Awakening the Goddess Within

I am pleased to share my newest poem, Awakening the Goddess Within.  The YouTube link takes you to the video with images and my voice recording. Please check it out and subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more original content.

I’ve hated my poor body for as long as I can think

I stared into this mirror wishing my fat would shrink

Diets upon diets, but they just called me fat

Until I started starving, feeling strong though I was weak

I’d jam my fingers down my aching throat

Retch burns as it burst forth

Sobbing in the toilet

Too sick to see my worth

Retching until bleeding and losing clumps of hair

But still it begged the question:

Is this life worth more than death?

I couldn’t stand to see me naked

Slivered silver stretch marked flesh

All I saw were rolls and numbers, shadowing the love

I tortured this poor body

With cuts, with men, with hate

Smiling when I’m starving

Puking when I ate

They insisted I must lose it

But all I heard was hate

I sacrificed my mind

My smiles

And my time

When they said to lose it, I sacrificed myself

When they said to lose it, there was no thought for health

Slivered silver knife wounds slice

Torturing the pounds and sense of self

For the sweetness of changing scales

Irrelevant extras vs larges

Even though I am no fool

If they want you to feel sexy, I could be a 12

But just two racks over, 18 and purging hell

The hatred coursed inside of me

A black beast upon my soul

I found those who could feed me

The pain I craved to know

If you were fool enough to love me,

I’d be sure to make you change

I love you could never fulfill me

When I hate you is what I crave

It wasn’t until I started seeing

The goddess here inside

Standing naked and resplendent

A Venus in her shell

Aphrodite’s tears are blood red

As so many of us know

They tell you you’re unworthy

They tell you to lose those pounds

They tell you that some makeup

Is the cure to all your frowns

They tell you to win the guy now

They tell you to keep him close

They tell you all the ways to hate you

Because they want you on your toes

You need to consume their fixes

Unworthy little hoes

It wasn’t until I saw the sacred

Silver slivers of a tiger

Who’s been to war in me

The scarred skin of a soldier

When the treaty begged for peace

This body has created life now

My body nurtured four

They just sat in judgement

Some called me a fucking whore

Because I just can’t win here

And I no longer care

I’m not here to please them

And I won’t make my heaven hell

I came play and love here

Because I am the goddess inside

I am naked in the moonlight

Silver slivers of my soul

Transcendence of Selene,

Transforming silver into gold

I am one with love and nurture

I am nature’s warrior soul

I’m in love with crown to root here

I cannot please them worth a damn

They say to hide away here

So I flay my soul more bare

I shine brightest in my darkness

Because I won the war in me here

And I no longer have a care

Enjoying my work? Is it resonating? Check out my other poem, Synchronicity. Please share, and connect with me across Social media via the below links:

Daina (OurBeautifulLies)- WordPress, My personal FB, OBL Blog Page on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramYouTube Channel

From Fear to Love: How my muses saved my writing

Inspiration comes to me like a flash. If I’m not prepared with something to write, I typically end up dropping everything and typing it on my phone. I’ve lost too many good epiphanies otherwise. The tough ones are when I am getting inspired out the wazoo as I’m trying to go to sleep. My muses don’t seem to have a circadian rhythm.

There are three muses in my life who similarly aren’t big on the concept of letting me sleep: my kids. Their inability to give me quiet time or an extra hour to sleep in notwithstanding, they are my everything. They are the reason I write and have been since I started. It was the mantra “My children will never cry my tears.” that started this journey.

I knew deeply if I did not stop my shit, I would pass it on to them. I remember thinking how they couldn’t know what I was doing when I was purging or starving, but the look of relief on my daughter’s face when I suggested we stop and get some food proved me dead wrong. I know how I speak to them will become their inner monologue. I’m human, I screw up, I get angry, I say dumb shit. I’ve always feared I was ruining their lives, I was screwing them up, etc. etc. Hurt people hurt people, and I was so terrified of hurting them. My pain radiated to my marriage until it imploded, it’s a natural assumption to fear what it could do to them.

All of that fear was the impetus to write, because I knew I could figure it out if I just wrote about it. I could have never expected the journey my writing has taken me on, but the more important reality is how much healing my writing has brought. I am world’s apart from the woman who started writing 2 years ago, and thank God for it.

Now, though, fear has no place in my life. Anything brought from a place of fear can only bring forth more fear, which is what happened when my mind shattered under the weight of my own pressure. This obsession with being well took me far, far down a rabbit hole of my psyche and shadows. It was a wonderful blessing wrapped in a curse. Carl Jung said, “Nothing more profoundly affects the mind of a child than the unlived life of the parent.” What he’s saying is we all project our fears on each other, most especially our kids. I didn’t want to project me not following my dreams on them. But, on my road to recovery, I connected with the reality: my writing will never be what it must be if it’s not born from a place of love. It’s only within the past month I’ve been able to write like I used to. Raw, honest, Me. I feel as though the words fall out of my fingertips and it’s meditation in action.

