Mindfulness

My Relationship with My Body and Food, Then & Now

I believe that vulnerability and empathy are essential elements to a kinder world and better future.  With that belief, I want to share with you about my relationship with my body and with food as it has been and as it is now.  This relationship has been a journey that has at times included disordered eating, body dysmorphia, toxic fitness, and deep insecurities.  My hope in this vulnerable share is that others who have struggled or who are struggling on similar paths will find a relatable voice, know they are not alone, and be inspired to take outer and inner action toward positive change.  Additionally, I seek to add to the ongoing conversation around these topics with the wish that more people will hold space and empathy for those who have endured these challenges.  With that, my story. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

My relationship with my body negatively shifted when I was 17 years old.  Prior to 17, my body and I had decent relations – I was overall healthy, relatively active, and comfortable in my skin.  It all changed, however, when I returned from my high school choir’s trip to China.  I received the developed pictures from the trip (it was the mid 2000’s and I was still using disposable film cameras).  I was alarmed at my appearance in the photos; I looked puffy, bloated, approaching plump even.  Now, I was not overweight by any means, I was not even what some would label as “chubby”, but my face had become more rounded and my belly more extended than I had ever seen myself apart from the typical fuller phase I had gone through as a growing child.  

Concerned and reared in a society that greatly values external validation, I asked my best friend at the time (who I had a borderline toxic relationship with) if he had noticed a change in my appearance.  With his six-pack visible through his thin t-shirt, he affirmed that I had gained weight, poked my lower belly, and said “Pudgy.”  That interaction was and forever is burned into the fabric of my memory.  I remember feeling as though my worth had dropped because my shape had morphed into one that was devalued and even frowned upon by my society.  Suddenly, I understood the inner hardship many of my female identifying friends had expressed enduring as they compared their own bodies to the female bodies the culture around us glorified. My girl-friends felt inferior to the models and actresses in the magazines with their blonde hair, flat abs, and size 2 figures.  I too felt inferior as I contrasted myself to the lean, sculpted, ab-tastic male models in the cologne commercials and in the windows of Abercrombie & Fitch. 

The message was clear – as a man, if you did not have chiseled muscles and a whittled six-pack, you were not the optimum man.  Looking back now, I realize that this subliminal messaging was particularly potent to me for a couple of different reasons. The first was that, like everyone, I was an impressionable teenager. The second was that I was suppressing my queer nature and in that inner conflict already felt subordinate in my manhood.  Externally my body’s shape was deemed as undesirable and internally I knew that many would view my true sexuality as abominable.  It was in this perception that deep insecurities were born and a hard journey was begun. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

Feeling lesser in my newly developed form, I decided to address the issue of my shape head on.  In this endeavor, at least to start, I found success through healthy means.  I began to be more mindful about my food choices – eating more fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, limiting how much sugar I was intaking, practicing moderation, and so on.  I started to exercise more regularly by jogging, lifting weights, and doing yoga.  Being only 17 and with good genetics, the weight I had accrued quickly fell off.  In a couple of months I had dropped fifteen pounds, lost the bloating in my face, and pulled in my belly. 

I will note here how I was lucky in that I had parents who were healthy, active individuals who had both at one time been athletes.  They modeled positive behaviors with exercise and diet for me to emulate.  I have to attest that my insecurities about my body and the negative behaviors I developed later on did not come from my parents.  Neither of them obsessed over their shapes, practiced extreme diets, or overexercised.  Of course, they were baby boomers (a particularly judgmental generation) and at times made comments on other’s appearances, but it was minimal.  And they certainly never body shamed my sister or I.  Overall, their focus was on maintaining good health and they showed what it was to live an active lifestyle and maintain good fitness in sustainable ways.  In the beginning I followed their examples and made progress, but eventually listened to society’s demands for extremity and perfection and veered off on a darker path.  

When I returned to school for my senior year I received praise and accolades for my newly trim figure and defined muscles.  I of course appreciated the positive reinforcement for all my hard work and the results that came from it, but my mind took the external affirmations and combined them with my inner insecurities to create a very negative narrative.  The story I told myself was thus – I had gained weight and fallen out of shape before and if I was not careful I could do so again; and I could not let that happen because in order to be fully accepted I needed to remain thin.  It was in the believing of that story that my disordered eating, body dysmorphia, and toxic fitness began.  The next several years of my late teens and early twenties were darkened by these conditions and at times completely controlled by them.

Photography by Steven James Photography

My body dysmorphia was the main culprit that enabled the disordered eating and toxic fitness.  Body dysmorphia is a condition in which one obsessively focuses on a small or even imagined physical flaw, often leading to a constant desire and action to remedy the flaw.  Quite commonly, many people who struggle with body dysmorphia see themselves as larger than they actually are – this was the case with me.  Despite being slender, I looked in the mirror and often saw myself as bloated, undefined, flabby even.  It is difficult to articulate to those who have not experienced it.  The best I can explain is that many times when I looked into the mirror, I saw a glimpse of myself as I was, and then suddenly my belly would drip outward, the muscle definition in my abs would melt, and my face would swell; almost like a character in a Hollywood movie going through a magical transformation in a matter of moments courtesy of the film’s special effects team.  The body dysmorphia paired with my inner insecurity and feelings of unworthiness caused me to at once obsess over my body’s shape and never be satisfied with its condition.  All of this led me to disordered eating.

Now, I did not develop a clinical eating disorder.  I did not starve myself as is common in cases of anorexia nor did I purge myself as is symptomatic of bulimia.  Rather, disordered eating is characterized by various abnormal eating behaviors that by themselves do not warrant a traditional eating disorder diagnosis, but are indeed problems that negatively impact one’s physical and mental health.  As my disordered eating advanced, I created an enormity of rules and restrictions around food such as no simple carbs, no sugar (not even from fruit), extreme limitations on foods like dairy, protein, and fats, and a strict schedule of eating certain foods at certain times on certain days.  I believed that these rules must be obeyed in order to maintain my trimmer form and progress toward pursuing greater fitness.  If I strayed even a little from the restrictions I had placed around my food, I spiraled into a blackhole of self-inflicted guilt, shame, and hatred for my body and self.  If I had even just one extra bite of Greek yogurt at breakfast, I felt I was setting myself back on the advances I had planned to make that day.  If I ate a meal that was even slightly different from the meal I was scheduled to eat on a certain day, I feared I was at risk of my body bloating in reaction.  God forbid, if I indulged in a food that was off limits like pizza or cake, I believed I would be set back by weeks in my fitness goals, needed to start over in my journey, and go even harder and harsher than before.  Needless to say, these regulations led me to practice a diet that undernourished me.

Ironically, it was during this time in my life that I also developed binge eating which I would characterize as a subset of my disordered eating.  I heeded my intense restrictions 90% of the time, but within the other 10% the pendulum swung to the polar opposite and I would binge savagely on all of the foods I denied myself.  All of the foods that society had programmed into my mind as “bad” like pizza, pasta, bread, cake, ice cream, and the like I fed on in a frenzy like a shark on a fresh whale carcass; entranced, mindless, and all-consumed.  Once I gave into what I then called “the temptation”, I would lose myself in the act of eating and indulging, at times even blacking out in the process.  I remember going to a summer party at a friend’s house when I found myself alone in the kitchen where all of the food was artistically displayed in a buffet style – burgers, hot dogs, chips, pretzels, cupcakes, cookies, and all.  Part of me desperately wanted to go outside, to join the others, and be away from the food, but the other part of me that was starved willed me to stay.  I began to eat slowly, telling myself I would indulge in just a few of the buffet’s pleasures, but before long I found myself eating everything in sight with haste and an inability to stop as I fed the body that needed more nourishment and the inner child that yearned desperately to be free of insecurity and to be happy again. After every episode of binge eating I felt unbearably terrible and utterly defeated.  The cruel inner voice of my ego would shame me, often reducing me to tears.  I would react by quickly reverting back to my restrictive ways of eating and would force myself to work harder at the gym to compensate for my food-based sins.  This leads us to my struggles with toxic fitness.

