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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Lessons of Life Through Loss

My Aunt was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer a little over ago. Fast forward to a year later, she had a joyful, fun-filled year. In October, she saw the doctor again (her health was starting to go downhill) and was told that the cancer had spread to other places. Now the end is near. We are all hoping she makes it through Christmas (a family favorite), but it’s so close that we just don’t know. Through this process, I am learning many things from her, from the process and about myself. I hope this helps anyone else going through this too.

What this is teaching me…. 

1) That it’s okay to be happy and sad in this time of loss/grief. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been going back and forth from feeling happy and joyful about the new direction my life is taking, then feeling the grief of going through the process of my aunt dying. Each time, I feel some sort of guilt for feeling both ways. Sounds weird, I know, but let me explain. When I’m happy and joyful, I have guilt due to this belief that I shouldn’t feel this way now (I should be sad!). Then when I feel sadness and grief, I have guilt due to my new belief of knowing that no one truly goes away. Their spirit lives on in all of us. This morning after crying big sad tears, I had this realization… Stop feeling guilty!!! It’s okay to feel both emotions. This is a time of expansion and growth that should be celebrated, make me feel happy and joyful. On the flip side, it’s also a time of great loss that should be grieved. Even though, I know that she will be with us in spirit always, her physical presence will be missing and that can be painful and take time to get used to. Through this difficult time, I will feel the emotions as they come and continue to learn and grow from all of it.

2) Give yourself the time to slow down and rest.  My aunt is an incredibly giving, compassionate person. Throughout her illness over the past year, she never stopped giving. She continued to sing in church (one of her passions), give her time to those in need, care for her children and grandchildren, and always making sure that everyone was okay and taken care of. It was only until recently, when her body just can’t handle it all anymore that she stopped doing some of those things. Even now, she continues to be the caring person she is. For example, I just spoke to her on the phone this morning asking if she was up for a visit today. Unfortunately, she was feeling very sick and said these words to me “I know this would mean a lot to you and I’m sorry, but I need to go back to bed and rest.” That simple sentence meant the world to me and showed me that a person can be caring of others, but also take time for themselves too. It truly is a balance and you can have both.

3) You affect and touch others’ lives always without even knowing that you are doing it. This past weekend her family celebrated their Christmas early while she was still alert and could enjoy her children and grandchildren. On this day, her church choir (that she was very much involved with) surprised them all by showing up outside their house singing Christmas carols. A moment that they all will never forget. A few days later, she mentioned that she never realized until recently how many lives she touched. It reminds me to focus on being my loving self, give when I can, slow down and talk to others about their life, and most importantly be kind no matter what another person has done. You never know when that kind word or conversation could make that person’s day, year, or life.

4) Allow yourself to receive the love too. I don’t think up until recently she realized how much she was loved and cherished by her family, friends, and community. She has always been the giver… giving her love, time, compassion, and support. She often didn’t allow or believe herself worthy enough of getting all that back from others. It took her body giving up to allow herself to receive all the help and love that people have been trying to give to her for years. It reminds me to allow myself to receive it now while I can truly enjoy and savor the feeling of giving and receiving at the same time.

5) Don’t forget to share with those you love how much you love them. This has been my greatest lesson. I was always a very loving child… the one who had to hug and tell everyone I love them before leaving any family gathering (and I have a large family!!). Somewhere along the road of life, I lost some of that. While I was still loved, and cared for others, I haven’t always been the greatest at showing it or making the time to be with them. This experience has opened me up to realizing that even if you think you have lots of time left to spend with them, you never really know. I’ve opened myself up to creating those moments with others where we have the opportunity to connect. I can tell in just a short amount of time that my relationships are improving and flourishing. So, make sure you set aside time for those you love amidst your busy life.

Sending all my love,

Val

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Driftwood Rock

The Driftwood Rock
I found this beautiful piece on the shores of Lake Superior. One day I was out searching for stones to add to my collection. I saw this strange looking rock and picked it up. It was so light and airy feeling. I was shocked to realize that this "rock" was a piece of driftwood.

Fast forward to a few years later... I was looking over my rock collection and pondering over these hardy, unique and tough little rocks. I picked up the driftwood rock and realized that it was me!

Over the years, I have been pushed, prodded, and knocked around by the waves of life. Each time the tides washed over me, an unneeded part of me was shaved away and sent out. After many years of this, I became more and more beautiful. One day, I emerged to look like the rocks that I was spending time with!

Remember when the tides of life are battering you around, you are learning, growing, and shedding the parts of yourself that no longer serve you. Until one day, you become the soft, hardy, joyful, beautiful, light-filled being that you were always meant to be.

