| S U N N Y |

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you.”

LEWIS B. SMEDES

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Valentine’s Day seems to be a holiday that stirs up some mixed feelings. The special occasion, which celebrates the purest of human emotions, has in a way been tainted by consumerism and the demand to have a sweetheart. This can easily warp one into believing your worth is dependent on external circumstances. Without realizing it, many of us have bought into the marketing schemes and have thus created expectations, which often lead to disappointment. I can tell you first handedly love is not about flowers, chocolate or a significant other.

I write this as a reminder, mainly to myself, of what unconditional love truly looks like. Love is not validation from others. Love is not co-dependent, and love cannot be bought. To love is to hurt, and to experience both makes it all worthwhile.

This time last year I was in a relationship. Once it was over, I spent the following months reflecting and working through my emotional baggage. In doing so, I was able to turn the mess into a message I wish to share with you today. These three intangible ideas I’ll touch upon allowed me to reclaim my peace, happiness and joy. The best part is knowing that they were cultivated from within, meaning no one can strip them from me. 

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| SELF-CARE |

Self-care is so imperative yet many times misconstrued as selfish. Much to the contrary, self-care proves to be the best way to emotionally ground ourselves so that we may enter any situation with a grand awareness of self. It builds confidence, self-esteem and overall health. In treating yourself with respect, others follow suit.

In my last relationship I started skipping Yoga classes to spend my time with him. Once the blinders came off and I could see clearly, I was shocked. Yoga is something I place great value in for my personal well-being. It was eye opening when I realized I was the one sabotaging my self-care, not him. There was no one to blame but myself. The moment I quit my practice was the moment I lost myself in the relationship. Now I know the balance I find on the mat must also also be applied off the mat in reality.

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| SELF-LOVE |

When you’re hurt and licking your wounds, the focus once again turns to you. Self-love is where compassion is born. For when you no longer have the capacity to be compassionate towards yourself, you no longer have it for others. As what begins within, flows to all.

Any relationship, failed or successful, plays a valuable and versatile role in our life stories. They become our best teachers, our gateways to self-awareness and acceptance. They also become our mirrors, which reflect back to us, our inner worlds. Most people come into our lives to strengthen us so that we can move forward (many times alone). I think it’s quite possible that every strong connection we make with another is an opportunity to test our emotional maturity and capability to let go. For when we accept this simple truth, circumstances cannot define us.

This is why it’s so imperative before entering a relationship to cultivate a strong understanding and respect for self. Self-love cultivates compassion and kindness, which therefore enhances any relationship or connection we have with others because the foundation has been laid. If you imagine a relationship to be a house, you wouldn’t start building without the proper foundation, right? So if self-love is the foundation which we build relationships, you can understand why it’s importance we start here. Through our connection to self and others we can begin to feel safe and at home.

| Self-Love Practice |

1.) Find a quiet space and close your eyes. Begin breathing deeply into your lower belly

2.) Relax into your breath, get into a meditative state while you place your hand over your heart

3.) Recall a painful or stressful situation and visualize the how it felt. Allow the emotional discomfort to wash over you (understand you are not alone, we all feel these emotions)

4.) Feel the warmth of your hand over your heart. Send that warmth to the specific area of your body that’s feeling discomfort

5.) Ask yourself what you need to hear/feel in order to heal. Use whatever comes to mind first and is best aligned with your situation

6.) Repeat the phrase to yourself silently or aloud as many times as needed until you feel peaceful and calm

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| MAV MANTRA |

“I’m worthy of great love. A great love does not define my worth.”

__________

| FORGIVENESS |

Forgiveness might be the glue that holds a relationship together. While intimacy allows for closeness, it also requires us to be vulnerable. Hurt and love go hand in hand, that’s why they often say you hurt the one you love the most. Growing up we must’ve also heard the phrase, “I’ll forgive but I’ll never forget.” If forgiveness means wiping the slate clean, this quote is the antithesis of forgiveness. For if we can never forget, then we are guaranteed to carry the messy pain from our past into our present.

Post break-up I tried to forget everything, the memories, the pain, the laughs. Ironically all that did was strengthen its power over me. It wasn’t until I made the decision to wipe the slate clean, with forgiveness, that I finally moved past the hurt. I could smile again because I had a newfound respect for the relationship and what it taught me.

Last year my dad introduced me to a Hawaiian practice called Ho’oponopono, a healing technique that assists in the process of forgiveness. What’s nice about this practice is it’s simple and useful for all. It truly helped me to see there’s a result to every action we take. Regardless of your position in the disagreement, we could all use some forgiveness. If possible, use this technique and verbalize in person. If that’s not possible for whatever reason, you can use this as a self-healing practice in meditation or practicing it aloud or through writing. I chose to write mine in the form of an apology letter to give myself closure.

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| FORGIVENESS PRACTICE |

1.) “I’m sorry.” 

(I’m sorry I judged you. I’m sorry there’s unresolved energy between us)

2.) “Please forgive me.”

(Forgive me for my judgments. Forgive me for creating separation between us. Forgive me for walking away)

3.) I love you.”

