“Mirror, mirror on the wall…who is the fairest of them all?” ~~ Snow White’s evil stepmother

queen(Photo courtesy of Doug Craig)

If you’ve ever read Snow White or seen one of the big screen adaptations, you probably recognize the quote above. Snow White’s evil stepmother utters this quote over and over to her magic mirror throughout her time as queen, and it always told her that SHE was the fairest of them all…until Snow White came along. And then all of a sudden, the queen went to great lengths to destroy Snow White, so that she could once again be the most beautiful in all the land.

Now I know this is just a fairy tale, but think about something for a minute. The queen was just trying to get a little boost to her ego. She had no self-esteem and no self-love, so she was dependent on this mirror to tell her how beautiful and wonderful she was. The thing is, she never believed it herself, and her soul was dark because of it. Snow White, on the other hand, was not only beautiful, but she had a heart and soul that was pure love. Snow White believed she was the best she could be and she was happy with who she was, no matter what her circumstances were.

Sound familiar? I know many people with the “wicked queen complex”, as I like to call it. People who are constantly looking for recognition and praise from others. People who never seem to be happy because they’re always looking for the next round of praise. When I look at these people, I notice they surround themselves with people who tell them what they want to hear, who feed their ego. But when I look at them, I also notice that no matter how much they are told how wonderful they are, they still don’t seem to be happy.

Truth be told, I used to be one of those kinds of people. Heck, I still am a lot of the time. I am working on it, but it is HARD for me. So hard!

For many months now, I’ve been working on improving my health and wellness. I’ve incorporated meditation, I’ve pared back on my commitments, and I am spending more time with my family and friends.

About two months ago, I started working with a friend of mine who is an amazing energy healer. I was having a lot of pain in my legs and in my back and shoulders, and she offered to see if she could help. When she started working on my back and shoulders, she immediately noted that this pain was due to something emotional rather than physical. As she continued to work on me, she said I needed to work on loving myself and trusting myself, and on speaking my truth.

I was floored, because when I thought about it, I realized she was right. I am great at building others up, but I am always beating MYSELF up, always thinking I could be doing something better, always apologizing for everything.

She gave me some mantras and meditations to do, and I eagerly started working on them. I am a very task-driven, Type A personality, so I love it when I get “assignments”. I also ordered an amazing workbook by Louse Hay, “Love Yourself, Heal Your Life”. This book was recommended as a great one to help with developing self-love, and the thought of having a multitude of “assignments” to do sounded like just what I needed.

LouiseHayBookCover

When the workbook arrived in the mail, I was SO excited! I started reading it right away. In it, the author says that you should do each exercise until you’ve got it down and feel like you’ve truly accomplished it before moving on to the next one. OK. Easy enough.

Or so I thought. The first exercise I did is the Mirror Exercise. What you’re supposed to do is stop and look at yourself in a mirror as often as you can, and every time you do, you’re supposed to say something nice to yourself. That didn’t sound so bad.

The first time I tried it, though, was so UNCOMFORTABLE! I looked at myself and immediately wanted to pick apart what I saw.

  •  “My face looks fat.”
  • “My skin looks blotchy.”
  • “Look at those wrinkles on my forehead and around my eyes.”
  • “Is that a double-chin?”

You get the idea. So I closed my eyes, opened them, and tried again. This time, I really looked and STRUGGLED to find something nice to say. So I said something cheesy like, “You have pretty hair” and then walked away, emotionally exhausted from the attempt.

Wow! This was going to be harder than I thought. But I don’t back away from a challenge, so I vowed to keep at it. I thought I was making some progress until I went to my chiropractor this week. He looked at me after the adjustment and said, “You really need to start believing in yourself. You don’t trust yourself at all. You need to trust that you’re worth standing up for.”

Hmm…OK.

Then today, I saw my friend who’s been working with me. I told her I was experiencing some pain again in my back and right shoulder, and she went back to what she told me the first time I worked with her. I told her I’d been working on it but that it was not going so well. She gave me some more mantras, ones I can use with my mirror exercise, so that maybe it will be less difficult for me.

When I got home, I took this pic of myself:

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After I took it, I started analyzing it. I started to do what I usually do, which is to pick myself apart. But then I said, “No! Enough! I am worthy. I honor myself and I respect myself too much to continue to treat myself this way.” Then I looked again…not at my blotchy, post-yoga skin, but in my eyes. To me, my eyes look like they truly believe I am worthy, don’t you think? I think my head knows, but it’s my heart I need to work on. I need to believe it to my very core.

Yoga has been wonderful to me throughout the years in helping me believe in myself, but somehow, I’ve lost my way a bit. I think I’ve spent so much time working on my students that I forgot about ME. I definitely have not been very good at practicing what I preach.

Well, that’s going to change. I want to be happy from the inside out. I am willing to do the hard work, even if it means dealing with uncomfortable feelings as they rise to the top. I am worth it. I know that now.

If you’ve never done the mirror exercise, I encourage you to try it. It might be uncomfortable. VERY uncomfortable. And it might feel silly or awkward. But that just means you need to do it all the more. I never realized how hard it can be to say something nice to yourself. But if you can’t love yourself and say kind things to yourself, you can’t expect others to love you and be kind to you. You’ll never be happy…truly happy…until you can look yourself in the eyes and say, “I love you.”

I want to be Snow White, not the evil queen. How about you?

