My Favorite Place – Photo Challenge

Sunrise on the Beach

If I were on the newlywed game with my husband and he was asked to share what his wife’s favorite place was, he would would tap his left shoulder because that is where I lay my head each night before going to sleep.  It is there I tell him that I love him and that right “here” is my favorite place to be.  While that is 100% true there is a place I frequent that also is a favorite place for me, especially when I want to be alone or reflect.  That place is the beach.

I grew up on Long Island Sound in Southern Connecticut and after living some years away from the ocean, I made my way back to the beach years ago.  Having lived away from the ocean made me realize just how much I NEEDED the ocean and how drawn I am to time away there.  Being at the beach at sunrise, ushering in a new day, feeling connected to the universe and God, and reminding myself just how small I am (problems too) is truly my favorite place to escape. It puts it all in perspective and focus for me.  I am blessed to have a photography company that allows me to spend time on the beach meeting with families and helping them make memories there.  I believe I help them see what I see as well.  My prayer is that everyone can at least once in their lifetime experience the beauty, wonder and majesty of the ocean.  Whether I spend the early hours there or during the day with many others enjoying the sun and sand and playing in the water, or at the end of the day when the golden light of sunset is falling, I can find joy in every moment.

 

Compassionate Service

Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen,

and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him…

Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny?

Will it lead to self-rule for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?

Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.

MOHANDAS GANDHI

 

March brings us to the cusp of winter and spring.  The vernal equinox and before our present calendar, the beginning of a new year.  This is the time when winter’s harsh weather and starkness give way to delicate green buds and flowers blooming.  Hildegard von Bingen referred to this time as veriditas, the true greening of ourselves and nature.  Spring is the season of hope and for many a time when the desire to create is strong.  What is happening in nature mirrors our own human spirit.

Cultivating new rituals, choosing  a new resolve and opening up to the infinite possibilities around us make March a perfect time to renew and restore.  We can choose to be better and do more. We can learn to be of compassionate service to others.  Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush share 5 ideas that may help move us in that direction.

be brave

start small

use what you’ve got

do something you enjoy

don’t overcommit

Using these five tenets can be used daily.  Notice what comes naturally and what has to be worked for.  See where you can be of service in your family, your neighborhood and your workplace.  When we get ourselves out of the way faithfulness and gratitude move in.  Enjoy the thrill of gratitude in your life as you choose conscious acts of compassionate service.

So as spring invites us to green ourselves look for those new possibilities to grow and bloom.

 

FOMO

In my meditation this morning I chose to listen to Tamara Levitt on my Calm App.  She let me through 10 minutes of quiet mediation and ended with some wise words on FOMO; the fear of missing out.  I found myself wanting to jump out of my chair with each point she raised.  “YES! YES! That’s so true!” I was thinking.  Over the past few weeks I have heard more and more of my friends and acquaintances sharing their dismay in the holidays.  Feeling lack, feeling lonely even depressed.  I hear them mentioning others in their conversations as if they wished they had those things the other had and not seeing their own blessings before them.

Social media can be a blessing and a curse.  If we choose to engage in this kind of interaction it can be a wonderful way of sharing happy moments with those who do not live near to us.  The problem comes when we view these “moments” and create a narrative or story around them.  We don’t stop to think is just a moment not the entire story of a day or a life.  The trap is easily set to walk into feelings of envy, loneliness, anxiety and depression.  It creates the opportunity to shift focus from what you have to what you don’t have.

Instead of allowing yourself to fall into the FOMO trap, before you open that social media page, why not stop and set an intention for yourself.  Why not view our own ordinary moments with appreciation and acceptance.  Perhaps we can look at those moments and delight in the moment of happiness for the person and follow it with that same delight for yourself.

So I challenge you to pause today before you check out of your life to place before you some things you are thankful for – it can be a person, an accomplishment, an object anything that gives you peace. For as Tamara said as she closed, “It’s in the absence of wanting that we find peace.”

Om Shanti! Peace be with you

Lea

The Sun’s Energy – Wholeness, Life Force and Love

I am a sun lover. A sun worshipper if you will. I love everything about it. I adore how each day I am greeted with both a sunrise full of promise and a sunset full of peace, a spectacular show put on by beams of light bouncing off of and through clouds in the sky. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of the sun warming your face on a cold winter’s day. It’s the sunlight and warmth of summer that we crave in the colder months. I love the sting of the hot summer sunlight cascading through my windows and the way the light dances off the ocean – shimmering and sparkling like diamonds.

There is a prayer known as the Gayatri which when offered up, addresses opening ourselves up, letting light into parts of your life that have been held in secret and bringing wholeness and energy to our lives.  It goes like this:

You who are the source of all power,

Whole rays illuminate the world,

Illuminate also my heart

So that it too can do Your work.

