how to plan a retreat filled with all of your favorite things

the arrival of autumn in just a few days has got me thinking about going on a retreat.

(geek alert now) the word retreat comes from the latin word retrehere, meaning to pull back. exactly what i think of now when i hear the word.

when i worked with teenagers + their spiritual growth, i often used short retreats as times to really dig deep and connect – with each other + with their souls. contrary to what we usually assume about teens, they actually crave ancient practices, quiet reflection, and a chance to just be. and i never would have learned that, had i not pushed them + invited them to spend 24 hours together, creating a sacred, intentional space.

these memories are some of the best ones that i have from working with teenagers in a spiritual setting. i enjoyed planning the retreats as much as i loved hosting them. in fact, i remember wondering if having/hosting retreats was something that i could do full-time. i still wonder that, and i hope to actually incorporate that into my business as i grow it.

you would come + have a retreat with me, wouldn’t you?

retreats are powerful. they are very intentional times set aside for soul work. for connecting with ourselves and whatever divine, sacred, beautiful connection we have with the universe. they give us a chance to slow down, to listen, to learn, to  unplug, and to dive inward.


retreats are like climbing a mountain and standing there, on top, gazing out in awe of everything that lays out before you. they are filled inspiring, soul-filling moments. chances to refuel, realign, reassess. they get us out of our everyday life and our everyday routines.

of course, when we think of a retreat, we think of jaunting off to some cabin in the woods or a monastery in ireland or scotland, or taking a pilgrimage to a little hut somewhere near the holy land, or sitting in a temple in some eastern country, or some cottage by the sea, or even a hotel room in the middle of new york city.

the point is, we often think of going somewhere. somewhere a bit exotic and extremely inspiring.

however, that is not always possible. or even necessary. my retreats with my teenagers that were the most amazing, were ones that we spent in our local church building. we simply gathered in a room and stayed there. we visited the sanctuary some, but other than that, we keep ourselves confined to one room and the kitchen. we didn’t even go outside.

with autumn arriving here in the northern hemisphere, we are all retreating to our homes to nest and snuggle and hunker down before the winter. so, it’s the perfect time for a little retreat i believe. a home retreat.

there is no reason that we cannot celebrate a solitary retreat at home. creating our own schedule, rituals, and routines. it is an opportunity to have a day filled with all of the things that touch our soul, that inspire us, that teach us and keep us in check with who we really are. not to mention, they just give us a time to slow down and really relax. a day of sabbath. of holy rest.


so, how we do a home retreat?

well, first we adhere to some common elements that make up a retreat: aloneness and routine

aloneness: it may be hard to find a way to be alone. for example, in my little apartment, we have a kitchen, a living room, and a hall with a little alcove at one end where we sleep. and there are no doors. the most obvious place for me to be is in our alcove. our bed is large enough that i can study, read, nap, write, meditate and even eat there. it would also be easy to create a little temporary altar beside the bed. of course, i can leave the alcove to prepare tea or use the bathroom. but, the point is that i need to communicate to my wife that i will be spending my day there. in functional silence (meaning that i only speak if there is fire or flood).

i also believe that a retreat day is one that is to be unplugged. no social media. no facebooking or instagramming. for me, writing + photography are ok. but, there is no need to be on the internet. this is a time to be with ourselves.

routine: this retreat is our own to create. therefore, there are no rules at all. it can be a withdrawal from the regular stresses of life, or a day filled with study and reading. it can be a day of mediation or even sleep. it can be a combination of all of these things. or whatever we want. the point is, it is our day to create the space and feeling that our soul most craves. so, it is just to decide what our priority would be. what do we want to focus on?

we decide for ourselves the elements of retreat that are important for us.

for me, there are many things that i could use a retreat for. like reading and learning and taking notes. really soaking up a book. working on editing and choosing photographs for a book i would like to put together. and, while these things sound like working, they are not during the retreat. instead, within the framework of a retreat, they become spiritual practices. everything would be done with a higher level of awareness and mindfulness and intention.

and leaving my little alcove is something that i would also enjoy doing. leaving for a long walk outside, or a bike ride. something done in silence. a chance to photograph + just be in nature.

other than aloneness + routine, though, the retreat becomes whatever we want and need it to be. thus creating a very intimate retreat experience.

so, here’s a little example of what i am thinking about right now:

6:30a – 7:30a    Meditation
730a – 8a          Breakfast
8a -11a              Reading session
11a – 1:30p      Photography walk + lunch break
1:30p – 2:30p  Nap
2:30p – 3:30p  Photography book planning
3:30p – 4p        Fika break (coffee/tea)
4p – 5p             Meditation
5p -7p               Read, study, write
7p-8p                Dinner
8p – 930p        More study
930p – 10p     Closing practice

while it seems that there is a lot packed in and i am not just being, actually this is me spending time doing exactly what i want. fulfilling those things that fill my soul. it’s not about feeling the need to do something that i should do in order to have a proper retreat in the eyes of anyone else. instead this is all about listening to what i need and crave in my life at this moment in time.

meditate mexican blanket

and, there is always a desire + a place for retreats that we pay for, that take us way out of our regular days and place us in the midst of other pilgrims or in exotic, beautiful places.

 i know that a home retreat, even though it doesn’t require travel or money, is not a completely easy thing to make happen. we have families, jobs, small spaces. but, with some creative planning, i believe that we can find a way to make it happen. just one day from morning to night. if you’re lucky, you may even plan a whole weekend or a week. a weekend is most definitely something that i would like to plan to do within the next 12 months. but, no matter how long or short, planning a retreat is planning a special time for just you and your spirit.

here are a few tips to help you plan your home retreat:

1. limit your communication with your family/partner/children/people you may come in contact with. If you cannot go completely silent because of responsibilities (not because you don’t want to. hehe.), then only talk in the morning and in the evening. try to only let your soul speak to you.

