Reflections in 2016

​In 2016 I started the journey of self discovery and healing. 31 years of healing, so this journey is just beginning. I also started the journey of finding myself.  After months and months of chizzeling lots fell off. Feelings of lightness. Brightness. Life and air breathed into me.  I completed my 200 hour Baptiste yoga teacher training. Wow, was that eye opening! I started acknowledging myself and my health and everything I have been through since my stroke.  While my body isn’t broken to the extreme that I was 4 years ago there are still many, many cracks. Some that open daily.  I’m figuring out how to live a healthy life 4 years later. 2016 gave me courage. So much courage.  Courage to leave the only secure job I ever knew, yet a job that was literally sucking the life out of me.  I gained courage in 2016. I gained self worth. So much self worth. I found my voice. My presence. My body. My mind. My heart. I found for the first time ever a group of friends who know me, every single thing about me, who continue to lift me up, and who love me. And I love them. I learned in 2016 there’s no time for fakeness, for masks, for pretending. I learned that I value deep connection, authenticity, and support above all else. I learned that my husband and I,  through every up and down, are the best damn teammates I’ve ever seen together. And in 2017 I know what I want.  I want to be awake. Fully awake..deeply present. I want to have life giving conversations. I want to experince life changing moments. I want to be there. For it all. 2017 I’m coming for ya!

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Flotation Philly

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of I visiting Flotation Philly located in the Fishtown section of Philly. If you know a little about my health history then you know that 3 years ago I suffered a stroke, and that I have declared that this is my year for making huge strides when it comes to my health. I heard about his facility from a friend at my yoga studio and it sounded right up my alley. My struggles in my daily life post stroke are mainly cognitive rather than physical. Which is a blessing and a curse all at the same time! Basically for me too much noise, too many lights, too much chatter, too much of any stimulation going on can trigger me helpless. It’s literally too much for my brain to handle all at once. I think that is one of the reasons I have fallen head over heels in love with meditation. Meditation allows me those quiet, still moments of completely shutting my brain down in order to fully restore myself.

After navigating my way, by myself ( woo hoo) to Flotation Philly I was greeted by the owner Russ and an incredibly intricate and beautiful mural as you walk in their front doors. From there Russ took me back to my room which contained my evolution float pod, a shower, and a vanity area for me to put myself back together after my experience.
Russ started this business after first trying out flotation pods for himself and seeing the benefits to him and his body. I admire that. He didn’t start this business because it was the newest fad, or only to make money. You can tell from just one conversation with him just how genuine and caring of a person he is and how much he wants his clients to enjoy and reap the full benefits of flotation therapy. After Russ walked me back to the room he explained everything in a very down to earth, yet professional way- always leaving space for me to answer questions when I had them. He took the time to make sure that I was comfortable with the process and that I understood the reason behind flotation therapy. Sensory deprivation isn’t something only those who have had brain injuries benefit from, it something that many people can benefit from. Russ even made a few suggestions of what to do to get my wiggles out once I was inside of the pod that included stretching, a few yoga poses and then finally finding stillness within my body- this certainly came in handy!

 
Once Russ left the room I took a shower- you must shower before entering the pod with shampoo and body wash, which wasn’t difficult because the shower was such a pretty space and all of the toiletries are provided right there for you! Once you shower you are ready to enter the pod.

