Saturday, December 20, 2014

Time to Settle In
& Get Cozy!


It's getting colder, the holidays are upon us and, all of a sudden, I'm feeling the need to slow down and get cozy. Of course, that means hot chocolate, marshmallows, a comfy throw and my favorite holiday movies.

What brings you comfy, cozy happiness? Whatever it is, make sure to allow yourself to luxuriate in it this holiday season.

Don't think of it as goofing off. Think of it as prioritizing live out loud joy at the very top of your "to do" list.

You deserve it!

Wishing You & Your Family
a Happy & Healthy
Holiday Season &
a Very Happy New Year!



Friday, December 12, 2014

Entering the Quiet Behind 50,000 Thoughts

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day. – Deepak Chopra

I've been meditating on and off (mostly off) for a couple of years now. I wish I had a good excuse for letting my practice lapse, but I don't.

It's not that I don't have time, because I do.

It's not that I can't sit still, because I can.

The issue is my inability to keep my very rambunctious monkey mind from beating on the walls and making a ton of noise.

In other words, I don't do stillness well.

That's why I was stunned the other day when I tried meditating in the tub. I was trying to relax my muscles after a long day. The lights were off and a lavender candle was burning. I didn't get into the tub intending to meditate, but figured if I couldn't find stillness there, I couldn't find it anywhere. 

I closed my eyes and attempted to still my mind, but it wasn't working. The factory that is my mind just kept spitting out its daily quota of the inane and completely forgettable.

Frustrated, I took another approach and deeply inhaled the lavender air and sat in the lotus position.

My mind continued to race, but I slowly became aware of something different rising up from underneath the noise.

I can't describe it, but it was unpleasant, as if my body was experiencing an inner pain I couldn't pinpoint. 

My thoughts became accusatory, "Why can't you be still. You're just trying to get out of meditating by making yourself feel sick or something."

But the feeling wouldn't go away. As I sat and struggled with it, slowly it made itself heard:

"Dying. Of. Thirst."

Except for a cup of tea that morning, I hadn't had any water that entire day. Unfortunately, being dehydrated isn't rare for me. What was rare was actually feeling thirsty because I've become desensitized and am usually able to completely ignore my body's cravings.

Ironically, as I meditated surrounded by water, I was finally able to enter "into the quiet that's already there." Connecting with my body (which was clearly suffering) allowed me to respond and I immediately got out of the tub and gave myself what I needed.

Find the stillness within isn't always easy. But meditation is always worth the effort,  even if all you realize is that you need a drink of water.

Have you ever been shocked by what arose within you when you quieted your monkey mind? Let me know in the comments below; I answer every one.



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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Thought for the Weekend


For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don't enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are you're not going to be very happy. If someone bases his [or her] happiness on major events like a great job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn't going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness."  - Andy Rooney

In other words, it's all about the little things. 



Image copyright 123RF Photos

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Coming 2015! Reserve Your Hope & Tea, You & Me Mentoring Session Now!

Where there's tea there's hope. Arthur Wing Pinero
Do you know the feeling you get sitting at a friend's kitchen table, sipping a cup of tea, sharing stories, and being heard and supported?
I love that feeling.
That was the feeling I was searching for when I created WhereWeGoNow. Being a part of the Positively Positive community gives me that feeling. We're all survivors of something and we're all trying to create a life of inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy. 

And we all need connection to make it happen.

That's why I'm offering Hope & Tea, You & Me Mentoring Sessions. I know from experience that "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you," (Maya Angelou) and I've experienced the healing power of sharing my stories. Now, I want to offer you what my mentors offered me: a healing space to be heard, understood, guided and inspired. 
Topics to be shared over tea include:

  • How to create more joy in your life
  • How to live your hope
  • Beginning a gratitude practice
  • How to reach out and be heard
  • Celebrating the "little things"
  • Practicing mindfulness to help you live in the here and now
  • What to do with difficult emotions, such as anger, loneliness and stress, and
  • many other possibilities

 You choose the length of each session, which run 30 minutes or an hour long. We'll meet via a Skype audio call (not video, so showing up in your PJ's is A-OK!) After the session, I'll send you an email with notes and some "homework" to help you implement what we've discussed. 

