Revamping before 33!

The road to 33 is looking good!



I have gotten so off track from my initial intentions with what I wanted to do with this blog, but that is going to change!  When I started this blog (gasp) almost five years ago I entitled it “Ilona’s Meditation Challenge” because that’s what it was going to be.  My original plan was to write down what I noticed from starting a daily 20-minute meditation practice and it kind of twisted and turned into something completely different, it became a bit more random.  That’s okay though because from it I have gained a ton of blogging friends and acquaintances.  I would like to steer this blog vehicle though back on track and keep at it.

With my 33rd birthday coming around the corner it has hit me that I truly am not getting any younger here.  So with that, I want to work on sharing a blog post at least once a week about all things MIND, BODY, AND SOUL!  I want to inspire others to be the best versions of themselves, to help remind them that WE CAN CHANGE OUR WAYS and that IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.  The only way that we can make that truly happen though is to have the desire to change, that is the first step.

So in the coming weeks, I will be challenging myself (as my blog page is now accurately named) to post one blog post per week that has everything to do with: meditation, healthy eating, exercise, and anything else that you can think of that helps to heal MIND, BODY, AND SOUL.  I am going to release any guilt that I have held onto about wasting time or any ways in which I have been unconscious.  I want to change within, bring it out into the world and inspire others if they too have this similar goal.

Please join me in these coming weeks.  I plan on sharing what I notice with my two daily meditations (I have now been meditating for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening.) I will be sharing book reviews (I am currently reading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.) I will be recording guided meditations for you to listen to and try out. I might even try my hand at making a video or two!

The point is, we are all in this together.  Everything is truly connected and everything we thought we knew is not going to last.  So let’s prepare ourselves now so as not to freak out when the crumbling begins (which it has already started a bit anyhow.). Let’s become more conscious together.  Let’s take a look at our bullshit stories that keep running/ruining our lives and transform them.  Please take my hand and cross this river with me.
Peace!

From my jog this morning:


Amen to that!!!!!

Never Underestimate the Healing Powers of……

swirly

Life can throw curve balls at us, some days are tougher than others. We are all in need of healing as long as we are living in these bodies, in this world. I thought it would be fun to make a list of what has helped me in healing myself from the struggles life can seem to make. I would love if you added activities/actions that have helped you to heal your mind, body and soul in the “comments” section below. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

Never Underestimate the Healing Powers of…..

–Curling up under a blanket and getting lost in a book.
–Waking up in the morning and drinking a full glass of water.
–Getting a back massage from a friend.
–Finding a new park or neighborhood that you have never been to and going for a walk in it.
–Writing three full pages of whatever is on your mind and not stopping until you get to the third page.
–Savoring a warm cup of hot chocolate/tea/coffee, drinking each sip mindfully.
–Sitting for twenty minutes, doing nothing but focusing strictly on each in-breath and each out-breath.
–Volunteering in your community.
–Playing music with others.
–Cooking a meal that you have never cooked before.
–Running/jogging for twenty minutes without stopping.
–Writing down what you dreamt of the night before.
–Drawing a picture.
–Painting a picture.
–Photography (check out my photos from Freak Alley in Boise, Idaho if you have time: Freak Alley.)
–Writing a story.
–Catching up with a friend that lives near you over a bowl of steaming Vietnamese pho.
–Hugging others fully, with two arms and for longer than three seconds.
–Caring for a furry friend.
–Having life conversation with an elderly person.
–Having life conversation with a child.
–Watching a good movie.
–Traveling to a city that you have never been to before, alone.
–Listening to music.
–Being here, NOW, over and over remembering to come back to right here, right NOW.
–Playing a childhood recess game with your adult friends.
–Getting a new haircut.
–Going for a hike in nature.
–Biking.
–Skating (roller skating, roller blading, skateboarding.)
–Working in a garden.
–Sampling new beers or wines.
–Blogging.
–Exploring a new city with friends.
–Walking alongside large bodies of water.
–Writing down three things that you are grateful for on a daily basis.
–Learning a new skill.
–Having a phone date with a friend far away.
–Kissing a good kisser.
–Going on spontaneous road trips/drives/car rides with music blasting out of the car speakers.

Freak Alley

On a recent solo road trip I took to visit a friend in Salt Lake City, I stopped in Boise as an interval to break up the long drive. I had never been to Boise, I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to expect except for maybe a lot of potato references. There was actually no mention of potatoes my whole time there. Instead, I met a handful of joyful and friendly residents of Boise, some of who showed me the beautiful culture of the city. One friend brought me down a road called “Freak Alley” which is a whole alleyway dedicated to graffiti art drawn by local residents. As we strolled down the alleyway, I got absolute chills (it helped that a group of three young men were in a circle in the middle of the alleyway serenading us with jazz tunes–one on drums, one on guitar and one on the trumpet.)

