“As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, so I, born in the world, raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world” - Buddha

“As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, so I, born in the world, raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world” - Buddha

Aim true .

Wisdom and inspiration from one of my most influential teachers .

self love, the most powerful kind of love in your life.

"21 Tips to Release Self-Neglect and Love Yourself in Action

Editor’s Note: This is a contribution by Tess Marshall

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

The most important decision of your life, the one that will effect every other decision you make, is the commitment to love and accept yourself. It directly affects the quality of your relationships, your work, your free time, your faith, and your future.

Why then is this so difficult to do?

Your Family of Origin

I grew up with nine siblings. I had two older brothers, three older sisters, three younger sisters, and a younger brother.

I never fit in. My sisters were tall and thin with beautiful, long, lush hair. By eleven years old, I was short and very curvy. My hair was fine, thin, and wild.

For the most part, my siblings did as they were told. I was outspoken, out-of-control and rebellious.

I wore my sister’s hand-me-down school uniforms. I rolled up the hems on the skirts and popped buttons on the blouses. My look was unkempt.

I was teased and bullied at home and at school. Yet I didn’t go quietly into the night. I fought for my place in my family. To protect myself, I developed a good punch and grew a sharp tongue.

I was 27 years old and married with four children when I became desperate enough to seek out my first therapist. I felt alone, stuck, and unlovable. I was determined to change.

After six months of working through my childhood issues, old thoughts, beliefs, and events, I felt alive again. It was like stripping off several layers of paint from an antique piece of furniture. I found myself restored to my original beauty.

Cultural Influences

We’re taught by society that our worth is found in the idols of our culture—technology, status, youth, sex, power, money, attractiveness, and romantic relationships.

If you base your self worth on the external world, you’ll never be capable of self-love.

Your inner critic will flood you with thoughts of, “I’m not enough, I don’t have enough, and I don’t do enough.”

Feelings of lack are never-ending. Every time a goal is reached or you possess the next big thing, your ego will move the line.

Shift Your Self-Perception

Feeling worthy requires you to see yourself with fresh eyes of self-awareness, , and love. Acceptance and love must come from within.

You don’t have to be different to be worthy. Your worth is in your true nature, a core of love and inner goodness. You are a beautiful light. You are love. We can bury our magnificence, but it’s impossible to destroy.

Loving ourselves isn’t a one time event. It’s an endless, moment by moment ongoing process.

It begins with you, enfolding yourself in your own affection and appreciation.

Read on for steps to discover your worth and enfold yourself in affection and appreciation.

1. Begin your day with love (not technology). Remind yourself of your worthiness before getting out of bed. Breathe in love and breathe out love. Enfold yourself in light. Saturate your being in love.

2. Take time to mediate and journal. Spend time focusing inward daily. Begin with 5 minutes of meditation and 5 minutes of journaling each morning. Gradually increase this time.

3. Talk yourself happy. Use affirmations to train your mind to become more positive. Put a wrist band on your right wrist. When you’re participating in self-abuse of any form, move the band to your left wrist.

4. Get emotionally honest. Let of go of numbing your feelings.Shopping, eating, and drinking are examples of avoiding discomfort, sadness, and pain. Mindfully breathe your way through your feelings and emotions.

5. Expand your interests. Try something new. Learn a language. Go places you’ve never been. Do things you haven’t done before. You have a right to an awesome life.

6. Enjoy life enhancing activities. Find exercise you like. Discover healthy foods that are good for you. Turn off technology for a day and spend time doing things that make you feel alive.

7. Become willing to surrender. Breathe, relax, and let go. You can never see the whole picture. You don’t know what anything is for. Stop fighting against yourself by thinking and desiring people and events in your life should be different. Your plan may be different from your soul’s intentions.

8. Work on personal and spiritual development. Be willing to surrender and grow. Life is a journey. We are here to learn and love on a deeper level. Take penguin steps and life becomes difficult. One step at a time is enough to proceed forward.

9. Own your potential. Love yourself enough to believe in the limitless opportunities available to you. Take action and create a beautiful life for yourself.

10. Be patient with yourself. Let go of urgency and fear. Relax and transform striving into thriving. Trust in yourself, do good work, and the Universe will reward you.

11. Live in appreciation. Train your mind to be grateful. Appreciate your talents, beauty, and brilliance. Love your imperfectly perfect self.

12. Be guided by your intuition. All answers come from within. Look for signs and pay attention to your gut feelings. You’ll hear two inner voices when you need to make a decision. The quiet voice is your higher self; the loud voice is your ego. Always go with the quieter voice.

