Grace of Tea
Grace of Tea
I discovered the beauty of tea from my grandmother and my mother.
Each morning as I was growing up I watched the morning ritual of pouring tea.
It was a typical tradition : boil the water, grab the tea bag and put it in the mug, pour the water and sit. They would sip and sit and sip and sit.
Sometimes my grandmother would see the birds out of the window and make a comment. Sometimes my mother would look out into the distance and smile.
Words were not often spoken. Nothing seemed to be happening.
In reflection, however, I witnessed a routine each morning that I have come to know as their own version of contemplative meditation.
Meditation can take many forms. And one of my favorite paths of meditation is found in an ancient practice called the Tea Ceremony.
The essence of the Tea Ceremony is to be fully present to your Self and to the process of preparation, pouring and sharing tea. It is with an open-heart and mindful attention that we serve for the benefit of ourselves and of others.
It is a kind of meditation in action. And it is a way to bring attention and intention into your daily routine and make it a shared experience, as well as a solo endeavor.
One of the most delightful things about a Tea Ceremony is that it can be created for your Self or with others and so, the meditation becomes a process of expansion and spaciousness. A shared experience for guest and host.
Each moment is unique and transient. There is only one moment – this moment. It will never occur again in this way.
Whether you are preparing tea for yourself or for others, it is an opportunity to celebrate the moment and care for yourself and others.
See the magic in what is ordinary.
This magic is always available to us when we slow down, pay attention to our ordinary experience and allow ourselves to simply be.
Global Tea Hut
To bring extra joy to my personal tea ceremony, each month I receive a beautiful package of tea, a gift and a magazine about tea from the Global Tea Hut, a tea community in Taiwan, China.
This month's gift was about honoring the Year of the Sheep and it's lessons on abundance. And in the spirit of sharing, I share this process with You.
I always look forward to this subscription ~ more than any other mail I receive each month. The magazine is incredibly thoughtful and educational and insightful.
The gifts each month are surprisingly generous and the tea is amazing.
You can subscribe, too, and be a part of the community that serves others so kindly.
In the meantime, whether you are a tea or coffee drinker, please remember to sit, breathe and be still.
Want to learn more about tea + meditation, check out mydailyom.com.
The Sacred Path of the Labyrinth
Since moving to Northern California, I've come across many secret labyrinths tucked away on hiking trails. These labyrinths are cared for in some way by those unseen and the acknowledgement of their presence is in the sheer presence of the beauty and attention to detail that each labyrinth reveals.
Walking labyrinths are a kind of meditation and offer insight to the state of the mind. Do you trust? Are you self-doubting? Do you wonder? Are you present? What does it mean? Are there expectations? What's the purpose?
What is a Labyrinth?
The labyrinth is an ancient pattern found in many cultures around the world. Labyrinth designs were found on pottery, tablets and tiles that date as far back at 5000 years. Many patterns are based on spirals and circles mirrored in nature. In Native American tradition, the labyrinth is identical to the Medicine Wheel and Man in the Maze. The Celts described the labyrinth as the Never Ending Circle. It is also known as the Khabala in mystical Judaism. One feature labyrinths have in common is that they have one path that winds in a circuitous way to the center.
The pattern has been walked by millions of people of all culture for many reasons. The labyrinth is a red place set aside to reflect, look within, pray and negotiate new behavior. They rhythm of walking, placing one foot in front of the other, empties the mind, relaxes the body and refreshes the spirit. Follow the page your body wants to go. The labyrinth can be walked in four stages. If you encounter other people walking the same path, simply allow them to pass. Walk the labyrinth with your body and rest your mind.
Before walking the labyrinth, take time in gratitude to be thankful for your life. Bless the people in your life. If there's a specific event or situation troubling you, bring it to mind and form a healing question.
This is the time to quiet the mind, let go of the mind chatter and release your troubles. Open your heart to feel whatever it might feel. Become aware of your breathing. Take slow breaths. Relax and move at your own pace.
Stand or sit in the center. This is the place of reflection. Pause and stay as long as you like. Open yourself to your higher power. Listen to that small inner voice. In the safety of the labyrinth have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself.
Walking out of the labyrinth. When you are ready, begin walking out the same path you followed in. Walking out, integration of your experience happens. Experience the sense of well-being, healing, excitement, calm or peace.
When walking a labyrinth, the inner voice wakes up. It may be encouraging, surprising, hopeful, doubtful, eager, pessimistic, judgmental and wondrous. Stepping into the labyrinth, we see our thoughts for what they are in that moment, but also the patterning of our thoughts in new situations. Walking the labyrinth becomes a mirror of our mind and an insight into what we may be seeking. Steps along the path are symbolic of people and events in our life. And as one foot is put in front of the other, we are reminded of a bigger presence in our lives that has set our course for us. All we have to do is follow the path and make choices along the way. Stay present and allow for what to be, to be and to be a part of the co-creative process of our lives. Part of the process of walking the labyrinth is about being ready to release whatever comes up for us and to receive what awaits us. There is a glimpse into understanding flow and force as we move forward trusting the path and at the same time wondering if we are moving in the right direction towards the goal: the center. Arriving at the center, there is the pause, the reflection and the awareness that the way back is the same way through. We recount the steps back to the beginning and know the place where we started with fresh eyes.
Find a labyrinth near you!
An Ode to Discipline
During the intensive period of the quarantine, somewhere in mid-April, I realized that my general state of happiness and feeling of peace-in-mind, and overall sense of hope, was grounded in my ability to remain disciplined to everyday activities. I acknowledged and observed that the simple daily habits that have been integrated into my life as rhythms and rituals brought great joy, purpose and structure to my days.
Discipline often conjures thoughts of restriction or control or regulation and all of these definitions for discipline can lead us to feel that discipline can be stifling, limiting or punishing, but I have found that discipline has played an instrumental role in my creativity and success in the simplest of ways.
