What a broken mala and moving taught me about inner wisdom

I stood staring down at my hand, dripping, in the rain in the service area parking lot, as cars sped by spraying water along the New York State highway.

My cold wet fingers clutched my broken mala.

It had wrapped itself around the stick shift of the car when I had reached in to unearth my daughter from her car seat and the mountain of belongings that surrounded her. As I pulled her from the bits of our life that hadn’t fit into the moving truck, the necklace slipped apart, falling from my neck. A few of the 108 beads fell unceremoniously into the cup holder to join the dog hair, stuck together coins and cellphone charger cords.

“Shit. Shoot. My necklace!” I dropped Savannah into the passenger seat and stepped out into the rain, leaning against the open car door to get a better look.

“What happened Mama? Oh no, the necklace Owl gave you broke!” My daughter’s three year old gray-green eyes blinked back concern and watery, left over tears.

“Yes, but it’s ok,” I said defeated. My husband had given me the necklace two birthdays ago. Not long after, in a deep meditation, I was visited by an Owl, who’d dropped a stone into my palm as a tiny reminder to trust my own inner wisdom. It was a smooth, weighted token meant to remind me that everything I need exists in the deep well of the feminine knowing within me. I recognized it as the same stone in my mala necklace.

And now it was in pieces, clear glass beads blending with raindrops in my hands.

The threads might have worn out from wearing the necklace almost everyday, from holding the glowing Amazonite base stone, a stone that looked like a pale blue sky tasting of snow, and fingering the Rudraksha seeds on either side of it.

Before I boxed up our life in Idaho, the brass Ganesha above our door, the stained glass framed mirror, the Moosewood cookbook that had belonged to my grandmother, my internal guidance poured out onto the pages of my journal:

“moving is so divine feminine.”

In that moment, I had lifted the mala stone to my lips and whispered gratitude for the message and the clarity it had given me. I internalized the message. After so much resistance to it, I was finally ready to listen to the guidance that would set the course of moving my family and I across the country from our comfortable and lovely life in the wild western mountains to my childhood home in Vermont.

So, perhaps I’d not only crossed through the two time zones that had brought me closer to the east coast promise of home, but also cracked some unseen threshold.

A threshold that had taken me from wanting to trust where my life was leading me to actually, truly and fully trusting it.

I said goodbye to our empty house, the one with the garage I had turned into my art studio. I waved a burning palo santo smudge stick into it’s corners and watched the smoke drift into the sunlight. I said goodbye to our neighbors and friends who passed hugs and smiles and eggs from their chickens to us.

And then I left the west, breaking into the wet soil of the unknown, one mile at a time, trusting that this new found inner wisdom would continue to lead me forward and glow inside of me, stronger than ever, like a truth stone.

5 tips to nourish your inner goddess

It’s time to be who you really are

About 10 years ago, I spent four months at the Kripalu Institute for yoga + health in a program called the Semester Intensive with a group of young adults. We participated in a buffet of spiritual practices while we were there including a clearing ceremony with a Shaman.

When it was my turn to be cleared, the Shaman looked me in the eyes and he whispered,

“It’s time to be who you really are.”

Bewildered, I didn’t say anything. In my head I was thinking: What? What does that even mean?

Then, suddenly, I felt this huge rush of power streaming up somewhere deep in my belly and it flickered up through my whole body like a flash of fire and energy.

It was powerful, fierce and wild.

And the instant I felt it, the Shaman looked at me and whispered,

 “Be her.”

After that moment, I spent the next 10 years of my life trying to figure out how to do just that. During that time, I did more spiritual work including a lot of yoga, a deep dive into the idea of art making as a spiritual practice and I participated in more shamanic work.

Turns out, I’m a bit of a transformation junkie.

I came to understand that what flashed up through me that day in the clearing ceremony, was an encounter with goddess energy, divine feminine flow.

I’ve come to believe that there is a universal goddess energy that runs through all of us. Not only that, but I also believe that we also each possess our own unique blend of this goddess energy that is ours and ours alone to express in the world.

And she wants to be expressed. And she wants to be expressed through YOU exactly as YOU really are.

Some kind of magical

So you might be sitting here thinking, that is nice and all, but I’ve never felt anything like that. If you haven’t, no worries. I have only felt it that intensely that one time. It is much more likely that you experience your inner goddess energy in more subtle ways.

It’s that feeling that you are being pulled towards something, the feeling of joy spontaneously bubbling up from inside of you, or those moments where everything seems kinda magical.