The shift was so simple, I don’t know why it did not occur to me sooner. Before, I wrote to save the children from my biggest fear: myself. Now, I write to save the children from their biggest challenges: themselves, society, and all the well meaning fools that will tell them now to follow their dreams. Then, as my kids get older, the instructions to chase dreams will be recanted and they’ll be told to get a real job. How many of us had our dreams shattered by a well meaning loved one? How many of us have an artist inside begging to come out while we sit behind a keyboard at a job we wish was anything else and make someone else rich, or make someone else’s dream come true?

My kids don’t listen to me worth a damn. I used to think talking about how they can do anything, etc. was enough, but the simple evidence of asking them to clean their rooms shows how well they listen. The same reality spurring my fear is the reality spurring my love: Kids watch and learn by example. If I am secretly starving myself, my kids are learning to hate their bodies. If I am sitting and writing, promoting, and actively pursuing my dream, my kids are learning to believe in themselves, their gifts, and their dreams.

This, to me, is my sacred duty as a mother. There are too many children trapped inside adults who were told they couldn’t cut it. There are too many of us full of doubt, remorse, regret, and confusion. This is probably going to sound weird, but it’s like killing Santa Claus over and over again. We tell our children there is magic in the world, we tell them Santa can do all of these incredible things. Then, when they’re old enough or when a kid on the playground decides to, we tell them it was a lie. We kill magic. Likewise, we tell the kid who wants to be an astronaut, firefighter, or artist they can do anything they set their minds to. When the chips are down, and it’s time to graduate high school, we encourage practicality and mortgage sized student loan debt.

If we starve our inner artist, or our inner child, look at the suffering we bring into ourselves. Depression and anxiety: how much of this is repressed dreams and gifts? I get so much anxiety if I am not writing, especially if I am having lots of ideas and I’m “too busy” to do anything with them. I write as much as I do just to stay on top of myself. Otherwise, I get overloaded, and I start panicking, and I’ll slump in depression. I mean, Christ, depression and repression sound pretty damn similar no?

Why are so many artists diagnosed ADHD, Bipolar, anxious, or depressed? This is our gift manifesting the wrong way. The sensitivity we have to life is our gift wrapped in a curse. We cannot express the mysteries, beauty, and perfection of art without feeling it immensely. We all know words are a pittance to reality, when we express pain or love, it’s nothing compared to truth. Yet our words come close, because of our gifts. If showing my kids the paths to their dreams, self worth, and self love is my sacred duty as a mother, writing about the beauty of reality is my sacred duty to life. Being completely authentic and truthful me, free of the bonds of people’s opinions, free of the bonds of fear, and free of repressed expression is my sacred duty to myself – my true self.

I can’t and won’t put my kids through a journey of trying to reconnect with something that was once crystal clear. When I was in 8th grade, I promised my teacher I’d dedicate my first book to her. There was not a shred of doubt I’d be a writer then. 21 years later, I’m finally “hey I should do something about that writing thing I liked to do…” I had so many dreams when I was younger. I was going to be POTUS, too. Dreams beget more dreams. I’m living my first dream now: I’m (technically) a stay at home mom raising 3 kids. I always saw that, I just didn’t understand the timing. They didn’t need me as a SAHM when they were babies, they need me now. Divine timing works that way, and it’s necessary to trust that. If you make your dreams known, worlds move to make that dream come true.

The people strong enough to step into their dream are the ones who make their dreams come true. The people who repress their dreams are the ones who have the shadows of regret and remorse. The only way I can be an example to my kids is to step into my dream and be a writer. It doesn’t matter the scale, I trust the universe on that one. They just need to see and hear me being a writer. Today. Not tomorrow, not one day. If I want to be a writer, I am a writer. Every time I press publish anywhere, I am a writer. That’s what they see. When my brain starts telling me I cannot, I picture the three of them, and I say of course I can. I have the best inspiration in the world. I have the best fan base in the world. My children.

How many of us are starving artists inside? I’m not talking financially. I am talking we have a muse, we  have a vision, we have a gift, and we are starved for expression. We take that gift, and shove it in the back of our psyche because it’s not practical.  Thank God for my children, otherwise I never would have started trying. I would have lied to myself to my deathbed and wondered where my life went. I have only truly experienced life to its fullest when I saw my dreams were already coming true, and all I had to do was step into them.  I hope, if you are struggling with your dream or believing in yourself, this inspires you to take the first steps. That’s how every journey begins.

What about you? Are you living your dreams? Who inspires you to live your dreams? If the answer is no, are you going to change it? 

Let’s connect! Follow me all around the web

Daina (OurBeautifulLies):

 

 

A Tale of Synchronicity (Part 2)

A Tale of Synchronicity (Part 1)

Yesterday, I wrote about the overall connections and experience of the mural. Today, I am honored to share the poem inspired by the mural. This poem was written sitting indian style watching Leah & Rachel paint at about midnight or so at Shanteel Yoga Sanctuary. 