Discipline offers a kind of comfort. Personally, I create best when I have a structure and timeline. I show up with clarity when I feel organized and prepared. And when I don't know where to go or how to do or what is happening, I rest in those places of uncertainty and wait. I practice patience. I wait for the message or the meaning or the purpose that will propel me to the next step. In the meantime, I keep the simple tasks and habits of structure with a discipline of consistency to continue moving forward and not get stuck along the journey. Within this idea of discipline and structure is another interpretation of the "joy being in the journey" and "trusting the process" that is unfolding. I remain present and do what is necessary in the moment and take care of what I can with the utmost attention and intention.
Long ago, I recreated my daily chores into games and shifted my childhood perspective of what I was required to do to get something else towards the mindset of creating an environment or experience to greet the friend or visitor that would come see me that day. I always imagined that someone was going to come play with me on that day and I wanted to be ready for them when they arrived. That paradigm shift from my childhood ingrained a habit in my mind and developed the idea to be ready and available for whatever the day will bring. This worldview has remained a key component to my capacity to be available for almost any opportunity that presents itself in any moment. Success is where opportunity meets preparedness. And so it goes.
For example, as long as I can remember, shortly after waking up I make my bed. Every day. I make my bed. It's one of the first things I do to create order and ease in my day. From there, all things in the first quarter of my day (which is marked approximately from 6a until 12pm) unfold in a series of events that I consciously attend to with slight randomness to keep my habits mindful. That too, is a practice of awareness.
In other words, my mornings are not a mindless series of events. Things take place with a more ritualized intention and the organized structure then marks "starting the day": there is water to boil, candles to light, offerings to make, incense to burn, Japa meditation and yoga practice to roll through, breakfast to eat, Bianca to walk, shower to cleanse, journal to reflect and whatever else arises in the moment that fills the space with mindfulness. I greet the day with respect and renewal, as well as curiosity. I feel ready and connected.
During quarantine, I also created new habits and made new commitments to myself to keep myself on a schedule that would allow for rest, play, work and plenty of downtime that is essential for the creative mind and soul to flourish. Sleep is important and routinized sleep is very good for the body and mind. Timers on my lights that clicked off by 10pm created the reminder to "go to bed" instead of binge watch Netflix series until midnight or keep going on the puzzle that could wait another day. I moved my phone charging to another room so that I could properly prepare for dreamtime and not surf the news or zone out on scrolling through Instagram believing that I was researching that one new idea or catching up on the day. These small changes created huge shifts for my well-being. It takes discipline to make movements in a new direction and stick to it for a period of time to see if it is helpful.
I have come to accept that my successes in my life have been greatly contributed to the capacity for me to remain disciplined, commit to consistency and allow for the magic and flow to happen within all the space that it is created within that kind of structure. Identifying these elements of design have been incredibly liberating and empowering and helpful to understand how I create extraordinary moments in an ordinary day.
And so, this is an ode to you, dear Discipline:
Thank you for serving so well.
The grounding that is provided through support, correction and protection
allows for the flight and flow of creativity and possibility to soar.
I am incredibly grateful for the education and direction.
And I am more resilient and accepting of all that can be.
May it be so.
Practice of Presence
This picture was taken last July 2019 along the Kortum Trail off of Shell Beach where there is a magical Labyrinth. I discovered this sacred circle on an exploratory hike four years ago. I had just moved here. Over the months I would regularly return to this place for walking meditation and renewal and prayer.
The labyrinth and the beauty of the rugged Pacific coast inspired my creativity, healed my loneliness, my fears and my confusion and humbled my heart. The smell of the salt air and majesty of nature was always breathtaking at every arrival. I even created an Airbnb experience to share this secret spot with others and offered a walking tour to the labyrinth along with a sweet ceremony and history of labyrinth walking. I included a short yoga practice on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. All of this seems like lifetimes ago.
The Northern California Coast and most public parks are now monitored and closed for visitation in light of our current circumstances. I’m trying to remember when, or if, there was ever a time in American history where our liberties were controlled In this way. Does anyone have a reference point for me? I’m curious.
It’s said that Time has a way of putting perspective on our life experiences. My heart is breaking in an entirely unchartered way. I’m leaning into it and feeling the yearning and longing and I’m grateful.
I’m grateful for time and for deliberately slowing down with Purpose.
I’m grateful for the consistent practices that honor Presence.
As Ram Dass taught : Be Here Now. There is no other moment.
Please get dressed
I'm a self-care junkie and taking care of myself has always been a priority. I have found that when I feel organized, beautiful and prepared for anything that I'm available and present for other people.
With so many people working from home and feeling isolated and not connecting with others physically, I've witnessed a common theme: people are not preparing for their day as they would if they had a place to go and meet people. I was surprised to hear this. Showing up for yourself and preparing for your day is the most important thing you can do. Especially right now. Everyday. No matter what. Get it together for Yourself, so you can be available for others. As they advise on airplanes, when we once traveled, in case of an unlikely emergency, put your mask on before assisting others.
A memory triggered.....
The morning my grandfather asked me if I wanted to come next door with him to visit with the Brown's was one of the most poignant days of my life. I always wondered why Pop would get up so early and get ready for his day and make his bed and do his calisthenics and listen to his radio and look up at the window and prepare himself the way he did and all before 5am. That morning, I learned.
I've always been an early riser and as a little girl I would often find my grandfather up before sunrise, too. I was fortunate to have spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a young child. I was at their home almost every weekend from the time I was two years old until my early teenage years. As a young girl, I would often find my grandfather up before sunrise, too, and I would visit with him in his woodshed tucked away in a little space adjacent to his bedroom. My grandparents lived in separate quarters in their home. The main living area and three bedrooms and bath were on the entrance level of the house. Here is where my grandmother's master bedroom and the two smaller bedrooms and bath were located, as well as the living room, dining room and separate walk-in kitchen. My grandfather lived downstairs off of the "club room". He had his own bath the size of something you might find in a medium sized powerboat or larger RV camper, a master bedroom the same size as the one upstairs that was build out beside the backyard shed, and a secret wood shop-like room tucked away in the corner of the bedroom that was probably designed to be a larger walk-in closet. I loved that room.