Photography by Steven James Photography

 A relatively new term, toxic fitness describes an exercise culture rooted in body shaming and negative reinforcement.  Toxic fitness is born out of the beliefs that one must exercise to the point of exhaustion and even pain in order for the exercise to be effective, that extreme work outs are necessary to undo past indulgent feeding or to grant permission for future indulgences, and that true fitness equates to thinness. In pursuit of an imagined, future, more ideal physical version of myself, I subscribed to this culture’s practices believing that it would help me reach that version.  I spent hours in the gym multiple days per week wearing myself down to the bone with rigorous exercises that because of my disordered eating I was not nourished enough to properly perform.  While the work outs kept me lean and I did achieve some muscle definition, I lacked the proper fuel to achieve muscle gain and ultimately reach the goals I set for myself.  Rather, I repeatedly drained myself of energy and at times injured myself.  I felt weak and unsuccessful.  Instead of encouraging me forward, that inner voice of ego belittled me and thrust me forward through this vicious cycle with negative reinforcement.  Despite not finding success in my workouts and continuously feeling rundown, I refused to miss a work out even when injured or sick.  There were days I would wake up at 4:30am after only a few hours of sleep to get a 2 hour work out in that only resulted in more exhaustion and pain.  And yet, I could not break my orbit from that cycle. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

Looking back, I realize that if I had properly nourished myself and followed a more balanced exercise regime, I would have actually achieved my fitness goals – even if they were based in societal insecurity.  Still, if I had not restricted my diet to a state of malnourishment and had committed to an exercise program that prioritized quality over quantity and allotted time for rest, I believe I would have been much more fit than I truly was.  Additionally, I theorize I would actually be an inch or two taller today if I had not treated my body back then the way I did.  You see, I was in my late teens and early twenties during everything I have just described.  Thus, I still had the potential to grow.  However, because I was malnourished and overexerted, I truly believe my growth was stunted, keeping me at my 6’0” height as opposed to the possible 6’1” or 6’2” that could have been. 

Blessedly, yoga came into my life at this time.  And while it did not immediately save me from my toxic ways with food and fitness, it planted the seeds for change with lessons of self-acceptance and balance.  Like many, I began my pursuit of a more consistent yoga practice for the physical results I had seen others achieve, but I ended up falling most in love with the mindfulness and spiritual components of the practice.  I slowly started to integrate the lessons and philosophies my teachers wove throughout their classes into my own life, leading me to speak to myself more-kindly, be more gentle with myself, and take a more holistic approach to my wellbeing.  Eventually, I transitioned to making vinyasa yoga my primary form of exercise which was more sustainable for my body at the time and started to eat more with an emphasis on whole foods.  These were small yet mighty steps in the direction of better physical and mental health, but my struggles with my body image and all that went with it were far from over. 

Whilst my movement into the yoga world did come with many benefits, it also came with its own unique challenges.  There is a subset of the western yoga world that idealizes certain body types and creates its own rules and restrictions around nutrition.  Most in this culture would not condone starving one’s self, but many do support a diet with a hyper focus on foods that are labeled as clean, organic, wholesome, etc.  Of course, foods that are as such are great, but there is a fine line between maintaining a focus on these foods and developing an obsession on them that permeates into other issues all within the realm of disordered eating and toxic fitness.  It was this pitfall that I fell into. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

My disordered eating became less transfixed on the foods I was avoiding and instead borderline obsessive about consuming foods that were nutrient-dense, organic, and sourced with quality.  I demanded that the majority of my food be free of pesticides, pure, and ideally locally sourced.  Again, these are all wonderful qualities for our food to have and do indeed provide many health benefits; but to focus so fervently on this manner of eating to the point where one believes their health with suffer otherwise is known in clinical psychology as orthorexia nervosa.  Orthorexia is a lesser-known eating disorder characterized by an extreme focus on eating healthy with a fearful belief that not following strict guidelines will result in illness, general poor health, and a less fit figure.  I am not a psychotherapist, but reflecting back to that time of my mid-twenties, I would diagnose myself with orthorexia.  For I did believe that if I did not eat foods that were organic and in certain portions my overall health would be compromised and my body’s shape would not be optimized.  This time in my life did lead me to research food and learn valuable information about nutrition that I still apply to this day in a more balanced way, but at that time it continued a pattern of restriction that supported my poor relationship with my body. 

My struggles with toxic fitness also continued to a certain degree.  On the bright side, my nutrition was better which supported my activity level a bit more and I began to integrate into my regime the concepts taught in yoga of listening to my body and practicing moderation when it came to movement.  Still, I often found myself forcing myself to a heated yoga class or the gym even when I knew I could use a break, regularly pushing myself too hard in my Vinyasa practice and gym work outs, and sometimes still choosing exercise over rest when sick or injured.  I also created a lot of unnecessary stress for myself on days where I was far too busy with work and other responsibilities by still scheduling major gym work outs and classes that truly did not fit into the day without strain and conflict.  If I missed the gym or yoga or if I had a subpar work out, I felt great anxiety that I was setting myself back in the pursuit of my fitness goals.  In many ways, my exercise regime detracted from my life rather than adding to it because of the mindset I viewed it through. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

My mid-twenties were greatly influenced by these continued struggles with body dysmorphia, disordered eating and orthorexia nervosa, and toxic fitness.  Reflecting back, the most tragic part of these years was how these body image-based issues impacted my social life.  While your mid-twenties are meant to be a time of liberal socialization and exploration, mine were often contained by my self-imposed restrictions with food and exercise, blocking me from truly enjoying many of the experiences offered to me.  There were countless occasions of being out to dinner with friends where I spent an absurd amount of time stressing over what I could and could not order to eat, causing me to be less present with those around me.  Many times when I had allowed myself to order something indulgent, I would be so worried about how it would affect my body that I energetically withdrew from the outing and could not fully enjoy the experience with my loved ones.  There were tons of parties and celebrations where I passed on the pizza or cake that everyone around me was relishing because it did not fit into my allotted food schedule, leaving me as the odd man out; I pretended that my abstinence did not bother me, but it always did.  There were times where rather than allowing my friends to kindly cook for me, I opted to cook for them so that I could control what the meal entailed even when I was too busy or stressed to be the host.  Worst of all, there were too many instances when I declined plans with friends and family because those plans would interrupt my diet and my fitness regime, instead choosing to eat what I had assigned for myself and rigorously work out in solitude instead.  