(Recall to mind moments or reasons why you love this person. What did they add to your life) 

4.) Thank you.”

(Show gratitude for the experience. Be thankful for the opportunity to grow, the life lesson and joy)

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| WRITING A NEW STORY |

Regardless of your circumstance this year, use this holiday to show pure, unconditional love however that looks to you. That could be towards yourself, a special someone or a complete stranger. The point being we all deserve to love and be loved. Maybe you enjoy giving out loving compliments or speaking highly of others. Maybe you’re creative and enjoy writing love poems, notes or songs. Or maybe it’s creating a personalized card, which expresses your gratitude. (Remember, expressions of love that cannot be replicated/purchased tend to be the most valuable). If you do anything this Valentines Day, let it be forgiveness. Forgive anything that may have come before and step into the present with an open heart.

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IN COLLABORATION WITH THE M I G H T Y COMPANY 

| PHOTOGRAPHY |

Evan Woods

| CREATIVE DIRECTION |

Morgan Ryan

| MUSES |

Cameron Arnett & Morgan Ryan 

PLEASURE & CHAOS || PART I: THE C R O S S R O A D S ||

A Collaboration with

THE M I G H T Y COMPANY

– – – – – –

“What is meant to be, is just that, and will unfold. Still, show some guts. Say to destiny, “I am calling the shots around here, go take a hike.”

-RUMI

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If you were to ask me where I’m headed, I would throw you a curve-ball and say, “hopefully somewhere I get lost.” Then again, I’ve never been one to give a straight answer to a simple question. Life seems too unpredictable not to play the same game. As a test of my self-awareness, I welcome the chaos of the unknown. I’m beginning to believe the sure-fire path to creating yourself requires getting lost…a little.

tresspassingThere was a confusing period where all I knew about myself was who I was not. I couldn’t explain it then, but by following my heart, I was confident it would lead me where I needed to be. If becoming lost meant I’d meet “a moment,” one that had the capability of reminding me just who I am, well then I’m certain I was wise in letting instinct be my guide.

A moment is far more complex than a simple label. It can be dynamic, as it has the capability to define in ways a word can not. “A moment,” such as the wind warmly greeting soft tousled hair, that has now become textured wisps, from dust in the air. As I reflect on this, it elicits a parallel memory from the day you and I met, and I let the wind carry me away.

– – – – – –

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Before me I see a road which meets in the middle and splits two separate ways. Torn between a place of safety and the unknown, I softly close my eyes as I slip away in a deep meditative bliss. I imagine my surroundings as my senses attempt to paint the landscape. I listen to the wind as it brushes tall feathered grasses which sway back in slight rebellion to the wind’s demand. As I escape into this daydreamers delight, I discover a place of repose; as you approach, and I alight.

In the midst of the cascading dance between wind and grass, I hear a voice that kindly calls me to relax. Instantly every muscle in my body calms as his voice soothes. It was in this instant my heart told me to open my sleepy eyes and awaken. I look up to greet smiling eyes, which mirrored the crystal-blue sky that hung overhead. One might say his sideways grin concealed a veneer of danger. I never was one to listen to the opinions of others, for they only noticed the obvious. It was only me that could see, he held all his power and meaning, behind those two eyes.

Locked in a gaze, I sink into eyes that genuinely smiled like my own as the sensation of butterflies stir within. In a blink of an eye, the moment evades me as my mind tries to make sense of these sensations and sends me into paralysis from over-analysis. He speaks again. Relief fills my mind and silences the voices in my head. An internal war begins to ensue, as I battle between the two: The path of feeling or logic.

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I found him–Or he found me

An informal harmony

of stable unpredictability

A life of excitement—we ignite the flame

and play with a fire

that neither of us could tame.

| Together we burn in a fury of Pleasure & Chaos |

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Down at the crossroads I was asked to make a choice, to listen to my feelings or a little voice of reason. Confused and unsure of which to trust, I remembered the one thing that brought me to this turning point, and that was my heart. I learned something that one fateful day; An unexpected encounter may not be easy to explain. People are placed here as we stumble along our way, to remind us who we are, and sometimes who we are not. It’s when you stay in the center of your own life that you begin to trust yourself enough that you may flow; and the more you can flow within, the more you can flow without.americanbarnmodernprom

Today I stand before you uncompromised, demanding who I am: I am that unknown path, the one you might hesitate to explore because you never know what you’ll get. Just know that’s okay with me, for I only want to see the wild ones. The ones who join me in dance, and rage on in jovial laughs, not kissing ass because we’re too busy kicking it.

Once again, I find myself down at the Crossroads. Whether you follow or not, that is up to you. As for me, I continue to take the unbeaten path. The one that encourages me to get a little lost, so that I’m encouraged to listen from within. In my heart I hold with me an unwavering hope, that I might come to find someone like you, who reminds me why I chose to get lost in the first place. For now all that remains is a trace of calmness amidst life’s chaotic storm. I thank you for that moment of pleasure, a warm breeze and a smile held the day’s treasure.

meetmeatcross| MAV M A N T R A |

Lead with the heart