Be a Leader

We are all leaders. This is a message I have probably been hearing my entire life, but haven’t taken to heart until recently.

In a recent Facebook live stream, Deepak Chopra provided us with this call to action:

“We can be leaders in our own lives. In our families, in our communities, in our country, in our world.”

I am SO glad we still have Deepak Chopra with us as a spiritual leader. We need his intelligence and wisdom now more than ever.

Dr. Chopra calls us to do what I’m sure many of us have already been feeling over the past few days: to be leaders in our own lives. continue…

A Guided Meditation for Beginners

I like to meditate in silence, with my meditation timer app keeping track of the time. But if you have never meditated before, starting out in silence can feel overwhelming.

Last night I happened to be looking for a new meditation on YouTube, and I came across Louise Hay’s Your Healing Light Meditation.

If you are not familiar with Louise Hay, she is one of the most amazing women on the planet. And she recently turned 90 years young! A high school dropout, she discovered the mind-body connection later in her life, and went on to found the self-help publishing house Hay House in her sixties.

I have listened to many of her books on audio from the library, and always love hearing her voice. The self-confidence, self-assurance, and most importantly, self-love, ooze from her voice.

The Healing Light Meditation is simply beautiful. This meditation would be great for someone who has never meditated before but is curious about what meditation is all about. continue…

A Renewed Perspective

“What’s my motivation?” – that Sprite commercial from the 90’s with the diva actor as basketball player. Remember?

We are enjoying a weekend getaway in beautiful, crisp northern Arizona in celebration of my husband’s birthday. We are loving the adorable cabin we get to stay in, and the cool evening air!

Something about birthdays (apparently not just my own) makes me feel the need to reflect on my life and where it is going.  continue…

Can’t Life Be Easy?

One of my five personal core values is inner & outer peace. Every morning when I meditate, I run through these five areas of my life. When I get to number three, I say this affirmation in my mind:

“Everything in our lives is taken care of with effortless ease.”

(Especially since I got married, I have been affirming for two. I figure it can’t hurt!)

The concept of effortless ease stems from the teachings of Louise Hay. It totally goes against everything we have been taught – that life is hard, nothing comes easy, be realistic, you have to work really hard and even then you might not get what you want…at least that is the prevailing vibe I have picked up on from our society in general.

When I started listening to Louise Hay’s books, I too had the resistance of wait a minute, life isn’t easy. What is she talking about?

But what if life is easy? And we just don’t realize it or tap into it.

Is an easy life a lazy life?

Sometimes I don’t really feel things, but I throw them into my meditation affirmation mix anyway with the hope that by some mystical force of the universe they will one day be true for me. I also feel very strongly that this cannot hurt anything.

So I envision my ideal day first thing in the morning, and then I go about my day as I normally would. Ideal or not so ideal.

This past week I was sick and totally exhausted. I slept in until 10:30 Saturday morning, after getting 12 hours of sleep, and it was glorious. Then I slept in until 9:30 on Sunday morning. Also glorious.

Since I was so tired all week, I was “lazy” and stayed in bed until the last possible second and took naps when I felt like it. And I didn’t feel bad about the extra sleep. I just acknowledged that that was what my body needed and enjoyed the extra rest.

Yesterday while driving, I was thinking about how I usually get up early to get a jump start on the day, and how I usually power through the afternoon tired feeling and skip naps that I would love. And then I thought about all the extra sleep last week and how my life was still okay and on track despite the supposed lost hours of productivity.

Effortless Productivity Just Might Exist

And then, I remembered my effortless ease affirmation. And realized how true it is for me. Even now. Even when my to-do list is no where near empty and my ideal day of productivity remains just out of reach.

I have complete faith that one day my to-do list will be a beautiful blank page, and that I will reach 2 p.m. knowing that everything that needed to get done that day has been taken care of.

And on the path to those and other goals, there will be naps. There will be breaks. There will be weekends of sleeping in ridiculously late just because. There will be days of missed yoga and meditation. There will be movies watched without other tasks getting done simultaneously.

Just because we are working towards greater things, that doesn’t mean we can’t be great, and feel great, right now. Wayne Dyer said on numerous occasions that we aren’t the ones doing the doing, but that we are being done. At a time when I had a work to-do list with 80 or more tasks at any given time and a sense that there was no light at the end of the tunnel, I couldn’t fathom what this man could possibly mean by not doing the doing.

But I am kind of starting to get it. Yes, I have plenty to do and I get my work done and still have more things to do, but I am realizing that it doesn’t have to be that hard. It can be effortless. It can be easy. If we let it.

So I continue to choose effortless ease as my primary filter through which I view my life and its many activities. Choosing to believe things are difficult doesn’t make sense to me anymore. Why not expect things to be effortless and easy? It doesn’t take any extra effort, after all.

Do you think life can be effortlessly easy? Please share your thoughts!

Try This Relaxing Bedtime Ritual

Last night, I managed to make time to soak in an epsom salt bath, do a bedtime yoga video on YouTube, and meditate before bed. If asked to describe my ideal day, this is exactly how it would end. continue…

Travel Yoga: Kundalini in Nashville

Every conscious breath is a meditation.” Yoga instructor Bethany at Kundalini Rising Yoga

I had been hearing about kundalini yoga from a friend for at least a year before I went to my first class. During a weekend getaway to Nashville this past June, a few weeks before my wedding, I took time Monday morning to go to Kundalini Rising Yoga.

The studio is a short Uber ride outside of downtown, where I was staying. I figured since there was a kundalini studio nearby, it was the perfect time to give it a shot. continue…

You Can Do Anything…If You Do It.

Not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough motivation. Not enough will power.

What if these go-to phrases were meaningless, and no matter how much time, money, motivation, or will power was or wasn’t available, anything was possible? Saying anything is possible is easier said than done. But doing anything is completely doable.

