Stay tuned for new products and as always, please contact me for custom pieces!
I am very excited to announce that The Lotus Blossom Shop has been renovated and we are ready to create!
Stay tuned for new products and as always, please contact me for custom pieces!
Have you ever found yourself ready to make a change? Ready to step out from the shadow of your struggles and into the light of your true happiness? If you said yes, your next question is probably "well how exactly do I do that?"...you are not alone. For years I have been on a quest to find the answer to that question. I always envisioned it would be this single ah-a moment in which all of a sudden all the answers would come to me and my path to pure joy and self-love would just appear. Well, that never happened and instead of waiting around I have decided to try a new approach.
I was given some of the best advice from a dear friend who told me, "Ashley, how would you teach your students" and I said, "Well I would start with a lesson plan". So that is what I am doing. Instead of putting all this pressure on myself to be this instantaeous enlightened being, I am going to go against every impatient cell in my body and take my growth one lesson at a time.
So here is my first lesson plan: start with small steps!
1. Every morning I am going to wake up grateful for my life and those I share it with. Appreciate what my life is right now and not worry about the future.
2. Each day I am going to commit to one thing (yes, just one) that I want to do for ME and I am going to do it no matter how tired or busy I may be.
3. Every week I am going to complete something that I have always wanted to do and then tell myself how proud I am that I finally did it.
For all my fellow big picture people this may seem a bit small scale but these small steps will add up.
So what is my progress report thus far...A +! This week I have gone to yoga every day even when I felt so weak and depleted. My greatest accomplishment this week...I made my first male necklace! :) This is something I have always wanted to do but never found the time (which was just an excuse). I knew it would take me hours to complete and it would be a test of my patience and ability to just sit still. And it was!
Yesterday, I wanted nothing more than to go home and wallow in the sadness of the day. BUT instead I decided to release my sadness on my yoga mat and then take my sweaty self to my favorite bead store and pick my beads for my mala necklace. I was drawn to fancy jasper which I looked up after in my Book of Stones is great for grounding mental energies, discipline and perseverance, and slow steady healing. Talk about a perfect fit! Good job intuition! Anyways, I then went home, put on meditation music and got everything set up to make my mala.
Mala making started off great, I was in a rhythm and feeling zen (well as zen as I can). Until, the sadness started creeping up again. See that's the thing about emotions, they never go away. They either control you or you control them. As Elizabeth Gilbert said, "Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome the human experience." So that's what I did. Maybe I took a break and cried (a lot). That's okay, crying releases emotions and cleanses your soul. And I told myself, I am going to take this break and release what I am feeling but then I am going to finish making this damn mala! I did, three hours later my mala necklace was complete. And it is beautiful, perfectly imperfect, and I made it! I gave myself a big "pat on the back" and started wearing it and a smile on my face.
One mala, one smile and two small steps...
I dedicate this post to all my friends and family who have had their share of mud thrown at them...just keep shining...
You may have heard someone say to you, "shine your light" and wonder...wtf I don't have a flashlight on me, what do you want me to do?! Or maybe you were thinking, what do you want you crazy hippie?! Either way, what that person is trying to convey is that we all are radiant beings and we need to embrace who we are and how bright we shine! For many of us, our lights have become dim over the years. They never go away but get covered with gunk and mud thrown at us in this thing could life. We get knocked down to the ground with every struggle, heartache, or tragedy we experience, adding another layer of mud. NOTHING in life is stopping you from shining but testing your will to shine!
No matter how much mud accumulates, your light never stops shining. You just have to peel away at the mud like those facial masks that clean your pores. Mud cracks and those tiny cracks show you the spot you need to work on in order to peel the whole damn layer off! That's how you've got to do it...one tiny piece at a time. Until you get to your bright core! Your source of light, your soul. How to peel the layers, only you know. Each one of us has a unique mask and only you can tackle that project. The first step is being aware that you are wearing a mask and then trying to find those little cracks. Maybe call in a few friends and family to help, but start peeling!
So start peeling and start shining! You are amazing, wonderful, and a light that helps guide the rest of us!
