Embracing It.

Other than cell phone snapshots, I can’t even remember the last time I took a self portrait. One sometimes needs to make a change externally, to reflect what is happening internally… to be able to see it for oneself. The yearning for a confirmation of the progress that has been made, to know it’s real. For me… I chose to donate my long hair to Children’s Hospital back in November 2014, through Lucky 13 Salon in Columbus, Ohio.

One never really “finishes”. One only continues.

 

Essay: What on Earth is Environment?

I just loved this, and I thought you would, too.

DOWNLOAD HERE: http://environment-ecology.com/holistic-view/126-what-on-earth-is-environment.pdf

Before Dawn, Frozen Lake

 

Just some snapshots while enjoying sunrise last weekend. Getting out to enjoy dawn reminds you of how special each and every day is. Nothing is quite so captivating as being there to greet yet another new day. It connects you. I don’t want to miss anything. At the end of life, I want to know with certainty that I created the time to experience as many precious moments as possible. Those mornings I used to spend checking messages on social networks: a thing of the past. It seems like every time I watch the sun come up, it feels like the first time all over again. That light gives life. Astounding.

GMO-free Food Planning 2015: Urban Gardening and CSA!

Today’s post offers valuable resources for anyone seeking more ways to be involved with local agriculture, including modern homesteading.

 

What is GMO?

It’s likely you’ve seen the non-GMO labeling. But what you might not know is that most foods without the non-GMO stamp of approval are likely to be genetically modified organisms. So we’ve heard the term again and again, but what does it mean, exactly?

Here are two films that offer up the information in terms one can easily understand, and don’t forget to recommend the films to your friends as well. I’m happy to hear more people talking about these impending dangers and unethical practices in everyday conversation. There are ways around it! It all comes down to the choices we make as consumers, and how much we know about the companies we choose to support.

 

BITTER SEEDS  (2013) (Independent Documentary)

GMO OMG (Late 2013) (This one gets very mixed reviews, but I liked it.)

Understanding ‘Organic’

I love this list of approaches to sustainable farming. It provides answers to many of the questions you will have when deciding on the companies / farms you will choose to support.

Community Supported Agriculture

Of all the ways to show you care about the environment, your community, and your health — community supported agriculture is by far the most efficient means of doing so. Going into 2015, I’ve been browsing Local Harvest for a farm to support. The farm I supported last year provided just the right amount of veggies for my son and I, but didn’t have quite the variety I was looking for and was in the transitional phase (in the process of going organic). This year, I have a fuller action plan in place and have decided to support an organic farm. A share can cost anywhere from $25-$40 per week, and the quality of the food is unmatched. You get to meet great people in your community who share your values, and you feel good about the food you’re offering your family. Win-win!  Using LocalHarvest.org is one of the easiest ways to find Farmer’s Markets and co-ops in your area!

NOTE: Something to consider if you haven’t tried CSA is the size of the share; the full share is often enough for two families depending on your eating habits. Splitting the share can be a great way to cut the costs if you’d like to test the waters the first time around.

Urban Gardening

I’m all ready to go with organic potting soil and a nice variety of non-GMO heirloom seeds! I’ll be starting quite the project over the coming weekend: potting vegetable and herb seeds to grow on our porch this summer (in addition to growing a shared garden space in a friend’s backyard). I/We rent in the suburbs so space is limited, but thanks to the knowledge and guidance of friends, family, and books by Gayla Trail I feel prepared. Mostly.

For those of you already growing your beautiful bounty in a limited amount of space, I would love to hear your experiences with urban gardening!

Here’s to a happier, healthier year than ever before : )

 

 

Developing Your Personal Spirituality

Spiritual Development

My personal understanding is that human beings are healthier when they come together to share ideas, and that no idea is absolute in nature, nor is there any set of beliefs superior to another; the foundation for all our beliefs come from our individual moral intelligence. Think of the core of your moral foundation like the trunk of a tree that is held firmly by each individual [root of] moral understanding. The branches of the tree can represent the behaviors that result from our core beliefs; The more we trim the branches and refine our behaviors, the healthier and more open the branches become. The fruit that blossoms on the tree can represent the gifts we receive — and share — from following our morale; The more we share the fruit, the more of it we produce.  Like trees grow toward the sky, we know we are developing our spirituality when we move closer to the light and experience that feeling of growth. With all due respect toward any religious readers, I do not believe a person needs to take on a religious label to grow into a very strong and very intricately branched tree that produces fruit in abundance.