This is not a post to pump you up about how you can do anything if you put your mind to it. This post is about the reality of following our dreams. continue…

My First Day at Alt Summit Ever

It’s a week and a half before my wedding, and I’m at Alt Summit Summer 2015! I haven’t been blogging due to wedding planning (and who knows how many other excuses I could come up with), but now that I’m here at my dream blogging conference, I feel compelled to write.

I have been dreaming about going to Alt Summit ever since I first learned that it existed a few years ago when I started dreaming about being a blogger. As I sit here on my hotel bed with the Alt program at my side, I can hardly believe this dream has come true!

Over the past few years, I didn’t have the courage to come to the conference, not thinking that I was a real blogger. Being inspired by Organized Jen’s post about attending the winter session, the same blogger and vlogger who inspired me to start my own blog, I signed up this past winter as soon as tickets went on sale.

After some back and forth about should I go or shouldn’t I go to save money for the wedding, I ended up deciding I would go the night before the trip. And I don’t have to tell you that I am so glad I did! continue…

Do you have enough time to sleep enough?

How much sleep do you get each night? How much do you wish you could get? How much do you think you need?

I have been listening to Thrive by Arianna Huffington on audio book. I could have used this book about three years ago. But as it is, I found it after I already found my way out of an overwhelmed existence. There is only one word that comes to mind as I listen to Arianna’s insights into the downfalls of the chronic stress so many people find themselves buried under: validating.

I thought it was just me. I thought I was the only one who felt they had too much to do and not enough time to do it all. Not even if I stopped sleeping altogether (which I seriously entertained as a temporary option).

Somehow, over a period of time, with a big thanks to meditation, I developed a more balanced approach to my life. I started to realize that I was not the only one who could do all the things I felt obligated to. And that I could let some things go and make my world a much better place in the process.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far there has been a substantial focus on the importance of mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and sleep.

I have a pretty good grip on my yoga and meditation practice. Unfortunately, I have viewed sleep as a more optional component of a healthy lifestyle. continue…

Book Nook Review: Loving Yourself to Great Health

“Everything is thoughts and food.”

Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, raw vegan, low carb, gluten free…which diet is THE ONE?

Did you ever consider your thoughts to be equally as important as diet and exercise in the equation of your optimal health? Loving Yourself to Great Health: Thoughts & Food–The Ultimate Diet by Louise Hay, Ahlea Khadro, & Heather Dane teaches that our health hinges on our thoughts. I couldn’t agree more.

If this is all too metaphysical for you, no one can deny that before doing anything we almost always think a thought (or a string of thoughts) first. Before going for a walk, eating a piece of pizza, making a green smoothie, drinking a coffee…there is a thought that precedes the action. From a very practical standpoint, it makes perfect sense that our thoughts influence how we look and feel.

The first part of the book spends a lot of time on the subject of loving ourselves, something that isn’t exactly emphasized in our culture as the most important, most basic component of our human power. Although it certainly is!

“Most of us have not been taught to listen to our bodies and inner wisdom, so we don’t trust it.”

I never really understood what intuition was, not believing that I could have some supernatural power to predict the future or know if the decision I made was right or wrong. I have a feeling that taking the time to develop a strong sense of personal intuition at a young age would spare a lot of people a lot of pain and heartache. Not to mention save a lot of time spent doing things that don’t feel right.

Listening to our bodies, asking our bodies what they need and then really listening, is a foreign concept for most. Some might say it is downright kooky. But that is exactly what this book calls us to do. continue…

What is Thai Yoga Massage?

A few weeks ago, my fiancé and I attended a Thai Yoga Massage Workshop at Ignite Yoga Studios in Goodyear, Arizona for Valentine’s Day weekend. I had no idea what Thai yoga massage was when I signed us up, but have been wanting to take a massage class for years and thought this would be the perfect place to start! My fiancé was skeptical, but he was a good sport to go along with it!

After signing us up, I did a Google image search for Thai yoga massage. It was pretty much what I expected: cool looking yoga-like poses of couples of people stretching together.

The class was packed when we arrived! Having no idea what to expect, we brought two yoga mats. Turns out, you only need one. Our instructor gave us a blanket to cover the yoga mat to make it more comfortable.

The Evolution of Thai Yoga Massage

Thai yoga massage is a healing technique that was developed in Thailand over 2500 years ago, based on Ayurvedic medicine and yoga native to India. The practice was founded by  Shivagakomarapaj, who apparently was the Buddha’s physician, and has been passed down over the centuries.

Thai massage uses leaning pressure, reflexology, and yoga to compress and stretch the body to improve balance and wellness. Together these actions result in a comprehensive full body treatment with the aims of relieving muscle tension, improving circulation, boosting the immune system, and balancing the body’s energy.

Thai massage is a branch of Traditional Thai Medicine (TTM) and is considered a medical discipline in Thailand. Practitioners can be found in North America and Europe as well. continue…

Yoga Is the New Club

This past weekend, Ignite Yoga celebrated their two year anniversary with a series of special free classes at their studio in Goodyear, Arizona.

Ever since moving to the area, one of my goals was to find a local yoga studio that I could go to on a weekly basis as a way to expand my current yoga practice beyond Hulu and YouTube, and hopefully make a few yoga friends.

The studio in Goodyear opened up a few months ago, but the company has been in business for two years, starting out of a room in the owner’s house (how could anyone not be inspired by that!?).

There are a few other studios in the area that I had driven by but didn’t feel crazy inspired to visit. When I saw Ignite this past month within walking distance of our house, I was so excited!

Glow in the Dark Yoga

yoga-party

The weekend kicked off with free “Glow in the Dark Yoga” on Friday night. After seeing a picture and reading the description on their website, I figured it looked fun and signed up.

I would describe glow in the dark yoga as cosmic bowling, but way more awesome. There were blacklights overhead in place of the usual yoga studio lighting, glow in the dark balloons, and glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets and paint were passed around.

