Although I spend much of my time alone, when it comes to traveling, I travel in a pack nowadays. When I was in my 20’s I traveled on my own a lot. Work trips, visiting friends, etc. – I took off without hesitation. I was starting to feel like I was losing some of the zest for and comfort with traveling on my own since I haven’t had the opportunity to do it in a few years. When the chance came up for me to practice with and meet Yoga Girl for a second time, I purchased tickets without thinking twice about whether anyone could come with me or not.
I did ask a friend to come along, but that didn’t work out, so this trip did end up being a chance to flex my traveling solo muscles. As I’ve gotten older (and have watched WAY too much Dexter!) I’m a little more aware and afraid of the world around me. So many bad things can happen in an instant. I was stuck in that frame of mind just before I left. I packed a self-defense weapon and mace in my luggage. I tried to talk myself out of it. I felt like this trip would be it – I’d become one of the unlucky women I read about in the news. But I focused on sitting into these uncomfortable feelings and knowing the peace I’d find in the practice I was travelling for.
I packed up the car and set off on my five hour trip to Chicago. On the drive I reflected back on how many great trips I’ve taken to Chicago on my own, with Joel, and with friends. It’s a lovely city with so many positive memories for me. I felt proud that because of my many trips there, I know how to navigate the traffic and tolls with as much ease and little anxiety as is possible. It was my easiest trip in and out of the city ever. I must have timed it just right.
Unfortunately, my super cute Airbnb cancelled on my just a few days prior to my trip which left me scrambling to find a place in my price range to stay that was close to the venue so I could drive if I had to. I found a motel that looked decent and had a good price. Upon arriving, I regretted my choice immediately and wanted to cry! From the front desk to the room…the experience was terrible. To top it off, the weekend I was there was the weekend the TVs weren’t working due to some cable transition. Even the staff at the White Castle down the street was rude while I was there – and the food was gross (definitely overrated). It got to the point where all I could do was laugh. I blocked the two doors in my room with all of the furniture I could, left the one TV station I could find on all night, and slept like CRAP. But I survived and have this experience under my belt to talk about.
I had to start the next morning early so I could get in line for a good spot at the venue. The motel front desk person was different when I went for breakfast and was so kind, it made up for the previous night. I got an equally sweet Uber driver who was curious about where I was going and when he found out I was going to do yoga, started telling me about the moves he knew from reading a men’s magazine and was practicing himself at home. My morning was off to a great start thanks to these two gems who reminded me not everyone in Chicago is an asshole.
When I got to the Aragon Ballroom, walking in by myself was scary at first but quickly transitioned into a feeling of empowerment. I made the choice to come on my own, and that’s cool. We waited together until the ballroom was opened and we all rushed to get a good spot (in a peaceful, yogi way – no Black Friday vibes). I settled myself on my mat, savored the environment of the beautiful ballroom, and watched everyone get ready.
Yoga Girl walked out and the room exploded with a round of applause and smiles. She has a very powerful, Zen presence, and most everyone in that room felt connected to her through social media and her books. She put us through a pretty vigorous practice, which felt really good. We were all nice and sweaty by the end!
Then came the part I had read about online but was hoping maybe she’d NOT do at our practice…sharing our deepest feelings with a complete stranger. It turned out to be quite beautiful and helped me put into words things I haven’t verbalized to anyone else. Which in turn, gave me the courage to speak my truth upon getting home. We were asked to be active listeners, which was so powerful and made me realize how much I don’t truly listen – I am thinking about something else and/or my response. We sat knees to knees, had to hold eye contact without breaking it for several minutes, communicate non-verbally during some parts, and of course, share what’s going great and what’s going not so great in our lives. The important part was that we weren’t allowed to give advice. We just needed to hold space for them and listen. I had a great partner who was so wonderful and I’ll hold love for her forever. We don’t even know each other’s names.
We ended the practice gently and there were MANY tears. Such a huge release of both deeply rooted and superficial emotions. This quiet time was an incredible moment. All of us were there, connected in love. You could feel the love physically filling the room. It could have blown the roof off. I’ve never experienced anything like that. And when I close my eyes to relax at work or at home, I climb back into that moment on my mat. It’s dark and cool. My hand is touching the shoulder of the person next to me, my shoulder is being touched by the person on the other side of me. Calm music is playing. The universe is literally spinning above us on the ceiling. Tears are falling and I’m letting everything – the good and the bad – flow out. And leaving it there.
