Sunday, July 6, 2014

15 Things I Learned About Life In 15 Years


         Waking up today, July 7, 2014, means it has now been 15 years to the day since my big brother passed on to a better and peaceful life. He spent 24 years here on earth, spreading love and kindness while traveling far and wide living his life to the fullest, the way it is meant to be lived. He was a special piece of my journey for 10 years. Yes, I was young. You may not think it would be possible for a 10 year old to comprehend something as deep as death. However, that isn’t true. I was 10 years old when my heart truly broke for the first time. I was a child when I was forced to learn what it meant to have to put my heart back together again. I’m 25 now, a year older than my brother lived to be, and here are some things I’ve learned over these past 15 years about life.

1.         For one, never underestimate a child. They’ll always be smarter than you give them credit for. They see the world through pure, untainted eyes.

2.      Time will never be a means of measurement; it is a tool of transportation. It is a river carrying us through life, sometimes catching the current and flowing faster than we would like. We can’t hold it; it’ll just slip through our fingers. We cannot fight it, but rather let it take us to where we are meant to be.

3.      Make health a priority. It is the basis of so many things from self-love to living a happy life.

4.      Three words that can never be overused are I, love, and you. Put together, they can become the most important phrase you’ll say all day. 

5.      There is something so reassuring about a hug. Has your mood ever been immediately lifted as the result of a simple touch; a kiss on the forehead; a handshake; a comforting touch on the shoulder?  They are ways we subconsciously spread our light to one another. So hug your loved ones and never take a single touch for granted.

6.      You can never go wrong when being kind. Plato once said, “Always be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.” I personally have never thought once to myself: “I wish I was meaner today.”

7.      Begin each day with a grateful thought. No matter how much coffee you need, how late you slept in, or how much you wish the sun wouldn’t creep in between the crack in your curtain, hitting you square in the eyes. Gratitude is one of the foundations of living a happy and healthy life.

8.      Never end your day angry. Feeling anger every now and then is a part of being human. We’re emotional, sometimes over-emotional. Rage helps us learn and gives us a deeper appreciation for calmness. Nevertheless, rid the mind of anger before you fall asleep. Use your own breath to drown it away.

9.      Your attitude can either disrupt or uplift your quality of life. Positivity is key. The best part is that it’s one of the things in life that is in your control.

10.  Live fearlessly. My brother had EPP. He and I both, along with two of our other siblings share an extremely high sensitivity towards sunlight. However, he traveled from Mexico to Arizona to Texas and always told me to never let the disease take over my life. He lived without fear. It has been said that fear is an illusion. To live fearlessly is to break free from that illusion. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” - Neale Donald Walsch

11.  There are two different kind of selfishness. There’s the kind that revolves around you and the kind that revolves within you. Live with the latter. Your life is ultimately your own and in order to live it to the fullest, you have to live the life you want.

12.  Belief systems work. Having faith in something is more than just a god-given right. It plants the seeds of hope in someone. If you don’t understand the importance of hope, and are unwilling to try, then let it be. Never stomp on someone else's hope. It may be all they have.

13.  Make a list of things in your life that cannot be replaced. I guarantee you there won’t be many “things” on it at all. There will be people, maybe some special places, and memories, countless memories. The world today revolves around materials. Valuables are mistaken for anything with a price tag on it. When in reality, everything that is truly valuable in life is actually free. Devote your river of time to floating alongside the treasures in your life that cannot be replaced.

14.  Your family is more than just important. They are more than just your life’s backbone. They are the breath you return to when you’re in need of anything as simple as a hug, a laugh, a cry, or something as imperative as a reminder of whom you are, your roots. And this doesn’t just apply to the family who share the same blood as you, but to those your heart clings on to; the people who keep it beating. When I was 10, that beating was disrupted. It slowed to almost a complete stop when one of those people was taken away from me, or so I thought. When my heart finally began to pick up pace again, I realized he was never taken away, because I still loved him. He was still there, guiding me, from a place where he no longer felt any kind of sorrow or pain. Spirits are free; free of hate, free of suffering. But love is an element of freedom.  Love is what keeps us all bound together, even when we move on.