Now, I do not proclaim to be a poor unfortunate soul who had miserable twenties. On the contrary, I greatly enjoyed my twenties for the most part and still found ways to live and love my life. That said, my body image based issues did greatly detract from life and hindered me from the full potential of those years. While they say “no regrets”, I have to admit I deeply regret how I deprived myself of so many moments of pleasure and joy in those prime years of my life because of the unhealthy relationship I had with food and my body.  I have missed out on grand experiences and precious moments because of this toxicity I allowed myself to develop over the course of a decade.  I can never get those opportunities or that time back.  And this is one of the many reasons why I share my story now; to offer a cautionary tale to all who are struggling as I have struggled, especially to those who are younger than I and have so many years ahead of them.  I do not wish what I went through and what I have lost because of it on anyone else.  My hope is for everyone to learn how to address these issues and move past them as I learned to do later in my life.

Photography by Steven James Photography

Luckily, my story does turn happy.  My late-twenties finally ushered in a time of revelation and revolution for me.  It was in these years that I experienced a steep incline in my confidence and security in myself.  A shared sentiment, many people have felt that the couple years before and after age thirty come with a new sense of assurance and of knowing one’s self to a greater degree; this was certainly the case for me.  By this time I had fully owned and celebrated my sexuality, found greater determination in my career, felt certainty in my purpose, and appreciated my own uniqueness.  With this inner empowerment, my insecurities lost much of their influence and that allowed me the slack to evolve my relationship with food and my body into a healthier space.  There came a day where I realized change was needed and I made the conscious choice to pursue that change and nurture that relationship.

Physically speaking, I began to focus more on what my body needed to feel healthy and strong rather than just thin and cut.  This partly involved taking a more scientific approach to what proper nutrition and balanced exercise looked like for my body type, genetics, and so forth while also tuning into an intuitive awareness of what my body needed and liked best.  All of this led me to increase my calorie intake and practice more moderation and gentleness with my exercise regime.  Ironically, these changes resulted in my achieving of the fitness goals I had been chasing for near a decade.  As it turned out, when my body had the right amount of nutrition and rest, I actually became more muscular, leaner, and most importantly felt better overall.  The paradox of it all is laughable now.

Photography by Steven James Photography

Emotionally speaking, I finally felt more secure and comfortable in body.  Not only because I had eventually reached some of my fitness goals, but because I had reframed my perspective and re-sorted my priorities even prior to those achievements.  I shifted away from focusing on what my body was not in favor of finding gratitude for what my body was – whole and capable.  I evolved my view of food as potentially dangerous to appreciating it as fuel and a blessing.  I learned to honor the truth that my body sometimes needed to skip a work out in favor of rest just as one sometimes needs to take a vacation in favor of rejuvenation.  And I accepted the reality that all of our bodies fluctuate to some degree depending on the time of year and the season of life you are in, and that is perfectly okay.  These inner changes brought me into a space of greater contentment and overall peace with myself.  Additionally, this greater acceptance of myself helped me to become more accepting of others as well. 

Now in my early thirties, I can proudly say that my relationship with my body and food is the best it has every been.  I find myself in great shape, however, I do not allow the shape of my body to define my worth or dictate my life.  I challenge my body with movement, but allow it the time it needs to rest.  I maintain good nutrition, and also permit myself to indulge without guilt or shame.  I practice gratitude for my holistic health as oppose to a sole focus on my form.  I have found balance that allows for fluidity and supports me in all I do.  Of course, I do still have difficult moments.  There are times when I critique the size of my arms or the definition of my abs, there are times when I feel guilt for helping myself to second servings of pasta or for being lazy with my workouts, and there are even times when my body dysmorphia will rear its ugly head for a moment or two.  I am not immune to the tendencies of my past; none of us are.  I have learned, however, to navigate those difficult moments and find my way back to the the path of healing, the positive mindset, and supportive practices I have developed.  I do not allow those difficult moments to undo my progress.  I have the tools to maintain this healthy relationship I have finally built with my body and food which I intend to nurture for the remainder of my life.  And I can state with deep enthusiasm that healing your relationship with your body and food opens the door to living a much more authentic and joyful life. 

Photography by Steven James Photography

If you find yourself struggling in your relationship with your own body and food, I hope you know that you are not alone.  I implore you to find people with whom you can be vulnerable and share your story.  I empower you to ask for help and support.  I invite you to do the work because, even though it is hard, I promise you it is worth it.  Know that it is your birthright to enjoy life’s pleasures like food and to be happy.  Please remember that your body’s shape does not define your worth; you are inherently worthy as you are.  Your journey does not have to stagnate here in the dark; if you try, you will find your way to the light. 

Photography by Steven James Photography


Photography Credits:

All photography by Steven James Photography.

Steven James is a photographer based in Hollywood, CA.

When I decided to produce a visual art component for my story, I knew that Steven was the only photographer for the project. I deeply admire his aesthetic as photographer and authenticity as a visual artist. I trusted he would help me create the pieces I had envisioned for this project, and he far exceeded my expectations. Steven guided me through this vulnerable yet empowering photoshoot, capturing me in a way that helps tell my story from start to finish through a visual medium. It was one of the best photoshoots I have ever done and these photos are now some of my favorites.

If you are interested in working with Steven, reach out to him via Instagram or email below.
Website: www.stevenjamesstudios.com
IG: @stevenjamesphotos
Email: Steven@stevenjamesstudios.com


Podcast Episode:

Listen to the sister project to this essay, my podcast episode “My Relationship with My Body and Food, Then & Now” on the ‘What’s the Pasta Podcast’ in which I tell this story through a different medium. Link here: https://whatsthepasta.buzzsprout.com/1530110/10747209

Breathwork

Breathwork has become one of my favorite meditation techniques to teach my clients and to practice for myself. Breathwork is an active meditation technique in which we practice a controlled breath, allowing us to enter a meditative state in order release stress, tension, and blocked energy from the body and mind while achieving a wide array of benefits.

Some benefits of breathwork include:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased focus

Controlled breathwork techniques can achieve these benefits by calming the central nervous system, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, and oxygenating the blood.  One recent study found that during breathwork exercises several brain regions linked to emotion, attention, and body awareness are active (source).  This suggests that the breath is a powerful tool for tapping into those brain regions to regulate stress and awareness.  More research is being conducted on breathwork and the findings are showing the benefits are not only psychological but also physiological and physical (source).

Now there are many different breathwork techniques with various origins and benefits.  In my opinion, no one technique is greater than the other – all just different tools we can use to achieve greater wellness in body and mind.  Below are a few of my favorite breathwork techniques with background, written instructions, and audio instructions.