Namaste,

Melanie

A few posts back, I talked about how I gave my first speech in Toastmasters back in December. This month, I completed my 4th speech! I’ve decided to focus each of my speeches on something that helps people find happiness in their lives, as I truly do feel like it’s my mission in life to help others find happiness. Maybe at the end of my 10 speeches (that’s how many you have to do in order to complete the Competent Communicator series), I’ll have my material all set for my first book. Wouldn’t that be cool?!

This latest speech was titled, “Don’t Be So Serious!” It focused on getting across the message that when embarrassing things happen to you, or you make a mistake, do what you can to roll with it and not dwell on it. Because if you dwell on things, you’ll be miserable. Look for the lesson in the situation, and learn from it…and you’re on your way to finding your happiness.

I started off my speech with a clip from the movie Sixteen Candles. If you’ve seen the movie (from WAY back in 1984), you probably remember the scene where Sam’s grandparents see her for the first time in awhile and notice she’s “gotten her boobies” (tee hee hee!). Here’s the clip in case you don’t remember, or haven’t seen the movie…you only need to watch the first 1:10 of the clip.

After watching the clip, I launched into my OWN embarrassing story, which had the room cracking up (which was EXACTLY what I was hoping they’d do, by the way). Here’s the story I shared:

It was about 10 years ago. My husband, daughters and I were at the grocery store to get some items we needed for a party we were hosting the next night. We had a lot of things to get, so I gave half the list to my husband and older daughter, while my younger daughter and I took the other half of the list.

We were zipping through the aisles, putting the necessary items into the cart, checking off the list…things were going SPLENDIDLY! And then…I turned down the pasta aisle.

As I was strolling along, I saw my husband up ahead, so I figured I’d catch up to him and see where he was on his half of the list. As I got up behind him, I “passed gas”. It was SUPER loud and quite stinky. My husband HATES when I do stuff like that (it happens more often than I’d care to admit), so I figured I’d make light of the situation by saying, “That was a good one, wasn’t it?”

He turned around and said, “It sure was lady!”

O.M.G.!!! This wasn’t my husband! It was some random guy with a similar build in a similar outfit, but he was not MY husband!

Yes, I think you could say I was embarrassed. But, in true “Melanie” fashion, I decided to laugh it off. I looked at the man, smiled, and said, “Looks like my job here is done!” Then I kept strolling down the aisle in search of my REAL husband, so we could skidaddle!

William Arthur Ward said, “To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity.” After that incident in the store, I’d like to think I am a bit more mature now! :)

If you have a hard time laughing things up…if you constantly dwell on the mistakes you think you’ve made…then now is the time to make a change.

Yesterday, I came across the following article. I am always in search of exercises that can help people tap into their happiness, and I absolutely think this article is a must read for anyone who wants to be happier in their life.

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/6-exercises-positive-psychology-boost-happiness/

The article contains 6 different exercises that can help you in finding happiness, but the first exercise is one that really jumped out at me, because it totally validated everything I said in my speech. Here’s the exercise:

Exercise #1: Three funny things

Write down three funny things you experienced in a given day, and why those things happened. For example, was this something you were directly involved in, something you observed, or something spontaneous?

When you can laugh at yourself and your circumstances, it means that you don’t take life too seriously. Best of all, laughing is contagious!

So…what are you waiting for? Invest some time in yourself because guess what? You deserve happiness! We all do, so don’t let it pass you by.

And, if you feel so inspired, I’d love for you to share the things you came up with in the exercise above. You never know how sharing your experiences might end up helping someone else.

Namaste,

Melanie

You can ask yourself, “What’s it like to be me?” You know, the only way we’ll ever know what it’s like to be you is if you work your best at being you as often as you can, and keep reminding yourself: That’s where home is. — Bill Murray

The above quote is Bill Murray’s response to the question “How does it feel to be you?”, which he fielded during a press conference at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival after the screening of his film St. Vincent. The resulting speech he gave has been dubbed the “Bill Murray Dharma Talk”, and I really enjoyed listening to it. You can listen to it yourself by clicking here, and it also has the speech typed out if you don’t want to watch the video.

I happened to come across this “dharma talk” right at the end of March, and I thought it was such perfect timing, as my focus in my yoga classes for March was dharma. I’d felt like it was challenging for me throughout the month to really get across the message that I wanted to my students…and then I happened across this wonderful little speech by Bill Murray and I felt it really helped tie things up rather nicely.

Dharma can mean many different things, depending on the religion or philosophy you subscribe to. Check out Wikipedia for an example of what I mean. But to me, the way dharma is described in the Bhagavad Gita is the one that has always resonated with me the most. In chapter 18.47, it says, “It’s better to do your own dharma imperfectly than another’s perfectly.” Dharma here means “life purpose”. If you’re truly doing what you’re meant to be doing, then everything else in life falls into place naturally. If you’re doing things that are helping you work toward meeting your dharma, then it’s all good, no matter the outcome!

I definitely feel like I am working towards my own dharma…FINALLY! I’ve tried lots of different things in an attempt to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing and what makes me tick. These last couple of years have definitely brought me a long way. And I think it’s because I finally stopped to listen to my own heart, rather than trying to copy what others are doing. Also, I figured out that a person’s dharma changes along their life’s journey. We have stages in our lives, after all, so it’s only fitting that our dharma may need to change in order to meet us where we are at that particular stage in our lives.