I don’t think I have ever written a poem more easily. The words fell out of my pen. This mural is a vortex of honesty, inspiration, and authenticity. It’s as if your soul has to leap out of your mouth by its side. Shanteel has that effect on you. There is no room for a mask in her. Our hearts and souls are in every brushstroke, and I’m so honored to have been included in the manifestation. Now, on to the poetry!

Feel free to subscribe to my new YouTube channel – I will be posting more original poetry, and possibly doing some random videos. 

Synchronicity

When you close your eyes, what do you see?

The glistening pools of infinity,

Or are you mourning upon a desolate sea?

Where do you come from?

Who is your home?

Where is the space between you and your soul?

Who are you without the name you were given?

What is the space between your heart and your living?

Have you ever met someone and found destiny?

Did anyone tell you you’re too blind to see,

Cascading the ripples in your blackened sea,

Triggering a sensation of the web binding you and me?

There’s no time too distant

No day too long

No one to break it

The ties too strong

Breathe in, embrace it

Breathe out, face it

Your destiny has happened,

Don’t let your thoughts replace it.

The wheels start turning

The moment sparks ignite

Let presence consume you

The wrongs will always be right

Trust in yourself

Trust in other

The world is creation

A space beyond limitation

See the human behind the eyes

Rise above your own wolf lie cries

We’re a tapestry interwoven, perfection’s bliss

Spots on canvas, lips of inspiration’s kiss

Paint your dreams into realities color

See yourself when you hear another

When you close your eyes, know it’s the space you’re creating

A dream in the stars, or nightmares unabating

In the darkest night, the dawn of new moon

Open your heart, let your dreams make you swoon

Whisper dreams to the brightest star

Trusting and Knowing that’s who you are

Make your wish, it is granted

As a tree born when the seed is planted

As stardust in sky, your tears were collected

Remove the dust cloths of the dreams you neglected

Our Mother will guide you to divine destination

The only delay is your own hesitation

Feel the wisdom inside of this rhyme

The only separation is the illusion of time.

Social Media Links – Let’s connect!!!

Daina (OurBeautifulLies)- WordPress, My personal FB, OBL Blog Page on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Rachel – Instagram

Leah – Instagram, Facebook

If you are nearby, please experience: Shanteel Yoga Sanctuary – Website, Facebook

A Tale of Synchronicity (Part 1)

If synchronicity is an unfamiliar term, I’ll summarize it like this: seemingly unconnected events that work together to put you in the best (or worst) place possible. Carl Jung said, “Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see” For me, it has always been: everything happens for a reason. Synchronicity taught me to come away from the illusion of instant gratification and trust everything serves to bring me where I’m supposed to be, even if it makes absolutely no sense at the time. It makes it easier for me to relax and be present in the moment. Synchronicity is often talked about it relation to repeating numbers, probably the most popular one is 11:11

There is no end to possibility when you trust that all is well. I could not say that until I finally stopped doubting myself – I was seeing repeating numbers constantly and literally asking out loud “What the hell could possibly be okay, I’m a mess!!!!” and it wasn’t until I accepted I do not know better than the universe, and if She’s telling me everything’s okay, I should say thank you. Once that click happened, every piece of the puzzle I will attempt to tell fell into place within months. This story is a series of dominoes, with even more connections I am leaving out for the sake of clarity and brevity.

Leah Painting

Did you ever meet someone and have a feeling they are meant to be in your life? I have always held a belief that everyone I meet is for a purpose because I believe everything in life happens for a reason. I learned this when 19 and placed my first daughter with her adoptive parents. I understood the pain was worth it, because if I had not dated her biological father, I would never have met my husband and had my three children. I have always been able to find the bright side of life, so to speak, and I have always found when I sought it, I would find it rather quickly.

That was until I met a man named Jake. I cannot explain why I felt the way I did about him, or why I allowed the relationship to become what it was. He somehow a catalyst to me going on a journey of looking harshly at myself in the mirror, healing my traumas, battling my demons, whatever term you’d like to use. I finally started writing again after giving up on myself, I stopped killing myself with alcohol and eating disorders, allowing myself to be used by men, and on and on. I started, instead, practicing yoga, meditation, journaling, and on and on. The pain of unrequited love is exquisite. It pushes you to darkness you did not know existed. There are so many songs and works of art distilled from the place of a broken heart. Sometimes I would joke my emotional poetry about him alone was worth the price of admission.

I’ve spent two and a half years becoming myself. After my life shattered and I went to the mental hospital again, I tried to rebuild the pieces. I scrapped that and decided to just be who I wanted to be, instead of what everyone had told me I should be. I think that is a journey we all must go on. Maybe not to the extremes I had to go to, but I’m stubborn. I really liked being miserable, clearly. I’ve always been grateful to him for that.