All you have to do to get started is fill out my questionnaire, which gives us both an idea of what you're looking for and how your sessions can be tailored to best serve you. To sign up, fill out the form below (all mentoring sessions are paid in USD via PayPal.) After that, we'll use email to schedule mutually convenient times to talk. If you have any questions, just send me a note at
Are you ready to connect with someone who understands the struggle of surviving whatever life throws at you? Do you want to open up and tell your story without fear of judgment? If you do, I'm holding a supportive space open just for you. 

Let's get together for a Hope and Tea, You and Me Mentoring Session very soon!



Image courtesy Jeff Kubina

A NOTE ABOUT CANCELLATIONS: If you can't make a booked session, you need to let me know via email ( and put CANCELLATION in the subject line at least two hours prior to our scheduled session in order to reschedule that session. If you cancel less than two hours before our session or don't show, that session cannot be rescheduled. Instead, you will need to schedule and pay for a completely new session. In other words, by submitting payment you are agreeing that your session is confirmed and that you agree to these terms. Also, please understand that, once a session is booked, there are no refunds.

DISCLAIMER: You must read and accept my Disclaimer before we can talk. (To accept, see the Disclaimer at the bottom of the questionnaire.) I am not a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, doctor or medical professional of any type. You must not take anything written on my website, or discussed during our mentoring session as medical or therapeutic advice. It is completely understood by you that we are coming together to talk only, and I am speaking to you solely in the capacity of a mentor. If you need medical help, seek out a doctor first. If you are feeling suicidal or are having violent thoughts toward others, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US) 1-800-273-8255.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Forgot My Phone

We're hardwired for connection. There's no arguing with the bioscience. But we can want it so badly we're trying to hot-wire it. Brene Brown

Have you ever run out of the house, late for a meeting or to pick up a child, and suddenly remembered you forgot your phone?

How did you feel at that very instant?

I've done it more than once and my reaction is always the same: Surprised: How did I manage to leave the house without an appendage? Concerned: What if someone really needs me? Free: From that moment to however long it takes us to be reunited, my 24/7 on-call duty is suspended.

Our primal need for connection fuels our interconnected, technology-driven culture, and I'm afraid most of us (including yours truly) are verging on the obsessive. From the palm of your hand, you are connected to anyone at anytime. We track and are tracked via social media. We self-report and document everything from major life events to walks with the dog.

Don't get me wrong. I love technology. I love the immediacy of texting my children and (usually) getting a response. I could write an ode to the GPS app on my phone, which has saved me from my old habit of constantly losing my way whenever I ventured out anywhere new.

But, along with the good comes the not so great. With immediacy comes greater expectations, which lead to fear when someone can't be reached. And, just because we can Google something right now doesn't mean we should. Is it really that important to stop a conversation in its tracks to find out how many Columbo episodes were made? (Answer: 69!)  

The truth is that there is hot-wired connection and there is real connection, which Brene Brown defines as:

. . . the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. 

I spend a lot of time staring at my phone, checking my email, Facebook, Instagram and whatever else grabs my attention. It makes me feel connected, but it's an illusion and I'm going to try to be more aware of that fact. It's not going to be easy (because of the obsession) but I think I can do it if I focus on being mindfully present to that energy and letting it fill me up.

Maybe I'll forget my phone more often.



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Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Only Appropriate Response is Gratefulness

This is absolutely one of my favorite Ted Talks. Louie Schwartzberg is an award winning cinematographer, director and producer who has literally been filming 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the past 30 years. In his talk, he shares his short video on Gratitude and Happiness, narrated by Brother David Steindl-Rast.

"You think this is just another day in your life. It's not just another day. It's the one day that is given to you. Today. It's given to you. It's a gift. It's the only gift that you have right now. And the only appropriate response is gratefulness."