I can still smell the scent of wooddust and cedar and Old Spice cologne mixed with a particular note of buckwheat yeastiness and sweet tobacco from his pipe. The sound of the transistor radio crackling as the airwaves strain to connect. It was typically set to the talk radio channel. It was not ever clear what my grandfather did in that room, but he sure liked sitting there on the tall metal stool looking up at the little window that peeked up to reveal the ground level of the neighbors driveway. He tinkered and listened and waited.
First thing in the morning, I would pad my way from the upstairs bedroom I shared with my aunt to visit the bathroom and then walk down the hallway, through the living room past the fireplace, around the dining room and through the swinging kitchen doors to the basement door. Carefully walking down the slippery wooden stairs to the club room, I wondered if Pop Pop was awake yet. The time would have been about 5am and sure enough the bathroom would have been steamed from his shower, the little pull cord light next to his single brass post bed was on and the radio would crackle in the near distance luring me towards the secret spot where my grandfather would sit. Every time I arrived it was like the first time for my grandfather. He would spin around and welcome me with open arms with a big smile and say, "Steffie! You're awake! Good morning!" and he would pick me up and set me on his lap and then I, too, would listen and look and wait.
I learned in time that my grandfather was enjoying his early morning quiet time when the world seemed most at peace. The radio served as company but he rarely was paying any attention to the words of the commentator. Every now and again he would grunt at something political, but mostly I think he actually found the crackling of the connection and the cadence of the voices to be soothing and comforting. He was also waiting for Farmer Brown to awaken, his friend from next door, who was a good twenty years or more older than my grandfather. Pop would visit with Farmer Brown almost every day that I can recall and when he went next door, I typically would return upstairs to play. My grandmother and aunt were typically still sleeping.
We had this morning ritual for years. And then one day, things changed.
Pop asked me if I wanted to go next door to meet Farmer Brown. I was probably seven or eight years old by this time.
Farmer Brown was like a cartoon character to me that I watched from a distance. He didn't seem to enjoy children very much or be very friendly and so I kept my distance. I would see him walk around the yard and sit on the porch in his wooden rocking chair and spit tobacco all day long hidden by the willow tree that separated the houses. His hat sat low on his brow and he was austere and private. He mostly kept to himself. But my grandfather had quite a liking for him and they were very good friends.
Looking back now, I think it's mostly my grandfather's incorrigible friendliness coupled with consistency and genuine kindness and generosity that kept that relationship alive. My grandfather enjoyed getting to know different people and hearing their stories. Farmer Brown was the perfect candidate for Pop. I can hear him laugh now in the echoes of my heart as he shared at the dinner table a story in history that Farmer Brown told him.
I followed him to the kitchen where he packaged up some meats and buckwheat pancakes. He offered me his hand and we trotted next door. I was a little anxious but excited to be on this adventure, and I was also still in my sleepwear of tights and t-shirt. Pop double tapped on the front door before entering. He'd clearly been here before many times. We entered a somber living room and then walked towards the kitchen, a short walk along the hallway, which opened into a bustling bright room of life and activity. Pop lit up like a Christmas tree as he greeted Mrs. Betty and Farmer Brown and presented his offerings. Everyone was so happy to see each other, breakfast was being cooked and coffee was being enjoyed as if it was liquid gold. This ritual happened every weekend for as long as I can remember. And each time, each moment, my grandfather visited, it was like the first time and the last time. Unwaveringly exuberant and consistent.
Not only did I enjoy my very first cup of coffee with cream and sugar that morning, I also learned what it meant to take care of yourself, prepare, be ready, be patient and then serve other people. Farmer Brown looked forward to my grandfather's visit every weekend until the day he died. It was a relationship embedded with a foundation of showing up and being available under all circumstances that spanned nearly two decades. Some of our own family traditions also stemmed from this relationship.
I remember as I sat at the kitchen bar watching all of this community the rest of the neighborhood slept. I, too, was still in my pajamas and in that little kitchen an entire world opened up to me. A world of friendship, kindness, connection, community, capacity, possibility and hope. I, too, had shown up every morning that I stayed at my grandparent's home and visited my grandfather in his secret woodshop. And after a period of time, I was invited to join him for the next phase of community. I learned. He got ready and prepared himself and waited for the opportunity to serve others. That system never failed him. And after that day, before I would come downstairs to visit him, I, too, would prepare myself and be ready for whatever the day might bring. This system has not failed me since..
Yesterday was unexpectedly emotional. My body was more charged than days before. I woke with a longing in my heart and a compassionate sadness pulsing through my body. I've felt this before and called it nostalgia. It feels a little different now and I cannot quite pinpoint a label for it. The closest thing I can call it is "trapped resolve". It's a combined energy of allowance and acceptance and frustration and impatience.
The sensations continued all day and in waves. Some hours in the day were less charged than others. I practiced presence and awareness without trying to do anything about them. I simply felt them and continued with the activities of my day. I breathed deeper than usual and I was productive.
And then, later in the afternoon, when I went to call my family, my phone had automatically created several photo memories. I was compelled to look at them and scrolled through the pictures and my heart skipped more beats than I expected. I could feel a strong wave of emotion channeling. And this time, the longing and sadness pulled me deeper towards a combined feeling of gratitude and grief.
I started to cry and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the time I took in my life to travel and connect with people I love....even when I felt that it wasn't good timing or I didn't have enough money to do it. Somehow, somewhere I knew in my heart that the most important memories in my lifetime would be the moments I spent showing up for the people I loved and who mattered to me most. Grief for the moments that I don't know when or how these moments will ever happen again. I cried some more and just listened.
