Thoughts from Places: Sterling Renaissance Festival

I had the pleasure of attending my area’s Renaissance Festival just yesterday, and upon returning back to reality, I found I needed to collect my thoughts.

The short version: It was awesome. How can you say no to playing dress up for a day and feasting on turkey legs and fresh apple dumplings, immersing yourself in a crowd among peasants and jesters and knights, and just forgetting about the outside world for a little while?

The long version: This was only my second time at the Ren Faire. Last summer was my first visit, and I thought the whole thing was a hoot: the actors being silly and fun and the artisans putting their best foot forward preparing whimsical booths of fine handmade jewelry, natural soaps, various trinkets or even traditional weapons really make it worthwhile. I love seeing little children adorned in flower crowns and fairy wands and I commend each employee for their nonstop devotion to their characters – truly, it’s a sight to behold. We heard beautiful music played by musicians who kept the spirit of it all alive with traditional instruments and outfits. And the mead! Oh, the mead is spectacular. And since it’s all set up in the middle of nowhere in a pretty wooded area, it gives you that idea of being in some magical forest that never seems to end.

But what really stuck out to me yesterday was the fact that this was the first time in a very long time that I’ve gone an entire day without witnessing another human being act like a complete and utter jerk. We were there practically all day and I did not once hear or see anyone being mean spirited or rude, or putting someone else down or picking a fight. Most people were dressed to the nines in elaborate costumes: hoop skirts and headpieces, armor, fox tails, masks and painted faces, pirate outfits, tights, jingly bells, chainmail…. there were people of every size, shape, color, and personality… yet the standard was still upheld: “M’lord” this and “M’lady” that, all glowing smiles, genuine compliments, and good-natured humor. And get this: even though the booze was flowing freely, there weren’t even any drunk assholes. You know how there are kinda always those few drunk assholes at any event who ruin it for everybody else? Not here. They were nowhere to be found. I actually felt as though I could interact with anyone, Fest worker or visitor, man, woman, or child, and expect a positive result.

I’ve got to admit, it does sadden me that this is the exception rather than the rule — that most places will have their fair share of nasty, judgmental people saying nasty, judgmental things, and when you find a place where everyone is friendly and welcoming, you should be grateful because that’s so rare. But it really is astounding how something so silly and whimsical is such a great example of humans being good to each other, being as they should be to one another. I suppose it’s easy to overlook superficial differences that are really so often only based in ignorance and bias when everyone is, after all, all together at the Renaissance Faire in the first place.

But I must say, I walked out of there feeling a little better about the world than when I had walked in, amidst all the violence and hatred in the real world, all the awful things in the news. I felt a confidence in the kindness of others that I had previously lost. The Renaissance Festival is a place that is absolutely filled with people simply being comfortable just being themselves — we should all be so lucky to spend some time relaxing in that mindset.

Self Care Dates & Why You Need One Today

When is the last time you got together with friends and upon asking how they’re doing, they immediately respond with all the negative things floating around their head? Or their love life woes? Work related stresses? Wait, before even returning the question and asking how you’ve been? PAUSE.

So often, I come across people who just love to fill me in on how stressed and depressed they are. When I worked in retail, it actually shocked me how much personal information people would blurt out… it was like I was wearing a plaque that read: “PLEASE VENT TO ME! I WANT TO KNOW ALL YOUR ISSUES!” Not that I’m an insensitive person — anyone who knows me knows that couldn’t be farther from the truth — but I simply don’t want to hear it! Especially if they’re not seeking advice. Nevertheless, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s usually one of two things:

1. They truly are stressed & in a negative state of mind and instead of working to improve their state of mind it somehow soothes them to simply spread their negativity like the common cold,

or

2. They truly are stressed and depressed and they need some help. They’ve begun to neglect themselves at the cost of a demanding life.

