HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY REINVENT YOURSELF

In my last couple of posts, I wrote about how my life had completely been dismantled.  I also wrote about how I was using this summer to initiate my rebuild.  I call it my Summer of Reinvention.   As I’ve been sharing my story, I have been hearing similar stories reflected back to me.  Many of my clients and friends have been going through similar life demolitions, and are ready to start the process of reconstruction.  What most of them are missing, though, is the knowledge of how to do this.

How does one go about creating an entirely new life while sitting in the ruins of the one they’ve spent so many years building?  Well, I absolutely believe that the answer to this question will always be as unique as the person asking it.  That said, though, there are some tools that can be useful to help the process along, especially when you’re back at the beginning.

These are the tools that I’m using to help rebuild my own life.  I guarantee that at least a few of these practices can help you, too, to get more clarity, more motivation, and more enjoyment out of creating your dream life … whatever’s happening in your current life.

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TOOLS FOR SELF-REINVENTION:

  1. Honest Self Analysis.  If you’re like me and many other folks, you probably know what you don’t want.  You might even be savvy enough to know what you do want.  But many of us are lacking a clear and true picture of what we’ve got going on right now.  It’s impossible to make optimal effective changes if you don’t know what it is you need or want to change.  So, take a little time to evaluate what’s really happening in your life right now.  How are you operating in the world?  Are you proactively making things happen, or reacting to whatever comes along?  How are you viewing the world?  Through the lens of abundance or scarcity?  What do you have that you want?  What don’t you have that you want?  And what do you have that you don’t want?  What do you believe is truly possible?  In short, what are you currently working with, and what can you do with it?
  2. Get Grateful.  Now that you know where you currently stand, it’s time to show a little appreciation for the good you’ve managed to garner for yourself.  Openly express gratitude for the awesome things you’ve accomplished.  This will align you with the good stuff you’ve already got working for you.  Then, while you’re at it, express gratitude for the things you want to have in your life.  And express that gratitude as if you already have them.  You can do this by writing in a gratitude journal (my choice), or thinking your gratitude, or speaking it aloud to yourself or to others.  The how is not important, it’s the true feeling of gratitude being expressed often that helps to energetically magnetize you to more of those things you want. 
  3. Use Your Imagination.  This is where things get really fun!  Step 3 is about daydreaming.  This is your time to imagine the life you want in all its shiny new awesomeness.  Visualize what you look like in your new life.  What do you do every day?  Where do you live and work?  Where do you go and what do you do in your leisure time?  Who are you spending time with?  Get as specific and detailed as you possibly can.  Then continue to daydream like this every single day.  The more you imagine yourself living the life you want, the sooner you will find yourself creating it naturally and with little effort. 
  4. Use Visual Aids.  This is one of my favorite tools for reinvention.  I am a visual person, so it really helps me to get some clarity around what I want and what that looks like as a big picture.  There are several ways you can integrate visual aids into your work.  Vision boards are one of the more popular choices.  Gather images that represent the life you want to create.  Attach them to a piece of paper, cardboard, plywood, etc..  Then keep your board in a place where you can see it everyday.  The images provide visual stimulation and support to keep you consciously (and subconsciously) focusing on your goals, which keeps you activated and motivated to ultimately manifest them.  You can also do this the virtual way by creating a Pinterest board for yourself that can be your online vision board.  You just need to make sure to look through it every day.  Other options are to create an avatar of the version of yourself that lives this new beautiful life, create a painting or drawing that symbolizes your life in some significant way for you, or you can even regularly put yourself in places in have the look and feel of what you’re trying to create for yourself.  Get creative.  Get visual.  And get manifesting.
  5. Turn In Your Oscar-Worthy Performance.  One of the quickest ways to create a new life for yourself is to just start living it regardless of your current circumstances.  Just think like an actor preparing for a role. Want to billionaire?  Go shopping in luxury boutiques.  You don’t have to buy anything, but being there will allow you to feel like you are the kind of [super wealthy] person who shops there on the reg.  Want to be a sought-after public speaker?  Join a Toastmasters group to start getting the feel of speaking regularly in front of live audiences.  Want to have a baby?  Do some babysitting, and really get a feel of what it’ll be like to care for a child.  Whatever it is you want to have, be, or do, you can manifest it more quickly if you start acting like you already have it, are it, or are doing it. 

This is not an exhaustive list.  But these are some of the tools that I am finding to be really helpful for me, and that have proven helpful for many of my clients.  It is my sincere hope that they will work some magick for you, too. 

If you have other recommendations of tools that have worked for you, please feel encouraged to share them in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you!  At some point or another, most of us will find ourselves ready to change our lives in some way.  This is growth.  This is evolution.  It’s always nice to know that we’re not going through it alone!