Breathwork Techniques


Rest Breath

Benefits –

  • Activates Parasympathetic Nervous System
  • Reduces stress

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4, Exhale for 6
  • Repeat for 2 -10 minutes


Box Breath

Benefits –

  • Sharpens focus

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4 seconds – Hold for 4 seconds – Exhale for 4 seconds – Hold for 4 seconds
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

Ladder Breath

Benefits –

  • Clears mind and sharpens focus

Formula –

  • Inhale for 1 – Exhale for 1 – Inhale for 2 – Exhale for 2 – Inhale for 3 – Exhale for 3 – Inhale for 4 – Exhale for 4
  • Begin again at 1 and work up to 4
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

4-4-8 Breath

Benefits –

  • Releases stress and tension

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4 – Hold for 4 – Exhale for 8
  • Make the 8 second exhales out of the mouth
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

4-7-8 Breath

Benefits –

  • Calms the nervous system

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4 – Hold for 7 – Exhale for 8
  • Make the 8 second exhales out of the mouth
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

Interrupted Breath

Benefits –

  • Cooling effect
  • Quickly release tension and rest

Formula –

  • Take 3 quick inhales through your nose – Take 1 long exhale out of the mouth
  • Only repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Sun & Moon Breath

Benefits –

  • Balances left and right sides of the brain

Formula –

  • Plug right nostril and inhale through left nostril for 2-3 – Plug left nostril, open right nostril, and exhale through right nostril for 2-3 – Inhale right nostril for 2-3 – Plug right nostril, open left nostril, and exhale through left nostril for 2-3
  • Repeat for 1-2 minutes

3 Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama)

Benefits –

  • Grounding breath
  • Increases oxygen flow
  • Inspires presence

Formula –

  • Inhale deeply to chest, then ribs, then belly – Exhale deeply from belly, then ribs, then chest
  • Repeat for 2-10 minutes


Enjoyed the information in this article? Let me know in the comments and feel free to share out into the world! Happy Breathing 🙂

3 Year Anniversary of the Leap

3 years ago today, I left my full-time career as a digital marketing manager to pursue a career of my design comprised of yoga and meditation, mindfulness and wellness, and the craft of writing.  Teaching yoga and mindfulness, engaging in the wellness world, and writing were all deep passions of mine that I had been doing on the side part-time whilst working full-time in the marketing realm for nearly 6 years.  Finally, I reached a point where I realized I would never be fulfilled being a full-time marketing manager or eventual executive.  It became crystalline clear that in order to be fulfilled I profoundly needed to teach and to write and to see the direct impact of my work on other humans.  And so, I leapt from the stability of my marketing career into the unstable, riveting gig economy.

Me running away from the corporate world

Since then, I have taught thousands of yoga classes, led multiple yoga teacher training programs, taught hundreds of meditations and mindfulness workshops, written hundreds of articles, pages, and posts, become a ‘micro-influencer’ and a somewhat working model, and met hundreds of beautiful, inspired humans and have had greater opportunity to work with and befriend them.

It has not always been easy.  Leaving my marketing career meant leaving a perfectly steady paycheck, employee covered insurance, perks, and more.  I have still worked in the marketing world taking on consulting and project jobs as means of supplementing my income.  (And to be clear, I am grateful for any marketing job I have had and have great friends from those jobs who I would still work with in some capacity!)  Especially in 2020, having a career like mine has been incredibly stressful and continues to be uncertain.  

My current work attire

Still, I would not change the last 3 years for anything.  For in these years of doing the work that I love and building a life that is more on my terms, I have felt myself blossom into the best version of myself.  It is this version of myself who has been able to help more people, learn and grow abundantly, and connect with so many wonderful humans.  Thank you to everyone who has been a part of and supported my journey.  Now, let’s continue forward together!

Seeing the Multitudes in Others

Recently I have been bringing more awareness to how I and those around me describe and categorize others.  It has been interesting, and sometimes concerning, to see how an adjective can suddenly become a defining component of someone’s entire identity when assigned to them by another.  Certainly it is not news to anyone that our society has an affinity for labels, boxes, and color codes.  Our collective tendency for discrimination and prejudice based on these affinities has and continues to create problems and cause harm.  And as many of us seek to become less judgmental and exclusive and instead become more empathetic and inclusive, we must become more mindful about how we think and speak about others; even and especially those that stand on the opposite of us on various issues and beliefs.  For the truth is that one or two adjectives cannot accurately describe anyone, for everyone contain multitudes.

“She is just basic.”
“He is a problematic man.”
“She is just crazy liberal.”
“He is an ignorant republican.”

These are just a few examples of statements I have recently heard those around me speak about others.  And I confess, I am guilty of thinking and speaking about others in much the same way.  As I reflect on these descriptive, categorical statements, what strikes me about them is not necessarily the use of any one of the words, but rather the finality and permanence with which they were spoken.  As if “basic” or “problematic” accurately sums up the entirety of those people’s beings.  Of course, we know on some level that these people must be more complex than just being basic or problematic, right?  True – she might be “basic” in that she is an average woman who enjoys popular things, but she is also probably a loving daughter/sister/mother/etc., she probably has worthy talents, and she probably cares deeply about something important in the world.  Sure – he might be a man who says and/or does “problematic” things, but he also probably is a loving son/brother/father/etc., he probably has respectable skills, and he probably has and does try to do some good in the world. 

While it may be accurate to describe her as basic and him as problematic in some respects, is it not unjust to reduce them as people to being only such?  Is it not wrong to deny their other admirable qualities?  Is it not cruel to not give them the opportunity to be more?  These are the considerations that I have been meditating on as I catch myself labeling and categorizing others.  These considerations may or may not change the verbiage of the statements, but will change how they are spoken.  I may still think or say “She is basic,” but the way in which I say it does not cancel out her other admirable qualities nor does it solidify with finality that “basic” is all she is or ever could be. 

 Personally, I am striving to edit the way these statements are spoken to allow for more consideration and respect. For example:

“In some ways, she is basic.”
“He can be problematic.” or  “He does have problematic tendencies.”

I feel that when I think and speak in this way, I am finding a balance between honoring my own perspectives and opinions and allowing space for the people I am speaking about to be more than just the adjectival labels I have attributed to them.  At once, I am affirming in my eyes that he or she is this or that, but also recognizing that he or she also contains multitudes.  For me, this seems more respectful, more empathetic, and leaves open space to foster conversation and connection, even between two people who may oppose each other. 

Now, there are of course individuals in the world who seemingly can be summarized with strong adjectives and harsh statements.  We know there are people whose entire beings are consumed with negative and evil qualities and they do not deserve any considerations.  However, these people are the exception.  I would argue that the rule is most people are dynamic, multifaceted beings that are capable of being many things at one time and have the great potential for change and evolution.  I believe that in order to cultivate authentic connections, have honest conversations, and share different perspectives, harboring consideration and respect for each other without harsh discrimination and permanent condemnation is of the utmost importance.  Imagine if each of us looked at and listened to each other through the lens that everyone, no matter who, contains multitudes.  How much deeper would those authentic connections be?  How much more productive would those honest conversations be?  How much more could we grasp and understand others’ perspectives to then work toward mutual agreements?  

To be clear, this is not to say that we go through life with rose colored glasses on, bypass conflicts, and blindly hope for the best.  Absolutely, we must continue to call out harmful behaviors, demand change for the betterment of the collective, and engage in disagreements and conflicts as they arise.  All I offer is that as we do so, we allow the space for connection, growth, and grace by staying rooted in the knowledge that all of us contain multitudes and each of us has a role to play as we navigate this lifetime.

