A Life that Loves You

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This saying popped into my head as I was writing a note to my niece about how proud I was of her going for her dreams. Sometimes it takes some swerves and curves to figure out what our dreams are. Sometimes they change or are fulfilled, so we wonder what’s next.

A great deal of my life is influenced by my purpose what drives and fulfills me. When I thought about how I lived my life, I asked myself if I’m living my life in a way that is loving to myself, that is good for me, and is supporting my purpose and dreams.

Those are big questions to ask, and I don’t think it can be a yes or no answer or black and white. So what does living a life that loves you mean to me?

  1. Fueling my body properly: What I put into my body has a direct correlation to how I physically feel, how creative I am, and how much energy I have. I’m really good when I plan out meals and have good food on hand. I’m an emotional eater, so when life isn’t loving me so much, I don’t show myself love with food. I’ll reach for that chocolate bar or some type of comfort food. That may be fine once in a while, but instead of placing food that makes me feel crappy in my body, I ask how will this food show love to me. What kind of life do I want to live and does what I’m eating move me forward toward that life or pull me back?
  2. How I spend my time: I am a really good time waster. I can skirt around what I should be doing and not get anything done. When I finally sat down and journaled about why I did this, I realized I was prioritizing what I thought I should be doing instead of what fulfilled me or led toward living my dreams. I credit the change in how I spend my time on some deep soul searching and writing through why I’m here. How do I want to make an impact on the world and what is my purpose? After I was clear on my purpose and the fact that writing is my passion, I began to clear out what no longer served me. Don’t get me wrong. I still waste time, but I have clear goals that are stepping stones to my dreams.
  3. People in my life: Living the life that loves me also includes being surrounded by people who love me. It’s people who believe in me and vice versa. We lift each other up and celebrate our successes with true joy. I will have separation anxiety if I don’t see my tribe enough, so I plan gatherings, outings, and tribe dates. Spending quality time with my husband and son is equally important if not more so. I love being around people who accept me as I am.
  4. Get moving: Exercise has always been a part of my life. I remember waking up at 6am in high school and doing aerobics in the living room of my family home. My brother would scream at me in the basement because my pounding woke him up. Working out is my stress reliever. Bringing yoga into my life balanced out the physical and mental strengthening.
  5. Be where you are: I recently tore my ACL and will have surgery next week. This has changed my exercise regimen, but I’m doing what is best for my body as it is now. My injury has forced me to slow down and be fine with not pushing my body or my schedule where I don’t want it to go. Living the life that loves me right now means letting go of my expectations and doing what serves me best.

Living a life that loves you is an endless checks and balance. Checking in to see how life is feeling. And I mean that literally. We can move so fast that a whole month goes by, and we don’t remember what we did.

Take a moment to pause and answer this question in your journal–What does living a life that loves you mean? Physically, mentally, emotionally, financially. Feel free to use the headings I chose or create your own. What matters most is that you love yourself first,check in and begin again.

March Month in Review

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Goals/Purpose: This may be on the of the first months where I accomplished most of my goals between the foundation and my publishing company. I think it was partly because I was going away at the end of the month and wanted to relax so worked extra hard, but also because I put less due in the month and broke it down.

In journaling class, Arthur said he has so much he wants to do and that can often make us not do anything. I can relate as I have so many writing projects. The main focus has been my middle grade series, The Puzzle Quests. Book three had to get to the editor. It didn’t get to my beta readers as I had wanted, but I built in time and I needed to let the book sit.

While it was with my editor, Karen Knowles, I worked on a draft of a picture book about my dog, Zoey, and my non-fiction table of contents for the book I’m writing on journaling. When my middle grade manuscript heads to the beta readers, I’ll shift focus to the pictures books, which is due in June. Learning to break down my goals within what I want to accomplish and grow based on my purpose has been key to getting so much done.

Mentally: I was edgy most of the month. I know it’s because I’m stirring things up and have been for a while. I have always listened to my gut (that innate intuition) that we tend to tamp down. I admit I have tamped it down for a long time, but now I’ve let it loose. It’s shifting my eye to writing, my goals within it, who I want to write for, and what I want to write.

