On Being Present

My mind has a habit of drifting, wandering, and I find myself carried away. Either into a warm, nostalgic memory, or some vision of the idealized distant future. I love teaching and practicing mindfulness with my clients, but I have to ask myself, how often am I utilizing this technique for my own self-care? During a short visit to the Carolinas this past week, I had an insightful conversation with my grandmother. She asked me a simple question: “are you satisfied with your life?”. A question that I’ve been hesitant to ask myself lately. Living so far away from my birthplace, I was infatuated with this brief homecoming, basking in past memories, taking in the golden, feathery sunsets and lush greenery, gazing up at the massive old trees, comparing it all to the scenery of my new home. As if I were trying to decide which landscape I prefer, which one feels more authentic, which one reflects where I need to “end up”, or “settle down”. Which is why this question seemed so daunting. Am I satisfied? Expending energy hazy with nostalgia or hyper-focused on future plans, will I ever be? Life never turns out quite the way we plan or imagine (although sometimes, it’s even better), and obsessing over that can be self-destructive. In my graduate program, we often discussed a phenomenon called Destination Addiction. It’s the unattainable idea that whenever a certain goal is reached, happiness will automatically follow. We also discussed the theory that we remember events in a better light than when we actually experienced the event. These cognitions are what can keep us disillusioned and distant from the present moment, from current, ongoing happiness. Practicing mindfulness (being present and nonjudgmental in the moment), appreciating the little things that make us feel at home, and focusing on the amazing aspects of everyday life, these are a few basic essentials for self-care and feeling satisfied. Sunsets are beautiful anywhere, but we have to be present in order to appreciate them.

How do you stay present?

Moon Journal

The moon. La luna. It influences the tides, our bodies, agriculture, sleep cycles. I find the moon presenting itself in a lot of my expressive artwork, and I want to document how it affects me personally.  Last night was the Leo New Moon. I noticed how much it was affecting me, so I started looking more into its meaning, and realized that next month, at the end of this moon cycle, holds a solar eclipse. This is an important lunar cycle to pay attention to. Today, I created a moon journal to document my mind, body, spirit, and sleep for each day and night from the Leo New Moon, through the Full Corn Moon on Monday, August 7th, 2017 until the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st, 2017.

I would love to hear from and share this experience with anyone wishing to join me on this lunar journey!

Garden Compost

The garden is getting huge. In late spring, we planted tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, beets, carrots, pumpkins, watermelons, corn, okra, quinoa, beans, berries, onions, and a variety of peppers including purple cayenne, habanero, and jalepeno. The list goes on and on, and we just harvested our first zucchini! Shortly after we planted, I began composting using an old compost spinner from my landlord. (I’ve also created one in the past by drilling holes into a plastic outdoor trashcan). Compost can be a great additive to any garden, but it took some research to learn the best (and worst) things to add to my compost. Below is a guide on what I usually toss in there:

I make sure to NEVER add animal products or waste, oil, or charcoal. Being vegetarian, it’s easy to monitor what goes into my compost by keeping a big, airtight jar on the kitchen counter for food scraps. I just empty it into the spinner when it gets full. I also toss weeds and greenery in the spinner pretty often. It’s been so exciting to watch the garden take off, and I can’t wait to share more with you as the harvest continues!

Floral Creamers

It’s wildflower season here in Colorado, and it’s unbelievably beautiful.

All of those gorgeous, colorful blooms and blossoms come and go so quickly, I had to capture them somehow. I’ve been creating some floral-based concoctions, and so far this is my favorite: floral scented creamer. This time of year, with the sun shining, birds singing, and adventure calling, it can be hard to stay focused, especially during those busy, early mornings. These vegan, sugarless rose petal, lavender, and orange blossom creamers are like a little morning oasis; a sweet summertime escape. Add them to coffee, tea, or perhaps a caffeine-free alternative, and start your day imagining yourself in the middle of a wildflower field.

Rose Petal Creamer

  • 2 cups Unsweetened Nut Milk of Your Choice
  • 2 tbsp Dried Rose Petals
  • 1 tsp Concentrated Rose Water
  • 1 tbsp Agave Nectar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and barely bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and let rest for ten minutes. Strain out rose petals and serve.

Lavender Vanilla Creamer

  • 2 cups Unsweetened Nut Milk of Your Choice
  • 2 tbsp Dried Lavender
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tbsp Agave Nectar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and barely bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and let rest for ten minutes. Strain out dried lavender and serve.

Orange Blossom Creamer

  • 2 cups Unsweetened Nut Milk of Your Choice
  • 1 tbsp Dried Orange Peel
  • 1 tsp Concentrated Orange Blossom Water
  • 1 tbsp Agave Nectar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and barely bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and let rest for ten minutes. Strain out orange peel and serve.

Good morning, summertime!