This video is a gift, and I'm grateful to be able to share it with you.



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Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you'll start to see a big difference in your life. Yoko Ono

For many of us female-type people, it's not easy to look in the mirror.

We're hard on ourselves. We don't just see our reflection. We see body parts to be criticized and judged. We ask ourselves: Is this a bad hair day? Do I look fat in these pants? What's going on with my chin(s)?

Constant criticism is a form of abuse. We wouldn't tolerate it from anyone else, but we do it to ourselves. I know a woman who goes as far as cutting her face out of family pictures. Where does that kind of self-loathing come from?

Of course, to be entirely honest, has there ever been a picture taken of me that I haven't judged harshly?

Five years ago, I had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. When I looked in the mirror, I saw utter and complete damage. My body image was in the toilet. I was angry, broken and overwhelmed.

Little by little, my body healed and I came to accept the changes breast cancer had caused. Yet, I still judged, even though no one knows better than I the traumas (miscarriages, infertility, cancer, abuse) this body has taken and survived magnificently.

And there it is. I dared to say it.


It's not easy to admit, but it's actually easier to criticize than it is to celebrate my body. I don't want to be "full of myself," so I become lesser. I'm afraid to seem conceited. I'm embarrassed by compliments. I don't want to appear to have a big head.

I'd be ashamed to get caught smiling in the mirror.

In the end, it's not about what we see in the mirror. It's about who we see. Can we love and accept ourselves from the inside out?

Can we say with complete conviction: "I'm enough!"

I've watched the video above more than once and teared up every time. With all of the social conditioning females are subjected to and how hard it is to own our magnificence, can we ever look in the mirror and see what those who love us see?

It's not easy, but maybe we can take it one smile at a time.



P.S. The video reminded me of a book I recently read, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It. It's short and sweet inspirational reading. Check it out!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Road to Woodstock, Connection, Robert Sturman & Lots of Rain

How did I end up in a cornfield in Woodstock, NY, with Lockey Maisonneuve, and Robert Sturman, world class photographer/artist? 

Interesting story.

Back when I had cancer, I told my therapist about a Pilates class I took. Because of my surgery, when I found myself flat on my back attempting to lift my feet off the floor, they wouldn't budge. I was so upset, I wanted to run out of the room. The only thing that stopped me was the carnage I imagined I'd cause by stomping the other women in the class on my way out the door. 

My therapist told me about a rehabilitative exercise class for breast cancer survivors, led by Lockey. I wasn't thrilled about trying another class, but desperation sometimes pushes you past your comfort zone if you let it.

Long story short, Lockey and I became friends.

That was five years ago.

Yesterday, we took our road trip to Woodstock to meet Robert, who travels the world shooting photographs of yogis that transcend the physical into another realm entirely. Lockey, a yoga teacher and creator of the Let It Go Workshop, was the subject, I was the supportive, helpful friend. The photo session started, and so did the rain. 

After camping out in our cars for the worst of it, we ventured out into the cornfield. The ground was soaked (why are my rain boots warm and dry in my closet?) but it really didn't matter.

Magic happened.

The older I get, the more I realize it is impossible to live well without connection. Sure, it was a joy to meet a famous, incredibly talented photographer (and a really lovely man.) But, more important than that was the connection the three of us shared in that field, being a part of creating something amazing.

And, even better than that was spending the day, driving, talking, eating, and in and out of the rain with one of my closest friends in the world. 

So, when I found myself in that Pilates class stricken with grief at how much cancer had taken from me, it wasn't the end like I thought it was. It was the beginning. 

The road to Woodstock started five years ago on that floor and in my therapist's office when I let myself be vulnerable and tell my story to someone I trusted to help. 

The moral of the story is to ask and you shall receive. If you're lucky (and why shouldn't you be) you might end up witnessing an incredible artist make art and sharing beauty and connection with souls I never would have encountered otherwise. 

Oh, and never stomp your way out of a Pilates class. It's just not good karma.



