Beliefs about Yourself

A saying that I’ve heard repeated many times is: our thoughts create our reality. For a long time, this was one of those sayings that, for me, sounded nice, but maybe a little over the top. It made logical sense- if you are constantly thinking negatively and feeling sorry for yourself, not a whole lot of good comes from that. I know that when I’ve gotten down on myself for any extended period of time, it became increasingly easier to find the negative in things outside of myself. All of this can add up to stress, anxiety, and/or depression. This is the basic understanding that I had of this saying. Recently, it’s come to my attention just how accurate it really is.

Stuckness comes from cycles of thought. This is how the cycle often goes: we want to change something in our life, we start the process of initiating change, then there’s an obstacle. The blockage can be external or in internal. When we, say, come across the external obstacle, what is our approach? Do we take it as a sign that change will never happen? It’s too much to tackle? Why? What are our beliefs about ourselves that makes us think that the obstacle cannot be overcome? I know that for me, it has sometimes taken just a minor challenge that causes me to doubt the path I had my eyes on in the first place. Why? Is it supposed to happen effortlessly? Even if I got to where I wanted, I might change my mind about it after all of that effort. So, why even try? Or, if it’s a financial cost, why aren’t you worth investing in? Will you really never be able to pay for it? These are just a few examples of how stuckness can present, and how challenges cause certain beliefs about ourselves to come up, which can set us back to square one. It can take a lot of reflection to even realize that you have been repeating a pattern. What can break this cycle? What can get us past what feels like a dead end? You have to first recognize what beliefs come up, then do something different from your normal pattern!

When you believe certain thoughts about yourself, behaviors manifest. Sometimes, it’s a non-doing, sometimes, it’s the way you interact with those around you. Maybe you can see where I’m going with this. When someone doesn’t believe they deserve something, do they usually go about life attracting that thing? Probably not. A person needs to believe that they are deserving, because that breaks the cycle. Sometimes, it can be really hard to actually believe. That’s where faking it until you make it can come in. There is still real action in the faking. Once one acts in ways that indicates that they deserve their aspiration, things will happen. If a person once avoided job applications because they didn’t think they deserved a job that they would enjoy, they may have thought that there was someone more qualified, more hardworking, etc. Once they changed the way they showed up and behaved in a way that was self-assured, they probably saw more jobs that they could qualify for, and, of course, applied- with confidence in their cover letters to boot.

Our thoughts determine what we actually achieve. If we continue with a dead-end cycle, it constantly proves that we cannot trust in ourselves, that we cannot follow through and get what we really want. Perseverance is key. One day at a time.

The most relevant experience that I can speak from is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019. I had originally thought that I would hike the trail in 2018, but because I didn’t actively commit to the dream, nothing happened. I kept waiting to see if something would just happen for me, but I needed to be the one to make it happen. It wasn’t going to just all easily fall into place. What made it happen in 2019 was telling myself that I was actually going to hike the PCT for 5 months, starting in April of 2019. So, anything that came up after August 2018 (when I made the decision to commit) had to keep in mind my plan. Then, the time actually came to do the trail. My persistence and perseverance with hiking every day, one step at a time, one day at a time, is what got me to achieving my dream.

If I had treated hiking the PCT like I have treated other goals that I’ve pursued, I wouldn’t have made it. The first thing that was different was that I decided this experience would be valuable enough to me to invest in for myself. It was not cheap to buy gear, food, and all of the expenses that added up along the way- like hotels, gear repair/replacements, town food, etc. It did create some debt when all was said and done. Do I regret it because of that? Not one bit. Do I regret putting my other goals on hold? No. Another thing that I didn’t do was say, “I’m not even halfway yet, or anywhere close to my goal. I might as well give up.” It’s completely silly to think of doing that. Of course, if I had thought like that, I would never have finished the trail. My other goals may not be as tactile and literal as making it from Point A to Point B, but the same concept applies. If I’m not willing to invest, if I’m not willing to put in the work every day to eventually- oftentimes, slowly- make it to my goal, I’ll never get there. Remember: have faith in the process. It is essential.

