Heart Connection in Marrakech

IMG_0383.jpg

I’m back in Italy after completing a truly special yoga retreat in Marrakesh. What seemed like an ordinary retreat (we laughed, we stood on our heads, we bargained like crazy, and we rode 2 different kinds of animals), when reflecting deeper, was anything but ordinary.  There were many stand out moments including the gorgeous lunch in the Atlas Mountains, the incredible outdoor tagine cooking class at a mansion riad in the desert, the shopping mania and antics in the souks, and the out of nowhere monsoon hail storm that swept through our outdoor restaurant leaving us tucked in a cozy tent to have our farewell dinner by candlelight.  But what makes these experiences stand-out moments for me has less to do with the adventure or circumstances and everything to do with the magic that happens when people open themselves up to connection and experiences they aren’t familiar with.

 

The cooking class was taught by two very talented Moroccan chefs who were very engaging and jovial while teaching us how to make incredible traditional Moroccan dishes.  The class took place at a spectacular riad in the desert where we cooked tagine outside by the pool after being served Moroccan mint tea and pastries.  The event was set up graciously by a Moroccan friend of mine who also gives the tours of Marrakech.  I trusted he would set something up special and it was beyond what I imagined.  The food was outstanding (my favorite meal of the entire week). And despite the language barrier, as one of the chefs didn’t speak English, the sentiment of deep appreciation came through anyways and by the end of the night, we were all sitting around the dinner table laughing, smiling, enjoying each other and grateful for our new Moroccan friends.

 

Beautiful new friendships were indeed a wonderful result of being together for a week in this exotic and sometimes chaotic land.  The souks are comprised of a maze of narrow dirt streets with vendors selling their handmade wares… and some not hand-made. Over the week, one of our lovely guests bought 20 fake Goyard bags as gifts for her family. The last day of the retreat some of us went back to the souks for a little shopping before flights out of Marrakech.  One of the other guests had asked her to buy some more Goyard purses for her as well if she had the time and bring them back to California.  Well, she didn’t have any extra time but was determined to get them.  We got caught up in one store for a while and by the time she was heading to find her Goyard store, it was essentially time for her to head to the airport.  But she insisted she would somehow navigate the souks alone and find this one store that had the purses.  We wished her luck and I was truly worried she would miss her flight. 

Well, she in fact did find the store and after her last desperate purchase, with sweat dripping down her face, she was swept off by the store owner on the back of a moped weaving through the craziness of the souks to grab a taxi. I won’t go into more detail (and there is a lot more), but basically she nearly missed her flight.  It struck me as such an act of kindness to risk missing her flight because she had promised to get these purses for her new friend.  Her story truly moved me…and made me laugh out loud. There were many examples of kind gestures and demonstrations of love throughout the week.  Offering a heightened experience of inspiration and expansiveness, travel seems to set the stage to open our hearts and heal our lives.

After this last retreat, what has become certain to me as it pertains to my work (which I have only created in the past 5 years) is that the highlight for me during retreats is to witness meaningful connections being made between guests.  And when I think about it, connecting people has been a pattern of mine since a very young age.  I’ve always had a passion for bringing people together, whether it was in the form of having parties at my home (God knows I’ve had a million of them!), making time for fun gatherings for my employees, planning trips for groups of friends, and now in the platform of wellness retreats. I absolutely love bringing people together and setting the stage for deep connection to occur. So it’s no surprise to me that what brings me the greatest joy from these retreats is to see new friendships being made. 

I haven’t had one retreat where I don’t see guests as perfect strangers develop meaningful friendships. I truly believe that this is one of the reasons I’ve been put on this earth. When I started this retreat business, it was impulsive and not thought through clearly, but I was driven by a profound inspiration to bring people together in beautiful places.I didn’t realize at the time that my soul was speaking through me and that the bigger soul intention has always been to create an environment conducive to helping people wake up to the Universal Truth that All is One. Somehow by following my passion, my purpose found me. The greater overall lesson I learned (and which has also helped me deepen in trust) is that we don’t have to know with exact clarity what we are “meant to do”, whatever that means. We just need to lean into the things that spark something inside of us, that sets our heart on fire, and trust that living with passion is enough to show us the way forward. It always does.

The Power of Self-Esteem

jean-luc-benazet-1380577-unsplash.jpg

There’s nothing quite like springtime in Italy.  Living in southern California almost my entire life, I never really got to witness a full, robust change of season into spring where the landscape seems to magically change almost overnight.  I can spend hours wandering the windy backstreets of Florence overlooking the sweeping vistas of the countryside marveling at the bright colors and how fresh & new life can feel in the rebirthing process. I sometimes feel like I’m walking in a Renaissance painting. 

