Redefining "Well"

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Almost five years ago I sat down with my best friend to define my values and goals, this work being really new to me at the time. As we ideated on my values I landed on "radiantly healthy" as one of them. Visions of green juice and washboard abs and long runs danced in my head. 

Now I'm a lot of things but radiantly healthy isn't exactly one of them. The thought of radiant health sounded wonderful but it wasn't my experience then and it's not my experience now. Over the past two years I've made dozens of changes in my life that have helped me feel my best and helped me redefine my "well." A well that is uniquely mine to action and support and doesn't need to look like anybody else's.

A little back story:
I grew up in Iowa on a meat and potatoes diet. My mom had a brief flirtation with getting really "hippie" in the kitchen and with a whole host of herbs (I was grounded once for eating Skittles after she'd cleansed Red #40 out of me. Ha!) but for the most part we ate well and "normal."

After attending college I moved to Washington DC where I subsisted on happy hour Buffalo Wings and a whole lot of booze. I noticed that my stomach was often not right. (I mean whose could be?!) But this continued for years. I'd sometimes be constipated for a week or more. Bloated and swollen almost constantly.

It took meeting my husband at 27 after moving to California and his disbelief at my eating habits and health symptoms for me to really question what I was up to. As much I chataranga-ed and meditated I couldn't right the harm I was doing to my body. I had become used to feeling absolutely terrible and dressing in a way that hid my swollen tummy. It was my normal.

Matt and I embarked on our first Whole30 two months into dating. People told us we'd never last. "You're supposed to be wining and dining these first few months! Not cutting out gluten, sugar, dairy and alcohol." I was terrified. I'd never cut out anything in my life, except calories to lose weight. I had no knowledge of nutrition. I didn't think I could do it. But I absolutely did. Made it all thirty days without cheating one single time (and even cut out caffeine too!) and felt wonderful. I would bound out of bed in the morning. Run and go to yoga almost every single day. Cook with this man I was falling madly in love with. And my skin was clear and radiant. Oh, and my body was working like clockwork. Right then and there I decided to make some big changes in my life and to find out what was wrong.

After seeing a specialist I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I was put on medication which helped a lot and continued to eat pretty well. And just this past year I was diagnosed with somewhat mild Endometriosis (thank God.) I've been to many doctors, eastern practitioners, healers, even the ER. Every affliction has one thing in common - inflammation.

In these past two years I have changed my entire life. While that first Whole30 inspired something in me, I wasn't ready to take the plunge and change my habits. I have now. My health has become of the utmost importance to me as I've seen the power in my choices and the power of going against the grain.

Here are a few of the biggest changes I've made in my life to feel really good:

Cut out alcohol.
In January I will be have been "booze-free" for two years. Cutting out alcohol is the best choice I've ever made for my physical, mental and emotional health. I instantly dropped about fifteen pounds. My body was less swollen and inflamed. I'm never hungover. I could go on and on. The challenge, of course, is giving up that glass of wine (or several in my case) with friends but once I realized that I idealized alcohol in my moments like that I've found that my evenings out with my friends are just as good without it. And those friends who don't want to hang as much if you don't drink? Lose them. I am so proud of myself and now feel zero shame around being someone who doesn't drink.

Eat clean.
I eat a gluten-free diet with zero to little dairy or sugar. Sure, I totally splurge from time to time and eat my favorite chicken nachos but for the most part I eat clean and this has made a huge difference in my health.

Switch to tea.
Coffee makes me asshole. A to-do list maniac with every tab open on my browser. I've since switched to Vital Protein's Matcha Collagen and FourSigmatic's Mushroom Coffee. Both have a low caffeine content and a host of health benefits. Plus are way more delicious than coffee anyway.

Supplement correctly.
Okay, so my current line up is this:
- Vitex and Milk Thistle twice a day for hormone health and skin love. (I take five days off Vitex a month because it can be intense. Read how to supplement with it carefully if you try it. It's made a huge difference for me.)
Beef Gelatin and Cartilage Collagen for intestinal health and healthy skin.
- Wobezym Digestive Enzymes to help break down food. I've tried a lot of digestive enzymes and I swear by these.
- I also take SmartyPants vitamins and extra Vitamin D.

