Happiness Hacks: Mental Health Month – Week Five

That’s a wrap! What an amazing month it has been! Our guests have blown us away with their insights, honesty, education, and openness, and the last week was no exception.

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Grace Goodwin Dwyer

Grace is a registered dietitian and lactation expert here in Nashville. She helps women to prioritize when it comes to nutrition.

On Intuitive Eating

She gave us some wonderful advice on how to incorporate intuitive eating into our daily routine. Intuitive eating is based on the idea of eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. Simple right? But in today’s culture of a million diets, intuitive eating promotes a healthy attitude towards food and body image. She gave us some wonderful advice on satiety and how to incorporate intuitive eating into our daily routine.When it came to wanting sweets after a meal, Grace had three suggestions:

  1. Ask yourself if you are still actually hungry and you need more of the meal that you just ate (remember eating slowly and with intention will help you decide this!)
  2. If the answer is no and you are satisfied, but still can’t get rid of that sweet tooth, then Grace suggests satisfying that craving in a manageable amount so that later on you don’t over do it because you denied yourself for so long.
  3. Move on sans guilt! (We love this)

On Mental Wellness

As with many of our other takeover guests have recommended, Grace recommended getting recommended getting that a daily dose of fresh air and moving your body in some way as a simple way to manage stress and boost your mental wellness each day..is important for mental wellness.

On What to Eat

Finally, Grace gave us some killer ideas for wholesome meals. Her key: eat food that makes your body and mind feel good. Here is one of our favorites, simply pick an item from each of the 3 categories and you have an easy, balanced and satisfying snack:

Category 1

  • dried apricots or figs
  • cherries, berries
  • sliced apples, pears, peaches, melon
  • cucumbers, broccoli, celery, pickles

Category 2

  • toasted bread
  • pita chips
  • seed crackers
  • tortilla chips
  • flatbread crisps

Category 3

  • nut butter
  • guacamole
  • yogurt dip
  • edamame
  • sliced meat (deli or leftover)
  • tofu cubes
  • nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts)
  • seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
  • spreads (pesto, tapenade, hummus, babaganoush)

For more, visit Grace’s website.

 

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Amanda Bell

Amanda Bell is the owner and manager of Bend and Zen Hot Yoga Nashville. She shares why yoga has been so pivotal to helping her maintain mental wellness.

On the Ripple Effect of Yoga

Originally, Amanda was drawn to yoga for the physical benefits, but as her practice continued to develop, she began to notice a ripple effect. She started to gain mental endurance, learning non-reactiveness and resiliency, and taking those lessons and applying them “off the mat”. She learned how to use breathing techniques as a source to calm and realign herself with the present moment. And most importantly, she learned how to connect with her emotions.

On Movement and Emotions

Yoga has given her a safe space for her to experience and show her emotions. As a business owner, she had often felt that she needed to keep her emotions under lock and key. She has found that during her yoga practice, she is able to tap into emotions that she has been storing her body.. Sheshared these insights for deeper emotional connection:

  • By moving your body you are changing hormone levels. This endorphin release can help to bring about an improvement in mood.
  • One does not always need to maintain a  tough and strong persona. Allow yourself to show a softer and more vulnerable side in order to create depth in your emotional range. Doing this in a safe space is a great place to start.

On Where to Begin with Yoga

  • Studio hop! Explore each of the studios in town to find a place that feels like home.
  • Give yourself permission to let go of something that isn’t serving you, knowing that you can show up however you need to the class.
  • Show yourself some love and grace when starting your yoga practice.

On Meditation

  • Meditation doesn’t have to look a certain way – all you need is a quiet space.
  • Taking a moment to breathe can help you move forward from a place of anxiety.
  • It is not about not thinking, but controlling what you are thinking about, choose one single touchstone as your focal point.

Decide what takes real-estate in your head.

For more, visit Amanda at Bend and Zen.

 

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Ali Schaffer

Ali Schaffer is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in reframing and helping clients find a new perspective. Reframing is not about simply putting a positive spin on situations, because we’d miss the lessons from big emotions and difficult conversations by doing that. Reframing is about creating a new view or experience of something so that we can arrive at new solutions that we might not have seen before. Remember, some situations don’t end in a solution, but a new ability to exist in an elevated level of understanding.

On Big Emotions

Ali reminded us that big or heavy emotions have value. The ability to experience these emotions improves the depth and the richness of our human experience. In fact, trying to avoid, run away, or diminish heavy emotions could be taking more of a toll on us than we realize.

On Comparative Suffering

Comparative suffering can be explained as “This isn’t as bad as someone else’s situation, so I am not justified to feel this way”. When we experience emotions through comparative suffering we:

  • Set ourselves up to discount or diminish what we are experiencing, creating an unhealthy view of the emotion or experience.
  • Put a value or judgement on the emotion.
  • Set ourselves up in a place where we can’t move forward.

Instead, Ali suggests taking a “both/and” approach

  • Both aware of your own experience and acknowledge the experience of the other person/people.

On How to Approach Therapy

  • Think about what you are looking for? What is going on in your life, can you name it? If you don’t know the answers specifically– that is ok!
  • Schedule an intake phone call. This is a great opportunity to have a conversation with a therapist to see if they are the right fit for you.
  • Go to a session!
    • You don’t have to be an expert at “going to therapy”.
    • You can let the therapist know that you need help navigating the experience.
    • Virtual sessions are making going to sessions even easier.
    • Try out a few sessions, the first few might feel a little awkward, but you are learning about yourself and the process.
    • If it is not a good fit, most therapists will help you connect with someone who is a better fit for you.

For more, find Ali on Instagram.

Happiness Hacks: Mental Health Month – Week Three

We’re more than halfway through Mental Health Month and our brilliant guests keep bringing the wisdom! Here’s the recap, you might want to get a pen and paper to take some notes. 😉

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Kenya Raymer

Kenya blew us away with her outlook on the connection between mental health and spirituality. Kenya is a spiritual guide with a masters in social work, a combination that allows her to deliver a unique service called Spiritual Therapeutic Sessions, which are spiritual readings that incorporate therapeutic theories. This interview was filled with so much wisdom and light, that we really don’t know if we’ll do it justice here. But, you can check the recording out for yourself here.

On Spirituality

The spiritual journey is two-fold. The first part requires you to connect with yourself and your gifts (btw “gifts” don’t have to be something supernatural. Think about what you’re good at and what comes naturally to you). This is where the deep dive into your self-awareness comes in, and this part of the journey brings you meaning. The second part of the journey is to connect with Spirit and use your gifts for the collective. This part of the journey brings you purpose.

The way Kenya defined spirituality had us levitating, it was so inspiring. She defines spirituality as “getting to know myself at the most authentic level, so that as my awareness of self deepens, my ability to experience the world expands.”

On Embracing Discomfort

As Kenya says, “you can’t Love + Light your way through healing or to wholeness. You MUST do shadow work/ego work/inner child work.” If you don’t get honest with yourself about what’s bugging you, you’ll always be out of alignment, regardless of what positive mantras you have. You must address the root of the problem and sit in the discomfort of those feelings before you can truly move through to be your highest version of yourself. Pro tip: never go to bed out of alignment.

On Going to Therapy

Kenya talks about therapy as an investment into your life, and something that everyone should do at some point. Obvi we couldn’t agree more. In her spiritual work, she helps bring people into awareness of past traumas or issues through which they need to dive more deeply. When you intentionally avoid those traumas and issues, it stays in your body as energy, and talking through these things help move the energy around and release it, so you can move past what’s bringing you down. Preach.

If you’re not ready to pull the trigger on therapy or readings yet, grab a journal and start to get curious. Here are some questions to get you started: “Who am I?”  “Who am I without a connection to other people?” “What is freedom?” and “What is my truth right now?”. Those might keep you busy for a while.