The pain of Jake helped me become who I am, but I struggled with accepting that as closure. I could not get over this dude, it was like MRSA. It would get a little better, then come back with more crap. I spent 2 years pining for a man who literally told me over and over he did not love me. I spent 2 years begging, messaging, stalking?, a dude that blocked me, rejected me, etc. But this taught me how pain and beauty are an inseparable process. Pain teaches you to appreciate the beauty, and beauty heals the pain.

This week, the pain taught me to appreciate the beauty when this journey and chapter came to a close. I had met a woman named Rachel through Jake. I kept in touch with her since  because the second I met her, I knew she was special. Have you ever had that? Where you just know this person is meaningful? We barely saw each other – 2 times since! But, she stayed in my heart and mind thanks to Facebook. She posted an incredible mural earlier this year. My friend Claudine, who owns Shanteel Yoga Studio, mentioned she wanted a mural, so I did not hesitate to recommend Rachel.

This is Rachel’s first mural. If you don’t see why I recommended her immediately and why Claudine hired her immediately, please get your eyes checked. It’s almost impossible to believe she and Leah could outdo this!

A few months later, Rachel and her friend Leah began work on one of the most beautiful and inspiring pieces of art I have ever seen. When I think of synchronicity, I think of stars aligning. It’s a series of events that put you in a place you are meant to be. In this instance, Jake put me in a place to meet two women who created a masterpiece, and changed my life for the better. The three of us – Rachel, Leah, and I – spent the week of the mural creation bonding,  inspiring, and changing each other’s lives. I am not exaggerating when I say, I’d go through this all over again for this project, and to meet these women. The pain I have overcome makes the appreciation of the sweetness, beauty, and magic that much more pleasant.

I keep thinking this is only the beginning. This mural came from a place of healing, opening our hearts, and expressing our souls. The only way this is possible is from synchronicity. I went from doubting myself, doubting my belief in how the world works, to seeing I was being impatient. Everything happens in the time it must. There were so many pieces of this puzzle that had to fall in place. Shanteel opening, Rachel painting, Leah and Rachel meeting, and me recommending them. The synchronicity of these events alone is a magnificent work of art, and my words don’t do it justice. The mural they created, the poetry it is inspiring, the healing, and the loving connections and community this is building is transcendent. A chance meeting while I was on a bad date began a  journey towards immortality. Leah, Rachel and I put our souls in the mural. In art and love, we are eternal.

This story taught me the greatest lessons: patience, trust, but most importantly: to appreciate the ever present reality of synchronicity – this week gave us all eyes to see it.

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Please follow along as I develop this story further. This is one tiny piece of the mural, a silly selfie of me (glasses) and my two new sisters.  We will all be unveiling more pictures across our social media in the coming days. They say a picture says a thousand words, but I say this one has only one word: Joy! Please follow us on this amazing journey by following these links and experiencing beautiful art:

Daina (OurBeautifulLies)- WordPress, My personal FBOBL Blog Page on FacebookTwitterInstagram

Rachel – Instagram

Leah – Instagram, Facebook

If you are nearby, please experience: Shanteel Yoga Sanctuary – Website, Facebook

Marketing Art

The reason why you are struggling in your dream is not because of external forces. It’s because of a simple, logical one word answer: you. You lack marketing. You’re not marketing yourself – to yourself. How you speak and how you interact with the world is your brand, and your number one customer is you. Everyone else will follow your lead.

Coke does not tell you that they can clean a toilet bowl with their product. It’s true, but they don’t advertise that. They make you lick your lips when they talk about how badly you want that Coke and how much better you feel. They do not tell you how much sugar or calories it contains.

Are you following me? If you are advertising this shit to yourself, you will not hire yourself, you will not purchase from yourself, you will not read your poem, blog, article, buy a painting, get a tarot reading. Why would you? Why would they.

Marketing is strategic and logical. It is the left side of the brain and usually the weaker side of the brain in artists especially because they are right brained. Without marketing: internally and externally, you will not find a consumer. Research the law of 7s in marketing. Email lists, social media, everything is crucial, but finding your niche and finding your message is marketing. And you must market your art. You must network. You must be the CEO of your art. It’s balance. It’s analytical and strategic.

But it’s worthless if you don’t do it on yourself first.

Contact me if you’d like to discuss ways to better market your art, if this is of interest.

Feel free to follow me on Facebook, Blog page, I’m @mahbuttitches on Instagram and @ourbeautifullie on twitter. Let’s connect!!

❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

What Doesn’t Kill You…

(From my Facebook)

Truer now than ever. I think the key to happiness is just being your fucking self. Good, Bad, ugly. It’s in the shadows of yourself you find unconditional love. Carl Jung taught me what I dislike in another is what I dislike in me. Weakness and vulnerability were two traits I detested. I fought everything about myself to the point I lost myself. All because I didn’t want to ask for help.

