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angel

On March 12th, I was chasing the last half hour of light through the park trying to get a picture that would pair with the Marianne Williamson quote that was on my mind: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

When I returned home and was scrolling through my photos, I found this angel. I was overtaken with delight. I shared the picture with nearly a dozen friends before making it my Facebook background. Some people immediately saw an angel, others not so much. I continue to be surrounded by the energy and delight of this blessing. I am humbled by the reminder that we never walk alone. We only need to look a little closer to see our own light radiantly reflected back to us. 

 

Today is the one-year anniversary of a major transition in my life. On March 22, 2014, I dropped my now ex-husband off at the airport. He flew to Southern California. I returned to my apartment to take up living alone for the first time in eight years. I am someone who loves people and who also needs a lot of space. However, the space in the first few months of living alone was excruciating. I often didn’t know what to do with myself. So I went to the park. A lot. I’ve climbed this staircase hundreds of times in the last year.

On a snowy day a few weeks ago my friend, Andrea, looked up at me climbing these stairs leaving footprints in the snow and she said, “I am reminded of ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.'” I love this quote by Lao Tzu and this insight from Andrea. The past year has been a journey inward to myself. It’s been beautiful and messy. One of my first steps was getting outside so I could connect with what is inside myself. The park is the place where I go to breathe, delight in the wonder of nature, and pray. I am certain that this place has saved my life over and over this year. No matter what state I arrive in the park in, I always leave renewed and refreshed.

I had a vision to celebrate this place where I feel most free and at home in the world. I call it Park 365: The Coming Alive Journey. Each day, I’ll be sharing pictures and insights from my park adventures. I thought today was the perfect day to begin.

 

Yes, it’s been fourteen months since I last posted on this blog. A lot has unfolded. Let’s catch up.

2014 In Summary: 2014 was a year of transition. I gave up should for New Years and couldn’t have predicted how dramatically my life would change. In mid-January I embarked on an intensive 21-day coaching practice focused on clarifying my relationships guided by Ayanna Mojica. At the conclusion of this practice, I determined it was time to end my marriage. On March 22, my husband moved back to Southern California to pursue his dream of being a writer. It was an amicable parting.

Faced with living alone for the first time in eight years, radical self-care was required. I’d like to tell you this came naturally and I did it gracefully. Not so much. There were two things that sustained me. First, I spend endless hours hiking in the park near my home. I went there several times a week to clear my head, take in the gorgeous scenery, breathe, and connect with friends. Second, I maintained a regular yoga practice at Yoga on the Ridge. I was in the studio 3-4 times a week and participated in a Yoga for Weight Loss workshop in June. By the end of 2014, I’d lost 24 pounds bringing my grand total to 115 pounds to date.

My divorce was finalized on 7/7/14. I was 35 and twice divorced. As you might imagine, it took some time to get my inner dialogue under control so that I could offer “I am” statements about anything else.

I visited Nashville in early August when I took a road trip with one of my nearest and dearest friends to help her relocate for Divinity school. In mid-August I completed facilitator training for OWL Adult/Young Adult Sexuality Education. This had been on my wish list for two and a half years. It was an amazing experience with an open and loving group of trainees and and awesome trainer whose passion and style I admire. My congregation did our first Adult OWL series in February. Participating in both the classes in February and the facilitator training in August were highlights of my year.

In September I trekked home to Southern Maine to visit my family. My favorite part was enjoying Peanut Butter Parfaits at Dairy Queen with my 85 year old grandmother. Upon my return to Philadelphia, I was delighted by a visit from my father and his girlfriend. It was the first time my dad and I had seen each other in person in a decade.

Following the end of an intense love affair in mid-August, I planted my first garden in late September. This was the third thing that helped me to manage the transitions and grief of 2014. There was something absolutely magical to me about tending to my tiny raised bed. It gave me purpose and reminded me of the interconnected nature of all things. In November it was time for my beloved cat, Knuckles, to transition.

I am blessed with many friends that acted as angels during challenging times. One of them captured my heart in early October and another intense love affair followed. By New Years 2015, it ended. Having looked for love everywhere else, I turned by gaze inward. Again, I wish I could tell you it came naturally and I did it gracefully. Not. So. Much. Reading Mastin Kipp’s Daily Love: Growing into Grace in November, I learned an important prayer that would guide me through the end of the year: “Thy will be done.”