 
Upon entering the pod ( which is only 10 inches deep, and filled with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt) your limbs automatically lift up and stay there on their own. Two words- zero gravity!! I have never felt anything like it. It was completely effortless and completely uplifting! Once you lay back in the pod you have control of the lights and music, as well as shutting the pod completely or leaving it open or any level in between that you are comfortable with ( the top of the pod is on hydraulics). I first started off with both music and lights. After some exploring in different positions and a couple of up dogs ( thanks to Russ’s suggestion) I felt a little calmer and at ease with being in the pod. At that point I turned the music off and shut the lid of the pod- not entirely- but almost completely. The lights in the room are off so there is no outside lights shining into the pod. There’s also a small piece of a pool noodle in each room and for me, with my neck issues, it worked wonders. It is a strange feeling, one that Russ assures me you become more comfortable with the most float sessions you do, to let you neck sink back and support itself. So for me, the pool noodle was very helpful. I even tried it in a couple different positions, the base of my neck, and then rolling it a little higher up to the base of my skull ( this is where I felt most comfortable with the noodle). With the music off I was able to sit in complete silence, and just appreciate and admire the quiet. The calm. The stillness. The nothingness. No to do lists popped in my head, no things I had left undone at home or at work, no thoughts of what I was going to do for dinner, or how much homework my kiddos would be coming home with, not even if I would be able to find my own way home! Seriously- nothing came to mind. I wasn’t even able to string together a single thought. Every time I did my mind would just drop it mid thought. And for me, as a person who generally has a hard time shutting brain off it came very easily.

 
Then, I took my float to another level by turning off the lights. So here I was in this pitch black pod in this pitch black room with no light and no noise. Who was I? I was a girl who was living in the moment and taking full advantage of the experience at my fingertips. So there I laid- or floated rather- in complete silence and darkness. My arms and legs extended completely in the pod. For me, this was the most beneficial part of the process. This is where I took the most from my float experience, and I believe this is the fullness that is best experienced from float therapy. My mind took me to some pretty trippy places during this time and this is where my body found complete and true stillness. There was no movement. Not in my fingers, my toes, my arms, or my legs. Complete stillness. Complete weightlessness. Complete calm. I could hear and feel my heartbeat. I’ve felt my heartbeat before, but to be so still that you can hear it at the same time? That’s a whole other level of connection to your mind and body!

 
Flotation Philly was an experience unlike any other. I will admit I had my apprehensions and anxieties before heading into my appointment, but Russ made it super easy to leave all of those at the door. For someone who has suffered a brain injury and fights most days keep my sanity in a super busy world this was an extremely beneficial experience, and one that I know I will be back for.

 
Interested in trying flotation therapy out for yourself? Use my coupon code LIVELOVEFLOAT for 15% off your next visit by using coupon code.  You can book using he Mind Body Online App if you already have it and search for “Flotation Philly” in Philadelphia, PA, you can book  through Flotation Philly Website.   Also please note that floats come in 45, 60 and 90 minute sessions, as well as various packages for any number of floats. I experienced the 90 minute session which I felt really allowed time for my body to adjust to the space and be open to all that the float experience had to offer. It really only felt like I was in there for 30 minutes! Happy floating!


  
  
  

Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post but as always, all opinions are my own.

40 Days Week 3: Equanimity

I was expecting a huge shift this week. Last time I went through the 40 days program I remember experiencing a HUGE shift this particular week where I felt like everything really came together. As you can probably tell-the shift didn’t happen. Or atleast it wasn’t as monumental as I had anticipated it being. This time it felt more like an overall shift.  I felt like I entered this week with more patience, and an increased feeling of peace which was very, very helpful in having an equinimious week.

Here are my questions:

1. How much do I believe the winds of grace support me?  As much of a believer as I am, and I am a BIG one, I sometimes-okay most of the time-have a hard time believing that I am worthy of His grace. I know it exists, and I know that he freely gives it, but I still have a hard time accepting the fact that I am worthy of His grace in His eyes.

 

2.Where can I use less reaction and more divine interpretation?  I can use less reaction when it comes to my kids. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed very easily, and to let little things bother me.  I’ve realized, through equanimity, that when I take the time to breathe and remove myself from a situation I am allowing myself time to think through what kind of an impact the decision will yield? Will this make a difference in a month’s time? How about a year? A week? If the answer is no then I can generally loosen the reigns, and know that this one very small piece of time will not have a huge lasting impact.

