Tag Archives: inspiration

Relearning an old lesson

Last week, in my five-month letter from Paris, I said Paris’s grim and grey day-to-day life had thrown me into melancholie. As I wrote that letter, I longed for blue skies and friendly faces, but I felt they would never come. Well, ask and you shall receive, my friends! These past few days have been some of the sunniest I’ve seen all winter.

My friend Matthieu snapped these photos a couple of days ago as we strolled through the Parc de Sceaux, which I blogged about  last year. The sun was teasing us as we walked, peeking out from behind the clouds just long enough for us to notice how beautiful the park looked in its rays.

parc de sceaux 1parc de sceaux 2parc de sceaux 3

Do you see the rainbow?

It snowed a day after Matthieu took those pictures, and he went back to the park to capture it under a light blanket of snow.

parc de sceaux snow 1parc de sceaux snow 3parc de sceaux snow 5parc de sceaux snow 4

 Hm, that château looks familiar

It’s amazing how when you ask for something and actively strive to bring it into your life, it appears. I’m not just talking about sun, here. I mean that optimism and happiness I thought I’d lost. I mean friends and family who take all the clouds away. Sometimes, all you need to do is reach out to people and empower yourself in order for the things you desire to appear in your life. I’ve learned that first-hand in the past week or so, and it’s a lesson I’ll be sure to never forget.

It’s funny, though— I’d already come across this life lesson before.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.”

That quotation comes from Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I read over the summer. I shared this quote and many others from the book on the blog, but just like blessings, words of wisdom are things we need to continuously revisit, relearn and reapply.

As I continue to seek out positivity, now and throughout my entire life journey, I know this lesson will find me again and again. And thank goodness for it.

What are your favorite words of wisdom? Share them in the comments below, this girl can always use them! 

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

All photos are by Matthieu Surjous! Merci beaucoup! 

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Introducing the 40 Day Savannah Smiles Challenge (!!!)

Salut tout le monde! A couple of days ago, I told you in my most recent letter from Paris that these past five-ish months have eroded my optimism. I said my smile had faded, and with it my once ever-positive spirit. Well, after reading lots of motivating articles and blogs (which just sort of found their way onto my screen, really. Ask and you shall receive!) and getting lots of much appreciated encouragement from you wonderful folks, I’ve found the inspiration to take my happiness into my own hands and get my smile back. As a dear friend told me after reading my letter, “Much like good food, happiness is something we have to make for ourselves, not seek in the ready-made aisle.”

This brings me to the….

challenge!

(!!!)

(^^^that means I’m excited)

I am ready to see Paris in a new way and make this a positive experience, one I will look back on with joy.

As another darling friend of mine told me, sometimes we create a pattern of negativity. Gloominess creeps into our lives like bad habits, and we learn to expect it, just as I expect the sky to be grey when I wake each morning.

To reverse this pattern of negativity, I’m going to create a routine that invites beauty, creativity and optimism into my life by engaging in activities that make me happy. For 40 days, I am going follow this plan, and hopefully, by February 19th, I will have a consistent routine to follow, one that will make me smile and light up my life (queue Debby Boone).

Here’s the plan:

I will start each day with: Three sun salutations and a poem.

I will end each day with: Three moon salutations and a journal entry.

To close my entry, I will write: 

  • one thing I found beautiful that day,
  • one thing I am grateful for and
  • one thing I am looking forward to.

And that’s it! Start simple. Start small. And big things will follow.

I will be sure to blog more regularly to give you updates on the beautiful things I’m finding in this Paris life, what I’m reading and how this is improving my optimism. If you want to follow along on a more day to day basis, join Untethered as a Cloud on Facebook!

Want to bring more positivity into your life?

Join me! 

Here’s what to do: 

  1. Take a few minutes to think about the positive things you enjoy that you want to incorporate into your daily life. For me this is yoga, poetry and journaling. 
  2. Once you’ve identified a few of these activities, think of one simple way to integrate each one into your everyday routine. Do you like reading? Try reading a chapter a day. Want to get better at photography? Try taking one photo each day. It’s the little things!
  3. Make a plan and write it down. Leave a comment below and tell me what you’re going to do each day to bring a little more positivity to your life. Making a declaration is the first step to realizing your goal, and I would be honored if you joined me. Can’t wait to see your own challenges!

