Introducing…

All smiles at the Masters of Movement training in LA. 3/2017.

All smiles at a training: 3/2017.

Me. Colleen. Hi. It’s been a while. ūüôā

Confession: creating a new blog has been on my mind for the last year. I wanted to press reset. I wanted to start over. I wanted to reintroduce myself to the world. I ended up starting an Instagram account (@ironsilkjoy) as the motivational seed to start this process, through documenting my journey in the fitness world. I chose this handle because I love the balance and imagery iron and silk offer, and joy is something I strive to find and sustain in anything I pursue. It felt simple, it felt elegant, it felt meaningful. I thought this would be my outlet as the new me emerged from the cocoon that left my writing so very dormant all this time.

However, this idea percolated for so long. Too long. I managed to regularly post videos and photos of my progress with short snippets describing what I was up to. I even steadily gained an audience of positive supporters. It’s been a fun side gig, but every time, and I mean *every* time I sat down to actually start typing out the overflow of fitness-focused thoughts I had, I’d stall. Why? For one thing, because a lot of life happened this year, and the thought of taking on a new project always turned quickly from excitement to exhaustion. It took months of mending, processing, recovering, and being in the world to lead up to the¬†moment that happened the¬†other day: a casual Sunday on the porch with my sweetheart, Greg.

We were having an inspired conversation that turned into the tipping point that finally broke the strong writer’s block that was holding me captive all year. It wasn’t just a matter of ideas that I needed to jot down. It was paragraph upon paragraph of what was in my brain, what was in my heart, that needed to come out and be on paper. I had thoughts to share¬†about¬†being body shamed, the competitive nature that lives in all of us, ego, insecurities, growth, strength, falling in love, and much more. Creativity flowed out faster than I could keep up with.

As I sat fervently writing, my mind kept wandering back to this blog. I decided to revisit thislittlelark.org¬†to see¬†what and when I posted last. Sure enough, my last entry was March 2016, (not coincidentally) when everything in my world started to shift. I mentioned this to Greg and he asked thoughtful questions around why I hadn’t considered continuing this¬†blog, one that was *already* set up and connected to so many wonderful and curious readers (aka: why was I making something harder for myself when the solution was literally staring back at me on my screen.) The “aha!” moment surfaced. My journey into fitness is very much a part of health and wellness. It’s part of me. This blog is where I used to write my thoughts, inspirations, and experiences. This is where I will continue to write my thoughts, inspirations, and experiences. I don’t need to separate different parts of my life into different places anymore. It all comes from the same place: ME. Yes. Yes. Yes!! It felt like coming home.¬†

So, circling back: What exactly happened in March 2016? That’s when I officially started a new approach to¬†moving my body. Through a series of serendipitous events, I was led to personal training sessions and a very quirky and amazing small gym in Durham, North Carolina: Legitimate Movement. Up until that point, I was not a “sit on the couch with no motivation” kind of gal. I was more along the lines of an “I’m going to try this thing for a while, and then move to that thing and then that shiny thing over there looks fun and whoa I want to try that fun thing, too!” kind of gal. In my adult life, I have always implemented some form of activity, and the times when it wasn’t formal and planned,¬†I lived in larger cities where I’d find myself walking 5+ miles a day to get to all my destinations. My body has always been happiest with movement: physical, emotional, and spiritually speaking. Something was different with this time around, though. Everything aligned for me and I kept showing up for myself and actually having fun. I found a place where exercise wasn’t a chore, it was an exciting way of life.

Since March 2016, I have been so inspired by my movement routine and the coaches that have helped guide me along the way, that my curiosity led me to Montreal, Toronto, and LA to take focused trainings and certifications in mobility and movement. I’ve since studied and passed my personal training certification exam, and I’m in the process of creating¬†unique classes and workshops that incorporate all of my favorite things: movement, yoga, dance, Chinese medicine, and positive psychology. I’ve come a long way and I’m really only getting started. This is all in addition to keeping a full time acupuncture practice, and going through some huge changes in my personal life. I’ve been busy!

