self love

THE RIGHT PATH

I did it. Finally. The other day I decided in my zesty thrilling ride I call my life, I have not been taking care of nurturing the spiritual side of me enough.

Deliberately. Wholeheartedly.

The thought entered my mind like a sharp cold blast of air as you step outside on that first winter day. The one that takes your breath away and makes your boogers freeze in a nanosecond. Yes. That type of blast. More importantly, I realized that my life and how I run it is ultimately my choice. And run it is what I have been doing. Running. From workout class to business class to team meetings and writing workshops and dinners out, running and more running. From and to without a lot of conscious thought in my movement. As soon as the consciousness entered me,

I went into my sparkly overbooked Google calendar and decisively blocked out every single Thursday from five am-nine pm for the rest of time.

DO NOT SCHEDULE ANYTHING, it reads in a bright wakeup yellow.

This running I have been doing is not anything bad. I mean, honestly, as I reread where I have been running, it hardly seems like going to a workout and dinner with friends is anything to feel overwhelmed about. It is just that sometimes quickly jotting down an appointment in a schedule as a one line entry doesn’t always translate into a one line event.

“Dinner with Morgan,” for example is not just a 6:00 timeslot. It is getting ready for dinner, going to dinner, eating and driving home. On a Google or Ical entry it looks like a brief appointment, but four hours later of a 24 hour day and four other entries like that on that same day and there isn’t much time left. What my point is here is that I have an active fun life because I thoroughly enjoy the choices I make, but in this whirlwind, I sometimes forget to turn it off, to wind it down and consciously STOP.

My brain is a busy one. For anyone reading my almost daily writings and seeing the time of day I post them, I am guessing there would be agreement with this. Even when I meditate, and though thankfully I have introduced this into my morning routine, it takes most of the meditation to wind down. And this is at five am! But I wouldn’t change it, I enjoy the busy-ness and the mental challenge of a brain on fire.

Podcasts get my brain really cooking. When I am in the car I often listen to them instead of music. Podcasts are like listening to the old school books on tape for those of you who haven’t discovered them yet. And as one might imagine, Oprah has a podcast. Her Supersoul Sundays on her OWN network are also podcasts and she has some fantastic guests. I believe that when I am on the right path and paying attention with full awareness, everything that is supposed to show up in my world shows up exactly when it is supposed to. This notion applies to podcasts too. So without even looking for the “right” one to listen to, I turned on my radio and Devon Franklin started speaking to me like he was sitting in the car next to me. He just wrote a book called, Produced by Faith and he got me thinking about my personal spirituality.

oprah-fied again.

What and where has my deliberate spiritual connection gone? I asked myself. I have been doing this exercise lately of paying attention to where the holes are in my daily life, almost like looking at a counter of glasses each marked with elements of my life. Financial. Physical. Spiritual. Social. Emotional. Relationships. Filling each of the glasses and seeing which ones need more water. This changes based on where I am. Sometimes one is more full or less full then the other. But it tells a good story of where there is room and where the cup overflows. My cup for spiritual devotion was on the low side.

When I say spiritual, I don’t mean going to synagogue to pray, though this could be part of it. I mean connecting with the divine, the one that speaks to me and walks with me. Purposefully in nature, at a museum, with a book at a library away from the NOISE that is in my head and out of my mouth.

Alone.

Do I even enjoy my own company? This is the spiritual question I asked myself as I listened to this podcast and found my way to more and more (or rather they found their way to me). This spiritual day off is not a day free to make plans with another chick, it is a purposeful day with the intention of no plans and going within My Self. Being with me, myself and I.  

Now because I am a wacky rules and regs chick, I really have to train by brain to consider this new endeavor. Saying there can be no rules is in some ways a rule. I am referring to my day as a no plan day. Turn off the phones, the computer, and stop working, like my own personal Sabbath Day. A true day of rest and devotion to my soul. And most importantly if it doesn’t go exactly as not planned planned, to not start the washing machine head of scolding and berating that happens when I don’t live up to my high expectations self. This is more a day of freedom from that. Permission granted to not feel the need to write blogs of encouragement, to not help other women see and feel their power because I know I can only have that strength if I take care of myself too. Just as we are instructed on a plane that if the “unlikely event of a crash, be sure to put your oxygen mask on yourself first before trying to put in on your child.” We must learn that in order to run we must also rest under the stars. Easier said than done.