2. unplug. you have got to unplug. do not answer your phone. do not text. turn off your notifications. better yet, just leave your phone somewhere else. if you will be writing on your computer, turn off notifications and limit your use to a document app. no surfing. promise me.

3. make your space yours. clean. neat. separate. gather all of the things that you will need throughout the day: journals, pens, camera, books, candles, headphones, blankets, sweaters…

4. decide on your retreat priorities. what do you want your day to look like? what are the things you need, that speak to your soul? what are you missing in your life? keep it simple. Don’t try to do everything. focus, and know that you can plan another retreat soon.

5. prepare for your meals in advance. be basic. be light. be healthy. but, don’t start something new. just go with things you love. and keep it simple and relaxing. and of course, if you take medications, keep taking them while on retreat.

6. step away if you want. you can leave your retreat space, especially if your retreat is longer than few days. take a walk, go to the grocery store or gym.  if you do leave, try to stay as quiet and as mindful as possible. listen only to the natural sounds around you. keep your responses brief. parties and dates are not meant to be part of this day, of course. this day is all about you.

7. this is the most important part: create a schedule + stick to it. it may sound boring and confining, but it will set your free. and if you want free time, schedule it in. but, make sure you stick to your schedule, other wise you will wander off track, lose focus, and miss the magic of the retreat.

8. lastly, there is no need for guilt. you and i deserve this. this is all about learning how to become better us’es. there is so much within us  – so much power, inspiration, love, peace. and choosing to create a home retreat is simply us taking care of ourselves, our souls. it’s a day that gives us freedom, that reminds us who we really are + what we really want, that inspires us and prepares us to be used out in the world. so, really, you think it’s all about you. but, it’s not. it’s all about loving and living and making a difference.

challenge yourself. do this. i am. my retreat day is scheduled for saturday, the 14th of november. it’ll be good + dark in sweden then. most likely rainy. and a perfect day to be inside – literally + figuratively. care to join me in your own retreat in your own home?

leave me a comment below if you’d like to join in and create your own retreat. and, of course, let me know if you have any questions/need any guidance. (a few ideas + suggestions inspired by this post.)

onwards + upwards xoxo

whenever september comes around: my season for rebirth

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” ― Mark Twain

41 septembers ago i was born. 8 septembers ago i felt as if i was reborn. and this september? well, i feel as if i am being reborn once again.

is it possible to be reborn multiple times in a lifetime? some, even many, would disagree with me, saying that a person can only be born again once. but, that’s just sad, i think. i’m not sure i could handle knowing that i had been born again, or reborn ( i like that word so much better), and with that one rebirth i was done. what would be the point of the rest of my life? why even bother living if being reborn meant that i had acquired everything i needed to be a complete human being, that i had already reached enlightenment, so to speak.

no, that’s not how i see life. instead, i see it much more like a lifelong transformation. a long adventure, where the destination isn’t even really that relevant. it’s really all about the journey all along the way.

when you think of it, all of nature is a cycle of rebirth, life, death, and then rebirth once again. we’re wired for growth and transformation. it’s organic. natural. authentic.

if life is a journey, then multiple births must be possible. they just signify the milestones and growth points that we pass along our way. but, they signify very, very important ones.


in the background, as i have been doing my regular old blogging, enjoying summer, having adventures, and soaking up the people + moments of my life, i have also been doing some intense internal work.

it all began when i did 21 days of mantra meditation. like, i repeated out loud a different mantra every day for 30 minutes each day. it was powerful. there was no sitting quietly, meditating in silence. it was active, use my voice, feel the vibrations in my body, mantra-ing. and it was uncomfortable for one day. the rest of the days i felt energized, focused, and way more in touch with my soul than any other meditation series has ever given me.

i also have enjoyed a series of kundalini yoga passes that have been focused on the chakras. again, the movement, the focus, the hour-long yoga passes have inspired me + gotten me in touch with my soul more than ever before.

and i did all of these things at home. for free. by myself. i’ll leave you links to the 2 series (one on spotify + one a podcast) at the bottom of this post.


somehow, these active times of meditation, separated by a 3 week period of vacation time with my love, my brother + friends, have opened my understanding and my flow. they have been the closing moments of spirituality at this time of my life. my soul, my life, has naturally flowed from learning, listening, and discovering to living and doing.


my rebirth means entering a new phase of my life. the groundwork has all been laid. the source of my empowerment from within has been tapped. there is nothing left to do but to leap forward and live all that i have been learning.

september + rebirth

so, here i am at the beginning of another september. ready to celebrate another orbit around the sun. in awe that i’ve had the joy and honor to live yet another beautiful year filled with ups, down, mountain, valleys, beautiful sites, terrifying moments, confusions, and moments of bliss. and ready to embark on yet another year of circling the sun. of becoming a little more of who i am created to be.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

on this first day of september, however, i feel something different. a feel a kind of rebirth again. of making another great step into living an authentic life, of not discovering my soul, as i have been doing for the past 8 years, but of learning to live from my soul.

the other day, just before the full moon, a kindred spirit friend of mine, stacy, posted a link to a website that has some “wisdom readings”. kind of like a horoscope, i think. just for fun, i clicked on the link and this is the reading that i received:

beginnings and endings; shedding identity; lunar rhythms; cycles; fresh start; letting go; the only constant is change

The snake bites its own tail, creating a circle that cycles on forever. The end meets the beginning in a rhythm that never stops, is always spinning.