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Summer of Reinvention

It’s been a minute since I’ve been committed to regular updates on this blog.  I’m glad to be back and sharing my journey once again.  If anyone is out there reading:  Thank you for following along.  If not, well, that’s okay, too.  Writing is an important tool for me to help process and track my personal growth and wellbeing. 

This return to regular posting is part of a bigger life restructuring for me.  After nearly two years of nomadic wandering, I am finally setting down roots for a while.  If I’m honest, it’s long overdue.  But, if I look at the big picture, and get even more honest, all that wandering had to happen to allow my arrival at this place in the present moment.  So, I allow that all the discomfort is worth it.  (Discomfort, after all, is merely an alert that I’m not allowing my desires to be fulfilled.  The alert is what motivates me to make positive change.  It’a a good thing!)

There are a lot of cosmic factors playing into this restructuring, which I’ve dubbed my Summer of Reinvention.  (I’m giving this season this moniker, because I like titles and it gives me a clear theme to work with for a specified time.)  For starters, at my birthday in April, I transitioned from a 9 year to a 1 year.  This is part of the recurring numerology cycles that we experience through life.  The 9 year is a time of wrapping up loose ends, purging the last dregs of what doesn’t serve the higher good, and generally going through a massive inner/outer housecleaning in preparation for the transition to a new cycle.  The 1 year is all about starting over, but with the added wisdom of lessons learned in previous cycles.  There tends to be more clarity, motivation, and momentum in a 1 year.  It’s not always super immediate, though.  I liken it to my favorite quote from The Tortoise and The Hare:  Slow and steady wins the race.  This is time to reorganize, set goals, and set up strategies for how to reach them. 

Astrologically, we are about to enter the eclipse season.  Mars is retrograde.  Jupiter has been retrograde.  Mercury is about to go retrograde.  And undoubtedly, many other transits are conspiring in the heavens.  Since I’m merely an astrological novice, here’s a snippet from one of my favorite astrologers, Charlie Cross (astrologyally.com) to explain the current landscape a bit better:

This Thursday’s New Moon initiates Eclipse season, but we’re already in the midst of some strong astrological weather.

Tuesday, Jupiter stations direct after having been retrograde since March. The Sun has been opposing Pluto for a week (which will be exact on the New Moon, and then present for another week), and Mercury has entered its retrograde shadow.

Altogether, there’s the sense that this week is a turning point on a journey that will quickly ramp up in intensity through the next couple months.

This Spring and Summer, Jupiter’s retrograde has had us tuning our navigational compass, questioning our maps and guides. At the end of this process, we ought to feel more mature, less able to be fooled, and ready to jump into a more substantial adventure.

The Sun’s opposition with Pluto is an encounter with the intense, naked truth. It demands that we live authentically, taking seriously our deep sensitivity and discarding that which doesn’t serve us. Pluto offers us riche, if we sacrifice (make sacred) unneccesary compulsions and reclaim that which we’ve pushed to the shadows.

So many star- and planet-fueled energies to aid in my process of reinvention!  Another astrologer, Shannon Gill Jones (www.shannonjonesastrology.com), has this to say about eclipse season: 

Eclipse season is a portal time. A time when the universe opens up and showers upon us cosmic seeds of reorganization in a catalyzed fashion in order to wake us up and propel us forward on our evolutionary journey. Expect the unexpected!

So, you can see that there is a lot of cosmic energy supporting this reorganization and reinvention.  And thank goodness, as I will take all the support I can get during this process.

What are some of the ways I’m navigating this process?  I’m so glad you asked!  It’s still unfolding, so I reserve the right to add/delete/change any of this as I go, but for now, here’s a list of the activities and practices I’m using to make this reinvention successful:

  1. Getting clear on what I want.  In high school, I had a fairly clear picture of what I wanted.  I was going to go to college.  I would become a doctor (a neurosurgeon, no less).  I would get married and have kids.  And I’d live happily ever after.  About a year into my time at university, I realized that this dream was no longer true for me.  I was changing, growing.  And that was fine and good.  The problem was that I shifted from a place of knowing what I wanted, to knowing what I didn’t want.  And somehow, I’ve managed to stay stuck in that place ever since.  I wasn’t even aware of it until I started exploring the Law of Attraction in earnest over the past couple years.  It took me a while to wrap my brain around the idea that I was approaching goals (and life) from a negative point of awareness by neither having clarity around what I truly desired, nor what was motivating those desires.  And once I was able to fully understand that, it’s been a slow journey of shifting my perspective toward the positive point of knowing what I do want and what I hope to gain by fulfilling those desires.  I’m still honing my vision, but I have a much better idea of what I’m moving toward in my life – rather than what I’m moving away from.  That leads me to …
  2. Setting specific goals.  I sometimes struggle with setting big goals on paper.  I mean, I enjoy the process of writing the goals, but I often neglect the action steps needed to achieve them, and, therefore, end up failing before I even begin.  So, in lieu of writing out a big list of over-arching goals, I am starting small with some consistent action plans.  I have created a calendar for myself that includes dedicated times for all the things I want to work on during the week.  This includes, of course, the more mundane obligations like going to work, feeding myself, and the like.  But I’m also scheduling time for fitness, writing, working on personal business tasks, cultivating social connections, practicing meditation, and other activities that either excite me or bring me closer to my desired vision for myself.  I may not get everything done every day, but having it laid out for me on my calendar makes me more aware of how I’m spending (or wasting) my time.  It’s gentle, built-in accountability.  And the more I do, the better I feel.  The better I feel, the more motivated I am to keep doing it, and to do even more.  It’s a beautiful snowball effect. 
  3. Enlisting support.  This one has been a fail for me in the past.  I have been historically rotten at asking for help.  When embarking on something challenging, I have a tendency to want to keep it to myself until I have perfected it enough to bypass the embarrassment of the messy beginning stages.  This, of course, is total bollocks.  It’s in the messy beginning stages that I am able to allow myself to be truly vulnerable, to let go of expectation, and to allow myself to make mistakes … mistakes which inevitably blossom into new wisdom and skill.  Without support during these not-so-perfect stages, it is easy for me to give up and fall back into old tried and true patterns.  Without support, I’m more likely to continue down a path that doesn’t serve me – that, in fact, only perpetuates what I don’t want – just because it’s familiar and I’m pretty good at it.  (Again … bollocks!)  So, this summer I’m enlisting the help of others to not only keep me accountable, but help bolster me when I’m feeling discouraged by the lack of competency that inevitably comes with learning new things. 
  4. Investing in myself.  This is yet another area in which I have historically been remiss.  Having been raised a good Southern girl, I often put the needs of others before my own.  And while this can be a fine practice once in a while, it’s very limiting on the reg.  I’ve recently been consciously investing both time and money into my own wellbeing … even against those inner voices that have been spouting refrains from the chorus of scarcity.  “You can’t afford this!” they cry.  “I can no longer afford not to do this!” I reply.  I’ve enrolled in an intensive year-long coaching training course.  I’m doing some health coaching with a mentor to try to correct my D, B12, and Iodine deficiencies.  I’m investing in the supplements needed to correct those deficiencies.  I’m committed to getting more regular bodywork.  I’m making time for physical fitness.  I’m setting a priority around getting enough quality sleep.   I’m starting a women’s circle, which is an investment not only in myself, but in my community.  These are just a few of the ways in which I’m investing in myself.  I hope that more opportunities will arise as I continue down this path.  So far, I’m feeling really good about these investments, and, I suspect, the returns will be even greater than I can imagine.

There it is.  The crux of my plan for my Summer of Reinvention.  May the sharing of my experience serve you in some positive way.  If you have tips, ideas, or thoughts to share, please feel encouraged to leave a comment below.  I love receiving other perspectives!  Until next time …

xoxo,

melanie

Best Skincare Practices + DIY Home Facial 

 

 

Today I’m going to share some of my best skincare practices with you.  Being a skincare professional as well as a woman of a certain age, I have tried a plethora of potions and notions to try to keep my skin as healthy and happy as possible.  Through years of research and trial and error (and, eventually, success!) I have developed a pretty fool-proof plan to keep my skin looking and feeling young, beautiful and glowing.  In fact, I get compliments on my skin all the time – even from strangers on the street!  People are often surprised to know my age when I divulge it, commenting that I look so much younger.  I’m constantly being asked what my secret is.  And the answer is …

… it’s no secret at all!  It’s good, simple, healthy living!  There is a caveat with that, though.  “Good, simple, healthy living” means different things to different people.  In many cases, what is commonly believed to be healthy and natural is simply not so.  It is just the current conditioned way of perceiving healthy and natural.  I truly believe that the way I live is in much closer alignment to true and natural health, and that shows in my appearance.  To that end, I’m going to share my not-so-secret secrets for amazing skin with you right here and right now!  Plus, as a special bonus, just because I like you, I’m going to include my favorite DIY home facial regimen for all skin types at the end of the post … so keep reading!

