mindfulness + the power of self-love



Last week, I was fortunate enough to have a chance to listen in on Tara Brach's talk via The Mindfulness Summit (you can still sign up if you're interested and it's FREE!) and her words of wisdom were, as always, so incredibly eye-opening. They related a lot to the topic of self-love which, as you know if you're a frequent Positively Present reader, is a passion of mine. I listened to Tara's talk twice on the day it aired and tried to jot down as much as I could. I wanted to share some of this inspiration with you (as well as add my own two cents!). Below you'll find her words (paraphrased) in italics and below those words are some of my thoughts on what she said. 



We all have the sense of being flawed in some way and this results in our suffering. We're at war with ourselves, and many of us don't feel at home with who we are. Because we're not living true to ourselves, we have a lingering sense of feeling unworthy, which leads us to constantly feel disappointed. 

We judge ourselves, feeling as if we're not good enough. This constant judgment makes us feel as if we have to be on guard all the time, which hinders intimacy with others, blocks creativity, and stops us from enjoying the present moment. 

We spend so much time feeling as if we're not enough. Believing in this limited self is a veil that covers our true nature, which causes us to suffer. 

We are taught that we are limited, defective, isolated. Realizing that you belong and recognizing the barriers you've put between you and love is important. Ask yourself: how do I keep myself from connecting with others? 

No matter who you are, you probably feel flawed in some way. You probably have some notion that you're not completely living up to your potential, that you're not doing what you "should" be doing, or you're not meeting some sort of arbitrary standard that society has set for you. This constant judgement of yourself blocks you from being who you're really meant to be. Imagine what it would be like if you dropped all your defenses and stopped feeling as if you were flawed in some way? That would be pretty amazing, wouldn't it? 



A feeling of separateness starts when we're very young. We view our inside in comparison with everything that's outside of us. With this separateness comes a need to defend and protect ourselves. And from this, fear arises. 

Many cultures (particularly in the West) encourage separateness. American culture in particular is very individualistic with very emphasis on belonging. We internalize this and it compounds the innate separateness we began feeling when we were young. This makes us feel like something is wrong with us, that we're defective in some way. 

To combat the suffering of separateness, we go after "false refuges," or substitutes to feel a sense of belonging, such as focusing intensely on our careers, putting all of our time and energy into how we look, overindulging in food, overthinking every little thing, judging others, or turning to drugs or alcohol. 

Much of our lives is organized around a feeling of insufficiency. We need to realize and release this feeling in order to get to the true nature of ourselves. 

We often cover over the purity of ourselves in order to cope with difficult situations with family, society, work, etc. And this becomes a problem when we start to identify with that cover as if it is who we really are. We start to think of ourselves as our defenses, our cravings, etc. 

This concept of separateness really resonates with me. As an introvert who strives to follow her own goals and aspirations, I often feel like I'm isolating myself from others, reinforcing the notion that I'm separate or "other" in some way. American culture also seems to really amp up this notion that we all should be different and we should celebrate our uniqueness. Being unique certainly isn't a bad thing, but the heightened emphasis on it definitely takes away from feeling truly connected with others. I've definitely turned to my fair share of "false refuges" in an attempt to ease the suffering of feeling separate and it never seems to work very well. I love the notion of focusing on belonging and connectedness, something I think we could all use a lot more of in our lives. 



We need to offer kindness to our own beings, to learn to love our present lives unconditionally. Imagine: what would it be like to love yourself unconditionally? 

Unconditional self-love can change your life. 

How much of your life is shaped by feeling unworthy? When you encounter self-aversion, you must face it with self-love and compassion.

Develop a compassionate mantra for yourself. [Mine is: "It's okay."]

The more self-compassion you practice, the more your sense of self with shift. That shift is freedom. But you have to practice in order to create new patterns in your brain. It's like dyeing indigo: at first, you dip the fabric, it turns a bright shade of blue, then fades back to almost white. Dip it again, it looks bright blue, then fades back to white with a hint of blue. Again, it turns bright blue and fades to a slightly deeper tint of blue. You have to keep dipping the fabric in over and over again to eventually get the bright, vibrant hue of indigo. Same goes for self-love. You have to keep practicing a compassionate mindset over and over again for it to actually become a pattern in your brain. After many, many repetitions, self-love will hold and it will dye your life a brighter hue. 

The more you trust your own goodness, the more you'll see the goodness in others. You'll have a new perspective filled with compassion. Even when someone does something unpleasant, your heart will understand and it won't shut down. Self-compassion shifts how we relate to the world, and it helps the world as a whole. We learn to see past our own masks, which gives us an opportunity to seek others behind their masks.  