For one thing, clinical depression is no joke — I struggled with it for years myself, and at times it can feel like an uphill battle — that’s why if you’re continually having intrusive depressive thoughts or episodes, it’s always best to see a doctor, talk to a therapist, and just work out the perfectly unique formula of wellness that’s right for you, no judgments, no qualms, no ifs ands or buts. However, so many of us who aren’t clinically depressed still struggle mentally, emotionally, and physically because we’re neglecting the importance of self care.  Whether it’s a demanding work/school schedule or just one too many nagging responsibilities, we can all too often glide through life on autopilot and forget we have unique needs and that we’re all deserving of quality time with ourselves.

When we take a few steps back and reset ourselves, keeping everyone else’s negativity and bad energy at bay, we reconnect with who we are. We remember that life is meant to be lived authentically, with passion and joy, and that we don’t need to be everywhere all at once. I’ve been really focusing on self care this summer, especially during this golden month of August. After spending too long feeling especially high-strung and a bit cluttered, I’ve made it a habit instead of something to feel guilty about, or worse, something that’s completely forgotten. Leo season is begging us all to remind ourselves that we’re queens (or kings!). Life is just too short to go through it without showing yourself some love!

There are so many ways to practice self care and love, but below are some specific ways I’ve really been enjoying or just some die-hard practices I tend to fall back on time and time again. If you lead a busy life, you may want to physically mark a date on the calendar to do nothing but spend the day focusing on you. If not, you can be more lenient in your self care practices, but always make time for it! Remember, self care is mental, spiritual, and physical — there are many facets and many ways to practice, so have fun and make a self care date for yourself. You deserve the best.

1. Write It Down, Sketch It Out

Photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash

Sometimes the most therapeutic thing can be as simple as journaling. Very often when I find my mind feeling scattered and unfocused, I’m completely unaware of everything that I’ve been feeling and focusing on until I actually write it down. You can journal online, but nothing beats a moleskine notebook or a quality sketchbook. There’s just something so much better about pressing ink to paper that we just don’t get while violently hitting the computer keys! In this digital age, a tactile notebook will be your best friend. Plus, bonus points if it fits in your pocket or purse.

2.  Relax, Meditate, Take a Breather

Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

It always astounds me how some people are just constantly going. You know, just always on the move? Whaaat? I, for one, need to chill. I prefer gliding through life rather than free falling, and if you do as well, scoring some true relaxation time can vastly improve your wellbeing. I’m leaving this category kind of open-ended because everyone has different ways of relaxing and unwinding. Maybe you feel most relaxed when you’re snuggled up with a good book, or maybe going for a long hike might get you in a chill head space. Whatever it is, don’t forget to relax. Take up meditation if you want to kick it up a notch, as it’s a proven method of centering yourself, after all. I’ve been meditating more and more frequently and trying not to go a single day without it, so if anyone else is doing something similar let’s keep each other going strong! With all the chaos in the world, it’s so important to give your mind and spirit a break. Meditating for at least 10 minutes a day to begin is a perfect way to get back on track, or at least ride the waves better.

3. Clean, De-clutter, Purge

Photo by tu tu on Unsplash

When my energy gets too disorderly, I need to clean. I sweep the floors, do all the laundry, throw things away or donate clothing I no longer wear, burn sage around the corners, doors, and windows, and make sure there’s no leftover clutter. Whenever I get overwhelmed in my life or in my emotional frequency, I notice that my physical surroundings are probably a mess as well. Tidy space = tidy mind. This can actually be kind of fun too, even though it’s technically work, but how can it be?! You’re decluttering your life and ridding yourself of things that no longer serve you in order to bring vibrancy and newness in, and that, my friends, is self care.