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My Best Skincare Practices are:

  1. Get a lot of good quality sleep!  I aim for ten hours of sleep every night.  Most people really need between 8 and 12 hours of good sleep nightly for optimal health (and optimal skin), despite what the current accepted ‘wisdom’ tells us.  It’s during sleep that our bodies are given the time and rest needed to make repairs and manufacture new cells.  This is the time of elastin and collagen production, which are two very important components of firmer, more resilient skin.  It’s also the time for repairing things like scars and discoloration and, yes, pimples.  Give your body the time and rest it needs to heal itself and you will see miraculous results!
  2. Eat fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables!  Eating a low fat raw vegan diet consisting mostly of sweet fruits and tender leafy greens is ideal.  Everyone I see transitioning to this more natural way of eating very quickly develops the same amazing results:  a clearing of blemishes, the return of a rosy bloom to the complexion, and a healthy glow that instantly makes them look younger and incredibly beautiful and vital.  It never ceases to amaze me the transformations that can take place in one’s appearance with such a simple (and delicious) change in diet.  However, if you are unable or unwilling to consume only ripe, raw fruits and vegetables, then at least add more of these amazing foods into your daily diet.  Try eating a smoothie bowl for breakfast made from a blender full of ripe sweet fruits like bananas, mangos or papayas.  Then have four or five oranges before lunch.  Add a large green salad with dinner.  Your skin (and the rest of your body) will thank you for it.
  3. Stay hydrated!  If you are already eating a largely fruitarian diet, you will already likely be as hydrated as you need to be.  But, if you’re eating any foods other than ripe, raw fruits and tender leafy greens, then you will likely need to supplement your diet with lots of liquids.  Purified water or spring water from the source are, of course, ideal options.  Herbal teas and  fresh squeezed fruit juices are good secondary options.  Generally speaking, the drier your insides, the drier your outsides.  And the drier your skin, the more wrinkles you develop, the more congested your face is (read: more pimples), and the more likely your skin is to flake and crack.
  4. Use less stuff on your skin!  I know this one might sound a bit radical what with people everywhere telling us we need tons of different products to fix tons of different problems.  But I’m here to tell you, the less you put on your skin, the more beautiful and healthy it will be.  When we apply a specific packaged product designed for a specific targeted need, our skin has to work hard to filter out all the extra preservatives and emulsifiers and various and sundry other chemicals (natural and/or synthetic) that it doesn’t need in order to make use of the ‘action’ ingredients for which we bought the product.  Those action ingredients may or may not give you the results promised, but with the use of these products come new problems as a result of the toxic byproducts caused by our skin processing all those chemicals.  What cosmetics companies don’t want you to realize is that using all these fancy specialized products actually cause our skin to look worse in the long run than using nothing at all.  A person who is living in optimum health will have naturally beautiful, healthy, young-looking, glowing skin.  Plain and simple.  However, if you are not living in optimum health, as many people in modern society are not, there are simpler ways you can address some of those negative effects of less healthy living.  Don’t wear makeup.  Or, at least don’t wear a lot of it.  If you must use makeup, stick to things like mascara, eye liner and lipstick.  This will allow you to play with a number of makeup looks without adding too many chemicals to your skin.  Also, use simple, natural foods when caring for your skin.  Yes, foods.  Your skin absorbs everything you put on it and sends it into your body for processing, so keep your skincare products simple and clean.  Check my DIY Home Facial below for ideas on what to use to clean, treat and pamper your skin in a healthier, more natural way.
  5. Get regular sunshine!  Yes, I know, the current recommendations are to keep skin always protected from sunshine.  But this is faulty logic.  This is blaming the sun for the sins of the unnatural and unhealthy lifestyle.  Sun doesn’t cause cancer.  Exposure to sun can exacerbate already unhealthy cells in a body that eats a standard modern diet, gets too little and/or poor quality sleep, endures unnecessary stress, and takes in toxins by the boatload in the form of cleaning products, personal care products, recycled air, automobile exhaust, and even the sunscreen they are told will help protect them from the very cancer it contributes to.  But the sun, itself doesn’t cause cancer.  Our bodies are designed to work in harmonious conjunction with sunshine.  It is understood that the Cradle of Life, the birthplace of the human species – was a warm, tropical environment.  Our physiology suggests that we are designed for warm, tropical living.  Our body relies on regular direct sun exposure to perform vital bodily functions.  It is unhealthy and unnatural to deprive our skin of that regular direct exposure.  So, here’s my recommendation:  If you are living a healthy, low fat raw vegan lifestyle, then don’t wear sunscreen … ever.  If you are living a lifestyle in which you are eating fast food, meats, dairy, lots of cooked meals, and lots of fats, are overworking, over-stressing, under-resting, are perpetually dehydrated, and using a lot of commercial products for home and body, then use sunscreen.  But, regardless of your lifestyle, give yourself at least 10-20 minutes a day – every day if possible – of direct sun exposure without sunscreen.
  6. Find ways to increase mental and emotional poise.  This is a fancy way of saying ‘relax’.  Learn to cultivate equanimity in the midst of the chaos and tension of modern life.  Practice yoga, do some breathing exercises, meditate, journal, take walks … whatever it is that allows you to decompress and detach from your monkey mind … do that.  The stress you carry in your life shows up on your face.