Things are getting very quiet now. I am remembering stories and times. Memories are flooding through and I recall.
I visited the home of Williams Wordsworth in the Lake District of the United Kingdom. It was the summer before I was studying abroad and attending the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Keble College, Oxford University. I adored the Romantic poets in British Literature: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Blake and Shelley. They inspired me and seeing where they gathered and wrote was important for me. I'm such a sensory junkie. I need to see, taste, touch, smell, feel to have a full experience. The Lake District was a gorgeous place with beautiful vistas of rolling hills and blue water and trees and this sense of animal and fairy magic, if you believe in those kinds of things. Beatrix Potter's home was also here.
That fall semester in 1989, when I studied in Oxford, was life changing in a profound way and the time I spent in London planted the seeds for me to take root in New York City three years later. As much as I loved the charming and idyllic countryside, the energy and vibration of the city was alluring for me.
New York City was my home and heart from 1992 until 2016. Lady Liberty, I have a love letter for you. That's for another day.
I Wondered Lonely As A Cloud by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
This past month has been monumental in many ways for all of us. I hope you are well and good, safe and healthy. It's been a long time since we've connected and now, more than ever, is a time to say hello. I care about you. You matter to me. I am grateful to know you. I appreciate you. I acknowledge you. I value you. And, I miss you.
In all honesty, I am very much an extroverted introvert and prefer to be more reclusive and quiet and private than you might think. I need lots of time to process things and I'm better at sharing myself when I have had lots of downtime.
When I was living in New York, my processing time was limited and my downtime was distracted and after 24 years in the city, I wanted to create something new for my Self. I had felt that I had stopped growing and evolving in New York City. I wanted nature, and I wanted something else. What that something else was exactly was to be determined. But, one thing was clear: my future Self was calling me forth and I listened.
So, after a period of time of exploration in seeking that "something else" with intentional vision quests to find the right next spot including✈️ trips to Vermont, Florida, Washington, Texas, Belize, and Puerto Rico, I found my happy place and moved to the Northern California coast, bought a Treehouse and started a new career in wine sales. Most of this you may know, and there are so many stories to laugh and cry about during the last 4 years since I've moved to California. It was NOT a light undertaking on ANY level, but, those stories are for another time.
For now, in this moment, I am dramatically shifting, again, and It's time, for me, perhaps for all of us, to come out of my place of comfort and hiding, and stretch past my constructed boundaries, to connect and help. My heart and soul thrives on serving others and being purposeful.
Our personal and global healing for ourselves, for each other, for our communities and society depend on our compassionate and kind solidarity. I hear John Lennon in my head singing, "Come together! Right now! Over me!" and I imagine the song being about Mother Earth. I've been wondering what the revolution of our times would look like and, it seems, here it is.
This feels like a massive awakening of consciousness and compassion for all sentient beings. We're in an epic storm and how we weather through it will be another story for sharing. It's been brewing for decades and the waves are huge. Who seems prepared to ride them? The artists, philosophers, teachers, healers, and creators, who have been waiting and praying and preparing for this time for decades. I am witnessing with awe and wonder and curiosity at the beauty and hope and transformation. It's like surfers who have patiently been wading in the ocean and, at last, the time as come to be fully expressed and ride this tsunami-like wave of vibration.
For some, this time is a great gift and for others it is a bad dream. The reality is here. The future is now. I've always said that "retro is the new wave", meaning that there would be a time that we would all retreat and renew and recalibrate.
The future is Now.
And so what do we do besides wax poetic or sit in states of panic watching the dreadful news or watch Netflix movies?
As I mentioned, many people have been waiting for this time and preparing for this time and, for me, I am ready. I am here to help. I am here to heal. I am here to learn. I am here to serve.
There's a higher frequency to tap into now and fear, my love, will make you sick. Panic and worry and obsessively watching or listening to the news propaganda will make you sick. Believing that others have power over your mind and body will make you sick.
It's been my lifetime journey to study the human condition in all its glory and all its sadness. I thank all the plants, stones, animals, people, friends, family and strangers, as well as all the shared experiences that have helped and healed me, physically, emotionally and spiritually. My her-story has been a rollercoaster of success and dismay and I have excelled to high places only to drop down and unearth the depths of my deepest shadows, dealt with them, with me, healed myself and risen, again and again and again. The process of dissolution and evolution is always and forever, but it gets easier and lighter and more fluid with practice.
I hope that coming together and sharing the teachings will bring comfort and joy, as well as awaken a Spirit in you to be a beacon of light and strength and hope. The world needs you to be healthy and whole.
Let's raise our vibration and frequency for healing and evolution. It is being asked of us now. Your health and happiness is essential to everything.
We ARE all connected.
I ♥️ You
I look forward to seeing you in one of my LIVE virtual yoga classes via Zoom.
Click here to sign up for the class offered through March 31 or you can schedule a personal session. New class schedule starts April 1.
Visit stephanieculen.com for more information.
If you want to be a part of its evolution, please fill out this survey and tell me how I can help you.
It was first grade and the teacher asked us to draw a picture of what the future would look like. We were studying science and remembering the Man on the Moon.
July 20, 1969 when Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin formed the American crew that landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle.
I was 8 months old sitting in a high chair mushing food into my mouth with a television behind me while my parents were riveted to the screen honoring this momentous occasion in our history (and documenting the moment on film. My father was in art school!)
I drew a forest 🌲 Everyone else in my class drew spaceships and martians. Almost fifty years later, these two worldviews are being merged and somehow this mermaid landed in a Treehouse.
Tales from the Treehouse
Stephanie Culen here! Tales from the Tree House continues. I am excited to share with you today something that I hope will inspire you.
As many of you know, I recently moved to Northern California which I absolutely love. It's stunningly beautiful here and being surrounded by nature has been a true gift. I'm gratefully overwhelmed with the lessons of these trees that I live amongst. But that really is a whole other story.