I went back the next afternoon to snap shots of all the art that moved me. I had been feeling pretty lonely during a lot of my solo road trip and this art work I came across touched me in a way that I needed it to the most at that time. I realized that this is the beauty of art–these artists, who knows where they are right now, but they were with me that night and day that I viewed their work. Kindred spirits, all of them. Check out their amazing work below:

going home

IMG_5407

IMG_5408

IMG_5410

IMG_5411

IMG_5412

IMG_5413

IMG_5415

IMG_5416

IMG_5417

IMG_5418

IMG_5419

IMG_5420

IMG_5421

IMG_5422

IMG_5424

IMG_5425

IMG_5426

IMG_5427

IMG_5428

IMG_5429

IMG_5430

IMG_5431

IMG_5432

IMG_5433

IMG_5434

IMG_5435

IMG_5436

IMG_5439

IMG_5440

IMG_5441

IMG_5442

IMG_5444

IMG_5445

IMG_5447

IMG_5450

IMG_5452

IMG_5453

IMG_5454

IMG_5457

IMG_5459

IMG_5461

IMG_5462

IMG_5464

Meditation Musings

314

My friend and I reached the top of the hilly incline to a viewpoint that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.  The vastness of the ocean view and the sound of the waves was something to meditate on.  I set my maroon colored water bottle on the ground beside me and sat down on a big boulder, asking my friend if she’d mind if I meditated for a few minutes.  She gave me the go ahead, “of course not, that’s a great idea!”  I closed my eyes and became aware of touch points–my bottom on the boulder, my feet planted firmly on the ground, and my right hand cupped in my left hand with the back of my hands on my lap.  When I felt 100% grounded, I started focusing on my breath, the cold air gently moving up through my nostrils and the warm air moving out.  After a few minutes, I opened my eyes again.

“Sooooo, how do you meditate exactly?”  My friend questioned.  I hadn’t realized that my friend of fifteen years didn’t actually know what I was doing on the boulder.  “Do you just try to think of nothing?” She asked.  I felt a surge of excitement in my belly and started telling her about all that I had been learning about meditation since I moved to Oregon six months prior.  Moving to a new state without a job secured and not knowing a single soul was a pretty traumatic shock to my system, but had I not pushed myself to do it, I don’t think I would have landed on the path that brought me to a practice that has brought me the most healing in my life: the practice of meditation.

After stopping a tobacco addiction, an addiction to pills, and ending a long-term relationship with an alcoholic over the course of time between my sixteenth and twenty-sixth years on this planet, coming to Oregon alone was like a re-birth into a new life.  I forced myself to join community groups and among them, found a meditation group that met every Tuesday.  I had been reading a lot of self-help books about meditation and listening to a guided meditation CD that my mom gifted me with before I made my trek from the Midwest to the West Coast.  At the Tuesday night meditation group, I learned so much more about meditation and am forever grateful for the veteran teacher that created the group.

I explained to my friend about what I do during my meditation, that I constantly pay attention to my in-breath and out-breath (I do the Vipassana technique, one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation.)  That thinking about nothing isn’t the purpose of my meditation, the purpose is to become aware.  Stories, ideas, to-do lists, what someone said to me earlier that day that hurt me, someone that I need to contact later, and many other things will come up in my meditation.  The point though is to not get stuck or attached to any of those things, to just be aware of them and continually coming back to breath, to presence.  Eventually, with a daily practice, you truly become aware of the nature of the mind and how easy it is to come back into the moment of NOW with the breath.

The practice of meditation has helped and healed me so much, layers upon layers of my self have been coming off.  Just when I think that I have come to the deepest aspects of my soul, of consciousness, new ideas and concepts come to me.  Out of all the travels that I have done, meditation has been the most intense journey out of all of them.  It hasn’t been easy picking up this practice, but I can definitely tell you that it has been worth it.  I want to help people bring this healing modality into their lives, so anytime a friend asks me about….it’s guaranteed I will turn into a motor mouth and this blog is another avenue in how I want to help people with this.  If this post has helped even just one person in getting interested in meditation….then I have done my job.  🙂

A Short Story from the Paranormal World


My last post was a bit different than my usual posts.  At this juncture in my life, I truly feel as if time is running out and I want to pump out anything that I feel needs to be heard, even if it’s just a few people that end up resonating with what comes out of me.  I have expressed my extreme fascination with all things New Age/metaphysical  (i.e. Yoga, meditation, lucid dreams, astral projections, OBEs, and more) yet I haven’t talked too much about the many paranormal occurrences that have happened in my life.  I have been afraid to tell many people in fear of sounding as if I have lost my mind.  I am now realizing that I shouldn’t feel ashamed about my different take on things, instead I want to share the experiences and people can take it or leave it!

With that, I wanted to share a story that happened to me about two years ago which is of a paranormal nature.  I have shared this story with countless friends and family members and have gotten more positive feedback than negative, most people informing me that they had chills run up and down their bodies after I shared the story with them.  I have had many occurrences in my life, ever since I was a small child of paranormal phenomena, but I closed myself off to it after getting strange looks whenever I tried to share my stories with others.  In my adult life, I have had my fair share of strange otherworldly occurrences, but again, I haven’t been very open to share them in fear of being labeled crazy.  Well, here it goes…if you are still reading, I hope you enjoy this short story :):

I awoke groggy-headed and confused that early morning as I heard my boyfriend at the time rushing around his apartment in a frantic hurry.  I tapped the screen of my cell phone and was annoyed to discover that it was only 5:00 in the morning on a Saturday.  Few things annoy me in life as much as waking up earlier than 8:00am on a Saturday.
“Hey babe,” my boyfriend Chase alerted me,”sorry if I woke you, I’m putting my apartment key on your key chain, k?” I mustered up a confirmation in a frog-like tone and flipped back onto my side to try and fall back asleep.  As I started drifting asleep, I heard Chase lock up his apartment and jet down the stairs rushing to work.  I finally entered a blissful state of sleep, entering into dream-time only to be awoken by someone gently placing their hands on my chest and pushing down on me.  I started giggling “Chase what are you doing back home already?” I asked aloud and opened my eyes.


