05 March 2015

Moving Forward!

To the best readers ever (yes, we may be a bit biased!):

We have loved having this blog over the last 3 1/2 years.

We love it because...

We KNOW it's possible for people to heal, to change, and to truly be happy.

We believe that with the right tools, people can EMPOWER themselves and take control of their happiness!

We love being a mentor for people through this process. We love teaching all the tools that we've learned and use everyday. They are effective and life changing! There is no greater joy than seeing someone realize that they no longer need to be a victim to others or to their circumstances...that they can be FREE by tapping into their truest identity and acting with wisdom, love, and self worth in their own lives, marriages, relationships, divorces, infertility, jobs, families, and challenges of every kind. This kind of freedom is what leads to the ability to love in the best way and ultimately changes the world! 

We are currently planning ways to further this message and serve this dear community in greater ways. 

But, we wanted to ask for your help.

If you have been touched or inspired by our blog or are just grateful for the work that we do here, would you consider sending us a one-time donation? 

There. I said it. :) You could think of it as a partnership towards changing more lives, or as a token of appreciation, a thank you for all the posts you have enjoyed in the past, a kickstarter to help us complete some projects on the business end that will help this effort to be sustainable (without sponsored material!). You could also think of it as a way for you to give back to the world by supporting the message of LOVE & EMPOWERMENT & HOPE - I mean, it really is the greatest message in the world! We'd love to partner with you in this effort.

If you aren't able to donate at this time, I do understand completely and want you to still feel welcome here at the blog always (of course)!! Though if you are able to donate something - $1, $5, $20, $60, $100 any amount at all - we would be incredibly grateful for your generosity, kindness, and token of support!

You can send in your one-time donation right here

(There is also an option to set up a monthly subscription if you'd like.)

Know that every dollar donated will go towards bringing more joy, more inspiration, more convenience, and more value to our beloved audience. Our goals are to create a website design here that will be more useful to this community; we want to offer an online retreat experience so that more people can access the classes and empowerment being shared there; we'd like to launch books/guides/videos on various subjects that will be written specifically for the needs of our audience; we want to offer mentoring packages for more one-on-one support; and we want to launch more LIVE events across the world. This will all take time, but with your help - more will be possible. As things unfold, we hope that you will feel a part of something meaningful.

THANK YOU a million times over from the bottom of my heart. It has been an amazing, amazing three+ years and we look forward to more.

With much love and gratitude,

Mara & Danny

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03 March 2015

Make Your Own Muesli Bar

When we were in Norway, one of the hotels we stayed at had an amazing Muesli Bar which I thought was such a good idea. We went a little nuts creating our own muesli every morning!! We loved it so much we now have our own muesli bar at home.

1. First collect several of these yummy ingredients so you can experiment and try different things, depending on the day:

-Rolled Oats
-Flax Seeds
-Sunflower Seeds
-Banana Chips
-Dried Cranberry
-Dried Apricot, diced
-Golden Raisins
-Shaved Coconut
-Corn Flakes
-Brown Rice Crispies
-Chia Seeds

2. Serve the muesli with a few different options if you'd like:

-Fresh Yogurt, Kefir, or Almond milk.
-A Little Raw Honey
-A Drizzle of Pure Maple Syrup
-A Spoonful of Almond Butter or Peanut Butter

3. Purchase some glass jars for storage. I love the ones with a sealable clamp top. You can also get them at Crate & Barrel, Ikea, or World Market.

4. Enjoy always having something healthy on hand to eat!! My favorite is to eat my muesli with a little cinnamon and homemade almond milk.



P.S. do you have any healthy ready-to-eat foods that you like to keep in the house? 

02 March 2015

Behind the Scenes: Tips For Speaking Or Hosting A Retreat

Oh my goodness - I've had some really unique life experiences over the last few years. One time we spoke for 3 days in Washington D.C. as keynotes at a women's retreat. One time we spoke for 3 days in West Virginia as key notes of a singles conference. I've spoken in Iceland, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Salt Lake City (Alt Summit), Oslo, Copenhagen, and Vermont. I've been interviewed on TV & radio several times including CNN, Martha Stewart Radio, and HuffPost Live. And now we've hosted two major Body + Soul retreats in Ecuador.

Whew. That is a lot for a girl who grew up very, very shy. Yes! That was me! Literally terrified of public speaking!