Since I've been here, I've met amazing people and seen gorgeous places and I share my story of how I landed in Guerneville from Avenue A in Manhattan with anyone who asks. It's a great story, but that too is another Tale! Anyway...there seems to be one question that keeps arising from other people. And that question is "Stephanie, so what's your secret to life?" They're asking me my secret to staying youthful, staying happy, staying connected and I'm here to share them with you.
What some of you may NOT know is that I had a dream when I was 20 years old to turn 25 years old in New York City. At that time I had just returned from studying abroad in Oxford and I had a vision for myself. That dream came true and I turned 25 in New York City at 265 Lafayette St in what is now called Nolita. Back then it was pretty much Gotti GangsterVille. But really that's a whole other Tale, as well. A couple of years ago, I had a dream I wanted to turn 48 years old on a vineyard. This past November that dream came true.
With this Tale is not about manifesting dreams. At least not exactly directly. Because what most people here focus on when I tell them my story is that they can't believe I'm 48 years old. I find it kind of funny that that's the place they go but They want to know. And so here it goes.
The short answer good old-fashioned self care. So what does good old-fashioned self care look like? Well, let's explore. Ready? I'm only going to give you 5 secrets. There are more. There,s always more! But five is enough to get you started. Ok, Here we go!
Here are my top 5 secrets:
First, and these are not in any particular order. Number one : sleep. Solid sleep is essential for your well being. If you are not getting enough sound, uninterrupted sleep, let's figure out how to make that happen for you.
Second, drink lots of water : good clean water. At least a gallon a day. That's 8 glasses of 8 ounces, by the way!
Third, eat plenty of oils. Oh my goodness : fats are your friend! Fish oils, avocados, coconut oil, nuts, butters, FATS!!!!! Please make sure you get enough oils in your system. They are super important to the body's overall functioning like oil in your car!
OK we have two more secrets to go! Number four: process your emotions. Do whatever it takes (journaling, therapy, movement, talking, crying, meditating, whatever works) to figure out your anger, your sadness, your fears, your frustrations, your hangups, your jealousies, your issues : your AFFLICTIONS! Figure them out!!!!! Own them. They are a part of you and then Release them! And THEN :::: Part 2 of Secret Number 4 : forgive yourself every day! It's a big one.
OK number five. Wow OK number five. There's some other big ones on the list, but let's say number five is laughter : smile and laugh often ... knock knock....who's there? come up with a joke make it funny. Life is absolutely humorous and our darkest moments when looked at from various perspectives can sometimes be quite comical. It takes some time to see the comedy within the tragedy, but give it a try every now and again. Laugh at yourself and laugh WITH others.
So these seem doable, yes? Were they what you expected?
OK. I'm gonna give you a bonus secret. I could say sex is pretty important and IT IS a secret and IT IS important but we get can often get hung up on the sex thing. Make sex a priority, for sure, but sex can look like a lot of different things and I pull embracing SENSUALITY under the sex secret, but that's a whole different Tale too!
I could say meditation. That's super important. I could say spending time with Nature. Oh yay. That's a big One! I could say move your body everyday. That's really important. I could say Be Kind and Polite. Manners and grace go such a long way. Or Gratitude practices. Goodness Yes to Gratitude. I could say Faith in a process bigger than you can see or feel or taste. Yeahhhhhh. Ok. Ok. I think I got it.
Here's the bonus secret : Ready?
Study your Language and Love yourself. Language is thought made into sounds of Action. Study your speech and you will learn your mind and then love yourself and speak to yourself (and others) as you would your loving child and remember that you are smart, important, super special and powerful, as is everyone around you.
So that's it! My five secrets (wink wink) to living a happy, healthy, holistic and adventurous life.
I do hope that Tales from the Treehouse inspire you. You can let me know on Facebook or Instagram. Also, please share with others too. Spread the Love!
And, if you want to work with me One-on-One you can email me directly at[email protected]. I offer private yoga instruction, Reiki transmissions and inspirational relationship coaching both in person and on-line. My time with you is always live, however, and not recorded or downloadable. I believe in PRESENCE!
Okey dokes. Signing off! Love love! Wishing you an AMAZING day!
History of the Handwritten Note
I am a BIG fan of the handwritten note and still have many analogue tendencies that are revealing themselves in 2015 as being quite strange. For example, I still keep a Filofax calendar to set all my appointments. If I don't write it down with pen and ink, I cannot remember a thing. I also write out grocery lists and to do lists on index cards....a habit my grandfather used to do and I simply adopted it when I was a child. As much as I'm a Facebook and Instagram junky, I also toggle the analogue world with reverence and glee.
In the technological age of digital and social media, however, the art of the handwritten note is a craft fast becoming obsolete. And yet, it is still one of the most welcoming and powerful modes of communication. When receiving a handwritten note, we have a tendency to pay attention. There is thought and feeling and intention behind the delivery and it's quite sweet, and nowadays, rare, which makes the reception that much more enticing.
Perhaps because it is so personal and heartfelt to write a note and the process also requires patience, time and materials. Materials like pen or pencil and paper or card. There is an effort that is embedded so beautifully and organically in this plan of sharing thoughts and experiences, gratitude and thankfulness.
It is different than the immediacy of writing a text or email. When writing and sending and then receiving a hand written note or letter, there is the quality of time and attention to details that are considered. It takes TIME to choose the card, reflect on the words, write the note, seal and address the envelope, place the stamp, and mail the package. On the receiving end, there is also the time it takes for the post to be delivered.
It is an exchange and a form of communication that is timeless and exquisite and I invite you to practice your skill set and see how it feels to send some notes out into the world. Choose one person each week and send a "thinking of you" note to them and see what happens.
As I was writing this post, I was curious about the history of the handwritten note and this is what I discovered : Click here to read about it.