Drink lots of H20.
I drink a ton of water throughout the day. Often in the form of a La Croix can (grapefruit please!) but am getting better about drinking just regular ol' H20 too.

Move my body.
Whether it's going for a long walk with Rosy or practicing in my home yoga studio or at Wanderlust Hollywood or a super sweaty workout at Pharos Athletic Club, moving my body everyday is important. I focus on what feels good that day and what is needed.

I'll definitely write more about my health journey and what makes a big difference for me going forward. Shoot me a note if there's anything you want me to expand upon.

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God Winks + Quiet

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We've been talking a lot about the balance of effort and surrender at Rock Your Bliss lately. Effort and surrender. Rest and play. Hustle and flow.

I realized I've been hustling pretty hard. Paperwork, classes, travel. I caffeinate myself into a frenzy then work as hard as a I can for short bursts. I've become addicted to the burst of "brought to you by coffee" energy, the excitement and reward of starting a new day. And if you know me, I don't do anything in moderation. (Hence why I've traded in the wine glass for the La Croix can for almost two years now.

This week I played with the idea of being as relaxed as possible while still productive. To breathe deeply, relax my jaw, break it up and go for a walk. The simple things that are so necessary yet beyond easy to forget.

As I got a little quieter I noticed my natural rhythms. Three hours back-to-back on the computer felt like too much. I needed water, tea and sunlight. (I'm basically a slightly caffeinated plant now.) My day felt longer and sweeter. I even needed a nap at one point. Which to exception of doing a couple of really spacey things, it's felt good. Like saying to myself: Oh, there you are. I missed you.

I truly believe that we create so much noise and chaos around and within us, we can't hear what the universe is trying to tell us. By dialing down the internal noise, I create more space. 

The sweetest moment happened yesterday. I felt drawn to read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." It's a very old book and a book my Grandma had told me was her favorite all throughout my childhood. I curled up with a tea and found myself lost in the book. Then realized that today is her birthday. My friend Rand calls these moments "God winks." I feel it.

So here's to God winks and quiet in 2018.

What I've Learned from Slowing Down

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Our culture loves the hustle. Just a scroll through social media is peppered with the phrases “But first coffee…” or “Hustle and heart.” And some days that’s true. Some hustle is absolutely necessary—extra caffeine, too. But after a couple of years of running myself into the ground, becoming used to tight shoulders and a tight jaw and a writing a page-long to-do list every Monday I asked myself one question: Why exactly was I doing this?

My best friend Jacki, and my partner in Rock Your Bliss and I often talk about the “hustle to worthiness.” We’ve been programmed to believe that until the clothes are perfectly folded, the to-do list is complete, our workout has been “crushed” and we’ve plated a perfect looking dinner, we are not worthy. Just a scroll through Instagram is full of these exact images. But we aren’t talking about the cost of this perfection: our mental health, our breath, our inner relationship, our human-ness. We aren’t robots.

So I started with an experiment. Every weeknight at 8 PM, I’d put my phone on Airplane mode and not take it off until I’d meditated in the morning. The first night I felt kind of panicky. What if someone tried to reach me and couldn’t? Well, then they couldn’t. When I woke up the next morning I took my time making my coffee and sitting in my yoga space taking slow, deep breaths. And when I my phone came off Airplane there were a couple frantic texts. But they were frantic only because someone needed something from me and I’d put up a boundary and took some time to start my day on my own terms.

Guess what? That’s okay. And not only is it okay, it feels good.

Since then I’ve stuck to this pretty regularly. I’ve spent more time outside in the park with a paperback and my journal. I’ve definitely taken more deep breaths. And I’ve started every morning on my own terms, rather than a habitual Instagram scroll and some frantic texting. I’ve learned the beauty of the pause, or the space in between the chaos. Pressing pause is such a wonderful tool to garner more peace and gratitude. It’s good for your stress levels and your ability to express kindness. It’s one of the few things that combats that need for perfection, and it’s so easy to do.  

