Conscious Inklings Blog. IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INK-SPIRATION. / ashley-berry
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of balance. It’s one of those things that we often take for granted, like our health, but once we’re struggling to maintain it, its value becomes abundantly clear. Losing your balance physically can be an uncomfortable and even scary experience. One moment you might be standing with your feet planted firmly on the ground, but then the surface beneath you shifts, and your body must immediately respond in order to regain stability. Luckily, our bodies are built with systems that work automatically to maintain physical equilibrium. We don’t have to think about how to adjust when we feel ourselves becoming unsteady; our limbs simply move into place to attain balance once again. But, what happens when the loss of balance occurs on an emotional or spiritual level?
We can lose our emotional balance in a number of ways. Unexpected life events sometimes leave us feeling as if the ground beneath our feet has shifted or we dedicate too much of our time or energy to only one aspect of our lives. Over time, too much or not enough work, play, sleep, or food eventually take its toll on our wellbeing. Addictions, emotional struggles, and unfair expectations lead us to push the boundaries of what is healthy for ourselves, and we restrict, over-indulge, pressure, or neglect ourselves until we feel completely disconnected from our own centers. We suddenly find ourselves living lifestyles that aren’t sustainable, but how do we stop? How do we find the balance that we lost?
Any yogi can tell you that balance is a skill that must be practiced and honed. It is not a static state that will necessarily persist once attained, but requires constant maintenance. You might find your balance, then start to lose it, recalibrate, and find balance again only to feel it slip once more. While our physical response to losing balance is automatic, it is still an ability that can be refined and the same is true of our ability to maintain emotional balance. It is through the practice of staying present in each moment and staying connected to our inner truths that we build a deeper awareness of the unique set of factors that lead to a strong spiritual foundation in each of our lives. As we becomes more tuned in to our emotional states, we see more clearly the signs that let us know when we have pushed ourselves too far or have neglected something that is vital to our sense of wellbeing, and we give ourselves the opportunity to become experts in the never-ending art of creating balance.
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This is certainly not to say that their lives are perfect by any means, but that in the midst of even their most difficult times, they know that the moment will eventually pass, and they focus on looking for something positive in every moment, every interaction, every life experience that comes their way. They make it their mission to find joy, beauty, and love in everything around them.
So this is the part where I remind you that the title of this article is “The secret to life” not “ I have the secret to life”, because I certainly haven’t figured this one out, yet. Still, I have been very observant of those around me who seem to have the hang of it. I notice the ways that they breathe into the difficult moments, let go of the things that do not serve them, and move towards the experiences that make them feel blissfully alive, and I take very good notes. (Mostly, mentally though because it might creep my friends out a bit if I was following them around with a notepad and pen.)
I pay close attention as they handle the situations that arise in their own lives with a sense of acceptance and faith, compassion for themselves and others, and a joy that is not based in anything more than the simple joy of being alive and present for the moment at hand. I watch as they approach their experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to laugh at life’s ironies and at themselves. I watch and I remind myself that the secret to life is not a magic bullet that rushes in, but is, in fact, a practice. It is a conscious choice to set positive intentions for yourself and others every day. It involves a constant dedication to creating a life that is rich with positivity and love, and even though it may not make all of life’s difficulties disappear, it most certainly creates a new perspective in which every experience can be embraced as part of the simultaneously intricate and beautifully simple experience of a life well-lived.
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I wanted to argue with her, to defend myself, and to tell her that you can’t just decide to forgive someone. I wanted to say that you have to truly feel forgiveness before you can bestow it upon someone else, and as much sometimes I wish I could, I can’t choose what to feel. Clearly, her comment had struck a nerve, and in my experience, that typically means that someone has shone a light on a truth that is difficult to face.
Since our conversation, I noticed that messages about forgiveness were popping up all around me, and once again, I knew that the universe was trying to show me the places inside of myself where I still had room to grow. If I am going to be really honest, I have not been very good at forgiving people. I have struggled with holding on to hurt and anger, and at points, have held grudges for very long periods of time.
I used to think of forgiveness as something that we do for someone else, to release another person from their guilt, but in recent years, I have had a new experience of forgiveness. I have had moments in which, quite spontaneously, I could feel myself releasing the hurt and anger that I had held onto from old, broken relationships. These moments left me humbled as I felt the heavy burden of carrying all of that negative energy lift, and this new sense of lightness led me to the realization that forgiveness is much more about the individual who is giving forgiveness than the one who is receiving it.
