onwards + upwards, my friends! xoxo
*featured photo from unsplash. photo with text taken + created by me.
*featured photo from unsplash. photo with text taken + created by me.
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.
* 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.
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.
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.
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.
you can find the original article from elephant journal –> here.
Author: Alexa Torontow
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!).
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.”
i literally could not keep my eyes closed during my meditation this morning. i would close them, breathe deeply, and a few minutes later, i would realize that i was looking around my living room or staring out the window. i even took a few photos as the quiet, instrumental music played in my ears. every time i realized that my eyes were open + i was daydreaming or whatever, i quickly shut my eyes again and took 2 deep breaths, repeating the mantra of the day. and then, my eyes popped open all over again. repeat this for 20 minutes and you’ll know what my meditation experience was today.
ineffective? yes. what i needed in some mysterious way? perhaps.
the last 30 seconds of the meditation (which i didn’t know were the last 30 seconds) i suddenly had a feeling of presence and peace. i remembered that today is the beginning of holy week for christians around the world. and i felt my soul yearning for the familiarity of the rituals of this long, silent, mournful week. and then, i felt the presence of love within me, reminding me that i am not alone. that i am on a journey as well, a journey that leads through all kinds of terrain. and, if i want to be faithful to my journey (a faithful disciple in christian terms), then i must be prepared for the road that lies ahead – with all of its twists + turns. and, if i want to be faithful, then i remember to not give up. i remember that i am called to walk this road in life – a life of being true to myself and to who i am created to be. to be anything other than who i am, to do anything other that what i am called to do, is to miss out on the abundance and beauty that life has to offer.
this is the message of holy week. the road is long, tough, painful. and yet, there is beauty and grace all along the way as well. sharing in the sufferings and passions of jesus, of life, transform us into new people. with a new mission, a new way of seeing the world, a new way of being and loving and existing.
i came across this quote this morning, and i just new that i wanted to share it with you:
“No star stops burning in the sky because it isn’t a planet, it does what it needs to do, so must you. So be, and continue to be, until you realize what that truly means, because when you see what you really are, you start to see life differently. You were never meant to compete with those around you, you were meant to live life in a way that invites others to join you in this journey.
If you must rest along the way in your journey, choose a safe place with good company but do not stay there. Rest is good, but it is not our home. Our journey will be filled with many ups and downs, times of grief and hardship. You will have moments where you feel so alone, frightened, and confused. You will question why you chose this path in the first place; it is in those moments that you must find a quiet place to rest, to lay down and watch the stars. You have a long way to go, so learn to love the silence of the path and the still moments where all you feel is the beating of your heart. See the beauty of all that is around you, learn to appreciate that every living thing has a journey to take, and that sometimes they will be with you in your own path.
You have come so far, you have conquered mountains and valleys. You may feel weary now, so rest traveler, rest and know that when you have reached home, there is going to be real rest and joy, real peace and comfort, your tears will be wiped away and your burden taken off. You are so brave to wake up every morning, so full of courage when you make the choice to take a step and then another. May your feet always lead you to wonderful places, and your heart beat with a strength that only you can hold.
Keep walking, weary traveler, never go back; for the path that lays ahead is full of beautiful unknowns and wonderful secrets that yearn for you to discover and love. Keep walking, and know that you are walking a path that is good for you.” – T.B. LaBerge
my friends, no matter where you are, or what you believe, my wish for you is peace along your journey – a sense of who you are + who you are called to be. that who you feel you are in your soul, is how you are able to live your life. it is possible, friends. it is. keep dreaming. keep walking. keep believing.