Yoga in Bali and the Joy of Sticking with Something

Written by Kate • July 19, 2019 •
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Ganesha in the garden with koi pond

2nd class at the Yoga Barn, with Malika

I arrived in Ubud, Bali on Jan 14, 2019. I don’t know exactly when but it was just a few days later that I started practicing at the Yoga Barn

Yoga Barn class upstairs with Ganesha

My first class at the Yoga Barn with Chris Fox

. The Yoga Barn is one of the most popular yoga studios in Bali, if not THE most popular. The morning classes are normally completely packed with up to 65 students in a class. The check in process can be quite impersonal but I kept coming day after day, 6 days a week most weeks. The staff became more friendly and I got to know the teachers. Some I immediately clicked with and some were quite off putting for me but there are so many classes that it’s easy to keep trying new teachers or stick with your faves. Lots of other students became familiar too and it started to feel like an easy to support routine.

Yoga studio beautifully set up

Yoga during my 2nd trip to Nusa Lembongan

I was so amazed and thrilled those first several weeks at the global reach of all of the teachers; Swedish/American, Jamaican, Spanish, German, Venezuelan, Japanese, Balinese, Canadian, and American. I worked hard to understand their accents and learned to love their varying emphases about breath, movement, rigorous adherence to yoga dogma or listening to your own body.

At first, I was terribly out of shape.  I was tight with weak muscles and hadn’t been serous about my yoga in months. I have a pelvic injury from carrying the twins (called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) that I was ignoring for the past 4+ years. It caused me so much pain but it’s hard to not walk a lot with twin toddlers. So I ignored the pain and as a result, my hip and abs got incredibly weak but I was able to manage most days.  But yoga helps with the pain and tightness so I knew the yoga would help me strengthen and heal my hips, pelvis, and abs.. The first few moths of yoga were so hard. I was 50 years old and I was trying to get my body back in shape. It was so hard. Did I mention it was so hard? Sometimes, I thought I would pass out from trying to keep up with flipping my dog and transitioning to plan and doing my umpteenth chaturanga.

Mt. Agung

Mt. Agung on the way to yoga from Nusa Lembongan

Sometimes all I focused on was how much less flexible and strong I was compared to where I had been years before. And I sometimes I focused on my progress. I pushed myself so hard when I focused on the gap between where I had been and where I was. But that wasn’t healing my hips. Instead I realized I needed to just accept that I have an actual injury. My pelvis is hurt. I have tight and weak muscles as a result. And when I accepted what is, I stopped pushing past the pain and have started to strengthen the muscles. I’ve seen tremendous progress since I slowed down to speed up.

What I see now, 6 months into a consistent and rigorous yoga practice is how casual I have been about my practice in the past. I would reach a certain level and then allow a trip or something else pull me away from my practice. My practice was not a priority for me and my progress was slow, as a result. I see now that it takes time and consistency to become a better yogini.  And by time, that means it might take years to get to where I want to be.  I still can’t do a bind. I can’t jump back into plank or forward into a standing forward fold.  I can’t do any inversion except shoulder stand. But how you do anything is how you do everything. I’d get to a certain level of mastery and back off.

Now, I’m so close to my first bind. So close. At first I wasn’t trying to do a bind. I just kept doing the full expression of the pose at a more basic level and then one day I tried to do a bind and I could feel how close my hands were. It inspired me. Now I try to bind whenever I’m in certain poses, like in Parsvakonasana.

I’m also practicing jumping through and jumping back. It’s fun to try it. I also decided to practice headstands by doing figure Ls on the wall to work up to a handstand. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was so much easier than it had been months ago. I’m practicing with dolphin pose to work up to Pincha Mayurasana.  It’s exciting to do something so new.  And to see

Yoga studio beautifully set up

Yoga during my 2nd trip to Nusa Lembongan

progress. It might take me a year or 5. But I’m willing to give the time. What a sense of accomplishment to finally experience a different level in my yoga poses. I can feel my psoas and QL muscles tighten and give and maybe one day they won’t be so tight.

And something has clicked in me about yoking breath to movement. One breath, one movement. It just wasn’t important to me in my practice in the US.  Another serious work in progress is staying present while on the mat. Now I also dedicate my practice to staying present so I can practice and stay present on my own mat without worrying how well (or worse) others are doing theirs.