Beliefs are personal, subjective, and changeable. To be more specific, let’s look at our core beliefs as primary beliefs. While our primary beliefs are likely to stay the same, they too can shift. For example we could all agree that deliberately murdering someone is immoral. This is a primary belief. A secondary belief, however, could mark an exception. “Killing another person is okay if it is done so to save oneself, or another person” (disclaimer: this statement is not specific to my personal feelings). The point is, some may agree, and others may strongly disagree with that statement. And the statement itself could have multiple meanings. So we can see that our personal spirituality is extremely specific and individualized — even for someone who follows a religion. When a primary belief shifts, so do the secondary beliefs. If you were once a creationist and have moved away from this idea (like myself), this doesn’t mean you’re going to lose all self control and suddenly all of your behaviors are chaotic as a result of your shifting secondary beliefs. We all get a little uneasy at the thought of changing our minds.  Spiritual development is an ongoing process. One just doesn’t “become enlightened” and suddenly has  figured things out. We can experience enlightenment and even exist in ongoing states of it. But storms pass, and we face challenges. We are human, and we are imperfect. We learn, and we evolve.

Those of us who don’t follow a specific religious belief system (or are moving away from a previous system of beliefs)  seek understanding through personal experience and through the wisdom of others. To be healthy, our spirituality should be in harmony with the other aspects of ourselves. Our spiritual self should be harmonious with our working self, physical self, emotional self, and our interpersonal self (relationships) in that each of these areas is necessary and come together to form the whole of who we are. Things tend to come out of balance at times, and we may need to focus more on one area than another.

Be Flexible, But Be Grounded

I’ve been questioned for being Buddhist, Wiccan, New Age, among other things. But the fact is, I have no label and I follow no one set of teachings. I even find myself in disagreement with some of the people I look up to the most! Before you dive in to another person’s teachings, take a little time to research the whole of his/her philosophy. Be mindful to consider your personal feelings on specific teachings from that person, even if you generally agree with most of what he/she has to say. Take your time. For example, I had a recent interaction with Ralph Smart as I voiced some concerns to him. Ralph Smart has a YouTube channel that I watch from time to time and I usually enjoy his philosophy. He said to me, “I believe that unity is the way forward.” Which I agree with. I could say that this statement is one of my primary beliefs. But my secondary belief is, sometimes separation can be the way forward. There are other differences in Ralph’s ideas and my own — he promotes that you should quit your job to follow your dream so you can have more free time. Not something I personally agree with (and will be writing about soon in a post about the importance of work and diligence!). But this doesn’t mean I should condemn him for having different ideas.

Spirituality in Social Media: Warning Signs!

On the other hand, I’ve observed and researched some spiritual “movements” online that are downright dangerous. It is easy to be mislead when you are at a low point in life, especially for children and teenagers who are growing up in the Information Age of computers. Cult leaders have a way of making their mission seem welcoming, appealing, and safe — but the agenda is far from the proverbial mission to “change the world”. Sometimes these so-called “spiritual teachers” are only out to gain fame, money, and power. It is important to point these things out because it is so easy for people to start an online “movement”. Here are some signs of cult leaders for parents:

Signs of Cult Leaders

  • Leader’s history is questionable
  • Leader does not reference anyone outside his/her teachings
  • Leader defends himself/herself as being “right” when questioned
  • Leader demonstrates conflicting philosophies
  • Leaders actions are inconsistent with teachings
  • Leader manipulates positive messages
  • Leader guilts followers into offering money or gifts
  • Leader offers only mystical explanations

 

Be Confident in Your Own Beliefs

“A true master tears down all the patterns that the ego has built its world out of. A true master tears down all the ideas, all the conceptions, all the wrong beliefs, all the biases, all the bigotry.” — Evan Rock

 

Be confident to live in accordance with your TRUE beliefs. Be confident to discover them. : )
Have a great week!

Accept :: Trust :: Journey On (in that order)

Photo (c) Olivia Joy St. Claire

 

Special circumstances sometimes send us off to new environments that we would have never expected. Have you ever noticed when this happens out of the blue, that these situations often become your “perfect fit” — just what you needed at just the right time? Well, I’ve noticed it, too.

A friend of mine was recently offered an opportunity to study fine art photography near coastal Maine over the winter. Our interactions during her stay have brought us closer, and her mind is wide open to an entirely new world of possibility. Another friend is presently situated on the southern shores. She was given an opportunity to spend a whole month in a beach cottage at a time that fit perfectly with what she is currently going through. What a gift! Sometimes, you just never know where you’ll end up, no matter how perfect the plan is — or, was.

Destination: Unknown

Each and every one of us has the ability to tap into our true purpose and experience life to the very fullest. When we notice little incongruities piling up, this is a good indicator it is time to journey on. To advance. Evolution time’s a-comin’.

