Spiritual Exploration

Sometimes I walk around the house with a smudging stick, burning the incense and blessing the house and the people & pup in it- my body, the food we eat, the house we live in, the bed we sleep in… I bless everything.

Five years ago if you would’ve told me I’d be doing such a thing, I would’ve made a snarky remark that that type of routine is for a crazy person.

But then life happened and I was forced into exploring my spirituality.

At first I thought it must be in the four walls of a church… I tried that a few times but always felt like I was forcing something that just didn’t feel right.

Then I started practicing yoga for more than just the physical benefits but for the emotional and mental benefits-the simple act of slowing down and focusing on your breath. That opened the door to mantras – affirmations I choose to say to myself – words which resonate with me that I can bring to the surface at any point when I need it most. I started writing down what I’m thankful for each night, even if it’s small, just to ensure myself that I was inserting gratitude into every day. I started meditating. I started praying- to what or who, I actually can’t say- just to a higher being that I know can hear me.

For a girl who felt uneasy in a church and uncomfortable reciting prayers- I have become extremely comfortable with spirituality and what it means to me.

It brings me strength, it provides me guidance and offers me comfort in times I need it most.

I found “the higher power,” in myself. I found spirituality deep in my own soul.

My hope is that you too explore spirituality in an authentic way- that you don’t force yourself into the predetermined box that can often be considered religion – that you don’t judge yourself for thinking or acting in ways you once may not have. My hope is that you can begin to find what spirituality means to you, not by how others tell you it should look, but based only on how it makes you feel. If you open your mind to alternative ways of accessing your inner self and the greater universe around you, I promise, it’ll be a beautiful thing.

Lots of love & light-

Jessy

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July 13, 2018

Timehop is such a weird thing.

Seeing old memories brings you back to that moment in time.

Many images make you smile– they resonate instantly as funny, happy times with friends and family.

But others, have a gut-wrenching effect when reminded of a difficult day in your past.

Today, I’m at the office- I went for a run this morning and did sun salutations on a dock near our house to feel the rays on my skin as I thanked the higher powers for this day and that moment.

What a beautiful way to start July 13, 2018. Later into the day, I opened up TimeHop to be reminded that the years prior, this day has been much different. Each one unique.

Last year, I was taking dance lessons with Mike to get ready for our wedding that was only 10 days away.Image-3

In 2016, Phoebe and I had just returned from a long (clearly exhausting) walk. Image-1 (4)

In 2015, I had just received my alma maters quarterly magazine that featured the fundraising efforts my fraternity had done to raise money for me to come down to Tampa to speak at Relay for Life.

Image-1 (3)In 2014, I had just received the professional pictures back from our family vacation—Mike and I were matching – shiny bald heads.

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In 2013, we were at Mike’s brother’s house celebrating our nieces second birthday.

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In 2012, I was at a club in Chicago with two girlfriends.

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The list could go on and on for another 22 years of memories on July 13th’s.

What it reminded me is that you never know what the next year (or day!) will bring you. My life is so different today than it was four years ago and much different than four years before that. The days keep going, and the memories continue to pile up. You can’t change what has happened and you can’t predict what’s ahead of you. All you can do is appreciate this day, this moment, this life you’ve been given.

Happy FriYay, ya’ll.

Lots of love & light,

Jessy

Promises to Myself

Originally written June 9, 2018

I’m on a flight from Portugal. Mike and I took a two-week vacation to visit more European countries that had been on our wish list- Paris, France – Barcelona, Spain and Lagos in the Algarve region of Portugal and Lisbon Portugal.

But you wouldn’t know that. You wouldn’t know either that I completed and graduated from my yoga teacher training on May 6. You wouldn’t know that instead of “getting out of marketing” like I had set out to do a year ago, I accepted in full time role in April at the company I’ve been working for the past year.

You wouldn’t have known any of that because I have been silent on the blog. I let this blog, this place that once was an outlet for me, become overwhelming and an added pressure that I didn’t need or want. Every time I wrote something “out loud here” – like “yay! like I’m going to become a yoga teacher!” I inadvertently but simultaneously put a crushing pressure on myself to accomplish whatever I just stated because I knew in my head that if I didn’t succeed at what I just said I was going to do- I’d get that embarrassed, pit of guilt in my stomach- the one that says in my head “they’re disappointed in you” – “you didn’t give it your all.”

But with the yoga training, I did give it my all. My all just didn’t become a yoga teacher. But my all learned so much more than postures and poses. My all challenged myself in ways that I haven’t in a long time, getting outside of my comfort zone. I learned about life. About ways to live healthier, about personal tools and techniques to get thru difficult times—I was surrounded for 200 hours with some of the most strong-willed, inspiring women I had ever met: they taught me so much but the biggest lesson was that you can assume all you want about someone else but you NEVER really know what inner demons they are struggling with or how their history has become who they are. Everybody has to “stuff” to deal with so it’s crucial to be compassionate even when you may not fully understand.