There were wins, challenges, fears faced and tears shed. I will say it was the fullest, most expressive year of my life to date. I awoke in January to find myself a stranger in my life. By December, I was awake and conscious that I am a divine creator.

2015 So Far: In January I chose a word to guide the year ahead: whole-hearted. I’m using it to focus my intentions, guide my interactions, and connect with my heart’s desires. I’ve also been exploring my core desired feelings. So far, in addition to whole-hearted, I’m enjoying the energy of vivacious, sensual delight, and grace-fueled.

Whole- hearted mandala

Whole-hearted mandala

I’ve been masterminding The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with two friends. It’s been powerful already. I committed to one of my dreams. I applied and have been accepted for yoga teacher training to start in September. I’m so excited for the journey ahead.

This February I started co-facilitating two groups of Adult OWL. Our class from last year is reunited and three of us trained as facilitators over the summer. We also have a class of newbies. I’m so grateful and thankful for my friends that encouraged me to put my summer training into practice right away. Start before you’re ready.

I’m itching for spring when I can get back to the park more regularly. I took one of my mastermind partners out for a snowy walk last Sunday. While she was delighting in the wonder of the park, I told her about another one of my dreams. I call it Park 365. I want to capture the magic and wonder of the park and my adventures there throughout the year and share them here on my blog. I’ll start on the spring equinox, March 21st. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed catching up on my goings on and learning a bit about how I managed during a year of transition. I’d love to hear about your joys, sorrows, wins and losses in 2014 as well as what you’re looking forward to in 2015. Let a girl hear from you!

 

 

5 Ways I’m Releasing Should in 2014

Of late I’ve found myself shoulding on myself a lot. Even when I don’t do it to myself, others are always ready to offer up a serving of should. I’ve been thinking about should and it doesn’t seem like a very good motivator. I suspect many of you, like me, don’t like to be told what you should (or shouldn’t) do.

 

There were a few days over the holidays when I took a vacation from should. It felt so good that I decided to make it a permanent break. Here are 5 reasons why I’m saying farewell to should and releasing the word from my vocabulary in 2014.

 

1.  Obligation is a lousy reason to do things. When I think I should do something, I will peel back a layer and see if there is a motivator that feels authentic underneath. If not, I give myself permission to pass.

 

I woke up thinking I should send thank you notes for my Christmas gifts. Upon reflection, I realized I was grateful for the treasures my friends and family gifted me. I made a decision to let gratitude be the motivator for getting the notes sent.  (Fair warning, friends, that timeline might be a little longer than should dictates.)

 

2.  Should is a judgment. As I release judgment, I will ask myself what remains. I will ask myself “Whose belief this is?” and “Is it serving me?”  If it is, then I know there will be a genuine reason to do it beyond merely should. Added bonus: the more I release judgments about myself, the easier it is to release judgments about others.

 

3.  One of the most powerful questions I learned to ask in 2013 is “What would I love?” I commit to connecting with loving energy when approaching any task, person, or situation. What would love do?

 

If I think I should clean the bathroom then I will connect with how much I love to get ready for the day in a clean, fresh space. If that love is enough to motivate me, then I’ll clean it today.  If instead, I’d love to spend my time taking a yoga class, then I will serve the highest expression of what I’d love today with my whole self and without apology.

 

4. Pleasure is my favorite motivator. As shoulds cross my mind I will seek the pleasure in them.

 

I should get out for a walk today to get some exercise. I enjoy the pleasure of sunlight on my skin even on the coldest days. I will let pleasure and not should be the motivator. If I can’t find the pleasure in it, then it’s a no go.

 

5.  My passion and purpose have never spoken to me in shoulds. They’ve come as nudges and soft whispers but never as demands. My highest truth is the belief that we are here to divine and live our soul’s purpose. In that pursuit there are dreams and desires that call us forth and draw us near. I’ll skip should and go for the dream.

 

It’s my intention in sharing this with you is that next time should sneaks up on you you’ll consider an alternative that feels great and more fulfilling. I suspect this will be a work in progress for me as well. Wishing you a blessed New Year!

Expanding

I awoke to an insight about the distinction between improving and expanding. You were created as a whole perfect being. The journey of life is to return to your wholeness and know your sweet perfection. You do not need to improve or fix yourself. You may find that there are experiences you desire because they expand your perception of your capacities.