PS: You can read more about our Woodstock adventure at WhereWeGoNow.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Mindfully Experiencing the Language of the Flowers

In the United States in Victorian times, flowers were used by discreet lovers to communicate coded messages of romance. The practice actually got so involved that a bouquet could be used to convey a message about a secret rendezvous, with the date and time coded by the number of leaves on a branch.
Today we all know red roses signify passionate love, but most of the language of flowers has been forgotten. I thought it would be fun to bring it back, especially as flowers symbolize so much more than expressions of love. 
A good example is the chrysanthemum, or "mum," which is everywhere you look this season. Because it's a late bloomer, it symbolizes joy, optimism and the promise of hope in dark times.  
This fall, try to let every mum you see remind you to feel that hope and experience the beauty of the autumn season.  With just a moment of mindfulness, you open yourself to really seeing all the beauty, hope and optimism the world provides and you can't help but feel gratitude.
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Getting to Yes Through the Power of No

"The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure." Joseph Campbell
Over at my other blog, WhereWeGoNow, I write a lot about how breast cancer's kick in the rear taught me to say "Yes" to my adventure. In fact, "Say Yes to Yourself" is one of the 10 simple secrets to creating inspired healing, wellness and your joyous life after cancer that I wrote about in How to Build an Amazing Life After Treatment.
I found it deeply spiritual and, ultimately, about the power of bringing "a blissful Yes into your life, one that opens the door to opportunities, abundance, and love."
Written by James and Claudia Azula Altucher, The Power of No is a riff on The Power of Now, written by Eckhart Tolle, which I also discovered after my cancer diagnosis. Just as Tolle introduced me to the concept of mindfulness, so the Altuchers introduce us to the power of No to clear away what isn't working to make room in your life for what does. 
The conversational style of the book (James and Claudia take turns sharing personal anecdotes) teaches by example. These are people who have been in the trenches with stories to tell. They've made big mistakes in business and love and have found themselves "on the floor." They've faced self-destructive behavior (physical and emotional,) stress, mindless chatter, angers of the past, self-sabotage, being stuck, phony storytelling, scarcity, "bad luck" and hanging on to people who weren't good for them .
After decades of failure, each of the authors claimed the right to say No and stepped into greater health, abundance and happiness. 
I recommend this book to anyone going through a life transition or healing journey. We all get stuck sometimes and it always helps to connect with others who have been where you are now. It also helps that each chapter offers concrete exercises to guide the reader to sit, reflect and do the work necessary to unleash the power of No and, ultimately, to find your Yes.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Act with Kindness, Because You Never Know

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Philo

Giving back gives me joy. It also heals what ails you. That's why I spend time working as a patient educator with the Pathways Women's Cancer Teaching Project.

The other morning, I spent some time talking with four young women in the physician assistant program at Seton Hall University. I was there to give them the truth (mine) about what it is like to be a cancer patient.

As a patient educator I've met with hundreds of young residents, and medical, nursing and chaplain students. During our sessions, we are interviewed and participants are encouraged to ask us anything and everything about our experience. In this way, we expose them to the patient as a whole person with a family, job, fears and emotions. We've been told by many participants that meeting with us has entirely changed their practice for the better.

Three of the women I spoke with were engaged and asked numerous questions. The fourth was extremely quiet and sat twirling her hair. She appeared to be listening, but wouldn't participate, even when I asked her directly if she had any questions.

After our session with the PA students, the patient educators got together. When it was my turn to talk about my session, I mentioned the young woman twirling her hair. I said I initially thought she wasn't engaged, but a moment of eye contact led me to believe she might have been dealing with a cancer story of her own.   

We looked at her feedback form and, sure enough, she had written that a member of her family had breast cancer and she just couldn't talk about it in the group.

How did I know? Something in her eyes sparked a split second of recognition. How many times had I gone out into the world, trying to function normally, when deep down inside I was carrying the red hot ember of cancer worry? What about that time I struggled to hold it together as the tech said amazingly ignorant things to me during my first mammogram after my mastectomy?