Today’s blog is me saying that “I have stuff too.” I live a beautiful, blessed life, but I am scarred, as we all are. Having compassion for myself takes more effort than it comes with ease. Instinctually, my brain will first tell me what I’m doing wrong or what I’m lacking—thing like how I’m not as successful as I thought I would be by this age—how I have a gross stomach compared to girls on my Instagram feed – how I’m not a good enough friend or family member because I don’t make it to every event. Although those first thoughts are what I’m not doing well enough, I am practicing noticing the negative thoughts and then proactively remind myself that even if it’s not going as expected, I am still trying my best- that I am where I am supposed to be.

During our teacher training graduation ceremony, each of us had to choose something to “let go of” or something to “move into.” I decided to let go of something—to let go of (or work towards letting go of) being worried that I’m always letting people down or living up to what I think others expect of me. I tied a red string around my right wrist and symbolically, it is said that it will break and come off when I have overcome this lesson. So this red bracelet might be with me to the end. It was when I was anxious on the plane ride home from Portugal and and thoughts were racing through my mind as I stared at the seat in front of me, unable to read my book, that I started thinking about the promise I had made to myself, and to my fellow yoga sisters. It’s time to start making progress towards that promise by trying to be more concerned with my happiness than the judgements of others.

My first attempt at that is to blog when I am inspired. And I was inspired to share so wrote this blog post I did.

This is the Inspiration Initiative, after all.

Love & light,

Jessy

p.s. here are some pics from our trip! 😍

We’re All Warriors

During the holiday season, there was a holiday card being sold at Dana-Farber that I helped to create. On the back, they credited me as the “artist” and used my ‘cancer slayer’ term that I often called myself. I had approved it but when I saw it in print, I felt a little weird about it – I had always equated being a cancer slayer to being a warrior, and then the thought popped into my head that I was a warrior but I’m not a warrior anymore. I often look at the two years that I underwent treatment and overcame cancer to be two years of my life that I am proudest of, I feel very confident talking about my experience and am always open and empowered to share it with others. But when it comes to other aspects of my life, particularly my career, I feel very sheepish and unsure of myself- I don’t feel like I have slayed the past two years and I certainly don’t feel like a warrior very often anymore.

I had that thought and then I let it fade. But then it came back to me one afternoon during a meditation sitting during my yoga training and I began contemplating the idea that I don’t have to have cancer to be a warrior. I can be a warrior in my everyday life- with every action I take, every compassionate conversation, every day that I get up and go to work, every night when I try being a chef to make a healthy dinner for our family, every time I go to the gym instead of sitting on the couch, every time I do something to accomplish a dream. In so many aspects of life, big and small, I can be a warrior. What if I’m not a just a cancer slayer or work slayer or yoga slayer or pup mom slayer… what if I’m just a life slayer? What if we’re all life slayers?

One of the greatest learnings that I’ve become more familiar with throughout my yoga readings and trainings is to see each human being as who they are and be okay with it. Essentially, to see the warrior inside of everyone. To remember that you never know what’s going on behind closed doors, or sometimes more powerfully, what’s going on in someone’s mind. To remember that everybody has a family that loves them, everybody has a friend that thinks they’re funny or enjoys their quirkiness. Everybody wants the best for their family and friends, their community. Everybody wants to be healthy and to live a prosperous, happy life. Everybody has the same innate quality to feel connected and be included – to “be a part of.” Everybody looks up and sees the same stars, and the same beautiful sun and moon. We all share the same home – we all have different struggles but it doesn’t matter what the struggle is because to each individual, it’s their struggle, it matters, it’s hard, and it takes work to overcome. Yoga, mindfulness, Buddhism teachings have all taught me to remember those common things about other human beings. When someone is particularly annoying or aggravating me, it’s helpful to take a deep breath and realize that I may not know what’s going on in their life and to remember that they have a mother that thinks they’re wonderful, and they probably love the very attribute that I may find annoying. They’re a human, just like me. They have worries and fears and anxiety, just like me. And in one way or another, they are slaying their life. They are slaying the worries that keep them up at night and are a warrior to the personal demons that plague their body and mind. We all are. We all are trying our best—even if to the outsider it may not look like they’re slaying or doing their best—remember that who they are, in this day, is doing their best – maybe they will do “better” in the future, but at this moment in time, this is their best self. We’re all warriors- slaying whatever life throws our way today.