And then I also was reminded of a postcard that came to me hand written from Costa Rica a couple of years ago. It was never signed and so I have no idea who sent it to me. But it serves as a reminder to me of the importance of sending postcards, notes and cards to friends, lovers, family and strangers, too. It is also a reminder of the sweetness of messages that come through in unexpected ways.
Write with your hand and your heart and send it out to someone today. It may be the most profound message that someone receives.
What's Your Story?
"You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important."
This is a quote from a book and movie called The Help.
It's a story. Just like any other story. Basically, it's about African American housekeepers who work for White Southern housewives in the 1960's and in this one story there are many stories : lessons and teachings and heart tales that make up our humanness. It's a story that pulls at the heart strings and reveals the truths of life in a way where you feel your heart skip a beat, laugh, break, heal and grow. This is a story of time past and yet still relevant to time present even though the historical circumstances are different. The overall quality of the human condition remains.
This is how the story of life and the life of story works. We live our lives each day from the time we are born until the time that we die experiencing love, loss, fear, passion, injustice, jealousy, greed, compassion, longing, adventure, generosity, fun, tears, joy and every human quality that exists. From sunrise to sunset for as long as we are alive, we are in a story. The story of our life. And it's powerful because our story is embedded with shared meaning and connection.
It's important to share. One way we learn and grow and understand are from the stories of our elders and the stories of our times. A lot of our personal meaning making is derived from stories and sharing tales. And I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on different aspects of your life to find the story and the message that is aching to be told.
A dear friend of mine whom I call my sister, Leza Lowitz, is an American born writer living in Japan with her husband and son and she is about to publish her memoir : Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras. I was with her at the beginning of this process years ago when she was very nervous about sharing certain aspects of her truth and yet she felt equally compelled to get her message out to the world. It's a GREAT read and perhaps you will be inspired in reading her story, to share your own.
You have a story to share. And it's important. Your life is valid and your experiences are valuable and your perspective is worthy of offering to the world. With the rise of social media, we are able to share our stories more readily and easily. And one thing I am noticing more recently is that people are sharing ALL of their story and not just the good and happy parts but also the tough and suffering aspects of life that are equally, if not more at times, empowering and inspiring.
Do you journal? Do you take note of occurrences? How do you share your gifts, your unique teachings, and the lessons of your life with others? Other people truly depend on your perspective and your gifts, so please tell your story.
And check out Leza's book. It's a great read and perhaps you will be inspired to share your own life or aspect of your life, too. If you are uncertain or afraid of something, it's a natural part of the transformation process to feel uncomfortable. Just go for it!
'Cuz please remember : "You is important."
Please Pay Attention...
Your Future Self is Calling You
Every person you meet in the course of your lifetime has an impact on you. There are those people, that when you meet, you have no idea that your life will be changed in some way forever. There are those people that come and go quickly never to be seen again. There are those people that you meet and think you will not see again and they become the most important people in your life. There are those people that are in your circle of love forever and move in and out of your daily life like the tides of the ocean. There are those people that you feel will be with you always and they disappear unexpectedly or circumstantially. There are those people.. .you fill in the blank. People are important. Honor the people in your life. All of them.
People people people are what make the heart heal and break and grow and love and learn. It is people who influence and experiences and shape your path in ways that are both subtle and profound. It is in the meeting and the sharing that is the present moment. Savor it and appreciate it. Love it and adore it. Breathe in each person as if they have a new part of your life to unfold for you.
It is in paying attention to the connections and opening to curiosity as that of a child that the magic and power of Presence and People will be revealed. Over time, the connections and reflections give pause to understanding and inspire the respect for each encounter.
I am reminded of T.S Eliot's Four Quartets:
You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
In contemplation and gratitude, here is another poem for the sharing offered to me recently by my college professor, Michael Glaser, who has had SUCH an overwhelmingly and unexpected influence in my life it is beyond explicable and I am forever indebted to his generosity and graciousness in how he shares his passion for the human condition of love and loss and extraordinary living.
No, no there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over a grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.
-- Wendell Berry --
This is a game changer
For a couple of months I was feeling a bit foggy in the mind and my energy level was waning and yet everything was really good in my health and daily routine. There were no big changes in my life that warranted this feeling and so I was wondering if it may be hormonal or seasonal.
Others were claiming astrological shifts.
Whatever was happening, it was happening and I was opening to receive some new information to clear the channels and the pathways in my body and mind. I was seeking clarity and sustained energy in a natural form that was plant based and SHAZAM! It arrived.
A dear and trusted friend recommended E3Live. I purchased some and started it the next day.
Within 24 hours ~ yes, A DAY! ~
I was feeling back on track and better than ever. Astounding!!!!!
What is E3Live?
E3Live is an all-organic superfood. It is 100% blue-green algae Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA). This nutrient dense superfood contains over 65 vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids. It is a plant-based superfood that is non-GMO, vegan and a rich source of chlorophyll.
E3Live is wild-harvested from Klamath Lake in Oregon, USA.
This one is my favorites and it tastes pretty good, too!
E3Live + BrainON
You can find it at Wholefoods in the freezer section by the ice cream or order it here. Definitely visit the E3Live website for all products and information.
And, please let me know how I can help you!
This stuff is AWESOME!!!!!!
As always, check it out for yourself for a week or so and see if it works for you.
The company offers a 100% guarantee that you will feel differently!
Let me know how it goes!
#secretagentstephanieculen #mydailyom #healthandharmony #e3live
Sleep Yes More
Suggestions on how to get a better sleep
I am often asked by my yoga students and private clients about yoga poses that can help them sleep better. There are several that are good for helping with sleep including child's pose, legs up the wall and reclining bound angle pose. Fitness magazine did a nice job of demonstrating those yoga poses.
But there are also teas and tinctures that can be very helpful. I share them with you in this video.
Happy steeping and sleeping!
