the only answer

November 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

A seemingly ordinary trip to the local grocery store proved to be an enlightening experience.

In the busy aisle an aproned clerk asks: “do you have any questions?”
I respond: “I don’t think so, do you have answers?”
Clerk: “the only answer is in you. if only people knew to stop looking outside for what they seek. really the only answer is already in you.”
Me: “thank you, I’ve truly found everything I need today.”

It was amazing to me how such a simple interaction could be so profound. Somehow his words, words I’d heard spiritual teachers say, had an energetic quality that stopped me in my tracks and spoke directly to my spirit. Over the years I’d pondered Jesus’ teaching that the kingdom of God is within us. Studying this teaching, gave me a decent intellectual grasp of its meaning but it had never been driven straight to my heart in this way before. Today, I understand it in a whole new way and am forever grateful to the aproned angel for shining a light on the only answer.

Embracing What Is

July 13, 2011 § 7 Comments

Profound gratitude is about accepting, loving, and embracing all that IS, not just the wonderful things – that’s easy but it’s not true gratitude. We tend to think that if we express our sincerest gratitude for the smell of our morning coffee that we have a pass to complain about traffic, this is not gratitude.  Complaining, striving to change things, and resisting are the opposite of gratitude, in such an environment gratitude will not flourish. I am speaking from personal experience, but I imagine others have experienced this kind of duality of pseudo-gratefulness. In America, I’m certain everyone has witnessed this pseudo-gratitude in full effect around the end of November. We spend a day with our friends and families giving thanks for all that we have only to turn around the very next day in ravenous consumption. This is not true gratitude and it brings about pain, suffering, and in the case of black Friday, debt.

I had this habit of pseudo-gratitude for a long time, and it still rears its ugly head from time to time, this habit led to such confusion, dissonance, and emptiness. I was saying “thank you” for everything I could think of but I wasn’t living gratitude. I wasn’t embracing everything, I was picking and choosing what I loved and did not love. I did not love my history with my dad. I did not love the debt I was in. I did not love everything about my body. I did not love my tiny apartment. So I tried being thankful for things I did love, like my husband, the smell of jasmine on my street, the food on my plate, the income from my job and on and on. In the mean time, I worked hard at forgetting the history I had with my dad, I worked hard at paying off debt, I worked harder at losing 5 pounds, I started searching for a way to move out of my apartment. So the gratitude I felt for the beautiful things in my life started to be overwhelmed by the resentment of trying to muscle the other things into my control. Clearly something had to change and it wasn’t going to be those things on my list.

It all finally changed with my commitment to wholeheartedly embrace life. I made the conscious decision to embrace the unknown, to embrace my weaknesses and embrace the same in others, to embrace change as it happens and not force it when it doesn’t, to embrace mistakes, discomfort and vulnerability, to embrace spontaneity and the faith it requires, to embrace all that is and ever was in just as it is. It was hard, at first, like “you want me to embrace the fact that my dad was an abusive alcoholic?” and the answer, of course, was “yes”. And then I was like, “maybe I’ll start with easier things like being grateful I have a healthy body”. Now that was easy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t experience a life of true gratitude until I dug down deep and found gratitude for the really gritty stuff. Once it happened, though, gratitude just started radiating out of me. I didn’t have to think about it or practice it anymore it just became a part of my being. This is not to deny the fact that I am human and flawed and still make plenty of mistakes but this commitment to gratitude has profoundly changed my life.

If you are struggling with the habit of pseudo-gratitude I recommend starting with the hardest thing to be grateful for, you’ll thank me later! Find that thing and embrace it just as it is. For me it was an old story I told myself about my dad, if only he had been less drunk or more caring I could really be grateful. It didn’t work to wish it had been different. It didn’t help to ignore it either. I finally sat with the feelings and the stories embraced them as they were without wishing them different. In that space they began to transform. Suddenly, I had a deep understanding of my relationship with my dad and a deep sense of gratitude that he is exactly who he is. Nothing actually changed but my willingness to embrace it all put it in a different light. In this new light everything is just as it should be. My 5 extra pounds are still here but in this light I’m just grateful to have this body. My debt is still hanging out but in this light I’m grateful I have the awareness not to add more debt. I still live in the same apartment but in this light I am profoundly grateful to have a home filled with love.

When things arise that I don’t like or that bring about resistance in me, I shine this light of gratitude and feel the transformation. I hope that this light shines in your life today too.
~love and gratitude~

Lighten Up!

July 12, 2011 § 4 Comments

Why such a long face? No really why? Why do we walk around looking so weighed down all the time? Why do people find a chipper morning hello so alarming?

As I walked my dog this morning – an unsurpassably glorious summer morning – I pondered these questions. My smile and skippy step certainly stood out against my dreary neighbors. Seriously people, you are not that unhappy! Ok, maybe some of you are. Perhaps all the people on my block today really were on their way to a funeral…or worse their jobs (it is Monday after all.)  Which, to me, is almost as sad as everyone having a funeral to attend. Death is inevitable and out of our hands, but our jobs and happiness are within our control.

If you find you are suffering from “case of the Mondays” (especially if it’s not even Monday) lighten up! If you don’t it could kill you!

