Let’s Help Each Other Out of Our Boxes

greyscale photography of human grave

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When people do not feel accepted for who they truly are, suicide rates go up. We’re seeing that across the board, though especially within the LGBT+ community. You can read some statistics about suicide within the LGBT+ community HERE on the Trevor Project website.  Placing further limitations on the rights of those who identify as transgender could mean many more lost lives. I really hope that that bothers you as much as it bothers me.  I do not believe that anyone’s comfort is worth more than someone else’s life.

It’s time that we show ourselves unconditional love so that we can spread unconditional love and acceptance to others. I think the health of our society can be judged by the happiness and peace of the people in it. We’re really out of touch if we think that we have a healthy society when so many people continue to kill themselves and others.  We have a lot of room for improvement in creating a culture that places more priority on authenticity and vulnerability and less on trying to conform us and fit us into generic, one-size-fits-all boxes. Humans aren’t meant to fit into boxes of any kind.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine several months ago and it was really eye-opening for me. We were talking about sexual orientation and the fact that they had been in relationships with men and women. They spoke of the fact that sexuality isn’t a black and white issue and that people can feel attraction to both sexes, but then feel forced into identifying a certain way. We spoke about the fact that humans like clearly defined labels, and that sexual orientation had, for the most part, been reduced to people being forced into the neatly defined boxes of either straight or gay. How accepted is bisexuality as a whole?  The day my friend and I were talking, I just sort of took it all in and ruminated on the way that we tend to try and define each other based on things like race, religion, and sexual orientation. They’re all just boxes of conformity and should not be used to define whole groups of people.

It got me thinking. My belief, shared with many on a spiritual path, is that our bodies house our souls which carry both a divine masculine and divine feminine energy. Both sides are important for each of us as we use them to be the people we came into this life to be, so that we can do what we came here to do. I think ultimately, it’s about striking a balance within ourselves between our masculine and feminine halves, accepting what each brings to the table, and accepting whatever combination shows up as us. Some of us feel more feminine and some of us feel more masculine, and that’s OK and normal regardless of sex. As you all know, it’s hard enough to learn to accept ourselves in this life, without the extra influence of having outside voices and outlets shout at us about who we ‘should’ be, how we ‘should’ act, and what our sexual orientation ‘should’ be. But in our own pain and lack of self-love and self-acceptance, we tend to harshly judge others in an attempt to make ourselves feel better. We keep the focus off of our own issues by pointing loudly at other people. This simply leads to even more separation and hate, which is the opposite of what we need if we truly want to live in a more peaceful world. Separation and hate makes guns feel like an answer to the pain. But neither homicide nor suicide are the answers. Love and inclusiveness ARE the answers.

I think sometimes it’s not even about hate necessarily, but about protection from perceived threats. For instance, people will generally prefer to stay comfortable in their own lives, especially if their lives aren’t being personally affected by the injustices, than to speak out and out themselves against the voice of the majority. But I believe that the most change will come when those of us who live lives of privilege educate ourselves on the issues at hand and do our part to speak out and stand with those who need our support. When we have people with political power refusing to sign marriage licenses of gay couples, it is not only the gay couples who should have a problem with it and work towards changing it, but all of us. When we have a government separating children from their parents in the name of ‘border safety’, we should all have a problem.

A quote from the late Elie Wiesel, human rights activist, author, and Holocaust survivor, speaks to this beautifully:

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

At a recent event with Glennon Doyle, a young boy got up to speak about the issue of kids at school talking about how gay and transgender people were not loved by god and would go to hell. Glennon told the boy essentially that when you stand with the kids who are hurting, you can never go wrong. She said if you ever hear words of fear and shame being used to hurt people, that’s not god. Glennon said god is only ever love. She spoke to the fact that god doesn’t make mistakes in creating people. In my opinion, we should all be standing with the people who are hurting. I am sure that many of us have experienced people not being nice to us, and haven’t we always appreciated the support of others during those times?

I think that the boxes we attempt to place ourselves and others in are the ultimate betrayals to humanity. Once we pretend that we know someone or an entire group of people, we stop being present to their truth and the unfolding of their being. We expect certain things from them. We get uncomfortable when they change or don’t fit into the category in which we’ve previously placed them. We close ourselves off from allowing their fluidity, growth, and expansion.  We relate to them with an us-them mentality that is neither loving , nor inclusive.  I believe that this us-them division mentality was taught to us and continues to be fed to us on purpose.  I believe that when we are made to see others as different from ourselves, then we’re less likely to fight our government when they want to drop bombs in ‘other’ places on ‘other’ people.  It causes a divide in our nation that makes us fight and kill each other rather than fight against the people and policies that continue to hold our brothers and sisters down.  If we understood that humanity is one family, living beings are one family, we would be outraged when ANY members of our living family were killed, tortured, ridiculed, beaten, broken, and treated like second-class citizens. We lose power when we’re divided. Our power multiplies infinitely when our intentions are for more love, equality, compassion, humane treatment, inclusiveness, and acceptance for all, not just the select few we deem as worthy of what should be basic human rights. It is essential that we always consider how we would want our own children treated when we take action or vote on laws, choose to speak up or stay quiet. Whatever treatment you want for your own children if they were in a given situation is exactly what should guide your actions and decisions in life. All children are someone’s children and all adults are just an older version of those same children.

When I started on this path towards complete transformation several years ago, I was in a relationship and had the person say to me, “but I like you the way you are and I don’t want you to change.” It was one of the biggest signs that the relationship was no longer healthy for me or serving my highest good. Change is the only constant in this life, so when we pressure others into fitting into a box or staying the same, we ultimately tell them that we do not accept and love them unconditionally. Expecting or wanting someone to stay the same may sound like a compliment, but it is a way of telling them that our comfort in familiarity is more important that our love for them. If we love people unconditionally, then we do not ask them to change OR stay the same. We love them when they are straight or when they are gay or when the lines of those categories is blurred.  We love them when they have a different religious or spiritual backgrounds than us.  We love them when their skin color differs from ours.  We love them because they are our human family and we are all in the same boat of navigating through this messy, human experience.

We have to remember that god/the universe/the divine/source never makes mistakes when it creates something or someone. For instance, you can be sure that if someone is gay, that they are meant to be exactly as they are, irregardless of what society, your church, your family, or your upbringing has led you to believe. We are all exactly as we are meant to be. G/U/D/S is always love. We are all parts of that love. We are meant to show ourselves and each other unconditional love. It’s the key that we’ve been missing on a personal and global level. When I accept myself completely, I accept you completely too. When I love myself unconditionally, I am able to love you unconditionally as well.

I continue to be most attracted to people who don’t conform. The dreamers, the healers, the artists, the travelers, the peaceful, the medicine people, the change-makers, the eccentric, the lovers, and all other forms of beautifully unique, real, down-to-earth people who are living their truth in alignment with their soul/higher self.

This year has pushed me into becoming my most authentic self, and it seems fitting that I also seek authenticity in those closest to me.  It is only by living in the most authentic way that we can finally feel love from others, like truly feel it, because we know that we are being seen and loved for the real version of us.

I want honesty and vulnerability in my connections with others because I crave deeper connections with the people around me. When we are real with each other, then we know that we are all much too vast and limitless to fit inside of any boxes. Accept me as I am, separate from any categories your mind wants to place me in, and give me a hand as I step outside of this cramped box that our culture has tried to squeeze me into for all of these years. And I’ll do the same for you. Let’s give each other the freedom to be the truest version of ourselves as it is revealed to us one minute at a time.

Sending you all so much love. Thank you for reading. If you like this post, please like and share it.

Consider signing up for my weekly Peaceful Jellyfish Newsletter to stay up to date on my latest blog posts, videos, events, and offerings. To sign up, navigate to Free Resources at the menu at the top of my blog and follow the prompts and get a video on healing yourself as an added bonus! Thank you so much for being a part of my community! ❤️

Are You Grieving for Your Lost Health?