 

3.  How can a shift in vision enhance the quality of my life?  A shift in vision was huge in enhancing the quality of my life this week.  I realized that by removing the negative and shameful words from my vocabulary I was able to let joy, and happiness pour into my life.  For example, I am by nature a very anxious person.  This week when I was anticipating certain situations that I knew I would find myself in rather than labeling my emotions as “anxious” I labeled them as “exciting, eager, and intrigued.”  This not only helped me make my way through some challenging moments this week, but it was a very helpful tool in helping me shift my vision.

 

4.  What things are likely to trigger reactivity in me?  Hunger, exhaustion, topics I feel passionately about, situations that I believe I should be able to control (ie traffic, my children’s behavior), and situations that I think I could have made a better decision in.

 

5. How can I respond better to moments of reactivity?  I have found that my AM and PM meditations have really grounded me.  They have helped me remember to come back to my breathe, and I have found that by taking 5 or 6 deep breaths I am able to better assess and work/think through a situation.

Next week we are onto Restoration and our 3 day fruit cleanse, check back to see how my week went!!

  

 

Week 1: Joy

I am officially 1 week into the new year and embracing life with the word JOY. I am learning how to “be” joyful. So far my experience has been this: incredibly life giving!! One week of living life with a completely different outlook, on life and on people, and I have had a huge shift. Before this week I didn’t feel too much of a connection with people, was consumed with self doubt, fear, anxiety and shame.  And while those feeling haven’t completely diseppated they have decreased significantly.  After this week I feel so much lighter, brighter, happier, more open, and way more fulfilled. Perhaps the most eye opening realization is that I have the ability to control how I feel. I have the ability to determine whether or not my day is going to be full of joy, or crummy.  I have the ability to choose joy. Always. I can choose joy the minute I wake up, and I can choose to remember joy at the end  of my day when it is the craziest! I can choose joy to make the little moments count as much as the big ones.

One of the biggest changes I have made this week is choosing joy and genuine happiness for me.  If it makes me happy I go for it. I speak it. I act on it. For me this means living a life that is less filtered- not dwelling on what others think of my opinions, but rather speaking my mind. I have given credit to my opinions and outlooks. I have grown my self respect. I have grown my self compassion, and self empathy. I have lived the most authentic life I know possible right here in this moment. I’m realizing that by living how I was (filtered, inauthentic, non joyous, unfulfilled, not self respecting, people pleasing) I really wasn’t living at all. I was simply the worlds puppet, just going through the motions that I thought others wanted. Answering with what I thought others wanted to hear. It turned out I wasn’t living for me. I was living for other people. I was so consumed by people pleasing that I somehow lost the true meaning of life, and myself. And you know what? It was exhausting, and incredibly sad. I lost who I was. The good news is 1 week into the New Year and I am slowly starting to find my way back to the true me. Or I could say the new me. One minute, one hour, one day at a time.

 

I’m not gonna lie… This week hasn’t been the most comfortable, week of my life. In fact I experienced a lot of uncomfortable.
But I am realizing that…

 
Uncomfortable leads to growth.

Uncomfortable leads to connection.

Uncomfortable leads to authenticity.

Uncomfortable is SO worth it!

 
For the first time, probably ever, I am listening to my body. I am listening to what my body wants and needs. It’s likes and dislikes. And truly giving it what it needs. Rest. Peace. Nourishment. Laughter. Release. Stretching. Meditation. Connection. Stability. And it feels absolutely amazing!

This week I tried new things. I totally went out of my comfort zone, and challenged myself by doing a handstand workshop at my yoga studio with a friend. Yes, me-a handstand work shop. The mother of three who doesn’t even remember what it means to “activate your core”… And who quite frankly didn’t even realize I still had a core!! But I did it. I put myself out there and I GREW! I felt vulnerable, uncomfortable, fearful, and sure I wouldn’t be successful. And guess what?! thanks to an amazing leader, and an incredible workshop partner I DID IT!!! Yes I felt silly at times, yes I felt like I was doing it all wrong at times, and yes I wanted to go running out of that room at times. But I didn’t. I pushed myself. I pushed through all of that fear and anxiety and I grew myself. I allowed joy to completely consume me…And I’m still living on the natural high of yesterday’s workshop.

