Living With Buddhists

After my last seasonal job ended, and my house caught fire due to a careless roommate, I needed a job and place to live ASAP! I landed a good position in my career field as a land manager at a Buddhist retreat center in Northern Colorado called Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC). It was complete with an elaborate Buddhist temple and even a resident monk.

The pay and housing was absolutely terrible, but the location was beautiful, pristine and far away from the daily distractions and stressors of modern or city life.

The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya at Shambhala Mountain Center – Photo by Me

It was exactly what I needed at the time. Not long after being there, someone told me SMC has a way of speeding up healing and bringing things you need to deal with to the surface. He was not wrong. It might have been the sacred land the property sat on, the quiet, the simplistic lifestyle, all the meditating, community living, living with your coworkers and seeing them every day including at all meals, a sudden immersion into an unknown Buddhist community and way of living and working, or a combination of everything. Things kept coming up, one after another, and I dealt with them instead of running away, self-medicating, numbing, or any of the old habits I had of not dealing with things that came up. I didn’t click with everyone, but there were a small handful of beautiful souls there that I could speak honestly and openly with that I knew would keep our conversations confidential. It was a learning curve figuring out who those people were, but that’s what made it worth it. Finding those people meant I had to open up and be honest and vulnerable, which was something I’ve always struggled with. Having those people who were so authentic and real was a divine gift, especially during the harder times when I was dealing with my personal demons and just needed someone to listen, hold space, be present with, and give warm hugs.

Breathtaking Mountain Views Looking North from the Road to the Stupa – Photo By Me

Working and living in a Buddhist community was its own kind of challenging. I learned a lot while I was there. I gained so much practice in awareness both in myself, others and my environment. That was the best gift. Awareness is the key to healing – for you can only work with that which you are aware of. I learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I learned to look inward and ask myself the hard questions, and more importantly to be honest with myself, even when it wasn’t pretty. That’s how I grew.

The Sunsets are the Best – Photo By Me

I learned to forgive myself. For everything. I was blaming and punishing myself for mistakes I had made years and years ago. Mistakes that now I do not regret as I learned a lot from them. I heard somewhere to give yourself grace and compassion, like you would a close friend – that you did the best you knew how to given what you knew, the tools you had, and all the other surrounding circumstances at the time. That helped me a lot.

I really started working on gratitude. When most of the people living there didn’t have basic amenities in their home, I learned gratitude for the unreliable wifi I had access to without having to go somewhere for it. I gained gratitude for plumbing – having a shower, sinks, toilet, and running water. I was grateful for a kitchen that didn’t have a stove or oven, heating, having my own place, and so many other things we so often take for granted and never even consider. I started keeping a notebook I would write in everyday a few things I was grateful for. I highly recommend started a gratitude notebook, and don’t forget to write down those things we are very privileged to have – like Wifi, it’s pretty friction’ awesome. In this day and age, there is so much negativity, fear, anger, violence, and hate in the world – and it’s everywhere! Gratitude helps combat all of those negative influences. When I started focusing on what I’m grateful for, all the noise slowly started to fall away. The bitterness in my soul turned into compassion, kindness, love and gratitude. All of these emotions are very high frequency – focusing on gratitude is a shortcut to raising your vibration and starting to feel and live in all the other high vibration emotions such as joy, love and peace. This is why gratitude is all the rage and everyone is talking about it. It’s powerful stuff.

Image from: Intuitive Leadership Mastery https://intuitiveleadershipmastery.com/emotional-physical-pain-one-hurts/