Goodbye 2015 and HELLO 2016! There have been many ups and downs this past year. Times of pure joy and times of pain, both of which have shaped where you are today. As you reflect on the past year, think about what no longer serves you and what YOU can do to achieve your goals set for the next year (or even 5 or 10 years down the line). You don't necessarily have to let go of a tangible object but maybe a behavior or mindset that has prevented you from reaching where you want to be. For example, I am letting go of worry! My over analytical mind tends to worry about EVERYTHING!!! Worry only keeps you stuck in the past and anxious about the future...not exactly where I want to be which is in the present! My goal of 2016 is to enjoy life on an everyday basis. To truly embrace my present and appreciate what life has to offer... And to start working on my 5 year goal of opening up a healing center! It's going to happen! :)
What are your goals for 2016?? Remember, you are not given a goal without the capacity to achieve it!
Ps- for those of you interested in Astrology I have included links to a few of my favorite sites to give you a little insight into your year ahead. My fellow Libra's, 2016 is our year to let go and prepare for pure bliss come September 2016!
Why am I anxious? This is not normal to feel this way. Why can’t I stop these negative thoughts and feelings? I am stronger than this. Why is this happening to me? These are common thoughts that arise during an anxiety attack. Many of us believe we are alone in experiencing these attacks when in reality we are not. Anxiety is a normal reaction in a stressful situation. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety can be mild—generating worried thoughts over everyday responsibilities, which is a completely ordinary experience. However, about 6.8 million American adults suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which can cause hours of worry and restlessness every day, and often interferes with the ability to perform daily responsibilities. Statistically, women are twice as likely as men to be affected by GAD. I am going to blame hormones, but that’s a whole other topic.
Whether it is mild or severe, anxiety can interfere with day-to-day activities and social interaction. According to the ADAA, physical symptoms of anxiety include trouble sleeping, irritability, muscle tension, edginess, restlessness, and fatigue. Yoga and meditation can be valuable tools for helping to relieve emotional disturbances and lower overall stress levels.
I have suffered from anxiety during certain periods of my life and I can say that yoga and meditation are some of the best ways for me to find relief. Each time I step on the mat, I am able to stop the monkey chatter of my brain and truly be in the present. When we are in the present moment we are mindful of our movements and not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. During yoga practice is the only time I can stop my over analytical mind from running ramped. If you know me, you know that is truly a miracle! In all seriousness, yoga is about being one with the moment and training us to practice that awareness in our everyday lives. If you don’t want to take my word for it, there have been many studies that yoga and meditation benefits those with mood disorders and lowers our stress response in our everyday life. See my reference list below for some great studies to explore this further.
The same is true for meditation. I actually like to call yoga “active meditation” as it elicits the same response as seated or resting meditation. Meditation is calming your mind and body by reducing your nervous system activity through awareness of breath. I find the use of meditation extremely helpful when trying to fall asleep at night. Many people, including myself, find that anxiety occurs at a large percentage of the time when we are trying to fall asleep. This is a time when our minds are free from distraction and are ready to run wild. Every single stress and worry of that day or of the next day comes rushing into your mind and then…insomnia! Sometimes we even begin to fear going to bed, as this can become a habitual pattern leading to very sleepy and unhappy people. Instead of reaching for a sleeping aid, try mediation. I like to start with a guided meditation, as it is the best way for beginners to quiet the mind and truly find that calm state. Again, don’t just take my word for it…see my reference list!
Below is an example of a few yoga poses and a guided meditation that I like to use when my mind begins to run ramped and anxiety starts to rear it’s ugly head.
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana): Child's Pose helps to release tension in the back, neck and shoulders, which are areas where most people hold a lot of their stress. This pose also helps to promote relaxation by encouraging steady conscious breathing, which is particularly great for anxiety sufferers due to a calming of the nervous system.
Begin on your hands and knees with your big toes touching. Your hands should be directly under your arms and your legs hips distance apart. Exhale as you bow forward allowing your torso to rest on or between your thighs with your forehead on the mat. Keeping your arms long and extended, press into your hands keeping your sit bones on your heels. Hold this pose for as long as you need to. When finished, slowly use your hands to walk your torso upright and sit back on your heels.
