A Journey to Love

With the best of intentions I started my unexpected retreat in wine country. Every morning I would meditate, then do yoga, write, eat exquisitely well, take long nature hikes and allow Spirit to reveal to me the next steps on my journey. I figured this would be a transformational time and I knew it would be about love, but that’s about all I knew. Everything else was a mystery.

What I didn’t know is that what I needed first and foremost was rest. I was exhausted! Not just from all the packing, sorting, storing, and releasing that was required to prepare for the move (a much bigger than I anticipated!) More than this, I was tired from working hard, from being driven to live a fulfilled life.

I always found time to work, to meditate, to do yoga, to work out, to spend time with friends, to travel, to see my family, to do things I love like cook and garden and be in nature…yet much of that came out of place within me that believed that this is how I needed to live to live and fulfilled and inspired life.

Some of this was right on; I was doing what for me amounts to a fulfilled and inspired life. But at the same time I was seeing that part of my life was being lived from a belief that I wasn’t good enough and I drove myself to overcompensate for that belief. I also recognized that I was holding a belief that in order for the Universe to take care of me, I needed to work really, really hard. No wonder I was exhausted!

My first day in slow down mode was very sloooow. I could barely move and didn’t leave my sanctuary at all. I couldn’t. My body refused to move any faster than its slowest gear. I slept, drank tea, nourished myself with good food and slept some more. But my mind was still in fast gear, totally running amok. At some point I realized I had two choices: to either listen to and believe all the thoughts and comments that were arising in my head or to simply observe them. Things got a little blurry here; sometimes I watched and listened, other times I was totally caught up in them. And this went on for hours, that turned into days. And the great gift was that I got to see what was underneath my very busy life: the driving forces of anxiety and fear.

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear”

I don’t know who to credit with that quote but it is so true. My time in the vineyards of Dry Creek Valley have given me the space and opportunity to look at what is working for me in my life and what is holding me back from being my full, juicy, outrageous self.

Deep and lasting change doesn’t always come quickly and easily, at least not for me! I would, at times, make an agreement with myself to do something differently or intend to practice gratitude more fervently or be more mindful, and then I’d find myself slipping back into some old patterns that weren’t congruent with my intentions. But with a little prodding and inner encouragement I would course correct and find myself back on track.

Among the things I’ve learned during this time of retreat is to practice extreme compassion with myself and the understanding that forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness is not about condoning someone else’s behavior. In fact, it’s really not about the other person at all. Rather, it’s about setting yourself free so you can heal and be empowered enough to move on and free up space inside for things like love and joy.

I’ve also had to practice humility in graciously accepting the kindness of others. I discovered that I have friends who care about me dearly, who love me without me having to give anything in return except to be my most truest self. I know that the Universe or Spirit or God, whatever term you want to use, does care and love me and that Grace is available to us at all times, we just have to be open to it.

I am learning to live in the moment, to practice what Eckhart Tolle writes about in the Power of Now: While I may not know what will happen or where I’ll be 1, 2, or 6 months from now, as long as I stay focused, and keep trusting and listening to my inner guidance, I will be OK.  And for right now in this moment, I am OK. In fact, I better than OK, I am thriving, I am happy and healthy and I am very, very blessed.

It’s All About Balance

With fall Equinox nearly here, it seems fitting to talk about balance. In the Northern Hemisphere the sun is now rising later while nightfall comes sooner. This week will mark the Autumn Equinox when day and night are approximately equal in length. From then until the Winter Solstice, the days will gradually become shorter as the nights grow longer.

We’ll shift from spending more time outside, to the more contemplative season indoors. But until then, get out and enjoy the last golden days of summer because it will soon be over!
Just as the Earth requires a balance of light and dark, heat and cold, death and rebirth, the cycles and various aspects of our lives must also find a balance. What does being in balance really mean? And how do we create balance in our lives?Most of us are very good at doing, but not so well-practiced at being. In this To Do world, we are in the habit of doing something or thinking about doing something from the moment we get up in the morning until our heads hit the pillow at night. Right from the start, we are already out of balance.
Usually our bodies will give us a clue (or two or three) that things are out of balance, and if we pay attention, we can change what we are doing and shift things. For instance, too much doing can cause fatigue, headaches, depression, anxiety, digestion issues, unexplained body aches and pain to name a few. 
To help your mind and spirit find balance, try having a daily “being” list, as opposed to just a “to do” list. For example, commit to spending a few quiet moments each morning with no agenda but sitting, focusing on your breathing, relaxing your body, meditating, sipping on a cup of tea, and expressing gratitude for your life. Wayne Dyer writes that when he wakes up each morning the first words and thoughts he expresses are “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!”