The second I finally started realizing I can’t do this alone is the second everything changed, but I had to damn near kill myself quite a few times to learn that lesson. I’m proud of my scars. I survived my own self destruction more

Times then I can count. Now they remind me

to love. Always always always find love.

What doesn’t kill you makes you compassionate. What doesn’t kill you makes you a shoulder for another. What doesn’t kill you makes you see the power in vulnerability and authenticity. Vulnerability and authenticity are strength. What doesn’t kill you makes you wiser. What destroys you makes you wiser. The things you never thought you could get through make you wiser. There is no greater strength than wisdom. Smiling and saying I’m fine as you kill yourself inside is weakness. We gotta change these narratives and lies we tell ourselves.

Ask. For. Help. If you think it’s not okay, it’s not okay. When you start talking, the conversation can finally change. ❤️

I Cannot Worry About The Future if I Am Experiencing My Present

Right now I’m reminding myself frequently: I cannot worry about the future if I am experiencing my present.

That does not mean I don’t have thoughts or worries about the future. It simply means I redirect my focus to the present. In the mental hospital, I was taught a grounding exercise: identify things through the five senses. What do I see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Feel?

Not surprisingly, there are many types of meditation that teach this presence and mindfulness is taught as a way to connect with now.

I also learned positive affirmations in the mental hospital and from my psychologist. This is very similar to a powerful invocation called the Sankalpa, or your heart’s desire. You meditate quietly for a few moments, then allow something you want to arise from a place that transcends your thinking mind.

In any of these practices: grounding, mantra, Sankalpa, mindfulness, meditation, etc. gratitude is fundamental to reaching these states. Gratitude is a place that transcends the ego, the anxiety, and the depression because it places power outside of your thinking mind. If a few moments are taken to see and appreciate everything – good and bad – by acknowledging everything has happened to bring this moment, the ego becomes quiet, confused, and powerless. Gratitude helps with acceptance too. In my journey, being thankful for being bipolar taught me to stop fighting being bipolar. In any situation, I guide my focus to gratitude. Even the worst situations, I can still be thankful I’m breathing.

Once gratitude helps center, I can “hear myself think” better. This is when positive affirmation or Sankalpa helps. It’s a statement in the present of something you wish to accomplish. My first Sankalpa was “I am peaceful, loving, trusting whenever I am confused or upset” this arose as a need for me to shift because as soon as my moods did what my moods do, or depression made me feel worthless, etc. I question every decision I’ve ever made, doubt myself, and worry about my entire journey.

Pretty quickly, I saw this shift. I couldn’t say how specifically, but I started listening to myself and trusting myself more. I recited the Sankalpa after connecting with gratitude and repeated it three times. I also recited it before meditating and bed.

Right now, my Sankalpa is “I am love”. This has led me to stop getting into my head about the future and experience the present instead. Love is action, not a noun. It’s a dynamic, ever changing energy. Love is not clinging or fear, so worrying about the future is the opposite of love.

If these practices are of interest, hop on YouTube. There are guided meditations to set a Sankalpa, to connect with mindfulness, and gratitude practices. I do general searches and just pick whatever I feel pulled to pick. This helps to connect with intuition too. If the spirituality side of things feels weird, check out positive affirmations and I Am statements, mindfulness exercises for depression or anxiety, and try journaling 3 gratitudes daily. It’s the same, just different words and more or less talk of God.

Do things that resonate with you and you alone. Never force a practice that doesn’t resonate or force yourself to do anything a certain way because someone else does it. All the self help books, guides and all this have good intentions, but each of us walks differently with different feet, shoes, and baggage. Meet yourself where you are at and with what you want, and find the resources that support and work for you. At the end of the day, being in your life and experiencing your life now is what is important. Not the past, not the future.

Me vs. me

The most frustrating aspect of bipolar or mood disorders (including ADHD) is there are essentially at least two diametrically opposed personalities in your life. There’s the person who can handle it and the one who can’t. They’re both you, it’s not multiple personality disorder, but one you is on the ball and trying to improve and the other you is overwhelmed, anxious, and wondering how the hell to get half of what was done before done now.

This has been an ongoing battle in my life. When things are good, I’m on the ball, organized, house clean, and dotting all my lower case j’s. When things are not, I don’t even know where to start. I call it going down holes. It’s frustrating because as far as I can go up is as far as I can go down. Most of this year has been me trying to teach myself baseline. An area where I can manage and cope without too much pressure either way. Things that are easy on good weeks are difficult on not good weeks. I make commitments on good weeks that are impossible on bad. And then I have to dig myself out of the holes my moods can go to.

Buddhism taught me impermanence and to relieve myself of expectations. The largest part of my suffering was in comparing myself to myself and to others. I am not the person I was five minutes ago, let alone last week. This frees me to just do my best every day. It doesn’t matter what I did or didn’t do previously. It’s also okay to be overwhelmed, because I have a lot going on. Carving time to meditate creates space to just be and allow myself to be however I am without fixing me.