Coming back to Italy every year in the spring always shifts my energy inward.  It reminds me to take a step back and look at what’s trying to be made manifest in my life, even if it’s a breakthrough in consciousness.  I find the energy here is conducive for me to take a deeper dive into my spiritual process.  I’m always joking that the amazing food is the reason I spend most of every year in Italy (and in fact it does play a big role!), but the truth is Italy is my muse.  The history, art, culture, and natural beauty of this country create an atmosphere perfect to inspire the soul. My creativity and intuition are heightened allowing me to feel more myself, on purpose and providing me a direct line to my personal truth.   

I think we all have unique parts of this world that provide our souls the chance to have this type of expansive, numinous experience.  You can probably think of some places you’ve traveled that make you feel this way.  Maybe where you live right now is feeding your soul with inspiration, but if not, how do you cultivate the environment that allows you to conduit the language of the soul.  Inspiration is direct, intuitive guidance on what your life’s purpose is.  It’s the spark of soul creativity and a reminder of how it feels to be truly engaged and alive. Whether or not you are in a place where spring inspires you to engage in the creative renewal of your life, now is the time to re-establish how you are using your influential power to create the life you desire.  The power I’m speaking about is the power that comes from having a foundation of strong self-esteem.

Here’s how self-esteem works:
Self-esteem doesn’t allow you to negotiate your honor away.  It doesn’t allow you to make self-sabotaging choices that hide your light because with self-esteem you don’t care what others think of you.  And it doesn’t allow you to disempower yourself with a victim mentality because you are humble in knowing that we can not possibly know why things happen the way they do but instead that every challenge serves as a vehicle for personal evolution.  Without self-esteem we can cling to self-righteousness as a substitute and sometimes, even arrogance about our goodness and what we feel like we deserve.  Furthermore, we may even experience anger against the Universe about how unfair life is or exert our idea of justice onto what we think should or shouldn’t happen.   

Conversely, with a healthy sense of self-regard, your very presence is a way of being that stands on it’s own and speaks for itself.  You are centered and grounded in your own unwavering truth, residing in deep faith and acceptance.  There is no questioning why things are the way they are.  You are just creating your life moment to moment, making decisions from a place of clarity.  All our highest choices and responses to life come from a place of strong self-esteem, showing us the way to our highest potential.

Our lives will always give us opportunities and dare I say tests to show us where we stand with our own sense of self. Even small choices reflect our understanding of our self-worth. The good news is that we can all intentionally build a deep intimacy with self.  The time and effort you spend on developing self-esteem and working through any negativity along the way will pay dividends in your life.  It is transformative to say the least.

Reflecting on this awareness, here are some questions that can help prompt you into a more profound understanding of your own level of self-esteem:

1.   In what areas of your life and in what ways have you negotiated away your Truth or your Values in order to receive safety?

2.   What makes you feel victimized in life? What part of your life do you feel empowered the most?

3.  What choices do you make that you intuitively know undermine your ability to be successful (in any area of your life)?

4.   If you were coming from a place of self-esteem, what choices would you make differently in your life right now?  What ideas or thoughts about life do you need to let go of in order to do so?

 

My intention is that these questions help you glean some important insight into how you are either gaining or losing power through the lens of self-esteem.  In the great words of Aristotle, “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”.  Sending you all blessings to your individual pursuits of developing a healthy self-esteem, so we may all receive the extraordinary and unique gifts you possess.

 

In Love with San Miguel

IMG_0726.JPG

I just finished my third retreat in San Miguel de Allende and it never ceases to amaze me how much this town inspires the soul.  It has a very particular high vibrating, magical energy that makes you feel like enjoying life to the fullest.  Perhaps it’s because this town sits on a bed of rose quartz.  I’m not sure exactly, but there’s a burgeoning population of ex-pats going there to stir their creativity and re-invent their lives. The town’s colorful streets are filled with local artisans and modern artists alike.  It sits on a hill in central Mexico surrounded by an expansive countryside lined with mountains and filled with beautiful cacti and yellow flowers  that can be seen for miles when perched on a rooftop somewhere (with margarita in hand of course). The setting is perfect for the soul to thrive.