As I write this, the excitement of sharing all of my thoughts and experiences is literally emanating¬†from every pore… I’ve never done a super real and public, take me as I am account, because honestly, the thought has always been paralyzing. What if I offend someone? What if cyber bullies start to attack? What if my story just blends in with the rest? Hmm… I’ve had these conversations with some dear friends through the year, and the best of them would always say “Who cares? I want to hear what you have to say. You have something to offer, so do yourself and the rest of us a favor and at least try to put your thoughts down on paper. You have¬†nothing to lose, only something to gain.”¬†¬†So maybe all this time I should have been asking something like: “What if <gasp> I actually make some sort of difference?” Maybe that difference will just occur within me. Maybe something will spark in you. I don’t know unless I start somewhere. So here we have it. Introducing: This Little Lark 2.0. Still a journey of health and wellness, but we’ll call it the director’s cut.

I’m¬†choosing to write about my life from a behind-the-scenes place that, I believe, is not unapologetically shared enough. It’s the only true, authentic voice I know and it’s all I have to make the choices each day to keep showing up, keep doing better, and eliminate the bullshit that drags the world down. I’ve shared some posts in the past that reflect this vulnerable and empowered place within me, and they have always made me feel the most alive. Here’s to more of that and less filtering to fit into a world of paralyzing expectations.¬†

 

 

 

 

Back to the start.

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This blog has been up for 5 years now… !!! ¬†It started as a personal WordPress site to connect with friends and family about my life’s journey and to my surprise it grew to an audience of over 5,000 readers within months! Wow! I decided to switch over to this .org domain a little over 2 years ago to include more guest posts from health and wellness professionals. This, in turn, would reach an even wider audience. Well, my friends, after some much needed deliberation, I’ve decided it’s time to go back to the start.¬†I feel that I have built up a level of resistance to posting regular updates the past couple of years, not because I didn’t have anything to share, but because I had TOO much to share. I ended up receiving hundreds of¬†emails from interested guest bloggers from around the world. Reading their stories and what they wanted to share was inspiring, impressive and such an honor to read, but I quickly realized it was too much of an endeavor to take on as a “side project” on my own. In the meantime, popular sites like Mind, Body, Green and Elephant Journal grew with a similar mission– with a staff of many. Something that is not in the cards for me right now, especially as I manage a full-time acupuncture and wellness practice.

What does going back to the start mean? It means just me. It means on occasion when I meet someone with a special something, I’ll ask if they’d do me the honor to write their story so I can share it with¬†all of you, who I care about deeply. It means more creative license to be all over the map instead of within a “professional” parameter. If you’ve read my past¬†few blog posts, you’ll know that I’m striving to bridge the gap between my professional life and personal life, practicing vulnerability, and taking more risks. I’m wanting to connect on a deeper level that surpasses preaching about the “How-To’s” in life.¬†

I understand this will lead to some of you unsubscribing to my updates. But before you go, please know I am grateful for your support and for every time you chose to read these posts the past few years. For those that stay with me, I thank you as well. You’ll see some gradual changes around the website, and as always I welcome your feedback. ūüôā Here’s to the next chapter…!!¬†

My vulnerability is showing…

…and it looks good!

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I think a lot. The way my mind works fascinates and entertains me enough that I don’t get bored easily, although I can easily tire from my train of thought at times. I think about my life. I think about where I came from and where I’m going. I think about what I’ve overcome to get to where I am. I think about and make up random scenarios that make me giggle, and I think about and make up random scenarios that bring up fears. I think about all of these things and more.

And then, somewhere down the road of my ever-evolving thought process, I started thinking more about my external world, specifically how I portray my¬†internal world to my external world. I realized how much I’ve taken on for myself to process versus opening up and saying my truth¬†to those around me. I realized I played the role of feeling much safer in pleasing others and not ruffling feathers, while silently suffering internal anxieties and worries. I realized how exhausting this was for my past self. I realized that is was time to unravel and transform this tendency.¬†

Throughout the past year, this has been a major focus of mine. After settling into my life in Chapel Hill and (mostly) recovering from the very real PTSD that lingered from my time as a grad student, I can happily say that all my needs of home, food, friends, and career are feeling rooted and nurtured. This has created space for me to let go of the fight or flight mode a bit more and dive deeper into the parts of my psyche that are fearful of being vulnerable.