Next to taking class from Tara Stiles at The W Hotel pool deck in Scottsdale several months ago, this was my coolest yoga experience ever! The music had a cool, lounge-y, club-y vibe. While the essential spiritual elements of a yoga class were still there, the class had a lighthearted, fun feel to it. We even played a bit of yoga volleyball with the glow in the dark balloons at one point!

I would love to do glow in the dark / cosmic yoga again, and I think it would be so cool to have this class as an option every Friday evening. Such a fun, upbeat, yet relaxing way to kick off the weekend on the right foot.

After class, red wine and red velvet birthday cake were served to mark the two year studio anniversary.

Yoga for Kids & Restorative Yoga

yoga-om-sweet-om

On Saturday morning there was an event for kids which I didn’t attend, but I love that Ignite Yoga addresses the need for yoga from a young age through their kids room, after school yoga program, and other events. Yoga Ignite believes that yoga is for all ages, and I couldn’t agree more! continue…

Why It’s Essential To Give Away Your Gifts

What is the one thing you would do all day because you love it, even if you weren’t paid to do it?

I recently finished listening to Super Rich on audio book by Russell Simmons. This book is very inspiring, and I would recommend anyone with an open mind and love of self-help (and yoga!) to check it out.

Russell emphasizes the importance of sharing our gifts with the world, even if no one is paying at first. It can be scary to put ourselves out there, to offer our gifts to the world and wonder if they will ever be valued, monetarily or otherwise, by others. So scary that we might hold ourselves back over it. continue…

2015 Reading Challenge

I haven’t signed up for reading challenges in the past, but I was recently inspired by another blogger to bite the bullet and go for it this year! I get so super excited when it comes time to choose a new book. I almost get more enjoyment out of browsing through the countless books available to read than the actual reading. The possibilities are endless! I am particularly stoked about the ridiculous amount of books available in eBook and audiobook format through the library. I used to love going to Barnes & Noble and browsing the shelves (and still do!), but now with so many digital titles available at my fingertips for free, I can have as much fun spending a whole evening in the comfort of my own home, plotting out my reading list for eternity.

My 2015 Reading Plan

I am aiming to read about one nonfiction (most likely self-help) and one fiction book per month in 2015, with a goal of reading 25 books (because it sounded better than 24). I participate in the Hay House Book Nook Blogger program, where I receive free new release self-help books in exchange for my honest reviews of the books. I haven’t participated as much as I would have liked in the past, so I hope to up my game in 2015! This is a perfect program for self-help book lovers if anyone is interested. I still entertain the idea of writing young adult fiction at some point, so I will probably plan to read a mix of young adult fiction and other types of fiction.

Audiobooks

I am not currently a member of Audible, but have been in the past and would join to buy an audiobook if it weren’t available at the library. I love having the OverDrive app on my phone to listen to audiobooks for free through the library. I’m not sure about other library systems, but mine has over 11,000 audiobooks available for free…insane! I am wrapping up The One and Only by Emily Giffin via library audio, which was a new release in 2014. Definitely check your local library to see what you can get before buying a book, you might be surprised what they have to offer! I can’t say enough good things about audiobooks. Having the audio reading option is largely what is giving me the confidence to even take on a reading challenge this year. Twenty-five isn’t really a ton of books, but I figure if I end up reading fifty I will feel better about myself than if I said fifty and read twenty. continue…

To-Do Lists Are My Life

I dream about to-do lists like I imagine people who like sports or guns dream about their hobbies. This is my thing. The thing that I get excited to get out of bed over.

I have lived somewhat oppressed by my to-do list for years; perhaps this is why I am so intrigued. It has been my challenge to conquer – “getting it all together,” or at least kinda, for the most part. Nothing is perfect, after all.

But to not be buried under 80 tasks, crushed by the weight of hundreds of things I don’t even really want to do – now that is a breath of fresh air! The fresh air that I am proud to now breathe, and I can say, with conviction, that I will NEVER allow myself to go back to that buried state. I simply refuse.

I set out yesterday with the motivation of my Birthday Eve. My own personal new year upon me, I reflected on my life over the past year and the direction I would like to take in the next. Most of the time, I feel like I am just about to have my life completely organized and to be living the lifestyle I envision, but I allow some major project that I have been avoiding to loom, holding myself back from truly moving forward.

I know this is no way to live, and I don’t want to constantly feel this way anymore. I want to really live! Looking back I don’t feel like I have made much progress on my goals over the past year. I feel like someone looking at my life would tell me to give myself a break. I do have an amazing life and I am so grateful, but I have personal goals and when I’m not making progress towards them, I feel more like I’m sinking and suffocating than fully living.

Sometimes I feel paralyzed – unable to move forward, unsure of what to do next. Yesterday around noon I decided to clear the rest of the day to “get my life together.” I started with 26 things to do on my personal to-do list, which I keep in Evernote. I was able to easily to sort the items from oldest to newest, and force myself to start with the oldest, most neglected task (from May 2014!).

My List

I want to really get my life organized, and share how I did it to help other people who struggle with stress and feeling overwhelmed. That is one of the main reasons why I have this blog.

I have read a ton of productivity and self-help books, and I want to take what I have learned and share the system I came up with that works for me with the world. And help people develop and stick to their own systems that will work for them.

I want to have a cleared to-do list at the end of each week, not having things remaining unnecessarily past one week. I want to help keep myself and my husband-to-be on target for achieving our dreams.

The only way these things will happen is if I actually do them. So I had to ask myself – do I sit down and clear the decks, doing all the little tasks that I have been putting off over the past year? It didn’t take me very long to decide that, without a doubt, yes! – I start by clearing the decks.

Letting go of the old makes room for the new, and if I want to help other people with getting their lists in order, I have to first figure out how to take control of mine. So I did. continue…

What are the health benefits of chia seeds?

I have been putting chia seeds in my green smoothies and peanut butter banana smoothies for quite a while now, without really knowing their specific health benefits. I knew they were good for me, but if you asked me why I was putting them in my smoothies, I couldn’t have provided you a specific reason.