Being a warrior doesn’t mean doing some remarkable achievement—it certainly can mean completing a marathon, or conquering an illness, or beginning an impactful social movement—but a warrior can also be someone that has so much anxiety that their chest hurts and they go to work anyway, it can be the mother that puts their career on pause because they believe in the importance of being home to raise their children—it can be the son or daughter that sacrifices personal growth and time with their significant other to become a caregiver for their sick parent—it can be a person who sees someone being bullied and says something about it—it can be a person who absolutely loathes their job and simply goes to work with a smile on their face because they know that’s what they have to do to get by – it can be a person who’s overweight and goes to the gym despite feeling uncomfortable. It can be anyone because it is everyone.

Everyone, in some way, is a warrior.

Respect that notion about others but most importantly, respect that about yourself. You are slaying life right this second.

Warrior on. 💪🏼

Love & light,

Jessy

p.s. Speaking of being a warrior….. here’s me slaying the winter walk to work

Loving Learning

learning

Tomorrow I start my third weekend of the yoga training. The past three months I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone on multiple occasions. Teaching is way harder and more intimidating than I would’ve anticipated. At the same, it’s exciting to have butterflies in my stomach about something again. Because, honestly, it’s been a while since I really cared about something so much that it made me nervous. Yes, there’s the nerves involved with getting up in front of a group of peers but what I’ve found more stressful is proving to myself that I not only can do this but I can be good at it. I’ve made a choice, one which feels big to me, to explore this path so there’s self-induced pressure to put everything I have into this—to excel at this. Although in the past I’ve always felt confident public speaking, this feels much different than those experiences for a few different reasons. One, I can’t have notes meaning I have to be comfortable with ‘winging it’ (and I am NOT a ‘winger’ lady). And secondly, when I think about the amount this practice has emotionally and spiritually given me, I want to be able to give that those I teach one day.

The other thing that has been surprising in this process is how much I have to learn—it is almost endless. There’s so much more than the postures that have to do with yoga. Every month I have a new book to finish, articles to read, theories to comprehend, — topics like the energetic chakra systems, the history of yoga, the sutras, even the human anatomy! Many times, I’ve thought to myself how funny it is because I feel like I’m back at school- I’m coming home from work at night and needing to take the time to read and take notes rather than relax, I have homework, I’m practicing speaking out loud, I’m physically doing yoga. But the reality is, this time, the work feels different. Growing up and in college, I always did my work, I always studied for tests, I always prepped for presentations—but most of the times, I was trying to memorize it so I could regurgitate the information on a test or in a presentation. But I wasn’t placing the focus on truly comprehending the information. I, like almost every student, felt forced to learn the information but most of the time really didn’t feel like I was going to have to “use it in my life” or remember it in the future. So I would go about learning it, take the test and then be quickly onto the next assignment and topic. I took for granted the beauty of learning. I didn’t realize that actually comprehending material and letting your brain absorb new things and concepts is something that’s actually really amazing. Having graduated college 7 years ago and being in marketing ever since, my mindset in my new “class” is so different this time around. I’ve chosen to learn about yoga, I am hoping to integrate what I learn through this training into a future career, and in general, I’m fascinated by so much of what I’m learning. So yes, is it a lot when I get home from working all day and then take care of phoebe and then make dinner and then have to go upstairs to do some ‘yoga studying?’ Absolutely. But it’s also exhilarating to feel like I’m growing as a person, that I’m learning a new skill, that I’m broadening my view of life. I’m so thankful for this experience, even if it just results in me learning a lot and opening my mind to different ways of thinking. Even if all I get from it is the revival of butterflies in my stomach, then this journey will be a success

What we learn becomes a part of who we are. So I’m excited about learning about a healthy way of life throughout this journey. I hope that each of you get to experience learning “as an adult” or simply as a human that wants to grow rather than memorize. I hope you have the opportunity to learn about things that inspire you and make you passionate and create a fire inside you to continue to learn!

Time to go to bed- full day of classes starts in 9 hours.

Love & light,

Jessycl

Admitting Your Dreams

In February, I wrote about how I’d taken a leap of faith and left my full-time marketing job at an amazing nonprofit, not knowing exactly what my next move was.

It’s nearly November and I still am not sure what my future career life will entail but this past weekend, I took my first step towards a path that I’ve tossed around in my head for the last couple years, I took the first step towards a dream of mine- getting my yoga teacher certification.

