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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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

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

Detox to Retox, Super Bowl Style

The past four days have been so fantastic and fun and fabulous and fulfilling. Mike and I started our weekend doing a serious detox at the amazing local yoga we attend (it’s run by the most badass woman I’ve probably ever met- perfect combo of cardio, strength and mindfulness. If you live in the area check her out at Some.Yoga Studio). We did a hard but beautiful candelit Vinyasa flow then headed home with our organic salads and sipped on detoxing teas before heading to bed. 8 hours later, we woke up and went back to the studio where we completed two back-to-back classes where we sweated out toxins, did lots of detoxifying twists, drank a very green (and unappetizing) juice and then, then as a little community, we headed to a local homegrown Somerville brewery and cheers’d to a lot of calories burned and a lot of negative emotions released. Two of our best friends then visited that night and we had delicious pizza in the North End. If you didn’t know, I have a serious addiction to pizza. If I go over a week, I start having withdrawals. Like for serious. So since we had to break out tradition of Friday night pizza due to the detox, it was necessary to chow down on some of Italy’s best creation.



And THEN, THEN THERE WAS SUNDAY. SUNDAY THE SUPER BOWL. Mike grilled buffalo wings, I made a taco style nachos, and an award-winning chachterutie board and the good luck beers flowed. And then we were taught by the best sports team in history that you NEVER EVER EVER give up. It was a quiet household in the beginning of the third quarter… my eyes grew wider and my forehead wrinkles were getting deeper as I had a face of fear on my face. But even though my stomach was flipping and my head was beginning to think, it could be too late, my heart– as well as I think every true New England fan felt– we could still come back. There’s nothing that that coach, that quarterback, or that team can’t do. And then play by play we did. And then we witnessed the greatest comeback of all time.


Two years ago when we won the Super Bowl (as I say that I also just want to say, HOW LUCKY ARE WE TO BE PATS FANS?!?!?), I watched it in a hospital room as Mike rubbed my back, my mom held my hand and Dr. Mandy humored us (because lets face it, she does have more important things to worry about then football). And they pulled off a huge upset and won that game and I thought about how lucky I was to be here to see such an amazing win. I needed that lift of my spirit that night and this year, in a much different way but in as just as real way, I needed that lift of my spirit. I needed to be reminded that seriously, anything is possible and even when you’re down, if you believe in yourself and believe in those around you, you can make your dreams come true.

Today, I felt blessed that on my 7th day of ‘life exploration/unemployment,’ I was able to spend the day with my baby brother cheering on the incredible New England Patriots as they paraded down the streets of Boston for the fifth time. And as I was on the orange line, packed in a like a sardine, waiting for my stop in Somerville, I thought about what a special moment I had just gotten to be a part of. Typically the train makes me nervous and I don’t enjoy the smells of sweat and cigs. Many times, you’re on this train with hundreds of people and you don’t feel like a community; in fact, most of the time, I am just thinking about getting off “that thing” as quick as possible. But today, that train felt like a family train- we had all just cheered as our team paraded the streets of our beautiful city with their 5th Lombardi Trophy. Everyone on the train was excited and happy and wet, very very wet. But above all, we were proud. So proud to be from this great city and so proud of the team that we get to call ours. It may sound silly because these feelings of community , inspiration, and just simple happiness all came from a football game but that’s why sports are such an important part of society, because it’s serves as a common ground for so many of us when sometimes, that’s all we may be able to agree on. 

Cheers to sports and yoga and parades and #PATRIOTSNATION!!!

Lots of love & light,

Jessy

6 Weeks In

I used to count how many months “down” I was. But tonight, I can say I’m a month and a half “in” and headed back to Dana Farber for the first time as a “graduated” patient tomorrow. It’s already been 6 weeks since I got my last dose of chemotherapy and my body and mind are finally beginning to truly heal. After two years of a tingly tongue and numbness in my fingertips, those underlying & continuous feelings have gone away. So have much of my fatigue, headaches and nausea are gone. I no longer have to stop eating two hours prior to going to bed because of a daily chemo pill. I’ve gotten to lift life restrictions.

I’ve had a dirty martini. 🙌🏼


I’ve eaten sushi.


I’ve gone in a public pool and hot tub and not worried about getting an infection.


And had a mani/pedi day with my best without worrying about going against doctors recommendations not to in order to reduce risk of more infections.


I’ve gone to the Red Sox game with friends and stayed out too late on a work night.


I’ve become obsessive over the new Beyonce album. (Download ‘Freedom’ and then try telling me she’s not my soul sistah)

I’ve done yoga and felt strong the entire time.


I’ve had a 24 hour get-away with Michael


I’ve lived six weeks of a “free me” and damn, it feels good.