2. Tree Pose (Vrikasana): Tree Pose is fundamental in easing anxiety. By implementing basic standing balances, you promote concentration, focus and awareness, with the intention of taking your mind away from anxiety and placing your attention on your physical self. When not in a yoga class, I often practice Tree Pose whenever I find myself standing for an extended period of time.
Standing tall with your feet hips-width distance apart, shift your weight to your right leg. Bend your left knee, and place the sole of your left foot into your inner right thigh or just below the knee, with your toes pointing toward the floor. Center your pelvis so that it is directly over your right foot. Press the sole of the left foot into your inner right thigh, while resisting with your outer right thigh. Place your hands into prayer with your thumbs at your heart center. Your gaze can be facing facing forward with focus on a spot or object. Hold for 2-3 breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
3. Headstand (Sirsasana): Headstand is one of my favorite poses to practice, especially during my most anxious times. It reverses the blood flow in your body, causing you to focus more attention on your breath, rather than your anxiety or discomfort. By focusing your awareness on your body's place in space, you begin to evoke calmness and contentment.
When we increase and stimulate blood flow to our head, one main benefit is the detoxification of our adrenals, which is known to contribute to a decrease in depression as well (look it up)!
Start on your hands and knees, with your forearms shoulder-width apart. Keeping your elbows there, interlace your fingers so that your pinkies touch the ground. Place the crown of your head onto the ground and cradle it in your hands. Tuck your toes and lift your hips high, walking your feet in as closer to your elbows. Engage your abdominal muscles, press your forearms onto the mat lifting out of your shoulders and slowly lifting one leg off the ground. You can practice lifting one leg and then the other until you feel steady.
To enter full headstand, lift your feet straight up over your shoulders and hips until your legs are completely straight overhead. You can practice with a wall to support you if you're new to headstand. Keep your gaze fixed and old for 5-6 breaths (or longer if you desire). When you're ready, lower your feet down one at a time and bring your knees to the mat. Rest in Child's Pose for a few breaths.
4. Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani): Legs Up The Wall is great for relieving lower back pain and easing anxiety symptoms, in addition to relieving arthritis discomfort, menstrual cramping, reducing insomnia and lowering high blood pressure.
This pose can be performed anywhere a wall is present, however I strongly recommend finding a place of comfort, silence and serenity to really enjoy the full benefits. You can place a pillow or blanket under your lumbar spine to relieve any lower back pressure as well.
Roll up your yoga mat about halfway and rest it directly at the wall. Sit with your left or right side resting as close to the wall as possible, just outside your mat. In one steady movement, swing your legs up onto the wall and rest your shoulders and head onto your mat. Slowly ease yourself forward until your buttocks and hamstring area touch the wall. Allow yourself to close your eyes and relax. Stay in this pose for 5-10 minutes or longer if needed. When you're ready to come out, swing your legs to the left or right of your body.
Guided Meditation for Anxiety: I recommend recording yourself guiding you through this meditation and listen to it whenever needed.
To begin with make sure the body is in as comfortable a position as possible, either sitting in a chair or lying down on the bed or the floor. Allow the weight of the body to settle down towards the earth, taking a few deeper breaths and letting go a little bit more on each out breath.
Now allow the breath to settle and to find its own natural rhythm, letting the breath breathe itself. Try not to interfere with this process, and notice how the body moves in response to the breath: the chest expanding and relaxing, the belly rising and falling. If your breath is affected in any way by your illness or pain, then just noting this with a kindly, gentle awareness. Try to let go of any ideas about how you think it ought to be, and just rest with an awareness of how things actually are for you in each moment.
Sometimes it can help to include an image with a sense of the breath: you can imagine a wave flowing up the beach, turning, and flowing back out to sea again, noticing how the movement of the breath has a rhythm very like this. Or you might have another image that you find evocative and calming. Use your imagination in your own way to help the mind and the body settle around the breath.
Notice how each breath is unique, how no two breaths are the same. Notice the texture, the quality, and the duration of each breath. If you notice the body or the mind tensing up around your experience, in the noticing you can gently let go again without judgment. Do this over and over again if necessary with a kindly, gentle awareness.