When all was over, I was able to hug Yoga Girl and have her sign her latest book, “To Love and Let Go: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Gratitude.” A book I’ll blog about on the “Wren’s Picks” page of my blog soon. I have so many “aha” passages I want to share.
From the ballroom, I hopped in an Uber with another great driver, grabbed some coffee from Starbucks, and was back in my car heading home. It was a whirlwind trip, but I loved every minute of it (in hindsight – because I survived the motel stay).
I was reminded in several ways that I’ve created solid ground for myself that I can stand on. I am an independent, powerful force who has the strength to persevere. I don’t always live in fear. I have moved mountains. There are moments where the woman I’ve been working on steps out and takes my breath away. “There you are,” I say. “You’re what all of this work has been for. I see you. I love you. I thank you.” I got to see her clearly on this trip and welcomed that version of myself to stay with me awhile longer.
Phew! What a whirlwind the past few months have been. We vacationed, we sold a house, we took work trips, we celebrated milestones with family, all while working our butts off at both work and home. The signs of Spring have us feeling relieved that Winter is finally (knock on wood) OVER. We keep saying that “next week” things will get back to normal, but we have a feeling that it’s full speed ahead until Winter returns.
Although we made it to the other side alive, navigating the hustle and bustle of the past few months has not gone without its challenges. I started going back to a counselor at the start of the year due to returning panic attacks. Maybe my body was sensing what was to come in February and March? My anxiety and depression levels were also out of whack, to the point where I knew I needed professional help. Having candid conversations with my counselor was very valuable. We dove deep and tried to identify the root of my feelings. I love her and the new tools she has given me.
In addition to counseling, I started thinking about taking medication again. If you’ve read past posts of mine regarding my mental health, you know I’ve tried medication but did not like 1) depending on medication to function, I like to handle my mental health naturally through meditation, yoga, etc. and 2) how it made me feel. But in conversations with my husband who, bless his heart, knows the deepest darkest part of this illness, brought up a good point. He asked if I’d rather continue riding this rollercoaster of anxiety/depression/panic attack ups and downs, or start medicine, maybe experiencing some side effects I don’t enjoy, but overall being able to better cope with life.
I sat with this thought for weeks and came to the conclusion that yes, I wanted to try incorporating medication into my holistic mental health efforts. So I talked with my counselor and scheduled an appointment with my primary care provider. When we got to the point of talking about why I was there, I confidently told him that I’m ready to start medication and stick with it. No more quitting when I “feel better.” That’s not how it works. I won’t “get better” or “be cured.” This is a lifelong deal. My doctor confirmed this in the most powerful way and I could have hugged him for it.
Here is what he said to me, “Augusta, I have been seeing you since 2007. Back in 2007, you came to me with these same concerns and we put you on medication. (Which I quit.) When we discovered you had issues with your thyroid (I have hypothyroidism) you never questioned having to take medication for the rest of your life because I could show you on paper that you need it. I can’t show you on paper that you need medication for your mental health, maybe for the rest of your life, but I think you are a person that does. Some people just need more of what only medication can provide.”
He has supported me over the years and is not a “pill pusher” – it’s always, “exercise, diet, spirituality – if something’s causing you pain – get rid of it, quit it, etc.” So this coming from him meant a lot and solidified my decision. He was so right. I am very science/data driven. I need proof. And proof is something he is never going to be able to give me.
So here I am, enough weeks in to start feeling the effects of the daily medication. And I’m feeling better. It doesn’t erase everything, but it eases it. I also have a medication that will help with panic attacks when I feel them coming on. Simply knowing that I have these makes me feel more at ease because I don’t have to suffer.
I was already taking daily medication for my thyroid and my vitamin D levels, so I decided to buy one of those Sunday – Saturday pill organizers so I’m religious about taking my medications every day. Because I truly need them to be the best version of myself. Whether I have “proof” for all of it or not, I know my body, I know my mind, and I know there is NO SHAME in taking medication to help them both function normally.