15.  Love, Love, Love. We are here to overflow this world with love. Never be afraid to love so deeply it hurts. Love to the point of no return. In the end it will always be worth it. Love the dancing trees in the summer; their stillness in the winter. Love the way a wave crashes onto the shore and gently flows over your toes. Love the way your children jump into bed with you at the crack of dawn, ready to play. Love the way his or her hand fits in yours, safe and secure. Bind your life in love. It’s the only kind of bind that can set you free.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Confessions of a College Graduate

So the time has finally come. Last month I was handed the desired piece of paper that says I can now be taken seriously. I’ll finally be a college graduate! After six long years of contemplation and uncertainty, along with spending semesters free of classes so I could gallivant around, liberating my mind and working at coffee shops, while completely ignoring the touchy topic called, “the future”.
Yes, this way of living put me a couple of years behind my peers and where society says I should be by this point in my life. I used to think this was because I am the most indecisive person I know. But now I know and found the courage to admit this wasn’t true. I may have changed my major 3 times and switched schools 4 (one of which was re-enrolling in the initial one I started in), however I can’t put the sole blame on me neglecting the ability to make up my own mind, not when I hold so much self-criticism inside of me. When a career path started to appear too rigid, too questionable or impractical, I lost faith in myself and quit. Have you ever reached a point in your progress where you can no longer see the end so you take ten giant steps backwards instead? I have and this is what I did when the future started to become fuzzy and people criticized me for my impractical choice of career path because it could never possibly get me a stable job.
I think my biggest post-graduate fear is that I’ll be spending the rest of my life working to pay off the loans I took out to go to school to get the job I need to pay my mortgage (rent most likely) and car bills, and gas to drive the car I need to get to the job I need to pay for the car and the house and the loans, and ultimately not having any time to enjoy life and love and travel or go on adventures. I’m afraid all this debt I’ve built up in order to get a piece of paper that says I’m officially qualified to live is what’s going to put me in a cage and I’ll never be truly free. But then I thought to myself, everybody does this. People do this all the time. So why wouldn’t I be able to?
What am I so afraid of? More so, why am I even afraid? Why do I do this to myself; degrading everything I’ve accomplished, all the hard work I’ve put into it just because I didn’t end up in the position I had planned to be in 6 years ago? Why do I feel like in a way, I failed? Probably because I’m human. I, like all of you, have grown up in a society where success is measured by how much money we have in our pockets, how big our houses are and what kind of car we own. If I don’t have these things, I’m programmed to feel like I failed.
Maybe I’m na├»ve but to me, success is serenity. It’s self-love. It’s knowing very well that you aren’t perfect, you never will be, and being completely content with that.  It’s admiring oneself and one’s achievements no matter how “little” you may think they are. It’s living our lives at our own pace, instead of comparing ourselves to others. Success is valuing life and the people in it far more over money and materials. It’s treasuring a smile on the face of someone you love, knowing it’s worth more than a lifetime’s salary. I didn’t learn that in college, but this is what I plan on building my success on.
              I can’t count how many people congratulated me, people I had never met before in my life. I knew then that this graduating from college thing was actually a big deal, a giant step in the right direction, the turning of the last page of this chapter of my life. I refuse to let fear take away my right to feel successful. I finished the chapter, had to re-read a lot of pages, but I finished it. Time to start a new one. The difference now is the pages are blank. I guess the only thing left to do is pick up a pen and write it myself.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

