Talkin’ bout a Revolution

The other day I had a conversation that shocked and angered me. I was speaking to a beautiful young woman when she brought up weight, asking if she looked too fat to be wearing just yoga pants and a sports bra. My mouth dropped as I looked at her, standing around 5’5″ and weighing 130 pounds. When I told her that she looked fantastic she informed me that her boyfriend has been trying to get her to lose weight, sending her different exercise videos and diets to try. She seemed genuinely surprised as I pointed out many of her wonderful features, explaining to her that it is awesome to have weight and muscle on our bodies.

As I walked away from that conversation I felt hopeful that I had a positive effect on her view of herself, but I yearn to have a larger positive effect that reaches many. For over five years I viewed my body in a very harsh, negative light. I spoke to myself in a way I would never speak to any of my friends, which is pretty wonky considering our most important relationship is with ourselves. We have the ability to be our own biggest cheerleader, but unfortunately we can also be our worst enemy. For a period of my life I was my own worst enemy, convincing myself that I was not only ugly on the outside, but that I had nothing to offer with my personality either. Speaking to myself in such a negative manner for quite a few years took a serious toll on my mental and physical health. Midway through 2013 I finally became aware of how I spoke to myself, how badly I was making myself feel every time I grabbed the skin I called love handles. I didn’t enjoy exercise because I spent my whole time at the gym wondering what others were thinking of my body- Did my thighs look jiggly? Was I flat in all the wrong places? How could I get my body to look like hers?  After attending Bonnaroo in 2013- four days of no makeup, minimal washing, and car windows for mirrors, something shifted inside of me. I attribute the catalyst of that change to two very good friends of mine who were so confused as to why I felt the need to wear makeup. They saw a beauty within me that I was blind to at the time. Their love helped to clear away some of the fog that clouded my vision. When I got home I started working on changing my relationship with myself. My first step in this process was looking myself in the eyes each day and telling myself, “I love you.” It sounds simple enough but man, it felt weird at first! I tried to do this each time I was in my bathroom at home, and then I delved a little deeper. I began standing naked in front of my mirror daily, listing different things I loved about my body as I brought my hands to those areas. This was incredibly hard during the beginning because I felt inauthentic. Looking back, I am so grateful to myself for continuing this practice despite feeling silly and pretty fake. It took time, but eventually I started to believe my own words, feeling sparks of self-love. This was a gradual process, progressing over many months filled with days of disbelief, tears, smiles, transformation, and most importantly growth. Hell, it still is a process! To this day I am offered opportunities to work through difficult, darker thoughts. Meredith Marple shared her words which resonated with me strongly, “The act of loving yourself isn’t an end point. The relationship with yourself is the continual act of climbing your mountains and discovering hidden valleys you didn’t know you had.” I have had to recommit to a life of self-love quite a few times, but by focusing on the recommitment rather than a seeming failure or step backwards I am still making strides, growing and transforming. I invite you to make a commitment to yourself, whether it’s to say one positive comment to yourself a day, or to stop yourself short when you start to degrade yourself. Little steps, micro movements in the right direction can truly change your life.

So we’ve covered a bit about self-love, I got vulnerable with you, and hopefully gave you some applicable tips on how to improve your relationship with yourself. Now let’s talk about how we allow others to speak to us. For the most part, there is no reason to comment on another person’s weight. In a situation where someone is genuinely concerned for a loved one’s health it may be best to step in help them develop a plan to achieve optimum health. However, if you are in a relationship (a friendship or romantic relationship) with someone who asks you to change your body in order for them to be happy, they are not truly happy with themselves. Often it is much easier to point out flaws in others without realizing that each person in our experience is somehow a reflection of ourselves. If you are continuously attracting friends or partners who degrade you or tear you down, ask yourself, “How am I treating myself? What type of example or standard am I setting for my loved ones?” The phrase, ‘We accept the love we think we deserve,’ rings quite true. It is difficult to attract people who recognize your full beauty if you are not acknowledging your own self worth.