It’s been hard for me in many ways. I’m typically a Type A “have to have a plan” kind of person. But that way of thinking was totally stressing me out and making me miserable. Now, I still have a plan, but it’s just not so rigid. If something doesn’t feel right, I try and figure out why and make the necessary changes. This means I have to be a bit more of a “go with the flow” kind of person, and that was an uncomfortable feeling for me at first. But it’s getting easier every day, because I can see a difference in myself. I feel happier. I feel more sure of  myself. I feel more at peace. And I definitely feel like I am more “at home” with myself now, more confident.

So. What’s it like to be YOU? Do you know what your life purpose is? If you’re not sure, I urge you to take the steps to figure it out. You won’t be sorry, because once you figure it out, there will be no stopping you. And once you’re able to truly be YOU, you’ll finally be home.

Namaste,

Melanie

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” ~~ Stuart Smalley

Who out there used to watch Saturday Night Live back in the 1990s, when they had the “Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley” skits? Maybe I am dating myself by admitting this, but I was a big fan of SNL back in those days, and the Stuart Smalley skits were some of my favorites.

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(Photo courtesy of Parent Pathway)

If you’ve never seen those skits, they were hilarious! Google it, and you’ll find a multitude of video clips to watch. Each skit was focused around some aspect of self-help, and one of the many catchphrases that came from those skits has stayed with me all these years…”I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

Those skits resonated with SO many people. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve heard people mimic Stuart Smalley, and it always brings a smile to my face when I see or hear someone imitating him.

This month, I’ve been focusing on bhakti with my yoga classes. Bhakti translates to spiritual or divine love. However, I chose to spend time in class focusing on self-love for the majority of the month. After all, how can we expect to properly love the Divine if we can’t even love ourselves? And how can we love others if we don’t love ourselves? How can we truly find happiness if we don’t love ourselves? I truly believe learning to like and love ourselves is where we must start, and so that’s where I chose to spend the focus in class.

How do you feel about yourself? Do you like yourself? Do you love yourself? I hope the answer is a resounding “YES!!!” If it is, you probably don’t need to read any further. However, I am willing to bet that for most of you readers out there in Blog Land, you have one of several responses:

“Umm…hmm…SOMETIMES I love myself.”

“No, not really. If only I were __________, then I would love myself.” (YOU fill in the blank. Some that come to mind are thinner/prettier/younger/richer….sound familiar? I know I’ve said these, and many more, to myself over the years.)

“I’m not sure. I have a few things to improve on, and then I know the answer will be yes.”

Why do so many of us feel this way about ourselves? I wish I had a good answer to that question, but I don’t. Somehow, some way, our society has conditioned us to always be on the lookout for the next best thing that will bring us closer to perfection.

But guess what? We’re already perfect! Spending time on your mat is a great way to begin to see that. When you step on your mat, you’re forced to focus on the present moment, and you are encouraged (or at least, I sure hope your teachers are encouraging you) to be OK with whatever shape your body is able to achieve, as long as it’s safe and feels good. My time on the mat all these years has certainly allowed me to see that I am perfect just as I am in every pose, even if I have to modify like crazy! And you know what? I can honestly say, without a doubt, that I love myself.

Now don’t get me wrong. Occasionally, I still find myself having a pity party for some reason or other. I’m human, after all. When I see a yogi or yogini in a pose that is not possible for me, I sometimes beat myself up, wondering why I can’t look like that. And when I go clothes shopping, I get so frustrated because of the weight I gained from the steroids I was on, and I pick apart my body because of how squishy and plump I’ve become.

But you know, others don’t seem to see me the same way I see myself. When I’ve beat myself up over a pose not looking like I think it should, I’ve had teachers or other students tell me how graceful or peaceful I look, and that they wish they could look like that. Hmmm….

Also, I recently changed my Facebook profile pic…a little reluctantly, because I was comparing it to earlier profile pics and picking apart how much heavier and bloated I look now than I did then. But I changed out the pic anyway. I figured, “What the heck! It’s what I look like, so here goes!” And you know what? The comments that came back from my friends reminded me that I need to stop the negative self-speak. Things like, “You’re beautiful on the inside and the outside.” Hmm…maybe there was something to these wise comments I was reading. When I looked at the picture with this new mindset, I saw myself in a different way. When I really looked, my expression was one of contentment and peace…things which, as you know if you have been following my blog for awhile, I’ve worked really hard to achieve. And when I saw myself in this way, I saw the beauty within and realized that “YES! Yes, I DO love myself, dammit! And I want everyone to know it!”

So my dear readers, I urge you to really think about how you feel about yourself. And if you can’t say you love yourself, then ask yourself, “WHY?” What is it that is so bad that you can’t say you love yourself? My guess is, if you really dig deep, you’ll see that you are perfect and pure and love…right here…right now. Love who you are RIGHT NOW. You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!

Namaste,

Melanie

For the month of January, I’ve been working with my yoga classes on the concept of sankalpa. This translates to intention, resolve, determination. Many people confuse this with setting resolutions (as in New Year’s resolutions). However, sankalpa is much more than the typical superficial resolutions most people set. When you create a true sankalpa, it is much deeper. Here’s how I’ve been explaining it to my classes:

A typical New Year’s resolution might be something like, “I will lose 10 lbs.”, or “I will pay off my debt.” Heck, we may even get a lil’ deeper than that and say something like, “I will change my career to be something more meaningful.” Sound familiar?