The Lost Lightworkers

*Disclaimer: Since writing this post, I have been informed that some people see the term “lightworker” as an offensive term synonymous with spiritual bypassing (the using of spiritual teachings and beliefs as a way to avoid facing unresolved emotional and psychological issues and trauma and generally avoiding and denying necessary “shadow work”) and colorism (discrimination based on the shading of skin color, generally labeling lighter as good and darker as bad).  Thus, I want to be clear that the definition for “lightworker” that I am working with is not attached to spiritual bypassing and colorism. My use of “lightworker” and “light” does not have any correlation to skin color or race and does not promote spiritual bypassing or emotional avoidance of any kind. My definition for the term “lightworker” is someone who dedicates their work and/or life to helping others by promoting health, wellness, kindness, compassion, and love. This is the definition I am working with for the below article. Based on the research I have done, the use of “lightworker” is safe when such a clarification as this is made. If you would like to discuss this topic further, please fill out my contact form and correspond with me directly. Thank you.*

            In a time where the fear and the reality of job loss, business closures, financial ruin, social separation, illness, and death plague our country, there has never been a greater need for lightworkers. In the spiritual, new age community, a lightworker is broadly defined as someone who is intensely drawn to help others. Lightworkers display an abundance of empathy and compassion for others in their close and distant circles. Such individuals often pursue careers in healthcare, psychotherapy, massage, yoga, meditation, reiki, and other such modalities in which their jobs directly touch and impact other humans. (Please read the *Disclaimer above for further clarification on the definition being used here) Lightworkers who have chosen careers as doctors, nurses, and the like find themselves in higher demand than perhaps ever before. And that demand is sure to only continue rising in the coming weeks and months. There are, however, many other lightworkers in this country who find themselves unable to fulfill their vocations. What happens to those of us that exist in other corners and sectors of the wellness world who want desperately to work, to help, and to heal, but find our paths for doing so closed? What happens to us lightworkers who are ready and willing to come to the aid of others but suddenly find ourselves struggling for survival in an economy that never truly realized our value and potential? In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us lightworkers find ourselves wandering, wondering, and lost.

            I consider myself to be a lightworker; a title I wear proudly. I am a yoga and meditation instructor as well as a writer in the wellness and mindfulness space. Like many other lightworkers, I am deeply passionate about my modalities. The work I do is work I would always do no matter how much money I had in my bank account. Give me a billion dollars and you will still find me teaching yoga at the studio and writing articles to inspire inner growth. True retirement from these jobs is something I will never choose. My work is less of a job that earns income and more of a vocation that fulfills the mission of my soul. Yet as the coronavirus continues to alter the state of the country and the larger world, I find it increasingly difficult to perform the work I believe I have been placed on earth to do.

            I live in California where a statewide shelter-in-place mandate has been instituted until further notice. With this, both of the yoga studios I teach for have closed and temporarily laid all instructors off without pay or benefits. The corporate offices I contract for as a yoga and meditation instructor have closed as their employees are required to work from home if they are to work at all. While some private individual clients may still continue to request me to come and teach them in their homes, at any moment they could choose to suspend our classes or else law enforcement could prevent me from reaching their residences as more and more checkpoints are put in place. Furthermore, I am certainly not acquiring new clients during this time of social distancing and quarantine. 

            Thus, I suddenly find myself with fewer platforms to practice my modalities of teaching yoga and meditation to the hundreds of people I used to see regularly every week. The modest income I earned from these opportunities has been halted. Like the ever growing millions of people in the US who have temporarily or permanently lost their means of income in a capitalistic economy that clearly has no elasticity and flexibility to it and a social security net that is being loosely woven at the eleventh hour, I now must wonder about how I will procure the money I need to support myself and survive in a system that would normally allow me to fall into ruin. And worse, I must mourn the loss of the work I did, love so deeply, and want so badly to continue doing for the value I believe it adds to the world.

            Clearly, I am not alone in these personal and financially devastating losses. Yoga and fitness instructors, meditation leaders, massage therapists, reiki and alternative practice healers across the nation all find ourselves out of work, forced away from our vocations, and in some cases, fresh out of luck.  It hurts our wallets and our hearts. We worry not just for ourselves, but for the clients that we have served in earnest for so long. We want so desperately to continue helping, but our industries are not safe to operate in. Our industries are closed for the greater good and health of our clients and ourselves. And as we reflect, we face the hard truth that while our clients may personally value us and our work, clearly the society we reside in and serve does not – at least, not enough to ensure that we too are cared for and that our resource needs are met during these uncertain days.

            Still, not all hope is lost. Some of us lightworkers are finding innovative ways to continue performing our vocations. Many yoga and fitness instructors, including myself, are teaching virtual classes via platforms like Zoom and Instagram Live. I have been teaching four to five free community classes per week via Zoom to an audience comprised of most of my normal students. On the financial front, some of my students have contributed donations for these classes via Venmo which has been nice. More importantly, it has been a rewarding experience to see my students’ faces, hear their voices, and still be able to lead them through a yoga flow. My students have expressed immense gratitude for my continued teaching in this time which provides them with a way to move their bodies and clear their heads as well as evoke some sense of normalcy in a season in which nothing feels normal. Additionally, one of the corporate companies I contract for as a mindfulness and meditation instructor has decided to expand the program I normally lead solely at their Southern California branch and roll it out nationwide with virtual sessions, allowing me to reach even more people across our country. And again, I am not alone. Lightworkers are leading virtual classes and support groups, performing “distance reiki”, creating online mindfulness courses and workbooks, and much more.

            Yet for as wonderful as these new ways of performing our vocations, the innovative ventures some of us lightworkers are pursuing are still insufficient for us on fiscal and energetic levels. Furthermore, these alternative paths for virtual work are not accessible for all lightworkers who do not have the necessary technological savvy or for those whose modalities simply cannot be offered virtually – an older meditation teacher may not know how to operate Zoom for a virtual class and a massage therapist simply cannot work unless they are physically present with a client. For those of us who do have virtual offerings, there is a heightened level of competition present between us. None of us want to recognize this truth, for as empaths we want everyone to succeed, but when it comes down to earning the money we need to pay our rents and put food on the table, we cannot help but realize we want and need students to be taking our own classes and making donations to us. And so, us lightworkers find ourselves in a paradoxical time. We want to help our communities and we want our comrades to succeed in doing so too, yet we often cannot help our communities and realize that some primal part of ourselves we wish we could ignore desires our own success and survival at a greater tier than we have before. All of this has created the overwhelming sensation of being lost.

            Although, while the reality is that we are facing a uniquely challenging time comprised of loss of resources, lack of support, and daily fulfill-able purpose, us lightworkers will never truly stop. It is true that the current pandemic has us feeling unstable, uncared for by the crumbling social structures in this country, and confused about exactly how we fit into the world at this time, but something that we possess is a potent, undying drive to do good in the world. While we may endure moments of fear, scarcity, and hopelessness, we will ultimately return back to our inner truths that we simply want the best for all and want to play some part in that. At the end of the day, lightworkers will find our way back to ourselves and strive to do our work no matter what. Even if all we can do is meditate and pray for the well-being of the larger collective that is what we will do. We are lost in this time, but we are still here, and we are still trying.

Consciously Optimistic

At the beginning of the California stay-at-home mandate in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, I wrote about my choice to remain cautiously hopeful. I wrote about my acknowledgement and acceptance of this moment in history as uncertain, uncomfortable, challenging, and scary, but that I would continue on as a writer, as a teacher, as a creative, as a smiler, as a laugher, as a lover. I maintain this stance; over the past month I have continued to produce art with my written words, I have continued to teach yoga and meditation, I have continued to smile, to laugh, and to love, and I am not stopping any of this anytime soon. Yet, if I am to be honest I must express that I too, like many, have had my moments and days of doubt, dread, and darkness. I have felt anxiety tighten my chest, stress crinkle my forehead, and tears fill my eyes. And all of that is perfectly alright.

