30 Day Detox from Social Media

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Hello my fellow blog readers!  I have been meaning to get around to sharing my experience of going thirty days without my precious Facebook and Instagram, but life has gotten pretty busy.  I have written blog posts before about going without technology, such as my 10 days at my first meditation retreat and the weekend I turned my cell phone off, but this was a unique experience in and of itself.  It made me realize how much I look at my social media sites when I feel lonely and bored. It also made me feel closer to my best friends and family members because I actually spoke to them on the phone or texted with them more than just following their social media posts.  I am sharing word for word what I wrote in my journal during the 30 days sans social media and then there is a little recap at the end. I hope that this is beneficial and inspires you in some way, that is my ultimate wish in sharing my writing ☺.

Social Media Detox from March 26-April 26, 2019.

3/26/19

I noticed my first pull toward wanting to check my Instagram as I was going on a walk with my friend (I had just posted on my Instagram that morning and wanted to check on any “likes” or “comments” that I received).

3/27/19

Already feeling a profound emptiness when I look down at my phone and there is nothing-no text messages, no phone calls, emails, and definitely nothing to scroll.  Lonely is another word that comes to my mind.  Frustration, but that might have to do with PMS, haha.

3/28/19

My first full 24 hours without social media and I honestly have this feeling of freeness that I haven’t had in a long time.  This feeling of being more of who I really am and being okay with who I am. Happiest I have felt in a long while, a stronger sense of self-esteem, more confidence than I have felt in a long while.  Really doing well with self-care too! I ran today, meditated today, wrote three full pages in my journal, I spent quality time with a buddy, talked with new people in the town I just moved to, feelings of true presence.

3/29/19

There is a serious feeling of emptiness that I feel today.  The dopamine levels in my brain feel very low with no social media to excite it.  I have been reading my online horoscope and my hormone horoscope app (an app on my phone that informs ladies what they might be feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally depending on where we are at in our cycle).  Both of these apps have been on my phone for months, but I never use them because I am usually scrolling on my social media.

I took my friend to the Amtrak this morning and as we were waiting for her train, I reallllly wanted to check my social media, I actually felt physical pangs of frustration in my chest when I realized I couldn’t scroll.   I ended up reading a book instead, which is great because I have been trying to finish the book for months.

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3/30/19

Most likely because I have had a friend visiting me for the last week (I relocated to a new city three weeks ago) and she left last night, I have felt a sense of loneliness today.  I awoke this morning to see nothing on my phone and sensed a feeling of dread/loneliness. My new job hasn’t started yet, so I have had much more free time than what I usually have.

3/31/19


I’m really feeling an emptiness today not being able to look at my social media.  I am really coming into the realization of how much I use social media as a bandage for my feeling of loneliness.  Also, I felt a little guilty today because I accidentally cheated last night when I met a new friend in town and he gave me his Instagram name, so I plugged it into Google and stalked his Instagram pictures for a few seconds until I realized that counts as being on social media.

4/1/19

My sister really triggered me this morning when I informed her about my social media fast (I explained to her how my friend changed the passwords on all my accounts) and she told me that I remind her of an alcoholic, that I sound like an addict and that she’s generally concerned for me.  It really hurt me and I told her that instead of labeling me, I need support and encouragement. I am going to take some space from her.

4/2/19

How interesting, the chapter that I’m reading in “Women Who Run with the Wolves” has a section in it labeled “ADDICTION” and I came across this great quote which resonates strongly with what I have been learning most about what’s needed with social media use: BALANCE. There’s nothing inherently wrong with social media, it’s when we become unbalanced with it that it becomes a problem.

“To alright all this, we resurrect the wild nature, over and over again, each time the balance tips too far in one direction or another.  We will know when there is reason for concern, for generally balance makes our lives larger, and imbalance makes our lives smaller.”

4/3/19

Having feelings of lightness and freedom.  I have been getting things done that I’d otherwise be sitting on if I had social media to distract me.  I have finished multiple books, got paperwork done for my move and for my new job. I also attempted to go to an open mic show at the chai shop down the street from me, but there was a sign on the door that it was canceled.  So I went home with no backup plans, but still wanting connection, so instead of going onto Facebook or Instagram, I ended up going onto my Couchsurfing profile and ended up surfing it for an hour…I totally used it as a replacement, haha, but still….generally felt good today.

4/6/19

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is at the strongest than it has ever been in my life.  I went solo-camping this weekend and ended up meeting these awesome folks; we shared drinks, a bonfire, stories, laughs, and s’mores all night.  At one point, one of the gals I met broke out her phone and had us put in our social media names into her profile so she could add us and we could all stay in touch.  I had to explain to her that she could send me the request, but that I won’t be able to accept it until April 26th due to my social media detox.  They were all fascinated and interested in my decision to detox from social media for a while.  Each one of them explained that they have been feeling the pull to get away from social media for a while as well.

4/7/19

I am realizing that social media is a big energy drain.  With all of the judging, comparing, and feeling the need to keep up with everyone.  Lately I have been feeling a lot lighter in the mind and have more energy for other things.  I have been super busy learning my job and hanging out with new friends, at one point this week I honestly forgot that social media was a thing….like, I forgot that it existed (no joke!!) until someone had mentioned it.  I honestly get stressed out when I think of re-entering the social media world.

4/8/19

Damn.  My feeling of guilt is STRONG!!  I went onto Google and looked up both my Instagram and Facebook to see if I got any new comments or like, as I was looking at my profiles, I thought to myself “You know damn well that you’re cheating from your 30-day detox right?” And then instead of beating myself up, I just observed my antics….observing without judgement.  Observing without judgement is such a powerful action, a practice that I’d like to try and do more often.  Also, I just moved to a new town a month ago and I only have a few friends here so far and to be honest…I was feeling pretty alone lately.  Anyhow, just wanted to come clean on that. Otherwise, things have been going pretty strong with the detox. I went camping, hiking, and worked this weekend.  I finished a book today, which I am pretty sure I’d still be reading for another couple of months if I was currently using my social media. I am still having this feeling of the whole world being at a party that I wasn’t invited to.

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4/15/19

Only 11 days left and I am feeling like I might stay off social media for good.  Things feel more simple, it feels like the 1990s again. The more I think about it, social media is really kind of freaky…..we stay in touch with dozens (actually more like hundreds and thousands) of people that we aren’t maybe necessarily meant to be in contact with anymore.  Also, all of the pictures are fabricated (filters, scanning through multiple pictures and finding the best one) and it’s always intended to get a bunch of likes so how real is it when we are really just trying to please people.  I dunno…just some thoughts.

The biggest takeaway that I got from doing this experiment, if you will, is that my feeling of PRESENCE with people in real life was so strong. I noticed how I was having these really lovely in-person connections with new friends and acquaintances and also my self-esteem skyrocketed!  It was such a relief to not have millions of pictures being thrown in my face of “See! THIS is what you need to be, do, and have to be better.” Instead, I was able to meditate, connect, and go within more to figure out what I was truly needing in any moment. Life became a little more real, my head hurt less from staring at a screen so much, and I really had some profound moments. 