I am not my house or my to do list. Some days, I just need to cope with my Newtonian moods watching me go up and inevitably come down. Ram Dass said his stroke is a grace from God, because he finally learned to ask and receive help. He is paralyzed on his left side saying this is grace. I’ve been pondering his beautiful words for a month, and I agree.

Bipolar is my grace from God. If I had not gone into full blown psychosis, I would never have started asking for help. If I hadn’t started seeing my mood swings, irritability, and suffering, I would never have turned to Buddhism for help. I would have followed the path others laid for me, and never become me. I would have never accepted me. I would never have expressed me. I look at the weeks I go down in the hole as me just needing rest. Does it suck to have to dig out and try to get back to baseline? Sure. But I have a baseline now. I know when I’m off, and I know what to do when I’m off.

And I know how to ask for help now. I’m not ashamed for needing help. I am not ashamed that I can’t do it all. I’m not ashamed of myself. None of this would be possible without the grace of bipolar. My creativity, problem solving, personality, empathy, and compassion all come from being “batshit crazy” as I called myself before. There are kind of two or more me’s in here, and at least we’re all playing nicer in the sandbox. Even if I gotta pick up my slack sometimes.

I believe our greatest challenges are our greatest strengths. This becomes apparent when we stop fighting with ourselves and love the good, bad, ugly, and all in between.

Pay Attention

Do you know what your greatest gift, asset, tool, etc. is? Do you know the most powerful part of you? Do you know the one part of you, that if you use it wisely, it will change your life?

It is your focus.

Focus is something most of us struggle with immensely. The climbing rates of ADHD diagnosis in adults and children are testament to our struggles with the power of focus. Most of us pride ourselves on our abilities to multitask, but the reality is multitasking, over-committing, and generally being too busy is one of the biggest reasons we are miserable. (No shit Sherlock). The reason, though, isn’t because we are tired or stressed. It’s because we are maligning our greatest and most powerful gift.

Take a moment and think of people you deem wildly successful, the people you wonder how they did it, or what their secret is. There’s a common denominator: focus. Take a musician: they focused on their gift and passion until it became their reality. They don’t just work in music, they live music. They tour, write, perform, and embody music. How did they get there? “I never gave up, I never stopped believing in myself, I practiced every day…”

Most of us dismiss them as “lucky” or how we can’t possibly do that because “here in the real world…” However, we overlook the simple trick they use that can change everything for us: focus.

Do you fixate on things? Do you ever wonder why sometimes you just want to do the same thing, and other weeks it barely crosses your mind? Do you have interests that you want to incorporate in your life, but you can never seem to find the time?

These fixations are your inner compass, and they are a blessing, a gift, and guidance. Call it God, your higher self, intuition, the Holy Spirit, or channeling divinity. I don’t care. What your fixation or focus is trying to help you with is what you need to do to help yourself to be happy and fulfilled.

When we multitask and overwhelm ourselves, we erode our powerful focus, and like a muscle, lack of use creates weakness and lack of results. Our society loves to erode our focus. How many times do we check Facebook or even just our phones in a day? How many times can you say, “I just did one thing for like an hour.” When you go to work, how many things are you doing at once to be productive. Are you actually productive? How is your energy?

Have you ever watched a kid actually playing? Not video games, I’m talking driving a car on a floor, building a puzzle, or taking Barbie on a date with Ken? The outside world doesn’t exist to these kids. As a matter of fact, the kid doesn’t exist to the kid. There’s no mental observer, “I am making Barbie perfect, but up next I really must see about my muffins in the oven and good God that laundry!” It just doesn’t happen. They’re focused and immersed, which means they, and all their problems (kids have problems too) don’t exist.

What happens then? They’re happier! Have you ever dealt with an overstimulated kid? It’s fucking hell! My kids are constantly overstimulated, then they overstimulate me, and I want to go weep under a blanket for a month, pondering how to simultaneously be a great mom and hermit in a mountain, and if there’s a wawa located in any mountains.

Why wouldn’t we realize if kids can get overstimulated and turn into dickbags, most of the dickbags you encounter in your life (especially yourself!) are also overstimulated, unfocused, and outta their damn mind. We’re all chocolated-up toddlers demanding nap time 24/7!

We lack focus. Without focus, we’re generally ships without a compass lost in a world of circular thinking, rumination, habitual confused behavior, escapism, and in need of that nap.

Or, perhaps, more accurately: our focus is squandered in the wrong place. When you have that rare five minutes of quiet time, what do you focus on? Your blessings, or your problems? If you’re a resident of this planet, I bet problems are the more likely answer, although you’d try to caveat it with, but I’m really happy with my life, it’s just….

