My Word Of The Year: Self-Care

Click through to see how I'm making my word of the year work for me.

This past year was wild.  It was amazingly beautiful and hard and exhausting and heart bursting and it showed me what it was like to truly care for someone. My baby boy Marty was only a month old when the year began, and oh boy was it an adventure!

I didn’t even make it to creating a word of the year last year because I was so in the weeds. So lost. I was nursing, not sleeping and wondering what I got myself into with a newborn.  After 42 years of doing what I wanted, I was now at the beck and call of a hungry, tiny tyrant.  And most of the time I was totally ok with that, but I will never take sleep for granted again. 🙂

And things changed (as they always do), life was marching on and I wasn’t keeping up with my basic spiritual maintenance.  I didn’t do a very good job of tending to myself + my needs which resulted in some PPD and many tearful days. I put everything I had at the time into my baby and it didn’t leave much for me personally or for my relationship.  I was winning as mommy, failing as Steph.

I realize now that I ignored that age-old saying about putting your life mask on first before you can help others put on theirs. I know that any other mom would say that it’s just how it is in the beginning, you have to lose yourself a bit with the baby for it to work and I agree with that, but at some point there has to be a boomerang back. And I didn’t do that.  Lesson learned.

And so for this reason, my word of the year is self-care.

To me, self care isn’t just about the physical–getting back to the gym or eating more than a PB&J sandwich–it’s also about creating time to do things I love. I know this will be a challenge for me in the beginning but I know when I take more time for myself, I show up for everyone else in such a stronger, more present way.

Navigating being a new parent is a tricky role to get used to: in some ways, it comes so naturally, in other ways I feel like I’m a stranger to myself.  I’m just trying to be patient + compassionate when I think of all of the ways I’m failing. Because in reality, I’m succeeding wildly in many ways, I just need to focus on those areas more.

SO.  These are some of the ways I’m going to express + practice self care:

  • More movies and popcorn.
  • Yoga classes that end with an awesome meditation.
  • Acupuncture that blisses me out.
  • A monthly pedicure (and foot massage!)
  • More pleasure reading and less  TV.
  • Painting, painting and more painting!
  • Conversations that go deep + provoke wild thoughts of expansion.
  • Writing more on the blog and reaching out to connect with others online.
  • Dates with my husband that aren’t always rushed.
  • Juicing more, eating for energy. Less sugar.

That’s just the beginning, but it already feels good just to have said it; I’m excited to get back to being more me.  Farewell 2016, you’ve been quite a learning experience. 2017, let’s see what you’ve got.

Love, Steph

PS Do you have a word of the year, too?  Come join my Facebook Group and tell me what it is.

January 2, 2017|Personal Development, Spirituality|

Be Kind To Unkind People.

I was recently in one of my favorite health food stores at lunch time, looking for something quick to take on the go.  They have an awesome organic salad bar and fresh soups that are so yummy, I often dream about them (my favorite is vegetable dumpling!)  So while I was walking around checking out the offerings of the day, I noticed a lady that was getting the soup I was interested in.  I asked her with a smile, “Is that hot?” because sometimes when they bring out a new pot, it’s lukewarm and you need to heat it up a little.

I was being friendly–just making conversation, trying to make up my mind about what I was going to get.  Her response was: “How should I know, I can’t feel anything through the cardboard!”  I was a little taken back by her response, but I continued with a laugh “Oh, I’m sorry to bother you, I was just curious.  You actually can feel the heat through the cardboard” and extended my hand to touch it quickly (my first mistake).  She immediately recoiled in horror and started raising her voice at me: “I don’t work here!  Why don’t you ask someone that works here!”

Be kind to unkind peopleIn shock, I quickly tried to get away from her.  Clearly this was someone that didn’t want to be talked to and I totally get that.  I changed my location to the other side of the salad bar to end the whole interaction.  But apparently my new friend wasn’t done with me.

She proceeded to yell at the person behind the juice bar, “Hey this lady keeps bugging me about the soup, but I told her I don’t work here.  You work here–is it hot?  Please tell her so she stops bugging me.”  I couldn’t resist a rebuttal from across the salad bar (my second mistake) “I’m a grown adult and can ask for help if I need it, thank you.  You’re being really rude, please leave me alone.”