Include any pain or discomfort in the body within your broad field of awareness. Very often we resist feelings of pain or discomfort, and this just leads to more tension, more pain and more discomfort. Use the breath to help soften the hard edges around the pain and allow a tender, gentle awareness to permeate the in- and the out-breaths. As you use the breath to soften resistance to the pain or discomfort, you may notice how the experience of pain is in fact a constantly changing mass of different sensations. Experience how it comes into being and passes away moment by moment.
Now you can broaden out your experience even more to invite in the pleasurable dimensions of your field of awareness. They might be very subtle, such as tingling in the fingers, some sort of pleasure around the breath, or maybe the sun is shining through the window onto the skin. In your own way scanning through your whole experience and noticing little moments of pleasure, no matter how fleeting – arising and falling with each moment.
You may notice that each moment of life contains elements that are painful and elements that are pleasurable. This is the way things are in this world for everyone. Notice the tendency to harden against pain and to grasp after pleasure, and in the noticing relax back into the broad field of awareness.
Now broaden out your awareness still more to include an awareness of others. Become aware that all humanity experiences a mixture of pain and pleasure moment by moment in much the way that you do. The stories of our lives are unique, but the range of basic human experience and emotions will be very similar. We all have hopes and dreams, fears and regrets, no matter where we live, our age, color or wealth. In this way we can allow our own experience of pain and illness to become a moment of empathy for others who are in pain, or who are ill, rather than a moment of isolation. All life suffers in one way or another. All life experiences pleasure in one way or another.
In the same way that you imbued the breath with a kindly awareness towards your own experience, you can now allow a kindly awareness to permeate the in- and the out-breaths as you think of others. Maybe you can get a sense of the whole world breathing – all life breathing like waves on the ocean. Rising and falling. Allow a sense of the hard edges of separation to soften, letting go into a sense of all that we share and a feeling of connection with all life as you sit or lie here resting quietly with the breath moment by moment.
Rest with this quality of awareness for as long as feels appropriate for you at this time.
Now in your own time bring the meditation to a close. Come back to a full awareness of the body lying on the bed or sitting on the chair. Feel in firm contact with the earth. Tune into the movements of the breath in the body and gradually externalize your awareness. When you’re ready gently open the eyes, take in your surroundings, and re-engage with the day. See if you can take this quality of awareness with you on into your life as it unfolds moment by moment.
Granath J, Ingvarsson S, von TU, Lundberg U: Stress management: a randomized study of cognitive behavioral therapy and yoga. Cogn Behav Ther 2006, 35:3–10.
Kirkwood G, Rampes H, Tuffrey V, Richardson J, Pilkington K: Yoga for anxiety: a systematic review of the research evidence. Br J Sports Med 2005, 392:884–891.
Smith C, Hancock H, Blake-Mortimer J, Eckert K: A randomized comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety. Complement Ther Med 2007, 15:1277–83.
Lang R, Dehof K, Meurer KA, Kaufmann W: Sympathetic activity and transcendental meditation. J Neural Transm 1979, 44:117–135.
Why can't we all be like babies and just love the heck out of ourselves!? As babies, we love staring at our hands or feet and just marveling in amazement of all the things they are capable of doing. In those precious moments, there is no criticizing or negative emotions...just pure joy to have hands and feet. Fast forward into adulthood, a time in which we are too busy to take a break and just marvel in our existence. If I asked you right now to go look in the mirror and just stare at yourself and tell me what you feel...first, you would probably look at me like I was crazy and second, you wouldn't last one minute with that exercise. This is because life has conditioned us to fall out of love with our SELF.
Life experiences have created a need to please others in order to feel good. When you are a baby, nobody calls you "selfish" when you spend time doing what is best for you, discovering who you are. Why should that change when you are an adult?! Because if you don't do things for others you are considered a bad person? How are you suppose to truly and unconditionally do for others when you don't feel whole within? Many of us seek approval, love, and acceptance from others in order to feel whole. But in doing so, empty your self love cup!