The actions of others that tend to hurt and anger us the most are usually the ones that reflect the parts of ourselves with which we struggle most intensely. The things that are the hardest to forgive are often the things that hit closest to home, the things that we too feel guilt around. Just like you have to truly love yourself before you can love another, you must also forgive yourself before you can forgive others, and the key that unlocks the door to forgiveness is compassion.
Jack Kornfield says that, “forgiveness simply means never putting another person out of your heart.” As we develop a deep sense of compassion for ourselves, we can extend that love and understanding to include those around us. While it may not be possible to simply choose to feel forgiveness toward someone, we can start with trying to understand that person. Even the tiniest spark of empathy can be fed and tended to until it builds into the full flame of compassion that allows us to release hurt and pain and to let go The temporary tattoos in the Conscious Ink Store were designed to promote personal growth and inspire people to live the most authentic, blissful lives they can imagine.
Gratitude is a tricky thing. It’s not necessarily something you can create or just conjure up out of nowhere. Doing something expecting gratitude rarely evokes the desired response and I’m sure that many of us have had the experience of struggling to find something to appreciate in a given moment. As a child and young adult, I often thought of gratitude as something that you express for the sake of someone else; I thought the whole point of expressing gratitude was to make someone else feel good or to be polite. I’ve realized, however, that, while it definitely feels good to know that you’re appreciated, the experience of really connecting with how much you value, appreciate, and are truly thankful for something in your life is an incredibly enriching experience on a personal level.
Gratitude has the capacity to inspire us to be more generous, to give us a new perspective on the world around us, and even to heal us. One of the beautiful things about gratitude is that there is an infinite number of things that can elicit it. We can feel gratitude for the people in our lives that have supported and guided us. We can feel appreciation for our health and for the luxuries that are so easily taken for granted every day: the food that nourishes us, the comforts of our homes, and the opportunities that we have been blessed with in our lives. Even simple things, like a smile from a stranger, a beautiful day, or the experience of feeling seen, acknowledged, or understood can fill us with so much gratitude.
Of course, there are times when it can be difficult to connect with that sense of thankfulness. When we find ourselves in circumstances that trigger fear, anger, or pain, it can often feel like there isn’t enough room for gratitude as well. Even in these moments though, if we can take a step back and just breathe into the difficult part of the situation, we can see that these experiences can be full of gifts as well. They provide us with the opportunity to grow, to learn, and to test and stretch the limits of what we believe we are capable of. It is often the very experience of struggle that helps us develop a greater capacity for humility and compassion. It is in these moments that we have the chance to fully explore what it means to be a human being with the myriad of sensations, emotions, and experiences that come along with it, and what can any one of us be more grateful for than that?
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**Lots of GRATITUDE to Suzanne Campbell for the photos featured in this article**
Life is this moment now. In this instance, I get in my car and drive. One freeway to the next, along the ocean, and I can feel the mountain calling me, inviting me in. I am carrying the burdens of a modern life. My body is tense, my mind races, and I am restless, agitated. I go to the mountain, because like a mother, she is soothing, unconditionally loving. She is always there, ready to accept me with open arms, and as soon as I am near, I can already feel my body relaxing, my thoughts slowing down.
I take the path I usually take but I start from the opposite end and the change in direction makes everything new. The same trees, rocks, and grooves in the trail that I have always noticed look completely different and I am reminded of how the smallest shift can completely change my perspective. The mountain is my teacher, and even though I have walked these trails a million times, there is always something new to learn. I learn my strengths and weaknesses. I learn what I am capable of. I learn the truths that emanate from every living thing around me.
There is no past, no future. Life is this moment now. One foot in front of the other, just breathe, enjoy the scenery, let the light nourish me, and let the silence unveil the knowledge that I carry deep inside me; I live in a generous universe. I have everything I need right here. All supports me. I am loved. I am enough. I am more than enough. I am part of this magnificent creation.
As I walk and run along the paths, I can feel that I am connected to everything around me. I make it to the top, but it is not a finish line. There are many hills and valleys along the way and every part of the journey has something to offer me if I am open and willing to receive the gifts that are present in every moment. Blue dragonflies and grey brown lizards dance and scamper around me, and all is well in my world. I let go of the last drops of negative energy. I let them seep right out of my pores and I feel lighter, freer. I am at peace, full of joy. Every cell in body is in perfect order.