I learned acceptance, to accept where I am and not try to change it. I am where I am meant to be. And so are you. I had a “the grass is always greener over there” mindset and serious FOMO. I learned to be present and to trust in the universe (call it God, Yoda, or whatever feels good for you), and that everything happens for a reason. I learned that things aren’t happening to me they are happening for me – i.e. to get out of that victim mindset and realize you are in whatever position you are in and wherever you are struggling to learn an important lesson. Get dumped? Good! You’re that much closer to someone better and more comparable with you, and also, being single is awesome! Enjoy that bed all to yourself. Lose your job? Try doing the thing you really wanna do. Struggling financially? Take it as a sign to get your shit together. Pay off your debt, change jobs if you need to, go through your finances and figure out where you actually are and where you wanna be – and do something about it. Struggling with your mental health? That is a large dire sign from your body and mind that it needs you to stop running, numbing or whatever you’re doing that is not working. Learn to go towards what ails you rather than away. It is a cry from your inner child to be seen, heard, accepted, and loved. It can be compounding emotional wounds that were never truly acknowledged or felt. Feel it. Consider yourself lucky, that you received the message, and you are now hearing it. You can not move ahead until you have. That’s why so many of us feel stuck, we keep repeating the same cycles and patterns through the people we date, people we hang out with, things we do, how we spend our time, etc. when it’s really a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and what we believe we are worthy of. I’ve had many lessons over the years. One of the biggest was an abusive relationship to teach me to love, value, and respect myself and to awaken me to the parts of myself I had buried deep down that needed attention, love and healing. This took me a really long time to learn what that was truly about, but I’m grateful I finally did or I’d still be chasing around toxic bad boys begging for their love and attention. I want to challenge you to consider your current struggles, and see if you can see what lesson is there for you to learn, usually about yourself and what you really need.

I learned patience and compassion for others. You never know what someone else is going through, experiencing, or the kind of day they are having. Be kind. Even if they do open up and share with you, their hurt is their experience, not yours. It is not for us to judge other people’s experience. If only it were possible to metaphorically walk in someone else shoes. Instead of getting angry or frustrated at things that would’ve sent me into a tizzy, like when people cut you off in traffic, I would take a deep breathe and consider what might be going on in their life for X,Y, or Z to happen, or for someone else to act a certain way.

Another important lesson I learned was that not everything, in fact most things, weren’t about me. What do I mean by this? I mean, when someone isn’t texting or calling you back it isn’t about you. If they leave you on read, don’t take it personally. Chances are, it’s not really about you. They are having their own experience. Allow them to have it. If someone flips you the bird on the highway, shrug it off instead of riding their ass for 5 miles while you huff and puff about what an asshole they are. If you’re dating someone and out of the blue they ghost you, instead of taking it as a hit to the ego and drinking away the sting of rejection, let it go! You have no clue what is really going on with others. There are so many variables in life, and things are constantly changing.

Meditation often comes to mind when Buddhism is brought up, and yes, there was lots of meditating. Having a meditation practice is powerful stuff. It calms anxiety, alleviates depression, clears the mind, and it teaches us to be present and grounded which creates a ripple effect that helps other parts of our lives. How? With regular practice, you become more aware; of yourself, your thoughts, thought patterns, surroundings, others, and you begin to understand yourself better. Awareness is the key to healing. Once you realize what needs work, only then can you begin to work with it. Meditation was such a bit part, I’ve decided to write another post on that alone, so stay tuned!

I’ll be forever grateful for all of the growth and healing I was able to do, for all the alone time I was blessed with to work on myself and for the chance to live deep in the heart of nature. It was truly a grand adventure.

What are some powerful lessons you’ve learned? Do you have any practices that keep your mind healthy? Please share below =)

My Story

If you’re anything like me, you sometimes get these grand ideas of what you want to be doing with your life. Whether it’s passion related, purpose, a hobby or interest, or a way you can use your unique gifts and experiences to contribute to the world and help others in whatever way you can. I’ve always loved to write – songs, poems, short stories, journaling, blogs, etc. I’ve also been taking photos since I was a wee little thing, snapping awkward photos at the zoo of all the creatures, including the ambitious squirrel that bravely approached me, hoping for some of my lunch. I was never very good at processing the photos, editing, and posting them in a timely manner, granted there wasn’t much of that back in the days of myspace and cameras you had to manually crank to get to the next picture to take and then get it developed at your local CVS. I just enjoyed taking photos, I never imagined had I continued to pursue photography, I could make a career out of it. It’s hard to fathom how much social conditioning we undergo starting at a very young age – the biggest lie being: you have to graduate high school with good grades so you can get into a good college, then work your butt off, so you can graduate with a good GPA, and don’t forget those extra curricular activities , especially the ones you show off your leadership skills. Then you land THE JOB, the big kahuna permanent career position. One of those good paying, permanent, full-time with benefits and paid holidays and vacation positions. That’s the goal. That’s how you become successful and happy.

