Planting Seeds

A few months have passed since my college graduation (woo!!) and like many of my fellow grads, I have returned to my parent’s nest to rebuild a savings account for my next life adventure. I was not originally pleased about this backtracking, as I tend to imagine life as an ever-progressing straight line, but now I’m thinking it’s more like this, and being home is okay for me at this point.

Regardless, I made it my goal to recreate what seems like a frozen-in-the-past lifestyle that I’ve fallen victim to each summer I return home. I slip back into child role under my parent’s tending to (who wouldn’t take it if it’s there?– thanks, ma), I go to the same bars night after night (ily omist), and I forget about all the positive growth I made by challenging myself while away at school.

So, as my undergraduate reminder of all I’ve overcome and all I’ve learned I’m capable of overcoming, I chopped off 11 inches of my hair on my last day in the city that became my home throughout college. The rationale for cutting my hair is true, though obscure to most, as it is with most of my decisions made, but that may have to be a blog post of its own.

July hit yesterday as a second reminder, and I realized it was time to cultivate that healthy growth and newness I felt at school in this environment that seemed all too familiar.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with flowers. Mesmerized by their natural beauty, I’ve filled paper gardens of doodles, enhanced my tardy reputation inhaling their sweet aromas on my walk to class, taken countless pictures of sunlight striking them in different ways. I’ve learned some of my favorite life lessons from flowers.

A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms. — Sensei Ogui, Zen Shin Talks

I used to love receiving them on special occasions, such as graduations or birthdays, but I’m starting to see that having something beautiful of your own isn’t nearly as fulfilling as being beside something beautiful of its own. It’s that way with people, too, I’m learning.

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Source: http://9buz.com/content/uploads/images/August2014/0841e2ec91d3f13a12c5c1dc8f73fd28.jpg

I knew I loved everything about flowers, but it seemed silly that my admiration should stop at eyesight. When you’re passionate about something or someone, isn’t that the case? You yearn to know more about them. The way they like to be taken care of, what makes them tick, what makes them smile, what makes them live.

Thus, I discovered my new summer goal. I set out to invest in some tools and knowledge, and I’m well on my way in learning to identify the beautiful life that colors our earth and fills our air with sweet scents. The very same world can be so different when you’re seeing it in a new perspective lens. My backyard is much less just the space where I grew during high school than it is full of Sassafras trees and varieties of Rhododendron and Hosta.FullSizeRender

I also bought this beautiful little succulent called Hens and Chicks (named Suca) that marks the start of my future garden in my future adventure. I can’t be sure that its location will be here at home, but like my favorite little teachers, I know I’ll have the strength to soak in the sunshine with the rain, withstand uprooting and transplant myself away from toxic areas to those which will nourish my living to a greater extent. But most importantly, I’ll never forget that I am always capable of, and meant to grow. Now that’s some flower power.

Me, Myself & I: mind, body & soul

Ironically enough, the final semester of my undergraduate experience has been leaving me feeling unfulfilled. I’ve fallen into a routine: a combination of draining schoolwork I don’t entirely love, and weekends attending the same campus bars we’ve all been attending since we were at least 18.

This isn’t about my dull day routine or meaningless nights at bars, however. Feeling empty from both, I decided Saturday was a great opportunity to take a personal night. I say personal night with a few connotations in mind. First, as in taking a personal day off from the robotic work that constitutes my passing weeks, and second, personal as in concerning the intimate needs of my mind, body and soul.

My roommate and I had already slept in, feng shui-ed our kitchen (by washing dishes) and rid ourselves of some toxins at the sauna earlier that day, so I was feeling wonderful about a night to myself.

Light on toxins, I decided to make some chocolate chip banana bread for dinner. Yes, you read correctly. We had four bad bananas and I was in the mood to test my creativity and face my domestic fears, so I went all in. And by all in, I mean substituting nearly everything that this recipe called for with other items- like avocado for butter- and the result was something SUPERB.

Boom! Another kitchen experience down. It felt great to challenge myself in something that lies beyond my comfort zone. It seems silly to feel insecure about following a recipe (there are high cooking standards in my family- it’s deliciously overwhelming) but it’s a fear of mine that I’m tackling bit(e) by bit(e).

But by identifying and confronting a fear of mine, I exercised my mind and my soul.

Just like the body and the brain, the soul needs exercise to stay fresh, healthy and ever-growing, too. When you acknowledge and address the things that make you uncomfortable, you keep your mind and soul flexible and in progression. If you don’t “practice,” the body, mind and soul all get stuck in their ways and become incapable of growth. So practice I did.

Part two of my personal night actually involved my cell phone, which I had turned off earlier as part of my me time. I had discovered a meditation app called, Stop, Breathe & Think, last week and it’s actually very lovely. The app asks you to assess your mental, physical and emotional well-being and then offers you various applicable podcast meditations. I don’t believe technology can ever supersede true meditation or mindfulness, but I do think this is an example of technology used in a beautiful way. You all should give it a try!

I spent the rest of my night in the company of a good friend, who showed me this wonderful site, Soul Pancake. It’s right up my alley, I’m surprised I had never explored it before. Anyway, another friend of mine, e.r., had actually sent me this video from the site over the winter and it’s a perfect fit for good & grateful 🙂

Whether it was an overdose of banana bread and soulpancakes or just the night’s happy energy, I remembered my positive affirmation cards for the first time in a while. (Lousie Hay, the creator, calls them power thought cards. They are fabulous).