I still have so much to work on and mentally get through; some days I’m good and some days I’m emotional. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life, I still don’t know exactly why I was given this second shot but I’m so grateful for it. I’m so happy to get to live my life!
Lots of love & light,

Jessy

The Hike

Last weekend I was lucky enough to spend two days doing one thing and one thing only– taking time for me. I spent my 27th birthday weekend at a yoga/health & wellness facility in Lenox, MA where I did a lot of different activities but one that I did over and over again was write in my journal. I took it just about everywhere and wrote down whatever popped into my head. A lot of good stuff came out– stuff that means something to me and stuff that I want to share here on my blog. So tonight I’m starting where I ended. This is my story of my hike in the Berkshires. 

mountains

The Ascent 

After a gentle yoga/Qi Quong class followed by an aromatherapy massage, I packed my car and got ready for my last little adventure — a guided hike. As I waited for the group to arrive and assemble, I began to feel like this wasn’t right for me. This is my trip— a time to be with my own thoughts and feelings and memories. I didn’t want to make small chat or slow down or speed up for anyone. I wanted this to be my last adventure at my own pace, with my music, my ability to stop and rest, take pictures, write and simply enjoy mother nature and all her goodness. So I grabbed a map of the trails surrounding Kripalu and chose to go to Monks Pond. I’ve been meditating like a modern day Monk all weekend and any option that puts me near water is a good one. So on my way I went. The trail has been really muddy as it’s 45 degrees in February. I feel so grateful as I only have yoga pants on, a long sleeve fleece and sunnies. I can breathe in crisp air but it’s not a stabbing that can come with deep winter colds. As I approach the pond, there looks to be an abandoned little shed and broken dock. But the water has frozen to a shimmery, star-dust blue— it’s breath taking. The sun is shining off and illuminating this frozen but alive body of water.

I look to my left and there’s a stunning stream that I can now see that runs all the way down the path I just marched up. Lucky for me, I’m all alone and no one is around so I’ve sat on a ledge next to the flowing water and am angled directly in the sunlight through the trees. The moving water is so calming and reinforces the fact that life goes on. It hits rocks, splashes up and down, freezes into sculptures at some places and runs wildly down others, crashes upon rocks and creates wade pools in others. But the water, this stream, it all continues to run together in a form that’s one. Each droplet of water essentially going to the same place— a bigger, greater, calmer body of water that is all one. I sit here on this rock and think about the stream I have gone down, all the water droplets that have given me the current I needed to keep flowing on. I feel as if I’m rounding the bend with this vast beautiful body of water that will await for me now in my current life but acts as just a foreshadow of the beautiful, completely blissful, full of love body of water that waits me, and all of us, one day.

For February 28, 2016, I can smell the new body of water coming… I can sense the sunshine beaming and I can feel the love all around me.

The Descent

Just as I sat there taking deep breaths and thinking calm and loving thoughts as the stream bubbled beside me, I slowly stood and decided it was time to head back. Almost instantaneously, I got excited— I got borderline panicky— like I needed to get back NOW. I knew that I had made it to where I wanted to go and now I was ready to come home. So I started picking up my pace— jogging, skipping, jumping over mud puddles but realized shortly that I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going. I was on a path— that was for sure— but I was alone, and I didn’t know which direction I was headed. All I knew was that I was walking and I was simply looking for the blue marks on the trees to tell me “it’s this way” “stay on the path.” Immediately, Dr. D and Dr. Mandy came into my head — the whole journey, I’ve been on a path, somewhat blindly putting my full trust into their guidance— sometimes no questions asked, simply looking toward the blue marker to say “go this way” or “turn down here.” Amidst this excitement, I began to skip again. More than anything I wanted to see the clearing. But I couldn’t. Not paying attention, I slipped and fell on ice and I could briefly hear my Dad say “slow it down Jess.” Then my favorite Florence & the Machine song came on — The Dog Days Are Over. That’s it! I thought. This is it— so I literally started dancing my way down the path with my gut knowing that I was coming to a clearing. I was right. But it was the same frozen Monks Pond I had started my “descent” on. 

Keep going— I could hear my mom say, “it’s just a little bit father.”

So I did just that and marched and marched, continuing on the path looking for all signs that pointed me “home” With two very muddy pink sneakers and a damp bum from falling, I made it to the Kripalu camp. Rested right above the hill overlooking the beautiful Berkshire mountains, the sun was just beginning to set. There were cars and people and buildings. Life is just like it was when I went into those woods, but I have a completely different perspective on the same view. 

I’m glad I didn’t go with the hiking guide and group. I needed to do this on my own. I needed to walk the path, stumble, get excited, get let down, and come to the beautiful clearing that I had hoped for, knowing that every ray of sunshine that beat down on my face was a family member reminding me they were here for me— every trail marker, a nurse or doctor letting me know I was doing okay — every breeze that tickled my face and made me laugh, a friend showing their support —  and the horizon at the end, my Michael, my love, I look at those mountains and see so many adventures to be had and memories to be made.

Today is February 28, 2016.

I am here.

I am now.

I am grateful.

I am proud.

I am hopeful.”

selfie with mountains

Lots of love and light,

Jessy 

Favorite Things

I’ve always been a big Sound of Music fan– the entire movie is just incredible. But this song is the epitome of what makes it’s awesome. It’s so important to remember the little things in life that make us happy so here are a few of my favorite things:

  1. Chatting with Mike in bed after we turn off the lights
  2. Being outdoors and watching the water
  3. Riding waves in the ocean and feeling the salt water splash upon me
  4. Relaxing with family and friends
  5. Feeling sunshine hit my face
  6. Being in shavasana after a hard yoga session
  7. Getting back scratchies
  8. Sitting in a hot tub
  9. Getting kisses from Phoebe
  10. Reading in bed
  11. Listening to my niece laugh and watching her dance

What are some things that make you happy? Deep down to your core happy?

I bet you just thinking of a few of these things will make you smile.

Lots of love & light,

Jessy