Self-love and self-compassion are absolutely essential to living a positive, present life, but, man, if they aren't hard concepts to master! There's so much in society that tells us we're not good enough or we could be better, so much that urges us to keep striving, keep seeking more than what we are, that it sometimes feels like an endless uphill climb to embrace self-love. Self-love takes a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of practice, but the reward of loving who you are is so absolutely worth all the effort. After listening to Tara's talk, I've been using my self-compassion mantra ("It's okay.") quite often and it really helps me when I'm struggling in the self-love department. 



You can start striving for this kind of self-love by recognizing what's happening and not judging it, practicing complete acceptance. 

There are two parts of awareness: (1) identifying what's happening (both internally and externally) and (2) letting it be and sitting with it (whatever "it" might be).

Whenever you're feeling strong emotions, pause. The space between the stimulus and response is your freedom, as Viktor Frankl says. Try to become the witness and objectively view situations you find yourself in, rather than immediately reacting. 

I loved this part of Tara's talk because I'm always striving to be more mindful (and always struggling at actually being successful at it!). Breaking it into a two-part process made it easier for me to actually understand what it means to be fully aware (side note: every time I go to type "aware," I accidentally type "awesome," which I feel like is the universe reminding me of how awesome it is to be fully aware -- or it's just my brain playing tricks on me!). I tend to feel a lot of strong emotions (both good and bad) and I love that Tara shared Victor Frankl's advice in her talk. We could all benefit a great deal from pausing before reacting to the stimuli in our lives. There truly is a sense of freedom that comes from trying to be objective and observant rather than reactive. 

Listening to Tara's talk was so inspiring, and I highly recommend checking her out online or trying to attend one of her events. (I went to one earlier this year and it was amazing!) It can be hard to take time out of our busy lives to sit still and listen to someone else share their words of wisdom, but I've found that every time I'm able to sit quietly and just listen, I learn something new and valuable -- and I also practice my awareness/awesome skills! 




Want to empower yourself with some serious self-love and acceptance? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-LoveFilled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.

positively present picks: october 16, 2015

Crisp fall


"Mistakes are the stepping stones to wisdom."

Leon Brown



Top 10 Ways to Cultivate Self-Respect : so honored to write for Germ
(if you've read All the Bright Places, it's the magazine from the book!)

Want to Feel Less Anxious? : try this simple trick to boost confidence

The Spark Planner : so excited to have helped design this :)

Leaf Paintings : wow. these hand-colored leaves are beautiful!

How to Find a Self-Love Mentor : you don't have to do it on your own

10 Gratitude Truths : gratitude can completely change you life

Are You Settling for Less Than You Deserve? : you deserve the best!

Feeling Stressed Out? : check out this self-care article

Start Prioritizing Your Needs : the key is setting boundaries

The Art of Being Positive : check out this positive podcast

Is Your Inner Motivational Speaker Nice to You? : s/he should be...

Gratitude Attitude Builder : lovin' this inspiring deck of cards



Listen to this playlist on YouTube.

"Willows" — Vanessa Carlton
"Hands of Love" — Miley Cyrus
"Daydreamer" — Young the Giant
"Pilot" — Loveless
"Something in the Way You Move" — Ellie Goulding
"Gone"— Ofelia K
"No Words" — Erik Hassle
"Mine" — Phoebe Ryan
"How I Want Ya" — Hudson Thames
"It's Strange" — Louise the Child



Check out my reading list on GoodReads.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:
The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Marie Kondo

Alive: New and Selected Poems
Elizabeth Willis


I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

embracing autumn: 6 ways to enjoy the season


Recently it seems as if it's become oddly trendy to be in love with autumn. Perhaps tons of people the world over have always adored autumn and are just now able to share it with the plethora of social media outlets. Or perhaps people are just jumping on the pumpkin spice / plaid-everything / crunchy-leaf-lovin' bandwagon 'cause fall is suddenly "cool." Either way, I'm totally down for all the seasonal hype because autumn has always been my favorite season and I can't get enough of it! 

This time of year there's a slight chill in the air, but it's not yet so cold that I want to hibernate. The sky is a bright, cerulean blue on clear days and a lovely soggy gray when it's overcast. Whatever the weather, brilliant sparks from red, orange, and yellow leaves always seem to stand out against the sky, and I can't help but feel more cheerful when I look up and see their vibrant colors. 