Ganesha outside the yoga shala from my second trip to Nusa Lembongan

Ganesha at the yoga shala

And again really, that old adage is so spot on, so beautifully accurate: how you do anything is how you everything. And at the start of my 2019 renewed yoga practice, I was rushing through my poses, breathing hard, totally trying to keep up with my teachers and fellow yogis rather than feeling my way through my own routine.

Now that I’ve stuck with a very regular and committed yoga practice, yes, I’m stronger, more flexible, and able to remember the yoga routines without as many cues from the teacher.

More importantly, now I see that my breathwork is so critical to a focused and loving yoga practice, that my transitions are as important as my poses,

Yoga on Nusa Lembongan

Yoga wherever I go

and keeping my focus on what’s happening on my own mat is far more helpful in becoming a “better” yogini, and a better person.

Recently, as I was noticing that my transitions are so much flowing and I’m almost- so close- to achieving a bind -MY FIRST- and my focus was on my breath. No matter where my family travels, where I can practice my yoga is an important part of the planning process. Yoga is incredibly important to me now and by making it a priority, others see how important it is to me and expect me to take the time to practice my yoga. It’s no longer a negotiation.

I’m so grateful. It feels so much more loving to practice this way. And I’m such a better yogini!

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Two Lessons On Self Help

Written by Kate • July 5, 2019 •
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A Woven Bust at the Yoga Barn

I’ve a lot of “work” on myself, taking so many classes in self help and personal development and reading a lot of books. I’ve followed and learned from Pema Chodron, Steve Pavlina, Brooke Castillo, Christine Kane, Sara Wiseman, Erin Pavlina, Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle, Kyle Cease, Tony Robbins, Lissa Rankin, Tonya Leigh, Martha Beck, and so many more. Two things that stand out for me after following all of these spiritual/ personal development leaders for year:

1- Actually Do the Work

No matter how much I learn, if I don’t actually practice the lessons/do the work, then I’m not making any changes and really haven’t learned anything. Kyle Cease says it best. He says, it’s like going to the gym and talking about getting on a treadmill and how best and how often to to use it, and learning about all the benefits working out on a treadmill will bring. And then going home without ever having gotten on the treadmill. Talking about the treadmill will not increase your fitness. You won’t know how your body responds to the treadmill and you certainly get no benefits from only talking about it.

I take all of this to mean to two things-

  • I must practice what I’ve learned and actually do the work and;
  • It’s better to stop seeking more knowledge than I need

By actually doing the work, I sit with my triggers and my habitual patterns and implement what I’ve learned. And then the inevitable failure to implement the new behavior patterns follows. So I know I must keep failing at it and starting again. Soon enough though, the new thought patterns stick.

In doing the work, it also means I have little time to keep seeking more knowledge. By seeking out more and more knowledge, I’m not actually accessing the inner wisdom nor fully implementing the new behavior. In the past, I’ve gone from mentor to mentor hoping for someone to help me relieve the pain of being the me who isn’t in authentic alignment with her true self. And seeking help outside of myself for an inner issue is going to fail, until I sit with myself and access my own deep wisdom and truths.

I will soften this statement by pointing out that many of the teachers are saying the same thing but in their own style. For example, maybe Esther Hicks and Abraham work for you and you just get their ideas on manifestating. Or it turns out that no matter what you do, you can’t really quite grasp their teachings. It’s then you can turn to a different teacher. Then maybe Mike Dooley at TUT or his books may help you more easily consume the teachings. This was certainly the case for me, that after trying to learn from Esther and Abraham for a while, listening to Mike Dooley’s Infinite Possibilities made more sense and it just clicked for me about intention and visualization.

And no matter, which teachers you work with, of course you still have to practice the lessons and you have stop seeking the wisdom and knowledge from elsewhere.

2 – Learning About and Following My Own Yes and No

Another realization, one that’s been so helpful for me to constrain my focus is that I simply love the idea of the Mystery. I love the idea of intuition, of an unexplainable knowing, the Mystery of Life. That by shrugging off all the striving and the pushing and the “making things happen”, there is a surrender to what arises. And if you surrender long enough, if you listen to the small voice in the stillness, a river of magical and perfectly timed coincidences and synchronicities will flow through your life, to astonish and support you. I want this. I want this with all that I am, an internal YES screaming so loudly that it’s apparent whenever this thought arises for me. I want to marvel at the mystery and weep with gratitude of how amazing life can be, even when it’s not “going my way”.