This concept of thoughts creating our reality applies to everything! A fantastic resource and place for inspiration is the Facebook Page “TOTAL BODY CONFIDENCE“, which was created by a team of people I love and respect so much. One thing I know for sure about changing anything in my life, is that it starts with my mindset and not losing momentum. Surrounding myself with other people who care about growth and self-improvement has played a key role in steering me in the right direction, reminding me of my motivation, and inspiring me to live out my potential. The page I mention above is a great community for that.

Now, I hope I’ve inspired someone out there. I know that just by writing this, I’ve inspired myself! Figure out your goals, start working towards them, and then, don’t let anything stop you. If you fall, pick yourself back up. Don’t let your own head get in the way.

 

Momentum Takes Consistency

Continued momentum… This is an idea that was articulated by a friend of mine on trail, Spicybite. He and I were talking on trail one day about our pre-trail lives and what we wanted after trail. He mentioned that he wanted to continue the momentum that the trail gave him, and that he would need to keep that in mind pretty much as soon as he got back home so that he wouldn’t fall into the enticing comfort of going back to how things were. I knew that it was one of the reasons that I wanted to hike the trail in the first place- to have momentum in my life, and one of my goals was to continue with that momentum when I got home.

One of the beauties of trail life was the simplicity and freedom of every day. We woke up, ate, walked, ate, walked some more, ate, set up camp, ate some more, and went to sleep. All of that and some conversation with friends (or oneself) sprinkled in, plus, maybe some music, podcasts, or an audiobook to spice it up. The objective was clear everyday: keep walking and stay alive. For me, it wasn’t really until toward the end of the trail that I came to terms with the fact that it was going to end, and I started to daydream about the stability of everyday life back home and having a warm and cozy house to snuggle up in during the cold and rainy days.

Winter is hard in the Pacific Northwest. Seasonal depression kicks in… and top that with intermittent post-trail depression. Keeping that momentum going has been especially challenging in the winter. What I’m finding is that if I at least keep that goal of momentum in my mind, it is really helpful in pulling me out of a funk. In order to level up in my life, I need to be challenged by something. So, instead of asking myself, “Why is this happening to me (whatever “this” may be)?”, I ask, “Why is this happening FOR me?” I got this beautiful idea from someone named Brittany Taylor (check her out!). Another important thing to keep me moving forward is to surround myself with people who challenge me as well as support me. I’ve come to realize that the people who have stayed in my life didn’t just happen by chance. They are people who I subconsciously decided to keep in touch with, because I felt accepted, supported, and challenged by them.

I am currently in an interesting in-between phase, where I feel like there is forward progress, but it’s going slowly. It’s like when you start pushing a heavy object and it feels like it’s barely budging, then, it starts gaining more and more momentum. As long as you keep pushing. That’s the main thing I’m learning: consistency is key. Don’t give up and don’t stop pushing. Don’t make the challenge so hard at first that it feels like you’re pushing up a giant hill. Start out with sustainable changes, then, once you gain some momentum, you can handle that hill. It’s like the trail: one step at a time, one mountain at a time, one day at a time. If you stick with it, you’ll get to where you want to go.

Ways That I’ve Chosen to Live with Lower Waste and Be More Minimalist

The topics of low/zero waste and minimalism always pique my interest. An influencer called Sustainably Vegan introduced me to the term “low waste” instead of a more common term of “zero waste”. She likes to use this term because “less” is more attainable than “zero”, and many people do not have the same access to “zero waste” stores or fancy water bottles. It is a more inclusive term that I personally like as well. I have this belief that if one person at a time makes positive choices and realizes the power of their dollar, it can create a much larger positive change.

I remember when I was in high school and first started to get interested in ways that I could change what I buy and how I live my life that could help heal the Earth. I read a book, which I unfortunately cannot remember the title of, which covered a number of ways to have a more sustainable home- from floor materials to homemade cleaning products. I was dreamily writing notes from this book, and getting really excited about these simple changes I could make, especially when I was older and had my own living space. Well, now I’m living in my own space, and over the years I have made it a home that I’m proud of. I know that it can be hard and seem daunting starting from ground zero, but even one or two small changes to your lifestyle could make a difference! How? Because it takes one person at a time making small changes for real change to happen.