The Power of Setting Intentions

With the April Full Moon shining brightly on top of the Steel Bridge, an iconic landmark in Portland, Oregon, my best friend and I headed down the concrete stairs that jutted from the sidewalk in front of my apartment to the rocky alcove that faced the Willamette River. The air had a simultaneous smell of recent rain and fresh magnolia flower. Each of us held a scrap of paper in our hands which had a list of all things we intended to rid ourselves of in the coming month. I lit a candle and we burned our lists into the candle fire, watching as our lists turned into ashes and flew with the wind into the river. That marked the completion of our first homemade, totally improvised Full Moon Ceremony.

I started practicing intentional ceremonies on my own just a couple months prior to this. I first became interested in intentional setting practices after researching and learning more about it over the rainy Portland winter. Linking my intention settings with the moon cycle is something a bit more new to me, but I have found it to be a very powerful practice. After having had a few ceremonies now with my best friend, I am feeling inspired to share how this practice has helped me. I intend to incorporate more of these types of ceremonies into my life and hope to inspire others to do the same.

This prior winter, my life was a bit of a dark carousel, going round and round in a cycle that wasn’t healthy for my mind, body, or soul. I had just moved back to Portland, Oregon after having moved away for about five months and had lost connection with a lot of my old friends. Going against my own morals and being misguided while on the search for trying to feel less alone, I had a couple different relationships in my life that were unhealthy. I was also living downtown in an isolated area entrenched with lots of sadness; it was not uncommon to see people dealing or shooting up drugs at the light rail stop that I waited at for my daily commute. It made me feel sad and helpless to see all of the addiction, it reminded me of how much suffering there was in the world and in my own life. The discomfort of my outer world seemed to be reflecting my inner world.

I was watching a lot of self-help videos on YouTube during the winter and in one video someone spoke of intention setting practices and how much it helped them to shift a few things in their life to more of their liking. Every night I started writing an intentional list in my journal. The list consisted of three things I intended to do the next day (e.g. tomorrow, I intend to run 3 miles along the river without stopping, I intend to stay focused with each patient I am helping at work, and I intend to meditate for 20 minutes in the morning). My nightly lists became a fun, easy opportunity to see how I could reach small feats on a daily basis. If I didn’t end up meeting one of my intentions, I wouldn’t beat myself up too much because it would always feel good that I had met the other two intentions. The “next day” lists soon turned into me listing weekly three things that I intended for the week ahead and monthly three things I intended for the month ahead.

My intention setting lists for the day, week and month ahead soon transformed. I have always been fascinated with the cycle of the moon and started collaborating my intention setting lists with moon phases. I would do a New Moon intention setting and then a Full Moon intention setting. Coordinating intention settings with the moon phases seemed to come really naturally and conveniently given that there is always one new moon and one full moon every month. In my research on intention setting ceremonies, I discovered that the New Moon is a powerful time to write out what you would like to attract since it marks the beginning of a new cycle and the Full Moon is a time to write out what you would like to release yourself from because it marks the completion of a cycle. These practices using the moon cycle have been around for ages, taken from Pagan and indigenous cultures.

I have watched a multitude of things shift and shed in my life in the last five months since starting this practice and I know that most have resulted from the power of intention setting ceremonies. I let go of the two unhealthy relationships that were in my life and am enjoying my single life, finding beauty in self-love. I have been making very healthy decisions on a daily basis due to living more intentionally. I had wrote down an intention about how I wanted to stay in and cook more in order to save more money, I have been sticking to this pretty well. I have also been good about reaching intentions of staying vigilant in my daily meditation practice, one week I reached my intention of meditating twice a day instead of once a day for one whole week.

I would love to start a community of like-minded people that participate in intentional living practices. I would be more interested in hearing from anyone that has read this far. Do you participate in any moon calendar rituals or ceremonies? Do you practice intentional-based living in your own way? Please comment below or send me a message and let me know!

Vision Quest Part Tres

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Hey all!  This is the last of my journal entries from my recent Vision Quest journey.  Before reading this blog post, I highly recommend that you first read parts Uno and Dos

Okay, well, I killed some of the morning off by making more of my little butterfly cards to give to all of my Vision Quest warriors, I did a few yoga poses, changed into warmer socks and attempted to meditate for a bit, but then the urge to pee came back.  I don’t want to give up on my Vision Quest yet, I truly do not want to, especially since there is only 24 hours to go, but this whole no-water thang has really gotten me for sure.  Maybe this is ego chattering in my mind, but I think that I have a plan here.  I’ll give it my all to finish the Quest, but come tomorrow morning, if I am still having UTI symptoms…I think it’d be best to have a small bite to eat, a SHIT TON OF WATER and then head out.  I really hate to leave before it is over, but I have had many UTIs in my time (I get 2-3 per year) and I know that it is best to get it taken care of ASAP.  I know that people might judge me for leaving early, but all I am really going to miss is the second sweat lodge ceremony and a fire-walk.

 

This is probably all a lesson in learning to take care of myself.  These people have all been wonderful, but I need to know when it is time and if I am still having UTI symptoms come tomorrow morning, then I know that it is time.  I am quite proud of myself for going this far!  I truly think that this no-water thing is what killed me.  Part of why I drink a shit ton of water all the time is to stave off the UTIs.  It’s decided though—no doubt, UTI symptoms tomorrow morning I am out of here.  I’ll talk to Linda and Gent and take off.  Honestly, it’ll be good to work on job hunting when I get back too.

 

It just hit me, I have no health insurance.  I hope to God that there is a Planned Parenthood near Salt Lake City (praying) because they have helped me with UTI symptoms in the past.  As soon as I have a job again I promise that I will give them a fatty donation.  I promise, promise, promise.

 

As much as I talk smack about civilization, I am really missing it right now.  I am very grateful for the sips that I have left of my tea.  I don’t care if I am one of the first back to base camp tomorrow morning and am considered a weakling.  Getting water and treating a UTI are pretty important things if you ask me.

 

Right now, I am grateful for the sunlight keeping me warm, I am grateful to know that this is more than half over, hehe.  I am grateful for a few sips left of tea and my art project to keep me busy.

 

This experience is really making me appreciate a lot: WATER, heavenly WATER, food, the sun, the moon (it has been amazing to have such a clear view of it from where I am sleeping.)  This experience has made me appreciate and miss my tent, hehe.

 

There have been noises throughout the night that definitely have been freaking me out, so I cough a bunch just in case it’s a big animal—hoping that helps. 

 

I am so grateful that everything worked together the way that it did, that I got to and from the Salt Lake City area from St. George safely—twice within the last week.  I am grateful to be relatively close to Salt Lake City so that I can hit up a Planned Parenthood tomorrow.

 

Water, water, more than ANYTHING else in the world, I can’t wait to drink water tomorrow morning.  Hopefully Austin will be able to drive with me tomorrow morning to make sure my car doesn’t get stuck on the janky roads on the way out of here.  I am not going to let anyone talk me out of it, I need to take care of this physical body and that means getting this UTI taken care of STAT!