This week I chose joy and happiness. For me. For my body. For my mind. For my soul.  This certainly has been one incredible life giving, joyful week!

 

On Fear and Fighting

During one of our late night talks this week my husband reminded me of a time in our lives when we didn’t know what our future held. It’s funny how once we actually make it through life happenings we file them away in our “never remember or bring up this moment again” file….Rewind to 5 years ago when I left my job of close to 5 years to embark on a completely different//new//uncharted possible career. I was going from a late night bartending gig to a desk job. I was going from sharing a place of employment with my husband for the past 5 years to being completely on my own.  

Completely different routine. Completely different location. Completely different people. Completely different flow. Completely different pay scale.

We were scared. We were nervous. We were unsure. All of those earthly feelings nearly paralyzed me from taking the leap.
I remember not knowing what the future held. I was unsure that this was a good choice for us and our little family, but I was completely trustworthy of our God. I knew He held us. I could feel this was the right move for our family. I knew if I ever wanted a semi- normal (weekends and holidays off) routine this was my move and this was the time to make it.
The past few months and life-moments have left my faith shaky. And I don’t like it one bit. I’m in a place of in between. I know who God is, and I know who I serve, but I don’t always rest assured in that fact. I have a terrible tendency to want to fix everything on my own. I am a controller by nature. A first born gal who can do it all. A fixer. A leader. I want to plan things and ways according to me and my schedule. I want things to play out to serve and humble me. I want everything to fall into the place I want it to fall into. Anyone else? 
This all comes about because once again my husband and I find ourselves in a place of the unknown. We don’t have answers to questions we want answered. We don’t know what our next move is. We don’t know what the future holds for us. 

It’s certainly not easy and I have to make a conscience effort, but I am telling myself every.single.moment of every.single.day he’ll be there.

A constant necessary, tangible reminder. 

Erica hold onto Him.

Give it all over to Him.

Stay steadfast in your faith.

You are a daughter of Him and His kingdom.

Run to Him.

He is there for you. 

His love never fails.

It never gives up.
It is SO easy to let the fear win. It is so easy to give in. To give up. Well you know what world? This girl isn’t giving up//backing down //or giving in. This is just another battle. Another fight. A fight that I’m feeling fully capable of winning with a little help from Him. I’m a fighter. An overcomer. I’m ready to hold steady to my faith, plant my feet, and let the storm roll through. 

Don’t give into the fear.

Give into your faith and Jesus.

He’s got you. He’s got this. 

  

Massage Envy

Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post but as always, all opinions are my own.
A few weeks back I made a promise to myself to take care of me.To put my needs first. To maintain my health and well being. Last week I did just that by getting a massage at our local Massage Envy!!

From the moment I walked in the door I felt relaxation come over my body. I was greeted by a very informative and friendly front desk girl, Amanda, who asked me a bunch of questions in order to customize my massage to my individual needs. A customized massage was exactly what this momma needed! 
Once we completed the paperwork I was left to unwind and relax in their tranquility room. This room is amazing- complete with dim lighting, a crackling gas fireplace, and super comfy seating. The masseuse practically had to wake me from a deep sleep when she came to get me! 

My masseuse’s name was Betsy and she was exactly what I had requested and love in a great masseuse. She made sure to answer all of my questions, and asked what I was looking to get out of that days massage. The open communication they keep with you really is the best!! 

When you get a massage there are a few really fun, and in my opinion necessary, enhancement options you can add on to your massage. My thought is that you are already there and ready to be pampered, why not just go for that little extra that will really make your massage over the top amazing!! I opted for the Anxiety Release Aromatherapy Enhancement. Again- exactly what I needed! Just as I laid back on my nice, warm, and comfy bed {I mean massage table} Betsy came in with my Aromatherapy lotion she had mixed up! The Anxiety Aromatherapy release eases nervousness, irritability and apprehension. {YES please!!} This relaxing blend promotes a sense of inner peace and harmony while easing nervousness, irritability, and apprehension. Known for their calming properties, lavender, chamomile and vetiver are combined with uplifting aromas of citrus and clary sage. The result of this AromaTherapy technique? Pure tranquility. There was even leftover lotion that Betsy allowed me to take home with me and I have been using it intermittently throughout my days to relax and calm myself!