Some of my teachers utterly embrace the mystery and some are very logical and level headed about the step by step instructions about how to achieve certain outcomes. Now that I have acknowledged my preferences, I know I prefer the mysterious. I’ve dropped any teacher who doesn’t allow for the synchronicities to arise. Now I follow that small, clear voice that says yes and the other one, which can be louder at times, that says NO. I love allowing the Mystery.

There have been times in life where I have pushed against walls, pushed boulders up hills, tried so hard against what is a clearly a NO for me. And there are times when I’ve tried something and gotten the clear NO from life and I’ve immediately dropped the effort. And still I can be surprised when much better results arise.

An Example of a Ridiculously Clear NO

Sawyer in his happy place, making us want to move to the beach
Sawyer loves the beach at Echo Beach, Canggu

A recent example of this occurred just a few months ago here in Bali. After making the decision to leave Ubud and try a coastal town so that the kids can have more beach and more playgrounds, I thought Canggu in the west was THE place for us. I got a short term rental while I searched for a longer term rental. [My partner was traveling 6 days a week and was leaving all the details to me.]

Sunset at Echo Beach, Canggu

Prior to moving to Canggu to stay in the short-term rental, I found a long term rental that we were going to stay in for about 6 months. It was going to be a great little house and the twins loved the pool, and the view was great. My partner had looked at it prior to his next trip and thought it could work. I had a small inkling that maybe it wasn’t the place for us but everyone was happy so I just put it out there to the Universe that I wanted this place if it was meant to be. And then I tried to rent it through Airbnb. And the transaction didn’t go through. This had happened before on Airbnb, so I gave it a few days. It happens. Not everything is a sign. I tried to book the villa again and this time, the discount wasn’t applied correctly and then after a ton of effort, the discount was finally applied . And then this transaction would not go through after so much effort to get the discount applied. It didn’t go through again. What? Now, I’m starting to have a stronger inkling that I was getting a No about Canggu. Meanwhile, we moved to Canggu into what I thought would be a sweet, short term rental.

The short term rental was a disaster. DISASTER. Mold in the living room. A bizarre sweat box of a bedroom that made it uninhabitable. The twins getting bitten in their beds so badly that they couldn’t sleep in the other room so we all slept together in my room. We changed our 16 day reservation to 3 days. Pretty obvious to me that I got a clear message saying “GET OUT” (a la Eddie Murphy’s show back in the day).

And as all this was happening and I was trying to find us a place to land after moving from the toxic, short term rental, I decide to have one last go on the long term rental for Canggu. I tried again with the same card and then a different card and still the transaction would not go through. It was a totally mystery as to why I couldn’t get the rental to go through on a card. And yet, I knew. I was getting a huge NO from the Universe about Canggu.

I wrote to the owner of the long term rental and was honest about the reason why I wasn’t renting: that I was freaked out about how I couldn’t rent her place no matter what I did and I felt it was a sign. She was deeply disappointed and a bit angry.

No matter her anger and disappoint, that decision to not take the house and give up Canggu as our future home felt deeply right. I therefore didn’t second guess myself and I moved us to Sanur.

Sanur Beach [with Mt. Agung the volcano in the distance]
The beach at Sanur, with Mt Agung in the clouds in the distance

And in allowing the mystery, everything just clicked. I found the cutest long term hotel rental in Sanur, the Bali Bubble, two bedrooms and a sitting room at a massive discount. Something like $800 less than the house in Canggu was costing us for the same amount of time. And we fell in love with Sanur and it was a joyful, happy almost three weeks in Sanur before we had to leave for our visa renewal trip to Kuala Lumpur. It turns out that Sanur was everything I was hoping for from Canggu and we spent a further two months there. Life flowed smoothly in Sanur. It felt right.

And by the way, I don’t always feel the need to know why I’m being blocked by the Universe. Sometimes I think that it may be the other thing would have been bad and in surrendering to the Universe and feeling my way through the Yes and Nos of life, I am not experiencing the catastrophes that could have occurred had I not followed my intuition and allowed the mystery to unfold.