 

Wednesday 9/6 (my guess is that it’s about 2:00pm)

 

I am so grateful this pen is still working.  I am in a bit of a predicament.  It has now been 48+ hours since I last ate, I tried to do my small walking loop to keep the flies off of me, but I have no more energy, I really would like to lie down on my bed area but it’s too sunny and warm in that location and nothing else looks very promising.  I only have a few sips of tea to last me until morning.  All things considered, I am surprised that I am not as crabby as I could be.  I am so grateful that this is the last night!

I don’t think that I will be the first one back to base camp tomorrow morning, that is my prediction.  There is a weird pulse going on in my belly, I haven’t a clue what that is all about.  By the way, I just wanted to mention, I have only seen 4 vehicles go by total in the last almost 48 hours (3 yesterday and 1 today.)  My mind is CHATTERING LIKE CRAZY. 

 

I have no idea what to do with myself, I have no energy to move.  I just finished all of my drawings.  What oh what does a girl do?  With where the sun is now, I am guessing it to be about 5pm.  That means just about 12 hours or so left!  Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee and then a good 8 of the hours should be sleeping, yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!  So I only need to try to entertain myself for about 5 more hours haha.

 

This just came to me!  Since one of my passions is caring for other people, then I truly need to care for myself first and part of that is doing this inner work that I am doing with the Vision Quest and caring for this amazing body that does so much for me.  I will continue on my path of healthy eating, running 5-6 days out of the week, tai chi, and yoga when I get back to civilization.  It’s weird hearing no civilization right now, just a bunch of bugs buzzing around me.  I think that it’s time for another sip of tea.  You know what’s really funny?  I made little stations for myself where I am staying.  I have the station where I sleep, a drawing station, and then a station where I keep my shoes and tea.  I was going to attempt to meditate and then write down what comes up for me, but these flies are so terrible here.  I’ll try for 30 breaths at least, wish me luck!

Love,

Ilona

I am not going to lie, this sunset has no doubt been the longest in my life.  I truly feel like dying I want water so bad, what an awful feeling.  The flies won’t leave me the fuck alone.  Wasp sting, UTI!  Hey, thank goodness I haven’t been preyed upon by any large animals, I must say—gotta look at the positive side whenever possible.  I keep having flashbacks about Portland—how scattered I had gotten there, how scattered that I have felt in general over the last few years…yet here I am, still alive…I suppose there is that.  I have ultimately been blessed in so many ways, it’s unreal.

 

The sun has set, but it is still a bit warm, so I am imagining that tonight will not be as cold as all of the other nights have been, maybe?  These flies are ruthless, but I know that they will be disappearing soon as night falls.  I truly hope that I sleep through the night so that BOOM!  Morning is here.  I am still fantasizing about drinking boat-loads of water.  Come to think of it, I should probably try to go kind of slow with my water intake when I get back so as to not shock my system.  I can’t wait to get into town and contact either a Planned Parenthood in Salt Lake City or that free clinic in St. George that can maybe take in a bum such as me.

 

I definitely feel like being done with this, yo.  I am in pain in more ways than one.  I truly am going to appreciate every bite of food, every sip of water, and every conversation that I have when I get back.  This has taught me a lot FO SHO.

 

Thursday 9/7 (I am guessing with where the moon is, it’s about 3:00am?)

This has been my least favorite night.  I awoke from a dream where I was a receptionist at some lab where they were taking dead bodies into a back room, then in real life I had to pee and then I heard what sounded like multiple coyotes howling.  My stomach is growling like mad and my mouth is super dry and I keep envisioning drinking bottle of water after bottle of water.  FUCK!  The morning cannot come soon enough.

 

Thursday 9/7 (morning sunrise)

How symbolic.  I dreamt that I was peeing normally full force into a toilet, but I couldn’t turn a light on as I was peeing, it was dark (last night I was awaiting sunlight and concerned about my UTI symptoms.)  Yayyyyyyyyyy, the sun is rising and I am going to get my shit together, get back to base camp and let everyone know that I am outta here!!!!!!!!!

 

Friday 9/8

Wow, that was all a strange experience.  I was actually the last person to arrive back to base camp, hehe…I am hardcore.  This whole experience has been such a trip, I truly feel as if all of these people are a part of me.  Everyone here is so incredibly present and in the moment.  It feels really special that just 10 days ago I was helping to sand down all of these teepee poles in which we are all now sitting under for ceremony.  I drank a ton of fluids, informed Linda about my UTI symptoms in which right away she had me take specific herbal teas, drink a ton of cranberry komobucha, and had every single person in the Vision Quest be part of a healing ceremony for me….and the symptoms were gone (100% gone, as if I had taken an antibiotic) the next morning, it was completely UNREAL.

 

During our peyote ceremony, that’s when the real medicine was taken (i.e. more like what I was envisioning for peyote, a ton of hallucinations…)  At one point during ceremony, I closed my eyes and all that I could see was geometric patterns of wolves and spirals, nothing else.

 

9/9/17

Wow.  Tomorrow is officially the last day.  What a crazy ass ride.  In sooooooo many ways this was more difficult for me than a 10-day silent meditation retreat because we HAD to be open with each and every person in the Vision Quest group.  My dream in the beginning of realizing that everyone would know what I’m thinking pretty much came true.  I became intimate/vulnerable with 14 others EVERY DAY, except for the 3 days up on the hill, but even then I felt them with me.  The all-night peyote ceremony with everyone was wild.  We started it out with going around the room each holding each other’s medicine/crystals and blessing them, then we took our medicine and puked our brains out hardcore all while becoming completely open about EVERYTHING.  I told a group of 14 people some deep, dark shit before, during, and after puking my brains out.  I also listened to 14 other people’s deep and dark shit.  Each and every one of us held space and I saw everyone’s bright Spirits despite all of the fucked-up life problems that we were all sharing with each other.

 

I ended up super connecting with Brooke (who is from Sedona and used to live with a Spiritual teacher that I am a big fan of.)  It hit me that Brooke’s profile looks EXACTLY like the doctor that I used to work for, her personality matched too.  It hit me that Brooke is another teacher in my life just as that doctor was—only I learned a shit ton about herbalism, plant medicine, and native ways from Brooke instead of Western Medicine.  Brooke said something really sweet to me too during the ceremony, she goes “when I first met you, I knew.  I thought ‘this girl…she can SEE things.”  Right after she said that we both saw a shooting star in the sky as we were walking back to the teepee together.  We hugged and then each made a wish, hehe.  We stayed up all night.  I tried to sleep in the teepee, but kept seeing crazy-ass geometric patterns every time that I tried closing my eyes.  I also felt as if I was leaving my body and teleporting to other realms and dimensions.  I kept hearing the other Vision Questers talk and it hit me that they were all me and I was all them.  I started having crazy realizations about energy and how connected everything really is and how I chose this path and how all of the Vision Quest people are on the same path.  Haylee, Brooke, and I ended up being the last of the people in the teepee tending to the fire.  Gent was sleeping in the teepee and would pipe in every once in a while to the conversation us three girls were having.

rainbowsisMe and my Spirit Sisters outside of teepee ceremony.