The Rebirth card beckons with a chance to make a fresh start. You need to let go of the old to welcome the new. But through it all you will still be you. The waves of life rise and fall. Go ahead: ride them all.

shut the front door! that could not have been any more spot on. for how i feel in life. for the upcoming celebration of my 41st birthday. for all of the new things that i am undertaking as autumn is beginning. i was totally blown away. and it was a complete affirmation of this feeling of being reborn, once again, in my life.

what comes next

autumn is practically here. september is here as of today. it is the season of beginnings. of gathering the fruit of our planting. of reaping what we have sown. of focusing and getting to work. of embracing the season of finding the joy and sacredness in everyday life, in ordinary things, in living authentically, true to ourselves.

8 years ago, right during my last big rebirth, i was in seminary. studying theology and spirituality. i explored all of the ways (from a christian perspective) that we “know” god. how god is revealed to us. i was studying to be a pastor/priest/minister (whatever word makes sense to you). but, i always knew that i would never actually do that.

my heart + soul challenged me to find my own path back then. to not simply take what i learned and use it for myself in my work, but to reach back into my education as a teacher and use all that i was learning to teach + inspire others. but that process of finding my path has taken a while.


back then i felt the call to take all of the religious bullshit that made no sense, and inspire others to see that it’s not about the religion, but about relationships. it’s often assumed that to be religious or spiritual means that one also is holy, above others, closed-minded, untouchable, perfect. that religion + spirituality actually have nothing to do with everyday life.

and i can understand how people feel and think that. religion has done a fabulous job of alienating, excluding, boring, putting up walls, creating rules, and pushing away real life. people get lost in empty rituals or old routines that mean nothing, instead of being given tools and ways of meeting the spiritual in every single little moment of life.

because it is possible, my friends., to live a meaningful, mindful, spiritual life. and, oh how beautiful it is when life is lived like that.

spirituality is not a box. it is freedom. and that, is what i intend to use this next part of my life teaching.

in seminary, i formulated my ideas and beliefs on how we can know that life is meant to be lived more deeply, how we are here to do more than exist, and how spirituality is actually a part of everyday life. the creative energies that connect us all (whether you call them god, magic, allah, tao, spirit, or anything else) move in and among us at all times. empowering + inspiring us, and teaching us to live life from our soul. and when we do that, then we are in creation with each other + the whole world, making a difference, spreading love + light.

i want to share + inspire others to find all of the ways to tap into our souls. all of the ways that energy and divine, holy, magical, sacred things show up, helping us to align our lives with our life’s purpose. inspiration is found + created in scriptures, traditions, experience, books, words, people, art, places, stories, music, nature, religions, science, mystery…


i believe that we are all searching for a deeper way to live life. and i have found a way of living with the mystery and magic – of learning to be, love, and live. how to follow my bliss. of course, my way is not the only way. in fact, my way is only my way for me. but, i am here to help inspire you and others to discover you own way, your own path, your own soul, your own truth.

the one truth that i do know, and i know it from a place that i cannot explain, is that we are all connected. that we are spiritual beings, called to live life as who we are created to be. and all of life is that beautiful journey of discovering + uncovering more of what’s in the depths of our soul, and how those depths are the places where the holy, divine energies of love and peace live.

my commitment

starting with this new month, with this new year of my life, in the midst of this new birth, i have committed myself to two different things which will help me work towards turning my dreams of writing, photography, education, blogging, and teaching into a business. a business that helps to guide and inspire others in finding their own bliss, in listening to their own souls, in living a mindful, intentional life filled with spirit and peace.

yoga mat sat nam rasaya

yesterday i began a year-long training called sat nam rasayan.  in sanskrit sat nam rasayan means “deep relaxation in the Divine Name” or “rise to oneself to the essence of True identity”.  it  is a meditative technique that focuses on the full ability to feel, thus leading to healing, or wholeness. it is a part of the study of kundalini yoga, something that i have practiced off and on for about 4 years now. this is an amazing opportunity to help me in working with myself + with others, in discovering our paths, our souls, and our unique purposes in life.

in october i will also begin a year-long course in life coach training. it will be an amazing year of learning all of the ins and outs of becoming an internationally certified life coach, or as i will say, spiritual coach.

so, in a year, i will be a certified spiritual coach with a certification in sat nam rasayan meditation as well. well on my way of beginning to practically answer my call to minister, guide, teach, and journey with others, as they discover their own souls.

 it is an amazing time in my life. and i am so incredibly blessed.

so. yeah. that was a lot of information. i may have simply written it down for myself. but, if you made it through and read it to the end, then i am eternally grateful for you caring enough to read my thoughts + words.

please know that i am here for you. i will listen to you, just as you have followed and read and listened to me. it’s a mutual give and take.

until next time, dear friends, may the spirit of love + peace fill your souls. may each day be a new experience of birth for you, as you become more + more the person that you were created to be. and may you be inspired by all that is around you, seeking the sacred + holy in the most ordinary of moments.