I applied to the program this summer and was accepted after returning home from the honeymoon so I’ve known about it for a while but haven’t told many people outside my close friends and family. I started thinking about why I’ve avoided sharing this new venture since it is something I feel passionate about and it’s something that, quite honestly, I’ve committed to spending a significant amount of time and money on. I think I’ve been shy about it because this would be such a different path than my marketing career. I don’t know if people will understand or if I’ll be able to articulate what I want to do—some sort of mix between therapeutic yoga teacher, writer, motivational speaker, wellness coach. Yah, that’s easy to explain! A career in marketing was always direct- I went to school for it, I got a job in it, I switched companies, I moved up in a company, I switched to another company. It was a solid staircase that was easy to envision myself climbing and easy to explain to others. I was proud to say “I’m in marketing” when someone asked what I do. Yoga teacher/blogger seems kind of flighty. I’m worried people will instantly think that I’m leeching off Mike so that I can work two hours a day and stay in yoga pants permanently. I’m worried that people will judge me for switching gears and trying something that’s ‘trendy’ right now. That said, I know in my heart that it would be a career that would actually take a lot of work; it’d be starting a small business, finding and retaining clients, marketing myself, speaking in front of groups of people. It’d be hard. I know that, but I also know that many others don’t know that. Many others narrowly view the practice as something hippies do to workout– you’re basically stretching and breathing right?– it’s viewed as one-dimensional… just another exercise class. But it’s not. The yoga practice dates back hundreds of years and it’s connected to various other studies such as Ayurvedic medicine, Buddhism, reiki, meditation and mindfulness. Personally, I find all of the above to be fascinating and topics that I want to learn more about and be able to share with others. What I find most interesting is how you can take your yoga practice off the mat and integrate it into your daily life to profoundly affect it. I’ve experienced it personally– the amount that yoga truly helped me heal both physically and mentally when I was going through my cancer diagnosis was incredible. And then last weekend I met all these unique and amazing women women in my course and was so inspired by their accounts of how yoga has helped them or their family members. Listening to their stories of various difficulties– spanning from drug addiction to children with disabilities to coping with life tragedies– was truly amazing.

I have a deck of affirmation cards that I’ll randomly grab one and read. Recently, I picked one out and it said “My joy doesn’t depend upon the approval of others. No effective guidance will ever be achieved by seeking the approval of others, for all they desire is different things of you. Constant, pure guidance comes forth from within you. It is always there.” I read it a few times and let it sink in.  It comes from within you. How many times have I heard people say “I literally don’t care at all what people think of me.” And I always wish I could know how true their statement is. How many of those people fully act on exactly what they want to do, without any influence of others? I’d guess very few. I’m clearly an extreme example—I always care what people think. I care if they respect me. I care if they think I’m nice. I care enough to wear make-up most days. I care enough to suck in when I’m wearing a bikini on the beach. I care enough that when I went to teach a mere 7-minute yoga sequence last weekend, I was on the verge of having a panic attack. I don’t think the majority of us will ever get to a complete state of ‘not depending on the approval of others.’ But I think it’s something to work towards.

I have 9 months of training left to go and so much to learn and absorb but I thought that a healthy way to start this journey was to first admit that I’m on it. It’s a different path than I expected to be on, it’s not a clear-cut career and so I know that there’s the risk that I could get my certification and try to start a little business and fail. That’s a reality. But the other reality is that I create a career for myself that I’m passionate about, that I feel fulfilled in, that I inspire others through, that can provide financially for my family, and that I simply enjoy.

That’s the dream.

My hope is that you read this and feel inspired to share your dream, whatever it may be. Be proud of your dream—it’s your dream and nobody else’s.

Love & light,

Jessy

It’s Jimmy Fund Walk Time

In three weeks, on September 24th, I’ll be walking a 10K to participate in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk to raise funds for Dana-Farber. Since this isn’t a Facebook message where I’m talking to a bunch of people I’m not really friends with, I don’t think I need to explain how much that organization means to me. You know my story because so many of you have been here from the beginning, reading each post and sending your kind thoughts and well-wishes. So instead of telling you again why it means so much to me that you donate to Dana-Farber, I thought I’d share with you someone else’s story… someone else’s story that showcases the importance of the work this Institute is doing.

I had gotten this idea to tell someone else’s story yesterday and thought I’d go searching for a ‘compelling story’ tonight. But then I opened my inbox a few minutes ago and I see an email from the Jimmy Fund team with this little guy’s face in it. His name is Asher, he’s from Salem, NH and he too was diagnosed with the same form of cancer I had… acute lymphoblastic leukemia. I couldn’t find out how old he was when he was diagnosed, or how long he went through treatment for. All I know is that this little boy had to endure pain, mental and physical, far beyond his years; that he had to deal with something that no child should ever ever have to deal with.
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And that’s all I think any of us should have to know about Asher or any of the nearly 16,000 children that will get diagnosed with cancer this year in the U.S. They deserve to have a normal childhood that’s filled with super-heroes and birthday parties and bike rides and dance parties — not that’s filled with chemotherapy, and nausea, and headaches and spinal taps.
This year, I ask that you give, whatever you can give, to kids like Asher who have been dealt this horrific hand. Your gift directly fuels the research that will one day find a cure for a cancer, so that one day there won’t be a child in the world that knows their doctors and nurses better than their teachers and coaches. Thank you for giving and thank you for supporting the fight against cancer.
Love, light & gratitude,
Jessy