I’ve set resolutions like this myself almost every single year. Do I ever achieve any of them? Sometimes. But I notice that when I do, I never really feel the sense of accomplishment I hoped I would. Do you ever feel like that when you reach some goal you’ve set for yourself? I mean, it’s great to lose some weight or pay off debt, but it’s all about ME when I set these sorts of resolutions or goals.

When you set a sankalpa, it’s meant to be something that not only affects YOU, but also those around you. At least that’s how I like to look at it. Let me “break it down like a fraction” as my husband likes to say, and give you my personal example.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that my posts have become more philosophical, especially over the last year. For quite some time now, I’ve been trying to figure out my purpose in life, as I really wasn’t feeling like I was fully doing what I was meant to be doing. As I was working on my first Toastmaster’s speech in November, it all came together and hit me like a ton of bricks. All the soul-searching I’d been doing finally opened my eyes and helped me discover what I truly feel is my purpose in life…to be a Happiness Advocate, as I like to affectionately refer to myself now. I performed the speech in early December and posted it here on this site, as I felt it was relevant to the material on this blog.

Well, between then and now, it feels like my life is on warp speed…in a great way! So many opportunities are coming my way and I wondered, “Why? Why am I so lucky all of a sudden? What did I do to deserve this?”

I’ll tell you what I think happened. As I wrote that speech – as I figured out my life’s purpose during that process – I also set my sankalpa, my intention. Without even realizing it. My intention is to find happiness and infect everyone around me with it.

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(See? Even my Raspberry Leaf Yogi Tea fortune agrees with me.)

First I had to start with myself, because I can’t expect to make anyone else happy if I’m not happy with my own life. And Gosh Darnit, I’ve been working at this for a REALLY long time and I finally AM happy. I know what makes me tick and what brings me joy. I learned that to truly be happy, I have to find the good in EVERY situation I am faced with. Every situation, no matter how bad it may seem, is presented to us for a reason. There is always a lesson to learn, and it’s from those lessons that we grow into the people we are meant to be. Most importantly, I learned that be happy, I need to love myself…and I do…I definitely, FINALLY, love myself. Now that I look at life through that lens, how can I NOT be happy?

Now I’m not saying that I am always rosy and cheery and all that. We all have bad days, after all. Days when I think, “Why isn’t this happening FAST enough?”, “Why can’t I do THIS yet?” But I quickly change my thought process to, “What is the positive in this? What can I learn from this?” When I do that, I find that smile and that sense of peace.

Magically, it seems like people are starting to notice.

  1. My yoga classes are getting bigger and my students are TRULY leaving with smiles on their faces. Is it because I’m this uber-amazing yoga teacher who has the most awesome sequences EVER? No…if you have been to one of my classes, my sequences are nothing crazy or special. Is it because I’m so graceful on my mat when I teach? HECK NO! Again, if you’ve been to my classes, you know that I rarely do the poses with you, and when I do, it is obvious just how UNgraceful I am in most every pose I do. I think people are coming back because they can see I’m happy. Authentically happy. I wear my heart on my sleeve (or tank, if it’s warm in the room), and I think people appreciate that I am real. Real clumsy, real nerdy, real goofy…real HUMAN.
  2. I’ve been given some new yoga opportunities, most notably, helping to lead a retreat in Aruba in November 2015. Click here for more info on that…I’d love for you to join me if you can!
  3. I’ve already talked in past posts about my full-time job and all the cool things that have been happening on that front.
  4. I’ve been nominated for something at work that is wellness related, and it’s all around this journey I’ve been on. I don’t know if I’ll win, but just being nominated is…well, WOW!
  5. I’ve been asked to share my story at a gathering coming up for people who suffer from chronic illness, to show that you CAN come out on the other side. I was told I was asked because I have a “happy energy”. I’ll take that!

Here’s perhaps the coolest thing of all…at least to me. This past weekend, I went to an energy session with a couple other ladies at this really beautiful space in Monroe, NC called The Inn and Rosehill. It was a gift from my parents for Christmas and my birthday. It was five glorious hours of dabbling in Reiki, numerology, and intuitive healing. WELL…during the numerology session, it came out that my soul’s urge is to…WAIT FOR IT… Make. People. HAPPY! Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. See the pic for yourself. Can you say V-A-L-I-D-A-T-I-O-N?

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(Here’s the write-up from the Numerology results…cool, huh? In the middle box, zoom in and you’ll see it says “Joy Soul’s Urge”.)

Seriously, all this hard work I’ve been doing the past couple of years, trying to make sense of so many things thrown at me…it’s paying off. And something tells me more is to come. I’m only just beginning, I can feel it!

Yoga has been crucial in all of this. It allowed me to cultivate patience when I struggled to understand something that was happening to me. It allowed me to appreciate my breath and how healing it can be. It allowed me to develop my meditation practice. It allowed me to realize that I am beautiful, no matter how clumsily I move or how much my body changes due to medications. It allowed me to figure out what my sankalpa is…not just for 2015 but for the rest of my life. Most importantly, it allowed me to find happiness. Won’t you join me and let it help you find YOURS?

Namaste,

Melanie

Last week, I took a quick quiz to determine what my mantra for 2015 should be. I took it for fun, just to see what it would say…I do these kinds of quizzes all the time. You know the ones I’m talking about:

  • What’s your personality type?
  • Which 80s movie defines you?
  • What job is best for you?
  • Which U.S. state should you be living in?