Here's a few ideas to help you pause:

Bring just a notebook. 
Whether I’m heading to a coffee shop or a park, I love to challenge myself to bring nothing but a notebook. No iPhone, no computer, just a pen and paper. It gives me time to reflect and dream up some new ideas for classes or creative projects.

Let things be messy. 
As a definitely Virgo, I thrive with order. That being said, I’ve learned to enjoy a bit of mess. Deciding not to make our bed on a Saturday or leaving some dishes in the sink. There’s a life to be lived and the world is a very messy place. I’m the one who is going to spend all my time trying to clean and order it? It’ll drive you mad.

Get a library card. 
I admit that I do love to read on my iPad, but after spending way too much time with that brightly lit screen I started heading down to our local library and getting some books there. And it’s free!

Just lay there. 
Your alarm goes off and you dash out of bed or pick of your phone. Try just laying there for awhile. Maybe you a pup or a human to cuddle with? Maybe you pick up a book for a few minutes? Starting your day slowly will slow everything down.

Take yourself on date. 
Whether it’s to the bathtub with a glass of wine or kombucha and a paperback or to a movie matinee I love some alone time. Challenge yourself to do something that scares you, like sitting in a restaurant solo or taking a hip-hop dance class. The alone time (and the bravery it took to get there) are vastly rewarding.

Connect. 
On our Rock Your Bliss podcast we often ask in our Rapid Fire questions whether people prefer phone calls or text. The majority say text. We are living in a culture where true human connection is going extinct. Rather than catching up with a friend over the phone, schedule a time to be together or take a new class. Make eye contact. Write a letter.

Walk.
 I live in Los Angeles, which is an amazing city but not the friendliest of walking cities. That being said, there’s plenty of areas you can explore on foot. There’s art museums. And parks. And historic districts. I’m sure they same goes for your hometown—where can you go? Can you take a break from the speed of a car and enjoy slower-paced journey? Pick a new area to explore or run your errands on foot.

Let these ideas serve as inspiration. Try them out or develop your own. Either way, slow down and notice the details with your sacred pause.

This first appeared on Wanderlust.com.

Transformation is Messy

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I was talking to a student after class one day and she said, "You're so brave."
I almost looked behind me to see who she was talking to.
"Me? Brave?" I asked.

As she walked off, I let that marinate a bit. Honestly, I have made a lot of brave choices. I've been through many iterations of myself. Perhaps this is Version MB 142.0? And one thing I've learned along the way is that I often don't want to make the brave choice or the big choice. I often wanted to pass on the big speaking engagement, staying home in my pajamas and staying "safe" but I knew I couldn't. A big life wasn't going to be a comfortable life. It would be absolutely necessary to get acquainted with discomfort.

After each big speaking event or new project or scary life change, I'd think, "Okay, I did it. I'm done with discomfort." That's definitely not the case. There's old habits to break, there's hard conversations to be had, there's more risks and challenges to be taken on. And along the way I've embraced discomfort and messy transformation like a good friend. Not the friend I wanna curl up with and watch Netflix with every night but the friend I must have in my life because they make me better.

This is living.

A brave life is a beautiful one. It's also transformational and messy and challenging. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Keeping My Word (And the Other Three Agreements I Ignored Until My Thirties)

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I think about her now. The girl that would cancel plans without a moment's notice or decide that drinking a pitcher of margaritas on the beach was a better idea than calling her brother back. All that mattered were her priorities, her feelings, her emotional rollercoaster. I don't think I even started to realize I was her until I hit age thirty. And even then, there was a lot of excavating needed to become who I am now. Imperfect, for sure, but present and with a lot less explaining to do.

I read the book "The Four Agreements" the moment it came out. Then I read it again. And again. And again. And with most self help books I consumed during this time, nothing really stuck. In fact, I probably thought I was doing the work. That I could lead the work.

The four agreements being:
Be impeccable with your word.  
Don't take anything personally.
Don't make assumptions.
Always do your best.


I recently had a friend who bailed on something really important to me minutes before. I worked through every last feeling before I got onto the phone and we were able to have a constructive conversation. One thing she said really stood out to me though: I'm here to defend my choice.