            I have been an optimist all of my life. From childhood to present, I have always been the one to find the silver lining, to look onward and upward with faith and hope, and to get right back up when knocked down. I am still very much this way; it is who I innately am. There is, however, a sizeable difference in how I play the role of optimist now. I was once a blind optimist – someone who denied the extent or even the existence of the problem, the darkness, and even the truth in favor of remaining positive. While my seemingly invincible positivity was a quality many people around me admired, my years have since taught me that there is a fundamental flaw in blind optimism.  Blind optimism does not leave space to experience the valid feelings and emotions of loss, anger, fear, and sadness that are all part of the human experience. It bypasses the necessary step of processing what we feel and experience which ultimately allows us to learn and to grow. When we are blindly optimistic, we effectively limit our life experience, hinder our own growth and evolution, and ultimately trap ourselves into storing up issues and emotions that we never fully deal with which often leads to their resurfacing and causing more problems later down the path. Furthermore, we may inadvertently invalidate other’s real and true feelings and emotions in our denial of their presence.

            Thus, I have learned to be a conscious optimist – someone who acknowledges and accepts the heavy, the hard, and the dark. Someone who sits in the discomfort and wades through the challenge. Someone who allows time to process, to understand, and to learn. Someone who fully acknowledges and holds space for the experiences of others. And someone who after all of that still makes their way back to optimism. I continue to be an optimist, a seeker of the silver lining, a believer in the best, a holder of hope for a greater world, but I also allow myself the time and the space to feel what arises from the shadows.

            In this time of quarantine, I have had to face a myriad of feelings and emotions from the shadows. I have experienced worry and anxiety revolving around my finances as 75% of my income has suddenly come to a grinding halt and the process of applying for unemployment is confusing and unstable. I have felt the fear of my older relatives and vulnerable friends contracting the virus and struggling to defeat it. I have experienced anger at our government for how they have handled this pandemic and for the structures they have built that are now failing the vast majority of us. I have felt the loss of not being able to perform my vocation of teaching at the same caliber that I once did. I have experienced frustration of being forced to remain inside when everything in me wants to be out in the world. I have felt the intense missing of my sister, my extended family, and my dearest friends whom I am uncertain about when I will see and embrace again. I have had my moments and my days of feeling overwhelmed by the present situation and an almost desperate desire to break free of it.

            For as positive as I remain, I am not invincible to these feelings and emotions; none of us are. Sometimes, they are very present with me and demand my full undivided attention for a few hours or even a few days. And again, this is perfectly okay. The days we are living now are hard; perhaps some of the hardest we will ever know in our lifetime. As these days continue, we are all going to feel an intense array of emotions and all handle them differently. The truth of the matter is there is no right or wrong way to feel or be in this time. Whatever you are feeling is valid, however much time you need to be in that feeling is more than acceptable, whatever you need to do to cope and process that feeling is fine (so long as your coping strategy does not cause harm to yourself or others). Allow yourself the space to really experience every sensation and emotion that is coming up for you in this unique circumstance. Allow yourself to sit with it and understand. And when you feel ready, move on from it with the wisdom that you have gained from processing it.

            In the age of social media, there is a big push by individuals, influencers, and brands to remain overtly positive during this pandemic. There is nobility to that sentiment. As I said, I am remaining mostly positive and continue to hope for the best, am actively looking for silver linings, and continue to practice gratitude for what I do have. The caveat is that I do not and will not remain positive at the expense of denying and belittling the real and true feelings of anxiety, worry, doubt, anger, and sadness that do at times arise in me. I cannot ignore what is present in my brain and in my heart. And I absolutely will not tell others to ignore and invalidate their own unique feelings for the sake of positivity. In truth, positivity is stronger and more potent when we have returned to it after going on an inward journey through the dark rather than taking a mental vacation in which we ignore the fact that anything other than the pleasant is present. I am often positive, but not always. I am usually grateful, but sometimes cannot find the will to be so. I am typically hopeful, but I too experience doubt. And this goes for all of us who wear the title of optimist. And in this time that is so uncertain, so challenging, so scary, I am feeling all the feels – the good and the bad, the light and the shadow, the yin and the yang. And if you are too, that’s more than okay.

Confined Contemplations

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to shake the foundations of our world and change our lives on a daily, updating basis, I find myself contemplating a myriad of topics, thoughts, and emotions. As quarantine forces me into a state of stillness, I am allowing myself the opportunity to reflect deeply on the following. These questions were developed uniquely for me, but if they resonate with you as well, I encourage you to reflect on them and perhaps even journal about them.

What do I miss that I had access to before but do not have access to now?

What are the things that I do not have access to anymore, but do not miss?

What did I have access to before that I realize I did not take full advantage of now that it is no longer available to me?

What parts of my busy routine do I miss and that I feel were serving me well?

What parts of my busy routine do I not miss and which parts do I feel were not serving me well?

What did I once deem necessary and vital that may not seem so important anymore?

What practices have I taken up in this time of isolation and quarantine that are positive? Which ones are negative?

Who do I miss seeing on a regular basis?

Who do I not miss seeing?

Who have I connected with more deeply in the wake of this pandemic that I want to maintain a greater connection with when this is over?

Who in my life has changed in my eyes, for better or for worse, based on how they have reacted to this pandemic?

If I had a giant house and could take in 20 friends and family members for quarantine, who would make up those 20 people?

Overall, how have I responded to this pandemic?

In what ways have I handled this pandemic positively? In what ways have I handled this pandemic negatively?

What have I learned in the past few years of inner growth that I am actively applying to this situation?

What have I learned in the past few years of inner growth that I could stand to apply to this situation?

What types of stress have I experienced from this pandemic?

Where has the stress of this time resonated in my body?

What coping strategies have helped me to cope with this stress?

Am I being of service to others in this time?

How can I be of more service to my community and the world right now?

What lessons am I learning in this time as a person?

What lessons are we learning in this time as a collective?

What have I already learned in this time that I want to take with me into the future?

Universe/God/etc – Where would you have me go? What would you have me say? What would you have me do?

Cautiously Hopeful

Fear. Scarcity. Panic. These are the emotions, sensations, and reactions I have felt myself being invited into over the past week as my awareness of the news, discussions, and energies circulating around me has heightened. After finally accepting that a forced quarantine may be eminent, my best friend and I rushed out to the grocery stores to procure two weeks’ worth of food and supplies for ourselves and our closest loved ones. We went to the stores in good spirits, laughing that we were “apocalypse ready!” Upon seeing the empty shelves and freezer bins at Trader Joe’s, however, a sinking feeling overwhelmed my chest and I watched as my mind took a mini spiral into the primal mentality of scarcity. “Where will we get the food? How will I provide for my older mother? Will I need to fight for this?” I quickly pulled myself back up and out of the spiral, returning to the present, and redirecting my mind into the state of security and abundance I strive to operate from. Yet, I could not help but be astounded by how the present events are influencing our thoughts and feelings.

            The worry and concern I see on the faces of the people who pass me is clear. The fear in the eyes of the friends I speak to about the current situation is apparent. The energy of hysteria that radiates from the news and the society around me is palpable. As a person of privilege, I have never experienced anything quite like this; the worry about not having enough resources, the concern about not being able to seek and receive treatment if sick, the discomfort of not being able to work and maintain income. I realize now that in my twenty-nine years of life I have witness history unfolding: 9/11, the “war on terrorism”, the first black president of the United States, the first female almost-present of the United States, a world superpower divided over an election, and now this world-wide pandemic with no clear ending. In addition to 9/11, this piece of history in particular is impacting all us in immediate and tangible ways. It is a scary and all around interesting event to be a part of. 