There you have it.  It’s simple, really.  It’s like I always say:  We tend to get healthier, happier and more radiantly beautiful the closer we live in accordance with the Natural Order.  Find that alignment with Nature in simple living:  eating raw fruits and greens, lightening your load with minimalism, finding center with meditation, breathing fully, getting good and ample rest, smiling and laughing often.  Using our natural resources to cultivate health and wellness is always a good way to live.

As promised, here’s a good, simple go-to DIY home facial regimen for those who are looking for one.  Admittedly, if you are living a fully raw, Naturally-aligned lifestyle you will not need to do even this much work for pristine skin.  Still, it’s a nice way to treat yourself to a little indulgent self-care when you’re feeling in the mood to be pampered.  If you are not living a fully raw, Naturally-aligned lifestyle, as most people are not, then you will benefit a great deal from implementing this facial regimen into your regular practice.  In fact, you can mix and match pieces of it to create your own daily skin care routine that will leave your skin glowing with health and vitality, not weighed down with chemicals and toxic byproducts from the commercial tinctures, creams, lotions and potions sold in most boutiques and chain stores.  Enjoy!

 

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DIY HOME FACIAL

  • CLEANSE – The best cleanser I’ve found anywhere is raw honey.  Apply in gentle circles for approximately one minute and rinse completely with water.  It works for all skin types.  It’s antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, and antimicrobial which make it great for oily and acne-prone skin types.  I recommend raw honey because it still has those wonderful enzymes in tact which provide exfoliating and skin softening power.  It’s got humectant properties which make it great for dry and mature skin types.  It’s inexpensive and readily available. There is, however, an ethical question to ask when choosing whether or not to use honey.  Honey is one of those “gray area” subjects in the vegan world.  On the one hand, it takes a lot of bees a great deal of time and energy to produce even a small amount of honey.  For humans to take that honey – and in great quantities – is exploitative.  On the other hand, bee populations have been dwindling at alarming rates in recent years.  Many beekeepers are taking on the role of stewards for the bee population as a whole, fostering careful colony expansion and cultivating species growth.  These beekeepers are supported, often, at least, in part, by the sale of honey produced by the bees for which they are caring.  It is up to every individual to decide if honey is an appropriate product for humans to consume.  If you decide to use honey, I strongly recommend purchasing it from a small-scale local beekeeper who uses ethical beekeeping practices.  If you choose NOT to use honey, African black soap is an awesome alternative that is totally vegan.  It can be slightly drying to some skin types, but is still an all-around excellent cleanser.
  • EXFOLIATE:  finely ground oats (preferably organic) OR baking soda – Mix with a little water or 100% aloe vera juice or coconut milk to make a paste.  Apply in gentle circular massaging motions.  Rinse completely with water.  *If in a hurry you can combine the oats and honey together for an exfoliating cleanser*
  • MASK:  For inflammation/heat:  cucumber – Peel and thinly slice cucumber (preferably organic).  Apply thin slices all over face.  Leave on for 10-30 minutes while you lie back and relax.
  • MASK:  For acne/congestion:  betonite (or other) clay – mix with a little water or coconut water to make a paste.  Apply to face all over OR just in areas of congestion/breakout.  Leave on until it is just shy of dry.  You will feel it beginning to draw and tighten the skin.  Rinse with water.

*Masks do not need to be used super regularly.  At most, I would do one or both of these once a week, but it’s fine to do them once a month or not at all.

  • TONER:  rose water or 100% aloe vera juice (or a mix of both) or witch hazel – Apply via spray or cotton round before moisturizing.  This will help to soothe any irritation and calm redness.
  • DAY MOISTURIZER:  jojoba oil, or any lighter oil (sunflower, grapeseed, sesame, apricot kernel, etc.), or De La Terre Sun Diffuser – Apply all over to face, neck and décolleté. (De La Terre is a holistic skincare line out of Asheville, NC.  It’s a bit pricey, but the products are super pure and simple and based around herbs, clays and oils.)
  • NIGHT MOISTURIZER:  coconut oil or shea butter (or a mixture of the two) – Apply all over to face, neck and décolleté. You can enhance the effectiveness of the night moisturizer by mixing coconut oil and shea butter, then warming them in a double boiler and adding some lavender oil and lemon balm.  Once they’ve cooled, you can then put the mixture in an airtight container (preferably glass) and apply as needed.  The lemon balm will reduce inflammation and acts as a good preservative due to its high antioxidant activity, and the lavender helps soothe inflammation/irritation and promotes skin cell regeneration.  Plus, it smells nice.  You can also just use the De La Terre Sun Diffuser if you like it, followed by the De La Terre Balm (for drier or more mature skin).

