Blues

It’s inevitable. No matter how much we enjoy the snow, towards the end of the season, the winter blues are bound to set in. We start to long for warm sunshine and lush greenery, and the constant windchill and bare branches start to seem monotonous. This week, on a particularly cold and cloudy day, I decided to offset my winter blues with the blue hues of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as if to seek out my own pathetic fallacy. I grabbed our pup, Molly, and headed out toward Tennessee to a magical place called Roan Mountain. As luck would have it, the clouds slowly dissipated as we made our way up the winding mountain roads. One thing I’ve learned while living in the mountains is that gazing out at the endless ridges and visualizing how small we are compared to the earth  around us can really help shift our perspective, and, in some cases, even brighten our mood. Exploring the snowy forests and hiking the various balds of Roan Mountain was an amazing counterbalance for the winter blues. Molly seemed to be in good spirits as well, rolling around in the residual patches of snow and gazing out at the breathtaking views.

   

Of course, we are often stuck inside during these cold winter days, but even indoor comforts may offer an escape from the frigidity, like creating a cozy atmosphere inside to compliment the cold weather, or experimenting with different herbal tea concoctions to warm up during those particularly chilly mornings. Here is one recipe I’ve been loving lately:

  • Black tea leaves
  • Dried rose petals
  • Lavender
  • Cloves (optional)
  • Cinnamon bark (optional)

Simply blend ingredients, add one tsp to a loose leaf tea strainer, and steep in hot water for 5 minutes.

Salt Therapy

 Ever since I moved to Asheville, I’ve heard mention of the Asheville Salt Cave, a spa and gift shop in downtown Asheville, including a cave made completely of crystal salt. I love using my Himalayan salt lamp at home, and have been hearing so much about the benefits of crystal salt, so I finally decided to check out the cave. From the moment you walk in, the atmosphere feels completely calming and inviting. The cave experience starts with a guided meditation, followed by a gentle dimming of the lights and an invitation to silently meditate.
Using meditation and quieting my mind has always been a challenge for me, but recently I have been practicing both guided and silent meditation, gradually learning to let go, slow down, and just be. After some patience and determination, meditation has now become a magical part of my life. That magic was truly intensified in the salt cave. I could feel the expansion of my breathing, the calming of my mind, and the immediate relief of my tension. Following my 45 minute session in the cave, I felt completely at ease throughout the rest of my day. All of my stress was melted away. I wish I had visited the salt cave months ago to experience the wonderful benefits, and I will definitely be back.
What helps you with meditation? What are your thoughts on salt therapy? I would love to hear from you!
Best Wishes,
Emily

Contrast

Waking up to a blanket of snow feels like a dream when you live in Asheville. We usually only get a handful of snow days every year, and last week, we woke up to one of those days. Within the same week, we were greeted by 70 degree weather. Mother natures offers lots of contrast, as does day to day life. Major changes can happen overnight, and we can either try to resist such contrast, or we can embrace it. The idea of contrast and change has been coming up a lot in recent meetings with my colleagues and supervisors. One of my fellow counselors always tells me: “roll with resistance”. When unexpected changes come up, roll with it rather than push against it. The capability to roll with resistance can depend greatly on our ability to give up perceived control over our environment. In many cases, the only true control we have is over our own reactions and responses, which can be used to create flexibility and balance when we are faced with difficult or unusual situations. Additionally, my supervisor recently advised me to let go of my expectations of certain situations, and challenged me to find ways to change my perspective and create my own ‘silver linings’, which is something I have been working on. Even when we are faced with darkness, we can bring our own light into it.
Truthfully, I was hoping that the snow would last longer. I definitely appeased my inner child: sledding, playing, and just taking in the scenery. When my toes were nearly frozen, I warmed up inside with hot tea and spent some time wrapping crystals. I was enjoying the quiet, vast energy of such a short-lived wonderland, only to see it melted away so quickly. It was then that I reminded myself of my ability to take control over my own reaction to the contrasting weather patterns. Rather than ruminate over the loss of the beautiful snow, I took advantage of the unexpected warm weather. I visited some of the same areas that were covered in snow just days before to capture the contrast (pictures below). In the end, I know that I feel happiest when I am living in the moment; when I let go of my expectations and constant planning, and embrace the contrast that life, and nature, offer to me.

& what a difference a day makes…

Yuletide

The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day and longest night of the year. The ground begins to freeze, the earth below protecting the seeds and roots as they sleep until the spring. Snow falls, ice crystals form, and all is quiet, calm, and contemplative. Today, December 21st, marks the 2016 solstice. Winter has begun, and it is beautiful. Many cultures and religions acknowledge the winter solstice and celebrate the changing of the seasons. As the idea of winter can be disheartening for so many people who are in need of warmth, safety, and love in the cold weather, some of these celebrations might include lights, candles, warm spices, or evergreen plants that symbolize life, hope, and comfort throughout the winter months.