Sticking with It for the Best Results

Because I have spent much of my life ignoring my own yeses, I still am not very proficient about feeling into the yes or the no. In the past, I’ve muscled my way past the quiet, small voice that says yes to something inconvenient and no to the convenient. But I renew my commitment to saying Yes to my authentic self as often as I notice I’m not. I won’t have the most authentic, best life for me without following my true Yes.

What have been your biggest lessons? Best results?

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Moving to Bali – A Brief Overview of the First Six Months

Written by Kate • July 4, 2019 •
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the pool and yard at our first villa
The tropical plants and large pool in our yard

In January 2019, my family and I moved to Bali, my partner, our 4 year old twins and me. We bought one way tickets and had two months of housing booked through Airbnb. Beyond that, we would just wing it.

Because of my passion for yoga, we decided to try Ubud first to see if it was a good fit. We were so fortunate to find a house right near the Monkey Forest and had to walk past by countless monkeys to and from the street.

They grabbed at our bags and at the fruit off the trees at our villa. They were scary and thrilling at the same time.

Baby, held by Mommy
Photo Credit: Dion Hinchcliffe

I started at the Yoga Barn, taking classes six days a week. I needed the walk, the adult interaction, and the exercise. I was badly out of shape and getting back into shape was difficult. I almost wondered if I was too old, at 50, to get into good shape and realized that was a silly question. My children are fours years old. Their Mommy needs to be in the best shape possible, as fit as possible, to help them have a great childhood. And this thought served as all I motivation I needed.

We met our Balinese babysitter, Kadek, who would take care of our kids for most of the next few months, allowing me time to do my yoga, get some massages, shop for food and essentials, and see Ubud a bit. My partner worked in a bedroom while the twins got used to Kadek, who eventually became a trusted and beloved friend.

The kids checking out the rice terraces at our first lunch
Rice terraces at lunch

The first month was spent in Nyuh Kuning, a beautiful small village to the west of the Yoga Barn and south of Ubud Center. The second was in Peliatan, in a very cute villa that had connecting bedrooms and twins beds for the kids. This home also had two part time staff, who did a lot of the cooking and all of the laundry. Such a treat!

We then had to renew our visas, so we chose Singapore to visit. Singapore is not my cup of tea but there some great moments there. More on Singapore in a later post.

Then the village of Mas, and then the village of Lodtunduh for another month. After Lodtunduh, we decided to move to Sanur to allow the kids more access to their favorite activities in Bali, the beach and the indoor playground Peek A Boo.

For our second visa renewal, we decided to head to Malaysia instead. My partner was traveling for business so it was just me and the twins for 2 nights/3 days. I love Kuala Lumpur (KL). What an absolute treat. More on KL in a later post!

Sawyer uses his shirt to hold a bunch of sand, on cloud 9
Sawyer in his happy place, the beach.

Then back to Sanur for a few more months. We’re now about to head to KL on our second visa renewal trip and we intend to get social visas this time so we can stay the remaining 4 months of our trip before we head to Turkey in November and Chamonix, France for December through February 2020. We’ll back in Bali in March 2020, if all goes as planned.

So far, so good.

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Hold Your Methods and Expected Outcomes Lightly

Written by Kate • December 13, 2018 •
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Hold The Methods Lightly

Sometimes I marvel at our ability to deceive ourselves. Or forget that the lesson we thought we learned but that we need to learn over and over again until it’s actually been absorbed.  For me, I tend to fall back into my old habits of visualizing an intention/outcome and allowing a way forward to swirl out of the fog in the back of my mind. I forget that the way forward that I’ve visualized may well be an imperfect solution and that course corrections or lessons may appear, swirling out of the mists in my mind. These course corrections or lessons can be amazing and such “a ha” moments. And I’m clearly a better person for having started down a path and then altered my trajectory based on this input.

But sometimes I forget this. I hold onto my intentions and fixate on the path before me that I get utterly rigid and forget to hold my expect outcomes lightly. I attach to both the method and the outcome and I forget to allow space for my intention or something better to show up. And the truth is that I tend to forget that I WANT the mystery of life to be utterly apparent in my life. I WANT to be in the flow of the magic that life can be. Life is easier and just so much more fun when the mystery that is life bubbles up right before me. I am always amazed and grateful when it becomes apparent that there is something out there giving me boosts towards my “right” life and blocking my old habits.