Experiments in … Adventure! A weekend extravaganza!

This past weekend I took a trip to Tennessee to visit a friend. I’d been looking forward to it since November. Originally I was supposed to go in December, but scheduling conflicts bumped it to January. It worked out well, though, because my friend had secured a new apartment and gotten settled in before my arrival.

The whole trip was a bit of a whirlwind, as I only had a three-day-weekend to make it all happen. Ironically, while most of the US had Monday’s celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to extend their weekends, I had my usual Friday-Sunday off before I had to be back to work on the holiday. The good news there meant that I was missing most of the holiday traffic, and all my driving, while tiresome, was pretty easy.

I left Thursday afternoon, after work, and stopped over in Asheville for the night to visit Sister and Brother-In-Law. They were late getting in [from their date night], so I only got to visit with them a short while, but it’s still nice to see them and to spend even a little time in Asheville. It was also nice to break up the driving a bit. (Asheville is the halfway point between Durham  and Cookeville, Tennessee.)

Friday morning I set out nice and early so I’d arrive in Tennessee with most of the day still ahead of me. It was such a treat to see my friend. She left Durham almost a year ago. Aside from being my friend, she was also my [brilliant!] acupuncturist, so the loss was doubly hard. We spent some time catching up in her home before we had to pick up her grandmother from an appointment. Then I had the fortune of tagging along as my friend transported her grandmother to her home in Red Boiling Springs, which is about an hour away from Cookeville. Red Boiling Springs is a rural area, so you can likely imagine how beautiful it is. Lots of grass and trees and ponds and rivers and animals and sky … Hills in the foreground, mountains looming further along the horizon. Tennessee is really a state with rich and beautiful landscapes. My friend’s grandmother lives on a wide expanse of acreage in a charming log home she built with her late husband. I got to walk the perimeters of the main ‘yard’, and, let me tell you, it was gorgeous. I could certainly see how one might never want to leave such beauty and tranquility.

But … Leave, we did. Back in Cookeville we took a walking tour of downtown, enjoyed a delicious dinner at the local pub, and then shared some more conversation before turning in.

Saturday was, if it was even possible, more exciting than Friday. Saturday, my friend took me to Rock Island State Park.

But … Before that, we took another walking tour of Cookeville, where I got to see the all-organic farmers’ market, and my friend’s favorite coffee shop.  The market was really sweet with some gorgeous produce awaiting the brave shoppers who came out in the below-freezing cold.

Okay, back to the State Park!  We went to hike one the most beautiful trails I think I’ve ever seen. The start and finish of the trail treats hikers to gorgeous, massive waterfalls on the far side of the Caney Fork River. The river, itself, is a beautiful jade green serpent winding alongside the trail, and plays host to a variety of wildlife.  (We got to see a blue heron, some ducks, several kayakers, and more on our hike.) The trail winds through beautiful woods dotted with occasional, smaller waterfalls, and blanketed with many different varieties of trees, mosses, mushrooms and other florae. It was so lovely and vital and peaceful. I am never happier than when I’m in the woods, and this was a perfect way for me to spend the afternoon with my friend … And her sweet little dog, Bowie.

Later that day, my friend asked me if I’d like to do a trade for services, which I had not been expecting at all, so it was an awesome treat! We spent the rest of the day with her getting a massage and me getting an acupuncture treatment. Aaaaahhhh. Bliss.

Finally, we made some food, listened to more records, and talked into the evening.

I had to leave early Sunday, which was sad. But, it felt like a good time to leave. I always think it’s nice to leave on a high note, and this was definitely in the first soprano range.

Once again, I broke my journey at Asheville. I went to lunch with Sister. We also did some crystal and gemstone shopping. (I always try to get a new stone or two when I’m in Asheville.) Then, back to the road for the last leg of the journey.

All in all, this was a wonderful holiday. I might be tired in body from all the driving, but I’m making up for that in the revitalization that my mind and spirit received from the experience. I feel absolutely invigorated and inspired to start working on projects and experiments. Hooray for travel and friends and family … And acupuncture!

I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend, too, gentle readers!

Wishing you love and light!
Melanie

PS: Photos of the trip to follow …

The Zombie Apocalypse is now.

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Here’s nice brain numbing image that I nicked from the web to get you in the mood for this discussion. You’re welcome.