A dear friend of mine introduced them to me a few years ago, and I loved them so much that she gave me her deck. I’ve been trying to pay her kindness forward since then, sharing my cards with others and letting them have one or two that they resonate most with.

All in all, it was just the night I needed. I had to take a break from that which was leaving me unfulfilled and spend my time doing the things that filled me up and made my life feel meaningful.

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The takeaway: do that which nourishes your individual soul. Do what feels good, what has value, what makes you feel like you have a purpose.

These days, it’s all too easy to get lost in the things that need to be done, the things we should do or have to do. What about the things that serve no purpose other than making you feel good?

Check in with yourself every once in a while. Part of being grateful and appreciative is being aware: aware of your own feelings and well-being; aware of other’s emotions and health, and aware of the environment and surroundings that encompass us all.

We all suffer from FOMO to an extent, and sometimes I feel that applies to me more than anyone. But I’m learning that taking care of myself and doing the things that are most fulfilling to my mind, body and soul is essential to any rewarding experience I can share with another person.

Loving Love Day

For too many, Valentine’s Day is a day to reflect on singlehood, unrequited feelings and lost lovers. It seems, according to my university’s (unaffiliated) Snapchat account and other various social media, the holiday has become a day of overconsumption for my generation. It’s become an equation of excess alcohol, chocolate and self-pity: one that yields for a dismal holiday if not a most regretful February 15th. In capitalizing on the negatives and the “have nots,” we have forgotten why Love Day is among the most beautiful days of the calendar.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved Valentine’s Day. Think something like this. Maybe it’s the pollen or the extra dopamine, but with the flowers and heart-shaped chocolates comes an energy that is unique to this day alone. Beyond love, the air is teeming with excitement, hope, nerves and courage. It’s Valentine’s Day that we hear of budding fairy-tale romances, valiant confessions of adoration and the fervent praising of present sweethearts.

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Perhaps the typical Millennial’s cynicism is due to such grand expectations of Valentine’s Day, and perhaps this is because mainstream media showcases nothing less than paramount chivalry.

Maintaining a love is a complex journey at any age, but especially so at a younger one. We are wide-eyed and confused, we’re still growing and exploring. We are cultivating our dreams, pursuing our passions and creating our own identities. We are undergoing crucial changes and testing different paths and searching for our purpose. Sometimes, we’re lucky enough to find something so beautiful so early in our lives. It’s the sweetest blessing of life, to love someone and be loved without restraint, fear or condition.

But for a mature, healthy, unconditional love to endure, both players need to love themselves maturely, healthily and unconditionally. At such a young age, we’re still learning these pivotal lessons. And yet, we are often the target for mainstream media’s cultural ideals and expectations of Valentine’s Day.

What mainstream media fails to convey is that romantic love is not the only kind of love. Love comes in many forms, to those who are willing enough to receive it and open enough to let it in. And love is humbling in all of its forms.

Perhaps most importantly, there is self-love. In the way that you cannot make another happy before you find contentment with yourself, you cannot love another truly until you possess self-love. As a dear friend of mine put simply, “know your magnificence.” You are a treasure: one-of-a-kind, unmatchable and perfectly imperfect. You are just as you should be; however you’d like.

Love also manifests itself in family and friends. In such a period of recklessness, personal growth and uncertainty that is life before entering the real world, friends become  family. They delight in being by your side when you’re all lost as hell, and the great ones will be by your side when you find yourselves, too.

How many of us were lucky to receive a love note, homemade cookies, or merely a call from family or friends on Valentine’s Day? I don’t think we’re underrepresented. And of course, a special shout-out goes here to the mothers of this world, who exemplify unconditional love for us all each day of the year. (You rock, mom).IMG_7608

With open eyes, we see that love is not limited to a romantic partner, or even to people. Perhaps the most outstanding expression of existing love is in nature.

Nature guides with graceful, unspoken lessons: the self-love of a flower growing without competing to those next to it; the affection between unexpected pairs and creatures; the ability of a consistent, flowing river to smooth over even the roughest surfaces over time. There is no better teacher of unconditional, accepting and persistent love than nature, nor is there a better teacher of living open-heartedly.

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I do believe that if you look, you’ll find that love is all-surrounding. Love manifests in ourselves, the people in our lives and the world that we live in.

I don’t love Valentine’s Day because of romantic love alone- but because for one day of the year, people are encouraged to live life with an open heart. If everyone were open to love and possessing such hope, optimism and kindness every day, the world would be a lot more good and a lot more grateful.

Allowing love to overcome means renouncing strength; it means feeling vulnerable, leaving the comfort zones and valuing something much greater than yourself. I believe there is nothing more rewarding in this life than to love and be loved. And to have a day meant solely for expressing it in various ways- how beautiful is that!?

Call me a romantic. Or maybe I’ve just been hit by Cupid every February 14th, and every day besides that. But if you can see it in your heart to find love everywhere you look, you will never feel lonely. Not on Valentine’s Day, and not on the other 364 days of the year.