Keep the smiles coming,

Savannah

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Eat Pray Love– A Treasure Trove

I never expected to have a faith-affirming experience while sunbathing on a polka-dotted inner tube, floating on the Joe in St. Maries, Idaho. I’d just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love and the eb and flow of the water was churning my reflections. Reading Eat Pray Love, a memoir about Gilbert’s emotional and spiritual journey through Italy, India and Indonesia, had felt like meandering blissfully through an antique shop. I didn’t walk in with the intention of getting anything, just looking. But as I weaved my way through the endless nooks and crannies, I discovered gem after gem after gem. I hadn’t hoped to get so much out of a book that hit the reading market the way Justin Bieber hit the music industry. The teeny boppers and soccer moms drooled while the snobs shrugged, “It’s just a fad.” Then– BOOM! Here come the awards, the critics, the interviews and finally– The Movie. So much for “fad.” Even so, I snubbed Eat Pray Love until a friend recommended it. Luckily my mother had it collecting dust on her bookshelf. She thought it was self-indulgent, so much so that she hadn’t been able to finish. Her criticism (and the fact that it is partly true) didn’t stop me from reading every word, and rereading those that resonated. Eat Pray Love is one of those books a reader needs to be ready for. Books like this one find you when you need them, and if you let them inside your world, they can take you places you ain’t never been before, as our boy Bieber would say.

By the end of my own journey with Eat Pray Love,  I found myself bobbing in a river, basking in my inner peace and contentment. I knew I’d found tranquility when a dragonfly landed on my knee, glimmering iridescent in the sunlight. I watched it rub its hands together, opening and closing its pac-man mouth. Somehow, this vulnerable little insect had determined my body was a safe place to rest, and even more remarkably, I didn’t flinch or brush it away. The dragonfly stayed with me for several minutes until I slapped at a fly that had landed on my elbow. When I looked back at my knee, the dragonfly was gone. But I could still feel its presence, as if its spirit and the spirit of the entire universe had imprinted themselves upon my skin. I knew then that I believed in Divinity, that I had faith in Love. And that I am ready to travel my own path.

While Eat Pray Love did not bring me to this moment singlehandedly, it certainly gave me the extra nudge I needed to get there. Here are some of the nugets I found that either got me thinking, laughing, or praying:

On faith:

Human discontentment is a simple case of mistaken identity. We’re miserable because we think that we are mere individuals, alone with our fears and flaws and resentments and mortality. We wrongly believe that our limited little egos constitute our whole nature. We have failed to recognize our deeper divine character. We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme Self who is eternally at peace. That supreme Self is our true identity, universal and divine.” (122)

“I stood up and did a handstand on my Guru’s roof, to celebrate the notion of liberation. I felt the dusty tiles under my hands. I felt my own strength and balance. I felt the easy night breeze on the palms of my bare feet. This kind of thing– a spontaneous handstand– isn’t something a disembodied cool blue soul can do, but a human being can do it. We have hands; we can stand on them if we want to. That’s our privilege. That’s the joy of a mortal body. And that’s why God needs us. Because God loves to feel things through our hands.” (188)

“God dwells within you, as you.” (Gilbert’s Guru, 191)

“Imagine that the universe is a great spinning engine. You want to stay near the core of the thing– right in the hub of the wheel– not out at the edges where all the wild whirling takes place, where you get frayed and crazy. The hub of calmness– that’s your heart. That’s where God lives within you. So stop looking for answers in the world. Just keep coming back to that center and you’ll always find peace.” (Sean, the Yogic Irish dairy farmer, 207)

On love: 

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it.” (Richard from Texas, 149)

Wayan’s “Fail-Proof Broken-Heart Curing Treatment: Vitamin E, get much sleep, drink much water, travel to a place far away from the person you loved, meditate and teach your heart that this is destiny.” (Wayan, 264)

On life: 

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” (95)

In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasure cannot be bargained down. And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.” (114)

We gallop through our lives like circus performers balancing on two speeding side-by-side horses– one foot is on the horse called ‘fate,’ the other on the horse called ‘free will.’ And the question you have to ask every day is– which horse is which? Which horse do I need to stop worrying about because it’s not under my control, and which do I need to steer with concentrated effort?” (177)

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.” (One of Gilbert’s Guru’s teachings, 260)

“[The Zen Buddhists] say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree. Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well– the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens…

…It is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born.” 