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When I was feeling my worst, I was doing all I could just to keep my head above water.  I went into crisis mode.  On top of feeling terrible and being exhausted all of the time, I really had no idea what was causing my flares of pericarditis.  So I was living in fear.  I was afraid that I would walk too much and have chest pain again.  I was afraid that too much stress from school and home life would cause me to flare.  I never knew when or where I would be when I’d flare and it made me feel paranoid.  I always had to be prepared, so I routinely kept my prescription of prednisone in my bag in case I needed a higher dose.

I was talking with a good friend of mine the other night who is currently living this reality.  He doesn’t have pericarditis, but his illness is no less mysterious or maddening.  In talking with him, I was reminded of a counselor I saw during nursing school.  She was in training to become a licensed counselor, and she had an office on campus at the community college I was attending.  I remember time and again going in and talking with her and just voicing my frustrations with the way that my whole world had been suddenly turned upside down.  I spoke of my fears and the unpredictability of my illness.  I spoke of not recognizing my own body, because I had gained so much weight from being on steroids.  I spoke of my dismay that after a year of struggling with recurrent bouts of pericarditis and even a second hospitalization, that none of my doctors could offer me any answers.  All they could tell me to do was to take prednsione to suppress my immune system and prevent the inflammation around my heart.  One day, as I was really struggling, I went to talk to my counselor.  She pointed out the fact that I was grieving my lost health.  It was a light bulb moment for me, because I had never thought about it like that before.  She was right.  I WAS grieving for my lost health.  My mind was having a hard time accepting my new body and the restrictions that came with it.  It was difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that I had been healthy, had exercised regularly as part of my work, and had eaten healthy as a long-time vegetarian.

When I realized that I was grieving, and my counselor went over the stages of grief with me, oddly enough, I felt a great sense of peace come over me.  It made me feel normal about how I was feeling.  I could see that the ups and downs of anger and sadness and back around again were part of my grieving process.  Knowing this allowed me to release expectations I had for my emotions through this time.  I began to accept my emotions, and I was more open to allowing them to flow.

So I ask you, the one dealing chronic illness, are you grieving for your lost health?  Are you grieving for the life you feel that you have lost?  If so, know that it is normal and OK, and that it is better to feel your emotions and release them as they come up than it is to keep them locked tight inside your chest.  We sometimes think that we’re doing ourselves a service by locking our emotions up so that they can’t spring out and consume our hearts, but the reality is that if we allow ourselves to feel our feelings as they come up, in whatever form they appear, we will be able to heal much more quickly.  Emotions that aren’t expressed get trapped in our bodies and lead to more pain and dis-ease.

It was the most challenging time of my life.  I felt so alone and helpless.  I looked for silver linings as best I could and I pushed through my exhaustion so that I could be present for my son.  I wondered if I would ever regain my health. I wondered if I would ever feel comfortable in my own body again. I wondered if I would always have to be fearful that things I did might cause a flare.

I write this on the other side.  I have gained perspective on life and on my health challenges that I would not have gotten had I never gotten sick.  I have experienced a total transformation of self that was brought on by my years of illness.  I was asked to take a more balanced approach in caring for my body, mind, and soul.  I was asked to tear down the beliefs I held about myself and my life that made me feel bad.  I was asked to reexamine the way I was treating myself and how I was showing up for myself.  My illness caused me to turn over every rock so that I could find all of buried thoughts and beliefs that were holding me back in life.  I was shown what was important in life.  I was taught to not sweat the small stuff and to appreciate everything and everyone I have in my life while I have them.  I was taught the delicate nature of life.  I was taught that there are no guarantees in life and so we should make the most of every day.  What is it that you might learn from your own challenges?  It helps me to look for lessons in challenges now, because I see how perfectly my illness was placed in my path to expand me to heights I didn’t know were possible.  It has made me trust the process now when things aren’t going the way my mind wants them to go.  Even when I can’t see the full picture as to why something is happening, I live with a great sense of trust that the Universe always has my back.  The Universe (or god, source, higher power etc) always has your back too.

Above all, I was taught that self-love is the key to life.  The love we hold for ourselves trickles outwards from us, so that we can love each other in a more balanced, non-judgmental and unconditional way.  How much do you love yourself?  Do you find ways to show yourself love every day?  Self-love involves loving all parts of ourselves.  That can be the tricky part.  It’s easy to love myself when I am happy and laughing.  I have a more difficult time loving myself when I lose my temper or raise my voice in anger.  I am learning and growing just as we all are.  We’re all works in progress, and that process never stops.  We just keep expanding.  We keep learning how to respond to life vs react.  We keep learning to keep an open mind and open heart with how we approach ourselves and others.

If you’re reading this, you survived another day.  Just keep being gentle with yourself in whatever life circumstance you’re in currently.  Your illness may be requiring that you slow down for now, get the extra sleep, limit the stressors in your life, give yourself some extra love, and put yourself first for a change.  Can you see the ways that your body is crying out for more love?  Notice the shift when you view your own illness this way.  When we take care of others when they are sick, we don’t get mad at them and their bodies for needing more care, right?  We don’t curse at our friends and family and make them feel guilty for being sick.  So then, why do we treat ourselves that way?

I went from a time when I was really ill and wondering “why me?” to now when I realize that facing a complicated illness like Lyme Disease and not just surviving it, but thriving beyond it is one of my superpowers in this life.  This is why we humans must be careful with the labels that we place on things, because sometimes it is difficult to know “good” from “bad” when we’re in the thick of it.  I’ve said it before, but I went from calling my illness “the worst thing that ever happened to me” to “one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”

Know that it might take more love and care than you have ever allowed for yourself before, but that we can all rise up above our challenges and see brighter days ahead!

Part of my soul’s purpose is to help others navigate through their own illnesses and challenges in life using  the perspective I’ve gained.  If you’d like some personalized support and guidance, reach out to me at peacefuljellyfish@gmail.com!  My favorite thing is combining the healing power of Intuitive Reiki with Joy Coaching to help others move through their chronic illness with more support than I had during my own healing journey.

Thanks so much for reading!  If you enjoyed this post, please like and share it! Much love!

Watch the video for Michael Franti’s song “Once a Day” HERE  This is what Michael Franti posts about this song:

“‘Once A Day’ is about unexpected moments in life. Some days we have unexpectedly beautiful moments and others that are unexpectedly challenging. Last year I had a really challenging moment when my son was diagnosed with a kidney disease called FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis). We thought it would break our family apart, but moving through the initial tears, made us realize life is precious and that we need to hug, kiss and be close to each other every day and through that we could ‘rise up’ and face his illness together. I hope that Once A Day brings inspiration to anyone in this world who is going through challenging times. Through music, dance and gratitude for this life we can all ‘Rise Up’!” –Michael Franti

Blogging for a Year!

I have been officially writing on this blog for 1 year today!  It is said that a lot can change in a year.  My life is living proof!  Over the year that I have blogging, so much has happened.  Just from a blogging perspective, a lot changed once I made the decision to start sharing more of myself and my story with other people this way.  I think the biggest thing I learned is that my story is a powerful one that can inspire others on their own journeys.  The other thing I learned is that we can truly rewrite our stories if the old version is causing us strife or disempowering us.

It is a very humbling thing to have someone read your first blog post and reach out to you saying that your post gave them hope on a day when they were feeling suicidal.  I decided then that if my writing did no more than give that one person hope on their own journey, it would be enough.  Through this blog, I have reconnected with old friends, reconnected with family, and made new friends.