The temporary tattoos featured in this article are available at The Conscious Ink Store!
Conscious Ink tattoos are designed to foster growth, love, and a blissfully authentic life.
*Special thanks to the photographer, Suzanne Campbell
I couldn’t have imagined anything worse. To never be able to share things with other people, to never be able to connect
with another person again was a completely horrifying idea. Without those things, I can’t imagine that life would hold anywhere near as much joy or laughter.
The funny thing is that the chance of there being a total apocalypse, while not completely impossible, is pretty unlikely, and it’s even more unlikely that if all human life suddenly ceased to exist, I would somehow be the only one to survive. So why, even after waking, did this dream send shivers of panic through me? Why did this dream continue to plague me night after night?
For much of my life, I have had a very hard time being alone. Growing up, it seemed I was always with other people, whether it was my sister or my friend next door. Even throughout college, I often slept over at friends’ houses because I never wanted to go home. I never wanted to be alone. I think, somewhere along the way, I developed this idea that if I was alone, I would feel lonely, and who wants to feel that?
In recent years though, various life circumstances have led me to spend a lot more time by myself and, quite unexpectedly, I have come to appreciate time spent in my own company. I actually can’t even remember the last time I had the apocalyptic nightmare and I think the reason is that I finally shone a light under the bed where the monster was supposed to be hiding and found that the fear was not based in anything true. Rather than finding loneliness in my time away from others, I found a greater sense of intimacy with myself, an ability to be more authentic, and a deeper sense of peace
but the way that I approach my time with others has changed as well. While I certainly still love to meet new people and to spend time with my friends and family, I don’t feel such a strong need to constantly surround myself with others. This allows me to be more thoughtful about the ways that I share my time with the people in my life and leads me to be so much more grateful for the moments I share with them, the learning that can come out of each experience, and the opportunities I have to share myself and my gifts with the people around me. I am more present for each moment, and as a result, the sense of connectedness I gain through these experiences is so much more profound.
Since I have started being alone more, the interactions I do have with other people seem to carry more weight, and I find that I am more aware of the ways I interact with people. The exchange with the person ringing me up in the store, making eye contact with someone I pass on the street, even conversations with people that I still speak to regularly, but much less frequently than I used to, become illuminated and I feel more attuned to the impact we have on each other and the importance of taking every opportunity to share positivity and love with others.
Another thing that I have become more attuned to is the way that loneliness does not really result from being away from others. Loneliness can strike whether you are living a solitary life on a mountaintop or spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week surrounded by people, because loneliness is not so much a result of being physically alone. Loneliness is the result of an emotional sense of being alone, a sense of disconnectedness, and the great thing about that is that is that it really is only a feeling. The truth
is that we are all connected in infinite ways. We are never truly alone, well, unless of course there actually is an apocalypse, but even then, we can connect with all the love
that we have shared, the memories of everyone who has touched our lives, and be filled up with the beauty and joy of these experiences. We always have that choice; so as long as we choose to stay conscious of that connectedness, there may be times in life where we find that we must be alone, loneliness is always optional.
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The process of turning my attention to my communication habits allowed me to notice all sorts of patterns that I hadn’t really been aware of before. For example, I noticed that I frequently drift off mentally while in conversation with others. I start thinking about my day or my life and am no longer really tuned in to the person who is speaking to me. I also noticed that quite often when I am “listening”, I am actually just waiting for my turn to talk, and that when I talk, I am often doing so to fill empty space, to distract myself from uncomfortable feelings, or to seek validation.
All of these things are pretty normal, and I would guess that most of us find ourselves falling into these habits from time to time, but any time I notice a pattern in my life, I like to ask myself some questions. How is this pattern serving me? Is this a pattern that I want to continue? Or, is this a pattern that I learned long ago, but isn’t actually useful anymore?
The simple answer is that, while these patterns may have served me at one time, they no longer achieve the desired effect. The greatest part of communicating with others is the connection that comes from sharing experiences. If I am not actually being present with the person I am communicating with and really listening to what they have to say, then I am missing out on a lot of the gifts that they have to share with me. It is very comforting when friends are willing to be sounding boards as I try to sort through my thoughts and feelings, but talking endlessly about an issue until I sound like a broken record is really only a temporary distraction from actually dealing with whatever is troubling me and doesn’t honor my friends’ time or attention. Also, if I find myself continually seeking validation from others, and the need doesn’t seem to be getting adequately filled, perhaps it is a need that must be filled from within, from quieting my mind and really listening to myself. After all, that voice inside, the one that can so easily be muffled over with endless chatter and mental busy work, may be the most important voice to listen to of all and there is only one person who can actually hear it.