I was reading an article this morning on frugality as a means to curb entitlement, and it got me thinking. In it, the author was discussing the notion that choosing to be more frugal in life can actually lead a person to recognize patterns of entitlement, and, potentially, correct those patterns.

As I struggle back and forth along the pendulum swing of minimalism and consumerism, I wonder how my sense of entitlement is affected? Or, is it affected at all?

I believe, as a Nation, (along with, at least, most of the First World), we are a species with monster entitlement issues. Hole in the ozone, anyone? Climate change? Rainforest decimation? We – again, as a whole species – have decided that we are entitled to trash the very planet on which we live in order to make life more convenient and comfortable.

Now, don’t get me wrong … I can enjoy convenience and comfort as much as the next person. However, I do think it’s become a problem that we believe that so much comfort (and so many modern conveniences) is our birthright. I also believe this way of mindless snowball thinking (mindless because most people don’t stop to think how ridiculous it is, and snowball because it begins innocuously and grows exponentially with every advertisement, every purchase, every subtle message from friends and family members) is making us weak-bodied, weak-minded and weak-willed.

The first example the author gave was car ownership. As you may know, I was purposely without a car for three years, so I have some personal experience here. Not owning a car ABSOLUTELY changed my perspective on life … in so many ways. And it definitely opened my eyes to my own sense of entitlement, and how I felt about it, and so on, and so forth, down the rabbit hole of philosophical and ethical thought.

How many people do you know that own a car? How many people of legal driving age do you know that do NOT own a car? How many of you assume you deserve to own a car? That you NEED a car? If you raised your hand, why, exactly, do you think you need/deserve a car? If you answered no, and you own a car, then why do you own a car? Can you imagine life without one? Would you ever consider sharing a car with others?

These days, it seems that most people assume that every member of a household should have their own private bedroom, their own personal mobile phone, their own personal computer, and, at least for those of legal driving age, their own personal car. Why? Why do we feel entitled to own so much? Why does the idea of sharing with others seem like an affront to so many of us?

We are so busy working ourselves to the bone to afford all these things we think we deserve/need, that we are making ourselves too tired, too sick, too busy to actually fully enjoy anything. And/or, we don’t know how to have proper community relationships because we are too busy playing with our own stuff in our own houses/rooms. And/or we are too afraid that someone is going to take our stuff from us, so we become distrustful and suspicious of others. And/or we try to connect with other people by bonding over how much stuff we have, or how fancy our stuff is, or how much we can consume, or through activities that keep us from actually talking and engaging meaningfully with those around us. Many of us have become anxious in social situations because we no longer know how to connect with others. And still others are only good with people when there is something to distract from actual [sober] one-on-one interaction.

Parents feel their families are entitled to all the bells and whistles that advertisers are hawking to them, so they work ridiculous hours to afford it all. Then they need to hire someone to raise their children, which costs more money, which means they have to work even longer hours, which means they spend even less time with their kids. As a result, children are learning entitlement and are not learning how to properly form healthy relationship bonds with others. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

And we are all so busy trying to keep up, that most of us never actually look at the big picture and realize what a sad, stupid, unhealthy, and unnatural existence we’ve created for ourselves.

It wouldn’t be that hard to remedy if the Majority could only see how ridiculous we’ve become, and take some simple steps to reset our collective ideas about what good living is. But, alas, it’s become so ingrained in most places that without a Majority push, it can be incredibly difficult to swim against this tide of entitlement and rampant consumerism. (I speak from experience.)

We have, in my humble opinion, officially become the brain-dead zombies with which pop culture is so fascinated. We should be afraid. We are eating each other’s brains. We are anesthetizing ourselves to our destruction even while we are manifesting it. The Zombie Apocalypse is now.

Experiments in … Self Discovery: My Spiky Profile

So, the other morning, as I was slugging it out with my Asthanga Yoga practice, my teacher says something to me that really piqued my interest. She told me that on the mat I am what they call in educational parlance, a ‘spiky profile’. She went on to explain that there are some poses that I do extremely well (“like, cover of Yoga Journal” well, she said), and others I can only manage in the most rudimentary and weakened form. While I wasn’t really pleased to receive this assessment, it ignited a light bulb deep within that flickered, Yes! This is me! This makes so. much. sense.

I suddenly started recalling solid examples of this behavior in the past. Of course, it’s been true in all the various incarnations of my yoga practice – sometimes more strikingly than others. But it was also true when I was a competing gymnast. In fact, there are a couple of particular moves that I can remember being so baffled by that EVERYONE else could do, but I could not. Try as I might, I couldn’t even get my brain to understand what my body was supposed to be doing at these moments. Yet, it seemed to be so natural to everyone else. And even remembering neighborhood and schoolyard play when I was a kid I see evidence of this assessment.