Lately I’ve been enjoying yoga. It expands my capacity to feel life flowing in and through me as I learn to receive and follow my breath. It expands my awareness of and connection to my physical body. During a recent five day juice cleanse, I tuned into my body and learned she has separate and distinct needs and desires from the needs and desires of my mind.

I realized it had been years since I had known physical hunger. I’d been feeding my emotional hunger for so long that I didn’t know if my body was hungry or satiated. I learned that a little hunger doesn’t hurt at all and waiting until I’m hungry to eat dramatically expands my capacity to enjoy food when I do eat.

The juice cleanse has been a pleasant reset experience. During the five days I expected to have such clarity that I’d created a long to do list of mental tasks. My body simply said “No, thank you.” She craved rest, walks in nature, yoga, and more sleep than I’d allowed myself in some time.

At first my mind argued and then my body prevailed. This is an important lesson for me. I’ve been a chronic doer. Learning to be has been a beautiful unfolding. There’s been resistance and when I work through it, gorgeous expansion. Coming into greater give and take between my mind and body is a daily practice.

At first I wanted the physical benefits of weight loss and increased strength and flexibility. While these have been welcome side effects, I see they are not the purpose. I do not need to be improved. I am sweet perfection in the package I am in. My desire is to feel a sense of expansion, grace, and zest in everything I experience.

Lovingly nurturing myself and tending to my desires amplifies my radiant essence. Giving my body loving attention through yoga, juice cleansing, and walking in the fresh air helps me to connect to a dynamic stillness. My mind doesn’t always quiet itself but it sometimes allows my body to take the lead. In these moments of relative balance I feel my spirit move. I shine my beautiful light in the world.

How could shifting your attention from improving to expansion change your relationship with yourself and your body?

Coaching Gone Right

One of the things that helps me connect to my Sweet Perfection is regular coaching. 2013 has been an amazing year of coaching experiences. Perhaps in a future post I will share all the coaching adventures I’ve participated in this year. Right now I want to highlight my experience last Friday night, November 15th, at Mastin Kipp’s Daily Love Tour live event and how it’s carried forward into my week.

The event was hosted at Studio 34 Yoga in West Philadelphia. The studio space is gorgeous and while it was my first visit there I immediately felt at home. After a brief intro to the event by Mastin, he turned it over to Mia (an amazing yoga teacher from NYC) for a Kundalini yoga practice. I’ve practiced yoga on and off since I was in high school. Over the last couple of months I’ve taken up a more regular Vinyasa yoga practice.  This was my first experience with Kundalini yoga. I had no idea what to expect. Mia was a loving guide and I immediately enjoyed that the practice was done with our eyes closed focusing our eyes in and up on the brow chakra to stimulate the pituitary gland. The practice was invigorating and allowed me to build and harness a tremendous amount of energy.

Following a sequence of exercises, Mia lead us through an intense mediation where we used our hands as lion paws to remove stuck energy for ten minutes of continuous arm and shoulder movement.  Around minute seven when I thought my arms might fall off, Mastin began asking if we could do this and the room began to chant, “Yes, yes, YES!” Up until now, I’ve not considered myself an athlete. However, at this event I learned that my body was capable of things I had not even imagined trying. I now know I can do other new things and push the boundaries of what had been my physical limitations.

The event was five hours long; Mastin followed the yoga practice with teaching and coaching. I’d like to highlight three things that stood out for me and continue to resonate with me now four days following the event. The first is a quote by Carl Jung, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” For the last month or so I’ve been wrestling with thoughts and feelings that have felt, at first glance, like they conflict with the dream I am building and the desires of my heart.  I had this idea that spirituality was all light and grace and that I should always strive to be in the bliss and gratitude I can find in each moment.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s part of it and there’s more. We each have patterns of thought and belief that have created the life we are living in this moment. Some of them serve us better than others. Becoming aware of what we are creating with our thoughts and beliefs is essential to creating any impactful change in our lives. After some reflection as to why, despite my desire and efforts to build my dream life, I was finding myself feeling negative and frustrated, I realized that this is actually coaching gone right. This is the opportunity to review and re-pattern the unconscious ways I have moved in the world. Only by bringing these to light can I see them for what they are and make decisions about how they serve me and choose to make new choices by conscious co-creation. I invite you to consider for yourself where you are feeling negativity in your life. Know I will share more of my journey as this blog unfolds in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime left me offer that negativity serves a purpose. It is for discernment. It’s to allow you to identify your discontent not with the purpose of remaining unhappy but rather to spur you toward action.