Prior to starting this blog, only those closest to me really knew my story.  Because of my depression, struggles in my marriage, and illness, I kept a lot to myself.  I now see that I was sort of holding myself captive by staying so closed in.  I am a Gemini and a communicator by nature, and to be otherwise makes me feel a discord with myself at the soul level.  Writing here has opened me up in ways that I had really been craving, both with myself and with other people.  I have found that opening myself up to this level of vulnerability and authenticity here has also opened me up in the same way in real life.  There’s a lot of power in sharing, because you no longer feel like you have anything to hide.  You realize that more often than not, people reach out to you commiserating and saying they’ve felt the same way.  You realize that all you have kept inside was nothing to be ashamed of and in fact, by sharing all of it, you can help a lot of other people navigate their own lives.

I thank all of you who have been reading along on this journey of mine!  I now have 50 subscribers to this blog who receive a notification every time I publish a new post.  Thank you all for subscribing!  It lets me know that my words are resonating and not just falling silent once I press the publish button.  In 1 year, I have had 1,047 visitors to my site.  I have had 2,214 blog views.  In 1 year, my blog has been viewed from the US, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India, Philippines, Sweden, Ireland, Serbia, Netherlands, Romania, Singapore, Hong Kong (China), United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica, Botswana, Japan, Russia, Belgium, New Zealand, Italy, Trinidad and Tobago, Taiwan, Croatia, Brunei, South Africa, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Greece, Spain, Denmark, Germany, Nepal, Austria, Monaco, Nigeria, Ukraine, Thailand, and Switzerland!!  The internet has really connected us all more than we normally even consider in our day to day lives.  How amazing that my words can be read in so many different places all over the world?!  Thank you to everyone who has read my words near and far, I hope that they inspire you in some way.

If you would have told me last year this time what my life would look like a year from then, I would not have believed you at all!  Absolutely everything has shifted for the positive in my life!  At the beginning of the year, as I had been dealing with negative health effects of the stress of my job for a while, I had an inspired idea that left me unable to sleep.  On thinking of what would make 2018 my best year ever, I thought that it would be epic to quit my job, start my own healing business, and travel to Australia (my life-long dream destination) and Hawaii all in the same summer!!

Friends, since May, I have done all of those things!  I am amazed at the unfolding of my life!  I couldn’t be more grateful for all that I have experienced this year, and for the fact that I still have 5 MORE MONTHS of this year still to go!  I see the divine hand that has led me on this path and it has been even better than I could have imagined because of the added bonus of growth and insight that has come from my experiences.

We usually walk around feeling very stuck in our lives.  We think we can’t leave jobs because we’re worried our business won’t work out, so we usually don’t even try.  We say we can’t travel because we don’t have the money.  We give ourselves one good vacation a year, because it’s like a weird, general social norm in the US to work more than we play.  Everything is still evolving for me on this new path, but just the feeling I have to be so connected with my higher self on a daily basis has been worth it.  Let alone the amazing places I’ve seen and the people I have met.  Australia you guys.  Wow.  I am in real love with that place!  I plan to post more about it, including a slideshow of my pictures, but so far, I’m mostly still at a loss for words for that experience.  My sister and I were able to have our first family vacation together with our families in Hawaii.  I spent much-needed time meeting, and then snuggling with my baby niece.  Plus, tons of snorkeling!  My son got to snorkel in the ocean for the first time.  I saw a few sea turtles, an eel, dolphins plus thousands of tropical fish!  Ah, I could get used to having at least two epic vacations a year!

I’m in a place of trust and it’s causing me to release all of my old doubts about myself, my old beliefs about what is possible in life, and my old beliefs about lack just to name a few.  I’ve gotten more committed to meditating and checking in with my higher self about every decision from what I eat to what I do.  I have had so many inspired ideas come to me in the time since returning from Hawaii.  Following through on those ideas is connecting me with more amazing people and opportunities.  I’m looking at life in a whole new way that has given me a sort of freedom that I have never experienced before.

Life is truly is what we make it.  If we want more adventure, we’ve got to look for ways to incorporate more adventure.  If we want more travel, we need to travel.  If we want better health, we need to start meditating daily and connecting with our higher selves, so that we can follow the guidance from within needed to heal ourselves.  Drown out the outside influences of your life that make you neglect to listen to your own intuition.  Turn off your TV, stop listening to people who haven’t been living their dreams, stop letting outside people and things influence you more than your own heart. When you connect with yourself in this way, you will find amazing ideas, people, situations, and opportunities begin to appear in your life in perfect timing!  I have had so many things happen in the last week and a half that I can’t keep up with it all as far as writing it all down to share.  I see how every seemingly little thing is by design and it’s really beautiful!

I’ll share an example.  One of the things I have written and read aloud every day since a workshop hosted by Jake Ducey that I attended in November as part of my larger Chief Aim is “I am a part of a thriving community of healers and artists.”  Earlier this week, I got the inspired idea to create a gift basket focused around “Healing Arts” for the Center for Spiritual Living’s annual fundraiser this year.  My idea is that the basket will showcase the work of various healers and artists in my town, so that people will realize what is available to them right here.  I am donating a Distance Reiki session to the basket, and after several contacts, I have secured multiple gift certificates for various forms of healing including Reiki, Sound Healing, and a How to Create Sacred Space & Crystal Grid Manifesting session, a painting, and a cool pyramid made of shungite that is a very healing stone.  In two days, I reached out, connected with, and met several new people, and learned about new healing modalities offered in my area.  This is how life can work when we are in the flow.  Our inspired ideas (the ones where you get excited to your core) happen on purpose!!  When you start following them like I have been doing, they lead to amazing things for you and others around you!  They even help you manifest your desires!  In my experience, inspired ideas lead to all that I am seeking to manifest in my life and more!  Whoever wins this basket is in for a serious treat!!

On this journey I am on, I would get nowhere if I compared myself or my journey to others, because they are not me.  Even when our journeys look similar, they are not the same, and they are not meant to be the same.  We are all here to shine the light that WE have, not dim our lights, or try to blend our lights in with everyone else’s.  I understand that conformity was once an act of survival, but at this level of the game, conformity is killing us all slowly.  The key to this game is to live our joy, so that we can match the frequency of all that we wish to manifest.  I know that life can discourage us, especially when the energy is such that is bringing our old patterns and beliefs and anxieties back to the surface for healing.  Even in such time, we are all being taken care of completely.  You will know that you are aligned with your higher self when your thoughts and words start showing up as things and people in your reality.

Once you find a way to tap into that magic, life glows like it’s radioactive.

I’m living it right now! We each have something we came here to do.  What did you come here to do?  Are you doing it? Are you working towards doing it?  What is stopping you?

I am starting a meeting group locally centered around the book “The Surrender Experiment” by Michael Singer.  My idea is that everyone who comes to the meetings will have read the book and are willing to surrender to the flow of life more.  I will share my story and ways that I have surrendered and what that has created in my life.  After that, we will meet on a weekly basis to discuss what has shown up for us in our lives and how we have flowed with it and what doors that has opened for us.

I just had the idea that it could be really fun to coach people in this way!  It could take place via phone and I would share more details about how I do this and what has shown up for me, and I could provide individualized support for you as you begin to allow more flow in your life.  You don’t have to change every area of your life to live this way.  Even focusing on one area where you’re currently dissatisfied would make a huge impact.  My coaching would mean 1:1 support, as well as all of my intuitive insights about you and your journey that I receive during the time that we work together.  If this resonates with you, please read the book, and reach out to me at peacefuljellyfish@gmail.com!  I’d also love to hear from people who are currently living this way!  Please leave comments down below!

Thank you for reading!  If you liked this post please like and share it.  Much love!

A Night of Inspiration

Last night, my son and I went and saw his favorite band, Imagine Dragons live.  The tickets were his birthday present this year.  As a bonus, Grace Vanderwaal was opening for them.  I love singer/songwriter-type music and Grace, so I was excited! Little did I know how touched I would be by the entire show.