So, I’ve listed a number of things to think about- a list of options, if you will- things I have decided to change in my life that were done for the purpose of not only reducing my waste, but also keeping my home more simple and minimal. Let me know if this is interesting to you, or helpful, or if you have any suggestions!

Let’s start with some simple changes…

 

Here are my to-go items that I usually keep in the car so that I don’t forget them at home. I used my utensil set for over half of the PCT, because I bought it in Mount Shasta (a town that was close to the trail). I had been wanting a bamboo utensil kit like this for a while, and finally got one for myself. It is so light and easy to bring along anywhere, which is great for reducing plastic utensils. I also love my coffee cup, which has actually gotten me coffee at a discounted rate many times! Lastly, I’ve got a trunk full of tote bags and washed and dried produce bags ready for whenever I need them.

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Note: the plastic produce bags hanging over my sink. I reuse the bulk food bags that I get from the store, because at the store I go to, you are not allowed to bring your own produce bag, so I still use their bags, without creating more waste.
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Here is an example of one of my typical weekly grocery trips. I try to reduce the amount of plastic bags that are used by keeping most of the produce loose. As mentioned above, I reuse the store’s plastic bags so that I’m not using new ones every time I come to the store. Unfortunately, this is a store that doesn’t allow customers to bring their own produce bags, so I use theirs… multiple times. I also try to reduce the amount of canned items by buying dried beans in bulk. This is not for everybody, but since I have time to, I soak the beans overnight and cook them usually the next day. While recycling is sometimes better than throwing things in the garbage, it depends on the recycling program near you. Unfortunately, many things that are thrown into the recycling actually end up being disposed of in the landfill anyway- either because they aren’t able to recycle some items in their location, or sometimes the items just aren’t clean enough.
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I reuse glass jars that I’ve accumulated from food that I’ve used, and use them for storing my bulk items. Buying in bulk means less packaging. Plus, it’s usually cheaper.
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Tea bags typically contain plastic, believe it or not, so that they don’t disintegrate in the water. The envelopes they come in also creates waste. It’s less wasteful to use loose leaf, so I typically use either my french press, a tea pot, or a tea ball for my tea. It’s great, because I can easily drain out the liquid and add the tea leaves to my compost.
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I have been very glad for purchasing a couple of silmats (silicon) a year or two ago. They have made it so that I do not have to constantly buy or use parchment paper or foil. Things come off of the material so easily, I don’t even need to use oil if I don’t want to! They are easy to wash and dry.
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I was tired of constantly buying dishwasher detergent, and always trying to make a good decision about which one I should buy. I ended up finding a great “recipe” for making my own! It uses these three ingredients, plus a few drops of lemon essential oil for smell. https://happymoneysaver.com/homemade-dishwasher-detergent/
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For several years now, my bathroom spaces have included a handheld bidet attachment, because toilet paper allegedly uses 27,000 trees per day. There are other options out there, like recycled paper toilet paper, bamboo toilet paper, etc. I like bidets because I find that they do a better job of cleaning your bum, and the water that is used is actually a very small amount. I use reusable cloths to dry. These cloths are washed in the laundry, and take up very little space in the wash load. I do always have toilet paper as an option, because I know that not all of my guests will want to use the bidet or the reusable cloths.
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I bought this crystal deodorant over 5 years ago! It is coming to it’s final 6 months, but this deodorant has astounded me with it’s lifespan. It is a simple crystal of salt, and all you need to do is wet your armpits and rub the stick on. The salt kills the bacteria that causes odor, so while it’s a deodorant, it is not an antiperspirant. Full disclosure- for me, it took about a week for my body to ween off of regular deodorant, meaning that I had a slight smell for about a week before it really started working. 
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This was my food bag on the PCT, which was just an Albertson’s bag that I picked up in Tehachapi, CA. It lasted over 3 months. I felt good about reusing this bag and not needing to purchase a fancier food bag.
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After almost 5 months of backpacking, it was hard to not feel like throwing out most of my belongings when I got home. The photo above shows my pack, which held my sleep system, clothes, food, water, and shelter. I found myself wishing that I could just wear a “uniform” back home, like I pretty much did on trail. I do regularly go through my clothes and try to donate anything that I haven’t worn in at least 6 months. With my other belongings, I prioritize the most functional things, and any sort of decorations usually need to promote health in some way- whether that be a plant, a photograph, a candle- as long as it contributes positively to my mental and physical health.
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This is from my friend, Hannah’s, apartment in Seattle. I was so inspired by the plants and contrast of dark lines on the white wall.
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Biophilic design takes into account the benefits of plants in urban, indoor, and manmade environments. In psychology, they have found that exposure to nature boosts our serotonin levels. There have been many studies where scientists found that people healed faster in hospitals (compared to the control group) when they had natural elements in their room, or even just a window looking out to nature. Not only that, but plants often remove toxins from the air and produce oxygen.
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My room has been minimalist for the 1.5 years I’ve lived here, and I love how relaxing it is. I felt like it needed something to make it feel more balanced and a little more alive, so I decided on this…
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I added shelves with plants and lantern lights. Often, minimalism means subtracting from what you have, but this addition was intentional. I find that minimalism is more about intention and a purpose for each belonging. In this case, I wanted to make my room feel more balanced and alive, and at night, cozier. This does just that and makes my nights feel better.