I think it’s time we not only change how we let others speak to us, but also how we speak to others. Everyday we are bombarded with images and videos that promote skinniness, tight bodies and perfectly done makeup. Males are just as susceptible to body image issues as they are taught that masculinity means muscles, getting big and being tough. But what most magazines, Instagram accounts, and various media sources don’t talk about is the myriad of different body types on this Earth. Every single person is built slightly differently. A variety of heights, metabolic rates and weight distributions make it extremely difficult (not to mention unnecessary) for everyone to fit in one definition of beautiful. When we notice that someone has been losing weight, most compliment with, “You’re looking so skinny! Tell me your secrets, what have you been eating?” But what about complimenting someone’s health? What if we start to disregard weight and instead focus on the variety of positive effects exercise and eating healthy has for our bodies? Personally I have been trying to make this shift, but still catch myself reverting back to shallow compliments from time to time. I am pleased to say that by bringing awareness to the way I speak about others’ bodies I have been able to give more effective, empowering compliments.

While we are on the subject of body image and body shaming, I need to address a subject that I don’t think is talked about enough. In the same way you wouldn’t walk up to an acquaintance or friend and tell them to lose weight, please do not approach a thin individual and tell them they need to gain weight. When you are walking around encountering random people, have an awareness that almost everybody has a part of their body they are not comfortable with. You have no idea what each person thinks about their body. Being told repeatedly to go eat a cheeseburger or that you are too skinny can have just as detrimental of an effect as being told you are overweight, it all depends on where you are in your journey. Personally I experienced the former, along with multiple partners telling me my body would be nicer if I gained a bit of weight. The way my body runs makes it very hard for me to gain weight. I am not complaining about this, but those comments stuck with me and caused me to feel insecure about my body in a whole new way. Luckily I have realized this has just given me more opportunities to practice unconditional self-love. I am very happy with and grateful for my body, which grows stronger everyday as I fuel it with real food and healthy exercise. To this day the best compliment I can receive is, “You look so healthy and/or strong!” Knowing how those words make me feel helps me strive to share them with others, as well as myself.

I have two challenges for you on this fine Friday. The first is to change the conversations you have with yourself. When you catch yourself speaking cruelly or negatively to yourself, switch it up and replace it with a loving thought. You don’t need to make huge leaps at first. It can be something as simple as, “My hair looks nice today, I enjoy the way my outfit makes me look/feel,” or, “I did a great job on that last assignment.” Be realistic and allow yourself to start off small, with intentions to add more substance each day. My second challenge is for you to bring an awareness to the way you uplift others. Try to go a little deeper on compliments, go a week without discussing weight in casual conversation. Often we try to make others feel better by insulting a part of our own body when they bring up something they aren’t happy with. Change this! Compliment the other person and then switch up the subject, there are so many more important things to focus on besides weight.

Writing this post has made my heart extremely happy, as I feel like it’s a conversation we need to be having! If you know someone who could use a little more self love in their life pass this on, or start a conversation about it. Make a meaningful connection with others, you never know whose life you may change.

With much love and eternal light,

∞ Noelle ॐ

P.S. I’m including some Friday Funk for all you wonderful souls. Jam on Jampions!

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Live Like Laura

Yesterday I received news that another beautiful soul had made her transition from our physical world much too soon. We were a few years apart in school, but during our shared time at UNF I had only wonderfully positive encounters with Laura. The first time we met she was a Freshman and I was a Junior. One of my sorority sisters introduced us on campus and I remember being blown way by how friendly and outgoing she was. She had this beautiful, genuine smile and seemed so excited about life, about her first year of college, and especially excited to meet new people. Throughout the next couple of years whenever I ran into her on campus or at a school function she would always light up, which in turn would spark a little light in me, as if my soul knew I was in for a great hug and a beautiful exchange of energy. You didn’t leave Laura’s presence without feeling lighter. She was one of those special souls who spreads joy and uplifts others just by being her.