On my first round this past Thursday,  I went to the gym and made my way to my partner’s house to take a shower. Before I even opened the car door, the sounds of my cardinal friend chirping was almost deafening. I got out of the car and looked up and there he was. Fiery red, the brightest cardinal I have seen, the first one of my season, solo up in the tree above me saying, YAY ALAYNE! TO THE LIGHT! And then he flew away singing his familiar tune.

A sign. Yes. So if you are trying to reach me and it happens to be a Thursday, I likely won’t get back to you until Friday. Don’t worry, I’m not lost, I am found.

On the right path indeed.

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TO THE MAT

TO THE MAT

I was in the midst of planning a huge event in Boston, my first one. I had the job of my dreams working at the young age of my late twenties for Aveda Corporation and I was solely responsible for planning a gigantic beauty event for about eight hundred attendees. I had never done anything like this before and the entire experience was super stressful. I was in perpetual freak out mode because at that age that was just what my emotions did back then, before I grew up and realized the silliness of that.

I’m too stressed out to do yoga. Yes. These actual words spilled out of my mouth over twenty five years ago as I was speaking to the owner of a brand new yoga studio that had just opened in Middletown, RI. Innerlight, a studio way ahead of its time. It may have been the first one to open in most of RI besides All That Matters. The very zen owner looked at me without so much as an eye roll and said something calming and kind that didn’t even make its wisdom into my personal space. There was not a chance I would have signed up for a yoga class at that time because I couldn’t even imagine sitting still for a second. Of course, this should have been exactly what I jumped into, but my ego and my impatience with quiet would not have allowed this.

I hear this daily. I can’t sit still. I could never sit still for an hour and a half or more treatment. My mind is always on the go. Do you have anything quicker? Every day a woman asks us this and makes these comments so imagine the commentary now when these same women find out about my new meditation practice. My WHILE THE COFFEE PERKS, meditation practice that literally is timed by a full pot of coffee brewing.

I have always been a good deep diaphragmatic breather especially since my husband and I separated almost eight years ago. I started meditating before I went to bed at night usually guided by a wonderful meditation app called Meditation Oasis. The soothing voice of the woman guiding me to a more restful evening helped me sleep better; she helped calm my mind and rest my fast beating and sad, confused heart. This app also helped get me back to sleep on those frequent three am wakeups that would find my heart racing with fear questioning my decision to break up a twenty year marriage. As wonderful as meditating on your back before bed is (and I highly recommend it as a great place to start the practice of self soothing), it is not a conscious meditation because you fall asleep.

Meditation is more about consciously going quiet and being conscious of that quiet. It is active awareness of the quietest place in your heart, mind and body. Showing up for a date with the mat and quieting your racing mind for even one minute is not easy. This is the point. What? Isn’t meditation supposed to bring inner peace and total quiet joy? Why the hell would someone want to be uncomfortable actively pursuing a quiet and calm state? I know. It seems almost contradictory on paper. Sitting cross legged, hips pulsating, legs cramping, back bothering, mind endlessly wandering to the endless to do list that circulates like a tornado through our brains. This is the point.

Many many years ago I had found a book written by Vietnamese Monk and Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh on mindful meditation. The book’s premise, if I remember correctly, was that every moment in our day offers golden nuggets of opportunities for meditating because meditating is not always about sitting in a lotus position and chanting OM for two hours. Meditating can be when you are washing your dishes, or standing in line at the grocery store or waiting for your gas to fill up the tank. Meditation is about awareness of our thoughts, allowing the wild west thoughts that run rambunctious in our heads from one moment to the next and instead allowing them, noticing them, without judgment or criticism and finding our breath instead. This is miraculously simple once you realize how often thoughts run amuck with no consciousness and how easy it is to feel good by simply taking a deep breath every time you can remember to notice when your thoughts are running like wild banshees.

This was a good place to start for me, just bringing breath into my day wherever and whenever I could remember to. But this was just the first step of meditation and I soon learned that this was not enough for me. I needed to actually create an actual practice of meditating. Like showing up to a class, but instead the class would be a pillow on my floor of the living room. Free. In my jammies. Disciplined. My struggle in my life has always been discipline and commitment. Ever since I was a little kid if I had something I was supposed to do, if something seemingly more interesting came up, like a party or hanging out with friends, I would usually blow off what I was supposed to do, homework for example. Practicing my instrument. So this month in an effort to get reconnected with a deeper spiritual part of me, I decided I would work on this. Creating a spiritual practice that would benefit my health, my heart, my connection with something bigger than the day to day grind of busy-ness.