4. Get Moving

Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

I am by no means a naturally athletic person. Hell, I skipped gym class in high school so often I had to write essays just to pass. I do however understand that exercise is absolutely necessary to achieving a positive state of mind, and it doesn’t always have to brutal and gross and sweaty. I’m not the kind of gal that will go sprint around the neighborhood for everyone to see, but I love yoga, Pilates, swimming, and hiking or anything outdoors. But that’s just my preference — if you’re a crossfit boss, by all means do your thing, but if you’d rather listen to Prince at an unreasonable volume and dance like crazy, that’s ok too. As long as you get your body moving, you’re reaping the benefits. I’ve been loving getting back into yoga because of the way it strengthens the mind as well as the muscles — it can be so relaxing while being a great workout.

5. Create

Photo by Khara Woods on Unsplash

Creation looks different to everyone. Maybe you’re a gifted artist and the only way to express yourself is through your work. Maybe you’re a musician, and writing and playing music is therapy in and of itself. Whatever it is, give yourself the time and space to nurture your creativity and simply create. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It doesn’t even have to be pretty. Whenever I’m feeling low or in need of some self care time, I dig out a bunch of old magazines, put on a good record, and cut stuff up. What is it about collage that’s so lovely to me? I love taking an old image and breathing new life into it. It’s refreshing to me. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but who cares? That’s art if you ask me: creating life out of something lifeless. Your creation is unique to you, and that’s beautiful.

So that’s my condensed list. I just wanted to take some time and remind all of you readers how important it is to honor yourself and honor your life by indulging in self care frequently, without judgment, guilt, or expectations. What self care practices do you keep?

8 Ways You Can Be More Present in Your Relationships

We’re all guilty of taking advantage of things from time to time, which is why it’s especially important to focus on staying present in our relationships. When a relationship (whether that’s with an SO, a best friend, or even yourself) gets comfortable it can feel like a pair of perfectly worn slippers: reliable and trusty. Or sometimes life just gets in the way of things and you’re left feeling like you’re not getting the most out of the relationships you’ve worked so hard in. So I’m making it a goal to be more open and available to those we care about. I’m officially banning excuses for putting human relationships on the back burner, and you should too. Being present in our relationships is increasingly critical in this day and age – with so much collective chaos and negativity in our country and world lately, everyone needs and deserves to be present in their friendships and relationships to get the most out of life. I’m no doctor, but being loving and open to receive love will immensely improve your health! I strive to be the kind of person who drops anything to help out a friend in need, whether it’s a big favor or a just a confidence boost. If you want the same, or maybe just to hone in your already-mastered relationship skills, read on.

Make it a point to communicate your needs and desires and always make sure you’re on the same page as the other person. This way, no hidden hurts or feelings will muck up and everything will be out in the open. Of course, no one can ever really know every little thing going on in your mind, and that’s probably a good thing, but to have a successful and thriving relationship with anybody, you need to communicate! I know it can be tricky sometimes to let your messy emotions hang out in the open, but try. Little by little. Voice your thoughts and clear any blockages. The more vulnerable you feel, the more you know it’s working, because we cannot truly be ourselves with another if we can’t communicate our authentic thoughts.

After communicating, make a point to listen. Just sit back. Be a vessel of reflection and a pillar of non-judgment. I know we’re all guilty of zoning out when someone talks, even when it’s someone we love and are close with, but don’t do it! Focus on engaging with the person you’re conversing with. Ask about their day and genuinely hear them. Listen when they’re expressing discontent or complaining about their shitty coworker. Be there to when they had a good day or a bad day. You don’t need to have all the answers, just hear them, and be present. If you commit to building genuine conversation balanced with effective communication and honest listening, I guarantee they will always pay you back with the same kindness.

In these trying times, compassion and consideration are absolutely needed. If you haven’t noticed, our country is in utmost social turmoil. If you flip on the news at any given time, it looks as if hate has won. But even though it can look that way, it’s not the case. Don’t ever believe it! Love has never been stronger. If you pay it forward (to everyone, not just those in your inner circles) with kindness and thoughtfulness, you will cultivate a space of love and warmth. The truth is, we’re all going through personal battles along with this great big universal one. We all have our crises. Always be gentle with those you love — don’t mock, insult, or rudely joke. Treat those you love like royalty! It feels great to show your admiration and affection for someone else. Give when you can and go the extra mile to be there if they’re having a hard time. Stand by them now, because a true relationship cannot go far if it cannot withstand difficult times.