I felt an ache in my ribs because I get it. That endless defending of my choices instead of just showing up and doing what I said I'd do. The self righteousness that gets exhausting. Needing to be right rather than understood. The thousands of white lies I'd construct spinning a far larger web than I'd started with. It just really sucked, to be honest. I'm sure this wasn't her experience, nor should it have been, but it's what I remembered from this painful period in my life.

In that conversation, and many prior and many since, I remembered this: I'll show up and do what I say I'll do. I'll say no to what I can't or don't want to commit to. And somebody else's business is somebody else's business. There's no need to make assumptions and take absolutely everything personally.  

It is simply not my job to judge you. It is not my place.
It is however my job is see myself in you and to know that we are one in the same.

And I'll learn that over and over again for the rest of my life.
Of that I have no doubt.

On Letting Go: Part 1 + 2

Part I: 

I lost my right wedge sandal on my first night of college after three too many Solo cups full of cheap beer. I lost the phone number of my dreadlocked, heart-full-of-gold roommate almost immediately after our summer in London and have never found him again. I lost my contacts in the Caribbean Sea. I lost my grandmother, her hats, her books of rocks and birds and the smell of Carmex. I lost my wedding ring but then I found it.

I let go of hundreds of coulda, woulda, shouldas. I let go of the idea that there are things I must do. No need to stand awkwardly at a party when you'd rather go home and read. I let go of relationships & friendships that always feel like swimming upstream. Exhausting. I let go of the idea that my body is anything but perfect. After years and years of fighting it's shape and curves, I shed some tears, ate a grilled cheese and never ever looked back. I let go, and continue to, of the people who vex my spirit and make me feel tired. I let go of doubt. I embrace trusting, laughing and drinking wine with people who feel right. I let go of "I'll be happy when ____". I let go of the idea that I'm going to be a runner. Or a surfer. It's simply not happening, as much as I try. I let go of feeling bad because I'm just not letting go enough.

I once tried to build a two-story lemonade stand on wheels and another time I attempted to knit a circus net that would catch me after I flew around the house several times impressing the neighbor kids. I was seven and convinced that I held as much magic as the world around me, skinned knees and all. I knew I could fly. I ended up on crutches most of that summer, unable to participate in games of tag and hide and seek. I sat on the porch swing, the very swing I launched myself from convinced I'd be lifted right into the bright blue sky, and called the neighbor kids names. That was the summer I first became aware that I could lose, and that there was a lot of "letting go" in life, that didn't include leaping from the swing.

We lose and it hurts and we want it to stop. We learn to let go a little slower, with more grace. We stop building two-story lemonade stands, but if we're lucky, a couple decades later we might pick it up again. We hold hands tightly, we sometimes hear last breaths, we sometimes dance til midnight.

We lose. We let go. We become lighter. We learn to unfurl our wings, at first a bit matted and clumsy. We keep moving toward the light til' we do what we are born to. Fly.

"Anything I cannot transform into something marvelous, I let go." - Anais Nin

"But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned
against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine."
- Billy Collins, from the poem "On Turning Ten"
 


Part II:

I remember writing Part I at my husband's desk a few years ago. I had a glass of Chardonnay in my hand and tears streamed down my cheeks as something unlocked in me. Through words, through chemistry. I was always seeking that feeling of unlocking, or quieting, or calming but not enough to sit with myself for a little while. 

It was true then.
It's true now.

My process has changed. I've changed.

I've spent the last two years peeling open my tightly clasped fists that were holding so tightly onto this idea of "self' with barely any recognition of that big, juicy Self with capital S.

This letting go is an unlearning, I think. And fuck, is it a slow process. Unlearning fear or judgement may well take me the rest of my days but I think it's worth it. It's a gradual peeling back of these protective layers I've accumulated only to be reacquainted with my dorkiest eleven-year-old self.

That self didn't get it yet. She was beautiful then and she's beautiful now.
And still very much here.

Sage and Pray

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This week. Oh man, where to even begin?

I've spent a lot of time sage-ing my house and myself. Praying. Crying, definitely crying. Scrolling CNN and Vice looking for answers that just aren't there. 