Reciting this and visualizing the sun’s rays streaming forth into the world, entering your heart, then streaming back out from your heart’s center into the world is powerful and healing.  If you let yourself open up and even visualize the cells of your body regenerating, you may experience more energy, compassion and love.  Jesus Christ reminds us in John 5:30, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” Jesus’ critics are persecuting Him, even attempting to kill Him, for breaking Sabbath traditions and claiming to be equal to God (John 5:18). Verse 30 summarizes the point Jesus made in the prior passage:  He is in perfect unity with God the Father.  This verse provides a bridge from Jesus’ claims about His unity with God into the evidence which supports these claims.  Jesus is justifying His teaching, and His ministry, by connecting it to the will of God.

As followers, by our own power we can do nothing.  We are vessels and as a Spiritual Warrior we open ourselves up to love flowing through us and out into the world.  It is Love with a CAPITAL L!

 

The sun is the life force of the earth. Without the devine combination of a number of factors — including the sun’s size, paired with our planet’s ideal distance from it, and the 24 hours the earth takes to spin on its axis allowing us to receive sunlight regularly — it can be said that life as we know it simply would not exist.

Without the sun, plants wouldn’t photosynthesize and produce oxygen for us to breathe. Without the sun we wouldn’t be able to see. Without the sun, the earth would simply float away out of orbit in the solar system. It’s no wonder that the adoration of the sun was one of the earliest and most natural forms of religious expression. In many cultures, light has long been a symbol of consciousness and illumination, and the opposition between light and darkness has informed the spiritual world of all peoples across almost every belief system no matter what you prescribe to.

The connection between the sun and the divine (or whatever your personal spiritual interpretation or higher being may be) also appears throughout yoga traditions, and any yogi, ancient or modern, will be familiar with sun salutations, a sacred prayer to the sun expressing reverence for the life-giving solar energy. Through asanas, one is said to be offering salutation to the divine, represented here by the sun, as a source of light, removing the darkness of a clouded mind.

Yin and yang. Light and dark. The sun and the moon.

The sun’s ultraviolet rays hitting our skin literally encourages hormonal changes in our bodies. Like all animals on earth, our biological processes are profoundly affected and even controlled by cycles of sunlight and darkness. When the sun comes up, the sunlight hits the optic nerve (through closed eyes). The light is then sent into the part of the brain which is in control of melatonin, the sleepy hormone. In response, our melatonin levels decrease and serotonin levels (the happy hormone) increase.

Sunshine boosts levels of serotonin which is why we tend to feel happier and more energetic when the sun shines. And the more sunlight the human body is exposed to, the more serotonin the brain produces. Regular sun can even stave off moderate depression, particularly if combined with exercise, which naturally releases endorphins, such as a morning walk along the beach.

We’re even capable of producing our own vitamins from the sun, specifically vitamin D which is essential for bone health. Though before you run outside and spend the entire day in the sun to do some healing, always remember to never over-expose yourself to the sun, and if you’re like me and are out in it almost every day, then you have to accept that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. I won’t bring up my childhood memories of sitting covered with baby oil and a record album covered with aluminum foil frying my face or a day at Jones beach that caused my evening to be spent lying naked on a bed while my boyfriends mother covered me in Nivea cream! (that was beyond embarrassing), but I will say use SPF and wear cover-ups. Think pretty caftans, loose white cotton shirts over bathing suits, wide-brim hats and sunglasses.

 

The Power of Love

I love affirmations.  I love and feel the power they offer when done consistently, even on those days we feel they are just words and they are not seeping deep into your bones.  The subconscious is always in the background picking up your energy whether you are “tuned in” or not.  That is why it is so important to love yourself.  In the midst of everything we place our judgements on, and typically we judge ourselves the most harshly, let us learn to change the channel.  To raise our vibration and hold love above all is powerful and healing. Our inability to love ourselves, or to give and receive love from others, is the cause of all illnesses. Love is the best natural cure.

Look in the mirror each morning.  Really gaze into your own beautiful eyes.  Tell yourself how much you love yourself. How much you value all that is you.  Have a deep appreciation for who you are; your power, your unique blueprint, your body and laugh, your dreams and desires.  Accept all the different parts of yourself—the little peculiarities, the embarrassments, the things you may not do so well, and all the wonderful qualities, too.

We are surrounded by energy. We ourselves are energy. The source of this energy is love. Love is the highest form of energy.  And all energy vibrates at different frequencies. Love forces vibrate at the highest frequency. Love has been seen as the greatest energy of life or the unified field of consciousness.  Love energy generates feelings of joy and happiness in both the receiver and the giver. It produces a flow of physical energy that feeds not only the physical body but the entire being. When you smile and people smile back, love energy has been given out and returned.