That’s the biggest crock of shit ever.

I did all of this. I landed a great job as a Project Ecologist working at a successful firm in Georgia. I started by renting a 2 bedroom townhouse and lived all by myself and felt good and successful, like I had made it.

Then all the demons I had been running from my whole life caught up to me – and I fell HARD.

A depression that had been a part of me the majority of my life finally made itself very real and very apparent. I just always thought those darker sides of myself were just who I was and it was normal. It wasn’t.

After running away after a horrid relationship then an equally bad and traumatizing breakup, I started experiencing symptoms that made me feel like I was going crazy: intrusive, brief flashes of awful memories and emotions, crippling anxiety (I didn’t even know it was anxiety at the time), nightmares, inability to focus, paranoia, extreme hypervigilance and exagerated startle reaction to name a few symptoms.

I ended up losing my job because of all this, and because I didn’t know what was happening to me, so I didn’t communicate with my employers about my struggles. I started doing group therapy shortly before this happened, but after I lost my job I knew I needed a lot more help, so I self committed. By doing this, I had the option to do an intensive outpatient program rather than be an inpatient. Maybe staying there would’ve been more beneficial.. I’ll never know.

It helped to know I wasn’t alone, and that other rather normal people also struggled and suffered. However, since it was a young adult program, and we weren’t allowed to talk about the traumas that needed some light shed on them for fear of triggering other patients, so it only helped so much. They loaded me up on all kinds of drugs to control the symptoms, the problem is, they never tried to address the root of the problem.

I stopped going after week 5 of 6 weeks, so I could go to my first music festival, and I’m glad I did. A whole new world revealed itself to me. I danced alongside many others in the forest at my first silent disco. I felt joy and happiness in my soul like never before. I discovered a more natural method of healing. I decided I needed a big change in my life, so I moved to Colorado for a much needed change. Probably not the best idea given the state of my mental health. But I soon learned that Colorado had really good programs and help for what I needed, which my previous states of residence did not. I was able to start seeing a therapist, I did EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, got a doctor that actually made sure I was on the proper medication for what I needed, I volunteered for causes I felt passionate about, made some friends, and slowly started improving.

EMDR set me back because it opened those trauma doors that had been completely blocked out that I didn’t remember them at all until the memories came flooding back. I started having very public extreme panic attacks. Often, the fear of having a panic attack would keep me from doing things I enjoyed. EMDR is a very effective form of therapy, but I don’t believe the therapist who I saw for it was qualified or prepared for what she got. I scared the shit out of her. And she did not want to see me anymore. As someone who struggles with rejection, getting dumped by your therapist, a mental health professional who should be equipped to handle the demons they dig up whom you grow to trust and let in, well that seriously sucks. I urge anyone seeking professional help to do your homework and make sure they are extremely qualified and well versed and experienced in what they claim to be, especially for the specific type of trauma you seek help for. However, I do not regret doing it, because it awakened me to the origin of my deep depression and fear, and it was not from that relationship; you guessed it, it was from my childhood. >Insert eye-roll emoji< Shocker.

Needless to say, I had a lot of work to do on myself. I was determined to get better, to overcome the symptoms that ran my life, and to be able to be normal and live a normal life. I knew there had to be more to life than this. I was determined to prove the first doctor wrong that said I would be on 3 medications for life. I did not accept that. There was no way I was going to let some random psychiatrist I had but a 15 minute talk with tell me how my life would be. I was on a mission to grow. Western medicine, doctors, and techniques only did so much for me. I knew I needed more, and some different techniques.

I tried equine therapy, and loved it. I didn’t make much money then, and often only found seasonal work in my field of study, so I got resourceful and found a nonprofit in Colorado Springs called the Colorado Springs Therapeutic Riding Center (https://www.cstrc.org). I was hesitant to reach out because I wasn’t exactly their typical client; many were young kids with developmental or physical disabilities, but I called and visited anyways, desperate for anything that could help. And it did. It helped me learn awareness, trust in other beings as well as myself and my body, it improved my confidence, it helped my posture and the pain and misalignment as a result of a lifetime of unaddressed trauma and stress in the body. Mostly, it gave me hope and something positive that I enjoyed to look forward to. Horses are magical creatures. They are incredibly in tune, they sense your emotional state, and can be really caring, sensitive and healing. At the time, I was really struggling at work with my mental state and the work environment and people deeply triggered and made it much worse. Equine therapy was a safe haven I got to go to away from it all where I finally felt happy and peaceful. I really enjoyed this time, and got a lot from it.