The room was piercingly quiet, I looked around and there was no one except me and Chase’s dog Achilles sleeping at the end of the bed alongside my feet, where he had been since Chase left for work.  I tapped my cell phone screen again and saw that it was about 6:30, I had only fallen back to sleep for a little more than an hour.  I called out Chase’s name in the apartment and there was nothing but silence.  I brushed off the strange incident and concluded that it must have been remnants of a dream.  It didn’t take long for me to fall right back into a blissful state of sleep.

I was again awoken by someone pressing their hands on my chest, only this time it was a bit more forceful and I could sense them sitting alongside me on the bed.  This time there was laughter coming from the person pushing on my chest and it felt very playful.  I started laughing too and I knew this time for sure it had to be Chase playing a joke.  I started laughing more and peeled open my eyes expecting to see Chase, but the pressure left my chest as soon as I opened my eyes and there was no one there.

I ripped the blankets off of me and ran to the apartment door, pulling at the knob, the dead bolt was locked so no one could have come in.  I went back to the bedroom to find Achilles lying down at the end of the bed where he had always been, only now with his head twisted to the side wondering if I was up for good to put food in his dog bowl.  At this point I texted Chase about what happened in which he freaked out wondering if someone came into his apartment, but I informed him there was no possible way.  When I tried to tell him that his (newish to him) apartment was possibly haunted, he brushed off my remark as he wasn’t into those types of ideas.


Fast forward to about a month later.  I had gone off to my first ever 10-day meditation retreat and when I came out of it, I turned on my cell phone and received a huge confirmation.  Chase informed me that while I was away, he had befriended a new neighbor in his apartment complex that had been living there for years.  After they shared a drink or two one night, the neighbor had brought up a shocking story about a young man who was struck with a hammer in the apartment complex parking lot just a couple years prior.  The blow from the hammer came from an argument he had gotten into, the young man rushed up to his apartment (now Chase’s apartment) and died in his mom’s arms.  I was incredibly shocked and my mind kept going back to that morning that I had felt someone on my chest.  I texted Chase back “will you consider my story again now?!” 😬

Some Notes from the Astral World

Swoosh!  All of a sudden I was up in the sky and not in my bed anymore.  I was comforted in a blanket of light all around me, I was floating and feeling at one with everything.  I realized that somehow, I had been given this opportunity to explore the vastness of the universe while still remembering who I was as a physical body.  I had been given this lucky chance to explore the sky and above.  I realized that I was at one with the stars.  As I started to move about so freely, a loud buzzing similar to the sound of television static overcame my ears and I fell into my body again.  My eyes flipped open and I realized I was lying in my bed.  I closed my eyes again, drifted back to sleep and heard the loud buzzing again.  I was back in the expanse of warm light and stars, but then the buzzing started and I was lying solid in my bed again.

stars1

I grabbed a bottle of water resting next to me on my night stand and chugged down the remainder of it.  I had heard about out-of-body experiences (OBEs) before, in fact I had a few off and on since I was a child, but this one in particular seemed the most lucid.  I got up out of bed and walked on the cold wooden floor toward my bay windows.  I yanked on the curtain cord, dust flew about and streaks of sunlight poured into my large bedroom.  I pulled my notebook off of my black dresser and started writing down the experience that I just had.  I had remembered in one of the lucid dream books that I had checked out from the library years ago, it had mentioned to always write down your dreams when you wake up in the morning, no matter if they are lucid or not.  By writing your dreams down, you have more of a chance to give your subconscious mind opportunities to provide future lucid dreams.

imagescagwbe9m

One month prior I had a different experience with an OBE while I was traveling in Southeast Asia for a month.  It was in a hostel room that I was sharing with Katie, a fellow traveler from the United Kingdom who had tagged along with me and my American friends.  Katie and I were sharing a twin-sized bed, as to make the already thrifty hostel even more of a bargain for us.  I was lying next to the window and Katie was next to the door of the room.  I had been dreaming that I was back in Minnesota visiting family and friends when all of a sudden, as if by a click of a switch, I realized that I was floating above the bed that Katie and I were sleeping on.

As I was floating above the bed, my rational mind was completely lucid, I knew that I resided in Saigon, Vietnam and what my name was.  I knew that my physical body was below me, lying there alongside Katie who was snoring softly with her arm flailed above her head.  I heard the construction work outside of our window, which had been going on since we checked into the hostel two days prior. I saw the white “Zen Plaza” sign on the side of the tall building across from our hostel.  All of a sudden I panicked and a wave of paralysis took over my whole body.  I thought to myself, I don’t want to die in Saigon, Vietnam!  I haven’t lived up to what I have intended!  I can’t die here, this isn’t right.

The view from our first hostel in Phnom PenhThe view from my hostel room in Saigon, Vietnam.

My eyes darted open and I took the deepest breath of my life, as if I was a deep sea diver that had lost her oxygen minutes ago and finally got above water.  My whole body felt so heavy, it hurt to get up.  I looked over to my left, Katie was still snoring and her arm was still resting above her head just as it was when I was viewing it from above.  The construction workers outside were still making noise and the white “Zen Plaza” sign was smack dab in my line of vision as I peered out the hostel’s double windows.

