Gratitude in Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace out!

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……

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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.

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.  🙂

It’s Now or Never

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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

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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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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…

Vast.

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I think that a lot of anxiety comes from the fear of failure, of not reaching goals in life. I think that a lot of depression and anxiety stems from people thinking that this world is just so huge. That there are just so many people, so many creatures, “what am I, as one person, going to do to make any difference in the world?” People feel small, insignificant, just a drop of water in a vast ocean.

We are HUGE though, we are incredibly significant, each beautiful and wonderful action that’s done on a daily basis causes ripple effects. A smile, holding the door for someone, a compliment, seemingly insignificant fleeting moments in life are so much more important than we think.

Your life is remarkable, don’t let anyone make you think otherwise.