After this time, I landed a good position in my career field as a land manager at a Buddhist retreat center in Northern Colorado called Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC). It was complete with an elaborate Buddhist temple and even an onsite resident monk. I finally was stable enough and had enough tools in my belt to manage my symptoms on my own, so I went off all my medications, and haven’t gone back.

The pay and housing was absolutely terrible, but the location was beautiful, pristine and far away from the daily distractions and stressors of modern or city life. It was exactly what I needed at the time. It was challenging in way I had never experienced – in my work, community, and personally. So much healing, growing and self awareness happened there. Healing isn’t exactly pretty. It’s hard, otherwise everyone would be doing it instead of checking out, but it’s so worth it to take control back of your life. *Check out my other post to hear more about my experience living and working at a Buddhist retreat center and everything I learned while I was there.*

For the last few months there, I was really struggling with not feeling like the work I was doing was very meaningful or fulfilling. I always had a feeling I was meant for big things, but just wasn’t sure what. The desire to figure out what I was meant to be doing with my life, who I really was, and what I loved became my highest priority. I read books, watched tons of ted talks and youtube videos, listened to podcasts, talked with others and everything else I could do. *I recently did a blog post about figuring out your passion, so if you’re stuck there, take a read to discover all of the information I devoured and everything I discovered on my own about the subject.*

I was applying to other jobs, and trying to make a change in my life. I wanted to be happier, and for that, I need a purpose to my existence. Then – BAM – COVID-19 hits. The center freaks out. We are on a strict lockdown with many new intense sanitation changes to everything. This happened right at my one year mark, and before I knew it, I no longer had a job and would soon have to find somewhere else to live. So much was changing and I started feeling out of control. I had slowly been working towards stepping into my creative interests (writing, photography and music) but it was slow going and I was hesitant to really start. I decided to move back home and I’m so glad I did. What I had really been missing and needing was a community, or tribe if you will, that I fit in and belonged in. I didn’t have that at Shambhala. I had been hearing the term, tribe, all throughout the spiritual and self help world and really wanted to find mine. The thing is, I had it all along, I had just fallen (and moved) away from them. My tribe were my old friends I had grown up with, people that were more like family, people I reconnected with that it just happened so randomly. Coming home and reconnecting with all of these wonderful people was exactly what I was missing and desperately needing in my life. Colorado was amazing, but it wasn’t home. I didn’t have any super close friends; it was lonely. Home is where the heart is, and where your people are.

Since being back home, I’ve come out of the funk I was in, I no longer feel stuck, I’m more active, have more energy, working out again, eating better, and I’m finally motivated again after many years of being in a funk. I’ve given myself permission to finally be me, and give no fucks about what anyone else thinks. And that feels so good. It’s kinda terrifying to step into yourself and live your life for you. To be you, completely and fully allow yourself to be seen and heard as who you are. I wasn’t living my life in my truth of who I am before, and now I finally am. I’m finally writing again (as you can tell), I’m singing in front of people (made me super anxious), I’m pursuing photography and have been doing photoshoots with my friends, I’m spending quality time with my friends and family, and I’m constantly out adventuring and exploring new areas (with my camera of course). I feel like a whole new person; that extinguished fire that use to exist within me has returned. So, if you saw yourself in any part of my story, I want you to know it will get better. There is hope. You can be free from suffering and live a happy, healthy life. Reconnect with your soul and the essence of who you are and start living your life for you. You deserve a life of happiness and bliss. ❤

Rediscovering Your Passion

One of the things we see more and more is people chasing after their passion. Like it’s lost or something and they have to find it. Here’s a little secret: it’s not lost, you already have it within you and you already have everything you need within you as well to bring it into fruition. We instinctively move in the direction towards it, especially when we’re young and encouraged to follow our heart’s desires. Why don’t you have it now if we already have it? Maybe you gotta get yourself a little unstuck – I’ll remind you, you aren’t a tree, you are not rooted in your current circumstances. You can move, you can grow, and you will, but for anything in your life to change, there needs to be some changes, consistent changes. You don’t need a map, just a general direction and vision of what you want and who you want to be.