So I decided to investigate for myself, beyond simply reading the package label. continue…

7 Tips to Stay Motivated

“And so mature adults realize that motivation is not an accident, not so much a feeling as it is a conscious commitment to a motive, a choice toward something, a deeply held reason to act. It is an energy that results from thought. We feel motivated because we choose to, not because the sun happens to shine on our side of the street.” – The Motivation Manifestoby Brendon Burchard

Motivation is tricky. It appears to be a fickle friend at best, coming and going as it pleases on whims that we haven’t quite figured out yet.

What if motivation weren’t something that magically woke us up at 3 a.m. one morning, an aha moment slapping us in the face, but something that could be earned by anyone who chose it, at any moment?

After reading The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard, I have gained a renewed sense of what motivation is and what it isn’t. Here are seven tips for staying motivated in the pursuit of any dream, even when motivation doesn’t feel like your BFF: continue…

Every Day Starts a New Year

The name Awaken & Begin came about to encompass the idea that we can, at any moment, choose to live the lives we want. Each day is a new opportunity to lay another brick, building the lives we dream about.

We might not do it every day, and that’s okay. It isn’t about being perfect. It is about constantly getting back on the path, no matter how many times we may deviate from our plans to do things perfectly. It doesn’t take perfection; it takes starting again more times than giving up.

This time of year is buzzed with the excitement that it is a new year. There is nothing wrong with the buzz. It’s a great thing! But it doesn’t have to just be exciting to start and try new things now. What about March 16th or June 3rd? Unless one of these dates is your birthday (I always feel a similar New Years-y feeling around mine), they are likely just like all the others, and could possibly be less than sparkly and exciting, especially if they contain mundane and tearfully boring or stressful tasks. Ugh. Those kinds of days.

Every day is a new chance to start anew, to pick up where you left off yesterday, or three days ago, or last week. Every day is the start of a new day, week, month, year. There is time. Time is on your side, whether you are saving money, losing weight, or building a business.

Tiny actions are better than no action, and I am continually surprised (although you would think I would have learned by now), that when I commit to doing one little thing, like write for 20 minutes, I am almost always led to another tiny action, and before I know it, things I once thought were impossible are happening more quickly than I could have imagined.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, although it is enticing. I have very specific goals that I focus on, and my current goals are carried over from months before the new year turned. Still, I am riding the high of the new year’s buzz, and enjoying the sense that this is the year for great things. Because, why not? This year, and the next five. All perfect timing for great things to happen.

And great things will happen because we will be sure to see that they do. We have more power than we think. So here’s to being powerful in the new year, and increasingly so in the years that follow! Namaste!

Proud to be a Write Tribe Pro Blogger!

image credit: Michelle Verbeeck

Why Conquering Setbqacks is Essential

Ever sit down at your computer to happily pick up a project where you left off, only to find that your progress mysteriously didn’t save? Or finish cleaning the floors, only to drop and shatter a light bulb? Killed yourself at the gym, only to gain a few pounds?

E + R = O

I love this equation, from Po Bronson’s book What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question. The E stands for Event. There are many events that we cannot control, such as the weather and external circumstances. We also cannot control things that have already happened. We might be able to change our behavior in the future, such as using a more reliable system of saving files, being more careful, or making dietary modifications, but we cannot change the past. We will assume for the purposes of this equation that the E has already happened.

The R stands for Response. Events beyond our control (or even within our control in the past) have happened. Now we get to choose how to respond. Do we get angry or give up? Or do we, in the words of Clark W. Griswold, press on?

Finally, the O stands for Outcome. This simple equation sums up how we are truly products of our choices. There is one piece of that equation that we have true control over. Which piece, you ask? continue…

Review of Make Your Own Rules Diet by Tara Stiles & Giveaway

Yoga, meditation, and healthy eating are the foundation of complete mind and body well-being.  Make Your Own Rules Diet by Tara Stiles focuses on these three areas as essential for living a fulfilled and joyful life. I was lucky to unexpectedly meet Tara Stiles at her book signing after taking her Free Flow Lets Go yoga class sponsored by Goyogaco and W Hotels in Scottsdale, AZ. It was cool to get a hug from her, and then to read in her book how much she values the joy of hugging! At first, I thought Make Your Own Rules Diet would be primarily about recipes and healthy eating. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is so much more, offering motivation to cultivate daily at home yoga and meditation practices, and a glimpse into Tara’s history with food – the healthy and the unhealthy.

Create Space & Sensitize

The first part of the book spends time convincing us of the importance of getting back to the necessity of feeling. We are so programmed to put what everyone else thinks and what advertising tells us we should want before how we feel. It is too easy to get caught up in doing the things we think we are supposed to do because everyone else is, and to ignore all the signals our bodies send us about what is right and what is not. Tara Stiles sends a gentle yet powerful wake-up call that there is a better way through her latest book. She calls us to create space in our lives, remembering to breathe and allow our power to know whether something is on the path to our greatest life or not to shine above everything else. continue…

Why It’s Up to You to Follow Your Dream

Do you wonder what your purpose is, if you have a greater purpose, and if so, when will you ever find the time to fulfill it with the mundane tasks and responsibilities calling your name at every turn?

It’s You

While meditating this morning, I was asking these very questions. I feel called to function a certain way in my life, as a writer, but I constantly struggle with whether this is a true calling or if it is something I just made up. Secondary to that struggle is my battle with time, and where to find the time to carry out these crazy quests of my soul.

The phrase “it’s you” popped into my head. As in, it’s on you, your responsibility, to live out your dream. It’s your responsibility to the world to do whatever it is you are called to do that will help others.

No one else can do it for you. Whatever unique gift you have to share with the world, even if you are unsure of the specifics (like me), you are the only one who can deliver that one specific idea.

