Health, Spirituality, Uncategorized

An Anniversary Post

The end of this month marks my 17th anniversary of being free of the the pain and medications associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis. At this point 17 years ago, I was still on a daily regimen of anti-inflammatories (Lodine, Naproxen, Prednisone, and Methotrexate…while often still resorting to Advil to help with the pain), but something had changed. I was “treating my symptoms” while actively working on healing from within. You see, up until July of 2000, I had been struggling as a victim to a disease that I had coped with since I was 3 years old. Years of medications, a couple of short-lived remissions, and a resignation to this being the pattern of my life had taken my health out of my hands. That July, I reluctantly (and doubtfully) went to see an energy worker for the first time. I felt a change. I felt an ease and a calm that I hadn’t felt…ever. It was after that visit, that I thought, I need to do something different. I am ready to do something different. I couldn’t afford to keep going to this person while still paying out of pocket for all my doctor visits, so I thought, I need to learn how to do this for myself. By September, I had read some books (the first of which was Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life), I had taken some classes to learn how to give myself energy, I began to meditate (or attempt to), and I had found a group of others that were learning to do the same. This was the start of my journey and I slowly was feeling an improvement in my health, but I had some solid challenges to face that had nothing to do with the pain or swelling. What I found was that I had two primary challenges that I had to consistently work on overcoming. Others looking in told me that it should be smooth sailing  once I got over the physical symptoms that I had been dealing with. What they didn’t understand was that the emotional aspect was actually the most difficult piece to shift and release. Nobody wants to be in pain. Getting the body to physically cooperate was actually easier than getting my mind on board.

First, as much as this seems contrary to what I would want for myself, JRA had become a very real part of my identity. I was 3 when I was diagnosed. That means that for (at the time) 22 out of 25 years of my life, I struggled with and I identified with a person that had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. It was a very real and tangible part of my identity. It was as much a part of how I defined myself as being from Ohio or coming from a Greek family. It was woven into the fabric of my identity and removing those threads of “who I was” was…work. A constant awareness and work.

Second, and I’m going to get very vulnerable and honest here, probably equally as challenging as having to shift the way I viewed myself, was having to become aware of and then finding the courage and motivation to get rid of my victim mentality. For so many years, I was a victim to my disease. It defined who I was, what I was able to do, how others viewed me, and how I viewed myself. It put limits on my physical ability, but then again, so did I. It pains me to say that I often used it as an excuse to not face challenges, to get out of doing things that were hard, and I willingly accepted any sympathy that others offered me due to my disease. Taking my power back was HARD. Taking ownership of my “limitations” and of my limiting beliefs was HARD…but it was worth it. I mean, it was REALLY worth it.

This week, while I am not quite at the anniversary point of where I had finally weaned myself off of all of my medications, I am grateful. During this rainy, humid, wet week, I don’t feel a thing and for that I am beyond feeling mere gratitude. It is a sign of the immense healing that I have had the honor of experiencing, but it is also a sign of my strength. Today, I am celebrating my growth, challenges, and healing.

Writing with gratitude and love–Maria

new-think

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Spirituality, Uncategorized

Feeling Fishy

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I am overwhelmingly filled with gratitude in this moment. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by the most amazing community of friends. As I pondered this, the image of a school of fish popped into my mind (sea life has been a theme for me today).  I think it’s pretty phenomenal to see them swimming in a huge group–stronger as a whole than an individual. From afar, you see them all swimming together, same speed, same direction, same size, same path. If you look more closely, you’ll see that it isn’t as uniform as it appears. The fish are all slightly different of course, but every now and then, one (or a few) will shift direction and swim another way. One of two things happens, either they all shift and swim with it, or it swims a bit and comes back to the group. It occurred to me that we are very much like this group of fish. We swim together, support each other, make one another feel bigger, braver, stronger…and then, when one of us wants to branch off and swim a little bit on her own, we either follow in the wake gathering strength and courage as we go, or we let her know that we’re right here and that she can come back and join us when she’s ready. What a beautiful thing. Friendship. Fish. 🙂

Health, Spirituality

Clearing and Setting the Energy Tone of Your Home

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“Smudging”, or burning dried sage, is a practice that has been around for thousands of years. The intent behind burning the sage is to remove negative energy from a person or from a space. It really is as simple as that. I have been doing this for many years, and still, I tend to shy away from sharing that with the general public for fear of judgement.