Before that experience in Southeast Asia, the last dream of that kind was in the fall of 2007.  I had rested my eyes as I was lying down reading a book and I drifted off into a dream.  In the first part of my dream, I was running around the cardiology clinic that I worked at in real life.  I was feeling very frazzled as multiple doctors kept asking me to draw blood or to perform electrocardiograms on patients.  I was then in the kitchen of the duplex that I rented at the time and my roommate Rachael was talking with me in the kitchen as she was grabbing food off the bottom shelf of our fridge.  Then something sounded like it snapped in my head and there was a loud buzzing.  I remember the distinct feeling of being very free and comforted by beings whom surrounded me.  They started giving me information about the nature of reality at an alarming rate, they playfully laughed, as in “awwww, she’s just a cute ol’ human being that thinks at a slower vibration than us….”

stars2

Everything started happening incredibly fast, I was traveling through these alternate realities and in between these alternate realities, I was floating in outer space.  I was surrounded by stars and comforting beings, they were palpable and they felt so comforting.  They kept throwing information to me at an alarming rate, telepathically.  It is very difficult to describe in words what had happened to me during this experience as there were no words being communicated—all information was being given to me in what felt like the speed of light, they would think something and in an instant I would feel what they were conveying.  They kept flashing images of my life prior to up to that moment and then they started giving me images of people that I would be meeting in my future.  They kept expressing immense gratitude and love towards me.

When I awoke from this dream, I gasped for air and felt the heavy lump of my body lying in my bed.  I took a few deep breaths and felt stunned, I felt uncomfortable in my body.  My body felt so dense compared to where I just was.  I glanced over at my alarm clock that was resting on my night stand.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, I felt that I was asleep for hours, but I discovered that I had only been asleep for a total of ten minutes.  I felt overwhelmed and went downstairs to be around my roommates, I didn’t tell any of them what happened for fear of being sent to an asylum, but I just knew I wanted to be around people at that moment.  I remember smiling a lot the two days after that experience, I felt in awe and gratitude that I got to experience something so profound.

stars3

It’s Now or Never

photo (3)

A friend in recent months told me “I’m not where I want to be in life.” Which is definitely something every human being can relate to. We all have dreams and desires, some going back all the way to when we were a child wanting to be “this” or “that” when we grew up. The only problem with dreams and desires, is that a lot of people want it right now and they don’t want to wait. Patience is for others to do, not for the ones who wants to be at a specific place right now. We are NEVER going to be where we want to be in life though if we aren’t happy with where we are right now in the moment. This is all we have, all we will ever have, this moment of now. The “not being where I want to be” attitude will get us nowhere, because that is a surefire sign that we will NEVER feel that we are where we should be.

I definitely stress and worry about not reaching goals and desires, but meditation has really awoken me to being happy with exactly where I am. For an example, one recent morning I was looking at my bank account and worrying about making ends meet. My rent is becoming much more expensive than I envisioned when I decided to move into a small studio apartment by myself and I have many upcoming travels that people are relying on me to be there for and that I am super excited for. I really started to get into this animalistic, poverty-thinking mode and then I took a deep breath and asked myself “but how am I doing right NOW?” Because really, I could get struck by a vehicle that forgets to stop at a red light tomorrow and then not even be able to go on the travels that I had planned in the coming months. I mean honestly, the more important thing is how am I doing right NOW?

Thinking in terms of being blessed where you are in the moment is a profound experience. It ends up bringing you even more blessings. That morning, I had decided to turn around my anxious thoughts about money and transformed them into being grateful in that “now” moment and it created even more positivity in my day. I went to work that morning and within a few short hours I was provided with an unexpected free lunch from business associates. Another couple hours go by and my manager asked me if I could work more hours in the coming months due to a co-worker leaving. Some could call it a coincidence, but truly I believe it’s the magic of what happens when you count your blessings. What you are thinking on the inside truly will manifest into the outer world, I state this because I have truly seen it happen….multiple times.

I feel absolutely rich this morning, sitting at my little studio kitchenette indulging in cup loads of home-made coffee, a breakfast made with fresh fruit from my fridge and food that’s filled in my cupboards. I have clothing on to keep me warm, fresh water beside me to keep me hydrated. I honestly feel like a queen right NOW in this moment of writing this and to be able to type away on this laptop, with internet connection. I have so much right now, so blessed with all of this right now. I am not concerned at the moment of what’s in my bank account or not being where I want to be in life.

Be happy with what you have right now, be happy with who you are right now, if you can’t do that now….don’t keep wishing for it to happen in the future that is non-existent. The only existence is right NOW.

Transformation Does Occur

18335_1309358460613_678900_n (2)

A volunteer acquaintance and I quietly strolled up and down the streets scanning the sidewalk for cigarette butts to clean up and I went into a quiet introspection. It was hard to believe that the road trip my friend and I had embarked on to Portland, OR was ten years ago to the day. Ten years ago, I was a shy, nineteen-year-old gas station clerk that had been living in Minnesota since I was five-years-old. Back then, I smoked cigarettes as if they were going out of style. I had started at sixteen-years-old on clove cigarettes, then moved my way to Marlboro Reds, then to Marlboro Mediums, tried tasting Camel Turkish brands for a bit, then finally settled on Marlboro Lights. I smoked about a pack of Marlboro Lights per day up until I was twenty-four-years old, panicking if I was down to only five cigarettes in a pack. That old familiar panic happened so often that when I think of it now, I still get anxiety in my upper belly and sternum area.

Now here I was, ten years later volunteering with a project called “SOLVE”, cleaning up cigarette butts off the sidewalks in the Old town/Chinatown portion of Portland. The organizer of the volunteer group started the organization because he got the idea to recycle cigarette butts by using the material of the filter to make cigarette receptacles. He said he came up with the idea while disc golfing with a friend who was a smoker and he kept noticing that his friend would just toss the cigarette butt in the grass or pavement. His friend’s bad habit gave him the inspiring idea to do something with the wasted butts.