“The whole life of the individual is nothing but the process of giving birth to himself; indeed, we should be fully born when we die – although it is the tragic fate of most individuals to die before they are born.” ― Erich FrommThe Sane Society

onwards + upwards! xoxo

21 day mantra meditation // click –> here
yoga vision wheels of life chakra series // click –> here

how to connect with nature: a meditation on the four elements

it’s no real secret if you peek around here on my website that i’m a nature lover. it’s also no secret that i’m a lover of meditation too.

nature has been a huge part of my life for as long as i can remember. from family holidays at the beach to camping in the woods on a mountain top to just running around in a backyard. the wide open sea, the wind in my hair, a campfire crackling at night, and a walk through a magical forest all touch my soul. nature connects me to myself, to others, and to the world around me. i see the cycle of life in nature, and i learn what it means to live an authentic, spirit-filled life from the trees and the flowers.

summer is the time when we have the joy of being outside the most – though i’d argue that all seasons are the perfect time to be outside. immersing ourselves in nature + exposing ourselves to the weather we remember what’s important. we remember to slow down and to soak in everything that is around us.

to say that i need nature like i need my breath would be an accurate statement.

for me, simply being in nature is meditating. there’s no need to plop down on a pillow and light a candle to meditate. just slip on some flip flops or stuff your feet in some boots, and take a walk.

observe + breathe. that is meditation.


sometimes, though, it’s nice to do a meditation on nature. to gather some materials and symbols of nature, ponder them, and reflect on how nature inspires and nourishes us – physically + spiritually. and sometimes, we just can’t make it outside to meditate.

so, i’ve created a short meditation that you can use at any time. anytime that you miss being outside or need to connect with the physical planet. or any time you just want to honor mother nature and all of her glory. this is not a pagan, buddhist, christian, or any other religious meditation. it’s just one that i have created on my own to help me get back in touch with my inner flower child. so, if you are interested… here you go:

the four elements: a guided meditation
what you’ll need:

· pillow or mat. or a chair.

· create an elemental altar:  something that symbolizes a bird or a feather to represent air (i used a tiny paper crane). a glass or bowl of water. a candle to represent fire. a plant or a flower or fruit/vegetable, hopefully something with some dirt from the earth.

·any other religious or spiritual symbol you like to have around you when you meditate.

· instrumental music, if you wish. or you can sit in silence.

· a journal + pen, if you would like to write during or after.

what  you’ll do:

simply put, this is a meditation about the four elements: air, water, fire, and earth. it’s a chance to just sit and bring awareness to each element. one at a time. it’s a chance to let ourselves ponder each element + feel each element, noticing the things that we most likely take for granted every day. slowing down just enough to notice the sacred in the ordinary. it is a chance to reconnect with our selves, through nature.

the idea is not to empty your mind (cause that almost never happens to me!), but to simply still your mind. to slow down and to pay attention. and to let whatever feelings or revelations come + go as they wish.

Get present

first, find a good place to sit. either a chair at a table, or on the floor. or even outside, if you wish.

make your altar: place your symbols on the table or floor in front of you. line them up or make a circle. whatever feels right to you.

now, close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply + slowly. just sit there for a few minutes and let yourself land. leave behind all of the other busyness of the day and just simply be present. right here, right now. feel that you are getting in touch with yourself + with your surroundings. don’t try to empty your mind, but let your thoughts come + go, like watching a parade go by outside your window. just breathe. give yourself the gift of slowing down right now. of turning inward and tuning into your inner voice.


now, open your eyes and pick up your air symbol. hold it in the palms of your hands. look at it briefly, then close your eyes again, still holding your air symbol.

how does the symbol feel in your hands? what does it represent? keep holding it. feel the lightness of it. the lightness of the air all around you. do you feel any breeze? do you feel your breath moving in and out of your nostrils, filling your belly and your lungs?

perhaps air reminds us of freedom. and inspires us to fly as high as we can. where would you fly to if you could fly? how would it feel to you to soar way up in the sky?

perhaps the air can even inspire us. did you know that the word “inspire” comes from the same word that spirit comes from? and that the hebrew word ruach means breath, wind, spirit. they are all one in the same.

the air is inspiration, it is the breath of the spirit. it is the wind that keeps us alive and sweeps us up in its breeze, soaring high above where we ever thought we could be.

how high can you soar? where will the air carry you? what possibilities and dreams do you have out there?

just ponder. and breathe. let the wind carry you. the the air fill your lungs.

when you are ready, return your bird or feather back to its place.


now, pick up the bowl of water that you have. dip your fingers into it. submerge your whole hand, if you wish. maybe even pour some of it out on your hands or feet. interact with it.

hold the bowl in your hands. keep one finger in the bowl, if you’d like. close your eyes. and just breathe for a moment.

when you feel the water on your skin, what does it remind you of? what thoughts or memories come to you? what does water mean to you? do you enjoy being in water, or does it frighten you?

spend a few moments just soaking in your feelings and thoughts about water.

we need water in order to survive. it makes up about 70% of our bodies and about 70-75% of the earth’s surface. there’s no denying its importance. it nourishes us.