On Balance

Do away with it. It’s not realistic to be 100% in all areas of your life at all times. It’s so important to carve out dedicated personal time to check in with yourself and understand what you need. Honoring what you need in the moment is critical. When you set boundaries and organize your day/week/month into different areas – me-time, family time, work time – you can be more present in each of these areas vs trying to be all things at all times. Understand when you are spreading yourself too thin, and above all, give yourself grace. “Seek to pass all words, actions and thoughts through Unconditional Love, Universal Compassion for all, Grace for yourself and others, and your Truth.”

On Truth

You are the absolute authority on yourself, so “don’t seek externally for something that only exists internally.” Know that your truth can change. When you get to know yourself more deeply, your awareness expands and allows you to experience the world differently, thus what we know to be true evolves with us.

“Be more like the moon. She only shines once a month. The rest of her time is spent resting and evolving. Cycles are necessary for alignment.” 

Continue to follow along with Kenya’s story on Instagram.


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Paul Nyhart

Speaking of truth, Paul Nyhart spoke to us about finding purpose with a refreshingly honest and passionate insight. Paul is many things – an author, producer, Podcast & TV host, and marketing pro – but his most precious moments have been advocating for communities who can feel unheard and ignored. Paul’s latest project, a podcast called “The Story of Bao,” highlights the experiences of individuals defining the moment in their lives when they realized what was precious to them.

On Telling Your Story

In general, people undervalue themselves. As a society, people have been trained not to share their truths, and because of it, we often don’t even realize that we’ve gone through life changing, and often inspiring, experiences. Telling your story is so important, regardless of the audience – you could share your story with the world or simply share it with a friend – you’d be surprised who you might inspire with your words. Plus, it’s a super helpful way to process your experiences.

On Finding Yourself

It can be so easy to bury the interesting things that are going on around you right now because it’s hard to be present in the moment. We’re not trained to think in moments, but rather, we tend to think in vague chunks of time, like “past” and “future.” Without even realizing it, we miss out on the joy that’s right in front of us.

But, what if you don’t know what brings you joy? Start by trying five new things, dive into them, and actively think about which of those really click with you. For example, through his work as a TV and Podcast host, Paul found that what made him tick wasn’t the idea of being behind the microphone, but rather from hearing other people’s stories – those who have typically been ignored in the past. This led him to continue this outside of the studio – advocating for the homeless and mentoring the incarcerated. It was through these experiences that Paul found happiness, purpose, and a deeper understanding of himself.

Finding joy is a journey, so don’t shame yourself if it feels like you don’t know! Similar to “Part 1” of the spiritual journey that Kenya discussed, Paul believes that “happiness is discovering who you are.” Anyone else have the chills?

What’s Precious To You?

Well, what is it? This is Paul’s signature question to help people dive into their self-awareness and ultimately happiness. We turned the question back on Paul, and his answer was all about connection with others and finding inspiration from unlikely places. This reminds him that people are inherently good and strong, which inspires him to do the same.

“If you can connect with a person, that makes you precious to them. By being who you are, you can inspire someone that you don’t even know. Both the beauty and the curse of life is that you’ll never know who you are inspiring.”

For more, visit storyofbao.com.

Happiness Hacks: Mental Health Month – Week Two

Two weeks into celebrating Mental Health Month and we’re more excited than ever! Not only have our guests been dropping truth bomb after truth bomb on us, but we’ve been so inspired that we’ve incorporated some of their mental wellness tips and practices into our day-to-day. If you missed any of this week’s content, not to fear, here comes your weekly recap…

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Rachel Beauregard

Rachel is a musician and yogi, and we couldn’t wait to learn how she cultivated her wonderful sense of confidence and comfort in her own skin. It all started with a really positive and supportive upbringing, but Rachel noted that at some point you take your mental state into your own hands, and have to do the work to start understanding your tendencies and values.

On Loving her Body

When it comes to having a positive body image, it’s important to remember it’s a daily practice of figuring out how to be your own friend, instead of your enemy. Rachel also finds strength in the affirmations: “You HAVE a body, you are not your body.” She also noted that it’s important to recognize that you will have bad days, and no book or mantra will bring you out of it. At that point it’s important to acknowledge and be honest about your thoughts and your feelings, so you can eventually move on. Remember, “You HAVE thoughts but you are not your thoughts.”

On Acceptance of Change and Cultivating Grace

Rachel’s confidence and ability to go with the flow comes down to putting in the work:

  • Create a Routine
    • Makes you accountable to yourself
    • Allows you to start your day with presence
  • When Things get Tough
    • Have a check-in buddy, so that you don’t feel the need to hold it all in
    • Talk to a therapist
  • Start with Humility
    • Acknowledge that you can’t do it all, and that’s okay
    • Understand that what you can manage can look different from day-to-day
    • Make small changes, without beating yourself up for missteps
    • Be accountable and don’t make up excuses, but accept that you can make mistakes

On Pregnancy

  • Find a community, or person that you can reach out to that won’t shame you for your feelings
  • Understand that you can be SO grateful for the gift of a child, but that your hardships are still valid. You are allowed to complain
  • Ask for what you need

“Feelings are truth, but they are not you as a person, they are not your character.”

Follow Rachel on Instagram


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Kathy Thomas

Kathy is a photographer, mother and the owner of Collective 615, the first women-owned coworking space for women in Nashville.

On Mental Health

As Kathy has grown wiser over the years, she allowed her own experiences, and the experiences of those closest to her, pique her curiosity about mental health. She began slowing down and peeling back the layers of her twenties and thirties, where she admittedly didn’t prioritize things like spiritual and mental health; and instead focused on who she is as a person.

“You cannot move forward until you truly face yourself.”

On Career Change

After working in corporate America, Kathy decided that she wanted to own her time, but found working from home alone isolating. She began looking into it and saw that women who worked from home saw an increase in depression. From experience, Kathy felt like her home was no longer her home, but her job. She had trouble with boundaries, with work infiltrating her personal and family time, and infiltrating a space that she wanted to feel sacred.

This inspired Kathy to open up her heart and eyes for what makes people work, and led to creating Collective 615. She knew she wanted to focus on a sense of support and energy of community.

On Being Role Model to New Business Owners

  • Give yourself a lot of grace.
  • Find a core group who supports you when you’re flat on your face. Your community doesn’t have to look a certain way, it needs to FEEL a certain way.
  • Don’t force relationships that have run their course. Sometimes with growth, you’ll outgrow certain friends. If a relationship brings you down or makes you feel bad, then let it go.
  • Asking for help can sometimes be the hardest thing, especially when help is one-sided. You may not be able to reciprocate right now, but don’t let that stop you asking for the help you need.

For more, visit Collective 615


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Alli Mills Lindsey

A Certified Holistic Coach, Alli has a way of blowing your mind with profound nuggets of wisdom, wrapped up in the most accessible delivery. After years of teaching yoga, she looked into coaching as a way to help people become more present mentally and physically.

On Being Present

Our culture is so focused on go go go, and we’re so focused on the future that we can become disconnected from our present. It can take a lot of courage to acknowledge fearful parts of our lives, in fact our minds are programmed to move away from things that cause us fear. If left unchecked, this can lead to stress, lack of sleep, emotional distress and even physical pain.

On Grounding

Use your breath to check in with yourself at least once a day. What you notice will be different from hour to hour, day to day. But, by checking in, you can become aware of your feelings and needs, and your thoughts will remain fluid.

  • Close your eyes and notice your breath. Breath is a really powerful link to our life.
  • Take your breath into your physical body.
  • Take your breath into thoughts. Are they in the future? Are they in the past?
  • Take your breath into your emotions.

On Cultivating Mental Wellness in Young Women

In Alli’s work with young women from all backgrounds, she noticed a common thread: they were all stressed out, and what they needed most was a safe space to be quiet, present, and loved. Giving them space to let go and be themselves was huge.

Her advice to mothers and mother figures wanting to connect with their daughters is to have an easy presence, allowing them to come to you. If you make sure they feel seen, and you give them the space to just be, they’ll be more receptive on the occasions that you do need to tell them what to do.