I began to grow out of that a bit in high school when I worked at a wedding house and started orchestrating and leading wedding rehearsals for large wedding parties. I think my boss knew I was ahead of my game maturity wise (most thought I was in college) - so she was happy to have me lead those events. And I was happy about it, too - it was possibly the best experience this 16 year-old could have ever had.

I grew out of my fears a bit more in college. I didn't know what to major in and decided to at least work on something I needed desperately - so I majored in Communication because I knew I would have to do a lot of public speaking. And I did. I sucked at it at times, but also got better and better.

I have certainly come a long, long way. And I'm so very grateful.

Here are a few things I now live by when I speak at an event:

1) I remind myself over and over that: "I Already Know the Information!" 
I know it backwards and forwards. I've been refining these principles for nearly the last 10 years and writing about them for nearly 4 years. I don't have to worry about what might come out in the moment, because I know our topics like the back of my hand. I live them. I was transformed by them. And I have seen miracles happen by thousands of other people who are applying the principles, too. 

2) I deliberately try to not over plan
This means I purposefully do not have every last word planned out. I am better now at trusting that the BEST things will come out when I am fully engaged in the moment and not reading my notes or trying to fit my message into a check box that I previously had planned. I go in knowing the main topic very, very well, of course, and knowing what main points I want to cover. And then I leave lots of room for my own words to flow. (Danny has been a great coach in this regard. I so appreciate his  reminders to TRUST myself.) 

3) I eat well & eat my greens to be VIBRANT
I want to be as vibrant as possible when I speak! So I take care of my body and try to EAT WELL! We're talking no sugar, gluten, dairy, processed foods - none - and most especially not within a couple of weeks of a retreat or event. I live by this mantra: "If I eat crap, I'll feel like crap, and I'll look like crap." And that is the truth! If I have any gluten/dairy by accident (say at a restaurant) or if I have sugar outside of my home for some reason, I literally feel sluggish- even coma like - and the next day I'll wake up looking and feeling like I got hit by a truck. And my skin will likely break out, too, and just look overall unhealthy. So I try not to go near the stuff. Instead, I try to eat lots of rich vegetables, green smoothies, and green juice daily. These give me a major boost of energy. And they make my skin literally GLOW (so people tell me) and free of acne/dryness/redness/large pores/blotching. Without a doubt, my skin is the tell tale sign of my inner health. I know if my skin looks good and vibrant, my BODY also feels good and vibrant. (I took this photo right before people arrived and I felt like this all week.)

4) I try to conserve my energy!
I am getting better at having a team of people helping behind the scenes with the event so that all of my energy can go towards speaking, engaging, and being full of ENERGY for others. This is actually another reason why we decided to move our Ecuador retreat to Casa Mojanda. The property staff there is SPECTACULAR! We love them to pieces. Their professional help, combined with the help of our own incredible staff - seriously relieves Danny and I of hundreds of logistics. This allows me to have time for other things. For example: before our guests arrive or before each class, I try to take some time in my room and just build up a reserve of love and energy for everyone there. It works wonders. (This was me in my room preparing mentally right before I went to speak...)

5) I take Fish Oils for sharpness.
Yes - these do something to my brain! It's crazy! Somehow they noticeably sharpen my creativity and sharpen my thinking which is so nice for me as a writer and a speaker. They're also major anti-inflammatories and they also help with glowing skin, too. I can't recommend them enough. (FYI, Metagenics is the brand I use and it's super high quality.) 

6) I listen to uplifting music or meditations
Now, I am no expert with music. But it has a POWERFUL effect on me. I have a play list that is close to 10 years old that I began listening to when I first began to change my life. And whenever I dig up those old songs they still have an affect on me (I think more so because they just remind me of the most empowering time of my life).  I listened to these songs on the plane on our way there (while the Cotapaxi volcano was outside our window, no less!) And I listened to them in my room before key moments of the retreat. I would loooove to one day create a power music play list for you all! If you have ANY song suggestions, please, please let me know! 

7) I use essential oils.
This is actually a new thing I've been doing, and I'm quickly becoming a massive fan. At the retreat, before my classes I used a Young Living oil called JOY. And before bed I used one called PEACE & CALMING. I just loved the self-care ritual of using these oils. It's hard to say exactly if it was all in my head or if these oils helped me directly, but I felt soooo much joy all week. I mean, just a ton of it. There was literally not a moment of stress which was really, really quite miraculous to me. 

8) I channel all the love and gratitude that has come my way.
I think of all the readers who have sent us letters thanking us for what we do. I try to use that kindness for good. I try to let it FUEL me to keep going - to keep giving my best. One of our guests brought me these beautiful dishes and I used them right away in our hotel room. They were a great reminder each day to love, love, love. (Thank you, K - you are so dear to me!)