Grace Vanderwaal

As I wrote about Grace in my Instagram post (you can follow me at peaceful.jellyfish) earlier today, “If you’ve never heard of Grace Vanderwaal, her music career started and blew up when she got the golden buzzer on America’s Got Talent when she sang and played ukulele for a song she had written herself, “I Don’t Know My Name”.  Grace went on to win the competition.  She was 12 years old at that time.  My son introduced Grace to me last year when he showed me her performance of “I Don’t Know My Name”.  I cried.  I’m not sure why, but when I see her perform, I cry.  I cried last night.  Maybe it’s because her soulful voice and lyrics are much beyond her years and strike a chord in me, or maybe it’s because I love the way she followed her bliss to learn the ukulele and sing.  Maybe it’s a combo of both.  I am in awe of Grace.  She’s now 14 years old and she’s opening for bands like Imagine Dragons for two sold out shows in Los Angeles.  She felt a calling to learn the ukulele and sing and she pushed to have her parents get her a ukulele against their judgement.  She did not listen to people who questioned her dreams.  She did not stop at just learning how to play the ukulele, but went even further by competing and winning a national talent competition.  How’s that for determination and bravery?!  And at TWELVE YEARS OLD!!  We can all learn a lot from Grace.  I am so grateful to have seen her live.  She’s a beautiful old soul.”

Imagine Dragons

Next up was Imagine Dragons.  I was moved to tears several times by what the lead singer, Dan Reynolds, had to say.  You could feel the genuine love pour from his heart as he spoke about issues such as equal rights and support of the LGBT+ community, not allowing our minds to be put in a box and instead seeking freedom for ourselves, and also about the problem we have in this country of making depression a taboo subject.  Wow.  To say the least, his compassion was touching, especially given the fact that I, too, hold these issues close to my heart.

Here is a video of what Dan had to say regarding depression: (it comes in between the music). I am so glad that I happened to be recording when he said this, so that I can share his very important message with others who need to hear it.

 

 

If you’ve been reading along on my blogging journey of almost a year, then you know that I’ve spoken about my own history with depression.

What Dan had to say last night reminded me of how far I’ve come. He made me think back to my years of depression with a lighter heart. I realized that while I don’t feel as much of the stigma associated with my history of depression, that there are others out there who do. The people currently struggling with depression need those of us who have been there and gotten through it to speak out. We need to show them that they have nothing to be ashamed of, and that more people close to them than they can even imagine have been affected by severe depression and have come out on the other side, the side with the light at the end of the sometimes very dark tunnel.

Please join me for a Facebook Live July 23, 2018 at 0900 PST USA on my Peaceful Jellyfish Facebook Page.

I am going to share more of my story about how my severe depression, suicidal ideation, and also the depression and suicide within my group of friends and family has impacted my life.

Catch the replay of my FB Live video HERE!

I would love it if you could join me!

As I have said before, though our journeys may look different, we are all human and so we all struggle with the same emotions and baggage. At the heart of it all, we are all the same, none “better” or “worse” than the next.

Tonight, I dug a little deeper into Dan Reynold’s history and found that he has been struggling with the pain of an autoimmune disease for years and has finally gotten his health back. It made sense then that he joyously ran around the stage in just shorts, so grateful to be alive and no longer in pain. Dan and I share the connection of a past filled with severe depression, chronic illness, and pain.

I don’t think an understanding deeper than that can exist between two humans.

Can you also relate? How comforting is it when you hear that others have been through what you are going through?

Please share your own story in the comments below or email me at peacefuljellyfish@gmail.com, because I’d love to connect with you!

I also discovered that Dan is Mormon which makes it even more impactful that he speaks so strongly of equal rights for the LGBT+ community. Up until quite recently, the Mormon church as a whole completely shunned people who were LGBT+ so that many were forced to leave their families behind after being disowned, or keep their orientation a secret and marry someone of the opposite sex. Many young people have taken their own lives because the stress of losing family and/or living against their heart was too much for them to handle. I was happy to hear Dan speak out. We all deserve equal rights.  We all deserve love.

If you enjoyed this post, please like and share it! Also, please pass on to anyone you know who may benefit from hearing mine and Dan’s messages regarding severe depression in our lives. Thank you!

 

What is Your Illness Doing for You?

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So, I have been hanging out at home all week, sick.  Today I jokingly referred to it as black lung disease, and my son called it the black plague.  I got him laughing when I sang with my raspy voice to an Imagine Dragon’s tune before school, “don’t get too close, its red inside, it’s where the black plague lies, it’s where the black plague lies…”  We thought I was pretty funny.  I don’t know what it is exactly, but I feel like crap.  My throat hurts.  I wake up with loads of congestion in my chest that I end up hacking up all day long.  I sound a bit like Darth Vader.  I wake up and use cough drops in the middle of the night, because my throat hurts so bad.

During the weekend, the black plague was just a feeling of overall malaise and the subtle warning of impending illness.  I upped my essential oils, I upped my homeopathic remedy, I started taking about 4-5,000 mg of vitamin C per day, and I was drinking green smoothies by the quart.  But in the end, after making it through the weekend, the plague hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was thinking today and had a HUGE Aha!  moment!  For as long as I can remember now, I have associated illness with a sort of free pass to focus on taking care of myself.  I see it also as a reminder from my body that I need to slow down and listen to it and take care of it in the ways that it is telling me to.  This past weekend, I was so excited!  I was lucky to attend Jake Ducey’s (check him out on YouTube and Facebook) workshop titled, “Genius Within.”  When I had seen that Jake was going to have a workshop in San Diego, it sounded perfect. It was one of those times where every line that I read to explain what the workshop was about spoke to me.  I was especially excited to shed light on more of my self-limiting patterns and beliefs, because I am really feeling the need to just let go of all of my old shit, once and for all.  The price was right, the location was close enough to drive there in a day, I really like Jake’s message and positivity, and above all of that, my intuition was very strongly urging me to go.  And then, as the weekend got closer, Matisyahu released his Fall tour dates, and one of them landed in San Diego on the Friday that I would be in San Diego!  So, I was going into the weekend thrilled, but I also had some major Mom-guilt creep in.  For starters, I had only seen Matisyahu with my son, and I knew that he really liked that fact.  Also, because the workshop was all day on Sunday, there was no way that I was going to be able to make it back in time to get my son at the normal time on Sunday night, so I had to make arrangements with his Dad to keep him that night.  I think that Moms reading this will maybe get where I was coming from the most, because I think that in general, it is the Moms who are usually more comfortable putting everyone else before themselves.  I am no different.  So I began to have some major Mom-guilt, to the point that I didn’t even tell my son about seeing Matisyahu until after the fact.  It was a 21 and over show, so he wouldn’t have even been able to go if he was with me for the weekend. Yet, I still felt bad about it.

I knew before last weekend, before today, that I am my own worst critic.  I have always been so hard on myself.  And while I have done a lot of the work to move past that way of being, it obviously still sneaks up on me sometimes.  I ended up having a fantastic weekend!  I got to explore a new beach my first day in town, which was really beautiful.  I find that the ocean is so grounding for me.  I stayed with an old friend/coworker who I hadn’t seen in 13 YEARS! Yikes!  It was so great to spend time with her and reconnect.  Her 5 year-old and 2 year-old daughters treated me like their long-lost Aunt who they adored, which was a lot of fun!  I went out on my own in downtown San Diego (which is GINORMOUS by the way!) to dance for hours to Orphan, Zion I, and Matisyahu!  And I basked in Jake’s positivity for two whole days and connected with some wonderful people who also attended.  I also unraveled some more of my long-held beliefs, and was given some new ways to look at things, as well as new ways to create the life that I want for myself.  I was baby-ing myself the whole time with a cold that was brewing just under the surface.  Today, I realized that in always being so hard on myself when putting myself first, especially since the birth of my son, I generally only give myself a completely guilt-free pass to take it easy in all ways when I am sick.  That was my Aha! moment today.  My thoughts brought on this illness.  My body was wanting me to slow down and take care of me, and my thoughts put it into the Universe that the only way I would do that would be if I was sick.  And boom!  I have been sick all week.  I went to the grocery store for a short trip early in the week and got enough stuff to get us by for the week, but otherwise, I have done nothing but rest and take care of myself while my son has been in school.  I’ve napped.  I’ve taken extra vitamins.  And I’m still chugging the smoothies, because my body is seriously craving greens SO much right now!