So I started. To the mat, or in this case the floor of my living room. I sat cross legged completely uncomfortable, while the coffee percolated. And I began breathing. In through my nose for a count of four, holding the breath for another count of four, releasing the breath for four, and feeling the empty space for a final four. While the coffee dripped, I practiced this discipline. My mind wandered, I felt frustration, angst, impatience, boredom, annoyance, but I kept with it. After all, how long does it take for a full pot of coffee to brew? And about seven minutes later, the pot beeped signaling it was finished and I opened my eyes thankful it was over. But guess what? I felt different, better, calmer, gentler. It was strange. So I did it again, the next day and the next day and then I added some gentle stretching, some cat/ cows, some downward dogs, some child poses and I felt better and my legs crossed easier. All while the coffee perked. It has been three weeks since I started this new practice and it is getting easier, but the point here is the skill set I am building to self soothe, to calm my busy head and allow my own body to do what it does best when I allow it some space. All over a pot of coffee.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” 
 ― Thich Nhat Hanh,
The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

https://ideapod.com/thich-nhat-hanh-recommends-5-meditation-techniques-rewire-brain-live-present-moment/

Buddha in my garden, photo courtesy of the Brilliant and Talented, but more importantly Kind Lou Sousa.
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THE UPHILL CLIMB


THE UPHILL CLIMB

Guiltily opening up my laptop at breakfast, I was waiting for the disapproving stares of my fellow breakfast buffet goers. Breakfast included in my hotel stay is usually a cringeworthy addition to any vacation, but for this trip it was somewhat forced upon me by the odd travel agent from Fall River, Mass who “specializes” in Azore vacations. I used his agency, another something I usually don’t do when I go on vacation, but because my friend I was surprising used them, I thought it would be easier. It kind of was, but now that I am here, I would have planned my life for this first run completely different. Ahh the wisdom of retrospect. Anyway, in the case of the breakfast buffet though, it is a convenient morning yesterday as I woke up at six am bright and bushy tailed after already four glorious nights in this beauty of a place called Sao Miguel I have placed myself in. I have learned how to order a good cup of coffee and the meats, cheeses, breads, Azorean butters and fruits are a perfect early morning rise for this eager hiker ready to move and shake at nine am.

We had big plans for the day ahead to do a 4.5 km hike in Faial da Terra village. We started on Sanguinho to see the waterfall called Salto Do Prego which I looked up in my new handy Portuguese translator app and could only find salto= jump, prego= nail, hobnail. I emailed my fearless tour guide this morning and she translated it to iron stick jump. No idea what this even means, but the hike was like standing at the bottom of the hill called President Avenue in Fall River, Massachusetts and looking up at the top knowing you are going to have to walk up, straight up. Not to sound purposefully like a world traveler, I am not, but I have done a walking tour in Tuscany. The hill we needed to climb to get to the village of Montepulciano was the hill that made me realize how out of shape I was when I was newly forty as I watched my friend Kathy, blast by me and I was thinking I may have to call an Italian ambulance to save me. I didn’t and I made it which was one of the best hills I have ever walked. Thirteen years later and endless fitness routines and workouts, turns out I love walking hills. The feeling in my heart, my legs especially, my quads, wakes up every single muscle and organ contained in this one hundred and sixtyish pound female (because the Sao Jorge cheese and the waterfall flow of bolos and breads has surely tipped the scale and not in the downward motion I am always hoping for). There is a strength that happens in my soul that creates a nothing can stop me, I am a bad ass and do not fuck with me ever attitude that only a hill can bring out. Especially knowing that the top, the one with the view and the peace and quiet, the one that has no noise from traffic sounds and no internet (hopefully), the one that makes you want to take photo after photo but no photo is ever going to replace the moment between you and the earth and the world you get the privilege to be standing in because you said, No, I will not be a twenty minute tourist, I will use my phone only to research where to hike or how to speak Portuguese to a group of people who are only too happy to speak English.

Hiking sounds like I have a backpack (I kind of do, but it is more of a two strapped navy blue and white checked cotton purse worn from endless travels that I have slung on my back). Hiking sounds like I have on a pair of hiking shoes (I usually do, but since I did zero research on this trip, I neglected to bring them so instead am wearing my workout sneakers). Hiking sounds like a scary notion to people who do not hike. I am not a “hiker” like the kind that your brain is likely conjuring up. I have no plans to climb Mt. Everest or Kilimanjaro, but when I travel, hiking has been a linker for me and the outside. There are just so many towns and shops and museums one can go to. The outside is my museum and frankly there is nothing more that makes me feel like I have had a full vacation then being outdoors in the sunlight or the rain with the clouds, the random surprising and surprised chickens along the route, the birds singing to me and a waterfall as the main attraction.