Social/Me: March was wonderful socially. Family time. Stephen was home. A fabulous relaxing retreat in Sarasota with Karen filled with soul searching, writing, yoga, great food, and lounging. It was just what I needed.

It ended with a visit to Stephen and my first cousins who I hadn’t seen in a long time. I came full circle and April has me easing through the transitions March has begun.

 

Create Space–Tracking Goals

I woke up this morning with a renewed clarity for my business. It stemmed from the goal tracking I’ve been working on for the last couple months for myself and my journal workshops.

Last month in journaling class, we worked on specific goals. This included what accomplishing that goal would mean to us, why we were doing it, what was standing in our way, and what detailed steps were needed to achieve this goal. Of course a deadline was included. The goals ranged from self-care, losing weight, writing a book, and planning a trip.

I did this for general self-care, which included journaling, lowering or eliminating gluten and dairy, as well as increasing exercise, and meditation. It’s still a work in progress, but I have been tracking it and journaling how I feel physically and mentally.

However, I also wanted to Create Space in my personal life (home) and my business (office). I have written many times about having too many balls in the air. I have recently tossed some to others or to the side. As a result, I have chaos throughout my workspace and home.

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Need I say more? Embarrassing, but I’m going for full disclosure here & I want to see if this process of using my journal works.

Over the last couple weeks, I identified what I wanted to accomplish–clearing specific rooms, cleaning them, throwing away clutter, and organizing papers and files. What stood in my way was time, the sheer enormity of the project, fear, and still having to work.

I broke it down into clearcut areas. I rearranged my schedule to take this week off (so if you don’t hear from me, you know why). Each morning I am committed to editing my book, because that is still on a deadline.

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I want to do this, because my goal is to have a successful publishing/writing business and a healthy and empowering personal life with less stress from the mess!

I’ll journal about the process each day and what clearing this space means to me and why fear comes up. I think it’s because once this is done nothing is standing in my way, so the fear of failure looms, but lets see what happens!

I have my support group and scheduled yoga and walks mixed in to keep me centered and sane.

Each part of this process is broken into specific daily steps. Today’s goal: J9’s office space!

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The details even came down to specific meals for the week and moving a meeting.

 

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Keeping it positive, light, and bright are essential for getting the work done. Daily mantras will be huge!

I’ll circle around each night to let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

June Month in Review

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June went by in a flash.

It always starts quick with a weeklong venture to the Americade Motorcycle Rally in Lake George. Luke, friends, and I rode motorcycles back and forth to Lake George each day. We demoed bikes from manufacturers, walked around, and met other bikers. It’s always a cold and rainy week, but we plowed through and had a great time.

We rode bikes by day and roller coasters at night that week, because our annual Gillette Carnival fundraiser was the same week. It made for lots of goodness and by the end of the week, I was wiped out.

Because I habitually have so much on my plate, I had to get the eighth draft of The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis done, so my illustrator, Danielle LeBlanc, knew the page count for the spine and another set of readers could look for those nitty gritty mistakes. There are still quite a few, so you know what I’m doing in July.

By mid-June, I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and emotionally spent. Yet I was determined to find balance and self-care. In my adult journal workshop, we worked on setting goals and tracking it to support our purpose. Doing this with everyone clarified what I wanted to focus my time on, who I wanted to spent time with, and what I needed to do to make it happen.

If there is one think I have learned, it’s to ask for help. Volunteers, friends, and my wonderful husband joined in to help with fundraisers, get me to yoga, and simplify the rest of my summer.

Balancing work, play, and self-care has always been a conundrum for me, and I think many people feel the same way.

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I took this picture of three balancing rocks while I was with my husband for a soccer tournament in the middle of June! It reminded me of what I juggle in my life. In order for these rocks to maintain balance, there has to be a secure and firm foundation.

The three rocks represent my purpose, family, and life. My purpose is what I’m passionate about, my higher calling, which is to bring hope through my books and teaching writing. In order to do this, I need to take care of myself, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

The next rock is my family. I am extremely family oriented. I have my husband, sons (one here and one in my heart), siblings, my mom, nieces, nephews, and and friends who are my chosen family. I love to spend time with all of them and have to balance how often I can see them and how I can help them when needed. Love is the ultimate reason why I’m here, and I express this to my family as often as I can.