Be the driftwood rock, my friends! :D

Love to you all,
Val

Friday, September 2, 2016

Sometimes Quiet is a Good Thing

Today, I was reminded of the person I used to be and sometimes still am. Ever since childhood, I always had to be talking or in some cases just making noise for my voice to be heard. My cousin often reminds me of the time when I was around 5 years old. I would follow him around taking endlessly... One day  he had to mow the lawn, so he did. When he turned his head, there I was behind him still talking even though he couldn't hear a word I was saying. :)  As I became an adult this translated into me talking, but not really listening to others and their stories. These past few months, I have been going inside myself reflecting and getting quiet. What has quiet brought to my life?

1) Allowed me to hear other people. There is so much information and knowledge to gain from asking questions and hearing the lifetime stories of the people you meet.

2) My mind doesn't always race a million miles a minute, which has allowed me to hear my intuition and take steps towards creating the life that I want for myself. When my mind does race, it is generally for a purpose or reason. I got some flash of inspiration!

3) Getting quiet in my mind and voice has really  allowed to to be present and experience life. Life has so much more flavor and zest when you can get out of your head and really feel the moment you are in.

4) Really listening to others has developed new friendships that I probably never would have cultivated the old way.

My hope for you is to work towards getting in your mind, asking questions and really listening to the answers.

Love,
Val

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Brushing Your Spiritual Teeth Daily

"Go within every day and find the inner strength, so that the world will not blow your candle out." ~Katherine Dunham

This past week, I had an exceptionally busy week at my job. I was working so much and not utilizing my downtime to recharge my batteries. I found myself falling into my old patterns of watching too much TV or playing video games (things I have found for me that allow me to zone out, but do not really energize me). After about 5 days of this, I became a little more sad, down, anxious and my worries increased. One day, I woke up and realized that I hadn't been doing any of my spiritual meditation, learning, or resting in that time frame.

I started looking back at all I had done and accomplished spiritually, mentally and physically in the past several months. I had an epiphany... I had been going inside myself to recharge and listen for that inner wisdom on a daily basis (well, I have missed a day here and there)!  Could there be something to this? All the spiritual masters I have come across in my lifetime have some sort of daily meditation practice that they do. Science has also proven that meditation lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and improves overall health. I like to think of it as something that I do daily to keep me happy and healthy (like brushing my teeth).

Here is my daily practice (this is fluid and changes as I grow and learn)... In the morning before I get out of bed, I go into my heart, pray and set my intention for the day (what do I want to accomplish today? what would I like to see happen today? what inspiration do I need today?... or whatever it is that I need and require on this day). Then from my heart space, I expand the love outwards and form a bubble of love and light around me. This helps me throughout my day by keeping me in a positive frame of mind and not allowing negative situations to ruin my entire day. They happen, but I let them go and move on about my day. In the evenings, I try to write or journal, do something creative or meditate (sometimes a combination of all of them!). For me this helps focus my thoughts and feelings. When I lay down to go to sleep at night, I listen to some restful music and focus my energy on wiping away any stressors from the day, then drift blissfully into dreamland (still working on remembering them though).

Keep in mind, this is my daily practice and what works for me. Each of us have different passions, likes and ways of doing prayer or meditation. I encourage each of you to find what works for you and do this daily. Allow it to evolve and shift as you do.

In doing this, the candle of God source energy inside of me stays brightly lit. When all of our candles are shining brightly this world is a great place!

Love to you all,
Val







Monday, April 25, 2016

Daily Gratitude Can Improve Your Life

"Be thankful everyday for what you have and the Universe will respond in kind by rushing in with even more blessings." ~ Jarrad Hewett

One of my first steps on my journey back to happiness was to cultivate a daily practice of gratitude and thankfulness. Several years ago, I remember someone talking about keeping a gratitude journal and knew that I needed to try something to change the course of my life. At first, this was difficult for me to do. I was at a very low point in my life, feeling unsuccessful, financial stress and worries, not feeling very comfortable in my own skin, and my relationships were suffering. Internally (I thought), there wasn't much to be thankful for. But I was willing to try and see what happened.

Each night, I would write three reasons to be grateful or thankful... it could be big or small. There were some nights that all I could be thankful for was food in my fridge and a bed to sleep on, but it started the "blessing" ball rolling. After about a week of doing this, the feeling of joy was slowly coming back to me. I began noticing more and more reasons to be thankful. In a study done by Robert Emmons, PhD from UC Davis in his book "Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier.", he has shown that regular grateful thoughts can increase happiness by 25 percent. Amazing! That validated what I was already learning to be true.

As with anything for me, it takes some time to integrate a new habit and not get bored with it. I missed some days and that was okay. I just picked it back up when I remembered. To spice it up and make it fun, I made a game out of it. Each day I must have new and different things to be grateful for. As I practice this more and more, I find new creative ways to express gratitude... thanking someone or something in the moment that it happens and learning to be thankful for all moments in life as they have made me the person that I am today.

By looking for ways to be thankful each day, I was focusing my attention and awareness on the positive not the negative. Because of this focused attention, God, the Universe, Source (whatever you want to name it) will bring to you more and more to be grateful for. I find this to be true, as I no longer struggle to find a blessing each day. They pour in daily in both big and small ways.  Do I still have difficult moments in life? Absolutely, but now the positive outweighs the negative.