I admit, I am guilty of this as most of us are. Many of us would NEVER admit out loud that they lack self-love...but I bet if you were to ask a group of adults how many of them truly love themselves, you may get 1 out of 10! I know it has been a struggle for me. Well not anymore! Dammit I want a full self love cup! Finally after 33 years of existence on earth, I have realized many areas of my life in which I have put SO much effort into pleasing others that I have emptied my self love cup. For example, how many of you look for praise at work to feel like you did a good job? Or want to hear someone tell you they love you so that you feel loved? These are very common ways in which we are emptying our self love cup. If you truly loved yourself you wouldn't need approval and love from someone else. You would act without expectation and be happy with whatever the result may be! Oh yes, I said that word...expectation!!! The root of all suffering (according to Shakespeare). Well he was onto something! When you act with expectation you are not acting out of love but out of a need for something. When you love your SELF and act with love, you expect nothing and are happy with everything! Pure bliss...doesn't that sound nice!
Falling back in love with your SELF begins with finding out who you truly are and being a peace with all of you. It doesn't mean crawling into a hole and never coming out, but being more aware! I starts with awareness as they say in yoga. I like to make a list of all the things that make me feel joy, peace, sadness, hurt, etc. Once you are aware of these you begin to notice when you are acting out of unconditional love OR you have expectations. When you learn how to make your SELF happy you start to fill up our self love cup. Once your self love cup is full, you can share that love with others in a healthy and non-depleting way. Remember, everyone loves babies....so start acting like one and marvel in all that you are in this moment!
fIf you have not read The Alchemist I encourage you to do so. This book is truly one of the best ever written. The story reaches deep down into your soul and pulls you in with each captivating word. I have included a page from the book that I believe delivers a life changing message regarding listening to our hearts and following our dreams. A message many of us need to hear and live by.
Just like Santiago, many of us fear that our hearts will suffer if we go in search of our dreams. What if I fail? What if I get hurt? But that is your ego/mind talking, not your heart. You must understand where this fear comes from and know that "the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself." Fear keeps you from achieving what is meant for you and you will begin to feel the void and the lack in your life if you choose your ego/mind over your heart.
Why listen to your heart? "Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you're thinking about life and about the world."
Trusting that you will always be supported is hard to grasp when it seems that life doesn't always go as you planned. But maybe the plan in your head is not the plan in your heart. We experience pain and suffering when we go against our hearts and follow our ego/mind. When we stay in our comfort zone and never push ourselves. This can be applied to any aspect of your life be it work, love, family, etc.
If there is one thing I know and let's be honest, I know a lot ;)...it is that you will always achieve what you are meant to achieve when you follow your heart. Your ego/mind may take you off course a bit, but you always find your way back. Trust in your heart and in your dreams! And if you need a little encouragement, read The Alchemist!
We are entering Fall and my favorite time of year. A time when the trees begin to turn from luscious green to strong and confident golden or red. A time when we unwind from the crazy fun of summer and settle into a place of self-reflection and change. Like the trees, we are shedding the leaves of the past and choosing what color we want to be before letting go into the cold of winter. Are you a deep rooted red, a confident golden yellow, or maybe somewhere in between? The trees are choosing their path and so should you. Where have you been and where do you want to go? Do you want hold onto the green of summer or embrace the changing colors of fall?
For many, self-reflection is a painful process. We are conditioned to push aside all the painful memories and emotions and lock them away never to be seen again. But that's the problem...they never truly go away until you accept them as part of your journey. Changing how you deal with these painful experiences is no easy task. But if life was easy...would you ever make changes towards growth? The trees choose to change every year and every spring are even more beautiful than before because of it. Those that do not change, struggle over the winter and dull their beauty come time to bloom.
This is also true for us. When you resist change, you feel that you are struggling in life and that reflects in your outward appearance, health, and overall happiness. Change is necessary. It may cost you the creature comforts of distractions. Distractions come in many forms, such as people, possessions, and mind altering substances. We welcome these distractions in our life as they take the spotlight off of ourselves and our problems. You can go through life constantly distracted and never truly take the time for self-reflection and growth. Growth exists in the moment when you are consciously willing to pay the price of freedom. That price may be letting go of someone you care about or to quit smoking. Whatever your distraction may be, it keeps you from recognizing areas in your life that need your attention.