I don't know why I've always adored autumn (though I think the colors have a lot to do with it!), but every year I seem to fall in love with the season all over again. Every year I swear I'll take advantage of the autumn festivities — I'll pick apples! I'll visit a pumpkin patch! I'll jump into a big pile of leaves! I'll have an outdoor photo shoot with my dog dressed in a cozy plaid sweater! — but the season seems to come and go so quickly that I barely get a chance to enjoy it before it's already gone.

This year I'm not going to let the season get away! Here are some ways I plan to embrace autumn this year (and I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments section below for how you plan to make the most of this season!) 



Okay, maybe not with literal spice (unless you're into that, which is cool). But creating a festive, fall-y (is that a word? it is now!) vibe always brightens up the home around this time of year. Nothing gets me in the autumnal mood quite like hanging up some fall (and Halloween!) decorations. Though I have a Halloween blanket that I use all year 'round (it's 20 years old this year!), this year I'm spicing things up with a candy corn pillow, some cheerful pumpkin lights, and a smattering of spiderwebs. Nothing puts you in the mood for a season — or for anything, really — like decorating your home with festive decor. Now's the time to break out your favorite fall-themed items and put them on display!



Did you know it's pumpkin spice season? Ha, I know, I know — it's everywhere. It's probably more difficult to find something not pumpkin flavored these days. (See this article.)But you know what? Why not embrace it? Instead of feeling appalled at the over-pumpkinification (yep, another new word for you!) of everything, why not dig in to those fall flavors and enjoy them while they're around? Grab a pumpkin spice latte from your favorite coffee shop. Bake an apple pie. Pick up a bag of candy corn. (I'm already half-way through the one in my pantry!) One of the best ways to enjoy the season is to literally take a bite out of it, so I'm planning to make the most of the fall by sampling some of the seasons best flavors. 



I'm not a fan of the cold so in years past I've let the chill in the autumn air discourage me from heading outdoors — but not this year! This year I'm going to bundle up and step away from my computer to make the most of all the season has to offer in the great outdoors. Where I live,  autumn is one of the best seasons — usually not too hot, but not yet freezing — and I know that getting outdoors and enjoying the fresh air is one of the best ways to get the most out of the fall months. This year I'm going to take advantage of it, even if only to sit on my balcony, drinking tea and reading books. I'd love to commit to a pumpkin patch outing, but I'm setting the bar low this year. Balcony and books seems much more attainable!



Pumpkin carving, apple picking, Instagramming pictures of pumpkin spice lattes — there are so many great activities that go hand-in-hand with the fall season. And a new season is a great opportunity to try on a new tradition. Other than putting up decorations, I don't really have anything that I do every single autumn, but this year I'm going to create a tradition that I'll hopefully do for years to come. I haven't fully decided what exactly that tradition will be yet, but it might involve baking the delicious Taylor Swift Chai Sugar Cookies that I baked with my mom last year. They were delicious and so very autumnal! Even if you do something small (like baking), starting a fall tradition can be a great way to stay excited about the season every year. 



Of course, autumn — with its chilly air and often overcast skies — is the very best time to snuggle up under a nice warm blanket with someone you love! I might be single this season, but just because I'm boy-less doesn't mean I have to miss out on the snuggle sessions. I full intend to do some serious snugglin' with my pup, Barkley (whether she likes it or not — sassy little pup!). And snuggling doesn't even have to involve another person or pet. You can snuggle up all by yourself with some wool socks, a soft sweater, a cozy blanket, and, if you're lucky, a crackling fire. It's hard to deny that autumn is one of the best times for snuggling, and no matter what your situation, you can get all cozied up and embrace the season from the comfort of your couch! 



Autumn happens only once a year, and if you're not paying attention, you just might miss it! I feel like every year it skips by faster and faster, which is why I'm really making and effort to be present for it this year. Luckily, autumn is one of the best seasons for being present. So much is changing — the shades of leaves, the temperature of the air, even the attire of those all around you — which actually makes it easier in some ways to stay present through it all. If you feel yourself struggling to stay in the moment (and who doesn't sometimes!?), taking note of all the changes happening around you can help bring you back into the present. My goal this season is to look for one new (autumn) thing every day!


Clearly, I'm already in the fall spirit and, if you can't tell, I'm fully able to admit that I'm one of those "basic" girls who can't get enough of autumn and isn't afraid to share her love for the season with the world. If you love autumn as much as I do, I'd love to hear about your favorite parts of the season, your autumn traditions, or any additional suggestions you might have for embracing autumn in the comments section below! 