I was inspired by conversations among friends and family, articles and blog posts, books like¬†Bren√© Brown’s, Daring Greatly,¬†and personal anecdotes from my amazing and brave patients. All of these encounters helped put the feelings I was trying to acknowledge into tangible thoughts; I’ve built up a wall to “stay strong” when all along practicing vulnerability has made me feel stronger than ever.¬†

How will I continue to nurture this in the new year? With compassion (and oftentimes a shaky voice)¬†I’ll keep communicating¬†how I really feel, I’ll honor my energy and not give it away to those that drain it. I won’t deny my emotion in order to avoid confrontation. I’ll continue to meet the needs of those I love while making sure my needs are being heard and met as well. I will continue to cultivate balance, reciprocity, and deeper connection and understanding in my relationships. I’ll make time to breathe, laugh, sing, and play with abandon. I’ll step out of my sometimes too comfortable shadow and follow my curiosity, away from the path of fear. I’ll tap into my courage. I’ll fall down¬†and get back up. I’ll continue to show up for myself and be seen, because once we’re seen, our greatest attributes, ideas, creativities, and accomplishments are one step closer to seeing the light.¬†

Care to join me? ūüôā

 

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Hey, it’s OK.

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Oh, Sundays. They can feel so blissful and sometimes they can feel so conflicting. It’s an interesting battle of the brain vs. heart. The brain shouting¬†“you have to keep going!” while the heart whispers, “Hey, it’s OK. Why not just rest and see what comes from that?”

When¬†I don’t have “a plan” for the day, I often have the feeling that I’m missing something, that I’m not doing enough, or I’m allowing precious time to pass as I sip my tea, surf the internet, or stare into space. It’s the feeling that should be saying “hey, it’s ok to unwind and recharge” but instead I notice it trying to feed me with guilt, telling me what I should¬†be doing with my time off, highlighting the fact that I don’t have the energy or motivation, and in turn, feeling vacant and scattered.

I know I’m not alone in this and I also know I’m not the first person to reflect on it. But I do know it’s important to show these vulnerable times, to share these moments so we can connect on a level that surpasses the highlight reel of roses, sunshine, and accomplishments. Sometimes we have those moments, other times life is about laying in bed far too long, staring at the potential of the day, yet not having an ounce of motivation to even brush your hair. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong, it just means we’re human, and going against the grain of our go! go! go! (brain) culture is what contributes to this¬†inner conflict when the¬†heart is really asking the body to slow down.

I very much need the day to unfold organically, be gentle with my lack of direction, and allow myself to¬†recharge and renew (guilt-free) for the busy week ahead. Other people will be climbing mountains, writing their memoirs, and attending that fancy art class today. I will be honoring my body’s needs and hopefully diffusing those feelings that are urging me to do more, because really, I do enough.

Moral of the story? Feel what you’re feeling, you do you. We¬†are¬†always enough, and when we continue to come back to this self-empowering phrase, “I am enough”, it really begins to settle in. Our heart’s whisper grows¬†loud and clear, and we actually start to¬†believe it when we hear¬†“Hey, it’s OK…”

32 Lessons I’ve Learned (and Mostly Relearned) as a 32 Year Old.

32-Facts-That-Show-How-Men-Are-Being-Systematically-Emasculated-In-America-Today-300x205‚ÄúYou don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.‚ÄĚ ‚Äē George Bernard Shaw

Although in my mind I still tend to feel like (and laugh at the same things as) a kid, I’ll be turning 33 tomorrow, May 26th! Wow. It’s really true: age is just a number, and you’re only as old as you feel. Every year around this time, I enjoy taking a moment¬†to myself¬†to reflect on the year that just passed, oftentimes like a blink of an eye. Days, weeks, and months can go by so quickly! Knowing the way that I’ve chosen to participate in the world, it’s important to take these pauses and check in where I’m at, and where I might be going. This year, while highlighting the growth and transformation I’ve experienced, I’ve compiled a list of 32 lessons I’ve learned and relearned this past year as a 32 year old. ¬†If nothing else, I’ll always be able to look back on this to remember the thoughts, big and small, that have brought me to be the person I am today.

