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!!!!!

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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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?

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…

What Your Soul Sings

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Don’t be afraid, open your mouth and say, say what your soul sings to you.
Your mind can never change unless you ask it to. Lovingly re-arrange the thoughts that make you blue.

The things that bring you down only do harm to you and so make your choice joy, the joy belongs to you.
And when you do, you’ll find the one you love is you, you’ll find you love you.
Don’t be ashamed no, to open your heart and pray, say what your soul sings to you.
So no longer pretend that you can’t feel it near, that tickle on your hand, that tingle in your ear.

Oh ask it anything because it loves you dear. It’s your most precious king If only you could hear.
And when you do, you’ll find the one you need is you, you’ll find you love you.

–Massive Attack

Grateful.

“The universe is full of magical things patiently
waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”

~Eden Phillpotts
(also attributed to William Butler Yeats)

Such an important subject to bring into daily life: gratitude, moment to moment.  There is never a reason to get stuck in negativity when this world has so much to be grateful for and to be in awe of.  I can name five things right now that I am so ever grateful for:

1.) My breakfast, I’m taking in every bite of it, being thankful for the elements on Earth that helped it to grow, the people that worked hard to help it to grow, the people that delivered it to the grocery store, the workers at the grocery store that stocked it, the lady at the register that carefully placed it in my grocery bag…..to have this bowl of nourishment in front of me, it took a lot to get it here.

2.) My best friend of 16 years called to talk this morning, the strong connection I have to her and her daughter.  The other perspective that she gave me this morning about a situation I was stressing out about, so grateful to have supporters to help me open my eyes to other perspectives that wouldn’t have even crossed my mind.

3.) The double windows in my bedroom showing the backyard as a snow globe, snowflakes twinkling down onto Oregon ground.

4.) My health, my body’s amazing machine-work of keeping me healthy so that I can enjoy this day.

5.) The clean drinking water I have to sip on and to get it, all I have to do is walk 15 feet to my kitchen and lift a handle to the faucet, out comes clean drinking water.

What gets me in negative thinking and fear-mode is knowing that so many people on Earth don’t have this blessed life, so many people are suffering, and for what?  So that only a small percentage of us can have such blessed lives?  What gets me down is feeling so helpless, I want the whole world to be blessed. I will continue on this path and do all that I can do in my power to make this world a better place before I leave it.