Give yourself your undivided attention and finally reflect on your life and how far you have come and where you want to go. It's your journey and you control the outcome. Stay the same dull tree or grow into a tall standing bountiful tree that people are in awe of every time they walk by. It's up to you.
To be courageous is to find strength in your vulnerability, like in the headstand position (Salamba Sirsasana). Pushing yourself through your fears and finding that you are strong enough to reach your greatest potential. That is what these beautiful women and I did last night in yoga teacher training. Many of us had never been able to complete the poses presented in class but when we did (as pictured above) it was beautiful. As in life, yoga pushes you to your self-imposed limits only to find that you DO have the courage and strength to go just a little further. Each push is a test, a test of self-worth and trust that you deserve and can achieve the gifts life has to offer.
"One of the essential requirements for true spiritual growth and deep personal transformation is coming to peace with pain. No expansion or evolution can take place without change, and periods of change are not always comfortable. Change involves challenging what is familiar to us and daring us to question our traditional needs for safety, comfort, and control. This is often perceived as a painful experience."
~ The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
This quote perfectly describes the moment you realize that in order to grow you must push through the pain and challenge what is safe and familiar. Without our challenges in life, we would not grow and evolve but rather stay in complacency with a deep sense of lack. In life we are meant to evolve and achieve love, joy, happiness or whatever we intend. You are supported in life even during those periods of pain and suffering. These moments are the most crucial moments in your life. They test you to see how you will react and move forward. Will you sit and wallow in the pain OR will you push through it and find that without that moment of pain you would have never achieved what you truly deserve. It is up to you! You have the free will to make ANYTHING happen or not happen. So what do you choose? To be fearful or TO BE COURAGEOUS...
As I reflect and try to summarize all that was experienced this week during yoga teacher training, I am excited and a bit overwhelmed with what to share. Yesterday's class was (as always) an amazing exchange between like-minded souls and a good bit of asana practice. I actually lead my first sun salutation series for the class which was such a thrill. :)
The main thing I feel strongly about sharing in this post has more to do with how we find peace within our journey. Yesterday morning we were all sitting outside discussing the different paths of yoga and how we would like to incorporate yoga into our lives. As we discussed our intentions, the topic of world peace came up. One of my fellow yogis mentioned how others seem to always diminish her goal of world peace as they believe it impossible. That started the conversation of...world peace and what does that mean?
To me, world peace is not trying to change others and eradicate the bad in the world. It is finding YOUR inner peace and sharing that with the world in hopes to encourage others to find their peace. Finding peace within yourself and your life is done when you learn to accept the good with the bad. Realizing that the bad/struggles/suffering/etc. is a way to push you into the growth needed to find peace/love/happiness within yourself. This concept is difficult for most of us to fully embrace and understand especially in a world with so much pain and suffering. I know that I was one of those who didn't understand how good people always had bad things happen to them...until four years ago when I read a book that changed my life!
The book I am referring to is Your Soul's Plan by Robert Schwartz. I will share with you as I did with my fellow classmates yesterday...this book truly changed the way I viewed the world and opened up my mind and heart to a deeper understanding of life. My own healing journey was at a stalemate until the day I opened the pages of this book. I recommend anyone who is trying to let go of the pain and suffering of your past to read this book. It will change your perception of life and help you release all that resentment and hurt so that you can find inner peace.
As we continued discussing this concept of inner peace, our instructor mentioned she had a TEDtalk for us to watch. We all gathered inside to watch the beautiful Anita Moorjani give a talk on her near death experience. It was a very moving and inspiring talk that mirrored many of the things found in Robert Schwartz's book. I have included the video below for you to watch. It is about 18 minutes but worth every second. Anita speaks of her battle with cancer and how her experience created that deeper understanding of life which ultimately healed her and created her peace within. Near the end of the video she talks about five things to follow in your everyday. These are truly words to live by! So take this time to watch the video and reflect on how you can utilize these concepts in order to FIND YOUR PEACE.
Nutrition professor, yogi, astrology fanatic and most importantly an old soul who lives to make others smile and to fill the world with love and positive energy...