I had been chatting with a fellow volunteer named Eileen all morning. We were both new to volunteering with the organization and we instantly connected when we both shared to each other that we weren’t originally from Oregon. She was in her 70s, had grayish short hair and wrinkles that beautifully defined her tan face. She had just told me her whole history of stumbling upon Oregon herself, how when she was in her 20s she packed up her car and moved out to San Francisco from Ohio, not knowing a single soul. Soon after, she met her husband in the Haight and Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. They decided on a change a few years later, moving to Southern Oregon with their one and only child, living there for seven years and then up to Portland.

“So let’s hear your ‘falling in love with Portland’ story,” she smiled to me.

“So basically, I was 19 and wanted to do a random road trip adventure with my best friend. For weeks we had been planning on New Orleans, but then in about a three-day period, about three different people told me stories about Portland. A couple of days after that, I saw the movie Drugstore Cowboy, which takes place in Portland. I called my friend and told her that my heart was directing us to change the destination to Portland. My friend didn’t care, just as long as we were leaving Minnesota for a week. As soon as we entered Oregon, I received one of the most profound feelings of deja vu that I had ever had in my life and I looked over to my friend ‘Devona, I am pretty sure I have lived here before.’ There was just something so familiar about the state to me and anytime that I had the sensation of deja vu in the past I had the feeling that it was the universe’s way of telling me I was on the right path. Soon after that, we entered the Columbia River Gorge and I had chills up and down my body, flabbergasted by the beauty. We were both slightly bothered by the fact that no one had ever told us that the Columbia River Gorge exists in our country.”

“Yes, that’s a common occurrence, it’s one of America’s best kept secrets, although…not so much anymore,” my new volunteer buddy stated, with her head turned to the side making sure she didn’t miss any cigarette butts beside her.

I didn’t go on to tell her the even longer story of my history of addiction to cigarettes and pills in the past, how driving into a new state that felt like home inspired me to make major changes in the coming years. Feeling that from that point on that, Oregon would always be there waiting if I ever chose to make a new start for myself. I didn’t tell her about how just five years later, the same friend that I took that road trip with collapsed in front of me with an erupted brain aneurysm. After visiting her for weeks in a dark and dingy old hospital in St. Paul, I reevaluated the health choices I had been making since a teenager. With no family history of aneurysms and no other explanation for a 25-year-old with a burst brain aneurysm, my friend’s neurologist urged her to quit smoking, attributing that as more than likely being the cause. She never touched a cigarette again and I joined her in quitting a short few months later.

The couple of hours of volunteering cleaning up cigarette butts, while sounding daunting and maybe a tad monotonous, was truly inspiring. I got to hear two people’s amazing stories, talk with passersby who were curious what we were doing (the funniest ones were the smokers themselves), got thanked multiple times and even got one “fuck you” from a bum that looked like he just walked out of one of the Mad Max movies. It made for a very interesting day and made me realize how much I love this community I live in. My nineteen-year-old self never would have imagined my twenty-nine-year-old self being a non-smoker, moving halfway across the country not knowing a single soul, and talking to random strangers without being nervous. It’s making me so excited to think of the other future transformations that will occur.

We never have to remain stuck, I can promise you that. There are things that happen that are out of our control, but with our freewill, we can choose in each moment how to react to situations. I feel so grateful that my nineteen-year-old self followed her heart and took a road trip to a seemingly random destination. I am also so blessed that the friend that I took that road trip with, my soul sister, inspired me to quit smoking five years later. There are so many changes yet to come, there are always ways to better the self as long as we’re here. We are all a beautiful work-in-progress.

IMG_4193

Meditation Intermission, Let’s Talk Facebook Here

facebookcomic

I  was going to have my next blog post be about my Ireland adventure, but my heart is guiding me to take a little break in the adventures and share something that has been gnawing at me.  I deactivated my Facebook a little over two weeks ago and I wanted to express what has happened for me in doing so.  I have a few blogging friends that have also gone on the Facebook-free wagon and I’ll be featuring those lovely ladies on this post as well.  First and foremost I would like to mention that while this might be a blog post that is bashing Facebook, I don’t want anyone to read this and get upset.  The main reason I wanted to post this was to get thoughts from my blogging friends out there, I’m curious if anyone else has been going through similar experiences with Facebook or if I’m just possibly over thinking it all and I just need to chill out :).

As I was hiking at the beautiful Powell Butte here in Portland the other day, an inspiration hit me to create a questionnaire/survey to be taken by people that have deleted or deactivated their Facebook accounts and when a couple friends expressed interested in it, I decided to get the ball rolling.  I myself answered the questions to the survey, as seen on the first one below.  I also have a few blogging friends that answered the survey following mine and one friend that is not on the blogosphere that answered the survey as well.  Basically I wanted to get a feel for what it might be, collectively, that is driving a lot of us to turn our Facebooks off.  I wanted to get some answers and then share them so that other people out there in the world that might be going through similar feelings can feel less alone in this.    Let’s face it folks, Facebook is everywhere and if you don’t have it there is a serious feel of alienation…well, take a look at my answers and see how I feel!

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join?  I remember my cousin talking about Facebook around 2005-2006, but it seemed to be mostly popular with kids going to big colleges/universities, so I didn’t think it was for me.  I did have a MySpace and was pretty addicted to that, I loved updating my backround songs on MySpace and changing the background designs, I even met my first long-term boyfriend on MySpace, haha.  It was actually that boyfriend that inspired me to create a Facebook account in about 2008 and I got hooked/addicted to it pretty quickly.

How long have you been off of Facebook now?  I deactivated my Facebook about 2 weeks ago, but this isn’t the first time I have done this.  I was without Facebook from about October-January last year, so the longest that I have gone without Facebook is for almost 3 months.