 One of the reasons why I love hosting retreats so much is because I love witnessing inspiration on the faces of my guests.  Traveling to a place like San Miguel sparks wonder, joy, and curiosity, creating space for our inner child to come out, play and engage her/his imagination.  And the imagination is precisely where our souls can interact with us, infuse us with abundant creativity and give us purpose and a calling.  This is exactly what happened to me on my own journeys around the world and why I started this business to begin with.  The experiences I had in foreign lands broke me open and swept me away into a different consciousness.  I knew there was more to my life than I had let myself previously explore.  And I became relentless in my pursuit of the truth of what life really had to offer. 

I have given more blood, sweat and tears into being an entrepreneur than I had ever imagined.  It challenges me and stretches me in every possible way and I’ve questioned my path a million times, but with steady perseverance and an unwavering commitment to my truth, I have arrived at a place where I genuinely embrace the mystery and I can finally admit that the risks I take feel more like a thrilling adventure than a pending annihilation. 

Every time I see the spark of inspiration on someone’s face, I know that in that moment their soul is more present, they are more fulfilled, and they feel more truly alive.  Inspiration moves us away from the ordinary and into the extraordinary, a world of infinite possibility. Our instinctual creative engine gets going and compels us toward living our greatest potential.  It is in these moments that I know I am on my path, living with pure intention, and meeting my destiny.  So for this, I say thank you to San Miguel and all the highly inspiring destinations across this magnificent world that make each travel experience a journey worth taking.

Sending Love and Blessings of Inspiration to the Inner & Outer Journeys of the Soul,

Michelle

The "S" Word

mauro-mora-85112-unsplash.jpg

It’s almost the end of January and we’re back in the full swing of things. Does life feel like it’s being played in fast-forward? The universe is giving us a lot of momentum and support right now for our creative endeavors with all the planets in forward motion.

It's a great time to really flex our creative powers and advance ourselves towards realizing our dreams.  However, at the same time, in a high achieving mentality, it’s easy to get caught up in "over-doing”. We can easily find ourselves in a more demanding pace, focused on efficiency and checklists that more often than not, become draining on all levels. 

In fact, when we are in high-productivity mode, there’s a common tendency to become more impatient with people, life, and processes.  Anything that slows us down from accomplishing our task at hand feels like a barrier between us and feeling validated and ultimately worthy as a human being.
 
So what is the significance of Impatience? And how is it serving our soul’s growth? There is a  bigger piece here and it’s connected to one of the greatest spiritual lessons of our lives…

Learning to Surrender (the “S” word) 

The grip of control runs deep in so many of us.  As powerful creators, we know we can achieve results by focusing energy, working hard, and even sometimes forcing things.  It’s in this illusion of control that we believe we create our lives.  The moments of having to wait on people, life and processes (both internal and external) give us with the opportunity to let go of control and to surrender to the present moment and our feelings.  We must ask ourselves if the fleeting and intermittent payoff of feeling “in control” is worth our peace of mind, our health, and our emotional well-being.  The answer is, it never is!

Furthermore, impatience shows us the resistance we have to accepting our lives as they are.  It reflects an internal line of energy that wants to control the timing and circumstances of our experience.  Being impatient goes against the flow of life and blocks our state of peace. It causes internal imbalance versus trusting that everything is in divine order and happening in divine timing. 

Alternatively, patience is an enlightening virtue that brings us out of victim mentality and into an empowerment state where we make better choices, have higher tolerance for the people we love, and become aware of the nuances of any situation. It takes time to cultivate patience and is built on a strong foundation of Surrender.

In Eckhart Tolle’s wise words from his book The Power of Now, “Don't look for peace. Don't look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender.”

Busy time is a perfect time to work with the concept of Surrender in your life. Here are a couple ways that will guide you in this process and ultimately help you attain a more peaceful, and just as productive, state of being.

1.     Working in the Mental Realm:
Notice if you’re in a state of “over-doing”, perfectionism, or control.  Name the judgments you’re having about the situation. Are they an accurate representation of the truth of the situation? Are you willing to release these and the resistance that comes with them and move into neutrality?

2.     Working in the Emotional Realm:
Slow it down.  Become present to your feelings and to your experience.  It’s in the acceptance of the present moment that we heal ourselves.  Name the feelings that you are experiencing and allow them to just “be”. Apply compassion to yourself, others, and the situation as you consciously practice to surrender control in the moment. Soon after, try to find some time to write about the experience and let your feelings be fully expressed. This integrative process will help you to build internal intimacy and develop trust and wisdom around your own resources. Over time you will build a level of self-love and self-trust to the point where you won’t need to be over-achieving in order to feel good enough.