A Chopra Center hypnotherapist has been collaborating with us at work this week. Today I was fascinated during a lesson in handwriting analysis (excited to study further in the coming weeks). Not only did the demonstration light a fire in me, the little piece I had written was the kind of writing I hadn’t done in awhile — metaphor, prose, and nostalgia all wrapped up together — and it felt great to get creative! What was most interesting is what I wrote had less significance than the way in which it was written. She was able to describe past life events accurately, and to make suggestions about current obstacles I was facing. She was able to determine things about my relationships that were accurate. “I am not a psychic,” she joked, simply meaning — there are so many truths staring us right in the face, and we can discover them if we start to recognize the clues. We begin to notice patterns and grow our intuition. We open up to possibility.

In life, sometimes the destination is less important than the paths we take to get there. How those paths shape us spiritually and emotionally might even alter the course completely. And sometimes, there is no ultimate “destination.”

Accept. Trust. Journey On, Journeyers : )

 

Have a great weekend!

Goodbye, Alcohol. Hello, Goddess.

It has been almost a year since I decided to leave alcohol behind me for good. The effects of this change have been just absolutely incredible, even though I don’t consider to be myself a person who drank all that often. In 2012, I did a 110 day pure detox, and found it very easy to abstain. In the past, I enjoyed unwinding after a long day with wine or a dark beer. I preferred to have a few drinks when going out with friends or celebrating at an event. It felt fancy to finish off dinner with an irish coffee when dining out downtown. For me personally I had developed a false belief that there was a connection between alcohol and social functions, unwinding, and even stress relief on certain occasions. But that all changed last year after a night out with old friends on my 34th birthday that wasn’t worth the extra sugar and empty carbohydrates OR the unexpected hangover. The very next day I knew I was finished forever. I realized alcohol no longer had the same effect for me as it once did, and had been noticing that since well before the 110 day detox in 2012. Even a single glass of wine made me groggy and foggy. But the real motivation was that I had already been incorporating healthier ways to unwind, socialize, and relieve stress — and none of them included alcohol. The combination of practicing veganism and daily yoga — now in the absence of alcohol — has left me with a long list of improvements and discoveries since I made the choice to abstain. Weight loss clients transforming their lifestyle who are making changes to improve their diet often choose to abstain, and it makes me smile every time!  Here are some of the things on my list of discoveries to support and encourage anyone reading who may also be considering leaving alcohol behind them. It’s more than worth it!

Reasons to Abstain & Awaken Your Inner Goddess

1. More Conscious of Water Intake. Alcohol affects our hydration levels more than we realize. Even if you drink water during alcohol consumption, this doesn’t make up for the extra water loss you’ll experience due to the diuretic effects of booze (so even a couple glasses of wine can have a dehydrating effect on the body). It’s true, you actually end up releasing more fluid than you consume when drinking alcohol which is especially bad for someone who doesn’t hydrate appropriately to begin with. When you abstain from alcohol and focus on hydrating the body, your skin looks and feels healthier, you help keep the pancreas and liver clean (reducing your risk of developing diseases and/or cancers), and you might even shed a few extra pounds. Drinking 12-24 oz of water within 30 minutes of waking even improves your short term memory over time!

2. Clarity. Abstaining from alcohol, even if you’re not a heavy drinker, allows you to experience mental and physical sensations of total clarity. You’ll find yourself instead turning to biking or hiking to “unwind”. The surges of energy you experience from being totally alcohol-free are priceless. For me, having even just one evening of wine throughout the week took a day or two to feel energized again. Not worth it! I always encourage weight-loss clients to abstain from alcohol for the first 21 days, and to observe the effects on the body and mind when (and if) they decide to reintroduce it during the course of the program. Clients undergoing hypnosis often report an increase in mental alertness within the first week of therapy. Practicing meditation also greatly enhances mental alertness with repetition.

3. Increased Confidence. This was an unexpected side effect. While I’ve been using hypnotherapy and confidence meditations for more than 2 years now, there was a surge in confidence when I chose to permanently refrain from alcohol. In the past, I felt that it “loosened me up” in social settings. But what I’ve found since is more powerful than I could have imagined. Simply saying, “No, thank you, I don’t drink” with a big smile on your face often catches people off guard. It’s oddly euphoric to experience a level of self-regard for one’s physical and mental body that overpowers any desire for the temporary pleasure of having a drink — which does nothing to serve the physical and mental body. More importantly, the example it sets is surely goddess-like (or god-like, to address the men reading). It just feels better all around, in every situation, to know you are choosing to serve your mind and body only the absolute best.