9) If needed, I think of the ONE.
If I ever get overwhelmed by the thought of speaking to the masses or speaking to a large group of people, I try to visualize just one person - the one person out there that may really need to hear what I have to say. I try to write my blog posts to one person, too. This reduces so much pressure! And it helps me to feel more personable.  

10) I try to focus most of all on being a channel of light and love.
I remind myself that THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I CAN GIVE. To me, light and love is available to us all. It shines upon our heads equally, though at times in life it's hard to receive it or feel it. (I've been there!) So I do my best to be able to be a receiver of that light and love so that I can FILL myself with it and then share it freely with others. (And I know others do the same for me.) I think this is the most beautiful offering we can give another human being. This is what helps people to heal and get back in touch with that light. This is what helped ME to heal when someone did this for me. To me this is more important than being a perfect speaker. It's more important than what I'm wearing or my words. I don't have to be anything or prove myself to anyone in order to offer this. This comes from my core. This comes from the part of me that is most connected to all of you and the part of me that tries to stay connected to something greater than us all.

Dear readers, have you been able to overcome the fears of public speaking? Do you have any tips? Please share! I know those who need it will just love to hear your thoughts.

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27 February 2015

Where Did You Get That?

I was really lucky to spot this one.

Burton Backpack
One of the women at our first retreat brought this day pack along (her's was actually in a different color that seems to be sold out, but I also adore this blue one.) 

It's true that many of us at the retreat were flat out raving about this back pack. And I'm not the only one who took a quick photo so that I could buy it later.

The company is called Burton and it's made in Burlington, VT which makes me happy. So many good memories from Vermont. :) They're also a super environmentally responsible company, which I admire.

I decided to actually buy one of these backpacks as I'd been wanting a smaller pack for day trips, bus trips, and carry-ons. We're huge fans of Amazon and made our purchase there as they offered free shipping. (Our nephew brought it for us when he came to stay with us and I didn't mind that a super hip 19 year-old thought this thing was cool.)

This pack has already gone with us to the hot springs, farmer's markets, and nearby craft towns. It would be a great gift for any couple wanting to go on more outings. (Spring, spring, spring!)


P.S. What are your favorite day trips in your area? In NYC, we loooved going to anything in the Hudson Valley. In Arizona, I loved going to see the red rocks in Sedona. While dating in Boston, our favorite (and first) day trip was going to the DARLING seaside town of Portsmouth, NH for a good meal and a walk around the town. And Danny says that in Utah, he loved going for a drive to Timpanogas or Aspen Grove.

26 February 2015

Start Again...

The photos here were taken in a yurt during the retreat! We had a class here and it was actually profoundly powerful to be in there with everyone. Talk about a lot of love and good energy and empowerment in that room!

(by Danny)

Mara and I keep thinking about last week and all those wonderful people we met and the truly beautiful experiences we had together as a group. There is something so, so powerful in talking face- to-face about the principles we try hard to cover in these short blog posts (though I'm not sure any of the ones I've written could be called short). But when you have not only hours, but days to dig into life changing concepts...it allows you to remove so many of the stumbling blocks that prevent people from really understanding and implementing change.

For that, we are grateful to be able to host these (and future) retreats.

Perhaps the biggest challenge comes to attendees in the form of leaving such a supportive and nurturing environment and returning back home. 

Even with our attempts to allow people to practice the tools that bring healing and happiness to yourself and relationships, it is a whole other task to actually bring that into our day-to-day lives.

Of course, this is true for anyone, not just those who attend the retreat. Once you read an inspiring book or watch a perspective-altering movie, once you stumble across a powerful message on a blog or in a podcast, once you hear an empowering lesson or sermon.....how do you go about actually applying it in your life?

Chances are, your first attempts at practicing this new habit or principle will feel unnatural or fake, and may not even be that successful. You may begin to question whether or not there is really any truth to it at all, or whether you just got caught up in the moment. Or worse yet, you may determine that you just aren't personally capable of applying it, of changing, of experiencing for yourself what others seem to have experienced on such a personal level...and so it just becomes one more reason to beat yourself up about your inadequacies and insecurities.

So, how do we handle this gap between who we are in the moment, and who we believe we can become?

"Start Again."