Another big thing is teaching them grounding breathwork, and to listen to their inner wisdom. During the transition from child to adult, they begin to explore who they are, and can also often feel pressured to be someone else. Parents need to recognize and respect when girls are listening to themselves.

On Getting Unstuck

Patience is key here, it’s a process. Small turns can lead you away from your life’s purpose.

  • First things first, find out where you are. If you think of your life like a map; to get to where you’re going, you first need to understand where you are. Otherwise, no matter how good a map you have, you’ll likely remain lost. Be patient with yourself as you begin this inquiry.
  • Become more present. Focus on your breath – get grounded.
  • Take that first step, no matter how small it is. We often get so distracted by the end goal, that it feels insurmountable. The universe will respond, but you have to take that first step.
  • Think about your purpose. Think about where your path changed – what led you that way? Start to notice the things you do that make you feel like you have purpose.
  • Come into your power. Finding your authenticity and living an authentic life is powerful. That’s not to say there won’t be bumps in the road, but it will give you a better ability to return back to who you are.

“If you make enough right steps, you will eventually get home.”

For more, visit Alli’s website


Koula Callahan

Yogi, Koula Callahan, took over our stories to give us a peek into a day-in-the-life and how she uses mindful movement to set herself up for success.

Koula typically starts her day with a yoga class, whether or not she’s teaching. A key to her mental wellbeing, is a rule she sets for herself – no looking at the phone until after class. This mindful movement helps her to start her day from a place of physical presence, working out any tensions and resistance she might be carrying. It also helps her to start her day from a centered and calm space, keeping her in her limbic brain for longer, and building her up before the stresses of the day weigh her down.

On the Importance of Mindful Movement

Mindful movement helps to develop the mind-body connection, and helps us work through structures in the body that are keeping us stuck. It also increases the activation of your prefrontal cortex, and helps to develop self awareness and self compassion.

People with a mindful movement practice:

  • Experience less stress and anxiety
  • Are less likely to develop cognitive disabilities
  • Sleep better
  • Are less likely to get sick
  • Have an improved mood

On the Brain

The limbic brain is where you process emotions, creativity, and the subconscious self. The prefrontal cortex is where you process higher thought patterns, problem solving, and is essentially the part of the brain activated throughout your workday.

By spending time in your limbic brain before you activate your prefrontal cortex, you help develop your emotional intelligence and process your thoughts through the unconscious thoughts that could be keeping you stuck. This is why it’s key to spend your mornings doing something mindful, (think: movement, walking, or writing) before checking email and moving into the ‘higher thinking’ part of your brain.

“With practice, you can become more integrated with yourself, your emotions, and your physical self.”

Follow Koula on Instagram

Happiness Hacks: Mental Health Month – Week One

We’re celebrating Mental Health Month with a group of incredible folks who are sharing their unique perspectives on Mental Health with us through a series of Instagram Live interviews and account takeovers. Each week, we’ll be sharing a recap of our favorite insights and tips from each of our experts, so without further ado let’s dive into week one!

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Liz Devaughn

We kicked off Mental Health Month with a bang, and a really fun and informative interview with Licensed Professional Counselor, Elizabeth Devaughn of Woman Emerging. A little background: Liz grew up in an environment of trauma and addiction, which sparked her interest in mental health for herself, but also a passion for helping others to heal their emotional wounds.

On Fear

Our fear lives in our lower or reptile brain. This lower brain activity is meant as a survival mechanism, which is great if you’re being attacked by a bear. It becomes less beneficial when the fear and stress are less immediate and more constant (hello modern lifestyles!).

You can identify if you’re stuck in a pattern of fear if you are engaging in lower brain activities, like constantly scrolling through your phone, constantly watching the news, and focusing on things out of your control. If you find yourself having more arguments with loved ones than usual, that could be part of the fear cycle too. When you are getting into that lower brain, practice self soothing, such as breathwork.

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Your trauma can empower you if you integrate it into your story and grow through it. Here are Liz’s top tips to empower yourself in times of fear:

Watch your language!

  • The brain takes language as truth, so constant negative language or language that makes you feel guilt can actually wire your brain into a negative state.  Pay attention to how often you say the words ‘can’t’ and ‘should’. Remove them from your vocabulary!

Empower yourself:

  • Use “I” language. Start saying ‘I can’. Remember that “the brain that fires together wires together”. Wire your brain into believing that you are capable, and it will automatically start to recognize and maintain a sense of calm.
  • Break your problems down and focus on the things that you can control (Hint: you can control you).
  • Set small, digestible goals.

On Relationships

Liz has a great conflict cheat sheet – she even uses it as a guide when having difficult conversations with her husband!

  • Ask permission. Be aware of others’ boundaries, they might not be able to have a big conversation right this minute. If they can’t talk now, schedule a time when they can give you their undivided attention.
  • State your intention. Explain why this conversation is important to you, and express that you don’t want to lose them by having this conversation.
  • Use eye contact.
  • Speak from a place of ‘I’. “I feel really hurt when xyz happens” vs. “You did xyz.”
  • Take breaks to self soothe through the senses – bringing you back to your upper brain: If either of you feel that you’re getting reactive, ask to take a time out. More is at risk when you’re having a difficult conversation with those closest to you, because there’s more to lose. That’s why it’s so important to take a break before the lower brain kicks in and starts an argument.
    • Put  your hands on your belly or chest and apply gentle, firm pressure while taking a few deep, intentional breaths.
    • Smell essential oils, put your bare feet in the grass, hold a crystal or touchstone.

Check out Woman Emerging’s website for more.


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Kim Breese

Next up we spoke to Healing Touch Certified Practitioner, Kim Breese. Kim’s journey started with a successful career in corporate America, that left her body and mind feeling unhappy. She began to take a more holistic approach to her health which led her to Healing Touch, and at once she knew she’d found her calling.

On Healing Touch and Energy Therapy

Energy therapy helps to regulate and move energy throughout the body. It can support anxiety, depression, physical pain, fatigue and spiritual connection. We’re so used to being told by everyone else what we should feel and what we need, and energy therapy allows us to connect with ourselves and tap into our own calling.

Healing Touch is a type of integrative medicine therapy where practitioners use gentle touch or a hovering of hands for a general relaxation and calming effect. The effect can be so relaxing, that practitioners are able to “go into” the body to release things we’ve been holding onto. Think of it like talk therapy for the body – as Kim says, “We hold our issues in our tissues.” The body can often speak louder than our thoughts can, and Healing Touch gives you the space to lean in to that, and peel back the layers.

On Grounding

Kim seems to radiate calm, so we asked her how she stays grounded:

  • Listen to your body.
  • Meditation. Don’t be intimidated by it! It’s okay if thoughts come up while meditating. Meditation also doesn’t have to be sitting still, if you get lost in something, that can also be meditative.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Get enough rest. Take naps if you need them.
  • Reach out to friends.
  • Having a cup of tea. Or any act of taking care of myself that feels good to me at the time.
  • Talk therapy. Sometimes you just need someone to ask the right questions to help you to tune in to yourself.

“Stop and ask yourself: What’s going to help you continue to feel good today? Part of the healing process can be really uncomfortable, but the other side is so worth it.”

On Spirituality

To Kim, spirituality can be found in anything that brings you joy. She believes that we are greater than our physical bodies, and that there is something larger than us that is stringing us together and along. Spirituality is the ability to rely on that feeling/notion when times are tough.

Kim is a spiritual guide, in that when she is working with someone, she will have an image in her mind, or may start a conversation or bring back a memory for the other person. The message she receives is simply a jumping off point. Much like other therapies, it’s up to you to then take that message and act on it, in order to tap into your deeper self.

She encourages you to lean in to trust and faith. There are things out there that support us in ways that we can’t understand.

“You are doing the work. You are going to have days that are really bad, but there’s something better coming along that you just have to trust.”

For more, visit Kim’s website.


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Jessica Smith

A familiar face at The Happy Hour’s workshops and on our Instagram, Licensed Professional Counselor, Jessica Smith took over our stories to give us a peek into what self-care looks like for her while sheltering in place.