4. Health Improvements. The health benefits you receive from being a non-drinker are endless. Alcohol consumption affects literally every part of your body! Here’s a great article I found on healthline.com . The article was written by Ann Pietrangelo and medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA.

5. Elegance. Something I’ve personally experienced — **especially with consistent yoga practice** — is improved balance and overall gracefulness. I feel more feminine; aware of my body even down to how I take care of it. I’m sure that isn’t totally connected to an absence of alcohol, but it has certainly enhanced aspects of my femininity!

 

The Bottom Line

The bottom line: choosing to abstain from alcohol is one of many ways to deepen your sense of self, to deepen your sense of Oneness with All, and to open up further to the self-love you’ve been cultivating. <3

 

The 3 Biggest Signs You’re Operating From a Higher Frequency

Low Vibration VS High Vibration

When we exist in a state of lower vibration, we are likely to experience feelings of despair, overwhelm, short temperament, negative thinking, and general feelings of lack. However, we can consciously (and unconsciously) move our physical and mental states into higher frequencies as we evolve spiritually, mentally, and physically.  We might not consider that making positive changes for ourselves has the potential to alter our body chemistry, but it most certainly can (and does)! Typical high-vibration characteristics are peacefulness, mindfulness, regard for others, regard for one’s own physical and mental health, feelings of abundance, feelings of natural euphoria, joyfulness, and interconnectedness (humans, animals, universe, etc).

So how can you be sure that you’re operating at a more elevated state of being? Here are three of the biggest signs I’ve pinpointed along my own exploration.

1. Noticing Recurring Themes

Right now on the planet Earth, it is warmer in Antarctica than it is here in Ohio. While the last couple of winters have been more wintry than in a long time, I remember heavier winters during my youth. It seemed that we bundled up and went outside no matter what the temperature, and the more snow the better. However, as an adult who commutes to work each day you are less thrilled when you hear about the 7-10 inches of snow expected.  You learn to start your day about an hour earlier, drive cautiously, and to be forgiving when other drivers are being overly cautious. Then again, you can never be too cautious driving on snow and ice. The recurring theme in my life as of late has been patience, most mornings for the last couple of months. But I’ve noticed the theme of patience turning up in other places as well. I’ve noticed that when I demonstrate patience in situations that demand it, not only does it enhance the experience but it also allows me to recognize other little lessons, snippets of beauty, and interactions that I might have otherwise missed.

Whatever theme is currently turning up in your life on repeat, you are wise to claim this as an opportunity for deepening your practice in this area.

 

2. Learning to Practice, Instead of Avoid

When you develop a desire to practice those recurring themes, in addition to simply recognizing them, this is the second step, and you are on your way to approaching challenges with a totally new mindset! You are not only recognizing the themes that are calling out to be mastered, you are becoming eager to practice getting better at those themes. And trust me, there will always be new themes that stand out to you. This is your subconscious mind letting go of old patterns and embracing a new way of growing from what was once a past struggle. You are on your way to confidently facing new challenges as they arise in your life because you understand the importance of practice. A definite sign you are increasing your vibration!

3. Facing What Appears to Be the Most Difficult Task

My yogic mentor, Ali Kamenova (the Inventor of Interval Yoga), suggests that when you are working on a new series, do not avoid the postures that appear to be the most challenging. Spend more time on them, master them. This is the perfect advice for any new or aspiring yogi! The most challening postures are the ones that test your balance and push you in your ability to synchronize your mental and physical awareness (my favorite aspect of yoga). These are the postures that need to be worked with the most, because working through them connects the body and mind in a way that strengthens them both. In the same way, when we begin to recognize that the most challenging tasks in our lives are the ones we should be prioritizing as “most important” and are willing to do so with a calm, collected, determined attitude — this is a sure sign you are evolving and are increasing your vibration from within. Well done : )

 I hope you enjoyed today’s post. I’ve seen many other posts on this subject, and I’m sure everyone has their own experiences with regard to becoming a High-Vibration Being. Please feel free to share your ideas in a comment below! Thanks for reading.

Have a beautiful weekend, see you soon.

 

Biography [& Thank You!]

 

 

I thought it was time to give a thorough update to my biography/about me section, so here goes!

I’m a full time Professional Consulting Hypnotist, Wellness Coach/Advisor, and educator specializing in Wellness and Life Transitions.  My educational background is in Philosophy with a concentration in Ethics, and this year (2015) I am finishing a professional certification in Holistic Nutrition. Five days a week I am grateful to work both one-on-one with clients as well as in a classroom — sharing holistic perspectives. Together we discuss natural methods to achieve and maintain a healthier, happier, more energetic lifestyle without the need for prescription medicine. EscapeToLight.com is an extension of my passion to spread the message of ENJOYING wellness, EMBRACING self-love, EXTENDING love through ethical and intentional action, and PRACTICING self-care through various modalities. If you’re considering a vegan lifestyle, I can help with your transition.

