My Adventure

One whole week. On vacation. By myself. 

I rented a beautiful little straw bale house on the edge of a cliff in desert country. I feel so at peace in the house (except last night when something jumped on the deck while I was washing dishes after dark, and scared the bejesus out of me – adrenaline kick kept me awake another hour). Like being in a cave with many windows and a fantastic view. Oh, and a hot tub.

The kitchenette is sufficient for cooking and baking, I brought my Vitamix for smoothies, and basically half of my foodstuffs and spices for food prep so I really can (and do) feel at home. I sank in to enjoy the delicious sound of the whoosh of the rapidly cooling wind in the evening as it moved through the trees and swept down the canyon, the birds chirping, the sound of the nearby hawk rustling its wings in warning, and got in touch with being fully present with myself secluded up on this hill. Away from my dear, lovely city.

Gorgeous view from "my house".
Gorgeous view from “my house”.

I have only one thing to say: Life-changing.

Until last Tuesday, I never took time off to go on an adventure, or do anything on my own. Fear held me back: fear of loneliness, of missing out (oh, that FOMO), of neglecting duties. Fear of lacking things to do, of conversation, and people to engage with on a daily basis. Finally, fear of being alone with myself and my thoughts. And honestly…?

I love the quiet. And being alone.

Until last year, I considered myself an extrovert, and during a class at work, learning about personality types, I learned that I am, in fact, VERY introverted. (No wonder I am always exhausted after a couple of hours out with big groups of people). Over the past twelve months, realizing that I really do need to spend more time alone, I have been working on giving myself permission to say “no” to social engagements.  It has been a difficult exercise in choosing what is best for me, and meeting (my perceived) expectations of friends and family that know me as a very social person.

And that is the key: I do not need to meet what I perceive to be someone else’s expectations.
I am responsible for how I feel and for taking care of myself.

I need only to meet MY OWN expectations and desires. 

I chose this adventure based on the dates of a watercolor workshop. In April, I happened to walk into an art gallery on the last day I spent in Sisters after a 20 mile race event, and not an hour before leaving town, I met a wonderful artist who happened to mention a workshop she would be teaching during the summer.

Boom.
It was fate. I knew I had to attend the workshop.

I created a whole vacation around the three-day painting course. The location is great, the lessons were amazing. I learned that I can, in fact, paint. I learned so many new things that my brain hurt at the end of each day, and I was exhausted.  (I’d forgotten how much learning can zap the energy out of you! More to come about the workshop later).

I am still loving it out here, so much in fact that I wish I could have more days! Nearing the last day of my stay in this wonderful straw-bale home, I realized that it took until today for me to finally relax and feel settled. New lesson to myself – vacations need to be longer than seven days, especially when travel is involved. (And perhaps they could be more frequent!).

Needless to say, I am learning many lessons this week. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, taking chances on things I want to learn, and spending time reading and reflecting.

So tell me…

How have you stepped out of your comfort zone recently? 
What was your greatest take-away from your last adventure?

As always, sending joy…!
~Alaina

Lessons Learned in 2014 & Intentions for the New Year

Sunrise

2014 has been a year of discoveries.  Much of what I have learned has been due to self-exploration, understanding, and acceptance.  Pushing my body to new limits, learning how food affects my mind and spirit, and learning what really matters to me for the first time in over thirty years.

And this has changed my life. 

Permanent change, and change for the better.  Here are a few of the important lessons of 2014:

1. My body can travel great distances on foot.
I ran a 50K this year.  Holy crap!  Not only that, but leading up to race day my body was able to keep moving through 3 marathon-length training runs with a 10 mile run the very next day. I always knew I could do it, yet looking back on this feat feels really kind of awesome.  Makes a girl wonder what else she can do…

2. I am a runner who likes to do yoga.
After completing Yoga Teacher Training – and feeling stronger than I have felt in many years – I can honestly say I have no desire to teach yoga classes.  I really enjoyed the personal journey the experience of 200 YTT took me on, the new friends I was able to meet, and the new limits I was able to push past while learning the Ashtangas, and the broader and more considerate perspective I gained on life, how we treat one another, and my personal actions and their affect our planet.  It was totally worth the work, lack of social activity, and even the horrendous anxiety that I experienced that kept me from sleeping before each early morning class I taught.  The lessons I learned from Yoga beyond the moments, are immeasurable and invaluable, and therefore, this experience was highly important in helping me to change.