I think about Glee, and what if Glee never existed. What if the people who created Glee just didn’t bother, and went on with whatever else they were doing or were going to do. You might think of Dr. Seuss, Steve Jobs, a favorite author, or whoever else you see as a figure who has changed the world by being brave enough to share their ideas and gifts. continue…

How To Motivate Yourself to Get Things Done

With so many distractions at our fingertips, it can be a major challenge to maintain focus on any one given task for more than a few seconds. Emails are constantly knocking on the doors of our minds, the internet is beckoning us at every turn, and our tummies are frequently in need of fuel. What’s a busy girl to do?

In this post, I share how to motivate yourself to park it in one place for at least 20 minutes, no matter what email has emerged or what snack might be calling you, personally, to come join it in the kitchen. Before we start, pull out whatever to-do list you are working from at the moment. Keep it handy. continue…

Make Time to Move Forward

“Once you become consciously aware of just how powerful your thoughts are, you will realize that everything in your life is exactly how you allow it to be.” — Melanie Moushigian Koulouris

I get all bogged down by my excuses more often than I would like to admit. There are so many things I want to do in a day, and my most common complaint and excuse is that I don’t have enough time.

Not enough time to cook a low carb meal, not enough time to work on my blog, not enough time to go for a walk. I suppose the counter argument could be that I am trying to do too many things in a day, but what if I’m not? What if it is the perfect amount of activities and just letting go of my excuses and complaining would bring in that extra touch of time I needed all along to get things done?

Procrastination Battles

Things either get done or they don’t. Perhaps an over-simplification, but I am so tired of procrastinating. The worst thing in recent times is that I have somehow repackaged my procrastination as a lack of time. I tell myself I am constantly busy and just couldn’t get to it, which leaves me feeling confused and betrayed. continue…

Decide to Not Feel Bad & Fiction Friday

I have felt kind of bad all week for not writing. I have been a person who feels bad for not doing the things I say I am going to do, rather than either a) just doing them, or b) acknowledging that I have a lot going on and cutting myself some slack.

I have also been a person who desperately wants to write a book, and who has talked about writing a book for years now, but somehow, still, no book. When I woke up this morning, I decided I have a choice: I can either choose to feel bad about not writing, or just write and move myself, slowly but surely, into the category of people who actually write books rather than those who just talk about writing them (while feeling bad).

Feeling bad about not writing does no good. It doesn’t enhance my word count or my chances of success. All it does is bring about more bad stuff that I have no interest in. I get down on myself because I think I don’t have enough time to write. I just have to accept that I have whatever time is available to me and work with it. John Grisham managed to find time to write while he was still working as a lawyer, didn’t he? continue…

Fiction Fridays: What I’m Writing & What I’m Reading About Writing

“Novel writing isn’t always about finding the right ideas. It’s about finding the time and the energy.” – 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet

My first Fiction Friday of Blogust has arrived and I haven’t written a single word of fiction. Since August first, that is. My current work in progress is up to 6,459 words. So that’s something.

I have dreamed of, and many times attempted, writing young adult fiction for several years now. I even got up to 17,000 words once a few years ago. I mostly feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, but then visions of Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling writing frantically drive me to wonder: what if? continue…

Wedding Planning Wednesdays: Where to Start?

It’s after 8 p.m. on my first Wedding Planning Wednesday, and after a long day of attempting to get things done from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., still not a single step forward on wedding planning has been made. Unless listening to my “Wedding – Pre-ceremony” playlist on Spotify counts? At least it is a relaxing list (think Relaxing Instrumental Jazz Ensamble).

Do I even want to have a wedding?

This question keeps entering my mind as it goes in circles about where to start. Yes, I definitely want to get married. But the months of planning? Not sure I am up for the challenge.

The biggest advice I seem to be getting from people is either to to get a wedding planner or to elope. The ones who recommend the planner are deadly serious, while the ones recommending eloping are (mostly…i think) joking. We aren’t interested in eloping, so hire a wedding planner it is!

My answer is yes. I do want to have a wedding…but I want someone else to make all the decisions! continue…

How to Use Evernote to Plan Weekly Meals & A Healthier Bread Recipe

It’s Sunday. The day of planning meals for the rest of the week. I know some people do Meal Planning Mondays. I have tried that in the past, but by Monday night the last thing I want to do is spend hours cooking. So Sundays it is.

Using Evernote to Plan Meals

A few weeks ago I got back into working on a menu plan in Evernote that works for me. This has been a work in progress for over a year. My goal is to have meals thought out a season (three months) at a time. Right now, I am working on getting down one week at a time.

We are always experimenting with making everyday meals that we like into their healthier (which usually means lower carb) versions. Cauliflower is the low carb secret weapon. I love mashed cauliflower, and last week made a shrimp cauliflower fried rice that was really good. Couldn’t even taste the cauliflower.

My goal is to have about 10 healthy recipes that we like and are relatively easy to make to rotate throughout a month. While I am still figuring out what those recipes are, I have decided to think and plan smaller until I have a better grip on what I am doing.

My fiancé, Michael, and I have a shared Evernote notebook called “Culinary – Food” that contains tons of recipes and a note entitled “Menu”. Click here for a sample of the menu I have created in Evernote for the current week. Below I describe in more detail my rationale for organizing my weekly menu this way by column.

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Blogust Schedule at a Glance

Since I have committed myself to 30 more consecutive days of posting, I figured today would be a good time to plan out my posts for the month. I have been wanting to do this ever since I started blogging but never got a grip on the organization of my thoughts more than a few days in advance.

Themed Days

I have always liked the idea of posting based on specific themes on certain days of the week. This is how I came up with the idea for Meditation Mondays. Here is the general idea for my posting schedule during Blogust: continue…

Be Unwilling to Disappoint Yourself

For as long as I can remember, at least since I made the decision of what I would major in in college, I have been desperate not to disappoint other people. To my own detriment. I do my best to do what I am supposed to do to make sure I am meeting the needs and expectations of the people around me.