When you are connected with your inner goddess energy, you feel:

  • Creative
  • Connected
  • Empowered

When you are connected to your inner goddess energy, you feel an overflowing juiciness, an awareness that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, and you feel motivated and courageous on your path.  

Not feeling that way? It happens. Life gets us down, we feel stuck, disconnected, and zapped. But the good news is that we have the opportunity in every single moment to plug back into our personal goddess energy, to get a hit of it, even if only for a few moments. Sometimes that’s all it takes! 

Below are a few ways that you attend to your own goddess energy.

5 tips to nourish your inner goddess

5 tips to nourish your inner goddess

Engage your creativity

It probably goes without saying, but playing with creativity is one of my favorite ways to connect in with the goddess energy within. Any creative activity that moves you out of regular time and space and into the space of flow, can help you juice up your goddess energy.

Whatever creative activity that brings you the most joy, be it painting, baking, dancing, writing, whatever you can lose yourself in. Go do that.

Yoga Flows

My favorite part of the hot yoga class I’ve been attending over the last few months comes at the end, after all the flow and movement and sweat, when we begin moving gently towards Savasana and that’s when I notice myself shifted from the beginning of class. My thoughts are quieter, my awareness is heightened and I can sometimes feel a tingling sensation, like my cells are bubbling. It’s my goddess energy, awake and flowing.

Find a good vinyasa flow class at your local yoga studio + get flowing.

Start a Lunar Practice

Following the moon is a powerful way to align yourself with the universal goddess energy (which will in turn awaken your personal goddess energy!) By simply paying attention to where the moon is in the sky, we can begin to notice how it affects our own energy.

Journaling on the moon cycles, taking salt baths, or having ceremonial fires around the full and new moons are particularly powerful ways to harness the energies of the moon.

 

Make an offering to Nature

Getting out into the natural world can be totally re-energizing. If you can shut out the normal mind jumble for a few moments while you are out there, it’s an amazing way to experience the goddess in her raw, powerful and wild form. It's what you experience in the thin air at the top of a mountain, during a thunder and lightning storm, or when a silent, giant wild beast crosses your path. About a year ago, I started a practice of bringing an offering of seeds and herbs out with me on my outdoor adventures. Once I’m out there, offer it to the land in gratitude.

Go on a hike, or a jog by the river, get outdoors on skis, a boat or your own two feet. Bring with you some small token of your appreciation for the natural world.

Practice self love

When was the last time you did something completely nourishing for yourself? When you nourish and love yourself, you are also nourishing and loving on that goddess energy within, and when she feels it, she leaps up in response to nourish and love you back.

To get the high vibe connection with your inner goddess going, ask yourself what would be most nourishing and loving thing you could do in this moment. Then go do that thing.  

How have you experienced your own inner goddess? Do you have any other tips on how to nourish your goddess energy?

A 60 minute yoga playlist for a gentle inversion practice

A shift in perspective

We normally move through life looking at things a certain way, a way driven by our past experiences, our values, our belief systems. And in general, this works for us -- we garner a lot of information about ourselves and the world around us in this way. But every once in awhile, this way of working fails us. Often times it’s failure looks like this:

You start to feel foggy, unclear about a situation

You feel stuck, dull, or unmotivated.

You can’t shake your own negative thinking

These are all signs that you need a shift in perspective, a shift that allows you to see things in a new light.

Feeling stuck? Invert yourself.

An inversion is any position where your head is below your heart. When you invert yourself, there are many physical benefits including:

  • reversing your blood + lymph flow, which nourishes your tissues, organs and glands
  • Improving your circulation
  • Flushes oxygen (through your blood) into your brain, which stimulates your mental functioning and improves your memory and concentration
  • Strengthening of many of your major muscle groups, in particular all those small back muscles that support your spine.

Along with all these physical benefits, inverting your body has mental benefits as well. It helps you to feel more expansive and when your brain gets washed with blood, it can help to invigorate your way of thinking. When your body gets re-oxygenated in an inversion, you feel like a new person when you come out of it. It can help to change your perspective by jogging new ways of thinking. An inversion practice is like hitting the reset button and gets you feeling, breathing and moving in a new direction.