13. Do what honors and respects you. Don’t participate in activities that bring you down. Don’t allow toxic people in your life. Love everyone, but be discerning on who you allow into your life.

14. Accept uncertainty. Suffering comes from living in the pain of the past or the fear of the future. Put your attention on the present moment and be at peace.

15. Forgive yourself. Learn from your mistakes and go forward. Use this affirmation, “I forgive myself for judging myself for __________ (fill in the blank i.e.: for getting sick, for acting out, for not doing your best.)

16. Discover the power of fun. Self-love requires time to relax, play, and create face-to-face interaction with others. Our fast-paced world creates a goal setting, competitive craziness that doesn’t leave room for play. Dr. Stuart Brow says, “The opposite of play isn’t work, it is depression.”

17. Be real. Speak up and speak out. Allow yourself to be seen, known, and heard. Get comfortable with intimacy (in-to-me-see).

18. Focus on the positive. Go to your heart and dwell on and praise yourself for what you get right in all areas.

19. Become aware of self neglect and rejection. Become conscious of your choices. Ask yourself several times throughout the day, “Does this choice honor me?”

20. Imagine what your life would look like if you believed in your worth. Dedicate your life to loving you. Make it your main event.

21. Seek professional help. Self-rejection and neglect is painful. You deserve to be happy. You have a right to be accepted and loved. If necessary, seek help from a support group, counselor, or coach. It’s the best investment you can make.

Because we are all interconnected, when I love me, I also love you. Together through our love, we can heal ourselves, each other, and the world. Love is our purpose, our true calling. It begins with and within each of us.”

My depression story (trigger warning)

I am writing this today in order to release some tension, as well as to let others out there know that they are not alone in living with this mental illness.

For a lot of people, talking about depression, or seeking help for it, seems completely nerve wrecking (I have first hand experience in dealing with anxiety with this issue). People will belittle what you are going through, they will tell you to “just think positive thoughts”, “stop being such a pessimist” , “maybe if you weren’t locking yourself up in your room all day you would be fine”, etc, etc. The worst one of all is when someone tells you that your depression is not real, or that you are completely at fault for it. I am here to tell you today that anyone who tells you any of these things are not people you should surround yourself around, and if they happen to be your family members or close friends who you are regularly around, you will want to limit them as much as possible.

Modern science struggles with where depression exactly stems from, and they usually point to the chemical reactions in the brain (which do have a part, no doubt) , but are not always the entire picture. Genetics have their game in this, as well as your environment, what you are consuming, and your experiences in life. Depression is not a “one size fits all” kind of health concern. Depression affects different people with different biological history, different geographical locations, and different mentalities. I am not a qualified professional to give you the biological , chemical, molecular, or psychological lectures on what depression is and how to treat it. A qualified medical professional such as a medical doctor , psychologist , naturopathic doctor, counselor, etc, etc is there for those very reasons. I am only here to share my experience with it, and offer some lifestyle advice and comfort to help supplement / aide  your current treatment,  or inspire you to make even the slightest changes in your life to reach your own form of happiness and health.

I started to enter the world of depression when I was around the age of 9 years old. I was not aware of this until I was in my late teens, but the impact it had on my life was drastic. I never understood why I would go through intense periods of sadness , tiredness, anger, and behavioral changes. Like a roller coaster , the emotions were on the extremes. I remember the first time I started to cut with a knife into my skin when I was a pre-treen, and I remember the poems I wrote about wanting to end my life. My adolescence felt like a prison within my mind, and I wanted to do something desperately to get out. I felt uneasy, anxious, helpless, frustrated, sick, and rageful. Mood disorder could have definitely played a part in all of this, but a real diagnosis was never taken through out the many years of my adolescence/childhood.

My father has never been diagnosed with depression, but he fits the classical description of it. He never showed affection when I was growing up, and he tried to commit suicide when I was 14 years old. He did not accomplish that, but he has always been a huge catalyst in my behavior with depression. I started realizing as I got older that genetics could very well be a part of my pain. My father was an avid drug user back in the day, and has always treated my mother and I poorly. Till this day he has his cycles of silence and anger, and a few days of happiness. I now understand what he has been going through his entire life, as my own depression gets more difficult with age.

Between attempting suicide a few times and failing, cutting up the skin on my upper thighs for years, and other self harm , I knew I needed help . I started practicing yoga at the age of 16, and it has ever since been my number one reason for still being alive. For others, there will be many forms of relief that will impact your life, but for me, yoga was an absolute self therapy. With diligent practice, I was able to give up cutting by the age of 18, and by the age of 20, I stopped trying to commit suicide. An intense and brutal break up during those years challenged my depression greatly, but I was able to overcome it with diligent practice of yoga, and other forms of meditation and wellness exercises.