Start with getting a hobby. Could be something you used to do but have fallen away from over the years or something you’ve always wanted to do or learn. Maybe it’s that thing that’s been hiding in the back on your mind but you’ve never given yourself permission to do it or to really go for it. Maybe you have an idea or even a few, but you’ve told yourself something like, “It’s isn’t practical.” “You can’t make any money let alone a good living doing this.” Or, “Yea there’s people out there doing it. they just got lucky or had a silver spoon up their ass.”

Or maybe you’re like me and have a handful of solid potential hobbies to be explored. After much reflection on who I use to be and how I changed over the years, and remembering the things I enjoyed and just did because I enjoyed them, I’ve found some clarity. I wrote – like a lot. I journaled consistently, and wrote poems, songs, and even a few short stories. Senior year of high school, I took a creative writing class, just for fun because it sounded neat and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it. I was a band nerd and I mean NERD. I started in elementary school playing the bells with the little mallets – my parents were champs letting me pick a percussion instrument. I came back in high school and started with Color Guard (flag spinning) my first marching season, but the girls were gossipy and catty and I just didn’t fit in, so I switched to percussion for concert season and I just stayed because it was a better fit. I still enjoyed throwing the flags around, so I did Winterguard for the next 2 years. The next marching season, I was made pit captain *think xylophone cymbals and all those other instruments played with your hands that aren’t a drum* and was also part of the Drumline. I also did Winter Percussion, Concert and Marching seasons the duration of high school, so it was basically my whole life. Also did choir one semester, and really loved it. I was always singing when I was alone and with my best friends.

From a young age, I got a camera, one of those with actual film you had to crank to get to the next picture to take, and then take it to the drug store and wait 2 weeks for it to develop. I was always taking pictures – around the yard, at the zoo, and about everywhere else. Now, here I am a few decades later and I still love taking pictures. After messing around with it and keeping it hobby-zoned forever, I’m finally realizing there could be something there. Plenty of people make good livings with a camera, why not me? Because I never gave myself permission to go for it; I never envisioned that could be me. I would tear myself down and think, “You don’t know what you’re actually doing”, “You don’t understand all the technique behind it like shooting in manual.” And I would compare myself to every other person out there already doing it and to their work – this is the absolute worst thing you can do to yourself. Alter this a bit and instead if you must compare, compare yourself to yourself – be in competition with yourself. Think, “So I accomplished or worked on this yesterday, what can I do today to move me closer to my goals?” And if you don’t have any goals, get some! Otherwise, chances are you’re just floating around through life, like a bobber in water, not really getting anywhere or doing anything, while life just passes you by. Now, I’m going out shooting with my friends, doing photo shoots with friends that volunteer to model, I’m connecting with and learning from other friends who are pretty into it, I’m posting photos, going out on adventures, and basically living the life I dreamed of. Through the journey, you will make discoveries about yourself, opportunities will present themselves, connect with like minds, and by living in your truth, you will attract people on that same level.

First shoot I did with my friend modeling

To be clear, I’m not saying to choose a career field, I’m saying give yourself permission to in a way, be a child again: to be a beginner at something, to ask questions, to learn, to grow, to play and have fun. Pick something, or even a couple things you enjoy, and get busy. Don’t expect to just pick something up and be at the intermediate level, build the proper foundation. Fill up your planner with it. Learn to properly mix the colors, learn the major 12 scales, watch youtube videos to learn whatever it is your thing is. We are blessed to have access to so much knowledge, and so much of it is free! There are also lots of super affordable options too. Ever heard of Skillshare? Have you ever signed up for an online e-course? I’m a big fan of these. Allow the wander and pure joy to fill you up. Generally, big discoveries about yourself and your passions don’t come to you from mulling them around all the time. It comes from trying something out, taking action and learning if you really enjoy it