            I myself am not fearful of the coronavirus (COVID-19). As a yoga and fitness instructor with a highly nutritious diet and with a genetically strong immune system, I feel confident that I would be asymptotic if I were to contract it, or if I did they would be mild and short lived. Additionally, experts say that 80% or more of the population that contract the virus will experience mild flu like symptoms for a short period of time. Based on the research I have done, I do believe this virus is more mild than the media is playing it up to be in their headlines and do feel that many are over reacting about the severity of the virus. That said, I am still deeply concerned about it. I am concerned for those with compromised immune systems that could potentially experience a severe bout of the illness. I am concerned for the elderly population who seem to be taking the brunt of this illness – my own grandparents are ninety and eighty-eight and I fear for them. I am concerned for those whose contracting the virus could potentially be serious and even deadly.

            Furthermore, this pandemic has brought to light the fragility of our economic system in America. Across various sectors, businesses have slowed exceptionally or come to complete grinding halts. Those taking the brunt of the business losses are the workers at and toward the bottom of the totem pole – the hourly workers, the workers that have to be physically present at their job site in order to earn income, the freelancers whose clients have stopped calling and booking. A large part of the panic and fear we are seeing in society is coming from those who realize that in the event of a shutdown that they will not be able to attend work, earn money, and will most likely not be supported with any sort of temporary severance package or cushion funding from their companies. Pair all of that with the fact that a potential quarantine means a large upfront cost to stock up on food and supplies for an extended period and we are looking at a lot of money lost and un-replenished for some.  And this is all before we add on healthcare costs if someone in these circumstances does become sick. For those without savings or familial support, this is a deeply uncomfortable and scary time.

            It is a tale as old as time, those at the top maintain stability, at least financially, during this pandemic, while those at the bottom face hardship and ruin. For me, it has enhanced my belief that we need more human-based systems of economy and business here in the United States. Companies need to commit to taking care of their loyal employees in case of a crisis like this – CEOs should cut profits and reallocate funds or else should forgo their own seven or eight figure salaries for six months in order to pay their bottom workers’ bare minimum cost of living expenses for two weeks to a month in the event that they are not allowed to work. The government should be allocating funds to be accessed by the people for food, supplies, and rent in the event of a shutdown. At present, our system supports a “survival of the fittest” mentality, with the fittest having an often unjust upper hand.  Moreover, if the dropping economy is causing such mayhem, why can’t we temporarily cancel the economy like we are everything else? Call me a naïve millennial, but as an old soul who has been around the track a few times, I just prioritize things a little differently.

             At any rate, we are experiencing a situation that is uncomfortable and frightening. The virus is a problem and it is multiplying into various other problems across different sectors and arenas. This is all very real. The heavy emotions and sensations we are experiencing around this are true and valid. Let me state that again – what you are feeling is valid. That said, we do not have to be consumed or driven by this darkness. We do not have to feed into the fear and let it define our lives over the coming weeks or months. To be clear, feeling worried, concerned, anxious, scarce, or fearful is not wrong or bad; these are all part of the human experience. We can certainly be cautious, we can plan and prepare, but what I am saying is that we can do all of this while holding onto hope. Events and concerts may be canceled, school may be canceled, work may be canceled. What is not canceled, however, is our ability to smile and to laugh, our ability to be generous and kind, our ability to create light even in the darkest of darks.

            I am fully aware of the potential hardships and dangers ahead. We have to accept that the coming weeks and maybe even months ahead will be challenging, uncertain, and uncomfortable; there is no denying it or escaping it. You may feel worried, concerned, anxious, scarce, and fearful – this is not bad, this all part of the human experience. I encourage you to honor the way you are feeling, sit with it, experience it in full, and understand it. Just remember, that these are not the only emotions you will ever feel again. I offer you the perspective that this too shall pass and does not have to define your inner world. I will feel all of the emotions as well, but I will continue to smile, I will continue to laugh, I will continue to help and to aid, I will continue to sing, I will continue to write, I will continue to create. The best of me will not be canceled, the best of me will continue in full power mode and I will do the good I can with that.

            Right now, the world is tempting us to react; to react in panic, with scarcity, with defeat, and with fear. But we do not have to. Instead, we can respond. We can respond with cautious optimism. We can respond with peaceful progress. We can respond with intuitive positivity. We can respond with hope, faith, trust, and love. The coming weeks and months may be challenging, but please remember, we are in this together. Rather than dividing in the fall, let’s unite in the rise. I love you, my friends.

Today’s Gratitude’s & Tomorrow’s Visions

Today I am sharing about a mindful practice I have begun over the past few months that I have found to be meaningful and powerful in my life. I call this practice “Today’s Gratitudes & Tomorrow’s Visions”. This practice is a journal based daily ritual very much akin to the Gratitude Journal often promoted by Oprah. In this practice, I take a few moments before going to sleep to write 3-5 things I feel gratitude for, followed by 3-5 things I would like to manifest the next day. The gratitudes elevate my positive vibrations and the requests for manifestations go out into the universe overnight to hopefully brew and make their way back to me. Having continued this practice for about three months now, I can tell you honestly that Today’s Gratitudes & Tomorrow’s Visions have had big impacts on my life! So grab one of those pretty journals you have on your shelf that you’ve never used and let’s get writing!

Today’s Gratitudes & Tomorrow’s Visions How To:

Step 1: Make a Few Minutes Before Bedtime

I deeply feel that the very end of the day is the best time to practice this ritual. Reflecting with gratitude on the day stimulates a sense of contentment and peace. Expressing hopes and dreams for the following day allows us to go to sleep without imaging or worrying about it because you have gotten it out on paper.

Step 2: Today’s Gratitudes

Write 3-5 things you are grateful for from the day. Write whatever first comes to mind. Write them in bullet points and keep them short and sweet. You can be grateful for big or small things, grand or simple things, deep or silly things; as long as it is authentic and true, it is noteworthy.

Somedays what comes to mind for me are the big, obvious things like my family and friends, my health, for simply being alive. Somedays what comes to mind are really ridiculous things like peanut butter and coffee (peanut butter makes an appearance in my journal at least twice a week) – but I am grateful I have those things as simple as they are, and so I still feel inclined to write them.

Try not to overthink, really just reflect and find gratitude for all.

Step 3: Tomorrow’s Visions

Write down 3-5 things you would like to transpire the following day. Similarly, write these aspirations as bullet points and keep them short.

What is different and key when it comes to Tomorrow’s Visions is to keep your requests somewhat open-ended. As I discuss in my piece, “Manifestation: There’s Something to It”, it’s important to leave room for the universe to gift back to us what it feels is right for us, even if it is slightly different than what we originally envisioned. If you write out how you want tomorrow to unfold hour by hour, then you have really limited all of the possibilities the universe might have brought your way, and thus the universe is probably going to ignore you and you will be disappointed.

So rather, you keep your requests for manifestation more broad: I would like to have a good meeting with my boss, I would like to receive good news of some kind, I would like to find some time in the day for me to relax a little bit, etc. These requests leave plenty of room for the universe to cook up something for you that fulfills the request, perhaps even beyond what you could have imagined!

So keep it open, and of course, keep it positive!

Step 4: Start Writing!

This is a practice I have found to be uplifting, and at times, magical. I feel the expression of gratitude changing my energy for the better, and I have seen how my visions have been manifested in some shape or form the following day. It’s just another way to elevate the vibe of your life!