Transforming consciousness is a process and also holds a golden opportunity to demonstrate the ultimate surrender as we swim in the deeper waters of the subconscious mind. But bit by bit, we heal and we grow and we elevate our perspective to a place we know exists but we haven’t experienced before. This is why we do the work in consciousness and I’m sending much love and light to your transformation.

Conscious Endings

2018-4th-of-july-bright-769525.jpg

Conscious Endings

2018 is coming to an end and for some of us it can't come fast enough. See ya later 2018, don't let the door hit you on the way out. It was definitely a shake-up kind of year with plenty of disruptions on both the personal and global levels.  But as always, there's divine perfection in the chaos and a reason for all the events in our lives. 

New beginnings and new endings represent the cyclical nature of our lives, something to be honored and acknowledged when the time is right. They both hold something bittersweet for us, something that reminds us of the impermanence of everything and at the same time that we are always evolving and growing.

As we close out the year, it's important to take some thoughtful time to complete and integrate our spiritual lessons in this Earth School so we can fully engage in a new cycle of creative rebirth in 2019. If we can let go of the energetic dead weight from the past, we clear space for inspiration, clarity and new opportunities to enter our field of potentiality.   Bringing awareness to what's trying to be resolved in the deeper, subconscious realm will lead us to the healing integration we are seeking in order to move powerfully forward into expressing our greatest potential. 

To consciously end your 2018, take out your journal, center yourself with meditation and a quiet space, and then answer the following questions:

1)   Identify 3 things in your life that are trying to end.  What feelings come up when you think about letting go of these things?  Resistance, fear, excitement, sadness, etc. Name them specifically.  Let them speak to you on their terms, fully expressed.

2)   What choices must be made in order to ensure the completion of these endings?  Are there new self-care or boundaries needed to be put in place?

3) Is a new theme(s) trying to emerge in your life? Are you excited for your new creative beginning(s) or does fear come up?

4) Write down the greatest vision you have for yourself in 2019 including how you want to feel, what you’d like to experience, and what kind of person you’d like to become. What choices can you make to begin aligning yourself with this vision?

The Energy of Money

bank-notes-blur-close-up-164474.jpg

Every choice we make either enhances our power or depletes it. How we choose to spend our money becomes a transformative discipline upon which we can empower our lives, galvanize our dreams, and reach our potential.

The topic of money can be a trigger for even the most evolved beings especially given the right circumstances. We live in a world with a strong cultural belief that our worth is based on how much we have.  It breeds fear, greed and negative self-worth. Money offers the illusion of validation and intimacy, motivating us to acquire as much as possible in addition to becoming obsessive about it.  And in some cases, it can lead to financial trouble and a leak of personal power and self-esteem. Have you ever wanted something so much (new shoes, a car, a computer, etc) and after you finally attain it, you notice it doesn’t take long before you already have your mind set on the next must-have purchase?  In this mindset, there’s an unconscious desire to feel “enough” through the fleeting satisfaction of external items or experiences, leaving an emptiness and a reminder of our “not enough-ness” because what we are truly seeking is a deeper, lasting satisfaction with ourselves and our creations.

We all have a desire to achieve ease and freedom around money, whether rich or poor.  But if we slow down and begin to understand our personal story around money and what money really represents for us on a deeper level, our awareness can lead to deep healing, maturing, and set us on a positive life trajectory. 

What is freedom?  I love George Kinder’s definition from Seven Stages of Money Maturity : “It’s living under the conditions that allow us to truly be ourselves, where our souls can flourish.  It is our birthright to be free and that path to freedom can be found and followed.  Our personal responsibility in life is to discover the circumstances upon which this can occur and do the personal work necessary to create this.”

Money is a neutral tool to create a means of exchange. It’s a condensed version of value, power, and choice. It represents freedom however the presence of wealth doesn’t provide emotional solvency. It doesn’t necessarily correlate to virtues such as generosity, personal responsibility, and kindness. Inner freedom comes from developing a loving, intimate relationship with oneself and having a strong sense of self and self-worth. Our relationship with money is simply a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves. The self-love we have, the less money (or anything external) will have a grip on us. Healing our issues with money is a game changer and can completely change the quality of our ives on a daily basis.

If you’re interested in beginning the self-discovery process around how you relate to money, what your values are and how you are creating your life, you can begin by thoughtfully answering these questions:

1.) What beliefs about money did you formulate from your childhood, including what your parents told you and how you were raised? Was there a particular event that happened that left a lasting impression on you about money?