I watched “The Secret” last night, which really further reinforced the things about the Law of Attraction that Jake shared with us at the workshop.  The fact that our thoughts create our reality.  So consider what my thoughts just did in my life.  I was feeling guilty for self-care, but that went away once I was sick.  When I am sick, I give myself permission to put myself first, and I don’t feel guilty about it.  But why do I feel that I must be suffering with a black plague before I can feel OK with putting myself first?  Can you relate?  I can look back on my past and see a similar pattern.  In college is when I first started to think of illness this way.  I would see it as my body’s way of telling me to slow down and be extra caring towards myself.  I would notice that about once a month, I would feel a bit under the weather, and would shift into self-care mode during that time.  Later, when I lost my health, it kind of gave me a pass to allow some of the cards that I was constantly keeping in the air to drop.  I felt completely responsible for the care of my son, the care of the two dogs, and the overall upkeep of the household.  I did the majority of the household chores, and I did the majority of the grocery shopping.  I was exhausted and stressed.  At the time, I was in nursing school, and not working outside of the home, so I felt immense pressure to basically do everything else.  I’ve always been independent and I preferred to feel like I was pulling my own weight.  I kept it up until my illness struck.  And then, over time, I stopped being so stressed about the things I was not able to get done around the house.  And as I have written before, I was forced to take care of myself because of my illness.  I had been so used to just going and going all of the time that I rarely focused on what I needed.  That stretches back for as far as I can see.  I think a lot of us get wrapped up in the go-go-go mentality of this fast-paced society that we’re living in that we rarely stop to just BE.  But for me, those moments where I just stop and soak in my life in the moment are the ones that I treasure the most.

So, the Universe in all of its preciseness of divine timing, told me that 30 was going to be the year where I would finally start to focus on myself and my own well-being for a change.  It gave me a very clear picture, that I lived through, of what life was like without good health.  I was shown that without my health, I essentially had nothing, because I couldn’t even function without it to enjoy my son, to take care of him at times, to walk, to do the chores that needed to be done, or to do things that brought me joy.  When you lose your health, you realize very quickly that everything else in life is secondary.  You can have every other thing going for you, but if you don’t have your health, it’s very difficult to appreciate the other things in your life.  Since January 2016, I have found that having a daily gratitude practice has led to a lot more joy in my life and a lot more things to be grateful for.  I would say that writing out the things that I am grateful for every night before I go to bed has been one of the simplest yet profoundly life-changing things that I have done for myself.  Try it.  I promise that only good will come from it.  And it is especially important to take note of the good things in your life when you’re struggling with illness or some other challenge.

I love when beliefs that have been held in my subconscious mind become conscious!  Once it becomes a conscious thought, I am able to examine it, look at how it’s been affecting my life, and release it if it no longer serves me.  In this case, the belief that I have to be sick in order to feel OK about fully taking care of myself is definitely NOT serving me well.  Can you see that?  It would be much more pleasant to stay healthy and take care of myself, than to spend a week knocked on my ass to force me to do it.

In the movie, “The Secret,” they talk about the fact that illness has no place in a body that is at ease.  I know that I have mentioned in other posts on this blog that I feel like my illness (or dis-ease) stemmed from my utter disregard for myself.  I stopped holding myself as a priority in my own life, I stopped listening to my intuition regarding situations in my life that were no longer serving me.  My body became a breeding ground for dis-ease.  I sometimes have friends who will tell me about friends or family members of theirs who are struggling with ongoing, chronic health problems, and they will ask if they can pass my contact info to the person.  I have always been happy to use my experience to help other people.  I know that the pain has had a purpose in my own life, but I enjoy using my pain to serve as a purpose in others’ lives as well.  It makes my struggles doubly worth it.  So at this point, when I talk to these people who are often also struggling with Lyme Disease, I ask them to really look at their life to see what is going on.  I ask them to look to see if there is something in their life that is causing them stress.  I would ask them to look for the lessons in their illness.  Have they been neglecting themselves?  Are there situations in their life that are toxic for them?  Have they been ignoring their intuition about things in their life?

Now, I would add for those reading this post, is there a way that your illness is serving you?  Is there a comfort in being ill?  Do people take care of you when you are ill?  Do you have less responsibilities when you are ill?  Do you receive more love from people when you are ill?  An even better question would be, do you receive more love from yourself when you are ill?  And I don’t ask these questions to make you feel bad or worse than you already do, but instead I ask you them to break your attention away from the illness you have and direct it to the thoughts that you hold about your illness.  I would say that I definitely give myself more love, more freely, when I am sick.  This week has been a perfect example.  But why can’t I do that for myself all of the time?  Why can’t I always feed myself well and give myself important vitamins?  And make sure that I get enough sleep?  The answer is that I CAN.  Now that I see what I have been doing, I can choose to change it.  And believe me, I don’t need another illness to come along like this one before I make that change!  Just as I have written before, sometimes, we have to get to a point where we’ve suffered enough before we are willing to make the changes that we need to make for a better life for ourselves.

I have a lot more to my health journey than I have written on this blog so far.  I will write about it as I feel guided to do so.  But at one point towards the end of my time on antibiotics, a woman was placed on my path who served as a sort of counselor for me.  I remember that during our first phone call, she asked me about my life.  After I had told her about my life which invariably included a lot of information about my health struggles, she said to me, “boy, you’re really holding onto your illness aren’t you?”  I remember being kind of stunned, and a little bit pissed off at her response to what I had just told her.  I said something like “well, yeah, I take handfuls of medications and supplements several times a day and pay out-of-pocket for a specialist that I have to go see at least every 12 weeks.  My illness is part of my life.”  Well, in that moment, I didn’t really “get” what she was saying to me.  It took me some time to understand.  But eventually, I did come to understand.  You see, when I got ill, I began to identify myself as sick.  The people around me began to identify me as sick too.  Once I had the diagnosis of Lyme Disease among others, the Lyme became part of my identity.  I identified myself as someone with Lyme Disease.  But you see, I am no more Lyme Disease than you are cancer, or MS, or Lupus, or depression.  I am NOT my illness, just as you are NOT yours.  I was able to flip that switch in my mind after several weeks of being off of my antibiotics, so that I could do a few rounds of medications for the yeast that was becoming more of an issue in my body.  I had been so used to having a flare whenever I came off the medications, but this time was different. (I believe a big factor for me was that I had been on a homeopathic remedy for about 7 months by this time.)  I wasn’t having a flare, and so it gave me space to ask myself some questions.  Like, what makes me sick?  Am I sick because I have had lab work come back positive for several different infections?  Or am I sick based on how I feel?  I decided that because I was managing to work full-time while taking care of my son on my days off, and I was feeling good, that I was not sick.  I had intended to go back on my antibiotics, but I decided that I was going to let how I felt be my barometer for how I was doing rather than some labs.  It was at that time that I stopped telling people that I had Lyme Disease in the present tense.  I started to talk about it only in past tense, if I even brought it up at all.  I began to think of myself as healthy, and I started just being grateful for how I felt in the moment.  I stopped identifying with my illness.  I stopped identifying myself as a sick person.  And my life changed for the better.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have lingering symptoms.  No one has ever told me that I am cured and in fact, this week, my PCP went over labs with me from September and she concluded that I am still “not well.”  Strangely, that felt more warm and cozy and familiar to me than if she had said I was cured.  I easily took on that illness cloak again.  I even told a few people what she had said.  But since then, I have decided that me not being well is no longer part of my belief system (nod to Jake Ducey).  I am not going to allow numbers on paper or cells in my body to determine my health.  I am going to judge my health based on how I feel.  When my body asks for something, I am going to aim to give it what it needs on a consistent basis.  I have been asked if I worry that I will get Lyme again.  (Yes, you can get MORE Lyme, or re-infected with Lyme following treatment!!)  But I am not worried.  I choose to no longer live my life from a place of fear.  I believe that I have gleaned the lessons that I was meant to learn from my illness, so I do not believe that I will have a repeat of Lyme.  I believe that I will continue to be as healthy as my thoughts, which I am always working to improve.  Our thoughts really do create our reality.  What kind of reality have you been creating for yourself?  What feels comfortable to you even though it causes you strife?