What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook?  Wow, where do I start?! Honestly, I had a lot of reasons that motivated me to finally hit the “deactivate” button on my account.  The biggest reason was that I decided it wasn’t helping me with my mindfulness practice.  When I was traveling with my friends in Ireland, I got completely distracted after I put up a new picture on my Facebook account and got a ton of likes/comments…this in return took my attention away from the fact that, “holy shit I’m in Ireland!”  Instead of being where I was, I was sucked into a screen.  I have an addictive personality by nature, I have given up a lot of addictions, but I was definitely noticing that I was completely addicted to the excitement that I got when my phone lit up with new alerts on Facebook.  I was also motivated to deactivate so that I could focus on my life, with an impending career change and figuring out where I was going to live next, I really had no time for distraction.  Another motivating factor was CONNECTION, I want to feel real, raw in-your-face connection.  I love intimate gatherings, I love going on hikes with friends, I love talking about weird metaphysical stuff with friends and I felt like a good majority of my “connection” on Facebook felt robotic.  And lastly, I felt like my energy was being sucked away on things not for me!  I would have Facebook friends that would air all of their dirty laundry on there, they’d rant about their personal lives and discuss their hatred for certain politicians.  It hit me that when I scrolled down my Facebook feed, it made me physically ill sometimes just taking on other people’s negativity.

facebookaddict

How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook?  It has been incredibly enlightening!  I have gotten a ton accomplished!  I got all of my affairs in order to go teach English overseas, even though it looks like that will be put on hold because Visa paperwork isn’t going through (stay tuned for that future blog post, haha) I have picked up on my writing again–finally completing TWO FULL BLOG POSTS, I found temp work here in Portland until I plan to take off, I have had get-togethers with close friends, I have had deep, soulful chats with friends, hikes/walks/runs in nature.  I have cooked and baked more.  I have had long phone chats with friends/family that live across the country from me.  I have felt energetically clear and I feel like I’m being less pulled into things that were never meant for me.  When I went on Facebook, I’d feel like my mind was kind of static-like…I don’t know how to put it in words I guess,  but basically I just felt like there were too many things pulling at my energy.

What are some things that you miss about Facebook?  There are friends and aquaintances that I definitely miss, people from previous jobs that I have worked at, seeing friends’ kiddos growing up, there were plenty of positive posts that I miss.  But I got to thinking lately, never ever in history have we been able to stay connected with people from our past the way that we can now days….but maybe, just maybe, we aren’t supposed to stay in contact with every single person we meet.  It’s all about vibration, we come in and out of each other’s lives for certain times and then we exit….letting go gives us freedom to move on and forward.  I have so many memories of all of the amazing and sweet souls that I have been blessed to come into contact with in my life, but it doesn’t mean I need to know what they are having for breakfast today.  Instead, I choose to smile at the memories and come fully into where I am and who I am with right now.  Facebook has served it’s purpose for a time in my life, I do have gratitude for the connections it indeed brought me, but just as we have to let go of people in our life…I’m going to let go of my old attachment to Facebook.  I do miss posting my blog posts on Facebook and I should come clean on that–I do have a Facebook page for my blog website, but I can’t see any other people on Facebook, it is strictly for updating my site on there.  I have 111 Facebook followers (thanks guys!) on my page and I didn’t want them to miss my new posts. :). Anyhow, let’s read my blogger friend’s thoughts….

The beautiful Gina from Virtually Gina answered the Facebook survey I sent her, read her thoughts below!

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join? Spring 2008. My then-fuckboi (now-husband) Jeff had just moved to Florida and it seemed like it would be a good way to stay in contact with him.

How long have you been off of Facebook now? This round of deactivation has lasted 16 days. I’ve had a few Facebook-free stints. The longest I’ve gone was four years without it (2009-2013).

What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook? In 2009, I wanted to heal following a particularly nasty break-up. Most recently, though, I have found that an active Facebook life clutters my mind in a way that I don’t appreciate. When I’m off of Facebook, my mind starts to settle. Life becomes quieter. I find it easier to live moment-to-moment without that alluring “pull” of the blue-and-white F-bomb. (Get it? That’s supposed to be funny.)

How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook? Quiet and, at times, fulfilling. I’ve done a lot more baking and reading. I’ve posted one blog, done a few art projects, and even taken to altering a few items of clothing. I like to get crafty with my raiment; it helps me stay fashionable without impinging on my bank account.

What are some things that you miss about Facebook? Seeing thoughtful posts from co-workers and friends, links to interesting articles, photos of my BFF Katy’s kids, and the occasional invite to an event that I would actually attend. I have to keep in mind that in order to access the aforementioned items, I have to sift through tons of ego-based posts, annoying selfies (including my own – haha), photos of people’s kids whom I’ve never even met and probably never will, links to boring articles, and invites to events that I cannot or would not attend in the first place. So, finding items of quality on Facebook sometimes feels like sifting for diamonds in the rubble.

Aleya from Alohaleya shares her answers to the survey below and she wrote a recent article about Facebook as well, read that here: Is Life Better without Facebook?

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join?  I first created a Facebook account in 2006 or 2007. I think it was for curiosity more than anything. Most of my friends were on it so I had to see what all the fuss was about. 🙂 I don’t think I was that addicted to it though – I remember cancelling my account about a year later. 

How long have you been off of Facebook now?  I’ve been off Facebook since June 2016. I’d been on and off a few times in the past few years…but this is definitely the longest I’ve been without it. I seemed to have moved past the temptation phase of reactivating my account.  