2.) When you think about money, what are the prominent feelings that come up for you? Do you worry about money, and what do you tell yourself when you’re worrying?

3.) What does money represent for you? What do I really want to use my money for? If you think about what you really want to achieve in life, is your money flowing towards supporting your goals? If not, why not?

4.) Is there a pattern in the way you spend money that causes you suffering? If you’re aware of your spending patterns, it’s a great idea to begin a daily journal. As you go through your day, have a heightened sensitivity & awareness to your feelings as it relates to money.  Try to identify what the feelings are that arise and see if there’s a pattern around these feelings. Gratitude and clarity or resentment and victimization are just some examples. Journal about it and keep tracking these feelings.

This is a process and it can take some time to understand your story fully, so be patient and compassionate with yourself as you come to terms with your awarenesses. Then you can take steps towards letting go, gaining practical financial knowledge and cultivating virtues around money. But I will leave that to another blog!

A few wonderful books I recommend on this topic are:

Seven Stages of Money Maturity by George Kinder
The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist
The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth

As always, sending love and blessings to your process…

Boundaries & a Balanced Life

Florence, Italy October 2018 - photo by retreat guest Renee Wills

Florence, Italy October 2018 - photo by retreat guest Renee Wills

This past week on retreat in Chianti, Italy, I had the great privilege to lead a group of women through a series of personal development workshops specifically designed to lead them into greater awareness of how they are co-creating their lives. This group was filled with thoughtful, open-minded, and compassionate women eager to do the self-inquiry it takes to uncover their truth.  I was astounded by their vulnerability and trust in the process and combined with the fun excursions throughout Tuscany, needless to say, it was a wonderful week together.  

After a retreat ends, I generally do some thoughtful journaling and reflecting on the week.  One of the questions that came up during one of the sessions was about Boundaries and how do we integrate them into our lives in a healthy way.  I didn't have time to respond in depth as the session was coming to a close however this question has been floating around in my consciousness since then. During the week I had been challenged with my own question around personal boundaries and how far and for how long you allow someone to trespass in your space, whether it be physical, energetic or psychic. I realized this concept of boundaries is one of great depth and not linear in the least bit because as we strive to move towards a healthier state of being, we find our individual, unique balance of giving and receiving of one’s energy to the world while honoring the fluidity of boundaries and how they can change from day to day. Furthermore, if our goal is to achieve a balanced life, it leads us to question the relationship we have with ourselves and the level of self-control we exert in our own lives. Balance and health start from the inside, building self-trust and self-love, one good choice after another.

We, as individuals, based on our own sensitivity and how we learned to relate (and survive) in the world, grew up with a certain level of tolerance for others. It has occurred to me that the more sensitive and empathic we tend to be, the more we create a habit of giving others abundant allowance to trespass, as we strive to create peace in our surroundings. However, what many of us come to realize over much time and too many negative experiences is that without clear boundaries of our own time and space, there will always be intrusions that inevitably cause us to leak our energy leaving us feeling drained, frustrated, and victimized. In more extreme circumstances, we find ourselves in situations of being in a pattern of allowing abusive behavior, and possibly from a family member. Creating stronger boundaries for ourself within the family dynamic can bring up a lot of resistance and foibles as we find our voice, but it’s an incredibly courageous step forward towards healing, self-love and healthy relationships.

That being said, every situation and every interaction is different and is always presenting us with an opportunity to define what our boundaries are and learn about what our needs are. The process of implementing boundaries into our lives is just that, a process. There is re-programming that needs to take place, a change in our values towards self-love and self-care and a change in our belief that giving to others more than ourselves is the highest way to love or what makes us “good” people.

If you’re setting the intention to create more energy and freedom in your life, here are some self-inquiry questions that with thoughtful consideration could lead you towards beginning a new orientation to healthy boundaries:

1) When and with whom do I feeling most drained in my life? Is there a pattern I can identify? What emotions are present when I feel like I’m being pushed?

2) What emotions come up when I think about telling people “no” or what my needs are? Do I have self-judgment around having stronger boundaries?

3) How would my life change if I were to implement boundaries with others? Identify 1 place in your life that you see an opportunity to shift your boundaries. What steps can you take now to begin the process?

4) Is there an area of your life you feel you could integrate more boundary/self-control with yourself?

I hope these questions have sparked some awareness for you and help you get clearer on who you are and what your needs are. As always, I’m here for extra facilitation and send much love to your process.

With Gratitude,

Michelle