Jake reminded us all this weekend that every 7 years, every cell in our body gets replaced.  So every 7 years, we essentially become new people made up of brand new cells!  I’m almost at the 8 year anniversary (November 27th) of passing out at home and losing my health.  None of the cells that were present in my body on that day in 2009 even exist anymore!  How cool is that??!  For me, it was a great reminder, because I have come to see and experience the power of my mind.  Our minds have the power to keep us feeling ill long after every cell in our body has been replaced by a new, healthy cell.  And our minds have the power to free us from our dis-ease.

I invite you to consider that sometimes using our mind to free us from dis-ease isn’t necessarily about getting cured from that which ails us.  Sometimes, it’s about shifting the way that we think about the illness that makes all the difference.  I see my illness as a blessing because of the level of gratitude that I now live with every day.  I could not have gotten that any other way.  So I would not wish it away or go back in time and change things so that I wouldn’t lose my health.  Life is not happening to us, it’s happening for us.  We are not victims, we are students. It is OK to grieve for the loss of your health.  It is OK to feel angry and sad.  It is OK to feel like it is unfair, and to throw shit.  Just try not to live there forever.  Your illness is not a torture device, but rather a teacher.  In the thick of my illness, I would have told you that you were crazy if you told me that in 8 years, I would be writing about how grateful I am that I lost my health.  But here I am.  And I am no different from you.  Our illness may have the same name, or a different name, but that’s meaningless in the grand scheme of things.  We all have the ability to choose peace in every situation, peace with what is.  Because, I have found that it’s usually the way that I am thinking about something that causes me the most suffering.

When I look at a situation and say OK, this is how it is, I can decide how I want to show up.  I am in control of my thoughts, feelings, and actions.  That’s it.  I encourage you to think, feel, and do things that make you feel good as often as possible.  Work to shift yourself into a place of ease, so that dis-ease no longer lays claim to your body.  You are not your body.  You are not your illness.  You are much more expansive than either of those.

Listen to Michael Franti’s “Hey Hey Hey” HERE

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The Plague of Fear

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We have a problem.  We have a big, gigantic problem in this country right now (well, we have more than one, but I’m writing a blog post, not a novel).  Fear.  Fear comes in a lot of different forms.  Some of it is founded, because of things that have happened in our past, like the shooting in Vegas.  But some of our fears are not founded.  Some of our fears may have been passed down to us from our immediate families, or ancestors.  Some fears are created in our minds and have no logical foundation.  But because many of us still believe what our minds tell us, we believe every fearful thought that our minds create.

Lately, when I have talked about going hiking alone, people have asked me things like “aren’t you scared to be out there alone?” and “do you carry a gun?”   Honestly, the thought has never crossed my mind once. And I’m not even sure what I would be protecting myself from on the trail. Animals? Black bears? Mountain lions? Black bears are generally not aggressive. And if a mountain lion decides to attack me, I’ll never even see it coming.  I’ve never understood why anyone thinks that we’ll all be safer if we’re walking around carrying guns to protect ourselves.  If people weren’t carrying guns around, what exactly would we need to protect ourselves from??!  In my experience, while I have encountered wildlife such as grizzly bears, black bears, and mountain lions when I have been hiking for work and leisure, I have never been as scared of any wild animal in the way that I am afraid of a human who carries a gun.  The people who I have met out hiking on the trails have been some of the kindest souls, and I have never feared any of them.  What I do fear in those wild settings is another person who decides to carry a gun because he or she is afraid.  Generally, the trails are filled with good people out to enjoy nature and/or escape all the people in the cities walking around carrying guns. So, where does all of this fear come from? Guns aren’t going to fix anything. At all. Ever.  So, unless you hunt as a means to get food for you and your family, or you’re in the back country of Alaska where the ratio of grizzly bears to humans is high, I see no place for guns in nature.  As a woman, I am MUCH more afraid to walk around a city at night by myself than I ever am when I am out hiking.  And part of that is related to guns and the rising amount of gun violence in this country.

I know that people who favor being able to have guns see the issue as a rights issue first and foremost, but I think it needs to be talked about instead as a safety issue.  While I do not like the idea of our government limiting our rights, I have a bigger problem with my fellow citizens who continue to open fire on large crowds of people using semiautomatic rifles.  It is one thing to have a gun for hunting, but it is quite another to have semiautomatic rifle meant for the mass killing of other humans.

I realize that the way we treat mental health in this country is also partly to blame, but even with that being said, the extent of damage done with a non-assault rifle would pale in comparison to damage done with assault rifles.  If a shooter had less ammunition readily loaded, the chances of them being able to mow down a crowd of people in a matter of minutes without being noticed and stopped would decrease significantly.  I know it without having to read research papers and without studying the statistics behind it.  You know it.  I think we all know it, but here we are still arguing about gun rights while innocent people are being murdered.

Gun violence is not new, and even the first shootings that took place in schools have somehow sunk farther into history than I care to admit to myself.  But as time goes on, it just feels like these attacks are showing up more and more in places where people gather to celebrate, connect, relax, or experience joy.  And that’s scary.  It’s scary because it’s unpredictable and can literally happen anywhere at any time.  While we’re at the movies, concerts, school, and church.

I believe that we are being given the opportunity to see just how broken our current society is.  At what point, do we collectively face ourselves as a nation and decide that enough is enough?  When do we start coming together so that everyone can have equal rights, experiences, and opportunities?  When do we collectively start putting ourselves in other people’s shoes so much so that we cannot bear the thought of hurting another human being?  When do we stop looking at other people as if they are the problem and realize that it is our own fear and hurt and doubts that prevent us from fully embracing ourselves and therefore fully embracing others?

Friends, it starts with each of us.  And not necessarily in the sense that you might believe.  Of course I think that pushing for and taking action to have new legislation rolled out that would block the sales of assault rifles in this country would make a positive impact on our society.  But I do not believe that it’s the only thing that we need to consider.  I think we need to really look at and face the demons that we each carry.  Right now.  Today.  What is it that creates your fear?  Why do you believe that owning a gun will keep you safe?  What makes you hate yourself so much that you can hate another person enough to shun them, hurt them, or even kill them?   What is it about the (fill in the blank) race, (fill in the blank) gender, (fill in the blank) sexual orientation that makes you think that you are separate from them?  That you are better?  That you are better to the point of wanting to deny them the same freedom that everyone else has?  To the point of wanting to cause them harm in some way?

In my own life, I can see that the times where I felt like I was being destroyed, when I felt like I hit rock bottom, were the times when I was given the opportunity to start over.  I was given the opportunity to build myself and my life back up the way I wanted it to be.  I can tell you that it was not an easy road.  I did not gain my current perspective, level of gratitude, or positivity easily.  The really good things in life don’t come easy, you have to do the work.  We all have to start doing the work.  I think that sometimes, you have to be brought to such an immense level of pain and suffering that eventually it breaks you so that you begin searching for another way.  That’s the beauty in many of our struggles. The point where we stop and look at the hurt in our daily lives and see that it’s just not working for us anymore.    THAT’S where we start working for real change.