What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook? So many reasons, very similar to yours. It was not only eating up my time, but I didn’t like who I was while using Facebook. I was judging and comparing a lot, and feeling bad about myself.

Now, one can argue that Facebook isn’t the cause of those things (i.e., we can’t blame Facebook!). But there’s something about the setup of Facebook, the way it provides a continuous feed of other peoples’ thoughts, opinions, and photos – many of which are negative and fear-based – that it takes a LOT of effort and discipline to not get sucked into all the ego stuff it activates. It just wasn’t worth it to me anymore. I wanted all that gone – I wanted to consciously focus my time and energy on things that were life and soul-affirming. Like reading books! 

How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook? It feels a lot simpler. I have more energy to devote to the things I really enjoy doing. Things feel more authentic – because hardly anyone is truly authentic on Facebook (including me, when I was on it).

What are some things that you miss about Facebook?   Knowing what’s gong on in my city/community – I’ve missed hearing about some fun events, because most people I know communicate them through through Facebook. It’d also be nice to share my writing, blog, etc. with the wide network I had before, but…oh well! Overall, I’m happier without it.

anti-facebook1

Nicole from Beninlife shares her answers to the Facebook survey below:

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join?  I joined Facebook in 2005, though I cannot recall the reason why! I suppose MySpace was being phased out and Facebook was becoming more popular so I joined the trend.
How long have you been off of Facebook now?   The first time I deactivated my account, I stayed off for three years! Then in 2009, I bought a house with my former partner and thought we could post home improvement projects for our friends and family to see, so I reactivated it.  The second time I deactivated my account was just recently, in December of 2016.
What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook?  The last year, there has been an intense build up around the recent Presidential elections.  I did not realize at the time, but reading several posts daily that seemed to be dividing society on political, social and environmental issues finally resulted in me being in a constant state of anxiety.  I am currently serving with the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa and I realized I was not being present with my community nor the projects I was working on.  I would constantly check Facebook to see if I missed anything, as this has been my only connection to the states since arriving in Benin in 2015.  This addictive behavior really disturbed me, so I decided deactivating my account was a simple solution to decreasing my anxiety and increasing the level of being present within my daily life.
How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook?  My life has become so much more simple!  I was worried at first that I would lose connection with friends and family back home, but in fact our connection has increased.  I have become more proactive in sending emails, making phone calls, updating my blog, and writing letters.  As far as my community, I have been able to focus more on my projects as well as integrating. I realized that everyone is watching the U.S.A right now, and the biggest action I can take is showing the locals in Benin that Americans can be kind and that we are here to help versus discriminate.
What are some things that you miss about Facebook?  Facebook had become my news source, which is a good and bad thing! As I cannot verify the validity of the news sources that are posted on Facebook, I have a newfound interest in researching credible news sources and staying more informed on world issues objectively.

And last, but certainly not least, Chaya from Chaya Grossberg shares her take on deactivating Facebook:

When social media first became popular, I was going through some major challenges that had me isolated and not able to read, write or use the internet much for a few years. This was in 2000-2003. When I emerged from that, I thought people still used floppy discs. I had been on 7 psychiatric drugs and bedridden from drug induced fatigue and mental impairment for about a year…but was still a writer at heart.

After that I briefly dated a guy who lived across the street from me, who I literally met while I was moongazing one night (quite the opposite of online dating). He talked about Friendster and would use it to invite his friends to events and parties. This seemed very foreign to me. A lot of the time I couldn’t tell if he was talking about his friends or his “Friendsters” since it seemed a lot of the people he was Friendsters with weren’t actual friends, though I couldn’t tell. I eventually tried Friendster in 2006 because another friend suggested it as a way to meet guys to date and I was coming out of a relationship that was hard for me to move on from.
 
This worked poorly to get me a date with a guy I had no interest in!
 
I resisted Facebook, but joined in 2008, I believe. I didn’t get a smartphone until 2014, and didn’t have internet at home, so I would only use Facebook in conjunction with everything else I did online for about an hour at the library, or at an office where I worked. I still found it pretty annoying, and tried to keep most of my interactions off of it. If someone wrote to me on there, I would email them back instead of replying on Facebook, or sometimes even call them instead.
 
I was excited to be able to reconnect with old friends though. I’d had so many powerful connections in childhood, high school and college and in my earlier twenties that I felt sad to lose due to moving away and different life paths and had actually fantasized about some way to be able to stay in contact with all of them. So that part was very exciting to me at first, tracking people down, getting surprise friend requests from old friends, seeing people’s photos and what they were up to. I didn’t get addicted right away, though. I would only use the internet for about an hour a day, so I made lists of things I needed to do (I still do this, but with a smart phone it’s much harder to limit access), and there wasn’t endless time for Facebooking.
 
I have been off Facebook now for about 4-5 months. I deactivated a month and a half before the 2016election and then went back on for one day, right after the election. I’ve gone back on a couple of other times for a few hours, including on my birthday, but even the birthday withes on Facebook had completely lost their charm.

When I first deactivated, I thought it would just be for a week or so, maybe a month tops. Up until then, I knew I was addicted to Facebook, but like many people, I needed it to create events, spread the word about things I was doing, market my business, share my writing, find out about events, stay in touch with new friends…the list was endless.