but, water can also teach us a lot about life. it is alive and flowing. think of a river, and how the water simply flows, making the adjustments it needs depending on the environment. sometimes it’s slow and lazy, sometimes it’s powerful and dangerous. but, it keeps moving forward towards its destination. it’s a never-ending journey, for once it reaches the ocean, it is then re-evaporated in to the clouds, falling once again to earth, and then flowing right back to the sea.

what can we learn from that? is there a destiny, a calling that you have? is there a purpose, or a way to live your life more authentically, true to your nature? what nourishes your dreams?

when you’re ready, return the bowl of water to its place.


carefully pick up the candle and hold it in your hands. depending on what kind of candle you have, you may want to keep your eyes open. it won’t matter… staring into a flickering flame can be quite powerful and mesmerizing.

just breathe. deeply. and slowly.

imagine the flame that burns within you. the thing that is your passion. the person that you are burning to be.

for me, fire can represent our individuality. we all have a light burning within us. it is a light that connects us to each other, and yet, it is unique within each of us. this light is what transforms us, and shows us who we are created to be. it is the deep love of something or someone, the thing that sparks our soul.

what do you love? what are you passionate about? just sit with that for a while. let the answers arise from within you like the flame rising from your candle.

when you are ready, return the candle to its place.


pick up your plant that represents the earth. if you have dirt with your plant, stick your fingers in it. put some in your hand.

close your eyes and hold your plant/dirt.

as much as we need to fly and be free in the air, flow like the water, and feel the passion of fire within us, we also need to be grounded.

dirt is getting back to basics. it reminds us to stay rooted. to be strong and firm, like a tree that is planted in the earth, that stands strong , even in the midst of the storm.

the earth helps us to remember our own roots, our organic and natural ways of being. this is authentic  living at its best. perhaps that’s why many of us love camping or gardening so much. we get our hands and bodies dirty. we commune with nature. we simplify and return to the earth.

feel the dirt in your plant or in your hand. breathe deeply. remember that who you are is exactly who you are supposed to be. you are strong, alive, and have everything within you to grow tall and to reach for the sky.

take some time to ponder: do you feel grounded? are you living your life true to yourself, stable and attached to your soul? do your roots go deep?

just be with yourself. reconnect. touch the ground. feel the energy pulsing in the earth. it is from here, all things grow.

when you are ready, return your plant to its place.

closing your meditation

close your eyes once again and just breathe. in and out. deeply. slowly. let the images + thoughts swirl around inside you. feel the energy that nature brings to you. and give thanks for the inspiration that you have felt.

when you are ready open your eyes and gaze at the symbols gathered before you. let them that be reminders of this meditation. but, more importantly, let them be reminders of who you are and who you are called to be.

before you return back to you daily activities, i invite you to close by rubbing your hands together vigorously so that they produce heat, then place them together in front of your heart, against your chest. breath in + out, deeply three times. then bow your head, giving thanks for this time that you have taken for yourself.

finally, enjoy this video/music as you move from meditation back into your regular routine:

if you feel like it, journal or blog your thoughts. take a photo of your little elemental altar that you used during the mediation and share it on instagram (use #fourelementsmediation). if you would like to chat further or have any questions, please email me at liz [at]belovelive dot com or leave a comment below.

i truly hope that this meditation gave you a chance to slow down and to reconnect with yourself, inspired by the wonder + beauty of nature.


onwards + upwards! xoxo

// sing to the mountain lyrics //

Let the fires burn tonight
Let the jugs of wine get drunk
Let the truth be known tonight
Don’t go let yourself hide

Go and sing to the mountain
Go and sing to the moon
Go and sing to just about everything
Cuz everything is you

Listen to the rhythm
Of your heart play like a drum
Listen to the night call
Singing songs from all around

Go and sing to the mountain
Go and sing to the moon
Go and sing to just about everything
Cuz everything is you

And let your voice go
Let it pierce through your soul
And let your voice go
Let it pierce through your soul

// week twenty four // the first peek at swedish summer

it’s monday again! and, we’ve got a short week here in sweden. friday is midsummer’s eve, so everyone will be off from work + dancing around maypoles, drinking like fish, and worshipping the sun, celebrating her longest day of the year. it’s definitely a midsummer night’s dream – and the night where the sun never really goes to bed. i’m not sure what our plans are yet (and it looks like it may rain… booooo!), but you can be sure we’ll be outside come rain or shine!

last week, though, summer finally arrived! there were days of bright sunshine, and that meant that we took advantage of every chance we could to soak it all up. i dare say that my love + i even got a little sun coloring on our skin. it felt soooooo good. all of that vitamin d. my energy level was high, my spirit was high, everyone walked around on a great big sunshine high.

so, here’s what my week looked like up here in the land of the midnight sun, where the nordic summer takes your breath away…

a little beer bottling adventure for two chicks brewing (read more about that –> here)

beer bottles two chicks brewing

the cat is sleeping all the time. it got that hot in our apartment. zola-sleeping-sunshine
strolling through our secret gardensecret-garden
no socks!! green-shoes-flowers
staying grounded + inspired (mercury retrograde…. gaaah!)
…which is necessary, when everything falls off of your bike + a BBQ sauce jar breaks + explodes everywhere in the middle of a square in the middle of
more meditating. this time in the park, on a bench. because it was hooooot + beautiful
purple pom pom flowers!purple-flower
a skype fika date with my friend in atlanta!skype-fika-date
no jacket + sandals! happy friday to me! me-sandals-walking
beer. fries. sunshine. my love. meeting my love after
sunshine makes us silly + giddysunshine-my-love-fun
the first BBQ of the year!bbq-grill-home
grilling out with friends + familybbq-picnic-outside-friends-uppsala
cheers to the perfect summer eveningbeer-outside-foam
sunset at 11pm. i love this so freaking much.sunset-11-pm
urban vibes in downtown uppsalaurban-shoes-wire-downtown-uppsala
my favorite block in the whole city: svartbäcksgatanuppsala-svartbacksgatan
the river + the cathedraluppsala-river
everyone’s loving ituppsala-park
river loveuppsala-river-industrial
silos in the industrial part of townsilos-industrial-uppsala