I watched as my friends cancelled plans one after the other, especially odd for a good bit of them. What's happening? Collective exhaustion, I think.

Mother Earth and the devastation of the the hurricanes. The absolutely heartbreaking and terrifying mass shooting in Vegas. And the constant shit show that is President Trump. Honestly, I'm at a loss. I turned to Instagram and said this:

I am mining my heart and these books and others for the “answer.” I do know that kindness and understanding are needed more than ever but am feeling depleted and sad in a way I’ve never experienced. Leaning on my practice like never before and listening for the wisdom of who to be and how to help. What is helping you? Resources, words, phone numbers to call. Please share.

These were some of the responses and honestly they have all helped. I thought I'd share.

Reaching toward friends to discuss the big feels, local community gatherings, nourishing food, emptying my pockets for those without homes and security (literally, whatever is in my wallet with no expectation or judgement about how it will be spent::thank you @lisapalmerart), deep rest, prayer altars, tree preaching.
- @pixielighthorse

Warm smiles to literally EVERY human I see. And they've been smiling back, they get it.
- @meghmccoy

Breath, genuine + open hearted connection with strangers, time alone, reminding myself of the broader arc of history and that (I believe/have faith in the idea that) we are ultimately headed in the right direction even if we are going through some growing pains in the moment 💗
- @helloashleyberry

Hang with the friends that make you laugh .. like .. really laugh. Love you.
- @donovanyoga

I adore Anne Lamott. I’ve been listening to a lot of @gungormusic lately. Their faithfulness and encompassing spirituality is reassuring and calming to me. If you want a book that is lovely and beautiful and redemptive in its pain, you ought to read Pax, by Sara Pennypacker. It is YA fiction about a little boy who runs away from home to find the pet fox his dad made him release when he had to join the armed forces. The chapters are told from the alternating points of view of the fox and the boy and it is gorgeous and full of truths.
- @family.rewritten

Brene's book really helped me, she has some pretty relevant advice for what's currently going on, but also just allowing myself to be oh so very sad about all of this. It isn't OK, it doesn't seem like it's going to change and it feels so heavy. Being sad is not fun at all and I think we jump to wanting to fix it, but grief is so necessary and appropriate.
- @angieeatpeace

Remember Your mantra of 'I protect my energy' ~ this allows you to be you and shining and healing and uplifting and exemplifying as You do! Your energy, your work, your teaching/gifting the world ~ is what you are here to do ...what we all are here to do (differently, but genuinely) and honestly, is there more? I do practice sitting with others in their pain, because that is also needed, and I have sat with mine, and it is key to lifting the energy.
- @omatlife

Connection to my community has been great for me. Laughing with friends. And reading fiction stories to have some time to escape to another world for just a bit 🙏🏼✨ Sending you love. 💜
- @beautifullyawakening

Loving into those around me, making eye contact, giving the dollar in my wallet to the one on the street that needs it the most, giving hugs, and getting hugs. Your heart is so big MB, you are helping more than you know. Can't wait to hug you in person soon. Let me know how I can hold space for you and all that feels big right now.
- @jennylynnnewell

Us

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I passed this mural in Silver Lake a few days ago and it stopped me in my tracks for a lot of reasons. I have felt scared lately. And even more so now. I’ve also had been busy pointing a lot of fingers.

This past weekend was spent with 25 women for our Rock Your Bliss Colorado retreat, most of who I did not know until we got there. I can’t tell you their politics or their spouse’s name. I’m not even sure what most of them do for an occupation. But I can tell you what makes their hearts beat wildly and what scared them and what makes them say “Me too.” If I met them the other way around there’s a chance we would find a reason to be separate, a reason we were too different to love one another.

I feel unbelievably sad and extremely scared by what’s happening in our world. I think that’s the point. My instinct is to protect myself and the ones I love by shutting down, by judging, by becoming hollow, but instead I’m going to try on loving.

I am sending my love to you today. Feel what needs to be felt. Bear hug those you love. And then pick up your phone, call your representative and say: No More Guns.

Take action and keep your heart open.