And then one day… none of those things seemed necessary or relevant, and I had reached a breaking point. Facebook was ruining my life. I felt like I had thousands of Facebook friends but almost no real ones. I realized I was looking for real friends on Facebook, when I needed to leave Facebook to find people who were interested in engaging off of Facebook! Simple logic, but it hadn’t occurred to me before. I thought that if I expressed something on Facebook, my friends on there would want to talk to me about it by phone or meet up in person (which did happen a few times, but more often than not people were on Facebook to engage on Facebook), when in fact they were just as addicted to Facebook as I was, and therefore didn’t have time to engage in real life.
What motivated me to deactivate Facebook was this extreme isolation I was feeling. It actually felt like I had reached a point where I knew it was my only choice for living a “real” life where I was actually present some of the time. I still get addicted to texting, email, and other internet and smartphone related things, but it does feel better now.
I wanted to see who I was without Facebook. It felt like such a powerful addiction that it had taken over my life. The few times I went back on I was flooded with negative emotions such as anxiety, jealousy, sadness, shame, embarrassment and generally feeling competitive with or rejected by others (even when I got a lot of likes and positive comments). All I could think of was who didn’t like me or my posts, and my Facebook friends who were no longer really in my life. I’ve moved around a lot and therefore have lost touch with thousands of friends. Facebook had become a reminder of everyone who was no longer in my life. Being Facebook friends with these people started to feel much worse than not having any contact at all, because it simply reminded me that these people were no longer actually available to me for real connection.
I felt this heaviness around Facebook, like I was expected to keep up with so many people and like it was an unpaid job to keep track of what thousands of people were doing or thinking.
I would also get jealous of people who were more popular than me and always got hundreds of likes on everything they posted. I would literally think there must be something wrong with me or my friends must strongly dislike me or find me annoying if I wasn’t getting as many likes as so and so. But there was no amount of likes that would ever make me feel better and in fact, the more likes I got, the more obsessive I became and the more “rejected” I felt.
Since I deactivated, all of that has fallen away! I no longer feel preoccupied with grief over people who are no longer actively in my life, or jealousy over people who are more popular than me. There are hundreds of people I no longer think about much at all, but when I do it feels more grounded.
 
I realized I was also okay with letting people forget about me, if that would happen due to me not being on Facebook. In fact I feel much lighter and like I’m not holding onto all these people or expecting them to hold me in their consciousness all the time. Then when someone does reach out to me, it feels real, and when I think about people or reach out to them, I know it is because I naturally want to do so. I’m not reacting to Facebook “propaganda” or pressure, or putting any weight on others to respond to me in that way.
 
Everything feels lighter and it took awhile, but I’ve attracted some other friends who don’t use Facebook, or who hardly use it.
 
Everything in my life got better when I left Facebook. For the first few weeks I felt so high, and so pleased with myself for finally kicking my addiction. I don’t miss it at all! It was like night and day how I went from my life revolving around Facebook, to my life revolving around my actual needs and actual real life connections.
 
I do get isolated sometimes, which has always been an issue for me as someone who enjoys a lot of solitude, but now I don’t numb out the isolation with Facebook. I either feel it or reach out in a real way like by making a phone call or going out. I do still sometimes engage in other addictive internet behaviors when I’m isolated, such as excessive reading, but at least I am targeting specific topics that I want to read about rather than scrolling mindlessly and passively on a newsfeed about infinite topics that I’m not actively choosing.
 
Not being on Facebook makes me feel sort of like everyone else is caught in a fake reality, but I don’t judge anyone for using it. I simply pat myself on the back because I know I made the right choice for myself. Every time someone mentions this or that Facebook group, I simply feel relieved that I won’t be checking it out.
 
Now that I’m off I have no idea how I ever had the time or mental space to absorb that much constant mental stimulation. I used to get really curious about certain other people from my past and look them up on Facebook; this was part of my addiction. I was neglecting my own life to passively observe what other people were doing. Now that I don’t do that, it seems so obvious that minding my own business is a healthier and more integrated lifestyle for me.
 
A lot of the activist organizing (and arguing) that took place in my Facebook feed (and in my mind) no longer even seems real. It literally seems like just mental activity in other people’s minds that has no relevance to me whatsoever.
 
I also notice that I use email and texting more, and I sign up for more email lists because I don’t feel bombarded with input.
What do I miss about Facebook? I miss some of the really amazing writing of my friends and even some writers and celebrities who only post their writing on Facebook. I wish they would put them on blogs as well so I could follow them. I even considered emailing some of my favorite Facebook posters to ask them to start blogs, but never got around to it.
 
I miss seeing posts about spontaneous opportunities to meet up with people, and being invited to the private events of new friends who don’t know me well enough to invite me personally when I’m not on Facebook.
 
There’s a website called allevents.in that allows me to see all of the public Facebook events in my area, so that helps a lot (anyone can use it). I don’t miss people constantly marketing to me and inviting me to their workshops and whatnot (except for the very small percentage which actually interested me).
 
I actually don’t even miss asking for advice about practical things on Facebook. But every once in awhile I do. Every once in awhile Facebook seems like it would be the perfect place for me to post a question, a request or share something I wrote. But I know it’s a slippery slope, so I generally refrain and use google or call a friend instead. I post things on Google plus, Patreon, and my own blog, where I don’t get sucked into any rabbit holes of scrolling or obsession or distractions that waste my energy that I could be using to face my own life and address my problems.
One other thing I miss is links to really good articles. But I don’t miss it that much. I get less news for sure, but even that feels pretty healthy so that I can focus my energies more constructively on things I can actually do something about. Reading the news can make me feel powerless. Instead, I’ve mostly been reading things that inspire me or help me improve my health, or interesting stories. I like having less input too, because it allows my imagination more space to find its own realities and solutions.