I created this website in June 2013 following a coaching event. I didn’t write my first post until after my coach training in September. I heard another important message in Mastin’s coaching that helped me to understand why I have hesitated to show up here on this page.  I’d been thinking I could overcome my fears before I started. I thought I could figure everything out, put it all together in a neat package, tie a bow on it and then tell you about it.

Mastin invited us to see that you have to have fear or you will always live in your comfort zone. Instead of seeking to be fearless, I desire to be courageous. I desire to be afraid and forge ahead anyway. It’s an interesting shift in perspective. I invite you to try it on. I suspect your comfort zone has gotten pretty uncomfortable anyway. I know mine has. Mastin offered, “The more afraid you are, unless you are in mortal danger, you should probably do it.” One of my fears was coming here and actually putting words to this page. I showed up anyway with the intention that you may read something here that resonates with you and spurs you to action.

The evening ended with Mastin taking us through his Heart Process. An amazing woman volunteered to act as the conduit for us all to share this experience. I am so grateful to her and will refrain from sharing any details about her experience, as it is not my story to tell. Mastin showed us how to connect with our hearts and ask our heart to show us what “no” looks like. For me it was an immediate visceral feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had known this physical feeling before and had not been conscious of it’s meaning. Then we asked out hearts to show us “yes.” I had a softening and expansion in the center of my chest. We each then had the opportunity to dialogue with our hearts.

My sensual self is electric and my energy has been running high since Friday’s event. The Kundalini practice broke down a lot of stuck energy just as Mastin promised it would. I am feeling so tuned in and turned on by life. This coaching event helped me to kick start the next phase of my physical transformation which involves greater movement, ease, and pleasure in my body. Check back, I’ll let you know how it unfolds.

What is sweet perfection?

When I first heard the words “I am sweet perfection” gallop through my mind, I thought: “I can’t say that! People will think I am conceited.” After checking in with my inner wisdom I learned that being sweet perfection is anything but conceited. Sweet perfection is being your authentic self and knowing you are enough exactly as you are right now. This was a radical shift in my self-concept.

Let’s back up a bit. I’ll share a little bit about my life up until several months ago. I do this not to impress you but rather to illustrate that I had been living my life in proving energy, chasing the next achievement, hoping that sooner or later one of them would be the one that made me feel complete.

I lived a lot of my life as a high achiever: I finished high school in three years while participating in a multitude of activities and graduating eleventh in my class. I went on to college where I graduated summa cum laude. Then I went to business school while I worked full time. Next, while being one of the youngest people in my field to work as a Bursar, I decided I should pursue my CPA.

In the fall of 2011, I called my mother in tears telling her that even though I was two-thirds of the way through my academic requirements for my CPA I didn’t think it was a good fit for me. My Auditing course was brutal! I asked her if she would love me if I didn’t earn my CPA. She told me that she would probably love me more if I didn’t earn my CPA because I would be happy and healthy. She said something that made me want to scream and kick then and proved valuable upon further reflection: “Marina, you are a human being, not a human doing.”

I was delighted when a friend gave me this t-shirt and said it sounded like something I would say.

I had been trying to measure my life and it’s worth by all the things I could do in a day and the accolades I could earn. I did it at the expense of my health and I did it because I didn’t know any better. Exhausted and frustrated, I embarked on a journey to learn and live what it means to be human. It turns out that all the things I had done up until this point hadn’t created a sense of meaning and purpose in my life. This is not to say that they were not worthy achievements. Rather in hindsight I can say that they were done without a vision in mind. Each time I earned a degree or promotion I didn’t feel any sense of excitement or accomplishment, I was already on to the next thing. I didn’t know what I desired to be creating or expressing in the world; I was do-do-doing to compensate.

In February 2013 my inner wisdom gifted me this affirmation: “I am sweet perfection in the package I am in.  Lovingly nurturing myself and tending to my desires amplifies my radiant essence. I shine my beautiful light in the world.” I invite you to try it on and see if it resonates for you. Today my journey is about knowing that my worth is innate because I am alive and life is moving and expressing itself through me. Sweet perfection is my birthright and yours. This is the space where I will be sharing my adventures in being and receiving, healing and evolving, living and loving.