The most precarious rock is life. It’s what happens along the way as I try to take care of myself, fulfill my purpose, spend time with my family and friends, and be the best I can be. When life throws me a curve or throws me off a cliff, I have to trust my foundation of family, friends, and purpose.

Then I can rebalance and start over.

July will be a month of simplifying, clearing space in my life and my physical space, in order to create in a more positive atmosphere. Completing the ninth draft of Saving Atlantis, and enjoying my beautiful family. Reflecting back on each month keeps me on my path and makes me grateful for this practice.

How was your month of June? Review, reflect, and do what serves you best!

May Month in Review

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Most of May was maniacal mayhem. Amazingly, I journaled almost every day, but the level of activity for work, classes, writing, and foundation was too high. Everything else suffered. It’s difficult to find balance when I love all that I do. But there can even be too much of a good thing.

I exercised quite a bit in the beginning of the month, but as life got busier, my self-care suffered. My yoga practice fell off the planet. What I ate went down hill as I reached for fast and easy food. Yes, I know, this is when I should be going to yoga more and fueling my body with what nourishes me and makes me stronger. It’s very easy to write it down, but much harder to follow through. It’s a familiar pattern.

My son came home from college, so the house dynamics shifted. I am adjusting while also loving and appreciating having him home. My house suffered in May. Having another person in the house, yes, but really I didn’t have any time for upkeep and cleaning. I have this bone deep urge to rip my house apart and get rid of junk, stuff I don’t need, in order to clear my life and start fresh.

Create Space:

That’s my goal for no other reason than to be able to breathe a little fuller and appreciate what I have done instead of jumping to the next project because of unrealistic timelines.

Create a space conducive to my writing and creativity.

I am two weeks into June and finally have space in my calendar to catch up. Consistent journaling can be life saving, life altering, and indicative of what is bubbling underneath the surface.

There’s so much that I struggle with and burying myself in work is a way I cope, even if it’s not healthy.

If I want everlasting change I have to dig deep before the eruption takes over everything. That is what journaling during the month of May showed me.

Immediate Goals for June:

Enjoy and appreciate my family.

Get Saving Atlantis to my proofreaders by June 18. Get book to the printer by July 6. It’s a couple weeks off schedule, but still where I want it to be.

Get back to my yoga practice, healthy eating, and exercise.

Journal, journal, journal

How was your month of May? What are your goals for June? It’s never too late to change or start again.

 

Be Kind

My beautiful Baptiste yoga sister, Cara, recently taught a community class, and she focused on the impact of unexpected kindness. Somehow when we least expect it, a display of kindness can pull us out of the worst mental funk.

Her quote was, “Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”

Being kind to someone else doesn’t cost you a thing, but it might be the most rewarding for both you and the receiver.

In my journaling workshop this week, I shared that quote and had them write from some prompts:

What form of kindness have you recently received that was unexpected?

How did it make you feel?

What kindness have you given without expectation?

How did it affect that person? Do you know if it did? Did it matter?

How did you feel giving kindness?

Answers ranged from someone showing up at work and being thrilled to see that person, to going the extra mile to do something special for a mom’s birthday. On either end it felt wonderful knowing that someone cared and that you could make someone happy.

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When I have hit rock bottom, it took love to bring me back. We don’t know what someone else is going through and even if we can’t understand what they are feeling, we can empathize. We can show love, support, and kindness. That is mainly why I write and teach journaling, so that others know there is always hope. There is always love.

Kindness comes in all forms. It doesn’t have to be directed only to you. In my yoga class today, the teacher exuded kindness and wrapped us in her cocoon of love. Not only did I get a great yoga workout, but I felt safe and cared for–exactly what I needed in that moment. After class I told her that, because I wanted her to know she made a difference in my day.

What are other ways you can show kindness?

Smiling at someone who looks sad

Holding the door open for another person, male, female, old or young

Paying for the person’s drink who is next in line

Sending a card or to someone you haven’t seen in a long time or giving them a call

Telling people that you love them. It’s a simple gesture that can turn someone’s day around.

Give a hug.

Don’t forget to do something for yourself that makes you feel good. Kindness to yourself keeps your heart open to share kindness with others.

