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!
After my first 10-day meditation retreat, something within me really snapped and shifted. All of a sudden I wanted to get rid of a ton of personal belongings. I still found a few items very meaningful: my journal, coffeemaker and hygienic tools were things that were important to me. However, my shelves upon shelves of dusty DVDs, CDs, books, and random knick-knacks felt heavy. Impulsively, I grabbed a few large garbage bags and just started pulling all of these items that felt heavy to me and gently placed them into the garbage bags. Without thinking twice, I jetted the collected items over to my local thrift store and dropped them all of without looking behind. I felt a lightness in my mental and physical state instantly.
Materialism has never been my thing, but especially since starting meditation in 2011, it seems that any fractal of interest in it has dwindled even more. Almost a year into my 20-minute daily meditation practice, I was inspired to write a piece for Lightworkers World about how I feel in regards to the idea of physical things creating inner happiness. The deeper and deeper that I have gone into the depths of my soul, the further I have gotten from caring about comparing what others’ have to what I have. I have instead thought more and more about how I appreciate the things that I do have and truly taste the blessings that I am given on a daily basis. The cravings for more lessen as I see how amazing it is that I have a fully stocked kitchen, efficient means of transportation, and ohhhhhh so much more!
When I was visiting my sister on the East Coast over this past winter, I had a couple of Netflix binges and upon doing so came across an incredibly inspiring documentary entitled “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.” The main two cast members of the documentary Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodermus also have an inspiring website, The Minimalists, which you should definitely check out if you have time. A lot of what they mentioned in their documentary was exactly the same thoughts that I had been having shortly after my first 10-day meditation retreat. They touch upon the last few decades of American culture and how it has heavily influenced our consumer mindset. We have somehow been driven to think that things create happiness, but as the late George Carlin would state “trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all of your body.”
Over the last six years, I have moved about eight times (what can I say, a spiritual awakening can cause a bit of chaos, hehe) and one of the moves was cross-country. With each move, my amount of possessions has lessened and I find myself only holding onto the things that I find necessary. Not having a whole lot of clothes makes life so much easier to me and the few clothing items that I do have are my absolute favorite, so I get excited to wear them. Everything that I own, besides some old mementos stored in family and friends’ attics, fits into my vehicle. It feels so freeing to be able to pick up and go to a new place if my heart is calling it, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to do this.
I am excited to see a lot of other people feeling the same way about materialism, how it’s not truly all that it’s cracked up to be. Advertisements are unfortunately always going to be around as long as money is around, but at least as we get more and more in touch with ourselves and remembering who we truly are, we will be able to get less swayed by those advertisements. How are you feeling about all the things that surround you right now? Do you truly need all of it? Or might you be able to donate some of those extra items that you haven’t touched in ages?
Everything that I owned in 2011 as I made my way from the Midwest to the West Coast of the U.S.
As always, please comment and share your thoughts with me, I love feedback 🙂
Take care, much peace and love! ❤
Wooh! Spring is in the air, summer is right around the corner and the collective energy feels exciting. With that excitement, there is a slight undertone of feeling scattered. It feels like everyone is making plans for the future: backpacking trips, camping trips, road trips. All of these thoughts of making future plans makes it feel difficult to stay focused in the here and now. This is how the last couple of weeks has felt for me at least. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed and as if I am being pulled in a million different directions I try to find a spare 10 minutes to sit and meditate, adding this onto my other daily habit of 20 minutes of meditation in the morning.
In the spirit of community I thought it would be awesome to record a 10-minute guided meditation. This meditation is one that I have shared with countless friends and acquaintances when they have asked me if I could instruct them in meditating. I learned this one from the “Insight” meditation group that I joined in Portland, Oregon back in 2012. What exactly is “Insight” meditation might you ask? It is derived from one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation called “Vipassana” meditation. Vipassana involves focusing on the deep interconnection between mind and body. It involves focusing on your breath and anytime your attention wavers, you gently bring yourself back to your breath.
I start out the meditation with having us take a few deep breaths together which helps to ground us into the present moment. I then ask us to notice three touch-points, noticing your connection to whichever surface they might be on (i.e. your hands resting against your knees or thighs, your bottom on a cushion or a chair.) We then will bring our attention up to our nostrils and become aware of the cool air coming in and the warm air as we breathe out. Paying attention to the sensation of the in and out breath is the main focus for the rest of the 10 minutes. Some might not like this type of meditation, but I am hoping that it does help a few. There are an incredible number of different types of meditation and mindfulness techniques, so if one doesn’t work for you, don’t you worry because there are countless others to try.
Click on the recording below (best listened to with headphones) and join me for 10 minutes of meditation, I hope this helps you!! 🙂
I was on a date recently where the guy goes, “so, are you like a health nut? Like….do you drink green smoothies and run five miles a day?” I had to pause and think about it until it dawned on me that yes, I actually have become the health nut-type. When I was a teenager I used to make fun of the health nut-types and I thought a lot of them might have a stick up their butt, but come to find out….looks like you can become what you hated, hehe. It took some years to catch onto it, but now I completely understand why there is a hype to creating healthy habits. The high vibration I feel after downing raw veggies, fruit, and nuts daily, the endorphins that get released after I go on a long run, and the way anxiety floats away after meditating all feel really good.
During the hustle and bustle of life and ever-changing moments it’s so easy to get caught up and lost in it that we forget to take care of ourselves. Between busy work schedules, commuting, remembering to call friends or family on their birthday, getting back to text messages, and so many other things that come up it’s so easy to forget about ourselves. Extremely stressful times seem to be when we are most prone to forgetting about caring for ourselves. Divorce, break-ups, losing someone close to us, moving, starting a new job, raising a family, and whatever other major life change we are going through can test our limits and push us to the brink of insanity. What has helped me for times of intense life debacles is what I call my “Three Go-Tos.”
My “Three Go-Tos” are the three things that I try to do on a daily basis without any hesitations or reservations. When life is going really well, things are going smooth, and I am managing time well is when it’s most important to do my “Three Go-Tos. ” These times are the most important because I definitely notice that healthy habits seem to slip through my fingers when things are going so seemingly well for me. It’s so easy for me to think “accccckkkkk, I am feeling good and things are grand, I can skip my 20-minute morning meditation today…” and then those kind of thoughts can easily become a habit of their own. When things are going nicely in life, it is most important to keep up the healthy habits so that when life does throw those curve balls we can stay strong and remember the sources that help us.
So everyone’s “Three Go-Tos” are going to look differently, but my three that I don’t even think twice about anymore would be: having a protein-filled vegetable and fruit smoothie daily, meditating for 20 minutes in the morning, and running daily. I have noticed in the last year how clear-minded I have felt and how focused I have become with these daily habits. They have become so ingrained into me as daily activities that I feel weird if I skip one or two on any given day. I do try to give myself a break if situations come up, it’s best not to become so strict that you end up becoming a “Go-To” robot, but it is great to keep in the habit.
^^^ One of my fav go-to smoothie recipes^^^
Do you have some daily “Go-Tos” that have been getting you through this crazy journey of life? What would be three of them if you had to choose? If you can’t think of anything off the top of your head stop by this post to see if it helps to get your brain juices spinning: Never Underestimate the Healing Powers of… I would really love to see what helps you guys and get some new ideas so that maybe I can switch up my “Three Go-Tos” from time to time.
Thanks for reading 🙂 Peace!
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.
From my jog this morning:
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.
–Skating (roller skating, roller blading, skateboarding.)
–Working in a garden.
–Sampling new beers or wines.
–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.
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:
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. 🙂
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?!” 😬