 Social Media Detox

       This past week something has been occupying my mind and no, it isn’t schoolwork like it should be.  It’s something that used to be a huge fear of mine: “time”.  It all started when I was having a conversation with my sister about social media.  She said she was thinking about deleting her Facebook because she doesn’t want to regret all the time she spent on it when she could have been spending that time with her children.  For those of you who know me, you know I have a teensy, tiny bit of an addiction to social networking.  Ok, it’s a bad addiction.  So it got me thinking, and like always, my thoughts scattered everywhere.
When my mind scatters, the first thing it normally touches is music.  So I turned to my music idols.  John Lennon once said, “Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”  I’ve always turned away from this quote, not because I don’t believe it, but because I’ve personally found that whenever I waste time, I wasn’t enjoying it. However, today I was on a Muse kick and was listening to the song “Knights of Cydonia.” There is a line in the lyrics I’ve always tried to live by.  “Don’t waste your time or time will waste you.”  To me, this makes more sense.  Time isn’t something we can earn.  It is a gift.  Some of us are given more of it, and some aren’t given nearly enough.  It’s like water.  You can try to hold it in your hands but it will find some sneaky way to slip through your fingers.
Everyone wishes they could slow down time, but how?  Is it even possible?  I believe it is and well, the answer is in the question.  “Slow down.”  We all live at such a fast pace and revolve our lives around planning for the future, that we forget to live in the present.  Sometimes when I come home from work I immediately start planning how I’m going to go about my day tomorrow.  I want to stop this. I want to start living more in the present.
         I think one of the best ways to practice this is to look at your children, and if you’re like me and haven’t been blessed with any yet, look at some child in your life.  Now pause.  They will never be as young as they are in that very moment.  Even though it may seem like it’s happening slowly, they are growing older.  Time is taking them away from you, like water trickling through your fingers.  So slow it down.  Be with the people you love.  When you set aside time for the people in your life, you exercise your awareness. When you truly are with them, right here, right now, you’ll find yourself surrounded by love.  You will become aware of it and learn that we do not hold love because that would imply we have a capacity for it.  There is no capacity for love. It’s something our souls produce and we have the power and free will to release it or not.  Living in the present gives us the time we need to release it.    
This week, I’m turning away from my cell phone for once.  I’m logging out of my Facebook, instagram, pinterest, vine, etc. (I know, it’s sad) I’m going to watch the sunset and not feel the need to document it on every form of technology.  Instead, I’ll take a mental picture. I’ll put it in a safe place inside where it can’t be deleted or thrown away.  I don’t just want to live in the present time, I want to live in the present place. Truly live there and I invite you to do it with me too.  Let’s detox.  Let’s disconnect from the world of social media and reconnect with the real world around us. Let’s slow down. Time can be measured by memories. So make some.  In fact, make more than just some, make hundreds. Let’s live. Let’s be. Let’s love.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Grateful Every Damn Day

Gratitude. It's a necessary attitude to have in order to feel happiness in this life.  When we're filled with gratitude, we can easily find peace.  Gratitude opens our eyes and our hearts to all the beautiful things that matter in this life. Every day is a gift.  Every morning, even while we are just laying in bed, we should be giving thanks for the opportunity to live another day. Living a life full of gratitude will contribute to our uplifting feeling of completion. This is why we teach our children to say "thank you" and appreciate everything they are given from the moment they can speak.  Being grateful is reflecting on all our blessings and understanding that we already have everything we need to be happy here on earth.

March is the month during Rachel Brathen's "Yoga Every Damn Day" 2013 challenge completely dedicated to gratitude.  Rachel is one of my biggest inspirations in yoga and in life in general.  If you would like to participate in the challenge all you have to do is sign up with and join the Yoga Every Damn Day Challenge. Each day or as often as you can, upload something you are grateful for.  You can even upload a photo to go with it, and since I'm a little obsessed with pictures, I have a blast with that.  I decided for my blog entry today I would share my entries for each day of the first week of March.  Reflecting on something you're grateful for every day, be it big or small, is a life changing practice and I completely encourage it, either on Rachel Brathen's challenge or even just in your own personal journal.

March 1st
 Today I am grateful for the divine being who protected two of my sisters this week. They were both in bad car accidents. Both are going to be alright thanks to someone special watching out for them. I am grateful for my brother Chris in heaven who I know was behind it.

March 2nd
 Today I am grateful for my home. Sometimes I complain about still having to live with my parents at 23. (My own fault). But I've grown up in a beautiful, welcoming, warm home and I am so thankful for that.