I wanted to be kind, but I was feeling so bullied; and I’m embarrassed to say I was shaking.  What did I do other than start a friendly conversation?  I felt like she attacked me for asking a simple question.  I realize this may not seem like a heavily involved exchange, but at the time, her nastiness made the hair on my neck stand up.  How was making me feel stupid helping her?

And then I remembered something I read in The Four Agreements: it’s not about me.  I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the receiver of something that had nothing to do with me.  She was working something out and I was in the line of fire.

It wasn’t personal.

As soon as I was reminded of this, I calmed down a bit.

The employee went over to the soup and felt the pot–he declared that it was ‘adequately hot’.  The crazy lady started chatting to him about how she didn’t understand why I didn’t just ask him to begin with and reiterated again, that she didn’t work there.  Ok, lady.  We got it.

I took my time getting to the register to avoid another exchange with her and overheard her lecturing someone on line about a product that was recalled.  She wanted to know how it could still be in the store!   It was then that I realized that she probably just really needed a hug.   I flipped my thinking just then and wished her well in my heart.  She clearly wasn’t a happy person.

We all have bad days, I know.  This experience was a good reminder that just because people react towards me in a certain way doesn’t mean I have to engage.  There’s always a choice to be made–as long as I stay true to myself and remember not to take things personally, I can’t go wrong.

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April 23, 2015|Personal Development, Spirituality|

On Being Guided + My Word of The Year

As I was reflecting on not making any new year’s resolutions, I decided to pick a word for the year instead.  I feel like picking a personal word  as a theme is a powerful statement;  It’s a way of setting the tone for what I want.  I’m committing to letting this one little word show me what I need to know this year.

Have you ever felt like you’re being ushered along your path in a certain way?  I experience this all of the time.  It’s not only a gut feeling I get about what choices to make, but it’s also the signs that appear all around me like magic.

If you allow yourself Because of that, my word for this year is: Guidance.

And I’m not just talking about the typical best-friend-or-parental-advice-type of guidance, I’m talking about guidance from my own inner compass as well.  I want to be guided by my heart and feel my way through it.  I want to be guided by signs I get from my everyday life, because those moments can often be the most powerful–sometimes the easiest and best path is what is right in front of me.

When I hear a stranger’s kind word, a nostalgic song or see a cardinal in the yard, I know there’s a message for me there; I just need to tune in to the moment and figure out what it is.

And at times, I can feel almost crazy at the uniquely, bizarre guideposts that pop up:

~ Like when I was feeling a little homesick for the US while climbing Mt Fuji and then ran into a college friend halfway down my descent of the mountain (yes, in Japan!)

~ Or when I happened to find a Nepalese surgeon to help me when I was in dire straits in a village halfway around the world.  He was trained for a short time in NYC and his brother lived only 30 minutes from me in NJ (of course he did.)

~Or how geese  fly over my head when I’m outside and having a particularly sad moment of missing my mom.  She loved geese + I know it’s her way of saying hi.

Those experiences showed me I was being seen + helped along the path I was meant to go.

Signs are everywhere.  They are my guidance.

This is going to be a big year for me.  For my art, my relationship + the dreams I’ve had–they’re coming into full bloom.  I’m going to need the support and strength of an open heart + mind through all of this, so I’m really excited about being guided.

I can’t wait to see what the universe has in store for me.

How about you?  Do you have one word that seems to call to you this year?  I’d love to hear what it is.

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January 15, 2015|Life Purpose, Personal Development, Spirituality|

My Day With The Dalai Lama

You guys!  The Dalai Lama came to Princeton a few weeks ago and I got to see him speak.  I like to think of myself as a buddho-christian so this was an exciting opportunity for me–only 4ooo tickets were available for the event and his last speaking engagement was to over 100,000 people.  Whoa.  Luckily, my sister worked a little magic and…voila!  We were in.  I was beyond excited.

Me and liv

I have always been intrigued by Buddhism; something about this religion’s message always resonated in a deep part of me.  I’ve dabbled in meditation + chanting, and I’m a big fan of Pema Chodron, but I was raised Catholic.  And, well,  sometimes I feel conflict about connecting with the ideas and a leader of a different religion, even as an adult.  Almost like I’m cheating on my religion?  Anyway, I’m getting over it; I just can’t ignore the peace + clarity that the Buddhist beliefs bring me.