If you have had the same struggles over the years, going back and forth about whether or not to start taking medication for your mental health, I’d be happy to talk with you about it. It took me so many years to finally feel it in my bones that I needed to start it and stick with it. You have to be ready to commit. You can’t let others’ opinions be a factor. You can’t quit when you “feel better.” You have to do what’s best for you. You don’t have to let yourself get to a place you don’t think you can get out of. There is so much out there to help.
Wishing you all the best and sending hugs!
I hope your new year got off to a great start!
I thought I’d pop on to give an update on how I’m feeling after committing myself to the free 30-day Dedicate Yoga Journey and 35-day Mindset Reset programs. I talk about both of these programs over on my Wren Picks page if you want full details.
I’m a little over halfway through both programs and am loving them both equally! It has been wonderful to be intentional about taking time to focus on my mind and body every single day. It’s amazing what can happen in just a couple of weeks.
What I’m noticing from daily yoga:
I can definitely tell a difference when I do yoga in the morning vs. at night. My entire day is different in the best ways. So you’d think I’d want to do it that way every day, right? Not necessarily...If I don’t “have to” do yoga in the morning, I save it for the evening because it's a good way for me to wind down. When I say “have to” do yoga – I’m not saying it in a bad way – I’m just torn right now because I’m reading a really good book so I’m pumped for “off mornings” when I have time to spare before work!
It’s truly amazing how fast our bodies can snap back when you return them to past routines. I like to think when our bodies respond positively to what we’re doing, we’re on the lifestyle path we’re supposed to be on. I try to do yoga as often as I can, but weeks can go by in between practices sometimes, so it’s been nice to make it a priority again. I can already feel my strength coming back. My posture getting better. A little tone (even if it’s miniscule) showing in my arms. Aches and pains getting worked out.
And of course the little world in my head feels better, too. I am more calm, focused, and present. I can normally get lost in the movements, which provides such nice relief to my over productive brain.
What I’m noticing from daily reflection:
This journey has been a little more difficult. I am learning SO MUCH from the program, but the work and self-reflection it requires has brought some painful truths to light. But they are truths I had to see in order to move forward. It’s all about the root cause. What happened to me or what did I observe that causes the actions and reactions I express today? Pretty powerful stuff. Not always pretty. But powerful.
Another big key point is recognizing the default thought patterns we’ve come to believe as truths and replacing them with deliberate thoughts. Most of the default thoughts running through our head are coming from past experiences (many, but not all, from childhood) where we were trying to fit in, be accepted, stay part of the pack, not make waves, etc. But as ADULTS, we don’t have listen to those thoughts anymore. We can CHOOSE to think differently. We can think “this,” not “that.” We don’t have to be defined by the big triggers we brand ourselves with – “I’m not enough.” “I’m not lovable.” “I’m a bad person.” When we believe these things, we truly become these things. And that’s not OK! Instead, we can say – “I am doing my best.” “I am loved.” “I always come from a place of good intention.” It’s up to us to flip the switch.
I was already hyperaware of myself and the world around me, but now I’m hyperaware in a different way. For example, now that I know anxiety is the physical manifestation of worry in our bodies, I pay close attention to what my body is doing at any point in time. Am I tense, tingly, tight? Where? Why? And what can I do to ease out of it? I’m hoping if I keep catching myself, my body will naturally start reacting in a cooler, calmer way to my triggers.
There are SO MANY other gems to learn from this program. I feel like I’ll be processing what I’m learning for the next few months as I continue to practice the tips that are offered. My favorite part is that this program is scientifically based. As a science nerd, I love so much of the information being shared. Neuroscience? Studies? Proven to be effective? Yep – that’s my type of advice.
Patience is a virtue here. Overcoming items we are challenged with is not an event, it’s a process.
The best thing I’ve learned so far:
Creating a morning routine is a GAME CHANGER.
I hate mornings. I hate hearing my alarm. I used to hit snooze 3-4 times a day. I most intensely hate leaving my bed. It’s my favorite place on Earth, so peeling myself out is no easy task. I love it so much that the other night I literally thanked it for existing. My love for my bed runs deep.
Anyway – I’ve learned that getting out of bed at the right time – when my mind is most ready – will serve me all throughout the day. The snooze button is not allowed. This is the most important and valuable trick I will follow faithfully.
Here’s what is recommended for a morning routine:
I could cry thinking about how much I appreciate this space I have created for myself. It is sacred. I look forward to it. I revel in it. I carry the peace and positive energy with me into the day.