I see these quizzes on Facebook ad nauseum, as many of my friends take them and share the results. Sometimes I end up taking the quizzes myself, I’ll admit. It’s fun to see what they’ll tell me, you know? I usually get a good chuckle out of them. I don’t usually share the results for everyone to see, but sometimes I do. Guilty!

Last year, I signed up for a subscription to My Yoga Online, who recently merged with Gaiam TV. I joined because I love their stuff. Since they merged with Gaiam TV, they have a plethora of articles and videos about not just yoga, but also Tai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation and many others. They constantly have themes and challenges that I join in order to encourage my personal growth. I love it, as I don’t always have time to get to a class in a live studio.

Anyway, last week, I got an e-mail from them with this quiz to find out what my mantra should be for 2015. I had nothing else to do so I thought, “Why not? Let’s see what it says for me.” I’ve been trying to incorporate mantras into my meditation more, as it really helps me to focus my thoughts. So I thought maybe, if I could find one that REALLY resonates with me, it might make my meditations even more effective.

I went through the questions, and liked them right away. Just answering the questions themselves got me thinking and excited, for some reason. Questions like, “When you daydream, what do you find yourself thinking about most often?” I never thought about that before, but your daydreams are what often reveal your true passions and purpose to you, don’t you agree?

At the end of the quiz, it revealed my 2015 mantra to me. Ready? It was:

Iamhere

“I am here.” Hmmm…interesting.

At first, I was not quite sure about this one. But then, as I am sure the creators intended, I started to mull over it and really think about it. And then it started to sink in and I thought, “How totally PERFECT! This IS the mantra for me!”

“I am here.” All by itself, it’s profound. But then I started adding things to the end of it, and it became even more so.

  • I am here…NOW, in THIS moment.
  • I am here…for one more day.
  • I am here…for you.
  • I am here…to serve others.
  • I am here…to love unconditionally.
  • I am here…to spread happiness.
  • I am here…as God’s child.
  • I am here…to help where I am needed.

These are just things I came up with in a few minutes. Imagine how many more I will be able to add to the list as I think on it more.

I’m not even going to wait for the official first day of 2015. This one resonated with me to the point where I am going to start bringing it into my day, each and every day, starting now. I will wake up, breathing in the words “I am” and breathing out the word “here”.

What’s your mantra? What words could you incorporate into your daily life that would boost you to the next level? Take the quiz that I took, and see what you think. I’d love to know what comes back for you, so feel free to comment and share here.

Namaste,

Melanie

First of all, Happy Winter Solstice, everyone! I used to dread the winter season, as I hated the cold air, and the dry skin it gave me, and all the snow I was going to have to drive through (I used to live in Connecticut and Massachusetts, so bad weather was definitely a big concern for me up there). But now, I actually look forward to this time of year…with the shorter and colder days, it’s the perfect time to look within and become more introspective. It gives me a chance to get to know myself better, so I relish it now.

I’ve been following a blog called “Starr Struck” this past year, and it’s become one of my favorite blogs. It’s written by Mary Catherine Starr, a fellow yoga teacher, which is why I began following it. She writes several times a week, but by far, my favorite thing she does is something called “Simple Joys of the Week” (SJOTW). Each week, she lists her favorite things as they relate to the five senses: Hear, See, Taste, Smell and Touch. I like these posts because I think they’ve helped me find joy in ways I may not have traditionally thought of, just by becoming more aware of what my senses have to offer.

In her latest post, she did something pretty cool, which is to list out the sensory experiences that made the biggest impact on her from the whole entire year. It got me to thinking about what made the biggest impact on ME during 2014, so I decided to follow in her footsteps and list out the simple joys in life that have made the biggest impact on my life. I’m not trying to be a copy cat or anything, but I love this concept, and I think we could ALL do with a little bit more joy in our lives. So if putting together my own list helps inspire YOU to find joy in some new and unexpected ways in the coming year, then I’ve achieved my purpose.

Ready? Here we go!

HEAR: Spotify
I’ve been using Spotify for a couple of years now, but my use of it really exploded in 2014 once I decided to subscribe as a Premium member. For a music addict like myself, Spotify is DA BOMB! For those of you who come to my yoga classes, you know how much I love to weave in remakes of popular songs and make you guess who the original artist was (and you know that many times, a prize goes to the person who guesses correctly). Using Spotify has made my ability to find these crazy remakes super easy, and it allows me to organize things into folders and all kinds of other neat features, which means I don’t have to spend nearly as much time as I used to putting my playlists together. One of my favorite features is that I can create a radio station based on a particular song, and then all the songs it plays are “like” the song I created it from. I know other programs have this radio feature, but with Spotify, whenever I come across a song I think I’ll use in a class, I can actually add it straight to a playlist while it’s playing…LOVE! I know the free version of Spotify has an awful lot as well, so check it out!

SEE: My Daughters Reaching Milestones
Holy wow on this one! Both of my daughters achieved major milestones in their lives during 2014. My youngest daughter completed elementary school and began middle school this fall, which was a huge thing for our family…she is quite literally a pre-teen now, going to the middle school dances each month at the YMCA in town and hanging out with her friends ad nauseum.