And it was even more so after visiting India and Nepal seven years ago.  It’s a long story, but I pretty much ended up on my death bed in the middle of a Nepalese village.  It was a medically freak occurrence that brought me to a precarious state, but the kind people I encountered there saved my life.  Their way of life makes so much sense to me–they believe in compassion, forgiveness and tolerance; they value human lives over things.  I’m convinced their practice of these beliefs is how I made it back home in one piece.

dalai lama signSo when I got home from that trip, I started digging around about Buddhism–I wanted to understand it better.  And the more I dug, the more I liked it.

For example: the Dalai Lama believes that despite philosophical differences, all major world religions have the same potential to create good human beings.  That really resonates with me because, isn’t that what it’s all about?  Individual choice to believe our own way of becoming a better version of ourselves?

We all want to be ‘good human beings’.  And the ability to practice religion is such a precious and necessary component of any culture–multiple and different religions offer a range of perspectives–that’s how we learn and grow.  It’s how we become tolerant, how we learn acceptance.

Suppporters of the Dalai Lama

So armed with this information I’ve gathered over the years, I understandably felt a little buzzed on the day of the Dalai Lama talk.  I was going to see THE man.

The amazing energy of all of the kind, compassionate + devoted people that gathered for the day brought a peaceful, but  intense feeling to the campus.  There were groups from communities all over, showing support and respect for their holy leader.  They sang and danced and dressed in their beautiful robes–I literally got choked up a few times watching them!

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Even though we were in the upper level for the talk, it still felt like a small gathering–you could literally hear a pin drop.  Everyone was in awe of him; I think it was because we all felt like we were in the presence of a living legend.  Regardless of your religion, it’s hard to dispute the fact that the Dalai Lama has had a major impact on humanity + the world as a whole with his teachings.

View of talk

Throughout the talk, he was happy + childlike, which was an amazing surprise; he giggled a lot and was playful.  He got a Princeton baseball hat as a gift when he was introduced, and  he popped it on + wore it for most of the talk.  Such a cool dude.

DL in baseball cap

There were even peaceful protestors outside before and after the event!  They were able to share their truth, too. (SO important.)

Protestors

 So here are a few basic ideas I took away from his talk:

  • Affection and kindness are the answer; no amount of money can create true happiness and inner peace.
  • Compassion and kindness expand the human nervous system.  Anger and hatred shrinks the brain in development. (I’m pretty sure he cited some studies of this)
  • We need more education about inner values–how to develop them within ourselves–and create this secular education of whole heartedness in schools.
  • Trust and fear cannot go together.
  • The real meaning of forgiveness is reacting without anger.
  • Read different views of topics that come up in your life and use critical thinking to come to your own conclusions.  Don’t accept things at face value or how they are presented.
  • Our life depends on hope and the belief that it exists; when you don’t have hope, there is no purpose and it’s easy to give up + believe in the bad.
  • We are closest as a society when we feel we are all the same and are connected.

The levity of his talk stayed with me for days and made me feel really, really good. It was a confirmation that even though it’s not the religion I was born into, I can explore other ideologies when they ring true with me (and not be afraid).  Trusting the path of growing and learning new things can be a wonderful, enlightening experience–peace + joy come in many forms.  And I feel like challenging myself occasionally about what I believe + stand for, helps me grow.

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December 3, 2014|Life Purpose, Personal Development, Spirituality|

You Are A Magician: How To Create What You Want.

Did you know that you're absolutely magical? You can manifest whatever you want, you just have to decide what it is! Click through to read--You Are A Magician: How To Create What You Want.

Did you know that you're absolutely magical? You can manifest whatever you want, you just have to decide what it is! Click through to read--You Are A Magician: How To Create What You Want.

I love the whole process of creating.  Even better, I love hearing about the process of how other people create because we’re all magicians in our own way + I love learning new tricks.

And whether we realize it or not, everyone is always creating.  It can be for a change in life circumstances, a new job or making new habits; it all falls under the umbrella of manifesting what we want.

The act of creation is the ultimate expression of getting what’s on the inside to show up on the outside.

Every change starts with a feeling. I’m a huge believer in the law of attraction + the power of thoughts, and I have experienced first hand that the best way to create what you want is to stay positive.  What you focus on will grow.

Because your feelings are your compass.  And your primary focus with those feelings should be to always feel good. When you focus on feeling good, specifically about what you want, you’re sending a signal out that will attract back to you the material equivalent. You don’t want to attract back your bad mood, right?

Your feelings are like a smoke signal to the universe.