i don’t really have any photos from sunday, but i can share with you what i did: i blogged in the morning and then the rest of the day my love + i completed season three of “orange is the new black”. it rained all day, so it was a pretty near perfect ending to the day + the week.

here’s to sending you lots of love + light as you begin your new week!

onwards + upwards!

ten on ten :: june 2015

another month is gone, and we are practically halfway through 2015. that blows my freaking mind. it’s gonna be great to have this little chronicle of one day of regular life from every month, so i can look back + see how things have (or have not) changed. hopefully, it’s fun for you, too, to see little snippets of my life.

my ten on ten for june just happened to fall on one of the first beautiful spring days we’ve had this year. yes, spring + early summer are just arriving here in sweden, which is not completely normal.

but, yesterday was great. so i was outside quite a bit. but, other than that, it was a really regular kind of day. those are good + exciting as well, you know. how great it is when we start to see the extraordinary even in the ordinary?! something i really, really try to do.

anyway, here’s my day. in 10 shots!

breakfast: swedish yogurt is to die for


a little meditation time on the floor: my pillow time
i didn’t mean to, but suddenly i found myself organizing the clothes in my closet. random burst of cleaning, i guess.closet-organize
time to work! emails, applications, conversations, planning, job-hunting, blogging, etc. and a cat, of
coffee break!coffee-me
time to leave + head downtown to meet my love. and i didn’t need socks!!
fresh juices with my love in the sun + by the river
a little window shopping: found a perfume that i want badly. it would be my summer scent. but, i didn’t buy it. maybe later… hehe.
back home with a beer in the sunshine in our apartment’s little backyardbeer-backyard-sunshine
11 pm and the sun is setting.  so beautiful. so peaceful.sunset-uppsala

i really hope that your week is going well… wishing you lots of extraordinary ordinary moments! it’s almost weekend, lovelies!

onwards + upwards! xoxo


the icon

i promise that i won’t write about writing all of the time, but i’m just so damn excited. i have never felt so motivated. but, more than that, i have never made so much progress as i have in the past 3 days. i mean, i’m glued to my table pretty much. as much as i can be without forgetting the rest of life + other responsibilities.

i just wanted to share a quick little story about something that happened today.  well, to start with, two days ago i pulled out all of my journals again, going through them to make notes on the important things that have occurred in the past 7 years. things that i wanted to be sure to include in my story. when i opened up one of them, an icon card fell out of some random place in the middle of the journal. it landed on the table beside me.

i smiled and chuckled, knowing that i hadn’t seen it, or thought of it even, in years.

i remembered immediately where i got this little icon card of jesus. it was in athens, greece. in 2007. it was in a little gift shop where orthodox priests worked during the day, just outside of a church. i remember standing in there, completely in awe of everything around me. i so wanted to buy a greek bible, but i had not taken greek, so i decided not to make that purchase. but, i was definitely going to stock up on a little icon symbolism. i had already bought a little wooden icon that had peter on it. and a powerful postcard with the virgin mary on it. i suppose i decided that it was time to buy a jesus symbol.

so, i bought this card.


my little jesus icon card has been on the table, shuffled + mixed about with all of my notecards, since it fell out of my journal two days ago. but, today, as i sat down to begin working, i noticed it, and i made the connection that i bought this card in athens, greece, right at the time that everything began to change for me. i dare say that this trip was the beginning of my journey to peace.


so, this morning, as i sipped on my first cup of coffee while standing at the window, i decided that this card would be a sort of muse for me. my inspiration. a reminder of my journey. therefore, wherever i go, wherever i work on this story of mine, i will carry the card with me. it will lay beside my computer. close by, watching over, as i write and write and write. as i journey back in my mind and in my memory, as i reflect on all that i have felt and learned, as i discover and uncover new truths.

my little jesus icon card. a symbol of my journey. my muse.

onwards + upwards! xoxo

* the meaning of the icon. first of all, icons were used art used to teach . the images told the meditators something about the christian faith. everything is symbolic in icons. in my icon, called jesus the pantocrator (greek for “almighty”) jesus is surrounded by a halo, a pretty universal symbol for holiness. in the halo are three greek letters,  ώ Ό Ν (omega, omicron, nu) meaning “the being” or “he who is”. the red and green garments are symbols of divinity and humanity, referring to the nature of the belief of jesus christ as both fully human and fully divine. his fingers are spelling out the trinity: the father, son and holy spirit. a belief of the three different manifestations of the divine. and the book symbolizes that jesus is a teacher.

for many protestant christians, icons are not used. people get all freaked out and think that if you look at an icon, you are worshipping the icon instead of who or what it represents. poppy cock, i believe. i have used icons (from all religions, of course) for years. i even taught about them when i worked in a protestant christian church. scandal! 