As I traipsed up the hill, my heart pounding, the pace of my breath quickening, my muscles telling me that yes, alayne, you are alive in more ways than a heartbeat, we marched forth. Knowing that two or three hours from that moment would be a rush of physical and mental satisfaction yes, but more so the spiritual experience would be the shining best part at the end. When our tour guide Christina was coaxed into singing a Portuguese Folk song at the top of her lungs in the open air of the forest and tears welled up in my eyes for no apparent reason other than the moving of my heart, I knew I was lost and then I was found. Right there in the middle of the trees and the earth. No tour in a van could ever match that. My life is good.

Sim a vida é boa. Indeed.








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FIVE WEEKS TODAY

FIVE WEEKS TODAY

The greatest thing about FIVE WEEKS is what a difference the extra week has made in my regular life. I am much more mobile, I can sleep on my side, I can exercise. My limitations right now are working and gardening because standing on my feet, lifting and moving things still gets me and because I feel so great, I forget. Usually at around three o clock in the afternoon, I am spent. What spent means is that my upper body is on fire and I need to put my feet up.

The weird thing about improving at this rate is that it is so easy to forget that my body is still recovering and that it is ok to take the time I need to allow it despite the improvements. Why does this make me feel guilty? This is fucked up. I also know this is not an unusual feeling because most every woman I speak to who is as honest as me tells me to go slow but I know that if the roles were reversed I would have to tell them the same thing.

We women are doers, movers, shakers. We multi task, we work, take care of our homes, our families, our lives. We plan vacations, we organize our children, we garden and we take care of shit. We make things happen. I am an open book here in these writings. In all honesty, though I don’t want to have life threatening illnesses, I actually welcomed the respite of being forced to my knees and having to stop.

My fantasy world I live in more times than not is to stop most all technology (except for writing on Medium, of course), to get rid of my cell phone and go retro with a dial phone. To get rid of all social media and email and just figure out how much time I would have on my hands when all is gone. When I say this, my friends and team look in horror and quickly say, “You can’t do this, you have a business!” Or “What about your son, how will he communicate with you?” I know these are all valid points, but how did we all live before all of this madness? I have attempted techno free days, but because people need to get in touch with me, I feel weird not being available. The problem with me and technology is that it is so distracting from my spirit, it takes me on a path where hours fly by and I am not sure what I did for the day. This drives me crazy and gives me something else to feel guilty about. As I explore the voice of guilt, the critic in my head who likes to chat away at my usually positive attitude I am curious about the origins of the voice. At what point did it arrive in my head and decide to take up residence and more importantly why did I allow it to begin with?

I know the things that keep the voice at bay. Meditation, yoga, exercise, eating clean, being in nature, writing, reading, organizing and minimizing all the stuff I have accumulated, but sometimes I just let the wacky critic overtake my brain and I get in my own way. We all wonder why we allow negative thoughts. We know that when we speak to our friends, we would never speak to them like we at times speak to ourselves. We surely wouldn’t have any friends if we said the shit we say to our own selves.

I have had endless conversations with women in my over twenty years in the beauty business and the self defacing commentary that goes on is really intriguing. We offer so much to the world around us in the feminine spirit. We care and raise other human beings, homes, family, yet when it comes to caring wholly for ourselves, we minimize the importance of this.

I realized as I write this today, that I have not been to my former synagogue in a really long time for a service. I realize that this is an area that super feeds my soul because it is a forced shut down. It makes me leave the cell phone at home and reconnect with my soul singing Hebrew prayers with like minded people and the sounds of the voices are indeed a calming experience. Writing is a spiritual catharsis for me too and it is definitely a grounding reminder to reconnect with my sense of core. So in this upcoming Mother’s Day that itself generates a lot of mixed emotion for me because of my mother’s release of me from her life, I will try this weekend to use this time to regain some spiritual footing. Maybe turning off the computer, the phone and technology for a few days?

FIVE WEEKS TODAY is the catalyst for some type of spiritual awakening or reminder. Since I am feeling so much better physically, perhaps the mental and emotional care will be the focus that completes the incredibly successful healing I have had the pleasure of experiencing.

Godspeed to this attempt.



Old school dial retro phone and an art project that definitely keeps me in soul connection.