I hope you find this practice to be as wondrous as I do!

Do you have other daily practices or rituals you do to elevate your vibe? Let me know below!

 

 

Manifestation: There’s Something To It

If you are in the yoga world, then you have probably heard someone talking about “manifestation” at some point. Maybe someone in your local yoga studio was explaining to a friend about how they were trying to manifest a solution to a problem or perhaps your yoga teacher taught a class themed upon manifesting your best life. ‘Manifestation’ and the action of ‘manifesting’ are very popular buzz words in the yoga world; this idea that through focused thought and energy we might be able to create outcomes, objects, and even attract people that we need and desire out of the ether. I have always been a big fan of the concept and have more or less believed that manifestation was a possibility, although, I did not place a great amount of faith in it and generally saw abstract manifestation as a possibility but not at all a likelihood. That was until I decided to give manifestation a good honest try and discovered that manifestation can indeed be a powerful force that works.

My Story of Manifestation

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Photo by Neil Bloem – @coldxneil

Last year, I found myself in a dark place. I was working at a corporate marketing job that I loathed with every fiber of my being. I had come to the realization within this job that it was not just the company and the position I held within it that made me deeply unhappy; it was the industry of marketing that was the true problem. I recognized that I was in the wrong profession for myself and it was harming my mind and spirit.

I have two central passions in this life: writing and yoga. Though my primary career was in marketing, I always pursued my true passions on the side in my own time. I was always working on some sort of writing project whether it be a screenplay, novel, or article. And I had trained to teach yoga, teaching several classes per week in the mornings before or the evenings after my corporate job. It was in these devotions and crafts that I found light and life.

At that point in my life, I had come into a place where I desperately needed to make a transition out of full-time marketing and into some sort of working existence made of yoga and writing. For a while, I approached my wish for change from a very angry place: I was angry at the universe for not making me a highly sponsored Instagram yoga star and not landing me a book deal for my novel. Of course, directing negative energy at the situation did not move it into a positive space. And so, I decided to do something different.

I decided to give manifestation a go. Without being specific, I expressed to the universe what I wanted; an exit from my corporate job, a new financially stable career that included more yoga and writing and a new lifestyle to go with it. I wrote down my wishes, I made a vision board to represent them, I spoke about them to friends, and I meditated on them during my yoga practices. I trusted that something out there was listening to me and conspiring in my favor. Sure enough, a couple of months later, I was given an amicable outing from my marketing job, offered an abundance of yoga teaching opportunities, and landed a few freelance clients to help supplement my income. I transitioned away from a high-stress, fast-paced, regimented lifestyle into a new one that was flexible, steady, rewarding, and abundant in positivity.

As I began this new and glorious season of my life, I found myself in awe that I had evidently manifested this whole new career and lifestyle for myself. It had worked, it had really worked! And so, I wondered what else I could manifest.

Wanting to build my career and reputation as a writer, I decided that I would attempt to manifest being published. I did not necessarily mean becoming a New York Times best-selling author right away, but just being published in some form or other to add to my writer’s resume. Within weeks of putting this out there into the ether, I was officially published by the new age publication Elephant Journal. The article I wrote for them began to trend, earning thousands of views, and I was soon featured on their website. I have since been able to publish two more articles with them.

Manifestation again worked in my favor a few months later, this time on the yoga front.  When the teacher training programming I served as a coach for came to an end in June, I wondered about how I was going to make up for the pay I would no longer be receiving at the end of the program. I decided to manifest more opportunities in the yoga world that could take the place of coaching teacher training. Within two weeks, I was offered another permanent yoga class at a different studio and a corporate yoga gig. A month after that, I received an opportunity to teach for a private client for a higher rate of pay for yoga instruction than I had ever received before.

If the past year with all of these experiences have taught me anything, it is that manifestation is indeed possible when you dedicate enough energy to it and put enough trust in it. I continue to be amazed by what I have been able to manifest and I am excited to keep at it to see what else might be possible.

 

The Basics of Manifestation

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Photo by Neil Bloem – @coldxneil

In addition to my own experiences, I have done a good amount of research on the philosophies surrounding manifestation. I have read articles, book chapters, and listened to podcasts all centered on the subject. Through all of my studies and experiments, I think I have identified a few basic principles for manifestation that I would like to share with you.

  1. Ask Rather Than Demand

I think this is the most important principle of manifestation. When you choose to try and manifest something – whatever it is – I believe you have to ask for it humbly rather than demand for it aggressively. I feel that (the Universe/God/the Force/whatever-you-want-to-call-it) is much more receptive to a polite request than they are to a hard and firm order.

  1. Keep It Open-Ended Rather Than Specific

Everything I have read and listened to on the subject of manifestation more or less comes to this same conclusion. We must create space for our manifestations to come to fruition in different forms. Sometimes, our manifestations look very different than what we originally imagined or intended, but they ultimately provide us with what we need.

Think about my earlier example when I set out to manifest becoming a published writer. Though my end goal was – and still is – to become a published novelist, I did not specify that in my first attempt at manifestation around writing. Rather, I simply stated that I wanted to be published and I was open to that transpiring in any way. The result was publishing a short article in an online publication. It was not grand or life altering, but it was something. And perhaps that one manifestation will evolve into more.

Another more universal example: manifesting material abundance. If you specify to the universe that you want material abundance and thus you want to win the lottery, it is highly unlikely that the universe is going to reward you with the winning lottery ticket – if it was that easy, many would have done this already. If you, however, ask for abundance and remain open to that transpiring in various ways, you may receive. You could receive a new job offer that comes with a raise, you could receive new side hustle opportunities that bump up your income, or you may receive a reduced rate on a car or house payment that gives you some extra pocket money. The possibilities are endless as long as you are open to them.

We have to remember that whatever is out there is far wiser and more intelligent than we are. Sometimes this force will gift us with a manifestation that is not quite what we envisioned, but may ultimately be more valuable to us and our journeys, even if we do not fully understand it. So keep an open mind, an open heart, and receive and give thanks for what comes.

  1. Be Patient

The powers at be do not operate on your timeline. Avoid putting a deadline on your manifestations. Those powers will decide when we are ready to receive, and we have to accept that.

  1. Not All Manifestations Manifest

We are not going to be successful in manifesting 100% of the time. Once again, the Universe/God/the Force/etc. see and know more than we know. Sometimes it/they might decide that what we are trying to manifest is actually not right for us, and we just don’t know it.

  1. Practice Gratitude

We should always practice gratitude, but I think it is key to express gratitude when our manifestations are realized.  When we successfully manifest, we should be sure to tell those powers at be that we are thankful. If we are consistent in giving thanks, we will probably receive more consistent blessings.

 

Conclusion

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Photo by Neil Bloem – @coldxneil

I believe that manifestation is real and we have the power to influence our own realities. I see manifestation as a branch of real magic; curious to understand, challenging to practice, impossible to master, but powerful in its potential. I encourage everyone to give manifestation a try and see what the possibilities are!

Have you ever manifested something before? What are your currently trying manifest? Tell me all below!

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*All photos within this article were captured by my old travel buddy, Neil Bloem. Neil is a photographer and visual artist currently based in Lofoten, Norway. The natural beauty he captures is truly remarkable. I find myself in constant awe of his work. You can follow him on Instagram @coldxneil Enjoy the beauty he will fill your Insta-feed with!