When it comes to your body, being in balance means a number of things. For one, when your body is in balance, it is in homostasis and homeostasis is necessary for health. Your body naturally gravitates toward balance and it will do what ever it can to bring all systems into harmonious function. Those uncomfortable symptoms of dis-ease mentioned above are your body’s way of trying to get your attention, to tell you things are falling off the rails somewhere.

To give your body what it needs to achieve balance feed yourself a fresh, healthy diet of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Balance exercise with rest, pleasure with work, and quiet time activity.
Living in balance looks different for each person. You have to find out for yourself what your life looks and feels like when in balance. With daily practices like a “being” list, proper attention to the needs of our physical body, and setting good boundaries when it comes to external commitments and obligations you are well on your way.
Some of the benefits of living a balanced life include:
*Better health and more vitality
*More self-confidence and sense of purpose
*More happiness and peace of mind
*Positive relationships
*More Positive thinking (which leads to more positive outcomes)
*Better budgeting with some savings
*More self-discipline increasing the likelihood that you will achieve your goals
*Less stress and living in a relaxed manner
*Living in harmony with nature
*Better time management
*Living a more fulfilled life
*Balancing work and family results in being happier at work and happier at home
*More joy, peace of mind, better health
No question, I think these benefits are worth the energy it takes to make a few changes, if that’s what’s needed to bring more balance into your life.
Think about one or two things you can do today to bring about more balance, at a minimum set aside time for “being” rather than doing, and treat your body to the physical conditions it needs to be healthy and strong. From here just wait and and see what positive changes show up!

Get the Most Out of Your Summer – For Life!

I just love summer! It’s my favorite time of the year and I always look forward to a season when the days are long, and the Earth warm and in full bloom. Everyone seems to be lighter, happier and more carefree.

Though I might want to sometimes, I can’t slow down the unfolding of time and this summer like every other will pass into autumn and then winter. That’s all the more reason to set your intention toward enjoying the beauty and abundance that exists right now.
Here are several things you can do to harvest the most out of your precious summer season and beyond, as these practices are useful in getting the most out of your life any time of the year. 
1) Begin with gratitude. Instead of spending energy longing for your next vacation, start by appreciating what you have right now. Begin the day with a prayer of gratitude and make a point to notice more to be grateful for each day.
2) Live with intention. When you get up in the morning, consider what you want to get out of your day and what you are willing to put into it. As the Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought”.
3) Be daring. Take the plunge and do something this summer that you’ve always wanted to do but keep putting off. Maybe it’s taking a paddle board lesson, learning Zumba, going out for a night of dancing, reading that novel on the bedside table, going to a baseball game…whatever it might be, set a date and do it!
4) Be spontaneous. Relax a little and let yourself flow with the rhythm of life. If someone invites you to dinner, a movie, a walk on the beach…GO! Last minute and unexpected invitations can open a door to magic and delight. The to do list will wait, I promise!
5) Get up early and watch the sunrise. Sunrise is a powerful time of day. The world is still waking up and the day’s potential is unlimited. Harness some of that fresh new-day energy yourself by sitting in peace watching the world wake up.
6) Go for a picnic. Find a special spot in nature, pack a delicious picnic for one (or more) and watch the sunset. Eating fresh, colorful foods (especially from a nearby farmer’s market) and savoring each bite in a tranquil, natural setting is a wonderful tonic to unwind from your day.
7) Be in nature as much as possible. Nature is grounding, balancing and calming. Leave your screens and devices behind (or at least power them down) and go for walks in the park, dip your toes in the ocean, join a hiking club or simply find a shady spot in the back yard and bask in the beauty of this gorgeous planet.
Try one (or all!) of these ideas and let me know how it goes. Maybe you’ll come up with a few ideas of your own – I’d love to hear about it! For now, have a safe and joyful summer. I look forward to connecting with all of you in early fall.

The Possibilities of a Broken Heart

Most of us have experienced some kind of heart breaking experience in our life, probably more than once or twice.  And you know how painful it can be to suffer a broken heart. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or an ending of a relationship or the loss of your job, your home or possibly your health, a broken heart can cause such an intense sorrow that the things that used to bring you joy and peace now offer little comfort.  Many even experience physical pain with a broken heart, such as a tight chest, nervous stomach and nausea and/or terrible insomnia.

When we are in such pain and grief the tendency is to shut down, to push our grief and sorrow into the depths of our being and do our best to move on. Unfortunately these strategies will only come back to haunt us, as suppressed emotions are one of the main causes of depression and anxiety, and also some acute or chronic physical illnesses such GI disturbances, chronic fatigue even autoimmune conditions.