I feel like as I get older, the more I appreciate my ability to be flexible and go with the flow. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy following through with plans or sticking to a schedule, but I have always been pretty good at rolling with the punches. I believe this is a necessary skill to have, especially when working towards being more present in your relationships. Things won’t always go as planned, and that’s okay! Be able to recognize that the reasons for a change are not always about you, which is really quite a freeing notion. In order for a relationship to grow and improve, change is needed. Two people won’t stay the same forever – that’s both boring and impossible. So encourage change and welcome improvement in always remaining flexible!

This is especially important in romantic relationships and the relationship we have with ourselves, but of course it can apply to a friendship as well. How awful does it feel to be compared to someone else? How much more awful do you feel when I say that most of it is self-inflicted? I trust we’re all guilty of it in small ways… sometimes just scrolling through Instagram can spark a jealous rant fueled by subconscious comparison, going from “look how gorgeous this girl is!” to “wow, look how many pairs of expensive shoes she has!” to “how the hell does she afford so many vacations?! I work way more than she does!” Of course it feels rotten to compare yourself to someone else, yet we do it all the time without even realizing. Firstly, it’s absolutely fruitless to compare our lives to anyone else’s. Your experiences are your own, above everything else. How would you react if you realized you were doing this to someone you love? What if you were comparing them to someone else, and projecting your ideals onto them? It would probably hurt and make the both of you feel uncared for, because it’s a deeply uncaring move. The truth is it will improve our relationships so much more if we don’t compare ourselves to anyone else, or compare our loved ones to anyone else. It’s great to admire others, but so foolish to emulate or let our comparisons affect us negatively.

In our society, it can be really easy to get caught up in materialistic things like money, success, and reputation. Sometimes it can be difficult to find value in the small things, but this is really the key to living a contended life. I find the easiest way to mindfully stay grateful is record 5 little things a day that I’m thankful for. It can be the simplest things – good coffee, waking up next to my boyfriend, a text from a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while, a peaceful walk, having time to myself to enjoy a good book… literally anything you are thankful for. Of course, we’re all thankful for the roofs over our heads and food on the table, but go deeper and find little things in each day that make you smile. This will help you become more present in your life overall, but in order to keep relationships thriving, be sure to voice your graciousness to those around you. Say “please” and “thank you” and “I’m so glad you’re here” and “I’m so thankful to have you in my life.” Expressing gratitude feels good and will always make those around you feel good as well.

This one can be difficult. I’m a sensitive soul, so if someone hurts me, I’m pretty much out. Gooooodbye. But sometimes arguments or little disagreements can come up, and crawling back in your shell refusing to see eye-to-eye just does more harm than good. Even if it seems like you’re saving yourself from the drama, you’re only adding more fuel to the fire. Let the arguments happen. Fight. Agree to disagree, but always let it go. Forgive and don’t dwell on it or bring it up 5 years down the line when you’re in another fight. Never keep score! We all make mistakes and we’ve all hurt others, even if it’s the last thing we want. Dwelling on negativity and holding grudges in a relationship will always cause problems, so learn to let some things go.

Out of all relationships we experience, the relationship we have with ourselves is always going to be the most important. In a lot of ways, I really believe that we are all that we have, and we can’t truly love and value another until we love ourselves first. It took me a long time to realize that, and looking back it’s probably why I found myself in a lot of unfulfilling relationships and friendships that didn’t really serve who I was. The relationship you have with yourself can be the best relationship you experience – it probably will be, seeing as you’re kinda stuck with yourself forever and you’re the one who knows yourself the most intimately. If you find you’re lacking in the self-love department, do something nice for yourself. Actually, aim to do something nice for yourself every day. Set aside some time in the day that’s just for you, whether it’s just enough time for a cup of tea, or a good half hour lounging in a bubble bath. Make sure you’re eating enough food and getting enough rest, listening to your needs and desires with a kind and thoughtful ear. Taking good care of your body and soul will only make it easier to thrive in your relationships with others. Loving and valuing yourself is the ultimate power!

