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!

My Three Go-Tos

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.

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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.

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^^^ 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!

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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!!!!!

Following the Heart; Adventure Part Tres!

 uniquegeology2Along the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim Plateau at The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Thanks for continuing with me as I recall my recent adventures overseas to Iceland and Ireland.  I left off from my last adventure blog-post, Following the Heart, Adventure Part Dos with my take-off from Iceland to Ireland.  My arrival into Dublin airport was quite magical as I was greeted by a rainbow as soon as I got outside and boarded the double deck bus that would scoot me into the city center.  My friends from Portland were not able to get similar dates as mine to Dublin, so I had four days of solo travel until they arrived.  To stay on the cheap side of things I booked one night at a hostel and three nights with a Couchsurfer girl.  I have utilized Couchsurfing many times in the States, both by hosting many travelers and traveling to different states and being a guest, but this would be my first experience with it overseas.

rainbowThe first view of Ireland for me from my double deck bus en route to Dublin.

As soon as I arrived to my hostel and dropped off all of my luggage I met up with two Chilean guys that I met from the Couchsurfing “Dublin Travel Board”, we all clicked right off the bat.  They were like-minded adventurous spirits and we instantly shared our similar stories of traveling, it turned out that they were country-hopping and would end their travels a few weeks later in Russia.  They had been in Dublin for a couple days already, so they showed me all of the city’s main hot spots and they knew of cool happenings that night.  My first night in Dublin was spent dancing with my new friends to the talented Daithi O Dronai who is an Irish DJ that incorporates a synthesized fiddle into his set.  I am not really a huge electronic dance music fan, however this kid is wildly talented and if you’re into that type of music, I highly recommend that you check him out!

The following morning I parted ways with my new friends and researched directions to get to my Couchsurfer’s apartment as she was expecting me later that morning.  According to my phone’s GPS, it was about a 30-minute walk to her place from the hostel.  Even though I had a pretty heavy backpack, I decided I’d walk to her place.  I wanted to burn some calories from my first night of Dublin debauchery (i.e. more food and drinks than what I normally consume.)  The fresh air as I exited my hostel to walk towards my Couchsurfer’s place was a welcome chill.  The 30-minute jaunt turned into 60-minutes of walking and soon I realized that I was completely lost.  The street signs in Dublin aren’t very user-friendly, most of them are on the buildings of the street and that’s if you’re lucky.

I came upon half a dozen people or so that were Dublin locals and they had never heard of the “Marrowbone Lane” that my Coushsurfer lived on, I was starting to believe it was just a make-believe name, as it was kind of comic book sounding anyhow.  Unfortunately my phone had died yet again, but I had my Couchsurfer’s address and phone number written on the palm of my hand. The one hour of being lost turned into two hours, but Dublin’s colors really shone bright to me in that two hours.  Every single person I came across was so incredibly sweet and helpful, truly listening to me as I explained to them my situation and pulled up the handwritten-GPS of my palm to show them the address of my Couchsurfer.  I also discovered that when people asked me where I was from in the States, when I first said “Oregon” I just got me confused looks, so my new story was “I am from California” and I’d get big smiles as people nodded their head with familiarity,  haha.

Two elderly Irish men walking their dog helped me find my way for about three blocks and Marrowbone Lane was finally discovered, but the exact number of the address my Couchsurfer gave me was nowhere to be found.  Communicating with the two elderly Irish men wasn’t the most fruitful as their Irish accents were so strong it literally just sounded like a different language to me.  They kindly directed me to a convenience store where the patient clerks behind the counter let me use their phone to call my Couchsurfer.  That was the final success as Cindy, my Couchsurfer, answered her phone right away and informed me to stay put at the convenience store and she would come grab me.

xmasdubChristmas décor in my Couchsurfer’s ‘hood.