Having your heart broken open can feel like your life has shattered into a thousand pieces. In that state, it is hard to imagine how you will ever be whole again or that the pain could possibly loosen its grip on you. And you wonder how you will get up and move on when you barely can take a breath.

It turns out there is something very profound to be reaped in that pile of brokenness. A heart shattered in a 1,000 pieces is wide open and all the pain and sorrow that was buried in there from years of loss and disappointments are exposed and raw. No longer hidden beneath a wall of protection that may have resulted in addictive behaviors such as overeating, alcohol or drug misuse, or physical illness such as heart disease or chronic pain, we are now asked to be with the sorrow and grief, and to love it, and ourselves.  Now more than ever what your heart and soul needs is love and compassion and tenderness and time.

Take the time to care for your precious heart in every way imaginable. Love yourself fiercely, allow yourself to be held by those who deeply care for you, rest, get healing work, massages or whatever it takes to mend.  And don’t be in a hurry because allowing your broken heart to stay open lets the light in and reflects back to the world and to you, the brilliance of your pure and authentic Self.

I close with a verse from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”:

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in. 

Fall in Love with Yourself: Embrace Gratitude and Appreciation

by Matsya Siosal, Contributing Writer

You know that giddy, spectacular high of falling in love? What about the excitement of meeting a new friend, a real kindred spirit? Or the incredibly deep, cellular-level sense of unconditional love felt for a baby we’ve just welcomed into the world?

Hold that feeling for a moment, then see how that compares to how you feel about your self.

We’re all familiar with the concept of “gratitude” as the quality or feeling of being thankful for something, someone, a particular circumstance, etc. The quality of “appreciation” takes the concept of thankfulness further and is broader yet also more specific. The word carries multiple connotations, from being a synonym for gratitude, to referring to a clear perception or recognition of the meaning and importance of something. Within this definition of appreciation are two essential concepts: clear perception, and meaning and importance.

Sometimes we don’t fully understand the meaning and importance of challenging situations, yet we can still appreciate that we are being given an opportunity to grow, that each situation opens new potentialities. As we more deeply appreciate our lives and all of the circumstances that conspire to make our world, we begin to find value in these challenges/opportunities more and more. We begin to feel a sense of unconditional love for ourselves and this precious life we’ve been given, no matter how difficult it may currently be.


Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, more satisfied with their lives and have a greater ability to cope when disaster strikes. In fact, grateful people may not jump to the conclusion of “disaster” but rather the gentler estimation of a challenge or bump in the road.

The Buddha said “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” This powerful insight into the nature of reality guides us toward working first with our perceptions of the situations that arise in our lives. If we tell ourselves things like “this is terrible; it’s the worst thing that could happen to me; my life is ruined etc.” we are establishing those feelings as our reality.

From there we can consciously cultivate a mindset of appreciation toward ourselves and the world as a whole. The internal dialogue might then sound something like “I accept the reality of my situation; I am very sad or afraid of what is happening but I trust that there is something I can learn here that will be of benefit to myself or others.”

When we live in a state of appreciation and love, our bodies naturally relax, stress dissipates and we can experience more energy, more vitality and greater health – especially in the midst of stressful or overwhelming situations.

It takes time to address our troubles holistically, and unlike symptom-masking and suppressing pharmaceuticals or other commonplace allopathic treatments that fall short of true healing, a holistic approach gets at the root causes of the issue. Whether you are suffering from low self-esteem, struggling with the transition into menopause, or treating a serious illness, wherever you can apply an attitude of appreciation, or even just allow yourself to know that opportunity exists, you are on the path to wholeness.

We must give ourselves permission to “start where we are” and use our healing as an opportunity to reawaken what has been lost, damaged or wounded, to (re)establish an unconditionally loving relationship with ourselves. Appreciation and self-acceptance are closely related and if we truly accept ourselves, our sense of suffering and struggle diminish considerably.


Just like with a new lover or any type of intimate relationship, we must come to know who and how we are, just as we are at this point, in order to move toward health, vitality, and happiness. First, give yourself both time and space (physically and/or mentally) to get to know yourself. This means making YOU and your relationship with yourself a priority. Some getting-to-know-me activities include:

  • Start journaling. Read through previous entries to get a sense of the ever-changing nature of who and how you are.
  • Find a favorite mind-body practice like yoga or qi gong. These practices are all about creating unity and balance within your being and with consistent practice you will see how incremental change adds up to monumental transformation.
  • Last month’s article, Treat Yourself with Loving Appreciation, provides several suggestions including a ritual bath and spending time in nature.

There are many wonderful teachings on appreciation, from the ancient yet timely wisdom of the Buddha to the insights and revelations of contemporary teacher Abraham-Hicks.

In Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes:

“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. In the beginning it might feel like sadness or a shaky feeling, accompanied by a lot of fear, but your willingness to feel the fear, to make fear your companion, is growing. You’re willing to get to know yourself at this deep level. After awhile, this same feeling begins to turn into a longing to raze all the walls, a longing to be fully human and to live in your world without always having to shut down and close off when certain things come along.”

In this video Abraham-Hicks discusses the differences between gratitude and appreciation, and how love and appreciation are the same vibration. That living in a state of appreciation is being in alignment with who you really are; it is the absence of doubt, fear, resistance, and self-denial.

The takeaway from this teaching is to “Look for what is good, what makes you feel good. Look for things to love and appreciate and you will find alignment with who you truly are – who you have been from the moment you were born and who you will be the moment you die.”

The Healing Power of Presence

One important component of healing from abusive and emotional eating is learning to stay in the present moment and becoming fully aware of what you are experiencing emotionally, physically, and mentally.

There is usually some driving force that we are unconsciously aware of that sends us running to refrigerator, or the candy drawer for another piece of chocolate. Some overwhelming thought, feeling, or memory is invoked from deep within our subconscious and before we know it, we are reacting to it by trying to numb out with food. The truth is, food can never heal an uncomfortable emotion or feeling, nor will it erase a painful memory, or fill an empty heart.  

What food can provide us is sustenance and a direct connection to the abundance of the Earth. Food also brings friends and family together and is a means of creative expression for those who love to cook.
The next time you sit down to eat, try this one simple act: put down your eating utensil between bites while you chew your food. Do not take another bite of food until your mouth is empty.  Observe what your mind is saying to you while you slow down and eat. You may feel impatient, anxious, and annoyed. Your mind might be saying “this is stupid”. But as this way of mindful eating becomes a habit, you will begin to notice something new emerging in your relationship to food: appreciation, pleasure, and satisfaction.
Even the simplest snack can be a joyful experience when what you eat is chosen mindfully and you are fully present while eating it.
Next month’s newsletter will focus on the body and how to exquisitely care for your precious vessel from a loving kindness perspective. I will also share ways to inhabit your body and appreciate its inherent magnificence!

The Sacred Art of Mindful Eating

If you have ever continued to eat even when you were full or ignored your body’s signals that it was time to eat, obsessed over your weight, or felt guilt or shame around your body, then you have engaged in mindless eating. These behaviors inhibit your ability to listen to and understand the messages your body is sending you and often this disconnect arises out of a dieting mindset.

Chronic dieting encourages the split between your body and mind making behaviors like mindless eating highly likely if not inevitable. What’s more, chronic dieting and obsession with your body and weight has a truly devastating effect on your self-worth because it severs your relationship with your Soul, the unifying force that balances mind and body.

Division between your body, your mind, and your soul keeps you locked into the ego and its often faulty messages. You begin to think that your thoughts and your ego’s interpretation of your feelings are truth, believing whatever your ego is telling you. It’s a no-win, no-way-out situation that creates an endless cycle of misery and pain, preventing you from living joyously and passionately.

The only way to re-establish the connection between your mind, body, and soul is to begin the practice of mindfulness. For chronic dieters, overeaters and under-eaters alike, years of mindless eating have robbed you from living a Soulful and balanced life. The behavior of mindless eating is not the underlying problem itself, but it is a symptom of deeper, more complex issues that exist in your psyche and body. Learning to eat mindfully, then, can be the first step on your journey to living a more soulful, spiritual, and passionate life.

Embrace where you are now. In this very moment make the commitment to break free from your patterns of mindless eating and all the negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that go along with it. Allow yourself to take one step at a time. Your journey to mindful eating is a spiritual path. And everything that arises on this journey is worth paying attention to. There is no failure here, only information that will help you to more deeply understand who you are and what you need in order to be in balance.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindfulness is about relaxing and tapping into your body’s infinite wisdom. Mindful eating is paying attention to all the thoughts, feelings, patterns, physical sensations, and emotions that arise around hunger, food, and eating. It is to master control of your mind. It is to know your hunger and to determine if it is true physical hunger or emotional hunger. It is not about developing strict disciplinary rules.

Learning to eat mindfully is a process. Most people find that they need help to change their old patterns. I highly recommend working with a group or professional who is well versed in the practice of mindfulness and mindful eating. After years of facing my own struggles with mindless dieting and obsessive thinking around weight and body image, I found that the practice of mindful eating was the most profound step to developing a loving relationship with my body and realigning myself with my life’s purpose. How ironic that my life’s purpose is to help others heal from abusive eating and learn to love and live in their bodies and to reconnect to their Soul!