Please share with hashtags #stephanieculen #mydailyom #iloveoils #healthandharmony #secretagentstephanieculen
How Do You Get Your Teeth So White?
The Secrets of Oil Pulling
I love my teeth. As a matter of fact : one of my favorite personal care activities is brushing my teeth! So, it goes along to say that I am a big advocate for a healthy mouth which equals a healthy body.
I'm often asked how I keep my teeth so white. My little secret is ... oil pulling.
Oil pulling is easy. It's fast. It's economical. It's uber beneficial to your oral hygiene as well as your overall well-being.
Here's what it is and how to do it :
What is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique dating back about 3000 years. It involves swishing oil in the mouth for a short period of time between 5 minutes and 20 minutes each day or as a weekly ritual. It is mentioned in the Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita where it is called Kavala Gandusha or Kavala Graha and is referred to as medicinal gargling. It is a very important element to oral hygiene that has other benefits to the body's overall health and well-being.
If we agree that the mouth houses millions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other toxins, then the oil acts like a cleanser, pulling out the toxicity before they get a chance to spread throughout the body.
It's kind of a miracle how it works.
If the bacteria, fungi and other toxins are not passed through the system, then the immune system is free to activate other elements and helps the body reduce stress, curtail internal inflammation and other more immediate "attacks" on the system. This all equals a more vibrant body and system in present time.
Oil pulling has many benefits and I encourage you to do your research. There are many books and information written on the topic.
I would also encourage you to just start doing it and see how you feel. Be your own physician and test the process.
How does Oil Pulling Work?
First thing in the morning on an empty stomach and before drinking any liquids (including water), take one tablespoon of sunflower or sesame oil or coconut oil into your mouth. Do not swallow the oil but swish it around for 5-20 minutes. You can multi-task here and check your emails, social media, make breakfast for you kids or hang with your pet. Enjoy the swishing and DO NOT SWALLOW!
When the time is up, spit out the oil in a napkin and discard in the trash.
DO NOT SPIT THE OIL DOWN THE DRAIN UNLESS YOU WANT CLOGGED DRAINS IN YOUR FUTURE!
Rinse your mouth with water or brush your teeth. And that's it!
Continue with your day. It's as easy and beautiful as that.
Which Oils to Use
Ayurveda traditionally recommended certain oils for oil pulling depending on your dosha : kapha, pitta and vata.
Personally, I love sesame oil but many people enjoy coconut oil.
Sesame oil is more warming than other oils and may be more gently detoxifying than other oils that are “colder” energetically. It has a somewhat strong sesame flavor, which is a familiar food taste for most people. Sunflower oil has a milder taste if you prefer that. Coconut oil is a familiar taste for many people. It has a cooler energy than sesame oil, so it’s good for people who tend to have a warmer constitution or condition of heat. Some people have reported that coconut oil is more strongly detoxifying, which isn’t always a good thing for some people, so it’s best to be cautious and go slowly
You can experiment, trying different types of oils to see which one feels best to you. You can also experiment with oil pulling for a longer or shorter duration, and doing it more or less often. It is recommended to use organic, unrefined, cold pressed oils.
Benefits of Oil Pulling
1. WHITENS TEETH
Top of the list! The oil has natural antibiotic and antiviral properties that brighten and clean teeth, keeping them quite white. Try it for two weeks and test the results.
2. INCREASES ENERGY
Oil pulling lowers the amount of energy the immune system has to generate to continually clear out toxicity. This naturally helps us to feel better holistically.
3. DETOXES THE BODY
One of the gateways of germs into the body is through the mouth. Taking out the germs at the source helps to prevent the spread within the body.
4. AIDS HORMONAL CHANGES
Without having to compete with other elements, hormones can function better.
5. REDUCES HEADACHES
Oil pulling is a big time help with headaches and migraines. All I can say is try it the next time you wake up with a headache from having drank too much alcohol the night before and see how you feel.
6. KEEPS THE SKIN CLEAR
Removing toxins from the body that would otherwise make it into the bloodstream means the skin has a chance to shine. Rashes and skin issues often reduce dramatically, or even clear up completely, when oil pulling.
7. PROMOTES ORAL HYGIENE
Oil pulling is highly effective at reducing tooth cavities and at eliminating bad breath.
When you start this technique, you might experience some of the positive effects immediately, or it may take a few days or even weeks. It will be personal and particular to you and it will also depend on the state of your immune system.
Try it! It's easy. And, then let me know how it goes!!!!
Are you an Oil Puller? Share your experience in the comments!
share with hashtags #stephanieculen #mydailyom #iloveoils #healthandharmony #secretagentstephanieculen
This is the Dalai Lama Calling
Are you Ready?
In New York City there is always someone doing something amazing, off-the-charts, innovative, out-of-this-world, gorgeous, connected, and well, just BIG! And living in New York City now for over 20 years, I have noticed the cycles of creativity and the rhythm of flow and there are seasons for everything.
There are moments in our lives when we feel that nothing is happening. We are bored, flat-lined, depressed, out of sorts, not motivated.
And then comes the existential wondering :s What am I doing with my life? What's the big picture? or maybe you consider questions of happiness .... What's going to make me happy? Is what I'm doing now bringing me joy?
The cycle of inquisition and reflections starts and the mind, the heart and the body start to move in all sorts of directions. What's is all about? And what am I supposed to do now?
Wherever you go with this cycle, it often-times may feel like it is a state that lasts too long and yet, this "flat-line" time period may be the most important times of your life. Pay attention to them. And watch and listen and take action. One conscious step at a time.
When it feels like there is NOTHING happening in your life is precisely the time when you need to PREPARE and PLAN for the moment when something IS going to happen.
Because when the Dalai Lama calls for you, you want to be ready!
And you don't know when that time will come. SO get ready.
The time you need to go deep is during that downtime when there is no creativity flowing, when the world feels dull, when the days are long and you feel lonely and disconnected from your source.