I have expectations for myself as well, but unfortunately they are largely trumped by those of other people. I want to be considered responsible, yet fun. Even if that means staying up too late and then getting out of bed the next morning so as not to disappoint anyone at my job by being late. Forget about disappointing myself by not making time to meditate. Well, at least put it secondary to what I perceive others expect.

Living from a Place of Fear

I would estimate that the majority of the time I am living from fear. I fear being late for work, saying the wrong thing, making a mistake, disappointing someone, being criticized, and mostly, not following my dreams. I fear, constantly, that I will never get the courage to write my book or make my blog a success, while simultaneously fearing that I am not doing enough to deliver on what other people expect of me.

It’s exhausting, and I know I am not the only one who feels this way. Which is why I share. The fear has improved, otherwise I wouldn’t even be sharing my thoughts today. We all have fears, but living from them day after day is not the recipe for a healthy life.

In my extreme unwillingness to disappoint other people, I have, unfortunately, become comfortable with disappointing myself. If I feel that someone else or some task needs to be tended to, then I likely take care of that need and skip my writing for the day.

Time is tricky. I can say I don’t have time to write, but I would have to carefully remind myself that if I believe everyone has the ability to make time to exercise, then I must also have the ability to make time to write. It isn’t lack of time that prevents me from moving forward (although I often cite that as the defining reason), but fear and a willingness to disappoint myself. continue…

How to Meet the Neighbors

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Desmond Tutu

After buying a house about a month ago, it was time to meet the neighbors. It seems to be common for people to not know their neighbors, or worse, for neighbors to be feuding over some trivial detail from 10 years ago.

I have not really been a person to get to know my neighbors in the past, and certainly not the one to take the first step in introducing myself to others. That all changed over the past few weeks.

The Reverse Welcome Wagon has been an idea of ours for several years now. Having rented a house for the previous three years, it was one of those things that we always wanted to do but never got around to. This time, we made the effort to make it happen and are so glad we did.

The Reverse Welcome Wagon

reverse-welcome-wagonI don’t know that I have ever witnessed a real life Welcome Wagon. It seems to be one of those things from the 1950s or TV shows and movies re-enacting that era, or at least some idealistic form of small town American charm. It is certainly a lost art form, and one that we were hoping to somewhat revive as the newest members of the neighborhood.

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Book Nook Review: Angels of Abundance by Doreen Virtue & Grant Virtue

“Positivity is the language of heaven.” – Angels of Abundance by Doreen Virtue and Grant Virtue

I have long believed that living life on purpose is the way to go. After reading countless self-help books, one thing is crystal clear: each individual person has a unique purpose in life that is waiting to be fulfilled.

I have struggled with anything that hasn’t felt purposeful. But I have also come to realize that we get to choose to assign purpose and meaning to those things that previously didn’t feel super purpose-filled, on the path towards living our dreams.

Doreen & Grant Virtue’s book Angels of Abundance: Heaven’s 11 Messages to Help You Manifest Support, Supply, and Every Form of Abundance is an excellent, practical guide on what it takes to live a life that was previously only imaginable. The thing I admire most about Doreen Virtue is that she doesn’t sugarcoat it; she never for one second pretends that it doesn’t take hard work and sacrifice to pull it off. continue…

Anyone Can Learn Anything

I have been hearing the advice for years to read everything you can get your hands on if you want to be a writer. I have been a casual reader, but didn’t really grasp the intention behind this advice until recently.

Setting out to accomplish any large project is usually majorly overwhelming, and the largeness of a project can be what sinks us before we even start. I am a person who wants to write a book, but how do you write a whole book? I still have no idea. There is plenty of logical advice out there, but when it comes down to it, every time I have tried to start I have gotten overwhelmed by the thought of writing a book and quit before giving it a fighting chance.

I get excited that maybe I will read three books in my genre and then I will have a grip on what it is to write a young adult series book. Ya, right. Just to finish one book typically takes me at least a week. I also get discouraged that I want to have written a book like last year already. Why bother starting again if I couldn’t get it done before now?

These are the questions that trap me into thinking I’m better off not bothering. continue…

Giving Up is No Longer an Option

“Well you always throw away the first pancake.” – Reba on Malibu Country

The other night I watched a movie called A Case of You about a writer (my favorite kind of movie!) and it got me thinking about my dream of being a writer. This thought frequents my mind, but it often gets pushed to the backburner.

I have almost finished or barely started reading so many books about writing with titles like Writer with a Day Job, The Right to Write, and No Plot? No Problem! (written by the founder of NaNoWriMo), not to mention On Writing by Stephen King. To say that I am slightly obsessed with being a writer would be an understatement.

The Fear of Starting

A Case of You begins with the main character (played by Justin Long) agonizing over the first sentence of his book: starting, loathing, deleting. Some of the sentences were mediocre, others seemed really good, but they all had one thing in common: they all got deleted.

I know the feeling of attempting to start “chapter one” of some crazy idea I dreamed up in my head. What if it totally sucks and I pour all of this time into it and then it ends up being nothing? This is my ego trying to talk me out of doing something that makes me happy. continue…

Book Nook Review of Forgiveness by Iyanla Vanzant

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I hadn’t thought of forgiveness as an essential component of moving forward until I read Forgiveness by Iyanla Vanzant. Since I selected this book to read, I have been hearing about the importance of forgiveness from other authors concurrent with my reading.

Iyanla Vanzant calls us to recognize all the places in our lives that we need to bring forgiveness to, beginning with ourselves. The book is intended to be worked in exercises to be completed during 30 to 60 minutes on each of 21 days. The work of each day focuses on extending forgiveness to practically every type of relationship we could possibly have.

Each chapter starts out with a “forgiveness story” written by either Iyanla Vanzant or a guest writer. These stories provide personal examples from the writers’ own lives, describing how they came to realize their need to forgive others who they had spent energy resenting. Following each chapter’s forgiveness story are the forgiveness exercises.