 

1. Upgrading to a Kindle has made life so sweet and¬†easy. I love books and I’ll always have an affinity for them, but when I’m traveling, it’s so much more convenient to have a handful of books uploaded on a tiny, light-weight device. My shoulders are much happier for not having to lug around excess weight in books anymore.¬†

2. Having a daily yoga practice is¬†possible. It’s not always an hour or longer, but putting in at least 15 minutes a day can move some profound mind-body mountains.¬†

3. Owning and running a small business has been an emotional roller coaster and has been full of some of the most valuable lessons towards self cultivation. I’m absolutely floored that I’m actually living my dream, and while living it, I continue to dream even bigger.¬†

4. It’s never too late¬†to start learning a new language. Hablo espa√Īol? Si, hablo un poco de espa√Īol!¬†

5. Mercury retrograde is real. Enough said. When you hear that it’s currently happening, be gentle with all things communication, technology, transportation, and contractual. Actually, even when Mercury is¬†not retrograde, be gentle.¬†

6. Give me a bowl of air-popped popcorn with coconut oil, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and dill, and I will become giddy with glee.

7. Dancing will always be one of my most favorite things to do. Being able to go out and enjoy the dances around here? Working on staying awake past 9pm…

8. There’s nothing wrong with a 9pm bedtime.

9. It is possible to lower cholesterol! Diet, exercise, and de-stressing for the win! I do realize this is not the case for all people, but paying closer attention to your diet, exercise and de-stressing routines will definitely create a positive ripple effect on your health.

10. Acupuncture works. More times than not I find myself shaking my head in disbelief how this medicine is so unbelievably wise.

11. Friends certainly come and go through the seasons of our lives.

12. Moving to a new place can be scary, especially after spending years making friends and building community elsewhere. In the past year, I’ve made a great effort to get to know my surroundings, and it came back to me tenfold: Becoming involved with a yoga teacher training and reaching out to any and all interesting people I meet along the way has built the sweetest community here in Chapel Hill.

FullSizeRender13. Get the hammock. Don’t spend months or years talking about getting the hammock. Get it. Add the bowl of popcorn from above. Die happy.

14. Free does not necessarily mean better. 

15. Working as a team is invigorating. I’ve been blessed to meet some incredible health practitioners around here, and am in the midst of collaborating big ideas with one… stay tuned! ¬†

16. Animals need our lovingkindness more than ever. Save the elephants, save the turtles, please save them all.

17. Slow down, it’ll get done.

18. I can run more than 3 miles at a time. In fact, I ran 7 the other day! Mind over matter.

19. It is SO worth the time and money to get away for a few days and shake things up from the routine, especially when it’s a visit to loved ones that are just too darn far away. I’m grateful to be at that point in life where I truly value experiences and memories far more than the “things” that can easily be replaced. (If you are ready to de-clutter your life, read this.)

20. My body¬†will continue to change¬†through the years, and that’s just part of the graceful aging process. The only thing I can do is to keep coming back to embracing what I have¬†now and continue to strive to feel¬†the healthiest and most energized that I possibly can.¬†

21. Laughter is the best medicine. 

22. Being engaged to my sweetheart has changed nothing and everything all at the same time. It’s a sweet time for us to figure out how we want to make this completely our own, no deadlines, no pressure, just a love-filled celebration. If I could do anything differently, I’d trust the process more than I did leading up to it.¬†

