Discovering light in the hills of Gold Country

A testimonial of my transformative experience working with ZAMS Photography by Zita

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
– Marianne Williamson

I can count on one hand the number of times in my life where I have felt completely connected to my purpose and wholeheartedly myself. Giving birth to my son, teaching my first yoga class and most recently discovering my inner light with ZAMS Photography – these experiences have each touched my soul – moments where my mind, body and the universe were in perfect alignment.

After a series of traumatic life challenges and heartbreaks, I was feeling disempowered and disconnected from source, uncertain of my place in a world seemingly so full of suffering. I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook one morning when I came across ZAMS Photography by Zita’s post on a special project honoring women over thirty.

I have been a silent admirer of Zita’s work in the community for several years. She has a unique ability to capture the divine feminine through her photographs, eternal moments captured in time. From my first conversation with Zita I felt an immediate connection and knew I was given a rare opportunity to rediscover myself through this project.

Initially when I signed up, I felt insecurity rise around my aging face and body. The camera would capture all my imperfections, some lines carved out from smiles and laughter, others etched from deep sorrow and sadness. I would be unable to hide all I have put my body through over the years – marathon training, child birth, intense yoga practices – I have pushed my body to its limits. Most damaging to my body have been the unkind thoughts, the false stories we tell ourselves when we feel we are not enough.

In spite of my fears, I moved forward in working with Zita because in my heart I knew this was the path forward. This project was an opportunity to honor my body which has been the vessel through which I have moved through and experienced life.

Zita’s enthusiasm was contagious as we collaborated in phone conversations, a shared Pinterest board and a video chat reviewing outfits and our collective vision for the session. On the day of the photo shoot, as I drove down the windy dirt road to the studio property, I made an agreement with myself to be completely present and allow the day to unfold organically. I set an intention to be authentically myself – confident and vulnerable, playful and free.

When I pulled up to the property, rustic and charming, tucked away in the hills of Gold Country, a sense of calmness washed over me as Zita welcomed me with open arms and a warm smile. We walked up the steps to the private studio and as I entered the chic and cozy space I felt at peace.

Zita in action setting up in her private studio

The makeup artist greeted me with kindness as I sat down and surrendered myself to her expert hands. She went to work highlighting my eyes as the three of us chatted and enjoyed one another’s company. Even though we had work to do, it felt natural and light, as though each of us were fulfilling our individual and collective purpose. It is in these moments when our hearts are open that we discover deeper connection to ourselves and one another through shared work and experience.

Hair and Makeup artist Jenny O. works her magic

The newly painted white floors served as a blank canvas for the photo session. Zita, truly an artist and creator, provided gentle guidance which allowed raw emotion and movement to flow freely from my body like water. I forgot the camera was there and time seemed to slip away as it does when you are completely present in the flow of life.

As dusked approach we moved out to the fields. It was a magical setting. I wore a white lace dress and the sun shone through the golden fields upon us. I felt radiant light shining down, enveloping us with grace and warmth. We ended the session sitting amongst the weeds and wildflowers, sharing our life experiences through laughter and tears.

Two weeks later Zita invited me back for the reveal. I watched the slideshow in awe of how she captured my true essence – ethereal, passionate, and unlimited. The challenge was choosing which pictures to keep, there were so many amazing photos to choose from! What blessings Zita has given me, cherished keepsakes of that day, the connections formed and rediscovering who I am underneath all the masks and insecurities and fears – the divine light that resides within.

Words cannot express fully my gratitude for Zita and all she offers the community. We are each born with special gifts and our work is to discover those gifts. When we are able to express ourselves fully and authentically the experience is nothing short of pure magic.

Ocean flood my body, sand polish my heart, sun shine life into my soul

On this overcast morning, I sit on the cobblestone porch, tears sting my eyes as lost love weighs heavy on my heart. Grief washes over me like a tidal wave, sand filing every crevice of my body, seeping into all the dark hidden spaces, settling into my bones.

It’s easier to avoid grief when removed from the source of loss, whether physically, mentally or emotionally. Avoidance and busyness provide temporary relief from the haunting of lost love. Though grief cannot stay hidden for long. One song, one memory, one look, and it consumes you like a dark cloud envelopes the sun.

As heavy the weight of grief is upon me, I have faith and trust in this transformation. Just as an oyster forms a pearl through a process of turning grit into beauty, my body is a vessel which holds space for grief to scrub my soul clean. In time the salt water waves will wash the remnants from my body.

It’s a process of patience. Of trust. Of surrender. My heart, just as the unveiled developing pearl, will transform sorrow into compassion, sadness into joy, ready to share love unconditionally with all beings everywhere.

The path to healing a broken heart after a painful breakup

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha

I found myself curled in a ball sobbing the night of my dark soul. It was like no other pain I had experienced before. The pain of broken heart.

Everything seemed bleak and hopeless, but there was only way to move from a place so low. After my body was depleted of energy and I had no tears left to cry, I picked myself off the earth and began again. I moved forward, one moment at a time, one breath at a time. It was survival.