Think about who you have shown kindness to today. If you haven’t, make a point every day to show love, kindness, and give the same to yourself. You’ll attract the love and kindness you want to see in the world.

Thank you Cara for sharing kindness and your bright spirit!

 

Trust the Process

Sometimes it takes a lifetime to learn to trust the process. What does this even mean? Last Saturday in Jess Padula’s yoga class I read from Melody Beattie’s book Journey to the Heart. This is something that is done on the longer Saturday morning gatherings. It was dated May 9 and titled ‘Trust Each Step.’ What she wrote resonated with me, especially about wanting to take a big leap to get to the end of a process, a goal, or a lesson. But if we do that, we miss the experience of each step we would have taken.

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When I think about trusting the process, it reminds me of trusting my intuition. Knowing myself and listening to my feelings helps when making a decision. I know when I’m doing what I’m meant to be, I get that excited and confident feeling. When I’m not, I get that sick sense in my stomach, and my heart rate might pick up from nerves. I’ll even get a headache. Paying attention to how I feel and what drives me helps. When I trust those feelings, I usually make the right decision. But there are many times when I trudge through a process despite the negative concerns. Let’s face it, we all have had to work jobs that we haven’t loved in order to pay bills, gone to events to fulfill obligations, or made a poor decision and needed to follow through on it. That’s a part of life.

Trust the Process

For me at this place in my life, I want to do what sparks passion and brings me joy.

This can also mean creating space for what I know is my path. Jess spoke about pushing back to create space for the next part of your life. This is a tought spot to be in when I’m in a nice cozy place that I really don’t want to leave or I’m too overwhelmed to make a move. We want life to fall into place without obstacles. We don’t want to rock the boat. But what happens when you can’t ignore that feeling anymore? When you have the distinct knowledge that you are on the wrong path? What happens when you are so crowded and consumed by what you don’t want that you HAVE to push back in order to breathe?

Oh yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, people may not be happy. They may be used to you handling a large part or all of a project, job, family, etc. If I trust I’m going where I need to go or doing what I need to do, and pushing back is the only way to get it, then I’m gonna push. In doing so, I might just create enough space for someone else to also get back on their path.

I do not come lightly to any decisions that rock the boat or change the course of my comfort zone. It would be easy to live each day the same over and over again, but that’s not how I operate. That’s why when I know I have to make a difficult decision, it weighs heavily on me.

One of the reasons I love practicing yoga is because of the challenges and the messages I receive in class. I rely on my community, but as was brought up in class, no one can carry someone or the work all the time and no one can be carried all the time. A community holds one another up when we fall and gives us space when we rise. That’s the same with trusting the process. Get out of the way and let it flourish.

Sometimes when I stray from the process it can take a long time to get back to where I’m meant to be. But maybe I didn’t really stray. Perhaps I was taken on a winding road that may not have made sense, but then when I connect back to my path, I have that ‘aha’ moment.

Trusting the process, fulfilling my passion, learning and growing never end. It’s up to me to create the space, breathe through the turmoil, push back or bring in. Trusting it, doing what you are called to do is the greatest gift you can give yourself and this world. Trust yourself, and you will be given what you need.

Permission to Fail

What if we grew up in a world where we were told it was alright to fail? Oh the possibilities and life lessons that would arise. We would be a society of adventurers and optimists never worrying about what others thought or being embarrassed.

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I ventured to Lynn’s Baptiste class at noon today. Sorry I cut off your face, Lynn, but I want to get the message out that this is a class to attend. After working all morning, I wanted movement, and Lynn’s class was just what I needed.

The messages that flow from yoga can be life-changing if we let them in. Today in tree pose, Lynn basically gave us permission to fail. She wanted us to flow, rise, and bend enough in this pose so that we fell over. This threw me off a bit, and at first I had a hard time getting into the pose. But then I reached down to form my foundation and lifted up stretching my tree toward the ceiling. It felt good, so I reached back further and then a little more, surprised by how far back I was able to go. I kept reaching. Then I fell over.

I went back into it, but kept couldn’t get my balance. It didn’t feel like failure, because Lynn was there. She said it was alright to fall over. It happens to everyone, but what happens internally is what gets us. We become self-conscious, angry with ourselves, and often don’t try again. Who wants to embarrass themselves in front of everyone else by falling?