23. Deciding to have¬†children will never come naturally to me as a “yes, it’s happening!” or a “no, it’s not for me.” However, choosing to be with the person who¬†could someday create those children with me has been the most natural “yes!” I could think of.¬†

24. Maintaining a healthy relationship takes work each and every day. A lot of the time it’s so much fun! I mean, what’s better than living with your best friend, having countless inside jokes, and trying to figure out how to be “adults” together? Yay for that! However, it’s not always that easy, and we are sometimes challenged to look in the mirror and face the things we try so hard not to see within ourselves. I think that could be the most beautiful part of a relationship’s metamorphosis: once the guards are down, the transformation begins, and you’re both better people for having worked on it.¬†

25. Public libraries are the bees knees. So many resources, so much information. How lucky are we?

26. Social media will continue to be a blessing and an annoyance. Always proceed with caution, and treat everyone kindly.

27. Quitting a ridiculous coffee habit is very possible, and on¬†the days I decide to ¬†make or treat myself to a coffee, I get as giddy as I am with a bowl of homemade popcorn. It’s a win-win. I drink Tulsi India Breakfast tea now. It has a little caffeine mixed with the calming effects of tulsi (holy basil). It’s really an excellent way to start my mornings.¬†

28. Connecting with all things yin/feminine softens the hardness that I tend to create when I’m thrown into the “go, go, go” or yang/masculine aspect of our culture. If we are over-consuming our yin (whether due to over-activity, or because it was deficient to begin with), we begin to lose our endurance and reserves. We become over-reactive and hypersensitive.¬†Whatever your gender, it’s essential for all of us to connect with our yin/feminine side. Balance is key and we can only ignore this part of ourselves for so long before symptoms of imbalance¬†start to physically and emotionally manifest.

29. Taking chances, when aligned with that gut instinct and intuition, will always be worth it. I’d rather fail trying than not doing at all.

30. I’m grateful for Mama Nature. She guides me in understanding how the universe works which in turn guides me in understanding how we, as humans, work.¬†

31. I have a lot to offer! I never thought I’d be teaching yoga classes and workshops, but I am, and I love it. I believe EVERYONE has something to offer, and finding your voice is part of that unnerving yet exciting journey that will lead you to where you belong. I dare you to step outside your comfort zone and try it.¬†

32. It’s impossible to condense a year’s worth of learning into a list of 32, but to keep it practical and fun, I chose the number 32 since all of this was experienced, manifested, and cultivated while I was 32. Clever, huh? ūüėČ Here’s to my 33rd year, another revolution around the sun, and hopefully countless more lessons that will continue to expand my horizons and challenge me to do the things my heart is trying to lead me to do. ūüôā

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Happy, little 2-year old me in the Cayman Islands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Calm & Travel On.

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The holidays are in full effect¬†and many of us will be traveling near and far to be with the ones we love. As a frequent traveler, I’ve had many opportunities to reflect and notice¬†what’s required to make my time away from home meaningful and as healthy as possible. ¬†Whether you are taking a vacation or visiting family and friends, here are some ideas to stay healthy and balanced while¬†making the best of that well deserved time off!

Hydrate: I cannot emphasize it enough: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Going somewhere warm? Hydrate! Going somewhere cold? Hydrate! Dehydration can happen in any climate and cause a number of symptoms that can make your trip less than enjoyable (such as fatigue and constipation). While traveling, we are usually off our normal routines and running from one place to the next, making it easy to forget to get our water in. Additionally, if alcohol will be a part of your holiday celebrations, you should be drinking even more water than usual to account for the dehydrating effects of alcohol on your body and skin.  Get a head start by drinking 16 oz of water immediately upon waking, before you get distracted or busy.  Pack a reusable, BPA-free water bottle to carry around on your trip and continue to fill it up throughout the day.  Make note of how many times you need to refill it to reach your daily water quota (the standard 8 x 8 oz glasses is a good start, but you may feel better drinking even more), and designate times throughout the day as a reminder to refill, in order to meet your quota.