3. I may, in fact, be a good teacher.
Despite the fact that I am not interested in teaching Yoga, I love sharing what I know and teaching others about diet, exercise, and healthy habits. These are things I love to work on in my own life, and cannot stop talking about when asked – and I look forward to the opportunity to share my knowledge with others who are seeking ways to improve themselves.  Somehow, over the past year, people have started coming to me with questions.  I suppose this is how it all begins…

4. I LOVE running.
When I committed to yoga training, I knew I would have to cut back on running, and for the first week (maybe the first two), I made myself run three times during the week.  While attending four yoga classes, and eleven hours of teacher training AND working a full-time 40+ hours/week day-job.  And there was no way I could keep running in my habitual manner.  So I let go of running.  For more than three months. I missed it terribly.  Running is my meditation, my break from life, stress release, and a way to tour this beautiful city I get to live in, and I am SO happy to have the time in my day to re-incorporate running in my daily life.
Thank God!

5. Cooking delicious, healthy meals for myself is SUPER important.
I have always loved to bake.  And when I started cooking, I realized it was another form of meditation, to take good food and make a delicious meal for myself.  It is like this gift at the end of a long day to have the ability to spend time in the kitchen, singing, and dancing around while chopping onions and garlic. (Don’t worry – I put the knife down while I was dancing!)  Over the last five months or so, I realized not only is this a pleasant activity, it is vitally important to me to take the time and make meals happen.  I actually find I feel guilty when I buy my lunch in the café at work.  Cooking and Food Prep = Must Do (As much as possible) for sanity, to feel good, and to calm my mind.

6. I can make changes to how I live to become the person I want to be.
My mother can tell you that in the past I was a very disorganized person.  With piles.  I have always had piles.  Clothes in the corner.  Papers heaped on the desk.  I am now eliminating the piles. Organization is a new skill, and I am working to cultivate and keep this one going for years to come.  Shrinking stacks not only means donating unused or unloved items to charity, it also means finishing projects.  That dress I started five years ago, the painting started four years ago, the receipts I need to file, the blanket I intend to make for my niece for Christmas… (Do you have any of these things on your list that have been there, moving down in priority slowly over time?)  I am now checking them off (starting with the painting), and letting go of those that no longer call to me.  Freeing the mind and getting rid of clutter – I have much more important things to ponder over in that mind space, and worry and that nagging knowing that “I need to finish that project, and that, and that…” can stop.  Now.

7. It is ok to say “No”.
I will admit that for a lot of my life, honestly almost all of my life up to this past Spring, I have been a people-pleaser.  Always saying “yes” to every invite, all obligations involving friends, and putting myself second.  Or third.  Or fourth. Finally, 32 years (nearing 33) into my life, I have learned that I can consider my own needs and wants when making decisions.  And most of the time, I will feel better, other parties involved will not be concerned about my “no”, and the energy of the whole deal will just feel so much more clean.
Honesty –  To self and others, it’s totally the way to go.

8. Self-care is extremely, vitally important.
I have been experimenting.  With diet.  With exercise.  Learning what works.  (And learning what does NOT work).  And beyond learning that my body and sugar do not get along in any way, shape, or form, I have learned that it is incredibly difficult to maintain my own happiness if I do not prioritize myself Every.Single.Day. Feeding myself, drinking lots of water, getting in some form of exercise, and spending some time in meditation or reading – somehow furthering the strength of my mind – are essential activities that help me to live well.  In turn, taking care of myself allows me to be available to others when they are in need. It is incredibly simple, yet so hard to maintain.  This is why so many teachers and gurus have their own Daily Practice.  Do you have a daily practice? Has it become habit, or is it still a challenge from time to time to keep the routine?

9. I still do not know what I want to do when I grow up, but I know I’m getting closer.  Since landing in Portland after college, I have kept myself occupied taking lessons.  In retrospect, I have sought out one Guru after the next – first in dance lessons, then voice, then energy healing, and finally in yoga training.  Oddly enough, two of my Gurus have moved away in the last year, rather suddenly, and I certainly wanted to learn more from them … Yet, I feel almost as if this is the way things are supposed to be.  Kind of a little shove for me to start moving forward on my own.  Like the Universe is telling me “You’ve learned enough – now go do what you are meant to do.”  Being in this place – nudged to go out and do ‘my thing’ – is a little awkward, uncomfortable, and scary, but I’m learning to push through the discomfort and really share my perspective, knowledge, and who I am with others.

10. Running has taught me to stop worrying and take a chance.
I suppose it goes without saying that running any extraordinary distance of your own volition will teach a person something about themselves.  I have certainly learned that I am much more able-bodied than I have ever imagined.  And through the physical tests endured, I have learned that so much of what I used to fret about and stress over really is the small stuff. I’m not sure how I leaned that running, but when you are in a state of constant movement and all that really matters is nutrition, hydration, and putting one foot in front of the other, prioritizing is much more simple.