On Routine

In times of uncertainty and disruption, we need to create our own stability and consistency. To do this, Jessica suggests keeping a routine. If there’s something you want to make time for each day, write it on a Post It and stick it up somewhere you can see it. Jessica’s Post It says: “Daily Work: Motivation, Movement, Meditation.”

Other top tips for keeping a healthy routine:

  • Start your day by fueling your body with a nourishing meal, just as though you were going out. Take the time to make you meals with love.
  • Create a workspace that feels comfortable.
  • Go for walks in familiar places.

On Motivation

Staying motivated isn’t always easy, that’s actually where a routine can come in handy, because habits tend to be stronger than motivation, especially on those days where you’re feeling particularly “meh”. That being said, creating a motivating environment can help lift your mood and get closer to your goals.

Jessica’s tips for staying motivated:

  • Get an accountability buddy and do virtual workouts together. Keep each other motivated!
  • Make time to catch up with your loved ones to keep your spirits high. FaceTiming with her niece is the highlight of Jessica’s day – and we’d venture a guess that it’s a highlight for her niece too!
  • Fill your space with things that make you happy. This could be photographs of loved ones, candles, flowers – anything goes!

On Movement

Movement is key for both health and mood. Find a way to move every single day. This could look like walking, going for a run, yoga, or a combination of things. Find something you enjoy and you’re more likely to stick with it.

On Meditation

We’re all suffering from anxiety and uncertainty, so it’s key to find ways to control our thoughts, and bring us back into the right here, right now, where we’re safe, and know that everything is going to be okay.

Here are Jessica’s favorite tips to help calm your mind and bring yourself to the present:

  • Create your own calm. Jessica’s favorite affirmation for meditation is “I am peaceful, protected and secure.”
  • Practice gratitude. Ask yourself what you’re grateful for each day.
  • Manage your thoughts by writing them down. Journaling is a great tool for gaining clarity.
  • Let your mind escape into a book.
  • Use scented candles, or essential oils to help ground you.

“Be still. Focus on what you can control. Know and believe that you are okay.”

For more about Jessica, visit her website.

You’re Already There: My Journey to Spirituality

We all want to leave a mark on the world, right? I have spent decades deeply inside of my head, planning, analyzing, and trying to control all the possible outcomes. Even with all of that effort and data to back me up, I still felt a block…a hesitation when I would go to take the next step forward. What I’ve uncovered throughout this journey to spirituality, is that what was blocking me for so long was lack of trust in myself. It makes sense though, how can you trust yourself if you don’t fully know yourself? If you so deeply attach yourself to the identities that you’ve made for yourself (MBA-grad, corporate marketer, mother, wife, person of service)? These identities are not bad in any way, contrarily, I’m incredibly proud of each one of those labels. But at times I’ve let one single label take over my entire being, and it’s taken a lot of work and soul searching to realize that while those labels are part of me, not one defines who I am in my deepest core. In my soul.

When I was a kid, I didn’t have any of those labels attached to me. I felt so strongly that I had a unique emotional sensitivity (empathy), and knew that I was going to spend my life trying to make a change in the world. Not only did I feel it, but I knew it so certainly…I trusted it. Simple as that. The crappy part about growing up is that you learn how to fear, you learn how to compare, you learn how to get hurt, and you learn to lose trust in yourself, despite all the people who love you cheering you on.

When I first started this blog, I planned to write about a different ‘spiritual’ endeavor for each entry. I outlined two months worth of activities and thought I’d basically review each one, and tell you that step by step I was getting closer to figuring out this whole spirituality thing. If I were actually sticking to that plan, I’d be writing about crystals right now (I have grown to love crystals, but that’s for another time).

My point is, that plan was never going to work, and was certainly a lesson in ‘going with the flow’. I have tried a lot of the items that were on my ‘spiritual to do’ list, but the way it’s worked is that everything is blending together beautifully, and it’s getting harder and harder to talk about each item on its own. Here are a couple of those experiences that came together seamlessly on this path to finding trust…

One morning I got a newsletter from Ann Sensing of Magnolia Meditation saying that she had crystal singing bowls for sale. Without pausing, I replied back that I wanted to come try them. After I hit send on the email, I couldn’t believe I did that. In a previous life, that was something that might pop into my mind, and then I’d tell myself I didn’t have time for a new hobby, I didn’t know what I was doing, it’s not for me, one excuse after the other. But, simply letting myself do what I felt, without thinking or understanding why, felt foreign yet surprisingly empowering.

Long story short, I met with Ann and tried out some of the new bowls she had in stock. Before she told me much about the bowls, she urged me to pick a couple that I was drawn to, and we would start there. She pulled them off the shelf, and without ever having picked up a mallet before, I started playing, feeling, and listening. I’m sure my technique was total crap, but it didn’t matter, and she didn’t correct me. It was all about listening, feeling, and trusting. She kindly gave me a brief tutorial on how to properly play the bowls, and then sent me on my way to explore.

What I have loved so much about this experience after having had my bowls for about a month now, is that it forces me to flow. Particularly because I am so inexperienced, all I can do is go with what my body is telling me to do. Tap the bowl to which my body and my heart are drawn. Listen to the outcome. Notice the feeling in different parts of my body. No planning, no expectation. Instead- curiosity, feeling, and trusting.

My next experience was never on my original ‘spiritual to-do’ list. Yes, I am happy to say I went off script. Talking with a psychic medium was something I always wondered about, but let my fear stop me from pursuing it for a number of reasons, “What if I didn’t like what I heard? Would the person be full of it?” It was too risky for me, and I never did it. But, I recently met a psychic medium through an unrelated project, and couldn’t get the thought of trying it out of my mind. In an effort to deeply listen to my curiosity, I decided to give it a try. The way I look at it is that what comes from these sessions is all simply information. Whatever she said to me was mine to interpret because that’s how spirituality works – what needs to come up will come up, and I’ll use that information however that best suits me. Even if it is complete hooey (which I don’t think it is, some stuff was just TOO spot on), it gave me information that would prompt me into diving deeper into my heart to work through whatever it is I need to work through.

I signed up for a medium reading, the kind where you might connect with someone who has passed. Without any real expectations of connecting with a loved one, I opened myself up to the experience.

Within minutes, the medium connected with someone who had a paramount impact on my upbringing…she knew this person’s name (almost) to a tee, and called me by the childhood nickname that this person used to call me. Lately, I have been wishing that she were here during this challenging time to indulge me with some of her wisdom and comfort. Being able to connect with her was an experience I can’t really explain because any word that I type seems too trivial and doesn’t do it justice.

Of all the pieces of wisdom that my old friend shed upon me, the key theme that came through was to trust myself. She told me to stop focusing on becoming my potential, because I’m already there. That all I need to do is take a step forward, and step in confidence because the path will be created for me. That she has been putting these steps…these opportunities and hardships and successes in front of me, and I need to trust that I’m exactly where I need to be.

Prior to this experience, the idea of trusting myself kept coming up over and over, but hearing it from my old friend’s mouth, and knowing that she has been there believing in me the whole time, and even putting my path in front of me, is exactly what I needed to hear to solidify that trust. And to be honest, it’s what I’ve been telling myself this whole time, I just didn’t fully believe it.

You might be thinking, ‘sure that could apply to anyone,’ but for the sake of the length of this blog post, I am leaving out a lot of specifics. Maybe this experience was just me using my biased thoughts to solidify my trust in myself, or maybe I truly connected with my old friend. But it doesn’t really matter how it happened because the outcome is exactly what I needed to be reinspired and restored.

My old friend embodied wisdom, protection, and kindness when she was on this earth, and without knowing much of anything about her, the medium referred to her as a “wise truth teller.” One of the last things that this wise truth teller told me in our session was to “shine your light through, Clara Beara.”

Later that day, I pulled from my affirmation jar, and the affirmation I drew that day was, “I feel the love of others who aren’t physically around me.” I trust that it was my old friend putting the exact right card into my hand, to hear exactly what I needed to hear at that moment, and I’m going to continue listening.