The forgiveness exercises begin with a forgiveness prayer, followed by an exercise of writing personalized forgiveness statements tailored to the individual reader’s unique forgiveness needs in their own relationships, all leading up to the tapping sequences. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT, or tapping)  can be thought of as acupuncture sans-needles, according to Vanzant. The idea in this case is to tap (with your fingers) on specific meridian points to clear out blocked energy attributed to negative thoughts born of unforgiveness. continue…

How to Find More Time to Read

It amazes me to think that we could never be bored with so many books out there to read. Overwhelmed? Yes, perhaps. But certainly not bored. With such busy schedules, the secret to getting more of these friends into our lives may not necessarily be through our eyes, but through our ears. continue…

A Warmup Activity to Start the Day

In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron describes the idea of writing morning pages. The strictest definition of morning pages is handwriting 3 pages first thing every morning. There is no goal to the writing, other than to clear the mind.

Writing can be a great way to get out the thousands of thoughts in one’s mind, clearing space to get to the real work to do that day. You don’t have to be a writer to do morning pages either. This activity clears the path for creative ideas necessary for all different kinds of projects to flow into the mind. This is why I meditate, and this is why I write in 750 Words. continue…

What’s in Your Green Smoothie?

I remember attending a seminar with “The Juice Man” as a kid with my family at the request of my mom. My mom has been into juicing ever since. We always had some kind of juicer around. I wanted to be into juicing growing up, but it always seemed like too much work to sustain on a daily basis.

The nice thing about green smoothies is that there isn’t some gross pile of pulp to cleanup afterwards like there is with juicing. It is a much more streamlined process to throw the ingredients in the blender and just rinse out a small cup afterwards.

Green Smoothies have really seemed to catch on over the past year or so. They make a great replacement meal for breakfast or lunch, or a treat in addition to usual meals. If you have never tried one, the idea of drinking blended spinach might seem less than yummy. I know I wasn’t convinced until I tried one. You will just have to give it a go to determine how it is for yourself, but I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the jolt of awesomeness that follows a good green smoothie.

Green Smoothie Basics

green smoothie ingredientsSeveral people have asked me what I put in my green smoothie. I pretty much have been making the same thing every time for the past few months, as follows: continue…

Meditation Mondays: How much time a day should I spend meditating?

If you are brand new to meditation, start here.

This is a question I have asked myself for years. I don’t think there is one right answer that will serve everyone, but rather, it is based on personal preferences and current lifestyle. I have read many different opinions on the subject, and it seems that anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes a day are recommended.

A Personal Preference

I have found that 20 minutes a day seems to be the optimal amount of meditation time for me. Twenty minutes is a period of time in which I can really feel the benefits of meditation, but also feels accessible. Twenty minutes doesn’t take away too much from the time available in the day to get things done. continue…

A Mini-Sabbatical

Today is officially day 1 of my 30 day mini-sabbatical. Although I wasn’t planning on posting anything until Monday, I figured I would outline my plans for my time since it is so heavily on my mind and I am so excited about it.

First of all, I have to say that this is truly a dream come true for me. I can’t even count the number of times I have wished that I could get a month off to focus on myself and my direction in life. I know I am so lucky to get this chance, and I do not take it lightly. continue…

A Month (or at least a moment) of Authenticity

I am about to be ecstatic, because tomorrow at 3 p.m. PST I will log off from my job for 30 days! The last time I had this much time off from work was before I started working full time for real in 2007.

Last year I took a week off hoping that I could have some time back for myself that I felt I so desperately needed, but the week came and went with a few blinks and I was left feeling chaotic, scattered, and burdened by the constraints of expectations and responsibilities once again.

Well, here comes round two! I know that there is a way for me to fit my writing into my days that I work if I really really really try. Anything is possible. But I have just not gotten myself motivated to consistently do so. I have felt strongly that I am a writer for years, but struggled to match my dream to the expectations that I felt other people placed on my life and how my “success” in life was defined. continue…

Winter Seasonal Review

quote - brian tracyIt’s that time of the year again. Well, a little late, but who’s counting? This past Labor Day weekend was my very first official seasonal review, and I decided that my next review would be on or around the Friday after Thanksgiving.

As I have mentioned before, the seasonal review is born out of a failed attempt at a weekly review, which was one of my New Year’s resolutions last year. In a nutshell, the idea of the weekly review was to wrap up loose ends from the previous week and spend time planning out the upcoming week. This was honestly just too much for me to commit to week after week. Instead, I have been working on developing habits to review things as I go daily, with a more reflective review about every three months.

Components of the Seasonal Review

My vision for the seasonal review was to revisit the idea of New Year’s resolutions more frequently than once a year. The seasonal review is a time to reevaluate goals. It is a chance to reset and get back on track more than just once a year after the overindulgence of the holidays.

I need look no farther than my hipster to see what I need to be doing. In fact, as I was looking back on my fall seasonal review post, I noticed that my ideas for what the seasonal review should consist of are entirely covered by my existing hipster categories. Here’s a few highlights from my second ever seasonal review: continue…

Meditation Mondays: Beginning Yoga

I first learned about meditation through yoga, and in many ways yoga is its own form of meditation. Since yoga and meditation are so closely linked, I decided to make this week’s Meditation Mondays post about getting into yoga, and hopefully meditation as well!

It can be intimidating to start anything new. I am still surprised when someone tells me they have never done yoga before. Yoga has done so much for me, so I am always eager to get other people involved with the hope that it will help them as much as it has helped me.

I have been wanting to review the Introduction to Yoga video from Yoga Zone on Hulu for a while. I have never watched this video before, primarily due to length (this video is about an hour). I was lucky to have a yoga newbie with me the other day (my mom!) so we figured we would give it a shot. continue…

Blooktober Kickoff

“The beginning is always today.” – Mary Shelley

Fall is in the air! This year, for me, this means Blooktober during October, and then NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. More about NaNoWriMo later.