If we continuously hold only love in our hearts, we will notice whatever is not in alignment with harmony. We may have to deal with our suppressed remorse, resentment, fear or attachment. We need to clean out our subconscious. We have to release all the low frequency energy. With patience and through the regular practice of meditation, we can accomplish this. Life is a voyage of self discovery. To me, to be enlightened is to go within and to know who and what we really are, and to know that we have the ability to change for the better by loving and taking care of ourselves.

When you practice self love, you are continually naming and claiming all of who you are — even the scariest parts. It’s about developing your capacity to be aware, authentic and intentional in every aspect of your life. In doing so you’ll build greater self compassion and also enhance your ability to offer compassion to others.  We can really help the planet when we come from a space of great love and joy on an individual basis.

So begin now in this moment to choose love.

It’s the most powerful healing force there is.

And for those that need some guidance, practice some meditations, journal, and learn to speak your truth using the power of your voice to affirm your own self-love!

 

 

 

 

Setting Intentions

I began my yoga teacher training journey last night.  I spent four hours in a room with 17 women who I do not know but as I looked around at these strange faces I was conscious that by the end of the year they will be as safe and familiar to me as any one of my friends. In my commitment to hold myself to living a more authentic and present life, I have sought out some new, yet very old, ways of thinking and being.  Reiki is helping my physical body and grounding my energy.  Hypnosis is helping me tap into my gifts as an empath, intuitive and psychic.  It is also helping my physical body because as I let go of “bad” I release my lungs and open up my breath.  This training will deepen my already existing yoga practice and assist me in my path toward inner peace and self awareness.

I woke up thinking that I should set an intention for this journey.  Trace (my yoga teacher) talks about setting intentions for each class but I want to have an overall intention for this training.  Intentions are a critically important step in creating a dream life come true.  It is the creative power that fulfills all of our needs, whether for money, relationships, spiritual awakening, or love.  But if you’ve never written them before, it can be daunting. That said, an intention cannot be forced either. It’s a seed that you have to sow and then let reap on its own. You can’t set an intention that you don’t believe in. If it’s done forcefully, the purpose of the intention is ruined.

The definition of intention is two fold.  One reads, “a thing intended; an aim or plan.” While the other is, “the healing process of a wound.”  I understand that as an intention is an active desire to heal! The way to manifest an intention I think begins with quiet meditation.  Sitting in stillness and allowing yourself the time to breathe and be and listen to your highest self is what draws out our truest and deepest desires and dreams.

Everything that happens in the universe begins with intention. When I decide to buy a birthday present, brush my teeth, or call a friend, it all starts with intention.

The sages of India observed thousands of years ago that our destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires. The classic Vedic text known as the Upanishads declares, “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”

Your intention should be closely tied to your personal thoughts, values and perspective on life. Intentions can be a clear and specific wish, or as simple as a word or phrase you’d like to align yourself with, like “open your mind and heart,” “love,” “softness,” “strength,” “compassion for myself and others,” “peace,” or “freedom.” Try to keep the intention positive, so instead of saying “stop being a coward,” or “spend less time alone,” choose the intentions, “be courageous” or simply, “community”. Think of your intention like a seed.  Like real seeds, intentions can’t grow if you hold on to them. Only when you release your intentions into the fertile depths of your consciousness can they grow and flourish.

Here are some thought-starters to help you get started in forming an intention:

  • What matters most to you?
  • What would you like to build, create, or nurture in your life?
  • What would you like to let go of?
  • Who would you like to forgive in your life?
  • How do you feel when you are your happiest self?
  • What makes you proud?
  • What word(s) would you like to align yourself with?
  • What fears would you like to release?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • Keep your intention positive.
  • Make sure it can evolve.
  • Aim for short term.

10 Intentions You Can Borrow

  1. Find balance
  2. Open your mind and heart
  3. Peace
  4. Stay steady, calm and focused
  5. Act with courage
  6. Embrace change
  7. Give and receive love
  8. Allow yourself to be vulnerable
  9. Connect with others
  10. Love

“Intentions compressed into words enfold magical power.”
~Deepak Chopra

 

I am off to work on mine.

Jai!

 

Unusual – photo challenge

 

Unusual – Photo Challenge

So I was trying to decide on my something “unusual” for the photo challenge.  I have not posed in awhile and I wanted to be thoughtful in my selection.  Being a professional photographer and having my camera with me pretty much ALL THE TIME, I do spot some unusual things, events, and people.  Living in Charleston, SC, we have very hot and humid summers, short yet stunningly beautiful springs and most of winter feels like fall with a few days or weeks that could constitute winter-like weather. Back in 2014 we had an ice storm that pretty much shut down Charleston.  Our biggest bridge, the Arthur Ravenel, shut down due to gigantic icicles forming and then falling onto cars and the roadway.  In January, the camellias are beginning to bloom and they suffered from the freeze.  Here are some of the photos I shot just around our home.

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