 

Eventually I went back to my tent, but could not sleep for the life of me because when I shut my eyes I got lost in the different geometric patterns and I kept feeling as if I was going to leave my body.  Gent called for me to come out of my tent anyhow.  I got out of my tent and I had to face EVERYONE still feeling majorly tripped out.  Josh pulled out a boom box and we all started dancing for a while, but then his stereo went out and right as it went out, his wife and three children pulled up into the parking lot area of our base camp, it was as if it was all planned (the way the music stopped right as they pulled up.) 

 

I initially felt very awkward since I was still tripping and there were children running around me.  His wife and three children came in for our last ceremony which involved breath-work (basically intense meditation.)  It happened to be the ceremony that I went into my most vulnerable place ever.  It felt as if my whole body became the earth and the earth became my body.  I cried, cried, cried and others surrounded me and placed their hands gently around my neck, arms, and sides.  It felt as if I started leaving my body and I felt as if I was being re-birthed.  My eyes were shut, but I could see everyone in the room and everything in the room felt and looked like pure love.  I opened my eyes and Josh’s kids were staring at me wide-eyed with curiosity…one of them was wafting sage onto me with a feather and the other was playing a drum like a true little Medicine Woman.  It hit me that all of those tons of dreams that I had about two little blonde haired boys were THOSE two little boys, they were Josh’s boys.  I burst out crying even more, everything felt so incredibly connected it was truly unreal.  At one point, it felt as if my root chakra had a giant cord attached to the earth.

 

I would write more, but I really have to pee and brush my teeth an my tent is pretty soaked because I had no rain cover :/  Anyhow, his kids were so adorable, they kept wanting to hang out with me after the ceremony, hehe.  Despite being up for almost 36+ hours, I somehow managed to be coherent enough to play with them and converse with everyone.  This whole experience was all about facing so much of your shit because guess what?  You couldn’t run away!  And you couldn’t resort to technology because we had no service.

37410085505_cf5daf5bf8_oGent (the Medicine Man) and I helping to build the sweat lodge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vision Quest Part Dos

Tuesday 9/5 (continued from where I left off in Vision Quest, Part Uno)

Despite the mild panic that my mind is going though at the moment, I know that these people are thinking of me: My mom, Gina, Naomi, Devona, Amy, Kyle, Mary, Cori, Ryan, Heather, Liz, Kim, Kris, Kendra, Tom, Brooke, Scott, Gent, Linda, Josh, Haylee, Austin, Alan, Nina, Tanner, Karen, and Kirk.  And with that, I know that I am loved.  I am loved.  I am loved.

 

I don’t quite know yet how to make a living yet out of my passion of inner-work (meditating, journaling, nature, and dream-work), but I can at least work on it on the side like I am doing until I can make a career out of it.  I need to change into shorts, aye yi yi!!!

 

So now this funny, I had intentions to get my hiking boots back on, but there has been a butterfly on the right shoe for a long time now, it opens its wings as if it’s about to take off, then closes, then opens, then closes.  I was gonna attempt to try to scope out a place that is fly-free so that I can maybe try to sit my ass down and draw.  Wish me luck. 

Love,

Me.

 

Tue 9/5 (continued)

My back be hurtin’ yo.  So this is kind of hilarious…it is raining right now, but only in this very section of my Vision Quest spot.  Is this Portland’s cruel joke on me? 

 

When I get back to St. George I am going to try to be less controlling.  I am going to make my main intention be that I’ll be sure to light a candle/incense every day and meditate for 20 minutes, journal for 20 minutes, and read something spiritual.  I understand that I’ll need to go back to the working world for now to save up money and get groceries and what not.  But I will continue to practice my spirituality without a doubt. 

 

I have now seen: butterflies, flies, birds, squirrels, and one chipmunk.  Looks like this rain is passing and I am definitely starting to get wayyyyyyyyy hungry.

 

So far, my day has pretty much gone like this: wake up, pee, brush hair, brush teeth (with no water it made it kinda tough), get dressed, make bed, meditate, yoga, journal, walking meditation, take some sips of my peyote tea, explore my surroundings (including one brief fall off of a tree, haha!)  Then, I napped, meditated, drew, another walking meditation, started to make a rock drawing on my tarp until I felt as if I was going to faint in which I headed to some shade, rested against a tree, and took a few sips of my tea and voila—here I am again.  I have decided to make cards of my butterfly drawings to give to each of the beautiful souls that I have met on this Vision Quest.

 

Mother fucking flies! I talked to them, tried to reason with them, but they don’t give two shits.  What the fuck is the point of these ugly horse flies—they have no purpose except to annoy the fuck out of us.  I just got stung by a wasp too, but at least I know that I am not allergic, eh?

 

These flies are definitely giving me a run for my money.  I have been walking in a loop that I created just to get the flies to leave me alone.  It started thundering and there was a bit of grey cloud rolling in, my ego panicked for a second.  I was like “ahhhhhhhhhhh, toss out your rock art, pick up the tarp and put it over tree branches somewhere, rain is coming!!”  But then my heart (the calmer and quieter voice) said to wait it out because my rock art that spells out “LOVE” on top of my tarp is pretty epic and sure enough, it never rained…only thundered. 

 

I had a little girl-crabby moment at the 26th hour of no food and with flies attacking me.  But once I discovered the art of walking at a specific pace that keeps the flies off of me and didn’t get me too tired, it was quite perfecto!  There is something soooooooooooooo incredibly familiar about this whole thing, as if I have done it before or something.  Hmmmmmmm?

visionquestphoto1Helping to build the sweat lodge with my brothers and sisters at Vision Quest, notice the sunbow that encompasses us?!

Tuesday 9/5 (nightfall)

Well, hello there.  Peyote reminds me of opium.  It’s so interesting, it’s nothing like what I thought it was going to be.  I thought that there was going to be more hallucinations, but in reality, it is truly a heart opener.  I’d love to do this with someone I love, be it a family member, friend, or lover.  It truly is a truth serum, just as Gent mentioned.  Gent, the peyote whisperer.  Hehe, I am a silly one.  In my hours of idle I started to make little butterfly cards with messages for everyone, but I am afraid my pen might run out soon, so I might need to finish them at base camp.

 

I have pretty much forgotten the fact that I haven’t eaten anything in about 30+ hours now.  Definitely feeling the peyote harder tonight (probably due to the whole not eating for 30+ hours thing).  There are a lot of memories coming up for me.  Memories about visiting Mount Shasta with Meghan and going to that delicious pizza parlor, Matt harassing me to go visit him after my Mount Shasta trip (I feel so safe to be far away from him.  Truly.)  Flashbacks to Eugene and then to the lovely people that I sat with at a half-day meditation retreat in Eugene.

 

 I just heard some dude coughing, strange.