Sleep: Sometimes while traveling it’s easier said than done, but getting in enough zzz’s will help keep you balanced and energized to take on the day.  Just as much as exercise and nutrition are important to our health, so is sleep. Optimal working, learning, creating, moving, and socializing rely heavily on a good night’s sleep. Taking some time to meditate and clear your mind before falling asleep can help deepen the quality of sleep you are getting throughout the night.

Maintain Your Skin Care Routine: Air travel requires some planning with items such as skin care products. Knowing the rules ahead of time can save you a lot of time and headaches, or worse, from having to toss your beloved products at security. Once you’ve learned what you can and cannot pack, determine your most vital skin care products, remembering you are packing for a destination that may have a very different climate than what you are used to. Try bringing your favorite travel sized cleanser, toner, moisturizer with sunscreen, eye treatment, lip hydrator, and hand and body lotion if possible. Paring down when packing is important, but try not to eliminate the products that will help keep your skin healthy while up against the elements of travel.

Eat Regularly: Packing healthy snacks to have on hand throughout the day can save you from those catastrophic blood sugar crashes, mood swings, and mid-afternoon dips of fatigue. Take the time to find local restaurants, supermarkets, and health food stores that can accommodate your dietary needs. It is worth the extra effort to make sure that your body is getting the foods it needs. Also remember that vacations and holidays tend to be full of foods that we’re not used to eating on a daily basis and this can mean trouble for our digestive system. Incorporating foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole food snacks can help to minimize any digestive distress.

Exercise: Feel like you are way too busy to exercise while traveling? When there is not 30-60 minutes to spare at once, try breaking it up throughout the day. For example, a 10 minute power walk in the morning, afternoon, and evening with 5 minutes of toning exercises like yoga stretches, sit-ups, lunges, and push-ups (which can be done anywhere with no equipment necessary) can help keep our blood flowing and metabolism going.

And last but not least…

Let Go of Expectations: We usually have in mind an idealistic picture of how we would love a vacation to turn out, but realistically there are many bumps along the way that can pop up and derail our plans. Flights get delayed or canceled, inclement weather happens, people get sick, food gets burned, hotel accommodations can let us down.  The best thing to do in this situation?  Make a conscious effort to go with the flow. Of course we naturally want to react and feel angry, disappointed, sad, or frustrated, but what will really help us get from plan A to plan B is staying calm and making appropriate decisions about what the next best step is.  The hormonal cascade set off by stress wreaks havoc on our health.  Figure out your options, choose a direction, outline the steps you need to take, and ask for help if possible.  Your focus should simply be to get things back on track so that you can carry on with your trip.  You can wait until you return home to follow up with the appropriate people and businesses should you need to further process your feelings, contact management, etc. For now, just breathe, try to relax, and focus on how to get back to those meaningful moments that you get to share with others this time of year.

Safe travels and wishing you a joyous and healthy holiday season!

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Hello friends,

After a 6 month hiatus, my writer’s cap is back on and I’m excited to start posting here more regularly.

So, why 6 long months without an update, you ask? Well, life has been full of changes, transitions, and new beginnings that have required most of my attention and energy. I’ve relocated to Chapel Hill, NC and have since opened a practice, The Balance Point Acupuncture & Wellness, which has been an incredible experience on so many levels. I feel humbled, honored, excited, and full of so much gratitude to finally be at this point in my career to be able to put the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired to action through treatments, workshops, volunteering, and, once again, writing.

I’ve been building a great community here and keeping really busy embracing the Carolina life. In March, I started a year-long yoga teacher training which has done nothing but reaffirm (over and over again) all of the efforts I’ve put into building this journey for myself. So, overall, with its ups and downs, life has been good.

What to expect from here on out:¬†A little less on the “How-To’s” and a little more vulnerability and depth around the health and wellness issues that are prevalent in our day to day lives. Most of my writing inspiration comes from personal experience, and I feel that’s the best place to stay in order to really connect with all of you.

Thank you for all of your support, from near and far. I am forever grateful to have this space to share the inner workings of my mind.

Always,
Colleen ūüôā

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