Here’s some gentle inversion practice suggestions + a 60 minute playlist I created to inspire your inversion practice:

You can also find this playlist over on spotify:

To begin your inversion practice, warm up with a few rounds of sun salutations, A + B, then add on these 5 Gentle yoga Inversions to disperse any negativity and shift your perspective:

  1. Puppy pose, forearms on a block, hands in prayer
  2. Humble Warrior I
  3. Wide leg forward fold with eagle arms
  4. Supported Shoulderstand (with blankets)
  5. Legs-up the wall

Challenge

At the the beginning of the month, I decided to challenge myself to getting upside down at least once a day. Want to join me!? I challenge you to get your head below your heart 1x a day for at least 30 days. See what shifts and changes for you!

 

 

“Everything you think is true. The opposite is also true.” How to shift your self defeating thoughts

One of my biggest challenges as an artist is dealing with my internal negative self talk while I’m working. I fight against this belief that I have nothing worth saying. More often than not, thoughts like “nothing I create is good enough”, “I am not interesting” or “I am a fraud” come to the surface. This overwhelming self doubt creeps in and with it, a total lack of belief in myself.

Experiencing the inner lizard

Martha Beck, in her book Steering by Starlightcalls this internal voice the “Inner Lizard,” and she describes this voice as the reptile part of our brain that works from a position of flight or fight. It's job is to instinctively protect us from harm with it's well meaning, but often unhelpful “it’s out to get you” world view.

The problem is that most of the time, this instinct creates a morbid version of truth in our heads.

Situations you experience are mirrors of your mind

It’s normal to experience self-doubt. It's normal to have your inner lizard turn the volume way up every time you make a move to be vulnerable and open yourself up to the world. It’s like a S.O.S alarm for self preservation and protection that screams at you to shut the hell up (and offers all kinds of reasons why you should) so that you don’t get hurt.

 

But what happens if the Lizard always win? When you give in and internalize, truly + deeply, those thoughts as absolute truth, they become your reality.

Your thoughts become your experience.

For example, sometimes my belief that I have nothing to say stops me from speaking, showing up and sharing my truth. When I don’t open myself up to the world, my internal lizard speak becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You will become what you fear becoming. Your experiences will mirror your thoughts.

Release the belief that your thoughts are absolute truth

So, begin to question your thoughts. Are they really true? Martha Beck asks, “Is this thought always true or are there times when it could be false?”

Like this thought that I have nothing to say, that I am uninteresting and have no story to tell. Is it really true? Absolute truth?

Of course not.

Just yesterday, I climbed a pine studded ridge and skiied down it through knee deep powder. I put the finishing touches on a painting in between playing “going to the beach” with my daughter and then I sweat down to my soul at a hot yoga class. It was a day in my life well lived and I wasn’t bored with it for even a minute.

Our negative thoughts, even though they feel so real, are not absolute truth. Thoughts that come from a place of fear are never absolute truth.

Everything you think is true, the opposite is also true.

Dig out your negative thought patterns by writing them down. What are 5-10 thoughts you have about yourself that you repeat on the regular? (You know, lizard stuff like, “I’m fat” I’m not flexible” “I’m not creative”, “People don’t like me”, “I am a failure”, “I’ll never look like so + so”,  "I suck at [fill in the blank]”)

Write down an opposing view point of that statement. Make these second, life-affirming thoughts your new affirmations:

  • "I am uninteresting and have nothing to say" becomes "I have an interesting story and a unique perspective to share".
  • "I am a fraud" becomes "I am a living, breathing (artist, writer, entrepreneur, etc.) beautiful in all my imperfections".
  • "I'll never look like that beautiful yogi I see all over instagram" becomes "I am beautiful and shining in my own way". 
  • "I’ll never be good enough" becomes "I am continually learning, expanding and becoming a better + better version of myself".

Turn your self defeating thoughts upside down

You can turn your self defeating thoughts upside down all you have to do is shift your perspective.

How to shift your perspective

Here are 4 ways that you can shift your perspective and change the filter of your normal, negative self talk:

  1. Change up your environment. Find a small and simple way to shake up your normal routine + everyday way of being: Drive a new route to work, go for a walk in a new neighborhood, visit a coffee shop you’ve never been to, change around your living room.
  2. Start a handstand practice. Commit to literally turning yourself upside down every day. Not only will it help jolt you out of your current mindset, it also will help to wake you up and flush your brain with blood and oxygen.
  3. Create a touchstone to remind you that your thoughts are not absolute truth. Pick an object that represents this new idea. It could be a stone, a photograph, a small statue of an animal. (For mine, I found a little silver fish). Close your eyes and bring the intention to release the idea that your thoughts are absolute truth and then blow that intention into your object. Keep it somewhere safe and every time you find yourself moving down a path of negative self talk, get the object and hold it in the palm of your hand for a few moments and remind yourself of the message it contains.
  4. Sit in the all encompassing energy of the heart. There is a beautiful meditation that invites you to sit, slow down and tune into the pulse of your own heartbeat. You bring your attention to this most micro detail that you can experience within your own body, and it pulls your attention away from distraction of the negative thought patterns occurring in your brain. It shifts your attention away from your head and into your heart.
My favorite painting tool + a peek into my painting process

I use a lot of tools when I paint. Brushes, canvases, paints and palettes. But my absolute favorite tool in my painting tool bag is my intuition.