I am not “recovered” from depression. I am still enduring it. I will probably endure it for the rest of my life. I have greatly evolved from it, but it still does strike me on a regular basis. The thing that has changed is that I am aware of it, and I am able to manage it as best as I possibly can. Even this week it has kicked in, and I had to battle with myself in letting myself heal and not letting it completely take over my life. As soon as I feel it , I hit the yoga mat , or get outside and get on my bike or run. I do my best to get up the endorphins in my brain to help ease out what is happening. I also write in a journal regularly, and I make myself as healthy as food as possible to nourish my body in its healing process. I say healing process, because depression takes a complete toll on your body. Even with the best intentions, there are days when I will lay in bed all day and stay away from people. Healing is never perfect. And never belittle yourself for needing to just release what you are feeling.

Depression has severely messed with my view of my body image, and has caused some other medical conditions as well. I am seeking the help of a naturopathic doctor to contribute their expertise and knowledge to an even better healing process with all of it. All I can do is try, because if I don’t, depression will win, and I will not be able to experience what I want to experience out of life.

My advice to anyone today is to :

Not be afraid to talk about depression, or educate others on the matter.
Not be afraid to seek help.

Not be afraid to make changes in your life.

Do not get upset with yourself for staying indoors all day.

Do not blame yourself for your depression.


Do not surround yourself around unsupportive and unloving people.

Do not be afraid to try a different form of healing, or explore what is going  on inside of you through the means of writing or reading.

Do not be afraid to try counseling, or  join a support group.

Anytime you are feeling overwhelmed, taking a nap, or taking a time of silence to release tension and pain is a wonderful way to help you.

Yoga, mediation, physical exercise, hiking, biking, etc, etc, are the bodies natural defense mechanism.

And most importantly, at the moments when you feel that your depression is controlling your life to the point where you no longer want to live, please please please please please reach out to a hotline, a family member/friend, or support group immediately. And if you want to have someone as an emergency contact so you can just have a quick way of notifying without explaining the situation right away, please do so. Your life is beautiful, no matter how painful the experiences have been in your life. Depression is not your life. Your life is yours.

you are not alone.

you never will be.

I understand the pain that you are going through. I understand the thoughts about not wanting to live anymore. I understand your frustration with yourself, and your world. I understand the hell that you are going through. Please just know that all of that destruction that you are going through will never be more powerful than you are.

never.

Take back your life, you deserve every moment of happiness and bliss.

From my heart to yours, and from one warrior to another, may your strength and your perseverance outshine any darkness in your life. <3

Lessons in dealing with unsupportive people

4 Lessons in Dealing with Unsupportive People
By Hope Zvara
Nothing in this world is the same. Nothing in this world is constant. Everything in this world is an opportunity to change, leap forward and grow.

Once, I was driving with my mom and kids in the car with my moon roof open. Out of nowhere, a grasshopper leaped into my car and sat on my thigh as I was driving. My mom, kids, and I squealed in excitement for different reasons. My kids thought a grasshopper in our car was silly. My mom and I instantly thought about leaps forward in my life. The grasshopper hung around for a while, then I cracked open my window and it sat on the edge for a few minutes. My mom commented, “Hope you teach us in yoga to meet our edge, honor it and see what you can learn from that view.” With the thought of sending it home, I gave it a small tap. Out it flew and back in it came. We all laughed, and my mom and I said at that moment, “Remember to trust. Big leaps forward in my life are necessary and present for me right now.”

I believe that life is constantly giving you signs and constantly telling you things helpful to your life; if you choose to listen. My little grasshopper friend was a confirmation to me that everything I am currently practicing and living is all part of my leap forward. Like a grasshopper, sometimes when you are leaping forward or are about to, unexpected things come into play to try to throw you off. How many times in your own life have you been confused for something you are not? How many times have you been confronted with someone who won’t let go of your past persona and see you for as you are? How many times have you said one thing and because someone is unhappy with their own life, they turn it around to try to stop you from leaping forward.

Maybe you are a little like me: you go to the beat of your own drum, not like the norm, see purpose and a learning opportunity in everything, and want to continue to change. You want to grow. You notice that when the growth is very prominent, on the cusp of leaping from well-cut grass to tall grassy hillside, then into a sunny place; that there are people and things in your life that come out of nowhere, to try to steal that away from you. You are the kind of person who tries to be honest. Sometimes, people confuse that honesty with judgment (and usually because those people don’t want to hear the truth). They try to stop your leap in mid-air because they don’t want anyone else around them leaping if they aren’t going to. Like a grasshopper, what works for others will not necessarily work for you. Even more so, what works for you will probably not work for anyone else.