What I loved most was the flexibility and convenience Massage Envy offered. I called Monday night and was able to make an appointment for the following night at 6pm. I went straight from work to my massage. As a busy mom of three I am all about convenience, and Massage Envy made it VERY easy right from the start! The facility was nice, clean, and my masseuse was excellent as well! 

   
    
 

It’s time for me.

Its time to start focusing on me. The mom in me can’t believe I just uttered that phrase. How selfish! The other parts of me know how badly this is needed. 

For so long I have put myself, my needs, and my health on the back burner. The way back burner. Today that stopped.

Last week hubby could see and sense my anxiety rising to the highest level it’s probably ever.been. So he did what any good husband would do for fear of having to commit his 30 year old wife to the psych ward. He told me that I needed to go out do something for me. He would cover the kids, find a sitter, cook dinner, arrange baseball practice- whatever it took. And he was dead serious.  So, who am I not to take such a kind man up on an offer like that?  I mean that would just be rude at that point 🙂

Hesitantly I did throw one idea out there. Something I have been thinking about for months now but with our crazy hectic schedules, and budget, I haven’t even been able to think out the logistics of it so there was no way I would have been able to bring it up during dinner conversations! My desire? Yoga. 

So today a very nervous, very anxious, and highly inexperienced momma stepped foot into a yoga studio for the first time EVER. The experience I had was the complete opposite of everything I expected. 

I expected to feel overwhelmed. 

I expected to feel out of place. 

I expected to feel so nervous and anxious before class started that I might not have the guts to go in and take the class and I would end up sitting in my car for an hour and a half instead.   

But you know what? NONE of that happened. Not a single bit of it. Everything I feared was going to happen never did. In fact nothing even remotely close to any of the crazy scenariois I created happened.

Instead I walked into a room with bright smiling faces, open arms, and and this amazing love for life I didn’t know possible. As soon as I told them I had never done yoga before- like not even an at home DVD- I thought for sure the poor instructor was going to have to re-do her entire class structure… But instead she gave me a high five and told me that made her SO excited to teach this class. That I was her GIFT today! What?! Me, a gift?? Maybe a big old unconfident ball of insecurity, anxiety, and guilt but I certainly wasn’t a gift. 

So I entered the classroom, I rolled my mat, and grabbed a block- for what? At that point I had NO clue but everyone else had one so I figured I’d better follow suit. At this point I figured my best strategy for making it through his class was to just blend in. I’m the hang in the back of the room and keep a low profile kind of chic. 

A few moments later the instructor walked in, introduced herself and very gracefully announced to the class that there was a gift among us today, today there was someone  that here was a newbie… Though she never directly pointed me out which I though was super gracious of her, she did ask her student to remember their first class. The emotions they felt, the incompetence they may have felt, and that isfthere was one thing she could say to herself back then it was be “to not take it so serious, to be silly, to not worry about what she looked like during class because others would be so worried about their forms that they weren’t even looking at her.” WOW!! talk about a great confidence booster.  That also meant I could still try my tactic of blending in! 

Being as I had a seat in the very back of the room I was able to look to most of the other yogi’s to see what moves correlated with the words she was speaking. I’m still unsure the language or even the words the instructor was using. But what I can tell you is how glorious it felt to even attempt these moves. 

To know that I was the one in control of my body. 

To know that I had the ability to make my body move and turn in whatever way I wanted was so freeing- and then when I was able to accomplish such moves it felt like I had just climes Mt. Everest!!! Talk about empowering. 

To know that my breathing was claiming and relaxing me.