My first evening with Cindy had a very dreamy feel to it.  It happened to be Christmas Eve and she knew about a gathering from Meetup that was going on at a local neighborhood bar which was called a “Bono” meetup.  Unbeknown to me, Bono (the frontman of the rock band U2) is an Ireland native and apparently Dublin locals are pretty obsessed about it.  Word had it on the street, that he’d possibly be making an appearance near the bar where the Meetup was.  After having a drink and chatting it up with some of the locals at the Meetup, we joined the group to walk a few blocks over to where Bono was supposed to appear.

It was a small crowd at first, maybe about 50 of us, but over the next hour it turned into thousands of people waiting on this small street in front of a shoe store where Bono was supposed to appear.  I was perplexed as to why people were so certain that he was going to show up and after chatting with a couple locals, I discovered that he had been at this exact shoe store exactly a year ago on Christmas Eve, so people were more so just living for the past.  There truly was no guarantee that he was even in Dublin at all.  The waiting got a little redundant until some Irish cuties jumped on top of a giant trash dumpster to the left of me and started playing their acoustic instruments.  They started playing some classics which turned into a sing-along with them, one of my favorites being “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley.

Cindy and I headed back towards a pub called M.J. O’neill to meet with my two Chilean friends again for Christmas Eve dinner.  As soon as we entered, it was so loud with beer glasses clinking and jolly voices alongside laughter that I could barely hear my friends.  We soon discovered that it was very popular for the Irish locals to attend mass on Christmas Eve and then consume a bunch of calories at the nearest bar afterwards.  M.J. O’neill had three different floors and about three to four different bars within each of those floors.  The main floor had a gigantic buffet of Christmas fixings and of course the classic fish ‘n’ chips if you wanted to do the usual Irish fare.  My friends and I grabbed the only place left to eat, a standing table on the third floor and watched traditional Irish music with dance as we chowed our delicious food down.

oneillsOutside of the lovely M.J. O’neill where my new friends and I spent Christmas Eve.

Christmas was chill, lazy and perfect to catch up on relaxing after being on the go constantly as everything was closed in Dublin on Christmas Day.  Cindy and I cooked a home-cooked meal while watching old cheesy Christmas movies.  The days following Chirstmas with my Couchsurfer were pretty solo as she ended up having to work on job- hunting most of the time. I spent a multitude of time getting lost in the city of Dublin by myself, but people were so eager to help the lost “Californian” girl that I had no troubles eventually finding my way.  Irish people are seriously some of the kindest souls I have ever met.

dontbeafraidThis sign appeared to me and calmed my frazzled nerves during one of the many times I got lost :).

I met up with another sweet Couchsurfer from the “Dublin Travel Board” named Mikhail who is from Romania originally, but has been living and working in Dublin for the last six years.  He took me to the famous Temple Bar in Dublin where we had a delicious hot whisky and talked about so many interesting subjects, he is into metaphysical stuff like me so we had a lot to chat about.  He took me on a much needed nature hike alongside Dublin Bay that ends at a beautiful lighthouse with a sweet graffiti message at the end.  The sunset above the water was pure magic and exactly what I needed after having spent so much time in the city.  Afterwards, we met up with some other Couchsurfers from the “Dublin Travel Board” and went on one of the famous pub crawls in the city.

sunsetdublindublincoastrespectandunityThe beautiful walk on Dublin Bay to Poolbeg Lighthouse.

On my last solo day in Dublin I took a tour at the Guinness Storehouse, which just so happened to be in Cindy’s backyard practically.  Even though I am not a fan of stouts what-so-ever, Guinness is the famous beer of Dublin, having been around since 1769.  I figured it would be one last solo adventure on my own before meeting up with my Portland friends later that day.  The tour was mediocore, my A.D.D. kicked in, but luckily it was a self-guided tour where you watched different videos and read plaques on the walls.  I eagerly hopped up the stairs to the last setting of the tour which was a beautiful, circular-windowed bar at the top floor of the building that had perfect views of the city, I turned in my “Redeem One Free Guiness” ticket and chilled at the top, soaking in the wonderful atmosphere.  There were astounding views of Dublin through the wide glassed windows, jolly families chattering around me and one of my favorite tunes “Waiting” by the Devlins   playing on the overhead speakers.  It might have been the beer-buzz that was talking, but that exact moment in time felt so beautiful ….as if it was just a great dream.