But as Lynn said, what would happen if you laughed and went back into it? What would happen if instead of putting yourself down, you showed compassion for you? If my friend fell over, I wouldn’t call her a yogi fail, I would encourage her to try again. So why is it so hard for us to do that for ourselves?

I’m glad I ‘failed’ today, because I went deeper into the pose than I ever do. That was the purpose. Through that failure, I found success. I found compassion for me.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?

What would happen if you tried something and did fail? How would you show yourself compassion? Think about a time when someone you loved failed, write down what you did or said to them.

What have you learned from your failures?

I learned today that laughter is the best way to get me back into a pose. Don’t take myself so seriously and go with the flow. After all, we are like the oak tree. We may bend, but we won’t break.

I’m Ready

My journal entries are often inspired by authors whose words resonate with me. I completely agree that you will connect with a book in different ways depending on where you are in your life. I picked up Cheryl Richardson’s book, Waking Up in Winter, because of the sub-title: In Search of What Really Matters in Mid-life. I figured I could connect to some of it. Plus it was written in journal form, and since I’m working on a book about journaling. I thought I could get some insight.

 

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On page 23, she writes about how saying no after always saying yes can rock the boat of life. For those who start saying no, it can be very positive, but those “around them get upset and start questioning the new behavior because change feels scary and unsettling to the safe and familiar tribe.” (23)

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I have taken to opening a page daily in Melody Beattie’s book, Journey to the Heart. This morning I read a passage called, Are You Ready, Willing, & Able? (283) It’s dated for October 1. Significant month for me. I read it out loud to my dogs. They need daily inspiration as well! When I finished, Dakota my 105 pound rescue placed his paw on the book and stared at me. “OK!” I said. “I am ready, willing, and able!”

Melody’s entry was about being ready to get what I want. Once I know what I want I have to tell a friend, shout it out to the world, and probably let my dogs know. Then watch how I feel about it, observe what obstacles jump in my path, the fears, doubts, and distractions that prevent me from being ready.

Hmm. When two books collide to push me along my path, I have to listen. I have written about my amazing tribe. Some might clamor for me to say ‘no’ more while others might wonder what is wrong with me.

Even as I write this, huge blocks are being thrown in my way. It’s because I’m a people pleaser. I hate to disappoint even if my soul’s purpose is dying on the side of the road. The one word I would change in Melody’s passage is ‘want.’ It’s not about getting what I want. It’s about getting what I ‘need.’

Through the many years of journaling, yoga, and deep soul searching, I have learned my path is led by my words. I was meant to be a writer, to share my stories, to entertain, to offer hope. In addition, I need to share my craft with others, so that they can find their own voice, healing, and purpose.

I was on that path 10 years ago when my son became ill. Yes, I have continued to write, publish, and teach, but I need to do it more. I need to jump in and submerge myself in this world of words to follow the path I veered from 10 years ago.

Ironically, the foundation that my husband and I started in memory of Nick is in line with my passion to write. My words have helped families battling cancer. I have written about the inspiring stories that move me. I can still do this, but I have to make space for more of it.

Don’t worry, Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation is still here. But we are changing some of our focus based on what the children, young adults and families need emotionally when facing a cancer diagnosis or to heal from losing a child. How fortunate for me that my gift of expression can fulfill my mission to help children with cancer and beyond.

But to do this, I have to say no to other opportunities within the foundation, within my life, and people’s expectations of me. I know I will disappoint some and that is a block I am learning to set aside. Remember my prompt on Emotional Strength? If you need training on how to remove a block, check that one out.

Sharing that I am growing my writing and teaching career is scary, but it’s so exciting. I have characters and worlds in me clawing to get out. I have a support system that lifts me daily and urges me to follow this journey. If you notice this shift, know that nothing is wrong. Just like my husband and I encouraged our boys to live fulfilling lives, I am doing the same.

Letting go of other’s expectations of me and following my heart is truly the greatest gift I can give to myself and the world.

What are you ready, willing, and able to do now?

What have you recently said yes to that made your stomach twist? What would you have liked to say?

When can you say no, in order to create space for what you need to do?