My wish for us all is to be thankful in each and every moment.

Much Love and Happiness,
Val

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Self Love

"You cannot be lonely, if you like the person you're alone with" ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

Loving myself has been a significant stumbling block in my life.  Today, it dawned on me that this one issue is and has been the root cause for so many of my relationship, financial, and success problems.  For most of my life I have loved other people (always being the one to accept and love everyone for who they were), but this never fully translated to myself. In the past few years, this has affected my ability to be loving towards others.

The ways I was/am unloving towards myself and how I move towards loving myself:

- I am the first person to beat myself up for my mistakes, as someone I know once said "I have a baseball bat in every room" ready to criticize myself for what I said, thought or did. I had to forgive myself for my past mistakes, because they are in the past and the only way to move forward and create a better life is to let go and forgive. Forgiving myself is one of the hardest things for me to do, but I now know this is vitally important for me to do so.

- I had a tendency to hide parts of myself from others for fear that they would reject me, because if I didn't love me then they definitely wouldn't love me. Recently, with respect to my financial well-being, I was pushed into a making a choice (continue to hide or be open). I chose to be open and with each new day my ability to open up expands into all areas of my life.  This in turn has proven to me that my fear of rejection was unnecessary and I am deserving of love too. Does this still come up for me? Absolutely, but I take a deep breath and dive right in to being me.

- When I would look in the mirror, I would see a very unworthy and unhappy person with many flaws. (I can look back on pictures through my life, the only ones where I look truly happy are when I was a child and when I started this blog 6 years ago. Those were times when I loved me.) What I did to resolve this... At first, I put up post-it-notes everywhere that read "I love you, Valerie". So each time I would see it, I would say this to myself. I know this sounds corny, but it really worked!  Little by little, I started to believe it too. Now, each time I have an unloving thought about myself, I ask myself  "is this true?". More often than not, it's "no" and the thought lovingly goes away. If it is a "yes", then I decide if this is something I can accept in myself or what do I need to do to make that better.

I am becoming the loving person that I am meant to be and each day I get more and more comfortable in my own skin again. For the first time in my life, I am completely okay being on my own and not striving for that next romantic partner. The more I open up to loving myself and the world around me, the more love and support comes back to me, which in turn makes me able to love and support right back. This just becomes a beautiful loving circle.

My wish for you is to love yourself, so you can project more love out into the world and in turn feel more loved.

Much Love,
Val

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Beginning Anew

"She mended her life with the leftover bits of rubble from the storm mixed with the new that was being born. Her new life glimmered in the distance. A promise of something more beautiful than she could imagine. She was in the process of being born anew. She was in her wholeness. Her wounds were being healed." ~ Laurel Bleadon-Maffei

I found these beautiful words not too long ago and instantly felt connected to them. At this exact point in my life, this is exactly how I am feeling. I am passing through the storm of the past six years of my life. I am taking the "leftover bits of rubble" and living the life that I want to lead.  I see the bits of rubble as memories (good & bad), lessons learned from mistakes, and those parts of myself that I love.

I'd lost my way temporarily, but I am finding my way back.  Here are three ways this is unfolding for me right now.

1) I began doing things that I love and that feed my soul on a daily basis. It dawned on me that I used to watch a lot of TV and play computer games. This was my way of tuning out and forgetting my life for awhile. For so long I thought this was helping me, but it wasn't. How do I know this? For the past two weeks, I have only watched one TV program (Dancing with the Stars - that just makes me smile) and I haven't played a single computer game. I've been listening to music (recently rediscovered my love for piano music), reading and learning from spiritual masters, sitting in quiet reflection and meditation, and most importantly writing. I have felt happier and more free than I have in a very long time.

2) I have let go of my attachment to the outcome and the process. What does that mean? I have a clear vision of what I would like to see come to fruition in my life right now and I have let go of the how it should look or happen. In the past, I would have worried, fretted, planned, and worried more. In some cases, I talked myself out of doing something that probably would have been great! Now I have this clear vision in my head and heart, I feel and think about it, then I put it away and let it simmer for awhile.  Miraculously within a day or two, an idea comes or something/someone comes along that helps me get one step closer to my vision. While I am "simmering", I continue on living life doing the things I love, working and not worrying about my circumstances. Since I adopted this new philosophy in life, I enjoy more and worry less.

3) I forgave myself for the mistakes of the past. I can tell you I was beating myself up more than anyone.  Deep down, I knew what I was doing was wrong and not for my highest good. At the time I was so filled with shame and self-loathing that I wasn't making decisions from a place of clarity and love, but from a place of fear and hate. It wasn't until I hit rock-bottom financially that I realized, I needed to forgive myself, love myself and move forward.

In the near future, I will take each of the areas and expand upon them. For now, I will leave with this wish... I wish for you to find what makes you feel passionate and experience it as often as possible, let go of attachment, and love yourself.

Much love,
Val