My Epiphany From Lalla

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Last night, I had the honor of attending the unveiling of a wonderful heart-driven organization called The Lalla Project. (please check them out) Brought to life by some amazing people in my life, The Lalla Project was developed to bring forth the poetry translations of the ancient poetic teachings of 14th century Kashmiri mystic Lal Ded, also affectionately known as Lalla. In Lalla’s spirit, the collaborators are aiming to bring awareness and raise money for global non-profits such as Girls Not Brides, The International Center for Research of Women, and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), all of which are working to help people of all genders and ages find protection and freedom.

The Lalla Project evening was emotional and beautiful with a sense of serenity.

For me, it became my “aha!” moment. While listening to my friend Carol, one of the founders and primary photographer, talk about the whole process of pulling this project together and the emotional healing that occurred for her, Jen and for the women being photographed, I realized my “Photography and Healing” had legs and was farther reaching than I thought. Their story is part of my journey, my witnessing, documenting, or developing (whatever I am being led to do) of the fact that photography can be a powerful tool to help people heal and find a greater sense of well-being.  This is exactly what was occuring in Carol’s photoshoot.

Photography, in many ways, brings to the forefront our weaknesses, our damaged parts, our hidden emotions and misperceptions but it can also bring greater awareness of our strengths, our beauty, and those parts or beliefs that just need some tweaking in order for us to be our best selves.

So, I came home late and got up early with this epiphany that there is more to my theory than I realized. I have more concrete plans and ideas that I thought. I have my introductory class or seminar “Photography and Healing” that was well-received on it’s debut and a teen version which is still in the brew phase because I am too busy to take it live this semester. I have had my experience with individual portrait sessions that included and evolved into some emotional breakthroughs. I have some ideas brewing in my head about a larger project that combines my “Photography and Healing” with a process called “photovoice” for teens and adults in underserved communities or populations. I also helped some friends learn how to shoot photos manually this summer just by going on a brief nature walk. What is more healing than a walk in the woods?  Lastly, through photography, I love sharing, receiving, and bringing a greater awareness to all the hearts in nature and the love that is all around us. #heartsinnature.

Not only is my theory starting to take form but my journey is starting to make sense. I have already taken the foundation course for mindfulness and will, at some point, take a follow-up course to learn how to more formally bring mindfulness to children in a classroom setting.  I am in a teacher training program…I am learning how to teach. I am learning how to share information in way that is interesting, engaging, and progressive. I am developing my stance, my voice, and my confidence. I am learning how to teach teenagers, how to engage with them, and to understand their world and their plight.  I am already a Certified Health Education Specialist and with that comes a certain set of skills, knowledge and access to many interesting continuing education programs.

The only catch…I really don’t want to take this leap full force right now. I am not ready and it is not the right time (not today), this I know in my heart. I want to do all these things but without the management, marketing, and other business administrative features that will go along with it. I did that with my little photography business and I am not interested today. I have kids headed to college so there is a practical money issue. However, I know in my heart, when I take this jump, it will all work out but my instincts are telling me I have a few more things to learn.  There is still more for me to do before I can pull all this together.  Me and my Photography and Healing are still in the growing and gathering information phase. But last night, it started to take form. All those swirling ideas started to come together and take shape.

I know putting this idea out there is quite a risk but I have never been so sure about something in my life. I don’t know how I will get there but I know that I will when the time is right.

The stars are aligning but are not in alignment.



Dragonfly Visit

I have been away from writing for a few weeks now due to an enormous amount of transition and responsibility on my plate. Not only did I start a new job teaching while taking a graduate level seminar, my community outreach program geared up for the season and I was a major contributor for a local fundraising event. I hadn’t slept well in since August 12 and I keep waking up at 4am…no matter what time I went to bed.

Suffice it to say, I have been overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed out. I also know this is temporary. I knew going into my New Teachers Collaborative program that I would be overwhelmed for a while.  It’s part of the learning and part of my growing and returning to the workforce.