In my case, recently, I have the opportunity to provide some consulting services for a short term effort. The effort is relatively lucrative and it would help us achieve a better financial reality. But when faced with doing the work, I find it very difficult to bring myself to do it. It’s not in line with my authentic desires and I’m working by myself, both of which are just not suited for me. Trying to force myself to do the work, without anyone to spark off of through conversations and batting ideas around, simply aren’t working for me anymore.

And so I despaired. I had a great deal of anxiety about my inability to just push through and “do the work”. This lasted about 5 days until I realized that I was feeling anxious and out of alignment. Why not delegate the work to someone who would enjoy the work? I’m focused on hiring fellow consultants to help with the work. Without getting too deep into the weeds of this situation, I’ll just say that another way forward presented itself to me. It’s perhaps not as directly lucrative to me but it helps me find a way forward so that my authenticity and my need to work with colleagues are both honored. And so more of my needs will be met in a much more loving supportive way.

And my anxiety vanished. My despair, which was highly tied to the feeling that I HAD to accomplish my original goals in a strict and rigid way, eased.  I can make money, be authentic, and work with others. I just needed to open myself up to new possibilities.

What Do You Really Want? Interim Goals or the Whole Enchilada

It wasn’t until I learned about giving the methods over to the Universe that I realized I can easily ask for the end, desired outcome. For example, I remember putting it out to the Universe that I wanted a job working from home so I could save time on my commute and work on my own business. Why didn’t I instead focus on supporting the effort to launch a successful business? Or now, I want to move overseas and live in Ubud, Bali for a time. I want to live there and have the full on spiritual experience, with yoga, sound bath sessions, kundalini yoga, kirtan, and more. So I put that out in the Universe and my partner has been wanting to just go an do it.

I’ve been holding back because of all my limiting thoughts and concerns:  My Dad is getting elderly and is not in the best of health. My sister is my nanny and how can I bail on her? Do we have enough money, will I have enough help, will there be enough for the twins to do in Ubud, and on and on.

And so instead, I checked out getting an au pair, so I could get additional help taking care of the kids, while Dion travels and so I can do my yoga and launch my business. But that’s the interim goal to living my authentic life. Instead, go for the whole enchilada and hold the outcome lightly. It’s far more fun to live your life, expecting the mystery that is Universe to guide you forward and show you an easier.

I’m ready!

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What To Do About that Mean Critical Voice In Your Head

Written by Kate • December 12, 2018 •
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As I’ve visualized a different way to live, dropping behaviors and habits that don’t serve me- all the while doing it imperfectly, I find my mind whispering critical and painful thoughts to me. Before this shift, these thoughts were there but I was attaching to them and allowing them to have their way with me without noticing their presence or effects on my life.

To be clear about the “voice”, it’s not some voice whispering to me do violent things. It’s just the self talk that occurs on a daily basis that we normally are so identified with that we can’t separate it from our true self.  But we are the container who can witness the self talk and therefore, we are not the “voices” in our head. Our true self is the witness to the thoughts. But I’m using an easy convention of a “voice” in my head to describe what’s been going on with me as I make changes in my life.

In the past few weeks, I’ve cleaned up my act. I’ve had some painful conversations with important people in my life about what I need. I’ve been as kind as I can in saying what I need.  But telling the truth about some changes I need to make in my life has made me feel vulnerable.  That I may have cast myself adrift from my usual moorings and I feel like I may be abandoned at any point, which can feel like death.

Now, demonstrably, no one is abandoning me and I’m not going to die if they did. It’s just a new and scary place for me and goes against pretty much everything about how I was raised. The subtext, the subconscious message given in how I was raised, was:

  • Give till it hurts your soul and then keep giving, because it’s not really giving unless it hurts to do it.
  • Don’t worry about your own needs. Just worry about what the family needs.
  • And whatever you do, don’t follow your own inner compass.
  • Stay small so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

It’s long past time for me to finally bring these internalized messages to the light to heal and release them.  They are, each of them, so wrong.  But in casting them aside and actually being authentic, telling the truth, and following my own inner compass feels incredibly scary at times. Like I’m betraying my family and going against our “tribe’s code”.