 

It’s interesting because I am having all of these memory flashbacks, but I’m not really having any emotions attached with them.  I need to give myself more credit, I have lived a pretty brave and adventurous life.  I am feeling ready to settle down though soon and have a home base.

I feel that I have had a truly blessed life for the most part.  This peyote is extraaaa strong tonight, yowzas!  I’m really realizing the multi-dimensional aspect of my being.  I still have many more lessons to learn here in the 3D realm, but this quote from this song is coming up for me now, it’s that one “The future’s not ours to see, whatever will be will be.”  I need to remember to have fun with playing in the 3D realm, it can be playful if we allow it!  It feels as if it has been dusk for hours and hours! Haha

 

Wednesday 9/6 (AM)

This might sound harsh, but I could kill for some water right about now.  The tea will help a little, but I am fantasizing about downing a whole jug of water.  24 more hours to go, 24 more hours to go.  Right before I awoke, I dreamt that I had to run an errand for my mom.  I went and did that quickly, but it was intense because traffic was a little nutty.  I got back to my mom’s and I was putting eyeliner on, but she needed me to help her and my brother with finding a specific talk show.  I was attempting to text message this teacher guy who I was dating to tell him that I was going to be late for our date.  My text messaging went on the fritz, he got mad and texted back “you deleted my text message!  You know what?  Just forget about this.”  I froze up in place and couldn’t move for a minute.  A bunch of light was pouring down into my physical body and then I woke up.

 

I am noticeably weaker today.  Yesterday, my head was aching from no food, but now it has spread down my whole body, it aches and feels very weak.  I don’t know what I’ll do about those flies today because I am thinking that my body will probably be too weak to do the walking loop that I was doing yesterday to have them leave me alone.  Man, I am not joking about the water thing, I could seriously go for some water right now.  I had a dozen sips of tea, which was glorious, but that’s that I can have until evening besides a sip here or there during the afternoon today.  After I got back from going to the bathroom, I walked back to my sleeping bag and everything started to fade to white.  I am also having the beginning stages of a UTI.  As in, it keeps feeling like I have to pee, but I know that I don’t have pee because I just went and I have barely been drinking any fluids.

 

This is going to be a long day, I feel like my whole body got hit by a truck.  I feel slightly nauseated, thirsty as I have ever been in my life, and having periodic UTI symptoms, aye yi yi.  Spirit, please please please be with me for the next 24 hours, I know that I can get through this.  I think that I am going to be doing a lot of sleeping and resting today.

 

Water, cranberry juice, Nutella on bread/bagel, peanut butter/sun butter on tortilla, fried ice cream, this is everything I am craving right about now!

 (To Be Continued…!)

Vision Quest, Part Uno

Vision Quest Photo2Me and my fellow Vision Quest warriors helping to build a sweat lodge that we would be using for the week ahead.

While I was in between jobs here in Utah, I was able to complete an 8-day Vision Quest through the Oklevueha Native American Church.  What is a Vision Quest, might you ask?  It is a Native American tradition that goes back many generations.  Initially it was intended to help young men figure out what their path in life was.  It consisted of a series of ceremonies led by elders and included a complete fast for four days and nights, alone at a sacred site in nature.  The Vision Quest I attended had ceremonies, fasting, and the purpose of setting an intention to follow through on through the Quest and once the Vision Quest was completed.  The Vision Quest has 4 distinct components:

  1. Severance (you prepare to leave your ordinary world to quest.)
  2. Liminal Time (you step across the limitations of ordinary life to face the sacred. In this stage, you will face the tests that you have created for yourself.)
  3. Transformation (you incorporate, or embody, the essence of the gifts or lessons given.)
  4. Reunion (you bring the benefits of your quest for the renewing of self, your community, the planet, and “the ten thousand worlds.”)

At the particular Vision Quest that I attended there were many different activities and about 14 of us total (including staff.)  The first part of the Quest was spent on introductions, eating meals together, and ceremonies.  The middle part of the quest was spent alone in nature by ourselves (no tent, just a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and the stars above) for three days.  While we were each alone for those three days, we fasted the whole time and just had a jar of peyote tea to keep us company (the amount of peyote was minuscule, just enough to feel a slight change in the senses.)  When we rejoined with each other we shared our experiences, did a sweat lodge ceremony, a fire walk and a prayer circle.  And then the last part of the Quest we spent doing the full 24-hour peyote ceremony (this was the real nitty-gritty, face your fears and have time collapse on you-type of peyote experience.)  Throughout the whole quest there were pipe ceremonies, drum circles, and prayer circles.

I came back about a week ago and many friends and family have been asking me of my experience.  While I have given them little snippets here and there about my Vision Quest, it feels like I haven’t been able to give them the full story.  I think that part of it is that I went through so many different layers, I am still trying to remember it all.  Thank goodness I brought my journal with me and actually stuck to my intentions of writing in it.  So I wanted to type out all of my journal pages and give everyone the raw, unfiltered information of my experience straight from the source.  Also, because there were so many journal pages, I am going to break it into a few different blog posts–so this is just the first part!  I hope that my words resonate and inspire you (or at the very least entertain you.)  Enjoy!

Why do I want to do a Vision Quest?

I want to go truly within to remember why my Spirit came down here.  What is my true mission?

 

I want to be able to open up in every moment, to have an open heart.  My intention for this Vision Quest: I am open, I am clear, I am passionate.

 

9/2/17

What a trip.  I am stone-cold sober and I feel as if I am tripping.  I am super fucking nervous about this next week, I’m not going to lie.  I know that I have a ton of unhealed shit that’s going to come up for me.  For now, I’d like to mention that I am so grateful to be in my warm tent, I am so grateful that I made it to camp safely, I am grateful that I got to hang out with my aunt and uncle visiting from Minnesota for a couple of days prior to this.  It was so crazy to see them.  I was grateful that we got to do Zion’s together and have lots of yummy food, I knew that I’d want to eat a lot before embarking on this spiritual journey.

 

I have had déjà vu multiple times today and even though I’m feeling a bit shy and nervous around new people, they all kind of feel like family, they seem familiar to me.  Nina, one of the staff, told me that there is a labyrinth at Kayenta in St. George, I had no idea about that, but the way that she talked about it, it seemed so familiar.  She was telling me that she felt spirits there.  I am sleepy, but I want to keep writing.  Half of the Vision Quest peeps are out there, I feel bad being anti-social, but I feel tired.  Look at me go, I’m just writing to do something. 

labrynthThis was the labryinth she was telling me about that I visited shortly after I got back to St. George from my Vision Quest 🙂

I am sooooooo nervous about doing peyote with people that I don’t know.  I feel shy, so I feel as if I’m going to be extra sensitive.  I know that a crap ton is going to come up for me, I just know it is.

 

I have felt a bit intense because I feel as if I’m sensing everyone else’s stuff super strong.  I’m cold!  What am I going to do up on the hill when I am to sleep in just a sleeping bag?!  Yikes—and I was naughty and didn’t bring a wool blanket or flannel.