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Discover Your True North – Virtual Community Group and Live Coaching

“True North is your orienting point – your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track as a leader. It is derived from your most deeply held beliefs, values, and the principles you lead by. It is your internal compass, unique to you, representing who you are at your deepest level” – Bill George

Our latest this 4-part workshop series was born out of Clara’s experience as she searched for spirituality and authenticity, and learned to trust herself. We’ll help you discover your true north – your fixed point and baseline in a world that can at times feel out of control.

I’m Ready to Discover my True North

Social Distancing Survival 101 | Guest Blog Series

The other morning I walked into my local coffee shop, ordered my usual, plus a bag of beans to make coffee at home. This is a really normal thing to do, but I felt a pang of sadness and fear as I placed my order. You see, every morning, I walk my dog and we end our walk at this little gem of a coffee shop. As someone who lives alone, there’s a sense of family when you see a familiar face every day who knows your name, and just how you like your coffee. I didn’t realize quite how important this daily ritual was to me, until I was faced with placing my last order for the next few weeks.

Asking fellow regulars to please not pet my dog (in case he ends up carrying the virus on his fur) felt like I was rejecting them on his behalf. I felt guilty. But that feeling quickly turned to relief as they elbow bumped me in solidarity, vowing to catch up over coffee and shower extra love on my pup when this is over. Suddenly, that feeling of community I was scared of losing came rushing back, because never before have I felt more like we’re all in this together.

As I walked home, I started panicking again, realizing that I touched the card machine with the same hand that was carrying my bag of coffee beans. I made a mental note to wipe the bag with alcohol when I got home. Shit! I just touched my face… There’s nothing like a viral pandemic to make you realize just how much you touch your face. After running the gamut of emotions, I returned home feeling mentally exhausted… and weirdly dirty. I just wanted to roll around in sanitizer and crawl into bed until this is all over.

Our community has been through a lot lately, and while there’s definitely been some good in between all the bad, I’ve found myself frustratedly yelling to my empty apartment, “Can I just get a break?”. When I’m stressed or scared, I tend to lean in to humor, so I turn to social media and laugh at the memes. Then I see the news and go back to feeling heartbroken and scared. But then I see the videos of Italian neighbors singing together from their windows, working out together on their balconies and my heart swells at how beautiful and resilient the human spirit is.

While watching the Italians rally together in impossible circumstances, I made the decision then and there not to cry myself to sleep in a vat of hand sanitizer, but instead to use the extra time on my hands for good, and to seek new ways to stay positive and connected to my community while social distancing.

Social Distancing Goals. Image source: https://www.instagram.com/issyrider/

Social Distancing Goals.
Image source: https://www.instagram.com/issyrider/

First Things First: Self-Care

Now is not the time to cancel any therapy or coaching sessions. Remember the coffee buying emotional roller coaster that I mentioned? Yeah. Just because it’s very normal to feel sad, scared, and all over the place in this kind of extreme situation, doesn’t mean we won’t benefit a lot by talking it out over the phone. Our team at The Happy Hour has been working hard on bringing you some virtual events over the coming weeks to help you find community and support during this unsettling time. So watch this space!

I contacted my trainer, told him what limited equipment I had at home, and asked if we could do Skype training sessions instead. I’m the kind of person who relies heavily on working out for keeping me sane. I experience stress very physically and I need an outlet – especially now. By keeping my same training time, it keeps me in my usual routine, and the virtual interaction allows me to maintain the social aspect of my training, all of which helps to keep things feeling somewhat normal in these very abnormal times.

Proper nutrition is the foundation of good health, so I made a list of the kind of things known to help with immunity (think berries, citrus, garlic, turmeric, bone broth, lots of leafy greens & colorful veggies) that I could meal prep and freeze in order to limit my trips to the grocery store. I’m a bit of a foodie, and the likes of ramen noodles and canned tuna would get depressing fast, so I got creative. Spoiler alert: there’s a lot of nutritious soups and tagines in my future, and I’m not complaining!

I’ve set limits for the amount of social media and news I’m consuming. Because for every funny meme, there’s a scary news clip, and I don’t need to stress myself out unnecessarily going down the rabbit hole of doom. That’s not to say I’m sticking my head in the sand – I religiously check reputable sources like the WHO and CDC twice a day to make sure I’m up to date. But the rest of the day it’s remote work with my amazing team, and Schitt’s Creek… again.

I took a cue from The Happy Hour’s co-founder, Clara, and decided to channel my emotions into this blog post. And you know what? It feels damn good. If you haven’t written down your feelings over the last few weeks, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Socialize Creatively

As someone who’s moved around a fair bit, I have friends all over the world. Never before have all of our social calendars been clear at the same time, so you bet I’m scheduling FaceTime dates ASAP! Who says our social lives have to suffer? We might be physically distancing ourselves, but with technology, there’s no reason not to connect socially. In fact, it’s crucial not to isolate ourselves in times of stress.

If your gym or yoga studio isn’t holding online classes, why not get a group of friends together over Skype and take turns leading different kinds of workouts? It’ll keep you active, accountable and social (and probably laughing), without needing to leave your home. If you are able to safely do your workout outdoors, even better. A little fresh air is good for the mind, body and soul.

Community

It’s times like these that our small businesses need us more than ever. I’ve made a point of placing orders with local farms that are offering delivery/drop off services. Keep your eyes on social media to see who’s currently open, as it changes daily. Supporting local businesses helps put food on their tables and keeps the economy chugging along. Next on my list is to get a couple of gift cards for things like yoga studios, nail salons and restaurants to help keep them afloat over the next few weeks – and to give myself something to look forward to once social distancing is over.

If you know of any elderly people, or other immune compromised people in your neighborhood, why not call them up and ask if you can pick up their prescriptions, or get them some food next time you do a grocery run? Make it easy for them to stay home and stay safe.

Also, don’t forget local non-profits. So many people (and animals) were displaced during the tornado, and social distancing and perfect hygiene might not be luxuries they can achieve right now. Continued donations of money or wish list items can make a world of difference, especially in areas hit harder by the tornado like North Nashville and Mount Juliet.

Work from Home

No, that’s not an oxymoron! A big part of keeping things feeling normal-ish for me is sticking to my routine as much as I can. It’s so easy to slip into working from bed, which then turns into Netflix over lunch & next thing you know you haven’t left your bed in days & it’s full of crumbs. Ew David! (Have I mentioned I’m watching a lot of Schitt’s Creek?)

I find setting an alarm and making my bed helps me start my day with purpose. Getting dressed is also key. Simply switching from pjs to leggings & a cozy sweater helps signal to your mind that you mean business, comfy business.

I have also created a dedicated work space in the corner of my living room. This space allows me to get in the zone and focus without distractions, but also allows me to “leave the office” at the end of the day. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean that your work should creep into your down time.

Gratitude

Be thankful for our heroes. Of course that will always include our troops, first responders and doctors, but in these strange times, the people working checkout counters, making deliveries, and taking away your trash are also putting themselves at risk for you. A small gift card could lift their spirits and help their family more than you know. Heck, even a heartfelt “thank you” can go a long way these days.

It can sound trite to suggest gratitude at a time of so much uncertainty, sadness and fear, but if you and your loved ones are healthy, you have a lot to be thankful for right now. I’ve accepted that it is normal to feel ungrounded right now. That it’s okay to be cheerfully catching up with friends one minute and feeling tearful the next. But ultimately, I’m grateful.

I’m grateful for my health. I’m grateful for my sweet dog, Enzo, who’s the best snuggle buddy when I feel scared. I’m grateful to be able to work remotely. And I’m so grateful for the inspiration and hope that has been instilled in me by my own community, and people around the globe who have found connection and moments of joy in this difficult time. Our spirit is stronger than this.