So, my commitment to try to be a better listener continues. I try to listen intently when people are speaking to me. I try to be more conscious of what I am saying and why, and I try to be quiet often enough to hear my inner voice, the greatest guide I have. Some days I find myself succeeding and other days I completely miss the mark, but all I can do is set my intention every day and know that, even if it is only inch by inch, I am moving decidedly in the right direction.
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Someone asked me recently what my greatest accomplishment was, and to be honest, I was completely stumped. I thought about my life and surveyed my experiences trying to determine what I was most proud of. As I tried to think of all of the things I had achieved in my life, I realized that what I was most proud of was not something I had done so much as it was who I had become.
For so much of my life, I lived in a place of self-doubt and self-criticism. I was so quick to ask myself “what if I can’t?” or “what if I fail?” I chose the paths that seemed to pose the least amount of risk; but by playing it safe, I was depriving myself of opportunities for true growth and ignoring the voice deep inside of me that was beckoning me to follow my heart, to pursue the things that made me feel most alive, and to create the life that I dreamt of.
Over time, I realized that telling myself that my dreams were too big and settling for a life that seemed "good enough" was not a path to happiness. I realized that, in order to find true fulfillment, I needed to be the architect of my own world, to develop my own unique vision of a full and happy life, and then work to create that every day. But before I could create the life that I wanted, I needed to do some internal spring-cleaning and clear out the clutter that had accumulated in my life. I needed to let go of the fear, the self-doubt, and the beliefs that were holding me back from living my bliss.
It is a never-ending process, and it requires a consistent, conscious effort, but as I began to clear away the thoughts and behaviors that were no longer serving me, I was surprised by the things that I found, things that were always there but had been buried under all of the negative self-talk and limiting beliefs. I found courage, not as something that magically appears out of nowhere, but as something that can be practiced and developed. I found faith, as I surrendered myself to a life of authenticity. The "what if"s no longer held so much weight as I found that choosing the things that feel right and true for me at my core will always lead me to where I should be. And as I began to make authenticity a way of life, I found a kind of happiness that I had never known before--a happiness that radiates from deep within me, one that doesn’t hinge upon the opinions of others or things going my way or measurable forms of success. The happiness that I found was the joyful experience of truly being myself and its has impacted my life in so many ways.
I am now more present, every day. I work harder at everything I do because I own the choices I make and choose to do the things that nourish my soul. I try to embrace every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow, and I bring more positivity into my relationships and the world around me because I have discovered a powerful source of love and light inside of myself, and I am absolutely certain that there is no accomplishment that could be greater than that.
“Whomever you truly are... honor that person. No dream was ever realized by disappearing into the shadows of self-deceit and doubt.” - Jaeda DeWalt
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Welcome to Conscious Inklings—the official blog for Conscious Ink! The team at Conscious Ink is so excited that so many people have come to know and love our unique body art and our company’s mission to spread inspiration, love, and growth. Conscious Inklings will provide our customers and supporters another way to stay connected to the positive messages of Conscious Ink, and we will feature articles aimed at inspiring, encouraging, and promoting greater awareness, as well as news about what is going on in the wonderful world of Conscious Ink.
For those of you who haven’t already heard, Conscious Ink is an innovative company that creates unique temporary tattoos and greeting cards that bear empowering messages and positive affirmations, however Conscious Ink is so much more than just a tattoo and card company. It is a manifestation of one man’s mission to touch the lives of others.
Frank Gjata has many passions, and the thread that connects all of his endeavors is a genuine desire to encourage the growth of others and to support people on their paths to becoming the most authentic, aware, and blissful versions of themselves possible. It was out of this desire that Conscious Ink was born.
Like most truly inspired ideas, this one struck quite unexpectedly when Frank’s daughter, Eve, came home from a birthday party one day with some temporary tattoos. It occurred to Frank that these very simple little pieces of body art could be an incredibly effective medium to positively impact people’s lives on a daily basis through the power of intention. Research has demonstrated the ability of conscious intention to affect change at the microscopic level of matter, creating waves of impact in our lives. What we believe, hope for, and desire, truly does affect the world around us!