 

I am soooooooooo curious about what is going to come up for me on this trip (trip—the context is used in multiple ways, hehe.)  I truly do wonder—am I going to feel as if I’m losing my mind?  Well, I’ll tell ya what, I already feel as if I’m massively losing my mind, so there is that.

 

I need to keep looking in the beginning of my journal and remember what my intention was for doing this Vision Quest.  Spirit, please be with me on this trip (again, the context is literal and figurative, haha) and please help me to remember my path and why I am doing all of this.  K, I seriously think I’m gonna crash—please help me to remember my dreams, I am going to write them down tomorrow morning.

 

9/3/17 (in the AM)

I kept having dreams that I was helping out at the Vision Quest with different chores and I couldn’t keep anything hidden from anyone.  Everyone knew exactly what I was thinking at every moment.  Kari from my old job in Minneapolis was at the camp with her son TJ and we had a great big hug.

9/3/17 (in the PM)

Wow, I can’t count how many times that I had déjà vu with these beautiful souls on Vision Quest with me today.  I feel so, so, so incredibly blessed that this opportunity came for me.  It is truly amazing how fast manifestation can occur.  The way that I mentioned to Russell in late August how I really wanted to partake in a peyote ceremony and then within 10 days the opportunity came up.  I feel so grateful that I traveled here safely and that I am in such good health to be here.  I am also very grateful that they had an extra wool blanket and fleece for me to use tonight and for when I go up on the hill.

 

I am getting a little nervous for the big day tomorrow.  It is after lunch that we’ll grab our things and head up on the hill, although…I do wonder if in actuality we will scope out our places on the hill first?  I dunno.

 

It is so interesting not having any sort of routine right now, I am definitely staying very present and in the moment with it though.

 

It feels good to be a dirty hippy this week, it feels good to be immersed in nature and out in the middle of nowhere.

 

I wasn’t positive how tired I was, but as I’m writing I am noticing that my eyelids are getting more and more droopy.  I do feel as if I am getting more and more in touch with my soul, there is no doubt about that.  K, I am officially going to conk.

 

Love, Ilona

 

 

9/4/17 (in the AM)

Alrighty!  Today is the plunge.  Two more meals until fasting for three days!  I had this dream where I was constantly helping John with walking his dogs (in real life he doesn’t have any dogs) and then I was in Mrs. Hult’s math class and she kept rudely telling me to go walk his dogs.  Then one day I realized he was getting help from his buddy to walk his dogs and didn’t need my help anymore.

 

9/4/17 (in the PM)

Wow. Wow. Wow.  What an incredible experience this has been.  Although, I am not going to lie—my back is killing me right now.  Today we ate our two meals, egg scramble for breakfast and delicious pancakes with syrup and my new fav (I’m gonna buy a shit ton when I get back to Cori’s) Nutella!!!!  I think that the best way that I’ll be able to keep track of time is each night and each morning I will write.  I will write, write, write!  Hehe.  We did animal totem cards today before heading out on the hill and I pulled a butterfly out.  It was perfect because yesterday as we were finding items to make our sand drawings I decided to keep picking nature items that a butterfly had just been sitting on.  And also, right as a bunch of us arrived a couple days ago, we all remarked about how many butterflies there were at our camp.

 

I can’t tell if I’m feeling the peyote right now, or just feeling perplexed about the fact that I’m lying out in the open in nature right now.  I get this perfect view of the moon through these tree branches—it’s super incredible.

 

So, we also did sweat lodge ceremony and got our things organized to go up on the hill earlier today too.The sweat lodge was lovely.  Brooke, Haylee, and Gent (who I finally figured out reminds me so much of Clay in Canada and of my ex-step brother, it’s uncanny) sang beautiful songs, and we each said our intentions.  And woah, Nina is spot on…peyote does feel like a Western cowboy man tipping his hat and having a nice little conversation with you.  Wow.  Just wow.  I am feeling very lucid right now and I’m feeling a lot of love.

 

So, as Gent took us up onto the hill tonight, he took Brooke and Scott up first, came back to pick up Tanner, Keith, Alan and me.  He dropped everyone off to their respective places and dropped me off last.  He said the sweetest prayer, he goes “Grandma Earth and Grandpa Sky, please bless this one.  Bless her from her head to her toes, please be with her.  She is joy, she is love, she is sweet, she is beautiful, she is enough.  Please bless her.”  As he said it, he gently placed his palm on the top of my spine, middle of my spine, and bottom of my spine, I felt nothing except for pure love.  It was wondrous.  Wow, so I feel tired, yet I also feel as if I’m seeing wild colors as I close my eyes—although I can’t tell if it is the peyote or if my headlamp is causing that since I can only seem to get my headlamp working on the red light setting.  I think that I would like to attempt to sleep just to see if it’s possible.

 

I’m not gonna lie, lying out here in a random spot that I got dropped off at outside is freaking me out a slight bit.  I keep hearing strange noises.  I’m starting to feel hunger too, but I know that for right now it’s just a tiny feeling of hunger.  I miss my Grandma Lazar, I just had a completely random memory of her and I going out for lunch at this old restaurant in South Minneapolis, I forgot the name of it, but thank you for taking me there Grandma Lazar.  Thank you to the random restaurant workers for being there when you were for us.  K, I am for realsies gonna conk, but you better believe that I’m gonna write in here bright and early tomorrow.  SO MUCH LOVE FOR TODAY. 

Love,

Ilona

Tuesday 9/5 (AM)

I had soooooooo many dreams and they were all very vivid.

I also dreamt that I accidentally ate a bunch of Pringles and I told Linda “oh no, I accidentally broke my fast!!”  She was sweet about it and just said not to eat anymore, haha.  I awoke a couple times throughout the night and noticed how the moon had shifted places.  I slept well, REALLY well for the most part and stayed surprisingly very warm, good call on the two wool blankets Linda!  I am unsure if I felt much from the peyote tea besides maybe feeling everything a bit more vividly and I had non-stop dreams last night.  I truly do feel Spirit/spirits with me.  There was also a cute squirrel that locked eyes with me for a brief moment after I awoke.

 

Tuesday 9/5 (AM continued)

I am massively craving a green smoothie.  I am going to make one of those as soon as I get back to St. George, hehe.  I don’t care if it’s late afternoon or late at night when I get back home, I am making a green smoothie! 

 

Just think, today is a day that everyone else has to go back to work, but here I get to be free and frolic in the forest.  I am so blessed!  I’m going to get myself a Jet-boil, get my headlamp fixed, and go out on a backpacking trip in Utah on my own sometime soon…especially since I have my own little single tent now, hehe.

 

Okay, my ego is getting nervous about not being able to find work in St. George soon.  I am going to sit and meditate soon to ground myself.  I would like to remind myself about how I need to count my blessings day-by-day.  I have a home until January 1st and I am still not in debt.  I have a jar of peyote tea to my right to suit me for today.  BLESSED.