Simple Ways to Live a More Spiritual Life

We live in a very superficial world, but you don’t have to govern your life based on the unfortunate default setting of our culture. Spirituality can be for everyone – it’s not just reserved for the yogi or aroma therapy healer, it can be as simple an act as monitoring your attitude and actions in a way that aligns with your true Self. But as simple as it may sound, taking the proper care to remain attentive to your spiritual needs requires work and commitment. Even though it can sound like something you don’t think you “need,” it’s one of the best improvements to your wellbeing that you can invest yourself in.

 

We learned back in preschool to always treat everyone the way you’d want to be treated, and it’s even more valuable in adulthood. Treating others with utmost respect will not only make you a kinder, more approachable person, but it will almost guarantee that respect back to you. It’s all about sending out the kind of energy that you want to attract, and why wouldn’t you want respect? Bad manners and negative attitudes will only result in people in your life bringing in more negativity. Close that door and only welcome the positive. Be mindful of what comes out of your mouth, since you never really know what someone is going through. This is also where the three-fold law comes in, meaning what you give will come back to you in some way or another. Take charge of your desires, greet others with a calm smile and always be kind and considerate.

A key to living a more spiritual life lies in harmony with self-awareness, meaning pop that bubble you’re living in and look at life from someone else’s perspective – probably a perspective of someone completely different than you. Remain objective in your life and open yourself to being empathetic, non-judgmental, and totally unblocked. You can also use this objectivity to take a good look at yourself: see what needs changing and improving through your new non-judgmental eyes! We are often too hard on ourselves, but observing your life from a new perspective can bring refreshment and rewards.

Sometimes we all need a social media detox. Keeping up with news, tweets from your favorite celebrities, and Instagrams from your high school buddies can all be well and good – living digitally is practically our way of life now, after all. But is it necessary for personal betterment, honing your spirituality and your psychic self-defense? Absolutely not! I urge you to turn off your smartphone and spend some quality time with you. Get comfortable with centering yourself in peace and quiet – light some candles, relax, spend your time journaling or doodling, try a recipe, explore your town, or simply just be. You’re bound to have some hobbies outside of connecting through social media… at least I hope you do. Taking a break from technology will quiet your mind — making you quicker, healthier, and more spiritual.

As the old adage goes, “change is the only constant.” It’s because our lives are fluid and some change along the way is only natural. Some people really stress out about changes and think of them as inherently negative – not true! When you begin to accept change as a positive thing, more doors will open to you. It can be difficult to accept certain facts of life, since some things are really tough and life isn’t always fun or simple. But realizing change is a part of life will give you a kind of closure that allows you to dwell on moving forward, not remaining stagnant. You’ll see more opportunities flowing your way once you refuse to see change as a necessity to life, not an obstacle to your optimism.

Mantras are positive little reminders just for you, something you can recite and repeat throughout the day when you feel you need it. You can write them down, put them in your phone, or just repeat them in your head. Anything from “I can do this!” to something deeply personal and catered to whatever you’re working through. Chanting a mantra repeatedly will force it to stick with you. If you’re constantly repeating positive affirmations, you’ll really begin to believe it! Some examples:

“I do my best, and it’s always enough.”

“I am deserving of everything I desire.”

“All that I have I give away, all that I give away comes back to me.”

These are some I think can work for everyone, but mantras and affirmations are meant to be personally uplifting — meaning go with the one you think suits you best, or modify some of the examples listed to better suit your needs. Whatever works for you!

Living spiritually in a superficial world doesn’t have to be difficult. What are some ways you add spirituality to your daily life?