Frank envisioned temporary tattoos that were fun fashion statements and powerful tools to help people set and stay connected to positive intentions in their daily lives. The practice of selecting a Conscious Ink tattoo that has a personal significance or meaning and applying that message to your body creates a ritual around setting positive intentions. You may choose to wear your Conscious Ink tattoos somewhere very visible so that you can share your intentions with others, or you might want to wear them “secretly” as a personal reminder of an intention you have set for yourself. Regardless of how you choose to wear them, the messages we share with Conscious Ink tattoos are “temporary on the skin, indelible on the soul”.
Each Conscious Ink tattoo is designed to promote empowerment and healing with great care put into every detail from the meaning of the words to the aesthetics of the script and color choices. Conscious Ink tattoos are also produced with the utmost consideration of global sustainability and socially conscious business practices. We do our best to ensure that our products and methods are as “green” as possible and we are constantly striving to find ways to make Conscious Ink a company that truly lives up to its name.
We hope you will join us as we continually put forth our conscious intention to create positive change throughout the world and we will look forward to all of the exciting and wonderful things that are sure to come!
Last week I made the drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco for a dear friend’s wedding. I have made this drive so many times before. 380 miles. Hours of straight, flat road. In the past, it was always a game: fly as fast as you can up the highway without getting caught. For most of the drive, the speed limit is 75 MPH, but when you have hundreds of miles of open road stretching out in front of you and a horizon that seems to recede endlessly into the distance, even 90 MPH seems painfully slow.
I would drive as fast as my conscience could stand, alternating between staring at the horizon, wishing to be there, and neurotically checking my rear view mirror for black and white cars with blue and red lights. The whole time, I would wish for it to be over. I would wish for the hours to go by quickly. I would wish hours of my life away.
But this time was different. It had been years since I had last made this drive, and so many things about my perspective had shifted since then. Despite all of the exciting things that awaited me in San Francisco and all of the people that I couldn’t wait to see, I set out on this trip with the conscious intention to remain patient, to not rush through this journey, these six hours of my life. I set an intention to be present.
The funny thing is, the trip went by faster this way. It still took me the same amount of time, but I allowed myself to be absorbed in the experience, rather than fighting it. Instead of constantly checking my clock and my mileage, calculating how much longer it would take at my current speed, I stayed present with the journey.
I noticed the beauty of the scenery; I enjoyed the peacefulness of the solitude and the singular task in front of me, just to drive. I had expected to feel frustration, but instead I felt gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to see my friends and be with them for this important moment in their lives. Gratitude for the opportunity to take a vacation from work, for the opportunity to travel to a city that I have always loved. I recognized how different this experience was and the ways I have changed, become a little more peaceful and aware, and I was grateful for that, too. Even the little things, the lambs frolicking in the open pastures along the highway and the children waving and giggling from their backseat window as they passed me, brought me so much joy.
I wondered why I had resisted this experience in the past. I had spent so much time staring at the horizon, wishing to already be there. I had missed everything that was right here. I know I have done and continue to do this in so many areas of my life, particularly in my career and romantic life. I have this idea that somewhere, over there on the horizon, things will be better. Once I have the career of my dreams, the relationship I have always wanted…maybe once I have the perfect body or have reached some sort of nirvana where all of the aspects of myself that I consider flawed have melted away, I will float through life in a state of permanent bliss.
But this is it. This is where bliss happens. Right here. Not over there somewhere, out on a horizon that will probably always elude me, because, that’s what horizons do. They are only illusions. Just like my eyes perceive an endpoint to the landscape in front of me, my mind creates some sort of finish line in my life, but neither is real. Once I reach the farthest point that I can see right now, there will be a new horizon, just as far away. And even if I do achieve my dream career, my ideal body, and find the perfect relationship, my perspective will have changed along the way and there will be new things to attain, new endpoints in the distance. So, for now, I will enjoy the scenery wherever I am at. I will notice the beauty all around me, the giggling children, and the lambs frolicking in the open pastures. After all, the grass is pretty green right here.
You can find all of the tattoos from this article over at the Conscious Ink Temporary Tattoo Store along with many other beautiful temporary tattoos designed to help you Be Present, find your Bliss, and remember that Life is This Moment Now.