There was one point during the class where our instructor asked us to do a move and as she did she made her way closer to me and I thought for surely I can’t do this one. She gently reminded me that “I can’t” doesn’t exist here… So I was going to try and she was more than willing to help me and while it wasn’t the most graceful of Crow poses and there was definitely some staggering and then falling atleast I tried. Do you know how long it’s been since this momma has even TRIED to do something I was more than certain I would fail at? Honestly I couldn’t even tell you when because my thought process these days gets me to the point of “why try if you are just going to make a fool of yourself, or if you aren’t going to be able to do it perfectly or at all than you shouldn’t even attemp said task at hand.” Yup that’s pretty much my inner monologue these past few months. 

My next challenge came when it was time to work on our bridges, or wheels in Yogi language. I know them as back bends. Now let me tell you something… In highschool and as long as I can remember i have alway been super flexible. I was a cheerleader, and all star tumbler since about the 7th grade! 13 years after high school graduation things ( including my body have changed. I don’t think I have done one back bend since 2003. Add into that having  3 children where the most movements of stretching and bending come from moving up and down to clean up after said children. So the instructor announces that we are going to go into a wheel pose. As soon as I look around at what the others students are doing I immediately lay back down on my mat and think to myself never gonna happen- NEVER! However out of the corner of my eye the instructor and I make eye contact and she slowly starts to wonder over to my mat where I begin to giggle. Again I say to her I can’t to which she says yes you can, grab my ankles. So I grabbed her ankles and before I knew it bam! I was in wheel pose!!! What?! Who was I at that moment? If I had to choose one moment for me during this class where my heart nearly exploded with love, with calm, with peace, gratitude, and growth THAT was certainly MY moment.

The last part of class they turn down the lights and turn on the fans- thank goodness because at that point it had become VERY hot in the room. So lights off, fans on and this is where there is a lot of relaxation, breathing, stretching, and reflection happening. For me it may have been the best and most needed part of the entire class. Time alone just for me. Absolutely NO noise, no chatter, no TV, no FB, no IG , not texting, and surprisingly I wasn’t making a mental shopping list, or list of back to school supplies. None of that. I was listening to my breathing, I was focusing on my center, and I was allowing myself to actualy feel this moment. I probably haven’t “felt” a moment since before my Uncle was diagnosed in January. 

I remember laying on the mat for the very few last minutes with tears rolling down my face. This class was so emotional for me. 

It gave me back the ability to breakdown emotions I have been feeling, but haven’t been able to process.  

It gave me the ability to feel centered  and free and relaxed rather than a jumbled, mixed up, tense ball of emotions…and THAT was something I didn’t expect at all to gain from it.  Atleast not from just one class. But Lord my body, mind, and spirit needed it! 

When class ended I went to the welcome room to retrieve my belongings and lingered a little to talk to the instructor. To praise her for her kind words and gracious instructing.  But then something happened. When I opened my mouth nothing came out. No words formed. The one things that formed were tears in my eyes. 

Tears that represented the months and years of pushing my thoughts and emotions to the bottom of the list. Of pushing me to the bottom of the list.

Tears that represented me trying and accomplishing things I never knew were possible for my body to do. Of working on me.

Tears that are helping to heal my heart and soul after the recent loss of my Uncle John. 

Tears that represented me finally accepting the fact that saying “I don’t know” is okay. We don’t have to have all the answers, we don’t have to do it all and that is OK.  That’s not our job.  

So I immediately went to the front desk after cleaninging myself up, and catching my breathe after my semi-ugly cry with this yoga instructor I  had literally just met an hour ago and signed myself up for a 30 day membership!! 

And as corny as this may sound I am STILL wearing the smile that class gave me this morning. And I cannot wait to go back for more! And I haven’t felt stress, anxiety, or the weight of the world on my shoulder at all today-nor did I loose my cool at any point of my day with our kids, our friends, or our family.  Not once!!

It’s time for me.
~Namaste Erica