This post turned out to be not so quick…but I hope it encourages you to explore options for improving your physical and mental health. Our bodies and minds are something we take for granted daily, so take a few minutes a day to connect and understand what they are trying to say to you!
Before it gets too late in the month, I wanted to do a quick post for you about a yoga opportunity that I highly encourage you to take advantage of if you’re looking to challenge and center yourself in the New Year!
Check out Yoga With Adriene’s TRUE series. It’s a free, 30-day program on YouTube guaranteed to open up your mind, heart, and body. I have done other 30-day series with Adriene and they are absolutely transformational. I start feeling the mental and physical benefits of daily yoga immediately, and by the end I am fully recommitted to my practice.
I’ve talked about Adrienne before in past posts (here and here), but she’s one of the best yoga teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure of learning from. Beginner or expert, you can make her sequences work for you. She’s funny as heck, too, which is what I really love about her.
It’s not too late to start. Start today. Start tomorrow. It doesn’t matter – just get on your mat! Show up. If you miss a day, pick up the next day where you left off. Be kind to yourself. Life happens. No one’s keeping count but you.
If you choose to or are already following along with this 30-day practice, let me know! I’d love to practice along with others I know (or don’t know, I don’t care!) and support you in any way I can.
Namaste, my friends!
I talk a lot about being present, being mindful. But a lot of times, that's much easier said than done.
Joel and I have been on opposite schedules lately - job changes, working long hours, a lot of personal commitments - all in addition to adding a new puppy to our family. I could feel myself starting to break down and the consistent calm that I can normally connect to in some way, shape, or form was nowhere in sight.
I let myself get to the point where I was near rock bottom. I know when I'm reaching this point very clearly - I'm angry. Very, very angry. At everyone and everything. And I can't hide it - THAT'S the biggest giveaway.
I'm always the person to say, "If you don't like something, change it." I'm not a complainer and I don't like complainers. So I had to get tough with myself and take my own advice. I had to change something to get myself back on track. I knew I had the tools to dig myself out - I was just allowing everything that was going on and the anger I was feeling to cloud my normally mindful thoughts.
A good outlet for me when I'm feeling this way is to write it out. Sometimes I write everything out feeling by feeling. A lot of times I write out a plan that will get me into a better head space. For me, plans are calming! So that's what I did. Here's what my plan said:
Morning - Rise at 6 a.m.
That's it. Nothing more, nothing less, no teardrops on the pages. Just a plan. A plan incorporating the tools I know I have in my toolbox, so it was a realistic plan for me to run with. I haven't missed a day since I started, and I hope I never do.
Incorporating these practices into my daily schedule have allowed me to feel present in the midst of fast pace surroundings and unpredictable circumstances. I try not to simply look, hear, smell, touch - I aim to see, listen, inhale, feel - be HERE (I share an example of this with the image below). That alone in itself is so important. My thoughts and actions feel more intentional. I feel happier, and lighter, and love myself a little bit more than I did before - which was needed.
What tools do you reach for when you're at a breaking point? What items are part of your routine that keep you grounded? I'd love to know!
I spotted this bright yellow moth on the door of our garage before leaving for work. I was running behind and had already started backing out of the driveway. But I stopped. This brilliant, florescent moth against our red door was just stunning. I took a deep breath, told myself that it was OK to take the time to fully be present in that moment, got out, and took time to enjoy watching the moth warm its wings in the sun. It was peaceful and beautiful. And guess what? The world kept turning while I paused. I don't regret that brief moment of extra time I took to enjoy that moment.
The image above captures me transitioning. Preparing. Taking stock. As the Thanksgiving holiday closes and the Christmas holiday approaches, time seems to disappear. Our lives become a blur. So much to do, so little time.
We have lists of lists. Overlapping events on the calendar. Food dishes to prepare. Presents to wrap. Cards to send. Joy to bring.
Because I've taken time to think about what's to come, my hope is this: I'll forgive myself if everything doesn't get done. I'll slow down long enough to savor the moments I am able to squeeze in with my family and friends. And I'll let the warm feelings of knowing 'I am loved, I am taken care of, and I have so many good things to be happy for' wash over me.