This was the first phrase we heard at the beginning of nearly every single meditation at Vipassana (4 or 5 times a day for 10 days). And it was kind of relieving. Because to be honest, half the time you feel like a complete failure. Your mind wanders constantly, you find yourself focusing on the pain or the boredom or whatever else, instead of doing the work of meditation, of quieting and purifying the mind, of accessing peace. And despite all those repeated and near constant failures, each day you seem to make just a little bit of progress. During each meditation, you manage to get just a little bit further in the development of your awareness. During each meditation, you manage to focus just a little bit longer.

I think that's why I loved hearing that phrase..."Start Again." It was said so calmly, so confidently, so compassionately. It was like it didn't matter that I'd failed to maintain focus for more than 30 seconds in the previous meditation - because right now, in this moment, was a new opportunity to try it again.

The last phrase we heard at the beginning of each meditation was

"You are bound to be successful. Bound to be successful."

Two perfect bookends in the process of implementing change and achieving personal growth. Start again - no matter how many times you've failed before, start again. And if you are willing to do that, truly you are bound to be successful. Bound to be successful.


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25 February 2015

A Post About Comparing: The Message is Greater Than We Are

from Danny (photos taken from a hike with Danny's parents and nephew in the Cajas Mountains outside Cuenca, Ecuador)

I’ve said this: “The Message is Greater Than We Are”, over and over, nearly every time we’ve had an opportunity to address a group. And if ever I haven’t said it, I meant to. Really, truly, deeply, I meant it, and mean it still.

This blog is dedicated to a universal message, and to its application to all people, in every circumstance. If ever someone has found healing and peace, my guess is it has come because similar principles to what we advocate on this blog have been applied in the life of that person, in that moment. I’ve had enough personal experience, read enough books on the subject, had enough one-on-one conversations, and received enough emails to know this is true, and that it crosses all kinds of bridges you would not have thought crossable. Healing and happiness always seems to come in alignment with a few simple principles.

We are not the authors or originators of this message. It is as old as the first person who felt peace in the face of loss, who decided to forgive someone who betrayed or offended them, who decided not to be defined by a life circumstance, a disability, a personal failure, or the actions/behavior of another person.

Though we are not the originators of the message, we CELEBRATE IT and we do our best to advocate it, and will as long as we are able. I understand that due to the very personal nature of blogging, it will seem like the focus is on us. But it isn’t. It is about how these universal principles have brought peace not just TO the most difficult moments of our lives, but IN the most difficult moments of our lives. It continues to bring peace to our lives, as often as we dig deep enough to apply it.

But we are human and don’t always find the strength, we don’t always live aware of the rut we can all dig for ourselves. And even when we are aware, we don’t always find the will power or grace to apply the principles that have worked for us EVERY TIME we’ve done the work in the past. And it is work, make no mistake about it. It is the work of surrender, and it requires laying on the altar all the things you’ve been told are so important to happiness, and digging deeper and deeper to discover the true foundations of happiness. It takes work to stop looking “lo here” or “lo there”, always outside ourselves, in order to discover that “the Kingdom of God is within you.” That quote applies no matter what religion you believe in, or whether you believe in God at all.

It is work because it requires laying aside your jealousies, anger, hatred, envying, comparing, and bitterness. It requires laying aside the desire to say “if only my life were like this, or my spouse were like that, or if my parents treated me in this way, or if I had this much money or that much free time.” It requires breaking into pieces the illusion that happiness and peace and wellness in life are made up of the right set of circumstances, the perfect job, great physical health or beauty, and fulfilling relationships….which of course is the last thing our ego wants to do because it means we have to get to work on the only thing that can affect our happiness…..us. Us and what goes on in the narrow confines of our hearts and our minds.

How else do you explain a Viktor Frankl - a man who has everything stripped of him, including his name, in a concentration camp…and still finds meaning in life and inner peace? How else do you explain a Nelson Mandela, an Eckhart Tolle, or a Nick Vujicic? How do you explain a Jacques Lusseyran, a Louise Hay, or a Corrie ten Boom? How else do you explain the teachings and examples of a Job, Buddha, or Jesus?

Is the happiness that Mara and I experience based on a perfect life, or is it even based on a pretty good life? While there may be very many desirable aspects to the life we lead which could cause one to compare or to imagine that happiness could not be had unless some similar life were lived (insert here whatever list one thinks they need to accomplish to obtain happiness)…it ignores the fact that every day, decisions need to be made about what Mara and I choose to focus on if we are going to experience that happiness (some days we do better than others). None of the “things” or “circumstances” one might list are the reasons happiness will be experienced. And if they were, it would be just as easy to come up with a list just as long as to why happiness should not be experienced in this moment in our family. While one person may look at our relationship with jealousy and say that because they don’t have exactly what we have they naturally should experience less happiness, we could say the same thing to many who have children.