So how do you be like that grasshopper and not get squashed in the process?

1. Like the grasshopper, it is important to understand that at times you may need to stay still. take it in, not say a word and just let other(s) do the talking. At other times or at a moment’s notice, you may need to take a huge leap into the air and land somewhat blindly and just trust that it’s right.

2. Trust your inner voice. Like a grasshopper’s inner ability to sense sound with their legs, sense the sound of your inner voice and trust that your navigation is on par.

3. A grasshopper has an inner sense of knowing when to make its leap. Your progress is made in the form of mostly leaps, rather than steps. Likewise, your progress will most likely not be slow and steady, but a playful combination of leaps, hops, bounces and strides. Like a grasshopper, those can sometimes be misunderstood. Know that your hop will only make sense to you, and it is not necessary for you to try to get others to understand.

4. Finally, a grasshopper can leap up to twenty times its height. Our grassy friend can only leap up or forward never back. So sure, glance back and see how far you have come, but for you my friend, the only way is up and forward by leaps and bounds. Not everyone will understand it, but other grasshoppers will. When you need it most, you will know to leap to a sunny mound and meet your fellow grasshoppers there, so that you can glance back again and see what you were able to overcome.

"The word “spirit” comes from the Latin spiritus, which in turn is a translation of the Greek pneuma, meaning “breath.” Around the 13th century, the term became bound up with notions of immaterial souls, supernatural beings, ghosts, etc. It acquired other connotations as well—we speak of the spirit of a thing as its most essential principle, or of certain volatile substances and liquors as spirits. Nevertheless, many atheists now consider “spiritual” thoroughly poisoned by its association with medieval superstition.
I strive for precision in my use of language, but I do not share these semantic concerns. And I would point out that my late friend Christopher Hitchens—no enemy of the lexicographer—didn’t share them either. Hitch believed that “spiritual” was a term we could not do without, and he repeatedly plucked it from the mire of supernaturalism in which it has languished for nearly a thousand years.

It is true that Hitch didn’t think about spirituality in precisely the way I do. He spoke instead of the spiritual pleasures afforded by certain works of poetry, music, and art. The symmetry and beauty of the Parthenon embodied this happy extreme for him—without any requirement that we admit the existence of the goddess Athena, much less devote ourselves to her worship. Hitch also used the terms “numinous” and “transcendent” to mark occasions of great beauty or significance—and for him the Hubble Deep Field was an example of both. I’m sure he was aware that pedantic excursions into the OED would produce etymological embarrassments regarding these words as well.

We must reclaim good words and put them to good use—and this is what I intend to do with “spiritual.” I have no quarrel with Hitch’s general use of it to mean something like “beauty or significance that provokes awe,” but I believe that we can also use it in a narrower and, indeed, more transcendent sense.&#8221;  


   - Sam Harris , &#8220;In Defense of Spiritual&#8221;
     (Neuroscientist and best selling author)

"The word “spirit” comes from the Latin spiritus, which in turn is a translation of the Greek pneuma, meaning “breath.” Around the 13th century, the term became bound up with notions of immaterial souls, supernatural beings, ghosts, etc. It acquired other connotations as well—we speak of the spirit of a thing as its most essential principle, or of certain volatile substances and liquors as spirits. Nevertheless, many atheists now consider “spiritual” thoroughly poisoned by its association with medieval superstition.
I strive for precision in my use of language, but I do not share these semantic concerns. And I would point out that my late friend Christopher Hitchens—no enemy of the lexicographer—didn’t share them either. Hitch believed that “spiritual” was a term we could not do without, and he repeatedly plucked it from the mire of supernaturalism in which it has languished for nearly a thousand years.

It is true that Hitch didn’t think about spirituality in precisely the way I do. He spoke instead of the spiritual pleasures afforded by certain works of poetry, music, and art. The symmetry and beauty of the Parthenon embodied this happy extreme for him—without any requirement that we admit the existence of the goddess Athena, much less devote ourselves to her worship. Hitch also used the terms “numinous” and “transcendent” to mark occasions of great beauty or significance—and for him the Hubble Deep Field was an example of both. I’m sure he was aware that pedantic excursions into the OED would produce etymological embarrassments regarding these words as well.

We must reclaim good words and put them to good use—and this is what I intend to do with “spiritual.” I have no quarrel with Hitch’s general use of it to mean something like “beauty or significance that provokes awe,” but I believe that we can also use it in a narrower and, indeed, more transcendent sense.”