Painting is a great place to practice playing with intuition. When I begin to paint, I am constantly asking myself questions, like “what does my composition want to look like? What colors need to be used?” The answers to those questions naturally arise from an intuitive place. The more and more that I engage with the painting process, the more easily and quickly the answers arrive.

In one of my newest pieces, I wanted to create a strong, bold piece that addressed the theme of rising up from the strength within, from that place of steadiness within your center. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to access that in my own life, so I wanted to create a piece that explored this idea.

The pose that helps me embody the feeling of rising up out of my own strength is tree pose, where you are both rooted and at the same time expanding out. As I started to draw it, I discovered that a more close up version of the pose was asking to come out of the painting.

I also felt that the piece needed to have a mudra, a hand position, with one hand at the heart to represent the idea that that the strength comes from the heart, from the center and the other hand, reaching up and out.

This was the kind of information that started coming up as I was working on this piece. My intuitive voice spoke to me as I worked, guiding me through the creation of the painting.

The interesting thing about painting is that it is a fairly low risk way of working with the intuitive messages that arise. The worse that can happen is that you create something, make a mark or use a color in the way your intuition is telling you to and it doesn’t look good.

awake_process1_elizalynntobin.jpg

For example, at one point while I was painting "Awake", my intuitive voice dropped to say “it needs some green.” Okay cool, I put some blobs of green in there and that felt right. I listen in to what wants to come through and trust that, put it down and see what happens. Sometimes you put something down and it isn’t right and that’s no big deal, just cover it up.

When I can allow myself to work this way, the painting becomes a collaboration between me and my intuition.

When you can trust what you are being told, what is coming through you, the painting process becomes really exciting.

What it means to be Awake

I named this painting “Awake” because as I was creating it, it became clear to me that because I had drawn the figure so up close, she really needed to have a face with features.

At first, I painted her with her eyes closed, but it didn’t feel right, which I took as a message that she needed to have her eyes open, she needed to be awake. I repainted it with her eyes open, awake.

When I was younger I used to love draw faces. In high school and college, I would fill the corners of my notebooks with eyes and faces. I was fascinated with drawing eyes because when I was drawing them, a soul appeared on the page that was not me. There is that saying that eyes are the windows to the soul and there is something really cool about bringing a figure to life and giving her a soul in that way.

What I have learned about listening to my inner voice

I’m learning more and more to trust what I hear, trust what arises, trust what I feel. I’m learning to trust the messages that appear in imagery, especially if I see that image or symbol repeated over and over again in lots of places. I’m learning to pay attention to the messages, symbols and imagery instead of writing them off as nothing.

What I’m discovering is that our intuition is really accessible, it’s right there for you. It doesn’t have to be about some major thing. This inner voice, this part of you that knows, really does know. My biggest learning curve has been that the inner voice is worth trusting, trusting that when I get a message, it’s actually something.

Painting is a way to begin to trust the inner voice.


When I hear those inner messages about what needs to go where, what colors need to be expressed, what movement needs to be expressed, what shapes need to appear, all of that is coming from that intuitive place. And it becomes really fun when I can let go of the self critique, the self judgement and instead, play. When I take the pedal off the self-negative talk and instead allow it to be this process of play between me and my intuition.

Messages from Imagery

Marion Woodman has this beautiful idea that says, “Images have energy, they have power. That they come through to help you re-remember your wholeness.”

I love that idea that the images themselves that come through in the painting process can carry messages of healing and wisdom for us. The message that came up for me as I worked with this painting, Awake, was this:

Everything we need is within and we are so much more powerful than we even know.

We’ve got this incredible source of power within us and we no longer need to look outside of ourselves for the validation of our own power.

The figure in this painting is fierce about wanting us to know this about ourselves. We have to know this about ourselves, she’s awake and ready to tell us, to wake us up when we forget.