What I find so very frustrating and heartbreaking – aside from the fact that it’s true for me – is that not a single person was able to share this information with me when I was young enough to more easily address it. Not my gym teachers. Not my gymnastics coaches. Not my weightlifting coaches in high school nor college. And none of my yoga teachers prior to this one.  Granted, these predecessors may not have had the experience working with cognitively challenged children in the school system to know this terminology, but the terminology is irrelevant.  No one made the observation.

I find it sad and appalling that we have become so removed from the Natural state of things, so removed from our bodies and the understanding of how a truly healthy body actually looks and moves and develops. And being so blind, we are, on the whole, no longer able to do our children the very basic service of teaching them how to properly use and maintain their bodies to optimum performance and functioning.

I don’t separate myself from this cultural malady. I mean, I’ve been in this body for many long years and still don’t care for it as well as I should. But I am reminded of how important it is to keep working with teachers, mentors, therapists and other professionals who can help to give me a clearer, more complete picture of how I’m doing with this body I have been given … and with the state of health that I have cultivated thus far in my life.

A hearty thank you to the bright lights in my world who continue to notice me, observe me, teach me, heal me, and guide me. Your work is invaluable.

xoxo,
melanie

Wheel of the Year: Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh Blessings!

This post is grossly overdue. I feel like I’m starting a lot of my posts with some derivative of that statement these days. Oh well. At least I’m posting eventually, right? Better late than never, and all that.

This is another post on our journey through the Wheel of the Year. Lughnasadh is the holiday celebrated on August 1. It is a celebration of the Sun in His final days of potency and power. An opportunity to revel in His warmth and favor before we begin to more intensely feel the descent into the darker half of the year. You might think of it as a “last call for summer fun, y’all!”

Harvest

This is traditionally the first of the harvest celebrations. Not only are the fruits and vegetables of summer’s bounty being harvested and enjoyed, but the first of the grains are also ready for harvest. This is an important time for those in agrarian societies as the grain harvests are usually what sustains those folks during the cold, dark winters. Oftentimes, the very first grains harvested will be ritualistically sacrificed (as in the legend of John Barleycorn, and the ubiquitous corn dollies making an appearance on this holiday) as a means of securing favor from the gods to provide a bountiful harvest season.

Whether or not you are living in an agrarian society – if such a thing even truly exists anymore – Lughnasadh is also a time of personal harvesting. This is a fortuitous moment in which to start the deeply contemplative practice of reviewing what results our words, thoughts and deeds have brought to bear thus far this year. It’s a wonderful opportunity to notice possible errors of course, or outright failings, and to make corrections on our paths so that we might bring about the results we are seeking while we still have some of that yang-driven Sun power to fuel our intentions.

There are many traditions and myths associated with this holiday, and you can find these listed in various and sundry articles on the subject in books and online. One of the things that I most appreciate about Lughnasadh, is that it is a celebration not only of the life and bounty that is all around us during the Summer season, but it also celebrates the death and cutting away of that which is come to the end of its life or its usefulness. It is a complete celebration of the cycle of life: life, death, and rebirth. The rebirthing aspect is seen in the spreading of the seeds from the fruits, vegetables and grains consumed and/or harvested during this time. These seeds contain the potential of new life to come.

LughnasadhI celebrated my Lughnasadh holiday simply, as usual. I set the stage for some honest reflection by lighting some candles, burning some incense and finding a comfortable seat. I kept my journal close at hand. I began to take stock of how I have been managing and cultivating the experiments/goals I set for my Self at the year’s beginning. I asked my Self where I had failings and shortcomings, and how I might make corrections to get back on track. I forgave my Self for not doing everything perfectly. Then I journaled about my intentions for the remainder of the year, including some specific actions to take (or to abstain from) to set my Self back on a higher course.

I also made myself a little besom (broom) out of some of the many fallen pine straws on my deck. I wrapped the ends in gold ribbon, in honour of Lugh, the Sun god. Then I charged that besom with my renewed intentions. I will use this broom to ritualistically sweep away any obstacles in my path over the rest of the year. It will act as a physical reminder that I am in control of my own actions, words and thoughts. And, in being mindful with my Self I am putting my Self in control of my destiny. No one can drag me down but me. And I’m working hard to stop dragging my Self down and to start lifting my Self up! [Insert favorite inspirational theme song here.]

lughnasadh sunSo, I wish you Lughnasadh blessings … a little late. Enjoy the remainder of this sweet Southern Summer. Take some time to savor the warmth of the sun on your face and shoulders, the deliciousness of immersing yourself in cool waters on a hot day, the buzz of the whole world a-flutter during these longer days while they last. Autumn will be here before you know it.

Sending you love and light and Summer Sunshine!

Melanie