 017(This is Casey a couple of months ago, enjoying a cupcake from CupCrazed Cakery)

But perhaps the biggest thing of all for our family is that my oldest daughter graduated from high school and just completed her first semester of college! It’s so hard to believe she is officially an adult now, as I still see her as my little baby girl every time I look at her. It took me awhile to get used to her not being around every day, but I am so proud of the woman she has become…I have no worries that she will do great things with her life…she makes me so proud!

001(This is Morgan at college, holding her dorm’s mascot, who is named Strawberry Shortcake…cute, isn’t it?)

TASTE: Gluten-free Cupcakes from CupCrazed Cakery in Fort Mill, SC
I’ve been gluten free for almost three years now, and let me tell you…it is TOUGH to find a tasty dessert that is gluten-free. One that doesn’t taste dry or rubbery, or make me feel like I’m missing out on all the fun. And if you know me at all, you know that I absolutely LOVE my desserts! Well, the CupCrazed Cakery in Fort Mill has got my back! First of all, they are located about 5 minutes from my house, which can be very dangerous when I am needing my sweet fix. But twice a week (and sometimes more), they offer gluten-free cupcakes. And I’m not talking your boring old yellow or chocolate cupcakes with white or chocolate frosting. No…this place switches up their flavors constantly and I’ve never tried one that is bad. My favorite so far was a gluten-free salted caramel cupcake…YUM! They post their menu daily, so you always know what kind of interesting flavors you can expect. Oh, and if you’ve ever heard of that lil’ TV show called “Cupcake Wars”, well, this place was featured on it…and they WON! Sweet (pun COMPLETELY intended)!

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SMELL: Lavendar and Frankincense essential oils.
During 2014, I decided to be a dōTERRA representative, as using essential oils has done wonders with helping me with everything from stress to inflammation to keeping me from catching the latest virus going around. Two of my favorites are lavender and frankincense, especially mixed together in a hot bath with Epsom salts or in a diffuser. The frankincense helps pull out all the inflammation and boosts my immune system, and the lavender calms me down and helps me sleep. Can you say, “Heaven”? My favorite thing is that dōTERRA essential oils can be ingested (most of them, anyway), so you can add them to recipes or use them for a variety of medicinal purposes. Check out my dōTERRA site to learn more about these wonderful oils!  

TOUCH: This one is easy…my dogs! Nothing makes me happier than cuddling on the couch or in my bed with my dogs. I love the way their fur feels to me (especially Lexie…her fur feels like velvet to me!), I love the warmth they give off as they lean in against me (whenever one of them leans into my stomach, it totally takes my stomach aches away!), and I love the way their kisses feel! Loving on my dogs always makes me feel better. I know my husband agrees with this, because he and I constantly argue over who gets to have a “doggy nap” on the weekends. :)

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Other MAJOR simple joys from 2014/this past year of life? There have been so many great things that have happened in this past year, it’s hard to list them all. But here are some of the top ones that come to mind:

  • My 30 Days of Happiness challenge. Each day, for 30 days in a row, I listed 3 things I was happy for on Facebook. It started off as only a 7-day challenge, but I decided to keep going at the urging of followers who wanted more. This made me the HAPPIEST of all! To know that others wanted more HAPPY stuff…well, that’s what I was shooting for, and before I knew it, others followed suit. It’s like we started a Happiness Revolution!
  • My full-time job in the Healthcare IT arena has been amazing this past year. I really feel like I blossomed in many ways and finally feel like I have a good handle on my purpose here.
  • I made great strides in moving through my Lyme Disease treatment. I have had my bad days, sure…but I have many more good days now, and seeing progress. I’m starting to feel more like ME again…that is something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again!

There are a few other great things in the works, but they are not far enough along yet for me to mention them. More to come on these things in the New Year.

What are your year-end simple joys? Take some time to reflect on them over the next week or so, if you can! And if you wouldn’t mind, share them here by commenting on this post…I’d love to know what made you happy this past year!

Namaste,

Melanie

In November, I joined my company’s Toastmasters club. It’s something I’d been thinking about joining for a long time, and my recent promotion at work was sort of the kick in the pants I needed to finally get me off my keister and sign up. Today, I gave my first speech in the program, which was an icebreaker speech. The whole purpose of this speech was to “introduce myself” to the group in such a way that afterwards, they would have a much better idea about who I am and what I stand for. I decided to do this by talking about my purpose in life. Here is the speech in written form, complete with the pictures I projected onscreen. Note that I didn’t give the speech word for word as you see below…I love to adlib, as I definitely feed off the energy of the people in the room. But here is what I said, more or less…enjoy!

“Have a Sparking Day!” This has been my signature phrase for the past 23 years, since I was 19 years old. If you’ve ever called me and gotten my voice mail, you know that I always end my recorded greeting with “Thank you for calling and Have a Sparkling Day!” People often tell me they pray I won’t answer when they call because they love getting my voice mail, just so they can hear me say that.

For a long time, I wondered why that phrase has stuck with me for as long as it has. You know where I first heard it? I was dating a guy in college who still lived with his dad, and I called one night and got their answering machine. It was his dad’s voice, saying the standard, “Sorry we’re not here right now” message. But right at the end, he said, “Thank you for calling and Have a Sparking Day!” I don’t know why, but hearing those words made me break out in a HUGE smile and made me feel so good! So I adopted them as my own that very day, and I’ve been saying them ever since. When people hear those words from me, I want them to feel just as good as I did when I first heard them.