Want to empower yourself with some serious self-love and acceptance? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-LoveFilled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.

positively present picks: october 9, 2015



"Normality is a paved road: it's comfortable to walk on, 
but no flowers grow on it."

Vincent Van Gogh



The Two Best Ways to Uncover Your Truth : find out what's true for you

5 Positive Reasons for Saying No : small word. big impact. 

Positively Present Podcast : listen to me chat about positivity here

October + Dogs : this free wallpaper speaks to me on a deep level

My Handwriting Is a Font! : this is my childhood dream come true! :)

Hilarious Tweets that Capture Your Feelings about Animals : haha ;)

Kindness & Co. : totally support this random acts of kindness concept

Letting Go of "All or Nothing" : this kind of thinking is the worst

The Power of Gratitude : five tips for a more thankful life

25 Supportive Things to Tell Yourself Today : show yourself some love

Live Sweet Photography Workshop : sign up + sweeten your photo skills

How to Interrupt : here are the most positive ways to do it

7 Ways to Learn from Your Negative Thoughts : turn 'em into positives

Zen Foxes : these sly creatures are masters of mindfulness

How to Break Up with a Friend : get rid of any toxic relationships



Listen to this playlist on YouTube.

"Do the Right Thing" — Daughter
"All About to Change" — Patrick James
"I Just Want You to Love Me" — Austin Manuel
"Such Great Heights" — Fleurie
"Exiles" — Third Eye Blind
"Chasing Down a Feeling"— Royal Tongues
"Let Myself Try" — Jasmine Thompson
"Would You Be" — Capitale
"Rainbow" — Oh Land
"Where Are U Now" — Florence + the Machine



Check out my reading list on GoodReads.

The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton
Anne Sexton

The Conditions of Love 
Dale M. Kushner

A Night to Remember (Sweet Valley High)
Francine Pascal


I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

why you should stop saying should



Should. It's a small word, but it has a pretty big impact on the way we think about ourselves and others. It's a word I don't contemplate often, but frequently use — and I don't think I'm alone in this. But, after reading Kate Bolick's Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own (part memoir, part cultural exploration of the unmarried woman that I found very eye-opening), I've spend a lot of time thinking about the word "should" — both in the context of my relationship status and in a more general sense. I've done a little digging into what "should" means for me (and for most of us), and I've been pretty surprised by how influential the concept of "should" really is. 

"Should" is a commonly used part of most of our lexicons, but it can become so pervasive that we don't even think about how (or how often) we're using it. How many times have you thought to yourself: I should be...  or S/he should...  You've probably had one of those thoughts already today. I certainly have! As someone who tends to buck anything I'm "supposed" to do (a result of falling into this Rebel category, I think), I find myself quite often thinking I should be doing something other than what I am doing. (For example: I should be writing right now. I should be more settled. I should be wearing real clothes and not sweatpants...) If you're like me, you probably experience quite a few "should" thoughts yourself. 

At first glance, "should" feels like it might be a positive, motivating word. It can guide us to do what's best for us... right? Well, the more I think about, the more it seems to me that "should" is a pretty negative word. In fact, it's almost the opposite of being positively present. It's focused on what's lacking (not very positive) and it's focused on something other than what's happening (not very present). Here are some of the reasons you might want to kick "should" out of your vocabulary...



It might sound like "should" would encourage you to focus on what needs to be done, guiding you toward your goals, but when most people think the word "should," there's a knee-jerk reaction to rebel against it, or at least feel resentful of it (if you're not the rebelling type). Rather than empowering you to do something else, should actually reinforces what you're not doing. When you think something like I should be spending more time with my partner, that thought is actually focused on what you're not doing instead of what you want to be doing. It's hard to get motivated to do something different when you're focused on what you're not doing right. 



Think about the last time you used the word "should." How did it feel? Usually, it makes you (or someone else) feel guilty, unhappy, or annoyed. If you're thinking about what you should've done in the past, you usually feel upset with yourself for not adhering to your future self's expectations. If you're thinking about what you should be doing now, you might feel guilty for not acting in accordance of what's expected of you. And if you're thinking about what others should be doing, you might end up feeling resentful. There are very few situations (if any) when the word "should" evokes a positive response. 



The word "should" is always focused on what should have happened in the past or what you expect to happen in the future, making it the exact opposite of staying present. Even when the word is referring to the present moment (as in, I should be working right now...), what it's literally means is: In the next moment, I should begin working because I'm not working right now. In the present moment, like it or not, you're not doing what you "should" be doing. A lack of acceptance for what's happening right now (regardless of whether that thing is positive or negative) is one of the best ways to become unhappy and stressed. 