they are an incredible way to meditate. to simply hold your gaze onto the image and let it speak to you. there is no need to know what it all means. just to let it speak is powerful. knowing what it means just makes it all the richer of an experience. 

think of it like watching a sunset. gazing at it in awe. letting whatever feelings and thoughts come to mind. just letting yourself go… just being in the present moment. 

now you understand how i see icons. how they can speak to me. how, my little jesus icon spoke to me again today. 


six ways to love like a buddhist

i’ve stumbled onto a website recently that has tons of great articles. elephant journal is “dedicated to the mindful life.” it’s full of inspiring, thought-provoking articles that always make me slow down and ponder just a little bit. to me, many of the articles are a bit like an inspiring, informative meditation. clearly, that’s stuff that’s right up my alley.

today i ran across one that talks about ways to show your love. after the earthquake in nepal this weekend, and the refugee deaths off the coast of italy/sicily last week, and the police violence in the states that seems to be never-ending, i thought that a meditation on loving each other would be just perfect today.

so, i’m going to share with you those six ways to show love, with the hope that we all find a way to spread a little peace and love and encouragement to someone today. if we feel overwhelmed by the pain + suffering in the world, and feel that we can’t make a difference in the places that there is great suffering + violence, at least we can make a difference in the midst of our life.

love encourage


how often do we give for just the sake of giving, expecting nothing in return? generosity is an offering, a sacrifice, a completely selfless act in the hopes of simply doing something for another. not expecting a gift in return or even an expectation of how things should be. we let go of our egos, put away our pride, and rely on the sacred place within us to guide us to just give love. no take backs. or perks. or rewards. just love.


in other words mindfulness. yes, living a mindful life is one that shows love to others, though we usually think of mindfulness as a private act. practicing loving mindfulness means that we are present, aware, and completely at peace with who we are + where we are. we give full attention to the present moment, and all of those who are around us. once again, there is no egoistic need to be the center of everything, but we simply, slowly, lovingly experience what it is happening right now. we discipline ourselves to just be.


how well do we control our emotions? that is, we feel them and sit with them, but we don’t fly off the handle at any moment. patience allows us to slow down + take a breath. it means that we don’t need to be right, that we listen, that we meet people where they are, even if we don’t agree with them. when we can give someone else space and allow them to be exactly who they are, then we are willing to wait a bit. we may not understand, but we accept. and when that safe place is created, then we can be of influence and help to someone. but, not, as the ones who know what is best, only as one who cares to journey with someone. patience doesn’t mean that we are right and someone else is wrong. it simply means having an accepting, loving, and calming nature. only when there is patience, can we begin to have meaningful discussion.


this is where the rubber hits the road. this is where we acknowledge that reality sometimes sucks. but, instead of staying in that place of sucky-ness, we realize that there is work to be done. diligence means that we show up, we dig in, we do the work that has to be done. and we do it with a positive, grateful attitude. or at least not an attitude of “poor me”, “this sucks”, “why me?”, or “look at how hard i work”.  no, diligence is once again, a selfless, determined way of living. of knowing that not everything is rainbows and puppy dogs, but of trusting in the knowledge that there is world to be done, and that we have a higher purpose: to co-work to make our lives + this world a better place. so, with power + strength from within, we get to work. and we do not give up.


again, we tend to think that this is a selfish, internal act. but, meditation is the foundation of learning how to live a life of love. the benefits of going inward every single day allow us to take care of our selves, our mind and our soul. and, when we feel peace, then we spread peace. it’s as simple as that. of course it’s great to meditate for 10-20 minutes every day, but even a minute or two here or there brings us back to our center – a great thing to do when we feel stress, fear, confusion, sadness. you know, if we do not create a safe, calm space for ourselves, then we will definitely not be able to create that space for others. if we pull ourselves inward, breathe deeply, chant, pray, or just sit; and if we do it on a regular basis, then the love will naturally flow.

transcendental knowledge

all of life is connected. and how we treat others is how we treat ourselves, and vice versa. compassion + love isn’t just being kind and friendly and accepting everyone and everything. it’s much more than that. it’s about truth.

when we are open, we are able to be truthful. we lovingly stand up for what is right, even if it is hard to do. we say the tough things, but we say them in love. we create harmony, but we create really harmony, not just a “if we don’t don’t about it everyone will be happy” kind of harmony. i mean deep, true, real harmony. we don’t avoid, but face head on what is really going on. and we ar able to do that without losing hope because we are grounded and secure and have let go of our need for attachment and ego-stroking. real love is telling the truth, casting a vision, believing in hope, and doing it all with warmth + kindness flowing from your soul.

this is the love that heals, and transforms, and brings peace.

i know that some of these 6 things i am way better at than others. i have more to learn + work to do. but, it is my hope, my desire to dig deeper and to discover new ways that i can spread love in my own special way, using the passions and experiences and gifts that i have been given. in this messed up, crazy world, we need all the love we can get.

here’s to wishing you a beautiful week, friends.

onwards + upwards!

you can find the original article from elephant journal –> here.

kitchen table morning

meditation mondays: have i forgotten who i am? have you?