Elements

As I sit here writing, I notice the scent of tea tree lingering from my hair, slightly damp from my shower. I breathe in the warmth from the green tea in my favorite mug. I am safe. I am clean. I am comfortable. Unexposed to the elements on this unusually chilly night. I feel cozy tonight, but my mind wanders to a recent camping adventure in which I was almost completely exposed to the elements, at the mercy of Mother Earth. With the promising forecast of clear skies and decent temperatures, five of us headed out with our camping gear, unfazed by the unpredicted grey clouds looming in the distance. A few hours into our trip, tents built and campfire blazing, those clouds opened up and the rain began to pour. We ran into our tent and huddled up together, waiting for it to pass. These unexpected but temporary downpours continued on and off throughout our trip, producing the most beautiful sunset and sunrise. We were exposed to the elements with few options for shelter, nervously hoping that the tent enveloping us would hold up through the periodic storms. It is eye opening to get a glimpse of what so many people are forced to experience on a daily basis, exposed to wind, rain, cold temperatures. However, we were doing this for fun. We chose to wait out the rain and thunder for the joy of camping. There seems to be a common nomadic daydream among many in our generation. The dream of living on the road or off the grid, a form of chosen homelessness. There is something that feels so natural and primal about living in such a way. It feels magical to wake up in a forest, making your breakfast over the fire you’ve built, cooling off in a nearby stream, completely surrounded by nature. I feel that while living our chosen lifestyles, whatever they may be, it is important to remember that we are lucky enough to get to choose that lifestyle. As someone dedicated to a helping profession, I wonder how many ways we can find to reroute our daily activities in order to give back, to waste less, to show compassion? Volunteering, recycling, composting, donating, leaving no trace, etc… I would love to hear your thoughts on this! What aspects of your lifestyle are dedicated to bettering the planet, or what would you like to start doing and learning more about?

Growing an Herb Garden

After a few unexpected weeks of rain, wind, and even a little snow, the sun finally emerged and began to warm the earth around me. I graciously planted my bare feet in the dirt and, after much anticipation, started transplanting my herbs to the garden. Since I have been limited to small garden boxes or indoor pots in the past, I wanted to take advantage of all of the space in my new yard. I designated specific areas for different herbs based on the plants’ needs. Below is a guide on where to place plant babies and how to care for them.

Rosemary and lavender love the sun. They absolutely love it. Full sun is best for these plants. And they are definitely not needy when it comes to watering. Water is usually only necessary for these babes when the soil gets pretty dry.

I have a few basil plants as well as some varieties of mint. Basil plants can grow pretty large, so leave some room for them to spread out. Basil and mint prefer a lot of sunshine, but can also tolerate some shade. They’re a little more fussy and need to be watered regularly.

Dill enjoys full sun, but also doesn’t like to get too much heat. I’m still trying to find a balance for my dill plants. Dill also needs to be watered pretty regularly.

Sage, thyme, and cilantro prefer full sun and well-drained earth. Sage and cilantro may tolerate some shade. Make sure to provide plenty of room for plants, especially cilantro, to grow and grow.

Chamomile and lemon verbena seem to enjoy more shade than sunshine. They also don’t need a ton of water.

It always helps to do research before starting an herb garden. Some methods of growing and care may differ depending on types of herbs, as well as your zone.

As my herbs grow, I’ll be making all sorts of concoctions, potions, and recipes with them and sharing on the blog! See you soon, and happy planting!

In Bloom

The sun wakes me up a couple of hours later than it used to. I’m still astonished every morning to open my eyes and see Pike’s Peak looking down on me from outside the bedroom window. Everything is new.

Newness can feel daunting. It presents challenges, demands acclimation, and evokes uncertainty. It also offers fresh perspective, expanding knowledge, and beautiful, towering surprises. I turn a corner to find mountains before me. Looking up has never been more enthralling, or more often. Although, even in the grasp of change and newness, we still have our rituals, our traditions. Something to help us feel that we are staying the course, still on track. Clouds followed as our dog, Molly, led me through pathways and trails unfamiliar to us. Red rocks, waterfalls, flowers, and even more clouds surrounded as we breathed in our new atmosphere.

I crave exploration. I yearn for adventure. I needed this for my own self-care. Of course I have so many people who are close to my heart, yet now so far in distance. My love for them does not falter based on the location of my freshest footprints. I want to see more. I want to learn. I was drawn to this transition. Maybe it was to show those who are feeling stagnant how realistic such a seemingly drastic change can be. Maybe it’s okay to follow your heart, even if you’re not sure where it’s leading you.

Grow. Blossom. Bloom.

    

Carolina to Colorado, Part Deux

We did it. We moved across the country from Asheville, North Carolina to Colorado Springs, Colorado. From the Smokies to the Rockies. 1500 miles of driving, music, laughter, and anticipation. We are currently falling in love with our new home.

Change is good; growth is amazing. I can’t wait to show you (and myself) what is yet to come.

Stay tuned for more adventures out west.

Retreat

“You gave me a forever within the numbered days…”

-John Green

 I recently experienced the loss of a loved one. As many resources as I have for clients experiencing grief and loss, I personally found myself unprepared for the impact. I have so many memories that I cherish with this person, and I needed time to reflect on them and to process this experience. I decided to take some time apart from everyone and everything on a personal retreat. I found a beautiful retreat center in the middle of the Pisgah National Forest called Mountain Light Sanctuary. The sanctuary offers multiple overnight accommodations including some that are open to the elements, and even a four post bed placed directly under the stars. Since the comfort of my home and the support of my partner have been so healing through this process, I simply chose to participate in a personal day retreat. I spent a lot of time reflecting, journaling, and meditating by the river. As I was longing to feel grounded and connected to the natural world, I walked around the property barefoot, rooting myself to the earth beneath me. It was a beautiful experience to reflect on loss while surrounded by the awakened life of blooming flowers and singing birds, as well as the company of a friendly little resident cat…

 Unplugging, connecting with nature, and temporarily retreating in such a way can be so revitalizing, and I would love to hear about any retreats you have visited or would recommend!

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.