I had experienced breakups before but nothing like this. I mistakenly believed we were fated to be together, twin souls brought together by the universe. I had fallen so deeply in love that I misread all the signs. I ignored my friends, my family and my better judgement, all warning me the relationship was doomed. But the heart wants what the heart wants.

After a two year toxic merry-go-round going nowhere I finally gained the courage to save myself. When the relationship finally ended, I wanted the pain to stop so I quickly entered another relationship that left me feeling even more broken as I layered grief on top of grief. Only when I finally allowed time and space for my heart to heal that I began to feel whole again.

I wish I had some sage advice that could save you from feeling the pain of a broken heart, but if you open yourself up to falling in love, which is one of the most beautiful human experiences this world has to offer, then chances are at some point in your life your heart will be broken. All I can offer is my own experience in moving through the grief. I say through because there is no way to circumvent this work. The only way out is through. The only way out is in.

Stop the insanity

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Does this resonate? We often see signals of an impending breakup long before its arrival. Either we ignore the signs or we are afraid to make a change, to free ourselves from the toxic dance. So we keep trying. Again and again. Hoping this time it will be different. Only it is more of the same. By the end of my two year merry-go-round relationship even my ex had asked me “what are you still doing here?” Only when we stop the insanity and end the relationship that has us on an emotional roller-coaster ride can we move forward and begin to heal.

Its gonna hurt

When a relationship ends, it is going to hurt. There is no way around it. The only way to move through the pain of lost love is to feel the loss. No matter the circumstances surrounding the end of any relationship, what we experience is truly a loss – loss of a friendship, loss of intimacy, loss of future hopes and dreams. With loss we inevitably experience grief. If there is no grief then we have not given ourselves space to heal. Perhaps we immediately enter a new relationship, as I had done in the midst of my own heartbreak, piling on more pain, or we shut off our heart from feeling anything at all. This only numbs us and closes us off to the flow of love always available if only we keep ourselves open. As deeply as our heart experienced the love, is likely the level of sorrow we will experience in our grief. Like the dark and the light, you cannot experience one without the other, they are two sides of the same shadow.

End the track playback

After a breakup why do we torture ourselves with an endless replay of the relationship details in our mind, dropping us deeper and deeper into sadness? Either we recall all the good times we shared together, or we relive all the painful parts. For me it was a way to keep me connected to my ex, playing our songs on repeat and rereading letters he wrote me, because I felt so lonely without him. Not only does this keep us living in the past, but rarely do we see the whole picture. We are too close to the trauma and too emotionally involved to maintain perspective. Staying in story, whether we replay the highs or the lows, only keeps our mind in the relationship which keeps us from moving forward. If you must, allow yourself a certain amount of limited time to revisit these past memories. Perhaps it’s a shoebox of letters and relics, or a designated time to reminiscence. Then put the memories away. Live your life which is not behind you, but rather exists right before you.

Let the light in through the cracks

Grief does not move in a linear fashion, rather it is like a spiral. At the center of the loss, it feels all-consuming and hopeless, as I experienced the night of my dark soul. Over time as we move further along the spiral there is more space and we begin to rediscover the joys life has to offer. Instead of seeing the world as hopeless and foreboding we begin to see light through the cracks. For me these moments came in small doses, an afternoon walk with a friend or swimming in the lake with my son. Slowly joy brought glimmers of love back into my life. You may also try a new hobby such as painting or writing. Something that brings you happiness. This is what happens when the heart breaks. It breaks open.

Freedom is in forgiveness

For the longest time I was still so angry at my ex for not being what I needed him to be, for not showing up for me, for breaking my heart. Mostly though I was angry with myself for allowing my heart to fall so stupidly in love in the first place. Eventually I grew tired of being angry which only kept me closed off and attracted more of the same. Through yoga and meditation I began to release the anger and discover forgiveness which was a daily practice. Only through our willingness to forgive can we find freedom to move forward.

The art of surrender

Surrender comes when we are ready to trust our path and let go completely. When we choose to grip and hold on it is like holding our breath. If we could trust our path like we trust our own breath, that with each exhale a fresh inhale will come and fill us back up again, then perhaps it would be easier to let go. Surrender for me is a regular practice which is why I tattooed the word “surrender” in Sanskrit on my ankle as a daily reminder. Short of a tattoo, find ways to remind yourself to let go such as through a practice of breath awareness or mindfulness. Only with release of what has been can we allow life to flow again.

Love yourself hard

Without self-love we will continue to attract relationships where are counterpart lacks their own self-love. We are a mirror for one another and we bring into our life those people and situations that are meant to teach us something about ourselves. When I met my ex I lacked self-love and was grieving the circumstances of my own life. I was looking for someone to fulfill me and I attracted someone who was looking for the same. Neither of us loved ourselves and what we saw in one another we failed to see in ourselves. Intimacy – into me I see – asks us to take a closer look within ourselves. Is there a part of us which feels we are not enough? Which fears being alone? Which fears abandonment? Find those parts of yourself that need healing and love them hard.

You deserve your own love more than anyone. Once you truly love all parts of yourself, and trust you are perfect in all your imperfections, only then will you attract the love you have been waiting for. The love that exists not out there but right within your own heart.