You might say I’ve been working at trying to make people feel good my whole life. My mom loves to tell the story about when I got my first immunizations as an infant. She took me to the doctor, they gave me the shots, and I screamed and cried at the top of my lungs! But as soon as the doctor turned my face to his, I stopped crying instantly and gave him the hugest smile!

Mel_Baby
(OK, so I wasn’t a newborn here…but I’m pretty sure this was what my smile looked like to that doctor!)

He got all flustered, saying that I “couldn’t possibly be smiling, as newborns don’t smile…it must be gas!” But he had a big smile on HIS face, and my mom says she knew in her heart right then that I was meant for good things.

As a child, I would always do whatever it took to make people laugh or smile. Putting on impromptu plays, making up silly songs, or wearing ridiculously loud outfits!

Mel_teen
(My dad affectionately referred to this as my Clem Kadiddlehopper outfit…he still talks about how LOUD the outfit was!)

When I saw the sparkle in their eyes, I was happy.

As a teenager, I got involved in community service activities. I participated in a teen theatre group in which we wrote our own skits about the problems teenagers face. We performed those skits at local middle schools and high schools, and it was amazing to me how many teens would come up to speak with us after each performance with smiles on their faces. It was cool to see that they finally realized they weren’t alone in the struggles they were going through, and to see that sparkle return just a bit.

Through my church in high school, I got involved with the Appalachian Service Project. For three summers, I went with a big group of teens and adults all the way from CT to locations deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains for a week at a time. While there, we’d fix the houses of local families who desperately needed the help. Not only did I learn some great handyman skills, but I got a chance to get to know these families. It was awesome to see these families show up each day throughout the week with bigger and bigger smiles on their faces. And it wasn’t just because we were working to make their homes safe and livable, but because we took the time to get to know them. Again, I had the chance to see some sparkle returning into their lives.

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Once I became an adult, I didn’t have as much time to devote to these kinds of things and I definitely felt like something was missing.

But in 2002, something amazing happened. I’d been practicing yoga for a couple of years by that point. One day after class, my teacher suggested I sign up for a teacher training she was running. My first thought was, “What? Me? I’m the least flexible person in the world! I couldn’t possibly teach yoga!”

But I thought about it long and hard. When I began practicing yoga, I was going through a divorce, working to support myself and my daughter, all while trying to finish my Bachelor’s Degree. Yoga didn’t just improve my strength and flexibily and help me work through some injuries I had. It also showed me how to look within, focus on the important things, and let go of the things that don’t matter. Yoga brought the sparkle back into MY life and enabled me to find happiness. How could I not share that with others? So I decided to register for that training and haven’t looked back!

Melanie_DancerPose
(See how happy I am when I am practicing yoga!)

Yoga helped me figure out my purpose in life, which I believe is to help others find ways to bring a little bit more “Sparkle” back into their lives, each and every day. I’ve dubbed myself as the “Happiness Advocate”, and this role has permeated all aspects of my life: as a yoga teacher; as a wife, mother and friend; and even in my career here at Premier.

When I’m able to help someone work through an issue in any of these roles, no matter how big or small, I am fulfilled. I know I’m making a difference in someone’s life every day that I put myself out there, and that makes it very easy to get up in the morning. I feel like I’m putting the “Sparkle” back into the world, one person at a time.

I’d like to close by challenging each of you to take a look at how you can put a little more “Sparkle” into your own lives each day. Be your own “Happiness Advocate”. And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, it might spill over and do something wonderful for the others you come into contact with on your journey.

Thank you for listening, and “Have a Sparkling Day!”

“There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” ~~ Zig Ziglar

Ever since I was a kid, people told me over and over again to be patient. My mom, my grandparents, my teachers, my friends, my husband. Over and over again, throughout my life, these people have said things like:

“Slow and steady wins the race.”

“Good things come to those who wait.”

“Patience is a virtue.”

“Just wait…don’t be so impatient.”

We’ve ALL heard these phrases (or similar ones) to illustrate the concept that we must be patient for the things that matter, right?

Well, I don’t know about YOU, but being patient and waiting for things is NOT in my nature. I am a redhead, after all! I typically get very antsy when I don’t get an expected result almost immediately. Then I get SUPER stressed from waiting…and waiting…and waiting some more. Which makes me miserable! Am I the only one this happens to?

240
(This is how many of us look when we’re frustrated and impatient, wouldn’t you say?)

If you’ve been reading my blog, it’s clear that I’ve been moving towards more of the lifestyle and spiritual practices of yoga for quite some time. It’s been amazing, because as I grow my personal practice, the effects have been spilling over into every part of my life.

It hasn’t been instantaneous. As a matter of fact, it literally wasn’t until this past weekend that I really had my “A-HA!” moment. You see, this past month has been AMAZING for me, in so many different areas of my life.