However, being stressed out for long periods of time is not healthy, physically or mentally. To keep myself from having a meltdown I am making sure to do the following:

  1. Honor my 4am wake up “call”.  Some say that the time between 4am and dawn is when the veil between our world and other (spirit) worlds is the thinnest. Our dreams can be more vivid, realistic, and meaningful. It is a great time to meditate, journey, or engage in other spiritual and relaxation practices. I, myself, stopped fighting this wakefulness because I was just getting out of bed at 5:30 more tired than if I had just allowed myself to practice my meditation at 4am.  Also in honoring this 4am alertness, I make sure to go to bed earlier. Yes, it has put a damper on my social life but right now I need to take care of myself. I cannot control this 4am thing so I am going to learn to work with it.
  2. Cry. I make sure that on those days when every thing seems to go wrong and I feel like crying that I let myself go. Nothing clears out stress and anxiety like a good old fashioned cryfest. It is probably one of the most stress-relieving things a body can do. Have trouble connecting to your inner baby? Try watching a sad or emotional movie or just reflect on some of the deep emotions you are feeling. For me, just thinking about how inadequate or incompetent I feel will bring a flood of tears…and eventually clarity.
  3. Go for my walk. No matter what, when I get home I take my dogs for a walk in the woods. I have been walking my dogs 4-5 days a week for 4 years now and its important to my physical and mental health. It’s also important for my dogs. There are some days that I cannot take them but I make sure that is an anomaly. It’s really important for us to connect with nature on a regular basis and we need to make sure we get exercise every day, if possible.
  4. Exercise. Yes, my walking is exercise but I my body needs more than that. So, as I am getting a routine down I am looking for ways I can fit some weight-bearing exercise or aerobics into my schedule.  I have a plan in my mind and I will try to incorporate it this week….if not, I will try again next week. The point is to make a plan and then try to implement it. Don’t berate yourself if you forget, just refocus and try again. Keep it in your mind until you can incorporate it or something better.
  5. Yoga. I do my sun salutations every weekday morning. As soon as I get out of bed, I do my little yoga routine. It grounds me and gets my stiff joints moving. I find my day goes much more smoothly when I start with my yoga practice. I still look forward to getting back to a class but until I can, this practice is really helping me stay strong, flexible-ish, grounded and positive.
  6. Eat healthy. During times of stress it’s really easy to eat poorly. However, I make sure to bring a large salad for lunch everyday with some form of healthy protein. I make sure to limit my “bad” snacks and alcohol because I am not exercising as much as I should and I do not want to get into bad habits as I start this new phase of my life. It’s all about habits and routines. I continue to try to prepare homemade meals but since I do not have as much time during the week, I try to prepare some things on Sunday to help kick-start weekday meals.
  7. Practice mindfulness. They say when you are stressed out and too busy for meditation, or mindfulness, that that is when you need to do more of it. I have to admit I haven’t been very good about practicing my midnfulness but I do still try to slow down, even if it’s just in the shower or taking the dogs out in the morning. I do practice my breathing at 4am or whenever I am feeling anxious. It really helps and I do plan on ramping this practice up as my routine starts to solidify.
  8. Maintain perspective. It is really important to maintain a healthy perspective, especially during tough times. Tough times do not last, tough people do. I tell myself everyday that I knew this year would be hard but it’s only for 1 school year. Each day it gets easier and each day I get more effecient. Learning and going outside your comfort zone is always hard but totally worth the effort. Just make sure to stay positive and not let yourself go to those dark places. Try not to lash out at others and try not to pay attention to the negativity that is in the world. Stay off of social media if it brings you down or takes you to a dark place. It really is a time suck.
  9. Pay attention to nature. 2 week ago, I had one of the worst weeks ever. I thought I was going to lose my mind I was so stressed out and anxious. Instead I cried, did all these things and gave myself time; time to learn, time to gain some experience, time to transition, and time to feel (really feel).  Then the dragonflies came out. Just as I was starting to turn that corner from “I’m losing my mind” to “ok, I think I can do this”, I started noticing all the dragonflies every where I went.  Dragonflies are symbols of change, transformation, and adaptability. To me it was my reminder that I am going through a huge change in my life and that I can do it; I am highly adaptable.  The dragonfly message brought me a lot of peace and a feeling of support and encouragement.  I had other “messages” from nature but I will hopefully get to those in another post.  If you don’t believe that there are messages found in nature…then you are not paying attention.

I know when things get tough, we go into survival mode. We jump on the treadmill of life and just try to keep our head above water. But it is at these times when we must work even harder to take care of our mental and physical health. Being good to ourselves will help us get through the other stuff intact. Transitions are hard but they are important. Life is not meant to be perfect, stagnant, or pretty. It’s meant to be lived. Sometimes that living is an uphill battle but you will reach the summit and get to coast for awhile before the next uphill climb. Live with good intentions and a positive attitude and I truly belive everything will work out for the best. Even if you don’t know what that is just yet.