(329)

What did you think of Eat Pray Love? Which books have touched your life? Let me know in comments below!

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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For my father

My dad always told me his first fatherly impulse was to nibble a small chunk out of my earlobe so that the nurses in the hospital wouldn’t confuse me with any of the other babies. Now that’s love.

Since the day I came kicking and screaming into this world, red-headed and pink, my dad has been one of my greatest allies, and one of my dearest friends.

Many of my earliest memories include my father. I remember sitting on his lap and attempting to keep our green-blue Chevy on the road as he worked the foot pedals. I remember attacking him with karate chops during the epic taekwondo battles we had in our living room, or sometimes in the kitchen. I will never forget the day we tucked Cheetos under the lettuce of my mother’s ham sandwich. We made such a devious team.

When I was very little, my dad took me out to Arizona’s open fields and taught me how to shoot a bow and arrow; a few years later he took me to the same fields and taught me how to shoot a gun. He insisted that I know how to build a fire, and he bought me my first carving knives. We went fishing often when I was a girl, and on my 15th (maybe 14th?) birthday, my dad took me out to the driveway and presented me with my very own two-person kayak.

About half way through my high school years, I joined a band  called the Crisis No. 1. My father, who is also a musician, made sure I had a mic stand and a microphone to sing into at every show. When our band performed at our senior prom, my dad filmed every minute of our set, and now, his recordings are some of the only video footage we have to commemorate the Crisis and the years we spent playing together.

My dad never told me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. He never shot down any dream or ambition, and he always let me talk to him about anything and everything. As I grew from a little girl into a young woman, my relationship with my father became even stronger. Sometimes, I felt more comfortable talking to my dad than I did talking to my mom. Other times, I felt perfectly content to not talk at all, and my dad and I would simply enjoy the silence. Now, after 19 years, my dad continues to be one of my biggest fans, and I know that he will support me in every endeavor and help me overcome any obstacle. His love for me is unconditional and his faith in me is unwavering.

In case I haven’t made it clear by now, my father is the best dad any girl could ask for. So today, I’m blogging not only about my father but because of my father. 

Blog for International Women’s Day:

How can we, as a culture and as members of the global community, involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way?
Describe a particular organization, person, group or moment in history that helped to inspire a positive future and impact the minds and aspirations for girls.

As members of a global community, we must strive to embrace girls and their dreams, just as my father did. We must never deny their ambitions, and we must always hold them to high standards. When my bubbly, curly-haired cousin was 5, I asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up. “I’m going to have a lemonade stand!” she squealed. Some may have responded, “That’s not a real job!” But I said, “Madison, then you will be the best lemonade stand owner in all of history.” We can’t shoot down our girls’ dreams, even if they start out small. In order to empower women, we need to raise empowered girls.

This may seem obvious, but too often I hear of people, and not just girls, whose goals were shut down by parents, mentors, teachers, friends. This is not only detrimental to individuals, but to communities and to our world as a whole. Belittling ambition, whether it is by force, violence, stigmatization, or denial of opportunity, is the first step to forging an oppressed society, one in which people are unhappy and unfulfilled. Empowering individuals of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities and otherwise to pursue their dreams is the first step to freedom.

So, today, let us turn to our allies and acknowledge all they have done to inspire our lives and the lives of others around them. More over, let us strive to do for others what they have done for us. Believe in your loved ones and add fire to their dreams; do not douse them in pessimism and doubt. Instead, inspire, invite and invigorate the ambition of others. And do so tenaciously.

Even if that means you have to bite off an ear or two.

Happy International Women’s Day,

Savannah

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