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guinesshorseandbirdA dreamy stop at the Guinness Storehouse.

I met up with my Portland friends, Kat and Charlie, later that morning at the airport.  We had planned on Charlie doing the driving because Kat and I were both a bit hesitant about doing the whole “other side of the road” driving, but as soon as they informed me that they were both running off about 1-2 hours of sleep, I realized I needed to face my fear and do the driving.  I was super anxious with the thought of driving the rental car out of the Dublin airport, through Dublin traffic and through the endless roundabouts while driving on a completely different side of the road.  I have slight dyslexia, so I truly was curious if my brain was going to be able to compute this new direction of driving.  I took a few deep breaths, followed signs as they were noted and actually acclimated to the opposite side of the road incredibly fast!  It turned out to be a blessing that I drove first because then I was so comfortable with it that I ended up driving most of the trip.  I get car sickness pretty quickly as a passenger, so it was quite perfect for me to be the driver.

ireland5A photo-collage that I made entitled “Irish Animals Like to Give Me the Stare Down.”

Kat, Charlie and I traveled together for almost two weeks and one of my favorite memories ever was from our third day together.  After waking up the earliest that we had ever awoke on that trip, we parted ways with our Air BNB in Cork, Ireland to head a few hours away to Fanore, Ireland.  Kat had done some research a few weeks prior about a 5k run that was going on there.  The 5k was to help rebuild a wall of a cemetery in Fannore, one of the most surreal benefits that I had ever supported, haha…only in Ireland!  Halfway through the run you were able to have views of Fanore beach, on the west coast of Ireland.  All of the animals we came across quietly stared us down as we were getting our run on.  That 5k was the least competitive run that I have ever done, I loved that fact because competition is what I usually dread about races.  There was no huge timer and photographers at the end, just a friendly older Irish man handing us medals and we came back to where we started the race.

ireland4irealnd3On top:  Me, Kat, and Charlie after the 5k, Below: Awesome Irish runners of the 5k.

After the race, we headed another of couple of hours away to our Air BNB in Galway and chilled out for the rest of the day there.  The following day, which happened to be New Year’s Eve day, we decided to venture out to the Hill of Tara in Meath.  The Hill of Tara was at one time the ancient seat of power in Ireland’s historic and pre-historic times.  That afternoon, I was hit with the nastiest cold ever with an incredible fever and body aches.  I really wanted to explore the Hill of Tara though, so I overloaded on Ibuprofen.  Walking around the land on the Hill of Tara was incredibly inspiring.  The energy of the whole area felt very mythical and the historic feeling of it was incredible.  A cemetery is at the entrance as you climb up the hill to get to the top and then rolling hills greet you alongside all of the ancient monuments.  As I quietly strolled the hills, I had to pinch myself to question whether I was dreaming or if I really was spending my last day of 2016 in this magical land.

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fullsizerenderHow my New Year’s Eve went down: The Hill of Tara and then beddy-bye for me.

As the evening drew near on New Year’s Eve, my illness got worse as I realized that my Ibuprofen overload had ripped my stomach apart.  I spent New Year’s Eve night wrapped up in my pajamas watching YouTube videos and reading in bed as Kat and Charlie explored fun in the streets of Meath, Ireland.  My evening of rest had me feeling so much better fortunately that to make up for my dreary New Year’s Eve, we got to spend a magical day at Newgrange.  Newgrange is a prehistoric monument that dates back to 3200 BC, making it older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge.  Walking on this land on my very first day of 2017 was surreal.  As a bus courted us out the the ancient megalithic monuments, I again found myself pinching the skin on the back of my hand questioning if it was all a dream.   My favorite part was when our tour guide did a demonstration of what it looks like inside the monument as the sun rises inside the monument (they mimick what it looks like with a demonstration shining light through the little window inside.)

newgrangeirealnd10Happy Happy 2017, first day of the New Year’s spent at Newgrange!