Love,

Me

 

Tuesday 9/5 (AM continued)

I keep having random flashbacks about Portland, especially about the Hawthorne neighborhood, I am unsure of what that is all about.  I can’t wait for it to warm up a bit!  I am going to do yoga stretches, meditate, brush my hair, and search for my tampons. 

 

Tuesday 9/5 (PM)

I accomplished all of my intentions.  In my meditation this morning I got the message that I should stay off of social media until I have a job or steady income of some sort.  That seems reasonable for sure.  I still do feel that I’ll land a job within a couple of weeks.  I was also informed to just go with the flow with the whole dating thing—not to rush into anything, but to JUST BE.

 

I am starting to feel the effects of no food.  It has been almost 24 hours since my last meal.  WOAH! I hear a car!  That’s amazing, hehe, I also heard a plane flying above simultaneously.

 

I feel grateful for this opportunity to detox and BE ME (that is the true me, to be a fairy in the forest, haha!)

forestimage.jpegI didn’t take pictures at all, but this is kind of how things were feeling and looking the few days I was in that forest alone…

I think that our species has forgotten that we don’t always have to be doing something to be productive.  Sometimes the most productive thing to do is to JUST BE.

 

I keep having flashbacks of going to shows in Minneapolis with Gary (I keep thinking about that one venue in Minneapolis close to the University, I forgot the name of it.)  If you can’t tell, I am just writing random stuff that comes to me.  Is this what Daft Punk meant when they named that album “Random Access Memories”?  I’m starting to feel a bit nauseated, yikes.  I really want to drink water baddddddd.  Although it’s quite funny, I keep thinking that this next two days will actually fly by.  I guess doing the 10-day silent meditation retreat prepared me.  Kirk said the cutest thing the other day when we sat down to do prayer flags.  He goes, “I tend to babble and make no sense when there are beautiful women around.” Hehe.  Why didn’t I bring a book?!  Dohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  I guess I’ll read over my notebook a bit, heh.

 

Tuesday 9/5 (continued)

I just had the strangest moment while in the midst of doing a walking meditation, I was intuiting to stop in one place and as I looked ahead, there was a superimposed layer on top of everything that looked red..it made it look like a dream-world or like something out of Robocop or something.  I don’t quite know what the fuck to do with myself, but these fucking flies are driving me batty!  I can’t wait to clean my dirty fingernails!  I seem to have forgotten my mini-manicure set.  In the hustle and bustle of reorganizing my backpack to make sure to only bring what is important, I forgot a few minor details.  You know what dawned on me that I have heard recently and it makes all the sense to me now?  It is the quote “Everyone is doing the best that they can with all that they know.”  I truly do believe that.

(To be continued….) 🙂

Reflecting

IMG_6499[1]Recently taken at the beautiful Bryce Canyon National Park just a couple hours from where I now live!

I didn’t intend to write a blog post today.  I actually haven’t been writing a whole lot lately, besides in my journal.  I just had a really intense moment as I hoofed it by foot over to the library this morning (I have been trying to do 1-2 days per week of no driving) and I got inspired.  The moment made me want to write it down as soon as possible before I forgot it.  I thought that this would be the perfect place to share it because I feel like someone out there needs to read it and I haven’t written a post in a while.

Lately I have been stressing out about many different things and it has no doubt been manifesting out into my physical reality.  Just lots of tough, dense, life darkness and yet on the other hand, I know that I have had so many blessings as well.  It’s just that, my monkey mind has been on full-swing and I haven’t been sticking with my meditation practice as strongly as I used to….it truly is amazing to see the difference which occurs when I don’t stick with it.  I don’t want to delve into too many of the details of what is going on in my life, but the best way to put it is that I am finally facing a ton of my crap that I can no longer run away from.

So, as I am walking to the library, with cars whizzing by me, loud sirens and car alarms going off…my mind was doing it’s wandering.  As it was wandering, it was playing out all of these different scenarios, such as “Ohhhh, maybe if I decide to take that path, that will create happiness and peace in my life, ohhhh maybe I shouldn’t have done that and then I wouldn’t have found myself in this situation, etc. etc. etc…” It was creating straight up novels based upon a future that hasn’t happened yet and the past that is no longer.  As the stories built up, the anxiety in my chest got stronger.

I turned the corner to head down the main street that gets me to the library.  Everything went quiet since it’s a residential street and it doesn’t have much traffic usually. All of a sudden, my anxiety dissipated and everything felt just like pure peace.  I looked over to my right and in someone’s house window was a message that simply stated “Enjoy the journey.”  All of my worries, all of my planning just dropped like a giant Jenga tower and again, I just felt the pure peace of the moment.  Not one minute later, I noticed a cemetery to the right of the house that I had never noticed before since I always drive to the library.

As I passed by all the tombstones, the wind gently pushed in the direction towards the library causing a chill up and down my spine. I started reading the messages on the tombstones, one in particular was a man that passed away in 2008, he was almost the exact same age as me. Further on, I kept noticing how unique and personal each tombstone was and how there were so many different ages, from a baby that had only lived a week to a man in his late 90s.  I started nearing towards the end and there was a sign that had a message on it, but it was bent and blocked by a big bush, so the only word that was visible on it was bright lettering that stated:

“NOW.”

It just seemed like a pretty clear message to me, as I was worrying the whole morning and night before. It can all end at any moment, truly, so to stay present with wherever you are is the most important.  I no longer want to dwell on past regrets as there isn’t anything that I can do regarding it, except to accept them as lessons.  I also don’t want to keep projecting a future that is yet to be, as Doris Day sang “whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see.”  While it’s good to do a little bit of planning, it’s also best to adjust to the flow and appreciate what is happening now.  I dunno, just a little musing for this Thursday morning, thanks for reading if ya have thus far.  Peace out!  🙂

Nooooo, Don’t Fit Me Into a Box, I’m Flowing…..

Flow.

Is that word not beautiful?  I love the word flow.  This blog post is going to be strictly flow.  I sat down with intentions to write a blog post and immediately my brain started thinking “what am I going to write about?  What hasn’t been said?  Should I write on a specific meditation-type subject since that is what my blog website is supposed to be about?”  And then I just opened up my laptop and started typing and that’s what this is right now.  So, hey guys!  I don’t know what is going to come of this, but I am just going to keep on typing without worrying about what is going to come next.  It is funny because I feel my mind freaking out a bit going, “but wait there has to be structure to this, right?  No one is going to like this if there is no linear structure…”

 

But for real, who cares?!  I am sick of always having to be linear about everything. Today is Sunday because they say it is, but who is “they” might I ask?  Isn’t this actually just a moment in time that I’m experiencing simultaneously with the two teenagers holding onto their frappes and walking out the exit to the right of me?

 

FLOW.FallsCreekFalls

 

Let’s go with it more.  Can we?  I am doing right now what my favorite author in the world, Jack Kerouac did: stream of consciousness writing.  That is truly what life is.  It is all a stream of consciousness (i.e. flow.)  Then some linear-fashioned thinker that wanted power and control had to go and make up this annoying thing called time and calendars and now we have been under its influence for so long, we don’t know another way, but the ancients knew of a different way.. and I think we need to think more like them.