All of this may seem unrelated to my original topic of gun violence, but just bear with me here.  We each live from a place of our own experiences.  We were destined to come into this life with the human personality and body that we have.  We are all made perfect for the journey that our souls wanted us to have in this life.  But we’ve developed a way of looking at ourselves that does not serve us.  I know that I spent many years seeing a lot of my “negative” qualities and “flaws” and focused more on them than I did on all of my “positive” qualities.  As humans, we sometimes beat ourselves up so much that we overlook how amazing we truly are.  And as I have said in other posts, when we judge ourselves so harshly, we also are more apt to judge others harshly.  When deep down, even on a subconscious level, we hate ourselves, we are more prone to hate others.  Let that soak in for a minute.  Self-hate and loathing are not easy things to admit to ourselves.  Sometimes we bury those feelings so deeply that we do not even see them, but they’re doing damage in our lives subconsciously.  We work to distance ourselves from our emotions and qualities that we deem as “bad” or “negative”.  We have gotten so good at distancing ourselves, in fact, that we’re all walking around feeling broken, but don’t even fully understand why.  When we’re constantly seeing parts of ourselves as “bad” or unacceptable, we’re going to focus on those aspects in other people as well.  So to feel more genuine love for other people, we really have to cultivate our own self-love first.  I believe that self-love is the key to real solutions of change and the lack thereof is the underlying cause of the turmoil that we are facing right now.

I have lived both ways now.  For many years, without even realizing it, I did not love myself.  I fought against parts of myself that I did not like, or that other people did not like about me.  And at the time, I could not see how that was negatively impacting my life.  I did not feel happy.  I sought to fill the void in me with relationships.  I aimed to please people.  I came to believe that as long as the other people around me were OK, then I would be OK, so I sought to make people happy.  I avoided confrontation.  I avoided rocking the boat.  I cruised along like this for a long time.  Until my life fell apart.  And my life felt like it was falling apart for years.  It wasn’t a quick process, but eventually, I worked with people who helped me pick apart my beliefs.  I started to see how my beliefs about myself were negatively impacting my life.  And it became almost like a game to me, to find the underlying beliefs or thoughts, to examine them, and then to decide whether or not to keep them based on how they made me feel.  As I shed more layers and uncovered more of my actual truth, I began to experience self-love in a way that I had never before.  And I can tell you that this self-love has created a positive ripple effect through all areas of my life.  One of the biggest shifts comes from the fact that I have much less judgement about other people than I used to.  It’s really not about getting rid of the parts of ourselves that we don’t like, but rather realizing that it takes all of the little parts to make the whole of us.  We all have light and dark in us, but it’s not about rejecting the dark.  It’s about realizing that we ALL share light and dark and it’s OK.  If something about us is really upsetting to us to the point where we don’t feel like we can live with it, then we have to remember that we have the power to change.  Just because we have always hated a certain group of people does not mean that we must continue on that path if it’s hurting our heart.  Just because we have always believed something does not mean that we have to believe it forever.  Give yourself permission to change and grow.  Give yourself permission to live with a more open mind.

Sometimes our judgments of people are sneaky.  Do you routinely judge those with differing opinions to yours?  Do you judge when people have different values or a different lifestyle to you?  Do you believe that your beliefs are true while other people’s aren’t?  I have looked at my own judgments of people.  Even now, they come out at times, but I notice them.  I see that I am judging.  I see that my ego is just working to make me feel better than others.  My ego works to keep me separate from others, so it looks for our differences.  But my heart, my soul, is always looking for the similarities.  As I connect with the love that I am, I connect with the love that other people are.  When my mind and ego get out of the way, I see things to love in others more than I see things to hate.  I have begun to naturally see the light in others, the good.  I think that sometimes I am actually glimpsing people’s souls.  The souls of humans are absolutely beautiful.

When you break down the beliefs in your own life, you begin to see that we are all the same.  We are all souls here having a human experience, regardless of what that experience looks like.  We have come to feel very separate from each other, but it’s simply not true.  I am no better than you, and you are no better than me.  We are unique, but we share our humanness as our ultimate commonality in this life.  Try embracing that for a change.  Treat every person you meet as you wish to be treated regardless of differing beliefs or values you might each have.  It doesn’t matter.  How we treat ourselves and other people is what really matters.  The rest is a bunch of stuff our minds create.  If our collective goal became to treat each other with respect and compassion, there would not be room for violence and hate that we are experiencing in this country.  Accept those around you with grace and compassion and see how your life shifts.  When we each do that on a regular basis, we create peace in our own lives.  When we create peace in our own lives, we create peace in the world.  As Michael Franti sang, “we can bomb the world to pieces, but we can’t bomb it into peace” and “violence brings one thing, more and more of the same.”  Fighting is not the answer.  Guns are not the answer.  Hate is not the answer.  As cliche as it may sound, love is the only answer.  Love yourself completely so that you may love others.  It’s the only way to end our suffering.  It’s the only fundamental way to stop all of the gun violence.

Have we reached our breaking point yet?  Have we suffered enough?

Sending you all much love and peace.

Listen to Michael Franti’s “Bomb the World” HERE

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Time Travel

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a good friend of mine and I told her that I wish that I could go back in time and relive my life, but with my current mentality.  I wanted to go back and have the experiences of the traveling and hiking for work with the level of gratitude and mindfulness that I currently experience.  I just had this idea that I would appreciate every experience, every hike I was able to do, every connection that I made with other people back then so much more with my current perspective on life.  In those days, I traveled, hiked, and LIVED in some of the most amazing and beautiful places that you can visit in the United States!  And I enjoyed it all at the time, but my life sort of splits at the time that I lost my health.  There’s the ‘before I lost my health’ time, and the ‘after I lost my health’ time.  Can you relate?  Did something change your life so dramatically that you also have a before (fill in the blank) time, and an after (fill in the blank) time?

Before I lost my health, I did what my body could do and didn’t even really think about it.  My body did whatever I wanted it to do.  If I needed to hike 17 miles in a day for work, I did it.  If I needed to carry a heavy backpack for 10 miles for work, I did it.  If I needed to lift a recliner into the back of a truck by myself, I did it.  After I lost my health, I experienced times when I couldn’t get off the couch because my chest pain was so bad.  I couldn’t walk to my mailbox that was maybe 30 feet from our house.  Actually come to think of it, maybe I am living in the after I lost my health AND after I got my health back time.  I am the same person, except now, I have all of the collective memories from all the time periods of my life.  And with the memories of the stark differences in what my body was able to do, I live with an immense gratitude so enormous that when I hike (or do something else that I thought I would never get to do again), I am usually brought to laughter and tears of joy.  And I am not exaggerating in the slightest.  I’ve asked friends of mine if the hikes they do ever bring them to tears, because it happens so often to me now.

As my friend and I discussed my time travel idea, we came to the conclusion that if I could go back with my current perspective that my life would likely be completely different now.  And really, I wouldn’t want that, because I would always choose to have my son.  But what I have realized since talking to my friend is that while we cannot currently (I never say never about anything) travel back in time physically as who we were then and experience things over again all “Back to the Future” style, we do have the ability to travel back to places that we once visited, experiencing it as our current selves.  And over the last few weeks, I have found that it’s pretty damn close.

I went to Southwest Utah last weekend on a whim.  I have been called (ie my heart/gut/ intuition/soul keep bringing it up over and over) to revisit the beautiful red rock of Zion National Park now for a long time, especially for the majority of this year.  Because I do not usually have a three-day weekend off all to myself, I was not about to waste it by sitting at home doing things that I could do on any other day.  I worked in SW Utah back in 2003, initially hiking through the desert looking for desert tortoises, and later using seining and electroshocking in rivers and streams to collect data on various fish species.  I even did some work in the Virgin River in Zion National Park.  I fell in love with the contrasting colors of the red rock against the bright blue sky and earthy green sage and cacti.  It’s art for the eyes unlike any other place I have ever seen.  When I realized that I had a 3-day weekend coming up, I began thinking of things that I could do during that time, specifically where I could go hiking.  I immediately thought of Zion National Park.  But as quickly as I thought of it, my mind started to work against me.  It’s an 8-hour drive and I haven’t done a long road trip like that by myself in a long time.  Can I stay awake, driving for that long?  How much is this going to cost me?  Can I afford it?  I can do it if I find a free place to stay, but not if I have to pay.  How much gas am I going to end up using and paying for?  Is 3 days really long enough to go all the way to Zion?!  I mean I’m basically going to drive there, hike, and drive back.  But, luckily, there are bigger forces at work than my mind that obviously wanted me to go to Zion.