The painful conversations I’ve had recently felt scary to do but they were the right thing to do. On the other side of the conversation, I feel a sense of peace, a rightness to it. And my courage muscle feels like it’s gotten a bit of work out and I’m stronger for it.

But yesterday, I began to be aware of the mean, critical voice whispering quiet scenarios of doom and destruction, emotionally speaking. And for once, because I wasn’t immediately attaching to them, I became aware of what the voice was saying.  Mainly the feeling that these scenarios engendered in me was of fear, that I wasn’t safe. It was quite disempowering and I wanted to escape from what I was feeling.  I thought about have a few drinks after the twins went to bed so I could feel better. And I was definitely not in body much yesterday.  I certainly ate too much as a way to cope with these feelings my old thought patterns were engendering.

But Pema Chodron’s lesson of staying, of witnessing the feelings and just staying through it without reacting came to mind. Pema, who is beyond awesome, talking about how these types of feelings can be likened to a wound that’s not yet healed. This wound can itch as it’s healing and the worse thing you can do is scratch it. Scratching the would can open it up again and you have to start the healing process all over again. So she says you just stay with the itch. Above all don’t give in to the need to scratch it. Just stay. Scratching the itch is a metaphor for avoiding the painful thoughts and feelings in your life which are causing you to pop out of the present moment and doing anything to resist what is going on in your life. Behaviors such as eating too much, drinking alcohol, gambling, spending too much, the usual suspects in how you avoid feeling your feelings and doing something to make you feel better.

This lesson came to me again as these thoughts burned me up with the resultant feelings caused by being scared of saying an uncomfortable truth. And in some strange way, I realized that there is this powerful, old behavior pattern that was struggling to assert itself. This old behavior is to having a few drinks in order to feel better, which I’ve been doing practically my whole damn life.

[As a child, I saw how my parents used alcohol to calm themselves down and I internalized this message oh so long ago. My mom came home after having been in a car accident, shaken up and a bit distraught. My Dad strode over to the liquor cabinet and made her a rum and coke, which she threw back. The stiff drink immediately calmed her nerves and helped her “feel” better rather by avoiding the uncomfortable feelings. The drink helped her avoid the truth, helped her avoid just letting her feelings come up, be dealt with, and dissolve. And I remember thinking, ah, so this is how we deal with strong emotions].

Now, I’m not blaming my parents. They probably learned that from their parents. I’m saying that a really old and powerful thought and behavior pattern arose in me yesterday and I finally became aware of it in the moment and I didn’t give in to it. I didn’t scratch the wound. Instead I let it come up with its powerful drive to reward it with my habitual patterns and I just witnessed it. I have to say it felt like it burned my brain and my nervous system for a bit and the whole situation was acutely uncomfortable.  But I allowed it without resisting it and instead found myself curious about what was happening.

I know physiologically speaking that the reward center of my brain was jonesing for the dopamine hit that came with responding to these types of thoughts and feelings with a drink and when I didn’t give in to or resist what was happening, my brain’s reward system didn’t like what I was doing. It’s time to create a new behavior pattern that doesn’t involve scratching the wound, that doesn’t involve escaping what is through booze, food, distractions of any sort. Instead, I’ll allow what is and I’ll find the peace that follows it far more rewarding to my brain, my nervous system, and my soul that any temporary distraction could provide.

So when the mean, critical voice arises in your head, try to allow it to come up on your mental screen so you can witness it consciously. Allow it to come up and allow the feelings to be there too. Witness the whole behavior pattern. Allow it. Try to not give in to it and also don’t resist it, which somehow causes it to burst forth later as a deep urge. Just be the space in which is arises, you witness it in all its facets, and allow it subside.

At first, it will be tedious and somewhat unpleasant to go against very ingrained behavior patterns. But through acceptance and non-resistance, the behavior patterns will dissipate, become less strong. And then the new, healthier behavior pattern will be the new normal and you won’t have to the thoughts and feelings much after that until they just fade into memory.

An Easy Short Cut- Change Me Prayers

Of course, a great way to get a boost in helping you adopt new behavior patterns is through Change Me prayers. Tosha Silver, another amazing light out there, has a great way of asking for Divine help to just change you into someone who no longer has these urges. Praying for healing, with true feeling, can give you such a boost on this path. Definitely something worth trying if it speaks to you!

 

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