In last month’s post, I talked about several things going on with me that were challenging, and I was working on just being OK with what IS. Focusing on the present moment and letting everything else go. This required an incredible amount of patience on my part, as a few of these things had been moving at what felt like a snail’s pace for many months (or years, in some cases). Within a few days of writing that post, however, things changed. Here’s a re-cap:

  • My new role at my full-time job is going very well. So far, it hasn’t been more stressful, and I’ve really been enjoying it. We had our Values conference right after I wrote my last post, and at this conference, teams and individuals are nominated by their peers and are recognized for going above and beyond. A couple of people I work very closely with had been nominated, so I was excited to see if they were chosen as winners. They were! And then all of a sudden, I heard MY name being called! I was in complete and utter shock! ME? I didn’t feel like I deserved this honor AT ALL! But you know, once I really stopped and thought about it, I realized I’d been able to focus on only one main project over this past year…TRULY focus! I truly feel that because of this, I was finally able to show what I can really do. In years past, I was focusing on multiple projects at a time…I remember one year, I had 5 different projects I was accountable for…all at the same time!!! And I remember during that time thinking, “Good Lord! With all that I do around here, and all that I am expected to keep track of, I should win an award or something!” So isn’t it amazing that, by having LESS on my plate, I end up winning that coveted award? I think I initially felt I didn’t deserve the award because I am not all frazzled and stressed anymore. Weird! Funny how life works sometimes.
  • My dog, Beta, is still with us. We switched her medications around, and it seems to be helping a little. She’s no longer hiding under the guest room bed ALL the time…she has actually come downstairs for some cuddles a little bit every day…God, I love it when she comes down and leans in to me as I am petting her! So it looks like maybe we’ve got a little more time with her than I was thinking, and I couldn’t be happier! I’m not expecting miracles…she IS almost 15 years old, after all…but I’ll take what I can get. We’re just taking it one day at a time, being patient with whatever we get on any given day.
  • My Lyme Disease treatment is really starting to kick in. When I first started this journey in December 2011 to figure out what was wrong with me, I was constantly frustrated because no one knew WHY I was sick and nothing was helping me to feel better. I was looking for that “magic pill” that would cure me instantly. Once I finally got diagnosed, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. There are a variety of ways to treat this, and the first few things I tried didn’t work. Choosing the holistic route that I am now doing meant trying a few things at a time and waiting to see the effect. Deep down, I knew it was what I needed to do. But I had to be patient. And finally, after all this time, I am seeing a difference, and in a very good way!

Incorporating yoga and meditation into my life more and more has been key in all of the above. Trying different styles of yoga over the past couple of years helped me to see that for ME, one size does not fit all. I need a variety. I used to only practice the styles of yoga that “gave me a good workout”, because that’s how I thought it was best to tackle stress. What that actually ended up doing was causing me more stress, because I was pushing my body to an edge it just couldn’t handle. Eventually my body quite literally said, “ENOUGH!!! I can’t DO this anymore!”

Meditation, which is something I only got truly serious about since last February, has done wonders for my outlook on LIFE. My ability to do my full-time job has improved due to this, as I find I am not stressing over every little thing. And apparently, others have noticed, as evidenced by the promotion and the award I received. Lately, I have also noticed the difference it’s made in terms of my relationships with my family. My husband and I communicate much more effectively now, and I think it’s because I am actually LISTENING to him. Same with my kids…I’m not talking AT them like I used to, and am instead LISTENING and talking TO and WITH them.

027(Me and my dog, Ripley…can you see in my eyes that I am happy? I can.)

Though it seems like this great stuff happened to me all at once, it hasn’t. It’s taken time for me to get to this point. Many failed attempts at various things that I learned and grew from. I’ve never thought of myself as patient before, but as I look back at what I’ve endured to get to the point where I am right now, I know that I am indeed a patient person. That doesn’t mean I won’t complain now and again about how things may not be happening as quickly as I like…I am human, after all.

Try, if you can, to take your practice off the mat a little more this coming month. Notice how yoga is always with you. All you have to do is stop and take a deep breath…and you’ll see how it permeates your entire being if you let it.

Maybe you’re not ready to take it off the mat yet. That’s OK. You can practice patience on your mat as well. In fact, that’s how many of us begin. Usually, it involves working towards a particular pose. It may take you weeks or even months to get there, depending on where you’re starting from. Start from wherever you are, noticing how when you put a laser-like focus on one pose, you really start to see the progress happening. Even if it takes some time to get there, you’ll be able to see it if you’re focused.

On this day, which happens to be Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful for everything in my life, as these are the things and people who have shaped who I am. I’ve still got work to do on myself. I always will, and that’s excites me…I never want to stop growing! But hopefully, when I get hit with something that frustrates me in the future, I’ll stop and remember that things happen when they are ready, in their own time. I know what my goals are now, and I am happy to see how things unfold in my life as I steadily make my way towards my goals, getting to know myself along the way and becoming who I am meant to be. I hope that as you move through your own journey, you’ll be able to do the same…slow and steady…one step at a time.

Namaste,

Melanie

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to let you all know about something I am super excited about! I am starting a book club at Synergy Yoga & Wellness, which is one of the studios I teach at. We’ll be meeting on the first Friday of every month, from 7:15 – 8:30 p.m. Our first book club meeting will be on Friday, 12/5/2014, This will be at Synergy’s Rock Hill location at 111 Caldwell Street.

The first book we’ll be discussing is “The Gift of Cancer: Turn Your Tragedy into a Treasure…A Treasure Map to Happiness!” by Wendy Treynor, PH.D. This book is for anyone who wants to lead a happier life…come join us! If you’re not local, you can still participate…I’ve created a Facebook group for easier updates, so if you’ve got Facebook, go to the following link and join the group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SynergyYogaBookClub/

I hope to see you on the mat soon!

Namaste,

Melanie

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Join me in Aruba in November 2015! Click the pic to learn how!

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