March 3rd
Today I am grateful to be an Aunt. I became an Aunt when I was 5 and I've loved every minute of it. No one makes me feel loved the way my nieces and nephews do. They make me feel like a goddess whenever they run into my house with open arms begging me to hold them. Or when they push their mom or dad out of their seat at the dinner table because they saved that seat for me. Or even when they hug me and say nice things only because they want to play a game on my iPhone. Whenever I hold them, no matter where I am, it feels like home. Having all these children in my life is proof to me that we truly live amongst angels, for the divine inside of each of us is liken to that of a child. Beautiful, innocent, and shining with unconditional love.

 March 4th
Today I am grateful for my health. Growing up I always had health issues from asthma to thyroid problems to migraines. It made me an unhappy kid especially in my teenage years. I was also born with a rare blood disease, EPP, making it painful for me to be in the sun for any longer than 10 minutes. It wasn't until I graduated high school when I began to look deep within myself to search for the true source of my problems. And I found it. It was my attitude and it needed to be adjusted. I starting doing yoga and began to look at life in every positive way I could. My migraines became nonexistent. My asthma got under control because I started exercising my lungs more. I couldn't do anything about my EPP, but I could stop blaming it for my problems. I love the sun. I crave it. I just need the shade in order to enjoy it. I found that the greatest medicine there is is a positive attitude, and of course love. Love love!!

March 5
 Today I am grateful for my past. I'm grateful for every beautiful and every messy bit of it. Every smile, every laugh, every tear made me who I am today. I may have pouted and cried or slammed my bedroom door one too many times, but I'm thankful for my childhood. It's funny how when you look back on the years you've lived and you spot so many amazing moments you should have cherished more. Jamie Cullum said it best: "When I look back on my ordinary, ordinary life, I see so much magic though I missed it at the time." 

Never look back on your past with bitterness. Don't be so hard on yourself. Never regret your mistakes because mistakes are what built your character. They are what make us stronger and wiser as they point us in the right direction. Once you find the strength to let them go, your soul will finally be free to grow.

March 6th
 I'm grateful for morning snuggle time.

March 7th
Today I am simply grateful for discovering yoga. It taught me to stop looking for the right path. That's not living. Living is carving out your own path and I feel I'm clearing mine more and more with every yoga practice.

Lastly, before I close this entry, I wanted to share a gratitude reflection my 3 year old niece shared with me. This week I was working on teaching her how to reflect on everything she is grateful for.  She came up with candyland, her Mom and Dad, her brothers (after I suggested it I will admit), her cups, and Christina Perri. However, there was one thing she said that I know could be taken as something comical, but I took it as one of the most inspiring things I've ever heard. When asked, "What are you grateful for today?" she responded, "I am grateful for myself."  My initial reaction of course was to laugh at this gorgeous 3 year old girl's vanity, but then I thought more about it.  Being grateful for oneself is probably the most important of all!  A 3 year old knew this better than I did. If we don't learn how to love ourselves, how can we learn to love anyone else. C.G. Jung once said, "The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely." 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Treasures That Lie Within Us

"Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames."
                                                              - Rumi