The truth is, many people that I have encountered that are not familiar or open to energy work, still can relate to notion of feeling energy. Let me explain. Thoughts, emotions, and words all carry energy. The energy can be neutral, it can be positive, or it can be negative (or anywhere in between). If you were to walk into a room where someone is telling a funny story and everyone is laughing and having a good time, your energy shifts to blend with the general energy in the room. You too might find yourself smiling or laughing even if you haven’t heard the whole story. Likewise, if you happen to walk into a room where two people have been arguing, or maybe they haven’t argued in that room, but there is a tension between them, you can often sense that without anyone saying a word. Chances are, you would like to remove yourself from that room as quickly as possible. It just feels “uncomfortable”. These instances are perfect examples of feeling energy. You do not have to practice energy work, yoga, or even meditate to have an acute awareness of the energy around you.

The good news is that burning sage is just one way of clearing or shifting the energy in a room. There are other, less ritualistic, less “herb smelling”, and more widely accepted ways to shift energy. Palo Santo wood can also be burned with the same intent of clearing out negative energy and replacing it with positive, loving energy. It smells wonderful and can be found in many of the same shops where you can buy sage bundles. Burning incense can also help shift the energy of a room. There are a lot of different kinds of incense out there. I tend to shy away from the kinds that smell like a college dorm (you know what I mean) and I lean toward the higher quality incense such as those made by Shoyeido. My favorites are “cherry blossoms” and “eternal treasures”. They are mild and have a way of almost immediately raising my own energy. Not wanting to burn anything? You can also shift the energy of a space by playing music! When the children that I used to babysit (nearly 20 years ago) would begin arguing, I would often pop in a John Denver cd and we would quickly find ourselves dancing around the room to Rocky Mountain High or Thank God I’m a Country Boy. Of course, you don’t have to listen to John Denver, but you can quickly sense the energy of a song by tuning in to how a song makes you feel when you hear it. If the song makes you sad, or brings back difficult memories, choose a different song 🙂

While these techniques can shift energy quite effectively, I truly believe that maintaining the energy in your space by regularly using these tools is preferable. It is harder to shift from negative to positive than it is to maintain a neutral or positive energy level throughout your space.

The above techniques are just a few of the ways that I personally maintain or shift the energy in my own space. Of course, I still refer back to burning sage or using sage spray when I am aware of negative energy in a space, but these other techniques are key in setting the daily energetic tone of my home. I would love to hear other ideas. What do you do in your own home? What do you do to clear out negative energy?

With gratitude,

Maria

Health, Spirituality

3 Simple 5 Minute (or less) Meditations

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I have been meditating for a fairly long time. When I talk to people about how much it has improved my health and my day-to-day life, the most common response that I hear is “I’ve tried meditating. I just can’t sit for that long.” I get it. I totally get it. When I first started meditating, I would sit and try to empty my mind. I felt like there was a magic number or amount of time that I needed to be able to sit with my head empty of thoughts. It was like I was creating an unattainable goal and then getting frustrated with myself for not reaching it. I eventually got to a place where I thought, if I can sit and focus on my breath for a full minute today, then I will have accomplished my meditation goal. As you might imagine, that went way better for me 😉 The minute became two minutes, then 3…and the rest is history.

With all that being said, I wanted to offer you a few of my favorite quick focusing techniques or meditations.

  1.  Count Your Breath– This is as simple as it sounds and can be done for as long as you want. I have used this with children as young as 3 or 4 years old and I still use it myself multiple times throughout the day. All you have to do is close your eyes, inhale while slowly and silently counting to 5, pause, exhale while slowly counting to 5. That’s 10 seconds! Do it 6 more times and you have meditated for 1 whole minute! See how easy? If your mind wanders, no big deal. Start the count over again. This will soon be one of your favorite centering techniques. I promise.
  2. Sun Meditation- Here’s another quick one to do while just sitting outside. Again, close your eyes. Feel the rays of the sun come down through the top of your head, all the way through your entire body, down to the soles of your feet. This might be enough for you. You can do this quickly or you can take your time, imagining that the sunlight is filling each portion of your body (head, neck, shoulders, etc…taking a little extra time on those areas where you find yourself holding tension) as it moves down to your feet. Once you get to your feet, allow the sunlight to exit through the bottom of your feet.
  3. Sun to Core Meditation If you find the above meditation easy to visualize and you like the peace that it brings to your physical body, then this is an additional step that you can take to extend your practice. After your bring the sunlight through your entire body, imagine it going through your feet and all the way to the core of the earth. Then slowly do the same with the warmth from the center of the earth coming back up through your body from your feet to your knees and so on. Take your time bringing the warm light back up through your body, melting away any fear or tension that you might be carrying in your physical body.

Simple enough, right? That first one is probably one of my favorite go to meditations and is easy enough for all ages. If you have been wanting to have a go at meditation, but have been feeling overwhelmed by the thought of having to clear your mind and sit for 15-30 minutes, then I hope that you give one of these a try. I would love to hear how it goes for you.