Redefine what success means to you. So many of us fell into the societal rewiring trap along the way, where we are taught through various media forms, societal standards and norms, schools and even family that success means you get good grades in high school to get in a good college. Study hard, show off your leadership and organizational skills by taking on a role or 4 in various school organizations and clubs. Land the job (with a 401k and all that jazz), buy a house, have some kids and boom! One American dream complete with success, wealth, love, and happiness. *Insert eye roll emoji* How many miserable people do you know you have stuck to the plan? Now they feel trapped in their current circumstance, completely clueless about why they are struggling so hard. Wanna know why? They never allowed themselves to be themselves – to follow their dreams, to pursue what lit their eyes up when they talked about it, what lights a firein their soul, and what makes them unique. It doesn’t have to make you money, you don’t have to be good at it, no one else needs to even like it for you to be successful. Just the fact that you’re doing the thing, making art, writing, baking, creating, dancing… is enough. Don’t give anyone the power to take what it means to you away. Don’t make it contingent upon making a living on it (if it works out that way, great!), other people approving of it, or upon anything else. It is worthy and enough because you are doing it. It’s that simple.

Something interesting I noticed as I’ve gone through the unlearning process of shedding layers that are not me and rediscovering who I am, I’m finding I’m that same exact person I use to be, just much happier, healthier and joyful. I’ve come home again; come back to who I am. I finally gave myself permission to be her – permission to be that girl. The one that lights that lights up a room, her laughter is contagious, her smile is genuine, she commands respect, she’s confident, sassy, cute, kind, fun, outgoing, adventurous, fit, outdoorsy, and looks dope in a ball cap at the gym. I’m quickly becoming her. The more I step into who I am and fully live it – let it fill up my schedule, the more it fills me up. I start feeling more whole, more alive, happier, grounded, authentically connecting with others. Abundance and prosperity have started pouring into my life where there was a lot of lack before. Connections that are no longer aligned with who I am now, who I’m working on being, or what I’d like my life to look like naturally unravel and have fallen away. Don’t be discouraged when this happens – it’s not happening TO you, it’s happening FOR you, to create space for new, higher-frequency connections to develop, that are in better alignment with this empowered new you! There will most likely be deep commonalities or similarities there. New opportunities will present themselves, sometimes masked as the end of something, like a job, relationship, friendship, travel, experiences, etc. This bittersweet ending is really a new beginning. You know that saying, when one door closes, another… opens! Be mentally open and available to new doors opening and new opportunities, don’t turn them down because you don’t feel ready, skilled enough, or worthy.

You have all the control and probably don’t even know it. Your life rests in your hands. Your happiness rests in your capable hands, and it is your responsibility, and yours alone – not your parents, your partner, friends, or even your therapist’s job to make you happy, you must do the work. Give yourself permission to be selfish for a while as you rediscover who you are. Make it your mission to unlearn and shed everything you are not, all the social norms and expectations, reflect on what you were taught makes you successful or happy, and learn what actually does make you happy, what you really want and connect with who you truly are – your soul. This doesn’t include your thoughts, feelings, your job title, income, size or other physical features, marriage status, or your ego. Find what remains after you remove all of that. Attach your identify around things that aren’t contingent upon anything, anyone or what others think of you and things that won’t go away. Consider how success can be measured. You’re less likely to have a mid-life crisis if your job that is a big defining factor in who you believe you are is suddenly gone. Or like when mothers who have no other identity for themselves is now an empty nester. Again, you gotta start from the beginning, and that can feel overwhelming and even scary. You gotta get out of your comfort zone, out of the rut, off of the couch, away from the tv. You have to start making different decisions about your schedule and priorities.

Create some clear goals that fire you up – have a reward written down that you would love and would make you smile, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. I like to do solo wine and fancy cheese night with a good chic flick. For smaller, less time consuming wins, I’ll reward myself with a chocolatey mocha, or as Tara Schuster says in her book, “Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies”, which is also the name of the book, which I highly recommend. For something bigger I might go out to eat somewhere new, get something online I’ve had my eye on, or get a massage. As you get your feet wet, step into the water, and dive in, you will get a better understanding of what you want, so don’t fret if you have no idea right now. Just get started, don’t put any pressure on yourself, and have fun!

All my love,

Laura

Let me know where you struggle with this. Drop your questions in the comments below.