And it's not just cancer pain we push down where we think no one can see. One of the most painful experiences of my life happened over 20 years ago when I was a practicing attorney. I was in another attorney's office for a scheduled deposition of his client, a child. My job was to ask questions about the child's accident, but the attorney came out and told me his client wanted to leave early. When I said I would try to be quick, but I had a job to do, he asked me if I had children. When I answered that I didn't he dismissed me with, "Oh, that's why you don't understand."

What he didn't understand was that I am the oldest of nine children, so I certainly get kids. He also didn't understand that I had lost two pregnancies and was battling infertility. As much as his carelessly cruel comment hurt me, I held in my pain and trudged through the deposition.

None of us has to come clean and share anything we don't want to share. We have a right to our privacy and our dignity (there's nothing worse than losing it with people you don't trust to handle it.)

Sometimes it's easy to know when a person needs your kindness. And sometimes it isn't. 

But it shouldn't matter.

Part of being human is to experience sorrow, fear, grief and pain.

To be an evolved human is to know it's not just you and to act accordingly, with kindness.

Because you never know. 


Image courtesy of Jennifer

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Bringing Life to the Joy of Books

When it comes to creating live out loud joy, sometimes it takes just a little bit of awareness. Like asking yourself why you can't remember the last time you read a book for enjoyment. I mean, come on! I was an English major in college - I was reading all the time before life got in the way.

So hooray for books - the ones you hold in your hands and read and love! I also love this amazing stop-motion animation by Sean Ohlenkamp. Let me know if you agree with the statement at the end of this short and immensely delightful video.



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Thursday, August 21, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge & Living with Joy

If you're on Facebook even a little bit, you've seen video after video of people dumping ice buckets over their heads.

The ALS ice bucket challenge is the internet craze of the summer. The rules are a bit murky, but it appears that once challenged, you have 24 hours to donate to ALS and/or pour ice water over your head. (That's the part I'm not clear on.) Before the chilling moment, which is recorded and posted on Facebook, you challenge three other people (which is how the challenge keeps going and going and going.)

Earlier this month we were on vacation, out of the internet loop and ice bucket challenge clueless. Imagine my surprise when I got home, hopped on Facebook and connected the challenge to the book I just finished reading, Until I Say Good-Bye, My Year of Living with Joy.

Author Susan Spencer-Wendel wrote most of her New York Times bestselling memoir on her iPhone, tapping out each letter with her right thumb. At age 44, she was diagnosed with ALS (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.) As her muscles slowly withered away, she wrote: 

not about illness and despair, but a record of my final wonderful year. A gift to my children so they would understand who I was and learn the way to live after tragedy: With joy. And without fear. If Lou Gehrig could feel lucky, then so could I. So should I.

Living with joy and without fear isn't something I'm especially good at. I'm a worrier. I'm careful. I know what it's like to feel like a sick person. I was drawn to Susan's memoir because I couldn't imagine how someone chooses joy and fearlessness in the face of an inevitable, torturous death. I wanted her to convince me it was possible.

And she did. 

Despite her worsening health, Susan committed to creating life-long memories for herself and her loved ones. She took special trips with each of her three children, husband, sister and best friend since middle school. She traveled to the the Yukon Territory to see the Aurora Borealis (dog-sledding included.) She made a pilgrimage to Cyprus to meet the family she never knew (Susan was adopted and never met her deceased, biological father.) She joined her husband on a trip to Budapest, where they spent the early years of their marriage. She swam with dolphins.  

As a mother and wife, Susan dedicated herself to providing her family with positive, loving memories to sustain them after she was gone. But, I think it's important to note she took care of herself too and focused on living with joy. While each memory made was a gift to a loved one, it was also a moment to hold dear when the inevitable happened and she became a healthy mind trapped in a lifeless body. 

This is a heartbreaking, exquisite, life-affirming memoir. As I read, I was constantly reminded that life is best celebrated in the here and now, mindfully and with awareness. That's where loves lives and where joy finds us.

If Susan Spencer-Wendel "can feel lucky, then so could I. So should I." 