Because "should" isn't a great motivator (see above), it often leaves you feeling frustrated when you're not doing what you think you should be doing. When you don't accomplish what you've tried to motivate yourself to do, you can feel as if you don't have control over your own actions. For example, if you think to yourself, I should stop reading and get to work, but you keep reading anyway, it feels as if you're not in control. Because "should" takes your focus away from your current actions, it takes away from the freedom to do what you want to do (even if that activity isn't what's expected of you). 



One of the biggest downsides of the word "should" is that it doesn't allow you to accept what is. When you think something or someone should be different, you're not focusing on what's actually happening. You're contradicting what is, for no purpose other than to fuel your own expectations. This also applies to inner "shoulds," like, I shouldn't be feeling jealous of my best friend, or I should be happy for him even though I'm very angry with him. Instead of expecting yourself to feel a certain way (and labeling those feelings as good or bad), what if you just accepted them for what they are? What if instead of challenging those feelings, you accepted them and looked at them more closely for clues about who you are



Just as "should" contradicts the present moment, it also negates self-love. Focusing on "should," you're taking a step away from loving yourself. You're focusing on aspects of yourself that could be rather loving what already is. When you use the word "should," you're not embracing a true acceptance of yourself (including the parts you don't love...). Should is like a judging pair of eyes, looking at you disapprovingly. With the word "should," you're casting judgment on yourself and, more often than not, you're devaluing yourself by allowing feelings of "less than" to creep into your consciousness. 



Should isn't just about what you think you should be doing — it's also used frequently when it comes to what you think others should be doing, and this can cause some major problems in relationships. It's normal to have expectations of others, but when your relationships are centered around these expectations (as so many are), this can cause some major problems. What would happen if you were to love without expectation? What would your relationships be like if you removed the word "should"? Should puts a lot of pressure on relationships and often doesn't add anything worthwhile.



Instead of focusing on what's been done, "should" focuses on what could be done differently. What if, instead of focusing on what you want to do, you focus on what you've done? I recently started tracking what I've accomplished each day alongside my to-do list and it's been so interesting to see how much I actually accomplish on the days I feel like I've "done nothing." Even when you don't feel as if you've adhered to others expectations (or your own), there are many, many things you've done well. Should doesn't let you focus on those, which is another reason you might be better off without it! 


Okay, so now you probably see what a negative impact should can have on your thoughts and your life. But what are you supposed to do about it if you find yourself using the dreaded "s" word? How are you supposed to get things accomplished without knowing what you "should" be doing? Here are some of the best tips I've found...

  1. Don't beat yourself up for "shoulds."

    They're normal and they're a really hard habit to break. When you find yourself saying the s-word, pause for a moment and take notice of it. Recognize that it's been said and that it means you're focusing on something other than the present moment. Then move forward to the next steps. 

  2. Focus on the benefits of doing what you "should."

    Inspired by this great article on Tiny Buddha, this tip is about focusing on the benefits of doing something other than what you're currently doing. For example, if you find yourself saying, I should be more social, reframe that "should" to focus on the benefits and think instead, I feel really good when I hang out with my friends and it's nice to get out of the house once and awhile. Focusing on the benefits you'll receive is much better than focusing on what you're lacking or not doing. 

  3. Explore what's beyond the "should."

    Sometimes "should" has a good purpose, but sometimes it exists because it's part of someone else's purpose (or just a result of general societal pressure to be a certain way). When you feel a should coming on, look at it closely to see if it adds value to your life. Ask yourself why you feel you should do something. Sometimes you're seeking something basic (like love) in a roundabout way. "Should" is often a sign of inner conflict and it's something that should be looked into, not immediately dismissed. 

  4. Change the "sh" to a "c" or a "w."

    This Psychology Today article notes that "should" leads to feelings of anxiety, stress, and lack of control, while the words "could" or "would" are motivating and encourage a take-charge attitude. Changing a couple of letters works especially well when dealing with external shoulds. For example, saying to your partner, It would be great if you could take out the trash is going to be much more effective than You should be taking out the trash. "Could" and "would" encourage autonomy and freedom, two things that are actually great motivators. 

Most of us have the word "should" pretty engrained in how we think and talk, making it a difficult word to completely remove from our lives, but if we're open to being aware of how we use it (and when), we'll be more likely to cut down on the amount of "should"s in our lives (or at least understand why we have the "should"s we do!). Think about what your "shoulds" are and see if you can reframe them in a positive (and more productive!) way.  



Want to empower yourself with some serious self-love and acceptance? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-LoveFilled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.