 

A famous TV show called Tidying Up with Mari Kondo got me reinvigorated to go through my things last winter. So, I watched the show at the same time as gathering all of my clothes and putting them into one big pile, as she advises to do. I tried to figure out what “sparked joy”, and then I refolded.

Minimalism and low/zero waste is a journey, not a competition. It takes time to find what works for you and to figure out what is essential to your own health and well-being.

My Favorite Songs for the PCT

This is just a fun post where I list some of my favorite songs that I listened to on my PCT playlist. Here is the link to my Spotify playlist: PCT Playlist It is full of quite the random assortment of genres and artists, but I only kept songs that sparked some sort of joy in me. Many songs were meant to invigorate or motivate me, some songs were for those more reflective and calm moments, and some were just for fun (like “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain or “Believe” by Cher). The ones that I list below were the songs that I could more or less take the lyrics literally with my trail experience:

Arrows- Trevor Hall

I feel the need to write a little something special about this one. This song was one of the first songs that I listened to after I committed to the idea of hiking the PCT in 2019. It got me excited for the adventure and felt validating to my decision to stick with my intuition. As I continued my journey on the trail, this song became more meaningful and I’d save it for wide open spaces. It would often make me cry because it went straight to my heart.

“This journey has got me bleeding
A certain kind of feeling
But I can never leave it
Good God I know I need it

Arrows come straight for my heart
Arrows come straight for my heart

I thought I’d never face it
And now it’s stripped me naked
Here standing in the open
I thought I missed the omen

(Chorus)

The dark is all around me
But I’m so glad it found me

Over the moon and through stars

(Chorus)

Everything I Need- Trevor Hall

(A good mantra)

“Mmh, I have everything I need
I have everything I need
I have everything I need
Mmh, from the mountain to the sea
All of this is within me
I have everything I need

(Don’t be afraid)
The fruitful darkness
(Don’t be afraid)
Is all around us”

Old Pine- Ben Howard

“Hot sand on toes, cold sand in sleeping bags,
I’ve come to know that memories
Were the best things you ever had
The summer shone beat down on bony backs
So far from home where the ocean stood
Down dust and pine cone tracks

We slept like dogs down by the fire side
Awoke to the fog all around us
The boom of summer time

[Chorus]
We stood
Steady as the stars in the woods
So happy-hearted
And the warmth rang true inside these bones
As the old pine fell we sang
Just to bless the morning.

Hot sand on toes, cold sand in sleeping bags,
I’ve come to know the friends around you
Are all you’ll always have
Smoke in my lungs, or the echoed stone
Careless and young, free as the birds that fly
With weightless souls now.”