Aside from food and gifts and stuff, I want to bring the best version of myself to every gathering I'm blessed enough to attend throughout the holiday season. Because it's the memories that last. That means digging my heels in if I need a moment. That means self love and deep breaths every day. That means letting things go that I don't have time for, and being OK with that.
I hope you're preparing yourself for the flurry of events to come over the next month like I am. Let's make a pact to make room for the good stuff and let go of the things we can't get to or are distracting us from the joyful feelings this season brings. Namaste and Happy Holidays my friends!
My grandma said one of my grandpa's favorite songs used to be "I'm in a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)" by Alabama. I know why. Because the lyrics matched his life. They spoke to him. I can relate.
Our lives since February of this year have been one big blur of tasks, faces, feelings, and places. So many highs, a few lows, firing one after another.
A side effect of the aforementioned blur is that my body and mind are set to "I'm in a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)" mode at all times. I often feel like I have a ticker tape "to do" list that is constantly unraveling itself inside my mind. Check this off, add that on, don't forget this, make sure to do that. And if the tape isn't actively unraveling with my lists, I feel like I'm forgetting, or slacking, or have lost all control of my life.
Yikes, huh? Yeah, that's what I thought, too. That's why I declared this coming weekend "MY WEEKEND." I need a breather from the blur. I need to recalibrate. No tasks (we'll see how long that lasts), no events, no people. Just me (and Joel of course - he is supportive of my declaration).
If this is what it feels like to maintain perfection, to feel in control, to keep up appearances - whatever I've been doing all of this for - I don't know if I want to (or can) keep doing it. We're moving forward, yes, but at full speed. That's not my natural speed at all...
That's why it's time to stop rushing. Time to start saying, "No, thank you." Time to get back to my yogic center and remind myself that to feel calm, I need to remain calm at my center and let the world whirl around me - not allow my center to be a whirlwind in order to create calm around me. I've flipped inside out it seems. Time to get back to myself. Constant recentering. Amen.
How are you feeling? Same? I encourage you to take a break with me. Kick back, do what you love, and make time for some life savoring. Don't let rushing around become your constant - remember to take time to slow down!
When I'm feeling negative, yoga is the answer because I can pinpoint what is dragging me down and release it.
Yoga is such a powerful tool and one I use very often. To me, yoga goes beyond just poses. It's a mindset. It's in my breathing. It's in my movement. It's in the energy I give off. It's in my blood. It is truly a lifestyle.
I have had many interests that have changed over time. I'll be really into something until I burn myself out or think about something for so long without doing anything to pursue the interest that I let the desire subside. That hasn't been the case with yoga. I buy books. I think about sequences. I pay attention to my breathing. I follow the work of my favorite yogis. I practice when I can at work and at home. I see myself doing yoga for the rest of my life and that feels like such a blessing.
Joel has started practicing with me lately. (Hope you're not mad I let the cat out of the bag!) It has been wonderful to take a pose and see him right there with me, trying his hardest. He's a natural yogi because he's not a show off. He takes the time he needs to do the poses and listens to his body. I've learned about patience by watching him in yoga, and in life.
When we finished our practice the other night, we both felt great. I had needed to do yoga because I was in a funk. It was his idea to turn on the video and he picked it out. By the end of practice, I was in tears of release. It felt so good, and even better because Joel was right beside me.
After we had rolled up our mats, I mentioned how important yoga was to me. It's not just exercise, it's not something I do just to say I do it, or do for the sake of getting a cool photo...I need it. It is a basic need for me. My practice is one intangible thing I have that is completely mine. It reaches into the depths of my soul like nothing else ever will and brings me the purest form of joy. It is my religion. It is what I believe in. It gives me life.
Thank you for visiting my blog! With this first post so begins documentation of my life as a reborn country girl.
My parents raised my sister and I on a wonderful plot of land in the country. When I left the nest, I lived in various cities (large towns is a better term) surrounding my childhood home. In high school, I expressed desires of wanting to live in New York City. I never made it out of Iowa (aside from traveling), but as I've grown, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
As I got older, began seeking and practicing natural paths to solitude, and as talk of having children became more frequent, the country was calling.
My husband and I will be moving onto a two acre piece of land a few houses down from my childhood home in the country and we couldn't be happier. There is such comfort that comes with this decision, including:
I'm bringing the big city to the even bigger Iowa countryside. On our property, current day trends will collide with everything that is good, tried, and true about simple, country living.