What is Blooktober?

I participated in Blogust this year, posting everyday during the month of August. I will admit that I did take some liberties in what is technically considered posting everyday, as I ended up missing days and having to go back and post later during the month of August. In the end, I completed all 31 posts within the month.

In September, I lost my writing and posting momentum that the challenge of participating in Blogust fueled. I am glad that I gave myself some in-between time, but I also feel that I am ready for another challenge. I wasn’t sure if I would participate in Blogtober (posting everyday during October), but I now know that I must. Sometimes, there just comes a point where you realize it is now or never. I am sensing that this is one of those times for me. continue…

The First Steps in Making Goals Real

We can probably all find some contrast between where we are and where we want to be. These hopes and dreams are what fuels ordinary people to do extraordinary things. But why does it sometimes seem like we have allowed weeks, months, or even years to go by without achieving them? The first step is effective goal-setting.

There are a ton of self-help books out there geared towards improving personal productivity. Each gives a different perspective on setting and achieving goals. Advice varies from limiting yourself to a single goal to maintaining multiple goals in a variety of areas.  With so much confusion among “experts”, what is the average person supposed to do?  Well, all of that inconsistency found in advice should tell you one thing, people are different.  No single strategy is the best and we each need to determine what is right for our own personal lives and unique situations.

I am a bit addicted to structure. I have always enjoyed organizing my to-do list and restructuring and renaming the various aspects of my life. Because of this, historically, I have had a bad habit of over-complicating solutions in my life. The problem with this is that complicated solutions are hard to maintain through time.  They become a burden and lose their luster in a few weeks.  I have learned that simple solutions (even if they are imperfect) have much more potential to change your life.  With that in mind, whatever I decided to do, it needed to be simple. continue…

Focusing on the Bright Spots and Beginning Again

“Nothing in the world is ever completely wrong, my dear…Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” – Brida’s father to her in Brida by Paulo Coehlo

I remember reading in the book Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath about the concept of focusing on the bright spots – figuring out what it is that is working in your life and examining why, and then applying the same principles that make those areas work to areas in your life that you want to improve.

A few years ago, I got the idea to start a blog from a friend. I actually didn’t realize that just anyone (like me) could start a blog. I have been writing in journals forever, and have always felt that I am a writer. Blogging seemed like the perfect fit for me, so I went ahead and started a Blogger blog, but I didn’t really feel connected to what I was doing. I was too afraid to put myself out there, so I didn’t reveal the “real Annie” for fear of judgment (from my 4 followers).

I soon abandoned my Blogger blog, and decided I wanted to create something bigger that more people could relate to (my first blog was called “Annie Words” and I didn’t think many people, besides my 4 followers perhaps, would really identify with that blog name as a brand).

So I decided to start a WordPress blog. This blog was born just over a year ago. I came up with the name for Awaken & Begin one day after agonizing over the perfect blog name for several months. I quickly proceeded to sign up for a WordPress blog and follow the steps to get the domain name and self host the site. Then…crickets. continue…

Thoughts On Getting Up Early

“When that alarm goes off every morning…what you decide to do will define who you are.” – Chris on Extreme Makeover Weight Loss, episode “Krista”

I work from home, which really in itself is a dream come true for me, because whenever I went to an office everyday I would wish and hope that someday I could be at home. I LOVE being at home, and would have absolutely no problem with being a stay at home mom (someday). I would never get bored or tired of being at home.

I also live in the Pacific time zone and work in the Central time zone, so I must login to my work computers by 6 AM. I have been living in Henderson, NV for three years, and have been starting my job at 6 AM during all 3 years. Before I moved here, I thought for sure that I would be able to spring up out of bed at 5 AM to go for a walk, do yoga, journal, make breakfast, etc. But it has actually been a major challenge, especially since no one I know starts work at 6 AM, so other people tend to want to stay up much later than I should – and of course I want to join them! continue…

Announcing Blogust for Awaken & Begin!

“I guess I just wanted to tell you to not give up on your dream. If you can imagine it, it can come true.”  – Tina to Arty on Glee, Season 1 episode 19: Dream On

I came up with the name for this blog over a year ago and bought the domain name at around the same time. If you look back to my first official post, you will notice that it was within June…2013. I have agonized over what to post, how to post, when to post for pretty much the whole past year. I have also agonized over the design of the blog in excruciating detail, whether or not to go with a designer or do it myself, etc.

Currently, as you can probably tell, I have opted to go ahead with my own homemade design (with a little help), which will be a work in progress as time goes on. This is mostly due to my own analysis paralysis of the hundreds of thousands of designers out there. How is a girl to make a decision with so many choices? Hopefully sometime down the road I will find that just-right designer for me, but for now this is where I am.

I have been trying to gain momentum in posting regularly to my blog, and have sort of gotten the ball rolling this past month, if you count posting once a week as a ball rolling (which lately, I will count!). I was planning on aiming to post twice a week during the month of August, but I got kind of an inspired idea from a blogger / vlogger I have been following at www.organizedjen.com. She announced recently that she will be doing “Vlogust”, meaning she will be vlogging everyday in the month of August. I liked the idea, and then decided I would like to do “Blogust”! continue…

Gaining Momentum Towards a Goal

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” – fortune cookie

Today is day 2 of me posting to this blog…hooray!

I have posted and deleted my posts more times than I can count – so I have decided to just move forward and continue to write until it is actually good enough to share. But I am not worried about not being good enough. Well, the worrying thoughts do come to my mind, but I am taking back my control over them. continue…

The Joy of Starting

Or the agony; take your pick. Sometimes it is fun to jump into a project, while other times the initial enthusiasm is met with a crippling paralysis due to the many, many choices we are presented with any time we want to do anything new.

So you want to take up yoga? How do you choose between the 25 different yoga studios (or videos) and variety of styles available? How about starting a blog? There are a seemingly infinite amount of choices in font, color, layout, images, etc. continue…