 

The little girl who just walked by me and told her mom “I love you mommy” as they walked out the exit of the book store, that moment was so beautiful.  Who cares if it happened at 3pm on a Sunday or 12pm on a Tuesday, it happened NOW and that’s the most important part.

 

FLOW IN THE NOW.

 

Okay, at this point you might be reading this and question if I just dosed myself with some LSD or have lost my mind.  I can assure you I didn’t on the former, the latter is questionable.  Hehe, I think that’s what more people need to actually do though, I think they need to lose their mind to accept the concept that time is not what we have been led to believe.  Time is much different, time is much more multidimensional.

 

Okay, I just got thrown off.  The friend that I am with at this book store had an old neighbor come up to us, start telling us about how her boobs are shrinking because she isn’t having orgasms anymore and that I should Google that fact, because it is a true one.  Woah.  That was a little distracting and I definitely lost my focus as I was typing in the flow here…but hey!  That is life.  That is what happens, there are many uncomfortable and strange moments that you don’t plan for, but they happen…they flow.  I think that the more that we can get comfortable with the idea of flow, the more we can let go of the old and come into the new.

 

What do you think?!

 

Thanks for reading this particularly random post if you have gotten this far 🙂

 

Peace! 🙂

The Magical Power of Touch Points

touchpoint

Last winter after I resigned from my job and decided to head overseas for an adventure, I volunteered at a 10-day silent meditation retreat as a transitional activity to ease my mind and to get comfortable with the complete change in my normal routine that would be coming soon.  I had sat at a 10-day silent meditation retreat before as a student and I had volunteered half-time at another one, but I had never volunteered a full course.  I expected the usual hard work in the kitchen where about six to seven of us would start the day at 4:30 in the morning to cook three meals per day for 70-plus students.  While the work could be strenuous, it was fun to chat with my colleagues in the kitchen and have friendly banter. We also had three different times during the day where we were able to sit for a full hour and meditate with the students.

Soon enough my work-in-the-kitchen and meditate-on-the-side routine became very comfortable five days into the retreat, but on the sixth day that all came crashing down. The manager of all 40 of the female students took a nasty fall on some ice and all eyes (literally and figuratively) were on me to step in as the female manager as she ended up having to leave the retreat early.  I had no experience at any point ever in my life of being the manager of anything.  The stress of the situation felt very dense as it was the sixth day in and I could tell that many of the students’ mental states were being tested. The main female meditation teacher sent me on three different errands within the first hour of being the manager, mostly to help check in on girls that were having sickness or intense emotional trauma.

Just as with most big changes in my life, even ones that from an outsider’s perspective might seem small, my egoic mind started racing.  Not only were the thoughts in my mind racing, but they were crashing into each other like children playing bumper cars for the first time.  Here I thought that I was such a good meditator, but I figured out that this was a real-life situation where I was being tested on how skillful I had become with my mind. On the second day of being female manager, I almost had a sheer panic attack as I had to stand in front of 70 pairs of eyes peering at me as I counted to make sure that every female meditator was in the meditation hall and if they weren’t there I’d have to discuss with the teacher and go to find them.

I mentioned to the meditation teacher that second night of being female manager that I have an extreme fear of being in any spotlight, even at a silent meditation retreat.  I told her about how I was on the verge of a panic attack a multitude of times that day.  She had great advice which to this day still sticks with me.  Her advice was that as soon as I felt that panicky feeling come on, to notice my extremities.  She told me to feel where my fingers and toes were at the moment of panic or anxiety; for an example, right now I can sense my fingers tapping against this shiny keyboard and my feet…they are resting on top of each other on this cool pavement below me. It instantly brought me back into my body and out of my head.

touchpoint2

I have brought this tool with me throughout all the hustle and bustle of daily life.  I often get anxiety attacks in grocery stores.  Most recently I was at a grocery store on a weeknight around 6:00 and I was standing in line with crowds of people around me.  I had that familiar panicky feeling come on, where I felt as if the floor below me was just about to collapse and the walls were going to come down, but before that full on anxiety attack could hit me, I brought awareness to the extremities and was instantly calmed.  As soon as I sensed my fingers placed on the handle of my shopping cart and my toes were resting in my shoes that were flat on the shiny white floor, I felt soothed.  I am so thankful for learning this technique and highly recommend it if you struggle with anxiety or panic attacks.

Peace out!  🙂

–Ilona

Gratitude in Action

“I am so incredibly grateful that you and your car got us from Portland to this trailhead safely,” my friend Mary stated.

And now it was my turn...”I am so incredibly grateful that I have a refrigerator and cupboard stocked full of healthy foods.”

Another steep part of the hike was upon us, we both went back into the solitude of our minds until we reached flat land again.

I am so grateful for the household that I live in,” Mary said.

I am so grateful that I have my health to be able to do this awesome hike,” I said.

My friend Mary and I have been on many hikes throughout the Pacific Northwest together since I started hanging out with her almost three years ago.  A few weeks ago we ventured on a hike and came up with a new way of hiking. Each time we came upon a new incline to hike up, we had to each think of something near and dear to our heart that we were grateful for and then once we reached flat land again, we’d share with each other what we were thinking. We did it in some back lands behind Silver Falls in Silverton, Oregon.  The trail had many inclinations and there were no other souls around.  I felt so light and as if my body was buzzing throughout the hike.

I have always known the power of gratitude as I have seen it work wonders in others’ lives and my own.  Meditation has helped me to further integrate into the wonderful energy of gratitude. By being so completely present in the moment, everything seems like a miracle.  Of course, the monkey mind comes back quite often (dang it, I’m still human!) But for the most part, ever since starting my meditation practice half a decade ago, everything…a spoonful of delicious soup, resting my body on a comfortable bed, or having a meaningful conversation with a dear friend  have all become moments of gold.

A couple different spiritual teachers that I have been listening to lately have inspired me to start a new daily practice, I made up my own term for it, I call it “3 and 3.”  It’s super easy, doesn’t take a lot of time and is incredibly powerful.  I either do it at night or in the morning when I’m having my coffee.  Basically, I list three things in which I am grateful for, but honestly it’s more than just listing them…I actually try to really feel how deep my gratitude is for them.  Then I list three intentions that I have for that day (or if I’m doing this at night, I list three intentions for the next day.) I have found this to be a very powerful practice because more often than not I reach almost all of those intentions that day.

If that seems like a lot of extra activity to your already packed world, maybe just try to do it for the week.  So before the week starts, list three things you intend to get done that week and three things that you are in gratitude of from the last week.  I have found that actually writing them out, with pen and paper really seems to make it happen.  Do whatever works for you yo, I just hope you do give it a shot and see for yourself!

Peace out!

Listen to Your Heart! And Woah! I did a video?!

Took a hike to one of my favorite waterfalls and decided to try and attempt something that scares the crap outta me: vlogging!  Click and watch a short 2-minute video done by a rookie.  The message is all about following the heart!