So how do we actually use this idea of creating what we want and have it actually work? It’s pretty simple, but most people make it waaaayyyy more complicated than it needs to be.  Here’s the trick on how to create: act as though the object of your desire is already present in your life.  Think about it like it is already here, and watch it magically appear.

I know this all sounds hippie-dippie, but trust me, it works.

Here’s an example: want to lose weight? Start thinking about how your body will move differently once the weight is off and practice moving like a skinnier person.  Go shopping and check out some clothes that will fit you at your new weight.  Visualize yourself doing an activity easily that may be a bit of a struggle right now.  Act as if.  Be intentional about the feelings you’re putting out there.

Here are some ways that I maintain an environment of feeling good so I can create what I want:

  • I keep a list of feeling/pictures/phrases/memories that bring me to a good space.  When I am feeling down or needing a moment of inspiration, I refer to these lists/images for a boost.  It immediately gives me a lift and brings me back to the place of feeling light and happy. Creating from that place is much easier.
  • I wear clothes that allow me to move, breathe and be comfortable.  I feel like the more restricted my clothes are, the more restricted my feelings get.  My litmus test?  I want to be able to sit indian style at any given moment without feeling I’m going to split my pants/skirt.
  • I schedule time each week to be creative.  Even if it feels a little too contrived at the time and I’m not in the mood, I just get my body and mind there in the space;  eventually I get inspired and explore ways to express my creativity.  This set time keeps me moving forward in my creative path so I’m ready when inspiration strikes, kind of like building a habit.  Right now my blocks of time each week is my abstract painting class and Friday morning painting–anything other than those times is a bonus.
  • I try to stay open to inspiring moments throughout the day.  A beautifully colored leaf or tinker of laughter can ignite my heart at any moment.  I try not to wait for that lightning bolt of inspiration, but  try to be thrilled by everyday life so I stay in the flow.
  • I seek out others who are on the same path.  Birds of a feather, right?  Social media makes it so easy to check out what others are doing and get inspired; the different communities I chime in on give me courage to keep creating and help me appreciate the process rather than constantly sprinting to the finish line.

You are a glorious magician. What will you create today?

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P.S. What is calling you? and How are you stoking your creative fire?

May 22, 2014|Habits, Personal Development, Spirituality|

The Beauty of Rituals. {How a Bridal Shower Opened My Heart.}

 

Rituals are a part of most growth moments. Click through to read how I had my own moment at a bridal shower and how it's changed my view of them forever.

 

What’s the first word you think of when you hear you’re invited to a bridal shower? The ones that come to my mind usually are: ‘ugh’, ‘boring’ and ‘I hope they’re serving wine’.  But I have to admit–I was caught off guard at a recent shower.  It was inspiring and moving in ways I didn’t anticipate.

It got me thinking about rituals and the purpose they serve in our lives. I was raised a strict catholic, so I am no stranger to rites and rituals–I can say pretty much the whole catholic mass verbatim (the old version, anyway), so I was ready for the onslaught of typical shower events.  But this shower was different;  It wasn’t so much about the pomp +circumstance (it was a display shower! How cool is that?!), but it was more about blending families and having fun.

It reminded me that rituals are actually pretty cool.  They’re about the progression of life–being present as we shed the old and embrace the new.  With a ritual, we share our transition and move forward to a new phase of our lives; It’s presence + love + growth in action.  

Because rituals are the markers we use to recognize our growth; it’s how we distinguish one life event from the next. And the tribe we share it with, helps us through that transition. They support us as we say, I’m changing and I want you to see how.

From this experience, I realized my view of showers had been a tad immature: from the outside, these events often felt a little boring and repetitive. But maybe it was just me; because if I was paying attention, I would have seen past the gifts + cake + games. I would have appreciated the day for what it was: a gathering of a tribe.

It got me thinking about my own personal milestones and the people who have carried me through them: family, friends and even strangers helping me to that next step of life.  I have been blessed by gentle souls ushering me through my own journey and yet I often took it for granted.  Now I understand why my mom was so adamant about a sweet 16 party for me (when I could care less); she wanted to move me along to adulthood and  wanted the people in my life to support that growth, too.

At the end of the shower, I was a little sad to leave the happy bubble. Maybe it was just the sparkle of the sun or me enjoying my new perspective, but I carried that warmth with me for the next couple of days. That’s the great thing about rituals–the things you look at can change in an instant, all you have to do is be open to seeing them differently.

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April 23, 2014|Personal Development, Spirituality|