Growing Through the Setbacks: My Journey to Spirituality

– Writers Note –

I wrote this blog post 1.5 hours before the tornado swept through Nashville on March 3rd. The devastation that this tornado has caused for our beloved community has left many of us heartbroken and continues to put things into perspective. While this ‘setback’ I talk about in this blog is miniscule compared to what so many are going through right now, I still wanted to share because it is a reminder that no matter how big or small your feelings are right now and always, that they are valid. That you can’t heal without feeling them in their entirety. That you can’t heal without looking them in the face and asking some questions. Maybe those questions are what do I need to be supported right now? Who can I lean on for support right now? How can I support others while still caring for myself right now? Or maybe the starting point is simply asking, how am I feeling right now? 

Whether the unimaginable happened and you lost a home or loved one; you experienced extreme terror while holding your babies tight as the destructive winds whipped by you, and are now reliving the “what ifs,”; or you are bearing witness to your beloved community try to rebuild what has been broken, your feelings are yours, they are valid, and they are important. 

Deep breath.


It finally happened – the dreaded set back. I debated whether to share this piece of my journey with you because if you’ve found a nugget of inspiration somewhere along the way, I don’t want you to lose motivation. Then I realized that this actually may be the most crucial part of the journey to publish. Why? Because not only can life take a zig or a zag, but it will. Looking back on it, these bumps have so clearly been part of the path that was meant for me. But that’s the thing I’ve learned about your ‘path’ lately, is that if you can see it perfectly laid out in front of you, it’s not for you.

Things had felt so good since I started to really get curious, and open myself to creativity, authenticity, and in a word, spirituality. The rewards had been incredible, and I thought I had this spirituality thing down-pat. Then, one Saturday morning, my old friend fear knocked on the door and barged back into my life. I’m happy to say its stay was short, but definitely not without hardship.

Life had been especially hectic for a few weeks, and after having been pretty proud of how gracefully I was handling it, I finally cracked. I finally stopped trying too hard to do “the work” because I was so.damn.tired. I just let myself feel grumpy, I took off my kindness filter when speaking to my loved ones, and was simply not anywhere close to the best version of myself. I felt it, I knew it, but I couldn’t stop it. I was just too tired.

As a result, I took one too many verbal jabs towards my husband and lost my cool with my kids, who had been trading back and forth colds for a month that finally turned into ear infections (sick kids = no sleep). It’s not like they wanted any of that, but at one point in the midst of echoing screams from both kids, I sat down on the floor, plugged my ears, and I too, screamed. I completely lost my patience, my compassion, and my gratitude. This angry, annoyed feeling lingered throughout the whole weekend. And it scared the shit out of me.

Yes I didn’t like that I was acting like a child, but worse was thinking that maybe I was a fake. Or maybe this amazing connection and gratitude had only been fleeting. I had been reaping so many rewards from my spiritual journey, and sharing them publicly! And there I was on the bathroom floor screaming, so that I couldn’t hear my kids melting down. Where was my angel then? Had I made the whole thing up? Would that amazing feeling ever come back?

I briefly lost trust in myself and what I’d been feeling so strongly. I longed desperately for the peace and calm that I had felt for the past couple months. Now that I knew what it felt like, I missed it deeply.

The thing that I’m learning about fear is that when you let it in without putting it in its place, it can spiral into something even bigger. In addition to being scared about being a spiritual imposter, there was an even bigger fear lurking in the background. Something I hadn’t been the slightest bit worried about in months, but once I opened the door to misalignment and worry, this even bigger fear came waltzing right in. Something I haven’t yet talked about yet in this forum, but here goes.

Shortly after the birth of my son I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. The scariest part about that diagnosis for me was that I had no idea. I spend my life helping people work on their mental health, and I didn’t know what was going on with my own for that time. I hadn’t felt quite right, but I went to the doctor for follow ups and because the computerized test that screens for PPD didn’t flag me as having it, I just assumed I had the “Baby Blues,” though I’m not sure there’s really a difference. As my therapist put it, they’re all along the same spectrum. Long story short, after following a combination of self-care methods, I felt like myself again consistently for 4 months or so. And even more recently, not just ‘like myself,’ but really really amazing.

Having been on the other side of this set back for a couple weeks, it was so much smaller than I made it out to be. I was exhausted and lost my cool for a few days, but when you’re exhausted and losing your shit, it’s really hard to realize that.

On the fourth night or so of feeling like this I was laying in bed exhausted, but my mind was racing too quickly to sleep. Ugh, back to my old ways again. The thought of that just made my mind race even faster! I composed myself and made a mental list out what was going on inside of me. I realized that all of my actions were stemming from fear. I just started a blog called “Turning Fear into Curiosity,” I am so full of it…wait, actually, I have an idea, let’s try something.

I got out of bed and did what I had just told people helped  me so much – I started writing. I wrote out my feelings, my fears, all of it. Half way through the page I decided to make things a bit more literal, and turn this thought process into a framework. You can take the girl out of corporate America, but the girl will still be obsessed with frameworks.

I created a table with four columns: “Fear,” “→,” “Curiosity,” “Takeaway”. It wasn’t perfect or pretty, but it made sense to me. And damn did it feel good. Putting my fear down on paper, giving it a name, and asking it and myself a question or two made everything feel manageable. And best of all, in a quick 10 minutes, I let go of all the fear I had been feeling about being a fraud, my spirituality being gone, and my PPD coming back. Just by turning my fear into curiosity, instead of combativeness, I was able to make the fear so miniscule that I laid my head down on the pillow afterwards and went right to sleep. Holy cow, the mind is so powerful.

Below is an example of what I wrote. I invite you to use this simple framework, change it up how it works for you, but most importantly maybe try asking your fear some questions. I’m curious to see what happens.

Full disclosure, there were more fears filling out the table in the actual one, some things are just TMI, sorry.

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At the end of this exercise I came to the conclusion this was all a test, a part of my journey, me making my path. It was also a reminder not to put too much pressure on any one thing. Life gets messy at times, and sometimes you have to sit in the icky feelings until you’re ready to ask them the right questions. Prior to this I had a hard time figuring out what it was about this spirituality that I loved so much. Was I in love with the idea of it? When I felt the brief absence of it, I could so easily describe what it was that I was missing: peace, security, gratitude, connection. This setback only strengthened my commitment to this never-ending journey, and I’m happy to report that this phase has in-fact passed, and I am not a spiritual fraud.

The Breakthrough: My Journey to Spirituality

I like to think it was divine timing that introduced me to Kim Breese and her gifts with Healing Touch. A dear friend excitedly told me about her back in 2019, gave me her card, and told me I had to call her, we had so much in common! Kim’s business card sat on my desk for six months or so, staring at me, making me wonder what ‘HTP’ even meant (Healing Touch Practitioner for those, like I was, too lazy to google). One day in January I decided to send her an email. Before I could do that, I found an email in my inbox from my friend with the subject line “Kim <> Clara Intro.” This also happened to be the very same week I decided to kick off my spiritual journey.

It’s almost like the universe was just waiting for us to connect until I was in the right place to receive, because had I approached this practice with a different mindset, I’m not sure I would’ve reaped the benefits that I have. I’m sure I would’ve gotten a lot out of it, but I probably wouldn’t have been ready to hear the message that was heading towards me loud and clear.

After finally meeting with Kim over coffee, I emphatically booked a session with her. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I was looking forward to an hour of getting horizontal and closing my eyes, and if I was lucky maybe I’d even doze off for a little bit.

We started the session with a few questions and an exploration of how I felt emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I rated each one of those from 1 to 10. This was a really simple and effective check in. I’ve been incorporating this tool into my own coaching practice.

Now it was time for the good stuff! I got to lay down on a heated table with a pillow under my head, and a blanket over my body. Bring on nap time. Or so I thought.

The session began with Kim waving a pendulum over my body to understand which chakras were compromised. She referred to this as her ‘stethoscope,’ to help her identify which of her tools to use in our session. That was a really cool analogy for someone new to the “woo,” who hadn’t done this sort of thing before.