Thank U- Alanis Morisette

“How bout getting off of these antibiotics
How bout stopping eating when I’m full up
How bout them transparent dangling carrots
How bout that ever elusive kudo

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How bout me not blaming you for everything
How bout me enjoying the moment for once
How bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
How bout grieving it all one at a time

(Chorus)

The moment I let go of it
Was the moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down

How bout no longer being masochistic
How bout remembering your divinity
How bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How bout not equating death with stopping

Thank you India
Thank you Providence,
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you clarity
Thank you thank you silence…”

All Star- Smash Mouth

“Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me
I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed
She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb
In the shape of an “L” on her forehead

Well, the years start coming and they don’t stop coming
Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running
Didn’t make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb

So much to do, so much to see
So what’s wrong with taking the back streets?
You’ll never know if you don’t go
You’ll never shine if you don’t glow

Hey, now, you’re an all-star, get your game on, go play
Hey, now, you’re a rock star, get the show on, get paid
And all that glitters is gold
Only shooting stars break the mold”

Rhythm and Flow

A thought that came to me recently while I watched my husband (still so new saying that!) jam on his guitar with our friend (who was playing bass), is that rhythm is one of the most effective ways to connect with someone. I think that I realized this before, but didn’t really have words to give to that blip of an idea.

I’ve always been filled with awe at how well music brings people together. Growing up, I played many instruments. I think the first one I played was the recorder in 3rd grade, then flute in 5th-6th grade band class, then ukulele with my church’s band. I went to church a lot in elementary and middle school. To me, music was an important part of church. In high school, I got to take a guitar class, as well as learn how to play the viola for a semester. Also in high school, I took choir and musical theater. As you can tell, creating music with others has been a recurring part of my life.

There is such synergy created when people use something so simple together: a time score. Not only does it create a coherent synced piece, but it seems to bring us constantly to the present moment, in a zone of focus and active listening. I think that this could also be called “flow”:

“In positive psychologyflow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.” The Wikipedia Article about Flow

I have found that this synergy and connection with others from being in the same rhythm occurs in so many other areas of life. Of course there’s dance and yoga, which are synchronized activities. But, there are also things like being synced with someone else through something as simple as the weather in your shared location. Or, if you connect with another because of similarly timed life events, crazy coincidences, or serendipity.

Time is what connects us all and it is beautiful when we get a moment to be truly present with someone else, not thinking about the future or the past, just realizing that we are alive together. Right. Now.

———————

As usual, I like to share at least one song I was listening to while writing: Ian Thornton- Do You Rise

The Books

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Much of my inspiration comes from music. For my latest yoga class, I was inspired by a band that I’ve come to love in the past couple months. They’re called The Books. They often have clever song titles and some silly dialogue in their music that makes me smile. The overall theme I’ve found is that they primarily use samples in a creative way. Sometimes the samples are from everyday dialogue or from a profound speech or maybe even from some random television show. When I am able to truly tune in to the words, I am usually always left with a sense of awe or enlightenment. I think that it’s because they have the ability to highlight the mundane and make it into something extraordinary. When I was studying photography, we had an assignment to go out and shoot pictures of something commonplace and find a way to make it look interesting in a photograph (the photo above was from that assignment). This is what The Books do, but in audio form.

The way they approach making music is with sense of play. In some of their songs, they delve into topics of the human condition and our strive for knowledge and understanding. As a whole, it seems that they have a curiosity for life, but figure that we’ll never quite know all the answers, so why not have fun? It is the attitude of Open to Grace, the first principle of alignment in yoga. Otherwise known as “the beginner’s mind”, open to whatever happens, full of awe, unbiased, non-judging.

This theme was quite fitting for the month of January, the start of a new year. Fresh year, fresh eyes. The winter can be so dreary, heavy, and sometimes uninspiring, but not with a “beginner’s mind”. For my class, I wanted to focus on many poses that may be overlooked in a general class. There can be a sense of appreciation for a typical sun salutation when you do it over again many times in a row and get an embodied understanding of it’s effects. Or to hold plank and notice how proper alignment makes a huge difference. Or just to experiment with a different version of downward dog. I also wanted to emphasize an open chest and breath, allowing for a sort of “cleansing” and openness.

I would recommend any of The Books’ music, but a fair example of what I have explained may be in their song “Take Time”. One of my all time favorites is “Smells Like Content”.