Focusing on something is transformative. In that, your focus takes you away from your idea of yourself, or your ego. We all have imaginary worlds we live in, where expectations run the show and expectation and reality are perpetually two ships passing in the night. When expectation and reality don’t align, frustration is a constant. When you focus on something and come away from your chattering monkey brain, suddenly shit makes more sense. Why? Because our brains can’t actually solve problems. Our ego, our idea of ourself, doesn’t do anything but take past data and attempt to answer a question. This just puts us in circles. This is what we all do when we have a problem, and it never actually solves our problems.

If anything, what if we create the outcome we don’t want? If you have a situation, and you’re focusing on the thing you don’t want to happen, how often does the thing you don’t want to happen come to fruition? When it does, do you feel a sick satisfaction that, although you’re miserable, at least you were prepared for it?

What if you made it happen though?

Your focus isn’t just what you’re doing, it’s what you’re creating in your life. Focus on peace, you will find peace. Focus on not wanting to fight about the dirty dishes, how many times did you end up fighting about dirty dishes? Focus on too much, and you end up confused and tired.

If you think about driving: if you focus on not hitting a pedestrian, you’ll find yourself inevitably steering away from the pedestrian you are somehow drifting towards. Where you set your focus is where you go, and focus doesn’t understand not. You’re staring at the pedestrian saying, “I don’t want to hit this 90 year old gentleman carrying his groceries”. Your focus says, “oh you wanna go to that guy? Got it!” Next thing you know, you’re jerking the wheel after startling someone’s grandpa. Google target fixation motorcycles and you can see this concept repeated in thousands of articles.

I think everyone has ADHD to varying degrees. ADHD is not a lack of focus, it is a lack of focusing on what someone else wants you to focus on. This is why school age children have these letters. The little bastards just don’t want to sit in a chair for 8 hours listening to someone talk about shit they’re not interested in. I don’t know any adults who struggle like that 🙄 Hell, this is a longer post: how well are you getting through it? Are you still reading? We all try to write less to keep our readers’ attentions because none of us have any!

ADHD, when framed properly, is a superpower, and we all have access to it. How many artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs have either ADHD or bipolar? How many stories have you heard where some wildly successful person sucked at school? Why is this? Their focus didn’t give a shit about anything but their focus, and they listened to it. An incredible musician can’t be incredible if they don’t play their instrument constantly. That’s great, because that was their focus. An inventor doesn’t give a shit about anything but making an iPhone. That’s great, because that was their focus.

We all have this to varying degrees because no brain is the same. Your focus could be as simple as wanting to drink a cup of tea and write in your journal. You put it off because your busy, and you end up grumpier than usual, because you didn’t do what you wanted to do. That urge did not come from your brain, either. We all know there’s a place in us that we can’t quite put into words, and when we don’t listen to it, it becomes a “man, I wish I had just….”

Focus is key. Our egos love to plan, dictate, tell us or shortcomings and problems. When we listen, we find lots more shortcomings and problems, and we create more of the same. Why? That’s where the power of our focus was squandered. If you do sit and journal with your tea, you may just find the answer to the question that’s been bugging you. If you go to that class you said you didn’t have time for, go to the gym, write the blog, etc: epiphanies can happen. You didn’t think of it, no amount of rumination did it. It wasn’t until you used your focus to not focus on creating problems did you, in fact, see through the problem.

Once I tapped into focusing on what I want versus what I didn’t want, life got better. Don’t get trapped by instant gratification. I didn’t practice yoga once and I am a billionaire with no cares in the world. My problems are exactly the same, I just see them differently. For me, focus and fixation come in approximately 1-2 week bursts. This week, my fixation has been practicing yoga nidra. This is something I had practiced when I started meditating, but didn’t know what it was called. It just made sense to lay down, close my eyes, and chill the fuck out. The week before was yoga. I pick one focus – whatever is pulling me the most – and I let that dictate my week. I’m busy, and I’m a mom. I don’t have tons of time. I keep my practices simple, I don’t let them become a guilt factor or burden. I just let it be my focus. Everything still gets done, but I redirect and focus on the fixation of the week when I start ruminating. Some weeks it’s cleaning my house, or writing, or journaling. I call my week whatever fixation I have, and it is my compass. I cut back on the shit I don’t need to make time for the shit I do. I can’t and won’t do everything I want or should do, so I pick one and I let my day focus on that. If it’s a yoga week, I plan my schedule around getting to yoga. If it’s a writing week, I wake up and write before I get distracted, etc.

What have you been wanting to do? What do you keep putting off? Where is your focus being squandered? If you had more time, what would you be doing? Start focusing on these questions, and I’ll bet things begin shifting. Keep focusing on the things you don’t want, and don’t be surprised when you told yourself so. Your focus will create your reality. Start using it to your benefit. What can you focus on today? Hit me up in the comments, this is my current fixation, and I want to talk more!

Up next, I’ll give you some more personal examples of my focus and fixation, a couple steps I took to get my focus back, and what changes I’ve observed since. Thanks for reading, and share the love if this was enjoyable, relevant, or semi coherent.