After that, we began with some guided meditation, which got me out of my head and into my body. I am an overthinker whose mind does its best racing while in silent stillness, so to be able to quiet my mind was an excellent start. The session would’ve been a win if it had ended right there.

Around 15 minutes in, I was existing somewhere between a dream and a light meditation when I saw something. I saw a person on a mountain top, blowing a kiss over a cliff in my direction. My instant question was, “to whom am I blowing a kiss?” Then I realized it wasn’t me blowing the kiss, but rather someone blowing a kiss to me. I was certain of that.

A few minutes went by and I continued to relax. Any thoughts that came up floated right by. All of a sudden I noticed two people staring at each other with pure love and pride in their eyes. It was bursting out of their very being. Then I saw what they were so proud of – a newborn baby nestled in the woman’s arms. Upon further inspection, I realized that the woman was my mom, and the man was my dad, aged about 30 years. The same age they were when they had me.

At this point I was emotionally moved, feeling the love, and thinking this was pretty cool, but…was I just dreaming? I didn’t want to overthink it. My time was coming to an end, and with my eyes closed, I noticed that Kim had stepped away from the table. At that time, I also noticed what felt like a huge burst of white light and warmth on my chest. It almost felt like someone had turned on a flood light directly above me. It felt like I was being wrapped in a giant hug. It felt like comfort, protection, and a subtle smile. I recently read about auras and the meaning of their different colors, and told myself I’d look up what the white color meant when I left.

Soon thereafter Kim told me it was time to start awakening my body, so that I could get up and go about my day, even though I really didn’t want to. Without saying much Kim mentioned that she felt I was receiving strong messages of love…that I am so deeply loved. Chills. This explained the kiss from the woman on the cliff and the pride beaming from my 30-year old parents over the newborn me.

As I sat up on the table getting ready to re-enter the world, Kim confidently and quietly mentioned, “By the way, when you were laying there at the end, I saw a huge angel hovering over you.”

Um, WHAT? That’s what that white light was? That giant hug? It wasn’t just some suggestion to look up an aura? Wow. The only response I could muster up was a stream of tears. I felt it…I really felt it. I felt it at the exact time she said she saw it. It was undeniable and indescribable.

All night, all week, all month I couldn’t stop thinking about this experience. Rocking my son to bed that night, I was smiling ear to ear. I felt like I was passing this joy, completeness, and warmth that filled my heart into his heart. I felt that I was right where I was supposed to be. That everything has happened for a reason. In a word, I felt gratitude.  In a previous post, I noted how I defined spirituality in the beginning of this quest, as “a connection to something bigger that brings me to a state of gratitude.” It feels like I’m there, even though I know I’m just scratching the surface of what’s possible.

A few weeks have passed since this experience, and it has become my touchstone. It is the feeling with which I begin and end my day. It is my new baseline. When I’m not feeling that warmth, light, and connection, I quickly evaluate what’s going on and what I need to do to get back there. It is the touchstone that brings me to gratitude every day. The touchstone that I talk to throughout the day. That helps me stay present enough to pay attention to the little messages as they come and go. Because there are so many, and they are so beautiful, and they bring me so much joy. It has been THE breakthrough in my spiritual journey. It is what broke me open to this whole spiritual world, and has me chomping at the bit to continue exploring and feeding this curiosity.

Through many challenges and surprises that have arisen recently, I still feel supported, loved, and protected. It feels comforting, for lack of a better word, knowing that I have an angel by my side through it all. Just typing that gives me the warm and fuzzies. Yes, I have an angel.

Waves of Gratitude and a Psychic Reading: My Journey to Spirituality

When a mentor of mine first encouraged me to blog about my journey to finding spirituality, I tried to look for reasons to say no. Not only because it had been so long since I had written, but also because I was worried that I wasn’t going to have the time to do these big spiritual activities let alone write about them. I had imagined that the stops along this spiritual path were all going to be huge, time consuming endeavors. It’s so funny to me now how so much of what I was doing was being motivated by saving time (and yes, fear). Nevertheless, I decided to consider it, and did what I did best at the time – made a to-do list, detailing exactly when and how I was going to approach each of these activities. Yes, I made a to-do list of how I was going to find spirituality. ::facepalm::

The things on my list were “big,” meaning time consuming and expensive. I knew a routine like this wasn’t sustainable, but I was so excited and curious about what I might find, that I started off aggressively. Having already whizzed through the first half of my list, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that often the biggest change has come from the small things. The really doable things that I’d been putting off because I didn’t believe something so easy could have such a profound impact.

Before I jump into the power I’ve found in small changes, let’s talk about a “big thing,” because let’s be honest they are super fun and interesting. A Psychic Reading was always something I wanted to try, but had allowed fear to stop me. Fear told me that a psychic may predict something horrible and out of my control. Fear also asked me what would happen if I started to truly believe in this metaphysical stuff? I’ve always felt a deep sense of intuition, but haven’t listened to it. Maybe I was scared to think about what might change in my life if I became a true believer. This time around, curiosity swooped in to save the day…what’s the best that could happen? I set boundaries with myself that for this first reading I would take everything with a grain of salt, and not make it such a big deal. It was a really cool feeling because I was walking into something completely new with pure excitement instead of my usual intense nerves.

I had no idea what to expect, but the psychic was warm and unintimidating, while confident and matter of fact. We started with an astrological reading based on my birthday, and then she pulled out a deck of tarot cards to “see what was coming up” for my family, me, and my business. A lot of what she said resonated, but most importantly brought me into a state of presence and self-reflection.

Some of the concepts she brought up were so specific and spot on that it made me start to trust that everything is more connected than I once thought. I shed some tears when she brought up some things that I too had been feeling so strongly in my gut, but didn’t have the confidence to know for sure. I still don’t know if you can ever know for sure, but it felt good to know that somebody else (and an objective source) felt it too.

When she provided some less specific information, I liked that I could interpret it how I wanted. It brought me closer to self-awareness, and acted as a prompt to get me thinking about some things that were sitting just below the surface. I took the information and used it to coach myself and reflect on what her words meant to me. I left feeling excited, filled with wonder, and proud that I tried something new.

A major takeaway for me though, is that this “big experience” wasn’t the only answer that was going to get me to the peace, calm, connection, and presence I’m looking for. I don’t think any one thing can do that. It was a valuable and fun way to complement my spiritual practice, but the biggest gift on this journey so far has been what I’ve received from making the smallest changes.

It feels a little underwhelming to say, but the most impactful way I’ve uncovered my authentic spirituality is through reading and writing. I know, snore, but daily journaling has been the key to bringing me closer to an authentic and lasting state of gratitude.

If you read the last post you know that I like to journal about how I got over my BS yesterday, or how I’m going to get over it today. I have also found another tool I’m using to help me understand my place in the universe as a whole, and to inspire my journaling practice. It’s called “The Book of Awakening,” by Mark Nepo.

I was introduced to this book by a fellow life coaching trainee. She started each day by reading one page from this book of daily devotionals and profound messages. In my desperation to find a spiritual ritual, I copied this practice from her. Real original, right? But, the thing about spiritual practices is that if they are truly authentic to you, they’ll wind up in your hands one way or another. I no longer look at it as being unoriginal, but rather as the universe putting me right where I was meant to be to discover a practice that has become so meaningful to me.

Here’s an excerpt that spoke to me, particularly as it pertains to this journey, “When we find our spirit on the move when we are pretending otherwise, the tension can be ripping. It leaves us all with the need to learn how to discern between an innocent not-knowing and a willful looking away. This is an inner knowing that can determine whether we will live like a dog at the end of our leash or whether we will run free through the grasses of life.”

The presence that has come from this new daily routine has at times suggested, and other times slapped me in the face with new truths.

One thing I know to be true is that I want to run free through the grasses of life.

I don’t know why I was so apprehensive about getting back into journaling. Maybe because it made me feel like an emo teenager, or maybe because I didn’t think it was deserving of my precious time. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Committing the time to explore my being through journaling, has been an empowering experience that has actually made me more productive.

