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!!!!!

Meditation Musings

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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.  🙂

Transformation Does Occur

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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.

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No Cell Zone

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They’re everywhere.  They’re standing in the middle of walkways, at the grocery stores, at shopping malls, walking down city sidewalks, they are your own friends that you haven’t seen in months sitting across from you at the restaurant booth.  They are all doing that familiar thing, that incredibly common sight this day in age.  Come on…you know what I am talking about by now, right?  I am talking about that human with their head faced down and that far away glaze in their eyes as they look down at a tiny screen on a gadget that fits ever so perfectly between their hands.

I’m guilty of it.  You’re guilty of it.  Anyone that owns a cell phone, whether or not it’s a “smart” phone is guilty of it.  I guarantee that in your time of owning a cell phone you have either tripped over uneven sidewalk, ignored your friend, or blocked someone’s way in a store aisle because of cell phone distraction.  I absolutely guarantee it, we are glued to them.  They hold the whole world inside of them.  We feel naked leaving the house without them.  With the push of a button we can find newer and better of anything: cars, houses, lovers.

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A few weekends ago, I decided to have a cell phone fast for one day.  The battery on my phone had died the Friday evening before and I decided that I would just not plug it into a charger until Sunday afternoon.  To my surprise, as soon as I set the cell phone fast as an intention, I felt incredibly at peace and had a sense of relief when I realized I wouldn’t have to respond to anyone or anything on a tiny screen until Sunday.  I became excited at thought of not having to feel guilty in not responding to someone.

I caught up on so many things that I had been putting off for so long.  I finished chores around the house, including the two loads of laundry and washing the pile of dishes stacked like a Jenga tower on my bedroom desk.  I finished a library book that had been racking up an over due fine for well over a month.  I went on a two-hour nature walk/jog and locked eyes or smiled with a few other passersby.  I caught up with two of my roommates who I have had more interaction with on Facebook messenger than in real life.

Call me crazy but, I imagine a world where we smile when we have low batteries
Cause that will mean we’ll be one bar closer – to humanity

–Prince Ea

I have realized that my addiction to my cell phone has become just as bad as any other addiction that I have ever had.  It is just another distraction keeping me from what I really want or should be doing.  It has become a way to numb my brain out from thinking about thoughts that I don’t want to face.  It is another way to avoid facing up to things that are hurting me or things that I need to heal.  There are so many options and possibilities of things to do on my cell phone, it’s like being at a virtual amusement park for adults.

I understand that there is the other side of the coin.  I know that cell phones are devices of convenience and helpful in many aspects.  I know that it is part of what is able to connect us to everyone and everything.  Someone in another country might be reading these very words I am typing out right now and that is absolutely amazing.  But what gets me, what really gets me is this: what if it were all to crash tomorrow?  I mean truly, everything changes and nothing stays the same.

I just want to be more alert and aware of when I reach down for my phone, what is it that is drawing me there?  What is it within me that is feeling so uncomfortable with my own thoughts that I need to distract my mind with external validation from technology?  I want to change my ways.  I think I want to dedicate a time to look at it, maybe instead of first thing in the morning, I can look at it briefly at my lunch hour and for a set time after work: thirty minutes or less and that’s it.  I just want more moment-to-moment awareness and connection, how about you?

The Meditation Continues…

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It has been a long time since I have written a post!  I never wanted this blog to become one of those stagnant websites you come across where you check to see when the last update was and it states it was years ago.  The only way I would let that happen is if I were to pass away, then it really will be a website locked in time.  Although, the website address might change if I were to pass, as I am paying $18 a year for my website name (let’s be brutally honest here hah…) So here it goes, I am feeling the inspiration and flow to get some words out again.

I have been a bit silent lately because I have been dealing with some life changes and anxiety (those two really go hand in hand don’t they?)  Old destructive thought patterns have been coming up for me again and I caught myself on the teeter totter of desiring past addictions, but fortunately as time passed the cravings vanished.  I kept remembering that just because in one moment I was craving a past addiction, it doesn’t have to become a big story.  It was just one moment, one passing thought, one passing craving and the next moment starts anew.

My meditation practice has been the same (20 minutes on most mornings), but with that I have felt that I reached a plateau and haven’t gotten as much out of it as when I started a few years ago.  I guess I had some fantasy when I first started practicing meditation that it would lift me up fast and that life would be like heaven every day.  While there has been some amazing transformation within me since first starting meditation, life as a human is still exactly that.  I have to feed this body, excrete stuff from this body and care for this body……honestly, it’s a lot of work!

The other fantasy that I had about starting a meditation practice was that I thought it would help me to elevate my consciousness to such a degree that all my dreams would come true and that everything would be happily ever after.  Hah!  Just typing that out makes me crack up, because in reality it did the complete opposite.  It shattered the idea of my dreams, it made me realize that a lot of my dreams were actually never even mine to begin with.  It ripped apart the idea of what I thought I was supposed to be and do in this life.

Meditation has quieted my mind and has helped me to focus in on what my true desires are.  It has helped me in becoming patient with what is in any given moment or situation, be it blessing or a curse occurring.  Meditation has shown me many things that I need to work on and many things that I have avoided for a good majority of my adult life.  It has made me realize that you can shift everything around in your outer life all you want to try to find happiness, but truly….everything is actually discovered when you go within.

I actually just made three major changes in the outer circumstances of my life, so I am being a little hypocritical with the above statement, haha.  However, I feel that meditation helped me to focus in on what I truly want to do with my life, so I have begun taking the steps and signs have come along with that informing me in a synchronous matter that this is the path that I need to be on right now.  I’m sure that some uncomfortable things will come up on this path too, but that will give me the experience I need to keep on my path of following my bliss.  I am excited for this new path and am going to try to post more frequently!

Aside

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I never want fame, nor fortune. I just want people to know something and spread messages in a cosmic tidal wave. I want people to know that they have the power. It never was anyone else’s fault.

I don’t want a successful career, I don’t want to own a house, I don’t want 2.5 kids and a white picket fence, I just want to be a light for a little while, until I dim out.

This is all I am, this is what I do.

This dimension has been really tough and dense, but I am in it right now, so here goes….

It’s time to stop busying myself, and time to share.

Everything in my life, the “good” and the “bad” has come together full circle, into this wheel of life. I am realizing it all had to happen, for me to come to this moment of now…where I am sharing parts of my soul that I feared ever sharing before, in hopes that it will help someone, even just one person out there who might be feeling alone.

I have been addicted to cigarettes, addicted to pills, addicted to lovers, addicted to technology, addicted to caffeine, and after putting a halt to each addiction, I come back to that same empty hole. The hole is felt in those spaces in between. The spaces where you feel all alone, where you feel bored or hopeless. The spaces pass though and if you face those spaces and “holes” within, you move up and above to a buoyant space where it all makes sense.

I am coming into my power and nothing can stop me now.

Walls Crumbling Down…