But that isn’t what we focus on.

Infertility may no longer be a deep struggle for either of us, but knowing how to handle this current stage of uncertainty is something that we have not fully figured out. And once we figure out how to apply the same principles more perfectly to this present moment, there will be a future moment where we may get stuck again. And yet, the principles behind healing from infertility are the same principles behind approaching this current uncertainty and finding healing and peace, and they are the same principles that will need to be applied to whatever it is that lies ahead.

Go back and read those love letters Mara and I exchanged that we’ve posted on the blog. Unlike this blog, those were written by two people with no idea that they would be read by anyone else accept the recipient. The main reason we posted them is because they were written by two people who didn’t have “a great life” by observable standards most people would look to. Most of the things we thought were important to happiness had by that time failed us in some way, and there was not yet some kind of "fairy tale" ending that you could say was the reason happiness exuded from either one of us. And yet, that is what you see in those emails and love letters. Happiness. Happiness that came in spite of circumstances, in spite of failed relationships. Happiness despite the fact that we still didn’t know how this new love would turn out. Happiness in nearly every word and every exchange.  Happiness was not something we experienced because we found each other, it is something we individually brought to each other.

If you can’t relate to the two people who only appear by virtue of comparison to have everything working in their favor, then go back and relate to the same two people 6 years ago who had nothing working out, and yet would tell you the same story and focus on the same tools and would insist that if they’ve experienced it in their darkest moments, so can you! (Or better yet, go read all of the authors I linked to above, and relate to them.)

I hope nowhere on this blog is it implied that Mara and I ALWAYS use the tools that lead to greater peace and happiness in life. It might be easy to read into our words something like that, but that is because we choose to celebrate the tools and the message that leads to happiness. That is what we focus on, and it is the focus of this blog. Don't let that focus trick you into thinking we succeed at it every moment of every day. That is not our intent, nor should it be your takeaway.

What I do hope is consistent on this blog, is that if ever we find happiness, it is always found by applying certain tools that seem to work whether we are facing a break in blogging and a question of what’s next, infertility and failed IVFs, divorce, getting lost while traveling, losing sentimental and valuable items, or whatever else life throws at us. Tools that are available to EVERYONE. They are the same tools friends of mine have applied successfully to child abuse, neglectful or abusive spouses, infidelity, children who struggle and stray far from a safe or desirable path, death of loved ones, loss of jobs, poverty, misunderstanding, judgmental parents, serious physical disabilities, abandonment, friends who betray, etc….the list could go on and on and on. But it doesn’t need to.

The only question is will each of us decide to apply these tools to whatever it is that we are facing individually? Will we decide to quit comparing, will we recognize more quickly those moments when we are focused on circumstance or behavior (as happens to us ALL), and will we re-enter more deliberately the state of being that always accompanies peace and happiness?

Perhaps we can take courage and wisdom from the words of the Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius: “Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also.

I hope no one will compare themselves to us. I certainly don’t seek to compare myself with those who have inspired me. Or if I do, the only way I compare is “What tools were they applying that I have not yet grasped or understood? And how can I learn from them and move forward in greater confidence and love?”

May you all move forward in greater confidence and love. May you never confuse the imperfect lives of people dedicated to a message with the beauty and power of the actual message itself. May you truly experience happiness, right where you are, in the moment you are in, with all of its existing circumstances. May you discover the power that is already part of you.

With Love,

P.S. - I linked to a lot of my favorite posts, and a lot of my favorite books.  If you don't feel like you have a grasp on some of those universal principles that all healing is based upon, I hope you'll follow each link, buy some books, and do some contemplating and start practicing these things for yourself.

24 February 2015

THANK YOU To Our Amazing Volunteers

Tonight I just wanted to send a massive THANK YOU to all the people that volunteered to help us with the upcoming U.S. Tour in late May/early summer! Together we'll do something great. Already details are coming together more and more. I'm really excited to get everything announced soon. (And I can't wait to say hello to Vermont, Chicago, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Brooklyn.)

P.S. I am still working on getting back to many of you volunteers. eeks. Emails will be coming!

P.P.S. This yellow image is for all you making your way through winter. Remember our Yellow Happiness Series around here? Fond memories! Those photos you all sent in seriously make me so happy.
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