I have been having a hard time wrapping my head around her transition and I was not very close to Laura. It causes me great pain to think of her loved ones and the feelings they are working through right now. I find comfort in knowing that a soul this bright wouldn’t leave this Earth in darkness and I hope and pray that her family and friends are able to feel her precious energy encompassing their lives. When Laura was here on Earth she made a wonderful impact on all of the lives she touched, whether it was a quick interaction or a relationship of many years. Her soul, her energy, her spirit, all that she was has not left us, but has been unleashed. While we are on Earth physically we are bound to our physical body and can make a lasting impact on those we come in contact with. Laura’s energy is now free to reach everyone simultaneously. By inviting our Angels to be an active presence in our lives they have the ability to surround us with their energy, blessing us, protecting us, and influencing our daily decisions. I spent a lot of time yesterday reading through many posts about Laura, almost all of them referencing her vivacious, outgoing personality and love for life. This inspired me to get back into a habit that I have fallen out of, simply saying hello and starting conversations with strangers. By changing the way I interact with others I had four different, wonderful conversations with individuals that I may or may not see again. I noticed one similarity in each of these conversations. The strangers I greeted seemed surprised and a little thrown off when I began talking to them. After we got through that initial awkwardness we both left with much bigger smiles than we had on before. As I walked on the beach this morning I looked up to the sky, noticing the clouds covering the sun, and I spoke to Laura. I asked her to make her presence known to all those who loved her, and before I could get through my sentence the clouds parted and the sun came shining through. My whole body was immediately covered in warmth and I felt her as a smile took over my face. As I walked, I thought and talked more with her, and found great comfort in the knowledge that her Energy has returned to the collective consciousness. I picture her great big smile as she flies through this Universe, finding pure joy in gracing our lives. I can almost see her laughing as she realizes how much more power she has now, and I know she is doing her best to embrace her loved ones in a way they can feel.

I believe that we are all from the same Source, one love, one light. Laura was truly connected with that Source as she emanated that love and light. While listening to music yesterday Be Love by Dustin Thomas came on and made me think of her immediately. I know that she will continue to shine and will only be a pure source of love for all those who invite her presence into their lives.

Keep on shining Laura, you are so very loved.

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Growing with Compassion

Last week I found myself in a bit of a funk and had a pretty hard time finding my way out of it. Instead of using my negative emotions as guidance to make a shift in my behavior, I began beating myself up for feeling badly. I would walk outside, stare at the ocean and berate myself for not being grateful to be surrounded by so much beauty. I searched for excuses as to why I felt so bad; maybe I was getting my period so I was feeling moody, perhaps my anger stemming from a past situation was coming up again, or maybe I just deserved to wallow. It took me a few days of journaling, tears, and some misplaced anger before I finally realized the true issue. I had fallen out of alignment with my Authentic Self, my Inner Being. Sure I can come up with all sorts of reasons about why I deserve to feel badly, most of us humans can. But no matter how many justifications I offered myself, or how much I brought myself back to past situations, I just felt worse. My goal in life is to be an uplifter, to heal others with my words that resonate and actions that radiate positivity. If I choose to be stuck in the past and wallow, am I getting any closer to these goals? No, in fact I was getting farther from them as I was not tuned in to my Emotional Guidance Scale.