Our last few days in Ireland were spent in Northern Ireland and then back to Dublin for the final night.  Nothern Ireland is considered part of the United Kingdom (the southern part of Ireland is not which means their currency is different as well.)  In Northern Ireland, we hit up The Giant’s Causeway, which is an area of unique geological formations that were built up from and ancient volcanic eruption.  The Giant’s Causeway is in the Northeast coast, with spectacular views of the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim plateau. We also spent some time in Belfast exploring the Titanic exhibit, as this is where the Titanic was built in 1912.  On our final day in Dublin I braved the crazy streets for one last jog before the long plane ride back to the States and witnessed a bicyclist get hit by a car, thank goodness he got away okay with just a few scrapes, but that was an intense last moment of an otherwise blessed trip!

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 ireland12In order from top to bottom: 1) The Giant’s Causeway. 2) Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Cork. 3)Another castle that I don’t remember the name of :/  4) Unique geological formations at The Giant’s Causeway. 5)Walking alongside the water in Belfast (right by where the Titanic was built!) 6) A mural in Dublin.

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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Upping the Ante

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I was sick of always feeling rushed.  Of the rat race.  Of feeling as if I were just going through the motions of life as if it were meaningless and pointless, just something to get done with.  Meditation helped me with this.  Meditation helped me to actually stop and observe, to giggle at the baby that was trying to wear a Tupperware lid as a hat or to actually taste the casserole that I rushed through my evening to make.  Meditation helped me to look at life in a different way, each breath created a whole new rich moment to feel.

In starting this blog and my original challenge of dedicating twenty minutes of my morning to meditation, I wanted to see what kind of changes would come about within me.  And what a glorious four years of change it has been. In the first couple years of my 20-minute per day meditation, my life was smooth sails and all of the people, situations and stories that came to me were all amazingly synchronous and magical.  I was able to feel situations out more with my heart than my head, making things come about effortlessly and without force.

But something interesting (and frustrating, grrrr) has happened.  I have reached some sort of plateau.  I’m resorting back to old habits, to old anxious ways, and old patterns.  In the last year I have noticed something, I have become stuck.  And everything within my life, my world right now seems to be at a standstill.  Life for me lately has felt as if I am a hamster in a cage just spinning on a wheel, popping off it a few times for maybe a nibble of food or sip of water.  I have been trying to control things that are completely out of my control.  I have most definitely been more in my head, scheming out how I can create the exact life that I want instead of being more open to letting things move in and out of my world as they ought to.

I named it “Ilona’s Meditation Challenge” for a reason, I wanted to document the challenge I was giving myself in meditating for 20 minutes daily.  But I think it is time to up the challenge, I am going to challenge myself for the next 30 days, 6/28-7/28 to meditate for 40 minutes daily.  Once in the morning for 20 minutes and once in the evening for 20 minutes and we shall see how it will go.  Coming from working in the medical field for nine years, I am doing exactly as a doctor would with a patient’s medication after they have built a tolerance, I am upping the dose!

Also, to further the challenge, I am going to try my hardest to log in to this blog every week to write a little something about how the experience is going.  That was what my whole intention with this blog was from the get-go and I got so wrapped up in my mind chatter that I forgot.  I am excited to see where my mind goes next, hopefully I’ll lose more of it as I integrate more into the heart.  Thanks for joining me on the next leg of this journey, it will be a challenging adventure, but one that is calling for me.

meditate201

“Prayer, meditation and contemplation do more than just calm the mind or open the heart.  These also steady the body.  Many physicians now prescribe meditation and/or regular non-competitive exercise (like brisk walking, yoga, jogging or swimming) for patients suffering from hypertension, over-reactive nervous systems or digestive problems.  Even hyperactivity in children is now being treated with meditation rather than drugs.  There is no neat mind/body split.  What helps the mind gain rest from its constant seeking, grasping, worrying, must also help the body.  Many researchers have documented the physiological benefits of meditation.” –From the book Ordinary People a Monks and Mystics by Marsha Sinetar