Photos by Nicholas Shepherd

I want to make smart mistakes.

I read this statement recently, but it has been beyond me to recall or research its source; regardless, the statement has haunted my thoughts since. Smart mistakes, what does this mean? I am certain for each of us, the meaning is unique; from my perspective, I’d chance – to drink deeply from our previous experiences and proceed with greater wisdom.

I reach into my toolbox: my past experiences or the lessons I have gleaned from the brief amount of time I have lived thus far; the lessons which serve to further my intuition and internal compass. If my experiences do not serve me, I have been asleep at the wheel, and only continued practice in presence can save me now. I am choosing to avoid those decisions which lead to greater harm, heartache, and grief. I repeat, I repeat, I repeat to myself, I want to make smart mistakes ~ never as simplistic as it sounds, I am up for the challenge. Experience reminds me this often means choosing the more difficult path and denying some form of immediate gratification or passion. I know the deeply intentional, personal choices are not those in which we receive compliments or praise.

I understand myself better than I have ever allowed or attempted to before. With every moment I take to further my personal growth, I feel a foundation spreading wider beneath my feet. I openly admit there are days, even months, when perseverance and resilience are the only realistic motivation left to muster. My coinciding battle is building trust and holding faith in my ability to succeed as I make choices based on limited-but-expanding knowledge, what little self-awareness I possess. As a lesson in self-confidence, I ask myself to not shy away from the fears that inevitably ensue; the more I set aside my ego and my fear, the more I can learn about that which I do not know but aspire to.

Photos by Nicholas Shepherd

My New Years Resolution this year going in to 2020 was, “to let go of expectations for myself.”

The modern world is a constant comparison society; we confront a barrage of marketing, materialism, celebrity worship culture, social-media distortion, unfiltered information sharing, and technology addiction daily. I am not above nor immune to its temptations and without consistent mindfulness the anxious spiral my life could take is vast.
I am enough. I do enough. I have enough.

Easily I am tempted to succumb to the trap of discontent, where nothing is ever sufficient and gratitude is a forgotten thought reserved for the spiritually inclined. I have built the life I currently lead, for myself and my son, based on many varied, beautiful, challenging beginnings. My successes do not fit in the mold I was presented through the media or in books as a child, but my family has more than we need for our basic survival and I am proud of my fortitude to always put one foot before the other. I have faced the fire and come out, perhaps a bit crisp, but still standing. My life is not a recipe to follow as described in a Woman’s or Mother’s Handbook to Living. I am in the right place, at the right time, living exact moments as I design them. I falter when I compare myself to others and by doing so I build unbalance where I know I have two feet to stand upright.

Fear is my constant companion. Everything leading up to the present moment I exist in has defined who I am and begs to be labeled as baggage or wisdom. Once again I attempt to play the devil’s advocate and challenge back by asking what do I already know which can allow me to make the smarter choice, avoid making the same mistake? Additionally, I attempt to pause before setting those impossible standards and expectations. My happiness is glacial, it ebbs and flows, I struggle with change but rely on its dependability. My goal is to focus less on happiness and more on presence, thankfulness, balance, grace, trust, community. My joy is balanced when I find equilibrium between meeting my basic needs and giving to back to others.

The best advise I can give, even though you have asked for none, is – Question the things which lead you to anger and resentment; cultivate that which brings you to self-introspection and expands your perspective. Be eager to learn. Admit when you are wrong and strive to learn from an objective, unbiased point of view.


Learn from these facets of Nature: though trampled on by all, be firm in your adversity like the earth itself; from these mountains which hold their mineral and other resources for the welfare of the world, learn that you must live for others and not for yourself; like the wind, you must be able to pass through unhindered; all-pervasive, touching everything, yet itself untouched, the sky is verily the shining paradigm of the Yogin; you should be limpid, pure, purifying, pleasing and refreshing like water; effulgent with the lustre of wisdom like the fire that reduces to ashes all impurity; like the python, lie still and take only what comes to you, and when nothing comes, fast as the python does; like the sea, deep and unfathomable, neither be swollen by what flows into you nor be depleted by what is withdrawn from you; like the bee, take in little by little, and from good and bad alike, extract the essence even as the bee gathers honey. 


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