As Oprah and Deepak say, it takes 21 days to form a habit. These are easy enough to attempt for 21 days, don’t you think? And the reward of more peace in your life is worth the effort. I promise.

With love and gratitude,

Maria

Health, Spirituality

Sunrise Meditation

Let me start by saying that it is not often that I like to rise with the sun. I’m all over a good sunset, primarily because it is at a decent hour, but to rise with the sun is really hard for me. That being said, on my recent trip to Greece this summer, a friend had mentioned how beautiful the sunrise was in our particular location. She planted a seed and while every ounce of my being wanted to resist getting out of bed that early in the morning, I actually set my alarm for 6am so that I could watch the sun rise one time before I left. As it turns out, I didn’t really need the alarm. I was wide awake that morning at 5:30 am! I walked up to my neighbor’s roof (it’s okay, they are also relatives) and waited…

Within 30 minutes, the horizon had completely changed. These pictures don’t do it justice. I’m not sure anything can replace the sheer beauty of watching a sunrise. At one point, I closed my eyes and felt the warmth and light of the sun cover and soothe my entire body. I opened my heart and visualized the warm light entering through my heart and filling up my entire being. One word: Peace. That is what I felt in that moment. True, blissful peace. If you have an opportunity to rise with the sun, I highly recommend doing it. Do it, enjoy those few minutes, and then take a moment to really soak it up. Close your eyes, feel the warmth penetrate your skin and visualize that powerful light coming straight into your heart space and filling your body.  Sunrise meditation complete. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be an emptying of your mind. Just a moment of focus on something that attracts your attention anyway. Simple.

I thought about rising with the sun more often after that, but it didn’t quite work out for me 😉 However, I did get up about an hour or two after the sunrise each day for a walk around the village.

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The colors weren’t quite as striking, but the sun still was. Each day, I took a moment to just stand and soak in the sun. Guess what? Still blissful. I highly recommend it.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

Maria

Spirituality

Contrast and a Huge Dose of Gratitude

All-consuming: Two girls are sat at the beach watching the roaring fire destroy the forests on the mountains as it move closed to the beach where evacuees from nearby villages have gatheredSo I’m not usually the kind of person that speaks up and voices my opinion in a public setting.  I may have a different opinion, a strong one, but I just never have felt comfortable speaking up. Today, however, something was sparked in me. I spoke up.

I have family and friends on the island of Chios in Greece. They are currently trying to fight a wildfire that has now caused the people in 10 villages to evacuate. From what I understand, they are trying all that they can to stop the fire, but “all that they can” isn’t quite enough. The wind is strong, the conditions are dry and their fire “departments” are volunteers with flatbed trucks carrying huge tanks of water with what look like garden hoses attached. Airplanes and helicopters are trying to dump sea water on the fire, but they don’t fly at night and the winds are strong enough to keep their efforts from being fully successful. Earlier today, a friend of mine (that lives in Chios) sent me a link to an article so that I could see what was going on. I had already watched a few videos prior to seeing the article and my heart was breaking as I listened to people from the villages talking about how they were losing their land (olive groves and mastic trees) and their animals and feared that they were going to lose their homes. So when I read the article and scrolled down to see the comments, I was blown away. There were many people who were commenting about the grammar or bad use of English in the article; others that were making political jabs and jokes about the recession in Greece. All I could think about was the hundreds of people there (and hundreds more, like myself, who have family and friends there) who were scared. I was pushed beyond my limit and couldn’t help but write a comment basically saying what I just said here.

All this being said, what I realized is this: I have been spoiled by this wonderful community that I have been surrounding myself with here in the blogging world. Lately, when I’m not writing (so let’s just say it’s a lot!) I have been reading. I was about to insert a list of all the amazingly inspiring blogs that I have been reading, but I have to say, the list would be rather large and honestly, I’m a little worried I would leave someone out. But the idea behind this is, I have found this community of like thinkers, “kindred students” as Gina from Professions for Peace said the other day. I didn’t realize that it was happening, but these blogs that I have been reading have given me hope. They have shown me that there is indeed a large population of people who care, who love, who try to live this life the best they can…and when their best isn’t great, they learn, share and keep living and trying to do better. It is inspiring to say the least. It is beautiful. And then I went out into the world and read this article and the comments attached to it. And contrast slapped me in the face. But this time I had the strength and the guts to speak up.

So thank you my dear blogging friends. You know who you are because I follow your blogs. I show up, I “like” and I comment when I am moved to do so. You give me hope and shine your lights so brightly that it’s contagious. Thank you.