How would you feel?

What is blocking you? Why?

Start small and build up that NO muscle. It gets easier the more you say it and the more you fill your space with what nourishes you.

Building Emotional Strength

This morning, I attended Jessica Padula’s 90-minute Hot Baptiste Beats yoga class at Clifton Park’s Hot Yoga Spot.

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Janine and Jess, Baptiste sisters!

I wish I had taken a photo of us together after today’s class, because even though this one symbolizes our connectedness, today’s would have displayed our emotional strength.

Class started with a reading about spinning your wheels and getting stuck where you don’t want to be. Sometimes we have to dig in and kick hard enough to get where we really need to be. We don’t get there by waving a magic wand. We get there through determination, self-inquiry, and doing the work.

But how do we know where we are going? How do we build the necessary muscles to make such an important journey? How do we know what to pack?

The power in yoga is breaking down to break through and build ourselves up when we are stuck in that deep rut. This rut can be caused by a countless number of things. Grief, loss, depression, low self-esteem, abuse, addiction, the world around us, and the list can go on and on.

Jess compared building our emotional strength to lifting weights. When we lift, we actually cause mini-tears in our muscles that then connect back together to become stronger and bigger. But there has to be a balance. If we keep lifting a large amount every single day, then our muscles never heal. We will cause damage and be in pain.

She explained that this is the same with emotional strength. But here is the most important part. Jess said, “Emotional strength doesn’t mean being numb.” If we deny and avoid the tears, the pain gets deeper, and the damage can be permanent.

I have always been open about losing my son, Nick, to cancer. This year is 10 years since he was diagnosed and passed away. For a large part of those 10 years, I ignored those tears and stuffed down the pain of not being able to see my son, talk to him, or hold him. It’s a heavy burden to bear, and some of the damage may very well be permanent. A broken heart, an ache that never goes away, and a sadness that waits for another opportunity to show its face can throw me off for days.

Every time something reminds me of Nick or I comfort another family who has lost their child to cancer, a small emotional tear forms. Whether it’s in my heart, my soul, my body, it affects me mentally, emotionally, and physically. I have often ignored that tear by numbing out: eating foods that aren’t good for me so I feel the physical pain of a stomach ache, instead of the hurt in my heart; I take on so many activities, create more events to plan and attend I don’t have downtime; I make it my absolute purpose to fix anything and everything from someone’s relationship, to organizing someone’s wedding, to healing a person’s depression, so I can save someone.

I do all this, because if I ever opened up to the full scope of my loss, those tears would become rips. Don’t get me wrong, I love helping people and being in service. But I wasn’t taking care of myself or being in service to me and my purpose.

Over the last three years, I have become aware of those tears and how I react to them. I found relief through yoga to heal the physical pain. But it was by journaling that I understood how I could face the emotional tear, heal it, and build my emotional strength. Jess’ analogy perfectly described what yoga and journaling does for me.

My yoga practice and the empowering community created a safe space for me to cause the tear in my emotions, just as if I was lifting weights. I don’t know how many times I have broken down in class and left feeling lighter, but drained. Through journaling I am able to work with that tear. What caused the break down? What is blocking me, holding me back, how am I not supporting my purpose or exercising self-care. By acknowledging the tear and being alright with the fact that it was there helped me to soothe it. Eventually my writing released the spasm of pain and strengthened my heart, so that I can walk alongside my loss and live my purpose.

It doesn’t end with yoga. Today was an emotional class. I felt the pain of my fellow practitioners, and I wanted to go to them and comfort. But I stayed in my practice and shared my energy without causing myself irreversible pain and tears.

So I say to anyone who feels those emotional tears, write about it. Release the toxins that are hurting you. Understand where they come from. By nursing each emotional tear, we build the strength to deal with all that life may put in our path. The combination of yoga and journaling has strengthened me emotionally to the point where I know what balm will heal my heart and soul.

Thank you, Jess, for living your truth and sharing it with our incredible yoga community.

What are your emotional tears?

What caused them?

What ways have you avoided your emotions or numbed out to the tears?

How has that affected you physically, mentally and emotionally?

What can you do right now to heal one tear?

What else do you do to build your emotional strength? What tools do you use?