A beautiful side effect of journaling has been that it has kept my gratitude list top of mind. Not only does this gratitude put things into perspective, but it has physically helped me relax and feel lighter. There’s actual science behind this that says when you think about what you’re grateful for, your brain releases dopamine and serotonin (the feel good neurotransmitters), and the more often you do this, the stronger these feel good neural pathways become, creating a more permanent positive nature. I remember having read that at some point but haven’t actually experienced it until now.

I am now relishing in little things and messages I may have previously raced right by without second thought. These little things now trigger waves of gratitude as I go about my day. It may sound crazy, but I don’t really care because even if it is, it sure feels good.

I feel compelled to note that as much as I’d like to walk around like Buddha all the time, I am human and it’s not always all bliss. The past few days have really tested me, and I didn’t always like the way I reacted to things. The good news is that I now know what tools to use to get me back to being grounded versus continuing to spin out of balance.

It’s hard to put into words the way this “grounding” feels. I’m going to share with you a note from my daily journal that brings to life the gift that this spiritual journey has given me versus trying to rewrite it into some beautiful prose. Here goes:

From Clara’s journal, February 12th: “It’s Tuesday, and I’m writing out an overwhelming to do list. Both kids are still sick, it’s raining outside, and I am dragging ass. In the midst of writing my to do list, I get to item #9, and when I normally would begin to panic, I felt a wave of gratitude. I can’t really explain it other than my chest feeling filled with light and love, and a smile came to my face. Maybe because with a shift in mindset, more gratitude, and a feeling of connection to something bigger, my to do list doesn’t seem like such a daunting task anymore, but rather a collection of all the wonderful things that make up my life.” 

Today I tried something new. I only put one thing on my to-do list: Flow.

Turning Fear into Curiosity: My Journey to Spirituality

Open. That was the word I chose on January 1st — the word that would define my intention for the year. At the time, I was laser focused on opening a brick and mortar location for the Happy Hour. It’s now February 13th, and boy oh boy, that word has taken on a whole new meaning to me.

Flashback to the first week in January. I had just begun training to become a Certified Holistic Life Coach. I’d been doing online classes for a while, but couldn’t get my act together to actually finish the requirements, so I decided to commit to the in-person training and just get it done. Being both a new business owner and a parent of two kids under three years old, productivity and efficiency were always at the forefront of my mind.

Ever since I did a 180 from my corporate job and started my health journey, I have considered myself a pretty intense person when it comes to anything self-care, mental health, and self-awareness related. I do the work; I regularly see a therapist, practice yoga, and read all the inspiring Instagram posts. I try all the new wellness stuff out there – and preach about it! I turned my life’s work into creating a company that promotes the kind of self-care and community that normalizes mental wellness, in the hopes of making the world a happier place. I think of myself as a happy person, because I am! But, I recently came face to face with issues that have been lurking beneath the surface, and holding me back in so many areas of my life. I’ve spent a lot of time uncovering and working through them over the years, but it wasn’t until Day 3 of Life Coach training that I had finally said “uncle,” and surrendered to my truth. We spent hours each day of training getting coached in a group and doing a lot of deep introspection. The idea being, that you can’t be an effective life coach if you aren’t aware of what’s going on inside of you… you can’t give what you don’t have.

Well, Day 3 is the day that something inside of me snapped. I can’t tell you what the final trigger was, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it happened. My typically buttoned-up, polished, MBA-trained self, broke down and confessed to the group that I was sick of it. I was sick of always being buttoned up. I was sick of being polished. I was sick of feeling closed off. I was sick of the pressure I put on myself to be perfect. SICK.OF.IT. The trainer took a breath, and masterfully responded with a quote that author Elizabeth Gilbert tweeted several years back:

I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit.

Wow. I just got called out. And she hit the nail on the head. I promptly opened my journal to a fresh page, and titled it: “My Bullshit To Get Over ” and wrote a bulleted list of what I consider to be, well, my own bullshit. I noticed that there was a clear theme on my list – fear. Fear was driving so many of my decisions, and how I showed up in everyday life. What am I so afraid of? Why have I been letting fear take the wheel for so long? In that moment, I became determined to address this bullshit list head-on.

Breakthrough number two came on Day 4 of training, when the same trainer posed the question, “What spiritual rituals do you practice every day?” Cue the bead of sweat down my forehead. This question both sent me into a tailspin, and subsequently changed my life. As we went around the circle, it seemed that everyone had a number of beautifully articulated spiritual rituals that they practiced on a daily basis. As my peers spoke about these rituals, the peace and elation that accompanied their words were palpable. It was clear to see that they were vibrating on some other level that I didn’t know about. A club of which I wasn’t a part because I, on the other hand, didn’t even know what spiritual practice was. To be honest, I didn’t really know what the word ‘spiritual’ meant. Does this mean how pious you are? How often you pray to your higher power? How frequently you meditate? I believe in God, I pray as often as I think about it, I go to church sometimes… Where does that put me on this spiritual scale? To put it lightly, I was confused.

To answer her question, all I could muster up was, “ummmm, pass?”. The confusion and panic in my face became apparent to the group, so we took a step back to talk about the definition of spirituality. There is no one-size-fits all definition here, but the one that stuck to me was the one that defined spirituality as “anything that brings you closer to gratitude.” All of a sudden it didn’t feel like such a daunting task. Maybe I could do this after all.

You’d think that after years of trying any sort of self-development work I could get my hands on that I would’ve figured out a spiritual routine that brought me to my higher self, if you will. But I didn’t. That always bothered me, but I couldn’t figure out why. I put in the work, why am I not feeling the peace and spiritual connection I’m looking for?

What I’ve come to realize is that on the other side of this desire to become the best and happiest version of myself has been sitting a tremendous amount of fear, and when you let fear act as the guiding force in your decisions and actions, you are never going to be present enough to find that higher self that radiates positive energy (which is how I envision spirituality). Feeling simply content and confident that you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. In my endeavor to become the best leader I could be, to become the most successful business person I could be, and the best parent I could be, I lost two things: my sense of self and my creativity. My spirituality, this ‘higher self,’ would never appear without those things. That’s not good enough for me anymore. Maybe what I find will look different than what I’ve envisioned, but I’m sure as hell not going to stand in the way of realizing my own spirituality, whatever that may look like, anymore.

What’s this about creativity though? Somewhere along the way in the past decade, after writing hundreds of pages of business case studies, memos, pitches, and the like, I lost my creativity. Or maybe just buried it deep beneath piles of excel spreadsheets and business lingo. I was so focused on producing and hitting deadlines that I didn’t allow time for anything creative. Sadly, I came to believe that I wasn’t creative, and told people all the time, “I’m just not a creative person.”

That’s where this blog comes into play. I’m combining the two things that have felt like a hole in my recent life: spirituality and creativity. This blog is an attempt to uncover the creativity that I buried a while back, while also saying goodbye to fear.  I’m jumping all in to new ways to heal what needs to be healed, and digging deeper into myself to reach that higher vibration I talked about.

Over the next few weeks I’ll bring you along with me as I try new things in hopes to shed some light on something you may have been curious about, but haven’t yet pushed ‘go’ on. I will be your guinea pig, so to speak.

As I’ve become more present through this spiritual journey, I’ve noticed how much my daughter reminds me of myself as a kid, spending hours reading books, getting so much joy from it, and using her imagination to make up fun stories. It pained me to ask myself why I ever stopped doing that. Why did I lose that child-like excitement about creativity? Reading and writing brought me so much joy. I’m giving it a whirl again, and my writing muscle is a good bit weaker than it once was, but I’m having a lot of fun giving it some attention.

I’m a month into this journey, and I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore, but also like I’m my true self for the first time in my life. I am beginning to remove those blocks. And the payoff has been incredible. By the way, that “List of My Own Bullshit” I mentioned earlier has kicked off my daily journaling practice as each day I write about how I’m going to get over my own BS that day, along with any other feelings that come up. And just like that, I’ve got my first daily spiritual ritual.