- Sam Harris , “In Defense of Spiritual”
(Neuroscientist and best selling author)

"The strength of a tree lies in it&#8217;s ability to bend."  -Zen Proverb

"The strength of a tree lies in it’s ability to bend." -Zen Proverb

"The strength of a tree lies in it&#8217;s ability to bend."  -Zen Proverb

"The strength of a tree lies in it’s ability to bend." -Zen Proverb

The rabbit and the garden

" The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. "- Marcel Proust

"In the movie Phenonmenon , John Travolta’s character has done everything he can think of to keep this pesky rabbit out of his garden. He’s even put in fencing that goes three feet underground , and still everything he plants is nibbled through.

Suddenly one night when he wakes and realizes he’s been going about this all wrong. In the moonlight, he quietly goes to his garden and opens the gate , then sits on his porch and waits.

To his surprise , as he begins to fall asleep, the rabbit scurries out the gate. While he’d been trying to keep it out , the rabbit was trapped in his garden, and he was inadvertently keeping it in.

How often do we barricade and fence up our lives against hurt and loss, thinking we’re keeping the painful things out , when they’re already trapped inside us eating at our roots , and what we really need to do is open the gate and let them out?

* Center yourself, and consider what you are currently trying to keep out of your heart. It might be a fear of what’s to be, or a memory of what has been , or the truth of a situation that you are living now.

* Close your eyes and open the gate to your heart and wait. Breathe and wait.

* Breathe slowly and give the rabbit a chance to leave your garden.”


- Mark Nepo, excerpt from The Book Of Awakening

Yoga as your personal refuge
Many of us know how it feels to make it to the mat after a crazy day or week, and take that first deep breathand know in your heart you have come home.
Yoga can provide us with such refuge and comfort from the business of our lives. Even when our lives are Yoga. The craziness of what is sometimes called the material world in yoga can often leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. To think of the mat or meditation space as your retreat for the soul is a beautiful way to  find stillness and serenity within. One way yoga uses to describe this is the sanskrit wordSharanam meaning to ‘take refuge in’ or to ‘surrender to’ - to bow at the feet of that which is our Creator, our Guide and our True Essence. 
When I was working in the high-stress deadline based fashion industry my practice became my refuge from the chaos and stress, and I truly believe was one of the only things that kept me sane. Some days it would take more than half way through the practice to let go but it did happen, consistently. It was my retreat away from a busy city, chaotic work environment, and daily life. Yoga showed me its power and beauty. What a gift it is to have a practice that supports you always and is there for you whenever you need it. When we can start to practice in a way that we are connecting to the sacredness of our beings the yoga becomes a beautiful source of love and healing.  It can become a practice of devotion to your ultimate truth and authentic self.  
I have found that what needs to be revealed to you most often will show itself in your yoga or meditation practice. There is something so amazing about taking the mind off the problem and situation at hand and allowing yourself to surrender into stillness. Then, very often the truths and answers you need appear to you.
Some days we simply just go through the motions of the practice and are not really connected to ourselves and the present moment, and this is okay. We cannot expect ourselves to be present all the time, but there are a few ways to help yourself really drop into the ritual of practice;
Offer a mantra before, during or after practice- anything that resonates - it could be simply inhaling and exhaling or repeating something like, “I open my heart to my true nature” or a few heart opening Oms. A few favorites of mine are om namah shivaya and the maha mantra hare krishna.
Play music you enjoy or go with silence - listen to what inspires you for that particular practice.
Practice deep awareness of every movement- Iyengar’s renowned quote, “The body is my temple; asanas are my prayers” reveals this idea beautifully.  Imagine you are offering goodness and love to yourself with every movement andbreath.
If working with difficult or challenging asanas- remove any sense of attachment to the posturesif possible and simply approach all of it with a sense of wonderment and gratitude. Take the expectation out of the equation and just be without too much attachment to the end result. In yoga, all is divine and perfect as it is.
Offer gratitude before and after the practice - for the gift of yourself, yoga and anything else that you are feeling is a blessing. When we shift into a state of gratitude there is very little room for sorrow and stress!
Allow time for seated meditation - or a long savasana to fully embrace the practice. 
Journal - or write about anything that came up during your practice, to find perspective and healing.
I often think of what a gift it is to have an ancient practice to bring us back to who we truly are, to calm our minds and open our hearts. As yogis we know to always take our practice into our lives in every way possible, to live with compassion, mindfulness and joy as much as we can. In a way we are always carrying that refuge with us. But, using the time we are deep in the meditation, asana, or mantra as a way to fully let go of the material world, stress and over thinking  is one way we can transform ourselves and our hearts. Enjoy the journey!