This is the time you need to go deep and it looks a little different than you might expect. Maybe it is going on that yoga retreat or meditation weekend or writing or getting the therapy appointment on the books. But, if you've been down this road a couple of times, you know, those activities may be good for a short-term fix but then the duldroms creep back into your life. So what makes real change?
It's not what you think. Ready?
Get organized with your external space and your internal space will miraculously shift, too.
Here's your homework:
Clean the closets, wipe down the counters, organize the pictures and the mail, sit for longer meditations, stock the pantry with food, sweep the floor, buy candles and incense, do the laundry, clear out the cobwebs and button up the shirts! In other words, PREPARE for your magic day. And do it with purpose and intention and clarity for as long as it takes until you have the moment when you get the call from the Dalai Lama. And it will come.
And You will be ready! YES!
The "call from the Dalai Lama" is code for the opportunity that you've been waiting to arise. And when that opportunity comes, you want to be ready. And furthermore, you want to be ready to CHOOSE if you wish to engage and receive it or not.
Our preparation leads us to the awakening to more opportunities. And these opportunities are happening in every day many times a day. When we are busy with other circumstances and conflicted with extraneous noise, some opportunities do not have a place yet and we have to wait for an opening.
When you get skilled at this preparation practice, you will notice that you may sometimes desire the periods of flat-lining to return again so there is time to relax and renew and reassess values, goals, intentions and quality of attention. Then the time comes and we start again.
This flow is not always so smooth. There are big waves and small waves and obstacles and setbacks, but the important thing to remember is to continue to prepare for the future that is awaiting you. And when opportunity knocks you can say, "I'm Ready!" and choose if it is what you wish to create or wait for the next opportunity that comes.
It is in the preparation that we have the power of choice.
And that is ultimate power : self responsibility, self accountability and freedom of choice!
So make your bed, take a bath, fold the laundry, do the dishes, sweep the floor, fluff the pillows, prepare the flowers, pour the tea and sit.
Your opportunity will come and you will be ready!
Build Your Dream
On a flight to Seattle, I was reflecting on the last three months since January 1st arrived and what had shifted for me in my heart and mind to build my dream and I wrote this poem.
Build your dream
On rock and with cream
Step by step you will be seen
And in a lickety split
The vision and mission come together with wit
Things are flowing
With effortless effort
When you build your dream
On rock and with cream...
Power of Presence
I have a big wig New York City yoga client who is one of those hot shot merger and acquisitions dudes. If I shared with you the companies he works with, you might be uber impressed. He's got a family, a couple of houses, a huge business and a big life.
I see him each week in his townhouse on the Upper East Side, New York City, that he dedicates to his well-being...meaning he has another home where he lives with his family. The townhouse is his space to chill and renew. But who cares about the rich and famous, right? What's the point?
Well, there are many things that are super impressive about this man, but what I find incredibly inspiring and empowering is this: HE IS PRESENT.
When we work together, his smart phone is in another room and he is completely in his practice.
A man with three kids, a wife, a household, a huge business and a heck of a lot of responsibility beyond the scope of most people, is off line and unavailable for a solid hour. No multi-tasking. He is in the moment and completely dedicated to his learning, his health and well-being and his purpose.
This got me thinking about success and the amazing successful people that I know in my life and what I notice is that people who have success in their live have certain qualities that they embody.
Commitment, Dedication, Presence, Goals, Clarity, and Coaching
I'm sure they have many other important qualities that keep themselves operating at the top of their game, but it seems like these leaders know what they want, they know how to delegate, they know how to perform, they know how to be accountable and responsible and they really get things done.
They are ALL IN with their life and their responsibilities. They are connected to the understanding that they are in charge of their lives and what they create in the world is up to them. They make it happen and stick with it with consistency.
They know how to delegate and what they are good at and what they can give up and keep moving towards the goal.
They are in alignment and stay connected to the moment and look at big picture goals and visions, as well as the details that need to be congruent to make it all happen.
They know what they want and seek out ways to make it happen in manageable bites and bigger chunks. But they create goals that are specific, measurable, accountable, reachable and timely (aka SMART goals).
They know what they want and they go for it. With clarity, they keep moving forward despite obstacles or setbacks. Clarity brings freedom.
Successful people seek coaches and other leaders and colleagues who are better than they are to continue to learn and accelerate their growth and potential. They build and seek a team around them that is stronger and more knowledgeable than themselves to keep evolving.
In the yoga industry, it is like teachers seeking teachers. We all want someone who has "been there before" to show us the way.
Here's Your Homework
Ask Yourself? Am I in alignment with my Highest Potential? Where could I be better with these leadership qualities in my life? What do I want? Am I ready when the big opportunity comes knocking at my door? What steps do I need to take to keep moving forward?
One step at a time the house gets built. Build your house on a firm foundation and make it a beautiful representation of your Self and your Dream.
Like this post? Please share.
Chocolate + Poetry
Chocolate + Poetry are two of my favorite things EVER!!!
When you buy a ChocoLove bar, you get the best of both worlds!
If you but knew
How all my days seemed filled with dreams of you.
How sometimes in the silent night
Your eyes thrill through me with their tender light,
How oft I hear your voice when others speak,
How you 'mid other forms I seek -
Oh, love more real than though such dreams were true
If you but knew.
- Unknown Author
Pitango's Tea Surprise
I discovered iMovie on my iPad and it's been so much fun exploring different elements and aspects of life to share in different ways of mood and temperament that come together in harmony. This is my second insta-film. Hope you enjoy it!
This insta-film is about my dear friend, Pitango.
We met in 2010 on Prince Street where he sold his rings. He was a street vendor there for 20 years and I walked by him for 20 years before I actually "saw" him. When we met, it was a friendship from the soul and heart that will last forever.
He is a great teacher of life and love and laughter.
Please share on social media!
Four Steps to Bliss
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