Have you ever pondered on the question, “If your house was on fire, and you had time to grab one thing, what would it be?”  I will admit the last time I thought about this was when it was brought up by the handsome Matthew Goode in the movie Leap Year.  I’m thinking about this right now because I’m sitting in my room staring at nothing trying to get myself motivated to clean it.  As I scan the room I realize and can finally admit to myself something my family has been trying to tell me for years. I have Way. Too. Much. Stuff!  So I thought about it.  What would I take if my house was on fire?  Assuming all living beings were out safely, here is the sad list of things I was trying to choose from. 
First came my guitar. But which one? I have four.  And then what about my ukuleles? Well I can always buy a new guitar and that was too confusing, so I went onto the next thing - my record player.  It's not an antique.  I think my parents bought it at Kmart or something, so I can always replace that too. Scratch that off the list.  Then my eyes scanned to my beautiful new Tibetan singing bowl my boyfriend got me for Christmas. Uhhh, I'd just have him buy me another one too. This was when I started scaring myself with my absurd ideas of what things are important to me: my CD and DVD collection, my library of books (half of which I haven't even read), my dozens of pictures on my walls. Oh my pictures. They're mostly digital so I can just print them out again.  But that would mean I would have to take the computer! On to the next: my Beatles blanket (you know, so I wouldn't be cold standing outside watching my house burn).  What about my pillow?  Yes, I thought about my pillow just for a second, and its sweet perfection between softness and firmness. I went through countless other things like my National Geographic Magazine collection and my two trunks full of souvenirs and memories, including old middle school notes, when I finally decided I would try with all my might to push my Grandfather's piano out of the burning house. 
After this mind fiasco, I meditated on the outcome and came to a conclusion I've always feared to admit.  I, Lauren Madrigal, am a material girl.  As hard as I try to be happy with everything I already have, I still go out shopping every week to buy new things. My drawers and closet can barely hold anymore wardrobe, yet I continue to complain I have nothing to wear.  Whenever I travel anywhere outside my 50 mile radius, I feel the need to bring a souvenir home and find room for it on my cluttered dresser and shelves.     I have an overflowing collection of piano music because I find it sacrilegious to throw sheet music away.  I picked up a new hobby painting wine bottles and now there are ten empty ones sitting on my bedroom floor waiting to be painted. Don't even let me get started on the trunk of my car.   
So what do I do?  How do I fix this?  First, I will listen to one of my favorite Jack Johnson songs, Gone, and truly take in the lyrics this time: "Look at all those fancy clothes, but these can keep us warm just like those. And what about your soul? Is it cold? Is it straight from the mold and ready to be sold? Cars and phones and diamond rings, bling bling. Those are only removable things. What about your mind? Does it shine? Are there things that concern you more than your time?" 
OK now that that's done, I will make a change.  I'm remembering back on a yoga class many months ago which was based around letting go.  My wonderful instructor explained to us the importance of letting go of materials, decluttering our lives to help declutter our minds.  However, I never truly acted on this message.  This week, I plan to change that. I will be patient with it, because after all, this is a lifestyle change we are talking about. 
Now that my rant is complete, I finally know what I would take if my house was burning to the ground.  I had to sit and think about it for a while, contemplating on what I have that cannot be bought or replaced. The only thing I found was a picture.  A picture I have framed on my dresser of me when I was young sitting on my brother Christopher's lap. I was only able to share my life here on earth with Chris for ten years and I want that picture for the rest of my time here without him. It can't be replaced or bought.  Just looking at it made me realize how much treasure hunting I need to do.  But I'm not planning on looking anywhere other than within myself. That way, nothing can destroy them.  Those kinds treasures cannot be burnt in a fire. They are the only ones worth searching for. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

 The Legend of the New Year's Resolution

"Practice patience; it is the essence of praise. Have patience, for that is true worship. No other worship is worth as much. Have patience; patience is the key to all relief."