One of the awesome parts of our human experience is that we get to experience a range of emotions. From joy, gratitude, love, and appreciation, to despair, grief, anger and jealousy. It is important that we don’t disregard the negative emotions, but rather hold gratitude for them, as they help us grow, learn, and bend. The more we are able to bend the less likely we are to break. I have come back into alignment with my Inner Being by recognizing my negative emotions, feeling them, and then releasing them. Previously I have tried to brush my negative emotions under an imaginary rug so I could continue to be a beacon of positive light for those in my life. This response wasn’t fair to me or to the people I was trying to uplift, because I was being inauthentic and often ended up lashing out on those who did not deserve it. After listening to many Abraham Hicks recordings and receiving valuable insights I have been able to see the good in the negative emotions. Not only in the whole, “Without rain there are no rainbows” sense (although this is true), but because these negative emotions are working to guide us back into alignment with our Inner Being. After I accept these negative emotions and work through them, I feel more connected to those around me. Sometimes I feel like people think they can’t talk to me about their negative emotions because I do come across as such a light, positively focused individual. By being vulnerable and real with others I am opening the door to so many more meaningful connections and conversations.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned this past week is to treat myself and my growth with compassion. Becoming frustrated or angry with myself will only slow the process, and I have found this to be true on my mat as well. For a couple of months now I have been working on transitioning from crow to tripod headstand, and then back to crow. I found myself falling out, a lot, and often become frustrated. I would try to laugh it off in class but inside I would be asking my body how it wasn’t strong enough yet. That was my first mistake. While most in the Western world view yoga as a form of exercise through stretching, yoga also refers to union or oneness. To be fully practicing yoga one must find the balance and connection of their body, mind, spirit, and breath. During one practice, after I had a near face plant a thought floated into my head- yoga is not about forcing your body into a pose, but rather breathing into it, coming into alignment and allowing ease to guide your movements. As I came down from my headstand, I brought my knees to my triceps and paused, activating my lower abs through Uddiyana-bandha (an abdominal lock achieved by pulling your lower abs in and up as if they were moving back towards your spine) and allowed my breath to flow through me as I lifted my hips. A ginormous smile broke out on my face as I flew back to chaturanga dandasana (low plank). By replacing my criticism with compassion and ease I created space for myself to grow!

I love how breakthroughs on my mat so often relate to what I am going through off the mat. These breakthroughs offer me a different way to view my current situation and illuminate a new path, a path of ease and little resistance. When I start to feel frustrated with a person or situation I can step back and ask how I can change my perspective and actions to allow optimum growth. I’m sure as hell not perfect at this yet, but I’m proud of myself for developing this awareness, and I’m very content knowing that I will only continue to grow from here.

I’m including a video in this week’s post, because I’m super stoked about how much progress I’ve made, and even more excited about what’s to come.

Love and light,

∞ Noelle ॐ

 

Vulnerability

To most in my life, I believe I seem very happy, positive, and always smiling. What many don’t realize is that being positive does not mean I have no negative experiences, it means that I believe in the good despite of the bad. I am strong in my faith that I experience every situation to grow in one way or another. While in high school I battled depression, having a great life and nothing to seemingly be sad about only compounded my feelings by adding a tremendous amount of guilt on my shoulders. I felt ungrateful and would try to rationalize my sadness away, but that did not change the way I felt. I needed to find a way to truly love my self, which came within the next few years. Now looking back at my younger self I wish I could give her a large hug and explain that many of my fellow teens feel similarly, it’s just that no one talked about it.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my journey of self-love and growth since this dark time, but it doesn’t stop old thought trains from running through my head once in a while. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about helping others see the bright side, radiating positivity, and being kind to every stranger I meet, you truly never know what someone else is going through. In the fall of 2015 I found myself in a very dark place mentally. I am grateful that I chose to continue writing during this time. Now I am looking back through my journal and as I read through I can see my thought process change, I read the hard work I put in to not allow myself to slip farther into the darkness. And I am so damn proud of myself. Today, I’m taking it one step further by sharing one of the poems I wrote back in October. Maybe my words will help someone else and maybe they’ll just sit on this page unnoticed, but either way it feels good to stand up high on the mountain and look down into the valley where I used to be. Hopefully I can help someone else get out of their own valley.

Today

Today I will crumble

Tomorrow I’ll be bright, tomorrow I will love

But today, tonight, I allow myself to crumble.

Tomorrow I will laugh, tomorrow I will shine,

But tonight, I will crumble.

Tonight I will feel the emotions I have stuffed up tight, the ones leaking out of the corners of my eyes.

Today I will crumble

I will crumble with love

I will crumble under self-compassion

No pity, no fear, but love.

The energy of love weighing deep on my soul.

Today I might crumble, but tomorrow, tomorrow I will RISE.

Rise Phoenix, Rise