3 months and had come to see them as one of the most gentle and hospitable people I’d ever had the pleasure of encountering on my travels.  But any smart and travel-savvy woman alone in a foreign country is constantly on her guard and ready to dodge and weave her way out of trouble or confrontation.

After approaching three ticket counters and being pointed to yet a fourth, I managed to haggle for my ticket in terrible bits and pieces of French and Arabic.  I guessed they figured that if this petite blond girl with the bright yellow backpack had the wherewithal to try and get to Ouarzazate with the local traffic, she deserved a break.  It’s also possible they felt guilty about their game of pointing me back and forth from the ticket counters like a pinball.  Regardless, I was pleased with the price at a fraction of the tourist ticket and made my way out to the line of buses, none of which seemed to be headed for Ouarzazate; either that, or all of them were headed for Ouarzazate.  Again, feeling like an abused pinball, two of the six bus drivers I asked actually pointed to the same bus, so that’s the one I picked to board.  I grabbed a window seat and sent out a little prayer and some hope that in a few hours I’d actually make it to my destination.

Atlas Mountains over Marrakech

Weeks prior, I had been on this same, breathtaking route up through the narrow winding roads of the Atlas in an SUV on a work related road trip and witnessed the most stunning views I’d ever seen.  This time I was in large, uncomfortable bus, but I was on my own time and able to train the entirety of my focus on the desert around me.  The narrow, winding road led up to impossible heights inside the snow capped peaks .  I had been captivated for months by those peaks that hung over the city of Marrakech in a surreal way, almost like a royal city or castle in the sky.  The country of Morocco is incredibly beautiful and diverse in its landscape.  It provides layer after layer of natural beauty and architectural surprises the farther you carve into her, and this trek was just as thrilling as the one I’d taken over the same terrain weeks before. I was thrilled because I knew that on the other side of the flat desert and snow capped layers of the Atlas Mountains, the great Sahara Desert lay in wait.

My first experience of the Sahara Desert weeks before had taken me completely by surprise.  I had never been in a place that made me feel as small and humble.  The rolling dunes of soft, fine sand mesmerized me and I traversed among them feeling like the only person on Earth.  The place was peaceful and serene and seemed to hold some kind of tangible power.  I’d run up the dunes, fallen into the sand, and just sat there grinning, letting the powdered granules fall through my fingers, the texture seeming to me a cross between powdered sugar and silk.

Gateway to the Sahara

I loved every second of my experiences in this country.  I loved the grizzled but playful cab drivers and how the price of everything from a toothbrush to a hotel room had to be scrupulously negotiated.  I loved the vibrant colors of the textiles and crafts in the medina.  I loved the taste of the sweet mint tea and the pungent flavors and spices in the tagine.  But I especially loved the land and I was so excited to be going back into the powerful Sahara to bask it its expansive beauty.

Six hours later I did, fortunately, arrive in Ouarzazate, the Gateway to the Sahara.  I climbed into a diesel SUV alongside 4 new travel companions and we set off for my beloved desert where I would begin one of the greatest adventures of my life.