                                          - Rumi

        Have you ever been to the gym on January 1st and had to wait in a line to use one of the 15 treadmills which are normally free?  Or maybe you've been grocery shopping on that same day and are determined to skip the junk food and candy aisles because "it's a new year!"  Well, I can guarantee you that by February 1st all those treadmills will be free again and everyone's grocery carts will contain just as many bags of chips and boxes of cookies as they did the previous December. Why is this?  Why do New Year's resolutions always seem to, how we say, "fail"?  
        Resolutions almost always have to do with breaking some kind of bad habit, the top one being unhealthy lifestyles like poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and too much drinking and smoking.  We should know by now that these and every other kind of bad habit cannot be broken by wishing upon on a star before bed.  Nevertheless, every New Year's Eve, we do just that and we honestly believe that by February 1st we will be "20 pounds lighter". 
        The reason why I'm revolving this post around the popular declaration to "lose weight" is because that had been my New Year's resolution every year from the time I started making them.  Why did I have to keep making the same resolution?  I will tell you why.  And surprise, surprise - It's because I never followed through.  When I wasn't 20 pounds lighter by February 1st I thought I had failed and for some reason, we as humans, feel that once we fail, we need to punish ourselves. Once I punished myself for failing, the motivation I had to break my bad habits was gone.  I had no self-love; no self-respect.  I had no confidence in myself that I could do it.  
         In December of 2011 I began to make the same preparations I made every year.  However, this time I felt different.  That year I had increased my yoga practice.  The best way to begin a yoga practice is to sit in silence, drop all thoughts and worries, and focus in on one of the most important sounds on this busy earth - the peaceful sound of your very own breath.  Listening to your breath, feeling how it moves through your body, can teach you so many things.  That year it bestowed in me the number one key I needed to succeed.  
         I, like every one of you, was born with what I like to call the "anti-virtue" of impatience.  As infants, when we were hungry, we cried until we were fed.  As children, we pouted and threw temper tantrums when we didn't get the toy we wanted.  In our adolescence, we literally thought the world was ending when our parents said "no."  As adults, however, we begin to understand what we're lacking but sometimes can't put a finger on what that really is. When I began to truly listen to my breath, I figured it out.  It's patience.  The greatest healing power in the universe is time. Once we accept the undeniable beauty of patience, anything is possible. 
        On January 3, 2012, I packed up my patience, tossed away my pride and joined Weight Watchers.  With their incredible support along with my new found endurance, I felt invincible.  I would never go on another "diet" again, but I would change my lifestyle no matter how long it took.  Whenever I felt failure coming, like when I would gain weight one week instead of losing it, I refused to punish myself.  When I got stuck in a rut all summer and gained some of the weight back, I didn't wait for the New Year to start all over again.  Once again, I didn't punish myself.  I worked my way out of it right then and there.  I didn't lose 20 pounds by February 1st.  I did, however, lose 20 pounds by June 1st. 
       I am now 25 pounds lighter than I was exactly a year ago today.  Even though I'm not at my weight goal yet, I don't feel discouraged in any way and I have patience to thank for that.  My advice to everyone is to, before you make your New Year's resolution or even if you've already made it, find your patience.  Set aside time during your busy schedule for yourself.  Wake up earlier if you have to or wait until the children go to sleep.  Sit alone in silence and listen to your breath.  That is patience, and once you are filled with it, you can accomplish anything! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Beat the Winter Blues

        This Autumn, as the days started getting shorter and the temperatures got lower, I noticed my patience dropping as well.  The 4:30 sunset was throwing off my schedule and altering my mood.  I love the heat and despise the cold.  My life has been shaped by my warm New England summers and I've cherished every minute of them.  However, the problem with living here is our precious summers are too short.  Every January through March I come down with what I like to call the "winter blues" and this year I started to feel them before winter had even officially begun.  I knew I had to do something before the cold took control of the positive mood I had so effortlessly kept all year long.
        The snow came early and instead of going out for supplies and locking myself in the house for 3 months, I decided to take a few steps back and look at the snow from a whole new perspective.  I began to see passed the dirty, white slush and into the environment around me. This was when I chose to attempt a short yoga practice outside in the 30 degree crisp, cold air. The first thing I noticed was my breath. Being aware of it was not hard at all.  This of course, was because I could see it with my own eyes.  I could follow it as it flowed through my body, feeling it even in my fingertips. I was more aware of my senses than I had been in a long time.  In the summer, you can see and hear so much life around you, the birds, the squirrels, the leaves dancing in the wind. You can smell the heat. You can taste it.
         Now the air is still.  There is barely a sound to be heard, and yet there is still life.  As I sat there in silence I slowly began to focus on the soft noises my own body made; my lungs inflating and warming the air as I inhaled, and letting go of what I no longer needed as I exhaled; the silly chatter of my teeth as I involuntarily shivered to keep warm; and the steady pulse of my own heart, keeping a beat to the life within me. There, in that moment, I was sure of one thing. I am. I exist. I am here on this earth, a living, breathing being, put here for a purpose, be it big or small.
          I was born with the power to be in complete control of how I feel.  I will not let the chill or the absence of the warm sun paint a shadow over my happiness during the coming months.  I will stay rooted to the cold, snow covered earth.  I will smile. I will laugh. I will love. This winter, I will not hate on the snow. I will dance in it.

This was just a few days after the first picture.  I found an even greater balance and was able to stretch  higher into dancer's pose. :)