You are not what you do. You are not what you don’t do.
You are not the job title. You are not a labeled societal sub group.
You are not your personality;
You are not a happy person, a depressed person or an angry person.
You are not a definition of your own qualities.
Who are you?
You are not who your mother says you are.
You are not who your best friend says you are.
You are not your own descriptions of yourself.
Drop all the labels, titles, designations, descriptions, accomplishments and even failures.
Below the labels, beneath the layers, on the most subtle level…
What do you feel?
What is left?
What is there?
Who are you?
If you are not what you do,
If you are not what other say you are,
If you are not a set of descriptions,
Who are you?
Lets move a little deeper.
You are not defined or confined by the limits of your physical body.
You are not your beating your heart, you are not your breath.
You are not your mind, emotions or thoughts.
If you are not all these “things”…
Who are you?
A better question may be not who are you, but what are you?
Take a deep breath into every cell of your being. As you exhale release all the labels, all the descriptors, titles, both other and self created. Bask in this space.
What are you?
Close your eyes and feel your way to it. Don’t define it, don’t put it into words, but feel it completely.
Do you feel a sense of spaciousness, of limitlessness, of infinite potential?
If you are not all or any of these things, if you can not be defined or put into words, but only felt.
What are you?
Remember who, or better yet, what you really are.
Remember your potential, remember your limitless possibility.
Remember that you can not be defined, by self or other.
Remember what you are, where you come from and why you’re here.
Remember your knowingness, your awareness, remember your truth.
What are you?
You are the awareness of all these things.
You are embedded deep within yet extend far beyond.
You are the driving force of all these things.
You are both the wave and the ocean.
You are both the dance and the dancer.
You are both the creator and the container.
You are me as I am you.

Author: Alexa Torontow

onwards + upwards, loves! xoxo


mini blog challenge | post 1: BE

it’s day one of the belovelive mini blog challenge! and today’s theme is being. what keeps you grounded? do you have any practices, disciplines, rituals that you do?

for me, being is the foundation of life. it is first + foremost the thing that i seek to “do” every single day… whether it is meditating, reading, praying, practicing yoga or simply soaking up nature. taking time to simply be is critical for staying connected + attached. it’s a tough thing to do, making us feel guilty for taking the time to slow down and just be with ourselves. society teaches us to speed up, do more, and stay busy. otherwise we are lazy and self-centered.

of course, i totally disagree. though i fight those guilty society feelings every single day. but, deep down, i know that creating my own inner peace is what is most important. for, only when i create that still, quiet space within… only when i am attached to my source, my soul, the divine light within, am i able to know who i am. only by going within can i find the courage to simply be me, to feel inspired, and open myself to the ways that i can be used in the world.

it all must begin with being.

my goal for these first three posts in the mini blog challenge is to go back through my blog and find quotes that i have shared related to being, loving, and living. so, today, i am going to share with you some quotes that i have posted in the past that continue to inspire me today. in fact, i’ll let you in on another little secret as well: the quotes i am gathering will be used in my upcoming book that i am writing: from death to peace . so, i am doing “research” and work for my book as well as posting this post. (and i am proud of my effectiveness! hehe!).

some of my favorite quotes on being




“You must know nothing before you can learn something, and be empty before you can be filled. Is not the emptiness of the bowl what makes it useful? As for laws, a parrot can repeat them word for word. Their spirit is something else again. As for governing, one must first be lowest before being highest.” ― Lloyd AlexanderThe Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen



“if you wish to be a mine of jewels, open the deep ocean within your heart.” ~rumi

“the universe is not going to see someone like you again in the entire history of creation”. ~ vartan gregorian

“the most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. you trade in your reality for a role. you trade in your sense for an act. you give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. there can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. it’s got to happen inside first.” ~ jim morrison

“your work is to discover your work & then with all your heart give yourself to it.” ~ buddha

“by living deeply in the present moment we can understand the past better and prepare for a better future.” – Thich Nhat Hanh



‘the way of the tao teaches that “without the center, the surface means nothing… what we are brings meaning and purpose. beneath the restless surface of our lives lies a deep source of peace, power, and inspiration. we find that deep center in reflection or meditation.”  the way of the tAO

i found this back in the archives of my blog, and i decided that it was exactly how i wanted to end this post. it is something i wrote on the 7th of may 2012, and it still speaks to me + reflects how i feel today. so, here you go:

“my dear friends & family, one of the greatest gifts and greatest challenges in life is to simply be who you are. to discover the voice within that comes from your soul, and then to listen to it. to live life from that voice, embracing all of your quirks, unique qualities, talents, shortcomings, dreams, and everything in between. it’s hard to do that. i know. i am still learning, even though i’ve come a long way.

it’s true, it’s a long journey, but no one said we had to have it figured out by a certain age, or at a certain time. it takes a lifetime. but, perhaps that’s part of what this life is all about. the idea is just to keep discovering… uncovering & freeing yourself more & more every day.

and you are worth it. you are so worth it. you are worth everything. you deserve to be free & to seek inner peace. this self-discovery thing isn’t just about you, though, i believe. you are here for a reason. there’s a purpose to this crazy, wandering, life full of both suffering and joy. we need you. this world needs you, needs all of us… to simply be who we are. and then, together, from all different lands & experiences, with different thoughts, opinions, perspectives, dreams… yes, together, we will make beautiful music. for what connects us, our similarities, our humanness; well, that is much stronger than our differences. imagine all that we can do and be together.

so, just be you. commit to letting your inner voice lead you. follow your instinct, your heart, your soul. be you – exactly who you were created to be. because you are beautiful and you are loved. just as you are.” 

onwards + upwards! xoxo