What Nature Means to Me

Hiking around Tennessee

Some of my fondest memories growing up happened because my brother was in the Boy Scouts. He went to the meetings, earned the badges, raced the derby car, camped, roasted smor’es around the campfire and all that Boy Scout shit. Lucky for me, they were pretty inclusive of families. We got to be included on all the best stuff like the overnight camping trips! We became regulars and at one point I, yes a girl, earned a Boy Scout Badge – and I’m still super proud of that. =D

Going on these trips and various outings was were the start of my first relationship – with nature that is. I developed a deep love for, connection to, and appreciation of nature.

I loved watching the lightning bugs dance through the grass as they slowly rose up through the trees. I loved slipping away into dreamland to the peaceful chirps of of cicadas and crickets in the distance, and waking with the sun as I discover I’d been dewed on. The more time I spent in nature, the more I grew to love it. You really learn to appreciate it all, or at least most of it. I’m still not a fan of any stinging or biting insects or cave crickets, but I appreciate spiders that eat them. Finally, all that hype around gratitude is starting to make sense. You learn to fully appreciate the happy little trees that provide shade. The rocks and pebbles when you don’t have to trudge through mud with your nice tennis shoes on. You are grateful for that splendid breeze when you are drenched in sweat and basically dying. Crystal-clear streams that offer hydration, refreshment and cooling from the hot sun.

When you are trapped in your tent while the thunder shakes the ground beneath you and rain pours in through seams, you feel nature – you actually feel the power, the energy, and get not a glimpse of the force behind it all. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, droughts and monsoons are great examples of Mother Earth’s power and possibly even fury, ya know, Mother’s Nature’s wrath! By Mother Earth, I mean that powerful energy the Earth has, that goes deep into her belly. Makes me think of magma, thermal gases, hot springs and such. Earth is very much alive. If you struggling with something to be grateful for, be thankful for the sun! Feel it’s warmth, notice how it warms your skin, embrace that masculine energy, that fire, that feeds and provides for us all.

I feel blessed I was able to grow up with a positive model of how to be with nature, how to treat our Earth, and how to respectfully and responsibly enjoy it.

Nature is a part of me. I deeply respect Mother Nature. Nature is my church. It’s my home. It’s who I am; who I’ve always been. I’m also kinda goofy. That’s just me. 😂🤷‍♀️

So, it deeply offends me and very much pisses me off when I see people throw cigarettes out the car window, especially when it’s still lit. I can’t stand to see the whole large-sized pizza boxes or all the trash some of self-righteous, little shit’s drive-thru dinner.

PSA: THE EARTH IS NOT YOUR TRASH CAN. Sorry, but no, not sorry if this offends you. I sometimes wonder what it would take for someone to be so entitled, ignorant, or lazy that they must immediately throw trash out of a moving vehicle rather than wait however long it takes to get home or to the next stop to put it in an actual trash can. I use to think trust fund? But now I know that’s not the answer. Money doesn’t make anyone bad. If you’re good you do more good with more money. If you’re a selfish, coniving person already, well money isn’t likely to change that.

On another tangent/PSA, please don’t be that asshole group of the partying group of campers that leaves a ton of trash, makeshift toilets, used toilet paper piles, cigarettes butts, broken glass, shells/bullets, or any of that other crap behind when spending time in the great outdoors. Be kind and considerate of nature, wildlife and of others. Practice leave no trace principles. Many thanks.

All my love,

Laura ❤

And Mother Nature. I’ll be her voice, er.. fingertips.

I’d love to hear about any good memories you have growing up around the Great Outdoors.

What is a problem that affects the Earth that is near and dear to your heart? For me, single-use plastics are terrible. Also, all the chemicals pumped into our drinking water. Watch Down to Earth with Zac Efron if you want your mind blown a little, or a lot.

What changes can you make to reduce your footprint? Maybe switch from plastic water bottles and jugs to a reusable glass or stainless steel one, that’s super cute and looking at it gives you all the good feels? Ask the barista to fill your reusable mug instead of the plastic disposable one. Pass on the straw or get a reusable one. I have a silicone one that completely unlatches to make cleaning super quick and easy. Most also come with an adorable mini bristle brush.