A short list of cures:

  1. Play your favorite, up-beat tune on your drive to/from work.
  2. Roll your windows up and sing like no one can hear you!
  3. Listen to some comedy, I highly recommend Adam Carolla’s podcast.
  4. Laugh at a fellow carpooler’s nose pick (come on, there’s always one!)
  5. At work, take a giggle break (Lol cats are a sure thing, just don’t let the boss catch you)
  6. Take a breather, literally! Deep breathing has many benefits and will likely keep you off that Monday death-rate list.
  7. Do some social networking, the real kind! Get out of your desk and chat with a coworker, it can lighten your mood and even improve productivity. Just don’t chat up Negative Nancy.
  8. Eat something! A handful of nuts is a great energy and mood booster and apparently even chocolate is a good option.
  9. Go outside. A breath of fresh air will help clear your mind.
  10. Play. Some workplaces have wised up to the benefits of play and are building play areas for workers. If your work doesn’t provide one make your own fun.

Please add your favorite mood boosters in the comments!

Power in Subtlety

July 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

You do not need fireworks and a marching band to know you are alive. There is so much power and beauty in the drama free unfolding of life. Accept this lack of drama as an important aspect of your peaceful spiritual awakening. Have faith in the subtle organization of the universe. Have faith that something beautiful is brewing and stop trying to lift the lid to check! ~Let it stew~

Concentric Circles

July 8, 2011 § 3 Comments


photo cred: mdezemery

Every ripple starts somewhere.  In my kindergarten curriculum, students start the year learning and sharing about themselves. As their development progresses they begin to learn about the world outside themselves. Starting with their school community, then their city and eventually the world.


These concentric circles work really well for kindergartners and, as it turns, out are a pretty good model for grown-ups too.

Recently, I realized that the reason I was having such a hard time with my spiritual development was that I kept trying to jump ahead in the curriculum. I wanted to be a spiritual leader/guru/sage and I hadn’t even taken the pre-req’s!  I learned that where I really needed to start was with myself. That seemed a little egocentric and selfish at first, but I realized that, like my kindergartners, I had no frame of reference if I didn’t even know myself. I couldn’t take on the world because I wasn’t developmentally ready. How could I bring healing to the world if I hadn’t allowed myself to be healed?

This realization was incredibly liberating for me and as soon as I was able to look inward the world around me started to change for the better! You too can bring positive change to your world. All you have to do is start with the understanding that you deserve to be healed and that you cannot solve the larger issues if you don’t start with yourself.

~be the ripple effect~

year in review

July 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today is the last day of my 28th year on this planet (that’s roughly 10,220 days!). Reflecting on the year, I am overjoyed with every memory, every mistake, and the entire journey! I decided to share a short list of the year’s accomplishments in no particular order.

In the last year I…

  • Grew exponentially as a human, a spiritual being, and as an artist
  • Took on photography commissions and earned a new camera!
  • Turned our spare bedroom into an art studio
  • Opened up an Etsy shop for my photography (and soon to be more art!)
  • Kept my debt snowball rolling, knocked out another credit card and paid off a car loan
  • Bought a (used) car with cash!
  • Finished a three year teaching fellowship
  • Earned my teaching credential
  • Learned to care for my personal well-being (and that it’s not selfish to do so!)
  • Learned to cook and eat healthier (I heart kale!)
  • Learned to be comfortable in my own skin and love my body
  • Started meditating daily
  • Conquered anxiety
  • Forgave myself for past mistakes
  • Forgave others for theirs
  • Learned to let go of past hurts
  • Learned to be less judgmental of others and, in turn, less critical of myself
  • Learned to let go, let go, let go…

And most importantly, learned to take it all one small step at a time. I have no idea what 29 holds for me but I’m excited to see what unfolds!

A New Normal – Life without TV

June 30, 2011 § 3 Comments

The other day I wrote about killing your tv and the benefits to your mind. Our household has been without a television for a couple of years now and we actually can’t imagine what life would be like to have one again. Our relationship, interests, and opportunities have blossomed since giving up the telly. Life without a television seems so natural and normal that I’d actually forgotten how much other people are attached to theirs.

Yesterday, while replacing my old iPhone – much to my chagrin, I was hoping to keep the old one forever until it stopped taking calls rendering it useless and forcing me to replace it, the whole ordeal did get me thinking about trading the cell for a landline, but I digress – the young sales person asked if she could bundle my cable TV and cell phone bills, to which I responded that I do not have a television. By the look on her face you’d think I would have told her that I’m an occasional cannibal. She shrunk back behind her computer processing what I’d just said, and then she asked for clarification, “Did you say you don’t have a TV?” I sure did, haven’t had one in a couple of years. “Sooo…um…what do you guys do? Like, just talk or something?”

Yes, we just talk or something. Is that really all that strange? Are people really so attached to TV that they can’t imagine what they would do without it? Like, what if they had to actually talk to their families, or roommates, or spouses?! I explained to her that we do talk but we also have lots of time to do other things like pursue our artistic endeavors, read great books, play, listen to music, and simply enjoy life.

Watching people do interesting things does not make you interesting! Do you even know what you like to do? What makes your heart sing? Does another episode of the Bachelor feed your soul? Or are you just passing the time until you die? If you’re ready to take the plunge and find your true self and your true ambitions you’ve got to kill the TV. Or at least take a break for a week, a month, a year. If you’re not completely satisfied feel free send your complaints to me:  nicoleleanne {!!at} gmail {dot}com. If, on the otherhand, your life blossoms you are welcome to send money, gifts, and gratitude my way 😉

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