PS: I have yet to be ice bucket challenged, and for that I am very grateful. I hate cold. In fact, I'm allergic to it and break out in hives. Really, I'm not even kidding. So, I've already donated to ALS and there will be no video, ever, of me pouring an ice bucket over my head. If you want to donate, you can do so here. If you want to check out Susan's book, find it here. If you've done the ice bucket challenge, I'd love to see it! 

PPS: I also learned after reading Susan's book that she died from ALS just a few months ago, on June 4, 2014, at age 47. I love her quote in the New York Times article, “As you know, life ain’t perfect.”

Amen sister!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

10 Ways to Live Your Truth & Create Emotional Healing

If you shut up truth, and bury it underground, it will but grow.” Emile Zola
Do you know that feeling of walking through life trying to function and look okay, but on the inside being a complete mess? That was me during most of 2009.
Of course, a select few knew my secret but, at that point, I wasn’t ready to publish my truth to the world. I was just trying to get through each day, if not each minute, the best I could.

That February, a breast cancer diagnosis had gone off like a bomb blast in my life. I lost body parts, but could cover up the physical and emotional damage with clothes and an “I’m fine.” It was a lie and I told it because I thought acting strong was how to “move on.”

No such luck. Every time I stepped out of the shower, my fifteen inch hip to hip scar, missing nipple and asymmetrical, scarred breasts screamed “DAMAGED” at me. Emotionally, I was angry, lonely, fatigued and teetering on depression.
That summer we were invited to friends’ house for dinner and I finally confessed to my husband that I was exhausted emotionally from telling people I was fine when I wasn’t. I felt like I was lying all the time and I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

His answer, “Tell the truth.”

It was a radical idea and, when the inevitable question came up, I took his advice and was surprised by the empathy and compassion I received. That was the moment I realized burying the truth didn’t make me strong. Being strong required telling the truth and taking small, concrete steps to honestly live it:
  1. Show Up to be Supported: No one knocked on my door to offer support during my early days of covering up and acting strong. Support didn’t come until I admitted I needed it and showed up to get it.
  2. Tell Your Story: When I started telling my story I felt heard. Being heard made me feel validated and validation helped me heal. There was no shortcut to emotional healing that let me get away with not telling the truth.
  3. Practice Gratitude: All I had to do was say, “thank you.” Letting others know how much I appreciated them, even when it made me feel vulnerable, brought more goodness into my life.
  4. Give Back: The first time I shared with another cancer survivor I was shocked to realize my cancer experience was actually worth something. Putting my suffering to work in service to others was, and still is, a win-win.
  5. Say “Yes” to Yourself: Before cancer I was extremely risk-adverse. When faced with something new, I’d come up with a million reasons to say “no.”  After cancer, I honestly faced my fears and asked just one question, “Why not?” The answer lets me know whether or not to take the leap.
  6. Move Your Body: Before cancer I wasn’t athletic. I’m still not athletic, but I’ve discovered yoga and walking. Getting active gave me back some control over my body, with each yoga session bringing a stronger connection between body, mind and self.
  7. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness brings me into the present without judgment. When I focus on the now, rather than replaying the past or worrying about the future, I have clarity and much less drama.
  8. Make Time to Play: There is no falseness in play. When I play, I am joyfully living in the moment and everything I am is true.
  9. Take Every Opportunity to Laugh: Laughter is the crystal clear sound of joy. You can’t laugh and not feel joy and, at least for that moment, joy is your truth. Try it!
  10. Cultivate a Sense of Wonder:  The world is a wondrous place. When I open my eyes to it, I let myself truly believe in possibilities.
Back in the day, I thought insisting I was fine and hiding the truth of life with breast cancer made it so. I was completely wrong.

Emotional healing is impossible without truth-telling. 

If you’re struggling, how do you show up for yourself in honesty and truthfulness? I’d love to hear from you; please leave me a comment below.
If you found this post useful, please share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.


Featured image courtesy of Fatma .M.

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