This year, I want to welcome the winter solstice and create small comforts for myself and my loved ones. Although I am looking forward to celebrating the solstice, I remind myself that the holidays can be lonely and difficult for many people, and even small gestures of warmth and love can go a long way as the winter and holiday season approaches. As the pine trees, twinkling lights, and hot cocoa surround us this season, we are reminded of comfort, warmth, and of hope to last us through the colder months. This year, I want to offer comforting gifts, and reminders of such hope to myself and to those around me as we celebrate the changing of the seasons. A local metaphysical shop, Raven and Crone (located in Asheville, NC) makes wonderful essential oil, incense, and other products meant for Solstice and Yule celebrations. I am always greeted by the friendly, magical energy of this shop as well as the resident black cat purring on the counter.

In preparation for the Winter Solstice, I am using a few treasures from Asheville Raven and Crone, including their Yule Oil, Yule Incense, and Wassail Mulling Spices. I added the Yule Oil to a comforting homemade sugar body scrub that I am making for my friends and family, which is perfect for dry, wintery skin. I also concocted a hot mulled Wassail cider for my partner and I to enjoy as we welcome the Solstice, surrounded by aromas of pine, cinnamon, and clove in our cozy little home.

I hope that comfort and love will surround you this winter.

Leaves are Falling

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We all experience valleys and peaks in life (both figuratively and literally), including the changing of the seasons. The autumnal equinox can be symbolic of both high’s and low’s. The days are shorter, the weather cooler, yet at the same time everything feels warm, cozy and colorful. As trees fall asleep, the leaves get more and more intense as it gets darker. Colder. Luckily Luke and I, along with our pup Molly, had a chance to catch the peak leaf colors of the fall season at one of my favorite and most beautiful areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Max Patch Mountain. One night in October, before the wildfires, before the burn ban, and after what seemed like hours of searching for the perfect campsite, we ended up in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. We set up our tent in the darkness together. Cold and cozy. We awoke to the most beautiful sight of colorful changing leaves all around us. It had been too dark to really see where we had decided to set up camp, but it truly was picture perfect. After a campfire-cooked breakfast (part of which was stolen by an easily distracted hunting dog who wandered into our campsite), we headed down the windy roads to behold the the panoramic views of the red, yellow, and orange covered mountains at Max Patch. I was longing for a chance to unplug, to cleanse, reconnect with nature and with my partner, to feel the earth on my feet. Since quartz and calcite are both stones that have cleansing properties, I thought they would be perfect to accompany us on our weekend adventure. In somewhat of meditative state among the leaves, I got a chance to wire wrap them, a hobby and self-care technique that I often lose myself in. After a beautiful couple of days adjusting to the rapidly cooling weather, we finally warmed our fingers up with some local coffee on our way home, recharged and revitalized.

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Carolina to Colorado

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Sometimes there are days that demand change, and then there are days that suggest the perfection of the present. The deep descent and the foamy whitecaps of the waves that life offers can be beautiful, sad, and exciting, and they seem to either come all at once, or few and far between. Change, although often necessary to promote growth, can feel daunting. Change often means the abandonment of comfort, security, familiarity. It also offers a promise of renewal, happiness, and adventure. But what happens when that promise goes unfulfilled? Maybe to elicit successful change and growth, the beauty of the current situation must be acknowledged and appreciated.
Change has been on my mind lately, particularly regarding change of scenery. I have lived in North Carolina my entire life. When I visited Colorado last month for the first time, it stole my heart. It was my first time off of work in six months, and it was much needed. Taking time away, away from stress, routines, morning commutes, is so good for my spirit. Traveling keeps me from feeling stagnant and opens my eyes and mind to different customs, places, and ideas. I have traveled to a few places, such as Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, England, Mexico, New York, Key West, and now, Colorado. I would love to continue to travel the world and explore new places. I dream of traveling to places like Thailand, France, Egypt, Prague, as well as the west coast of the US, which I have somehow never managed to see in my 25 years of life. Colorado is as close as I have come to the west coast. It was just what I needed to promote my own self-care, something you hear a lot about in the counseling world. It felt amazing to get away for awhile, to be with loved ones, to meet new people, to see new, beautiful places, and to contemplate the idea of change. In 9 short days, my partner, Luke, and I managed to visit Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, and Buena Vista. We spent most of our time wandering around town(s), reconnecting with friends and family,  exploring mountain tops, and praising the gripping ability of our hiking boots. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn new things about ourselves and about each other. The feeling of renewal I gained from our trip inspired me to begin documenting my personal methods of self-care and wellness, and to become more contemplative about different practices I might try.

Boulder, Colorado

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Colorado Springs Farmers Market

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Maybe to elicit successful change and growth, the beauty of the current situation must be acknowledged and appreciated.

My situation is beautiful.