I began to get messages in the form of Instagram and Facebook posts.  For instance, upon sitting on my couch and contemplating the trip while looking up places to camp and stay, I checked my Instagram to find two posts from two separate accounts featuring pictures taken in Zion National Park.  You can believe whatever you want, but I have seen enough in my own life to know without a doubt that there are no coincidences in this life.  If you feel like you’re getting messages, you are.  One of the pictures was taken from the top of Angel’s Landing, one of my favorite hikes in Zion that I planned on doing if I made the trip.  I also began to have other quotes, and articles pop up on my Facebook feed dealing with blocks that we sometimes create between ourselves and money, and also about the importance of following your intuition and doing the things that you are feeling urged to do.  So between message after message essentially yelling at me to go to Utah, and a sweet guy in Utah who runs a camping airbnb who hooked me up with coordinates for free camp sites on BLM land with a fall back option of his backyard if they were all full, I decided to go to Utah!  And man, am I happy that I did!!

Zion was always a magical place to me, but I think it was even more so during this visit!  I was able to experience the entire trip with the perspective of getting my health back after losing it, and during every shuttle, and hike, and conversation, I was saying to myself, I cannot believe I am lucky enough to be here right now!  I looked around with awe and a huge smile on my face the whole time.  I noticed some of the other hikers walking with almost grimaces on their faces, and I wanted to shake them and say “Can you believe that we are here in this magical place?!  This place is AMAZING!  Aren’t we so lucky that our bodies allow us to hike like this??!!”

I got there on Friday, set up my camp, and then went straight to the park to hop the shuttle and ended up hiking the Emerald Pools trail.  As I hiked, I smiled BIG!  It felt so right to be back there!  I looked around amazed as if I was seeing the Park for the first time!  On the shuttle to Emerald Pools, I struck up a conversation with a woman beside me, and asked her what hike she was going to do.  We started talking about where we were from and how long we were going to be there.  And we talked about hikes that we were going to do and that she had done.  She told me that she had hiked The Narrows the day before and that it was so beautiful and that I should do it if I had the time.  I had thought about it before my trip, but was not sure that I wanted to rent the gear for $40.  This conversation sealed the deal for me, and she told me where she rented the gear and what time they opened in the morning.  So again, flying by the seat of my pants, on Saturday, I hiked The Narrows, one of the most iconic hikes in Zion National Park.  I have hiked a lot in my life, but The Narrows is now my absolute FAVORITE hike!  My soul was overwhelmed with joy to be hiking through a river surrounded by a red rock canyon!  If your body is able, and hiking in a place like that makes your soul happy too, you MUST get yourself there and experience it for yourself.  No picture, no matter how beautifully taken, can ever capture the feeling of being there yourself.  In my opinion, Zion National Park is a must-see and The Narrows hike is a must-do!

Me on top of Angel’s Landing in the Fall of 2003:

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Me on top of Angel’s Landing on October 15, 2017:

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Our souls/higher selves really do know what is best for us.  I see it play out in my life all the time as opportunities and people are placed on my path.  After my trip to Utah, I knew that I could in fact travel in time by revisiting places I have lived and loved in the past.  But, I had no idea that another hike I did yesterday in Sequoia National Park would show me that again.

I had wrongly assumed that I was working all weekend this weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, until I looked at my work schedule again last week.  It turns out that I had Sunday off.  So again, I began to think of hikes that I could do that day.  I have a friend that I have written about before who does all sorts of cool, epic hikes in this area, and he’s always happy to give me trail recommendations.  When he told me about the Lakes Trail in Sequoia National Park, it sounded perfect!  There are four lakes on the trail, all at various distances from the trail head, so you can decide on how short or long you want your hike to be, and the scenery at any of the lakes is gorgeous, so you win regardless of how far you go.  Before I left, he said to take the Watchtower trail vs. the Hump trail at one of the junctions on the way to the lakes, because of the scenery along the Watchtower trail.  Inspired by my friend, I set my alarm, and ended up being on the road to go hike by 4:45 am!!  I started the trail at 6:45 am, just before sunrise.  I was leaving my plan open-ended and decided that I would see how I felt at the various lakes before deciding on my ultimate destination.  The trail was so beautiful!  I had the trail all to myself until I hit the first lake, Heather Lake, when I started passing people who had camped at the lakes going in the opposite direction as me.  Aside from that, I felt like I had the entire trail to myself.  I stopped to take some pictures at the Watchtower.  The view up there is amazing!  All of the granite peaks and drop offs, the sun just making its way up into the sky.   Stunning!  I thought of how grateful I was to be able to hike that trail.  I felt so lit up from the inside.  I kept going.  At one point, there was a sign that said something like Emerald Lake 1 mile, Pear Lake 2 miles, and right then, I decided that I was feeling good enough to do the whole 12.4 mile round trip trail to Pear Lake.  There was no way that I was going to stop short just 1 mile from Pear Lake.  The hike was just what I needed!  It felt so good to get out there and do the whole 12.4 miles.  I went to bed feeling exhausted (in a good way) and full of love and gratitude for my life.  All of it.

When I checked Facebook this morning, I had memories to look back on.  Wow, did I!  As I scrolled down, I came to a group of photos that were part of an album labeled 6 to 11 months.  There was a picture in particular that I noticed where I was holding my son at an overlook on a hike that we did when he was 6 months old.  I wondered where the picture was taken, because I had no memory of the trail or its name.  So I clicked on the picture and under it was the caption “At the Watchtower.”  My son turned 6 months old on October 23, 2009.  We must have done that hike almost exactly 8 years ago.  And as I just wrote that sentence, I checked today’s date and got chills when I saw that today is October 23, 2017.  Wow.  There are seriously NO coincidences in this life!  I could have gone on any hike yesterday, but I was led to go on the same hike that I had gone on 8 years ago almost to the day!  Again, I got to relive my past with my current perspective and level of gratitude and mindfulness.  In 2009, the first picture was taken not even two weeks before I started having symptoms that ultimately led to my complete loss of health, so it falls just into the ‘before I lost my health’ time period.

My son and I at the Watchtower in October 2009:

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Me at the Watchtower on October 22, 2017:

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I know I have said it many times, but without the perspective of gratitude that I have gained from having my life split into two when I lost my health, I would not have hiked with as much joy as I did yesterday, last weekend, or during the last few years as I have been getting back on the trails.  I would not be as grateful for all that my body is able to do, because I would not know any other way.  The scenery and trails haven’t changed, but I have!  I am lucky, because life has given me the opportunity to go back and really soak in the experiences that I have had.  I have gotten a second chance at life, so I do not intend to waste it.  This perspective is why I do the things I do.  It’s why I live my life seeking the things that bring me the most joy.  It’s why I don’t wait around for other people to be available if I really want to do something.  I know that I woke up this morning and am alive TODAY.  I know that I am healthy enough to go on long hikes by myself TODAY.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed, friends.  What are you putting off for another day?  I would encourage you to do it!  Be here NOW.  I hope that you, too, are living this amazing and magical life to the fullest!

I sang Michael Franti’s song, “Gloria”, all weekend as I drove to and hiked around Zion NP.  I was really feeling the lyrics, because I am so glad to be alive!  I had no idea of the story behind the song until I just searched for a link to add here!  Watch an amazing video of Michael Franti talking about and singing his song, “Gloria” HERE

or the album version of “Gloria” HERE