11. When you respect yourself, you make better decisions.
Last year, I went to an end of 2013/beginning of 2014 ceremony.  During this process together, we chose words for what we are letting go of in 2014, and what word we are claiming for the year to work on and hold as our intention for the year.  Honestly at this point I do not remember what word I let go of, but I chose “Self-Respect” as my intention for 2014 – and I have done pretty well on that account for the year.  It’s funny, you’d think that self-respect is pretty basic, and that everyone has that for themselves. For me, the process of learning to say “No” was a form of self-respect, and while I have made a few choices that went a little beyond what I really wanted, I have not done regrettable things this year.  Every choice was thought out, weighed, and carefully responded to from a place where I felt no nagging or pulling in my heart or gut.  Much more happiness this year.

Now here we are at the beginning of 2015 – a fresh start to choose to let go of something else, and a new word of intention for this brand new year.

For 2015, I choose Health for my word of intention.  I have been making small changes here and there throughout the past few years, and with the lessons I have learned in 2014, there are bigger changes I want to make (which I look forward to sharing with you soon!) that will have a big impact on my life – happier digestion, better energy levels, and overall feeling good in my own skin.

I will be letting go of material things – for the last 3 months of 2014, I made a promise to myself to not make any purchases that were not necessary.  And not shopping gave me so much more free time (not to mention saving me $$$ so I could spend on more important things, like Organic Kale), I intend to do the same for the entire year of 2015.  No unnecessary purchases of clothing or home items – and thrifting, consignment, and getting creative (literally – making things) will be where I do get things when I need them.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – three of my favorite words.  2015 will be a fantastic year!

What is your ‘word of intention’ for 2015?
What will you let go of this year to give yourself more freedom and happiness?

I’d love to support you on your new endeavors – Let me know in the comments below!

As always, move forward through each new day with Joy!
~Alaina

Living Life, Minding the Present; Be-ing and Vulnerablilty

photo-11

Many of my years as a child, growing into adulthood in my teens, and pressing further into my life as a career-person, aware and contributing to society, have been spent in a constant commentary with Ego.  It has taken a lot of reading (my large collection of self-help novels is yet to be unpacked in my new apartment), listening to motivational speakers, and connecting with others to finally recognize this aspect of myself.  I used to identify my “logical, critical thinking” with reasoning, and I am beginning to see this as the opposite.  This past year, I have been un-training myself to trust “reason” and let go, attempting to learn to listen to my subconscious and intuitive thinking.

Man, is it hard!

For someone who has always analyzed every situation, weighed the pros and cons, and rationally chosen the direction to walk down a path, choosing to feel my reaction and to literally go with my gut has been a challenge.

On the other hand, freeing my mind and following my body’s response has been extremely liberating.  I can still see my mind go into analytical mode, and I am nowhere near as good at this as I would like to be, yet, I am getting better at acknowledging the thoughts, and letting them go.  The physical response to words, actions, ideas, thoughts, anything introduced to your surrounding is always present.  

Since making the choice to live this way, I surprisingly have more time in each day.  Being less in my head has freed my hands to do other things, and my mind can better occupy time with thoughts of the here-and-now, rather than floating off into the oblivion of the unknown future questions and hypotheses.  I feel relieved and happy to have time to write more often!

Have you felt yourself shift?  Do you notice a difference in space and time when you stay present?

One of the side-effects of staying present is not having the time to prepare and protect.  One is forced by nature to remain vulnerable in each setting because nothing else is important.  We are able to truly experience our feelings (feel the gut reactions!) and process them in real-time, not wondering what may come next or how that will affect us.  We are free to Be.  What a wonderful way to live!

Now, I’m no Guru, but I have listened to the advise of a few of these knowledgable people, and hope I have gleaned enough to start making a difference in my life.  When I want to talk with someone, I will call them.  If I am pulled to respond to a text in a longer format to convey that I care, I will.  

Most importantly, I have learned, when someone has significance in your life, to let them know.

This holiday season, I am going to take a cue from a good man, Evan Sanders at The Better Man Project, and write to my loved ones.  Writing is a much more expressive, and eloquent, method for communication for me, and I want to let each and every special person in my life know that I appreciate them.  Because you really never know when your next opportunity will come.  (Thanks, Evan, for the brilliant idea, and reminder).  

Today’s top three:  Be present with those you love, wear your heart on your sleeve, and follow your intuition.  

with love, light, and delight,
~Alaina