Using Your Body to Discipline Your Mind

Yesterday was Summer Solstice. At my yoga studio, Shanteel, we did 108 Sun Salutations to welcome summer. This was my second time – the first was for Spring Equinox. It’s a very challenging practice, taking about 2 hours to complete. It’s also deeply healing and eye opening.

Yoga is not about getting in better shape, although it helps. It’s not even about getting in proper postures, or looking like the Instagram pictures. Yoga teaches using the body to discipline the mind. I think when any of us are doing something repetitive and challenging, our brains love to comment on its difficulty and our inability to do it. If we listen to the chatter, the difficulty grows exponentially. Every ache, muscle, etc becomes screaming resistance.

It becomes a mind over matter situation, and yoga demonstrates this perfectly. As I was thinking how hard this was, I was struggling until I caught myself. I went to child’s pose, rested, and changed my internal monologue to a simple “I can do this”. I whispered it to myself as I was in downward facing dog. Eventually, thoughts ceased and all that remained was the sensation of my body, with my eyes closed, moving through the postures. I became focused solely on alignment and positioning, and allowed myself to just move without commentary. I stopped when needed for water or rest, but I was acutely aware of how many more sun salutations I did, how few rests I took, and how much my practice improved since spring.

I didn’t have to modify by dropping my knee in lunges, I could stay up. I was keeping my elbows hugged in for transition. More importantly, my internal monologue became kind and encouraging as opposed to critical and belittling.

Nowadays, it seems difficult to hear ourselves think. I didn’t notice it until I started meditating. I never noticed how critical and mean I was. On the outside, I was so nice to everyone, but on the inside, I was downright mean. This sets you up for terrible projections. If you are constantly criticizing and hating yourself internally, you’ll project those feelings unconsciously on the people you love. Their words and interactions will be perceived with negative intents where none were present. It’s inevitable.

It’s only by bringing awareness to the mental chatter that you can change it. Yoga helps because as much as you may feel good after a practice, it’s rare you want to contort your body in bizarre ways, sweat in places you didn’t know you could, all while trying to breathe and quiet your mind. My mind loves to tell me how hard it all is, yet not once have I lost a limb or died in practice. I generally get sore and relaxed.

This experience carries into day to day, as you become more aware of your monkey brain and realize that your thoughts are messing with your reality. Sure, my house is messy, but in my thoughts, it’s an insurmountable Mount Everest of dishes and laundry, my kids are bound and determined to drive me insane with messes, and I’ll never ever know what it’s like to be done cleaning. In reality, some music and a few hours of focus gets me where I need to be.

I never would have thought I’d be capable of 108 sun salutations. I remember struggling to even commit to 3 as I practiced on YouTube. I was scared of even joining a yoga studio. I thought I was too fat, too this, too that to join a studio. I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the classes. Yet, there I was, in reality, flowing through 108 sun salutations with my community.

If I had listened to my brain, I wouldn’t have a family at Shanteel. I wouldn’t have found my home, where I go to find myself daily. I wouldn’t have found my strength or beauty. I would have just sat around letting my brain kick my ass, as opposed to kicking my ass on the mat to see how much further I can go beyond my thoughts.

Last night was even more special for me. I promised myself I was going. I negotiated if I had to miss regular classes, I’d go. Because this is the week after my period, which means it’s depression week. Awareness of my cycle has helped me plan around my hormones. I know these weeks are tough for me. My energy is low, my mood is typically low, and life is harder than usual. My house is a mess, because I didn’t have the energy to keep up. My kids are home, and I had to let them do screens more than I’d like so I could rest more than usual.

Normally, depression weeks are harder to practice yoga for all these reasons. I’ve promised myself to try to get to 2-3 classes/week versus my normal 5-7. I’ve promised myself to rest without judgement, and listen to my body without criticism. I had to nap most of the day yesterday, but I got to the 108. All day, I was thinking of reasons I couldn’t or shouldn’t. All day, my brain wouldn’t shut up, and all day, I had to ignore it, because I promised myself I was going.

Depression used to be a call for mania, where I would force myself to hide everything away and pretend everything was great. I’d pile on activities and do anything to distract myself and hide it. Depression was 75% of the time for me. As I pushed, intrusive thoughts would begin screaming at me, I’d become suicidal, and driving would be a challenging experience of internally telling myself why driving into a phone pole or oncoming traffic was a terrible idea. Once I stopped that insanity, and allowed myself to feel depression, I became aware of how debilitating it was. I felt sad for all my body has been through as I fought. Once I accepted depression as a state I go through, episodes become shorter and less debilitating.

After about a year of regular yoga practice, almost 2 years of regular meditation, etc etc. I just did 108 sun salutations while I was having a bout of depression. This practice is about releasing what no longer serves you. What no longer serves me is telling myself I can’t be everything I want to be. What no longer serves me is being a slave to my thoughts and endless brain chatter. I am way, way stronger than I think I am. We all are. The only true limits that exist are the stories we tell ourselves.