For 8 years I owned and operated a photography business. During that phase of life I had also gone through a divorce, mourned the death of a loved one, and developed a skin condition on my face called melasma that took down my self-esteem. Following all of that, my son and I moved to a new city.  I found myself in disharmony, and it hit me: I had yet to discover self-love. Something had to change if I was going to be the woman I so longed to be! I began to practice meditation and sought guidance through others living harmonious lives. Around the end of 2012 I took a solo trip to the mountains that changed my life forever. As I stood there alone experiencing the world from thousands of feet above, I knew what I had to do. It was time to let go and truly move deeper into who I was. Through continued meditative practice and hypnotherapy I discovered my deepest values. It was comforting to find that those values had actually been there all along just waiting to be fully embraced and put into practice! Proper hydration, improved nutrition, and the help of natural fruit acids cleared my skin condition. Little by little I found my life more organized. I purged many of my belongings. I cut ties with my online business identity and focused more on living again. My spiritual wisdom grew, my emotional state became better than it had ever been in my entire life, my relationships deepened, and life was enriched. It became clear that I wanted to be a part of helping others find that same richness for themselves:)You can read about this transition in my free eBook, Quiet (click here to download).

I’m a mother, vegan (50% raw!), a yogi, and a Scribd.com-aholic. Hiking, foraging, wildflower picking, traveling, and of course —photography! — are regular events in my life.

Thank you so much for stopping by. I invite you to share your ideas on any of the posts. Looking forward to our conversations!

Be Well // Live Bright
Michelle

5 Tips for Being a Great Listener

(c) 2009 – 2015

Hi there! It feels great to be writing another post as the blog is now settling into a rhythm. Today, I have coworkers, clients, and friends to thank for helping me grow as a person simply by helping me come to understand the art of listening. For me, a typical day of work involves seeing anywhere from 5-10 clients who are making important changes in their lives. Whether I’m conducting live personal hypnosis sessions or simply coaching clients in setting and achieving goals, it is crucial to be an active listener. My job is not to solve problems for anyone, but to facilitate growth by helping clients draw their own conclusions — the conclusions that are best for him/her and that best fit his/her lifestyle. If you are still reading, you are probably wondering: How can I be a better listener? 

1. Availability. Reliable friends, successful coaches and therapists, and effective leaders have all figured out the importance of being there when they are needed the most. Of course, this doesn’t mean leaving your schedule open for every subtle whimper. Being available does not mean you should open yourself up to being someone else’s doormat; but, reaching out to someone in need by simply checking in once in awhile shows how much you care.

2. Non-Attachment. Without getting emotionally wrapped up in someone else’s story, a great listener is able to stay focused on his/her own journey following even a deeply moving — or potentially draining — interaction. Great listeners understand how to create balance between sharing emotions while maintaining his/her own direction. In other words — don’t make someone else’s situation so important that you neglect your own personal responsibilities. I spoke with a client today who has found that, in cultivating a mindful approach to listening, she was able to walk away from a negative interaction without taking any negativity as she went on to attend her scheduled yoga class that evening. “What I’ve learned through this,” she explained, “is that I don’t have to let another person’s negative attitude influence my own state of well-being, that what’s theirs is theirs, not mine.”

3. Succinct Suggestions, Relevant Opinions, Great Questions. Only offer advice if it is asked of you, and keep it brief. No one has the right suggestion for someone else’s situation; advice is subjective. And it’s great to be honest, but keeping your opinions to a minimum helps keep the focus on the person’s situation. Asking thought-provoking questions rather than offering solutions is often the best way to keep the focus on the person and their unique situation.

4. Dare to Not Compare (Your Life to Theirs). Honor your integrity by sharing an outside perspective, but also honor the uniqueness of the other person’s position. Rather than comparing your own personal experiences to theirs, make them feel that their situation is special when the news is great, and help them understand that they are not alone by sharing others’ stories (not yours) when the news is not-so-great.

5. Being Trustworthy. Confidentiality is very important to someone who discloses personal information to you, so keeping it between the two of you is paramount in being a great listener. If you choose to open yourself to someone and it compromises the integrity of your relationship with another person, suggest they open up to someone else, or commit to keeping the conversation between the two of you. As we mature, it comes without question to keep another person’s personal matters private.

These are my own suggestions, and certainly not the only ones floating around. If you have your own tips for being a great listener, please share them in a comment below! Thanks for reading : )