Hammocks, Enneagrams and A Contemplative Practice: Lessons From Big Sur

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Another year, another journey to Esalen in Big Sur. If you know me well, then you’ve probably heard me wax poetic about the power of this place. If you’re looking for something, you will likely find it here.

Many people raise an eyebrow or question my need to take this annual solo trip. But it’s just that: a need. Maybe it’s the introvert in me but mostly, it’s the only way that I know how to reconnect with myself. For a few days out of the year, I embark on a solo journey. And for those few days, I take a step outside of my titles (mom, wife, employee, daughter, friend etc) and spend some time getting to know myself. I am not saying that these roles are burdens, they’re quite the opposite and provide me with great love and joy. But in order to be all of these things, I need time to slow down, connect with my purpose and go deeper. My experience has led me to find that solo travel spits me out on the other end with a greater sense of clarity, strength and gratitude.

The trip this year was particularly profound. As usual, I never really know what I’m getting myself into. I think I have intentions set for the journey, and, in usual form, I’m always amazed at the real lessons learned. I signed up for a weeklong workshop titled “The Inner Spiritual Dimensions of Ayurvedic, Tibetan and Chinese Medicine” taught by David Crow. What does that mean? Good question. Most of us weren’t quite sure but embarked on the journey anyway. Through the basics of Eastern Medicine, we explored the underlying spiritual foundations that not only teach us how to cultivate a holistic mind-body relationship but also a purposeful relationship with our environment. Each lecture was fully explored through a contemplative, mindfulness meditation practice to truly connect the lesson to the inner experience. Mostly, the workshop was an incredible compliment to what Esalen provides, and that’s a beautiful, welcoming space to learn, grow and connect. I took just as much away from the workshop as I did from the people I met, the conversations I got wrapped up in and the awe-inspiring connection to nature. Now that I’m back in Los Angeles, I’m reflecting on what I took away from the experience and the lessons learned:

  1. Disconnect and Go Outside

Look up from your phone, forget the menial psychodramas of the day and go play outside. Nature is our greatest intuitive teacher. The easiest way to connect to a sense of prana (life force) is to simply experience the awe-inspiring beauty of nature. Here, it’s easy to feel the interconnectedness of everything and our relationship to the 5 elements.

  1. Be Open To People

You never now who might have an affect on your life. There are influential lessons to be learned from other’s experiences and stories. Real conversation and deep connections help us feel a greater sense of love, empathy and compassion. This is important to cultivate to feel a greater sense of inner belonging but also a better sense of community. Every person is equal.

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  1. Spend Time In A Garden

Our food systems are struggling. Yes, there’s the evil that is Monsanto, but there’s also global warming which is having an apocalyptic affect on our environment and agriculture. Gardens remind us of the life giving energy of food and the gaseous exchange that we share with plants. We feed the plants and they feed us. Grow your food and then eat that delicious organic food and you’ll see how much better you feel.

  1. Laying In Hammocks, Napping Outside and Soaking In Hot Springs are God-Giving Experiences

Can you think of a better way to recharge? I can’t.

  1. A Contemplative Mindfulness Meditation Practice Can and Will Change Your Life

Exploring your inner experience through a meditation practice increases memory, sense of self, empathy, decreases stress and changes the brain chemically. A contemplative practice also increases the mind-body connection. Most people are disembodied. This is not just about being active and working out. It’s about developing an awareness of what your body and mind truly need to operative effectively through diet, physical activity and sleep to function in peak performance.

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  1. Read Books, Keep Learning and Stop Consuming Crap Media

It’s not too late to make changes. I was deep in conversation about our education system and how insane it is to think that a decision I made when I was 18 should determine the rest of my life. I’m referring to my college major. Now that I’m 32, I struggle with feelings of greater purpose vs. responsibility. I dove in a bit to what I’d like to do and was met with a very simple answer: “Well then, you should do that”. Of course, I rolled my eyes, pushed back and said how it’s not that easy. Now looking back, I can see it’s all my own internal resistance. There are many ways to learn and to indulge interests. Always think about what you feed your mind, who you engage with and how distracting most media can be. Focus, learn and changes are possible.

  1. The Wisdom of The Enneagram

This is a personality test (and quick too). Take it. Learn something about yourself and the people in your life.

  1. Gratitude

I came home to a family that I love with a greater sense of connection and purpose. A full heart, a feeling of wonder and a smirk of possibility….this is what it’s all about.

Now the big question remains: How to integrate these lessons back into  daily life? Through dedicated practice, commitment and actually listening to my intuition. Another question also popped up: How do we teach our children to find purpose at a young age so they grow up connected to their sense of self and committed to a life of meaning? This is something I plan to explore much further. It’s my greatest wish that my son grows up with a healthy sense of compassion, connection to the environment and wants to live a life of social purpose. No one at the end of their life ever regrets not having made more money or acquiring more things. The quality of your relationships, your experience, traveling, connecting to nature, compassion, these are what’s important.

xo, Sam

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A New Year, A Meditation Challenge and The Grad Studies

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I love December. Work typically slows down, festivities abound and it’s a time filled with lots of food, warmth and loved ones. I also love December because it’s a time to reflect on the year and look forward to a new start. Cliché, I know, but there is something to be said for taking a deeper look at yourself and making improvements.

Every arrival implies a journey; and, with the close of the year, it’s the perfect time to look at where you’re at and the path to take moving forward.

One resolution of mine is to integrate a solid meditation practice into my daily routine. As a working mom, I’m essentially a professional multi-tasker. I’m constantly tapped in, spinning 12 plates at once. My thoughts are scattered and cluttered and I have a tendency to get too deep into my own mental chatter further blurring the lines between my own self delusion and reality.

I’m not sharing new information here and it’s widely known that meditation leads to a reduction in heart beats, breath rate and blood pressure which results in stress relief, mental clarity and a general sense of well-being. Meditation is also a form of prayer that provides the ability to merge with something greater. But a daily practice can be a hard commitment and I have a tendency to get sidetracked. Starting January 1st, I raised my hand to join the 40 Day Benshen Meditation Challenge led by the beautiful, Desirée Pais. I’ve been a follower of her blog; and, as a fellow natural skincare crafter, I have a respect for her offering and work.

Desirée practices Kundalini yoga. While, I’ve dabbled in Kundalini, I’d say that dance has been my moving meditation. The challenge seems quite simple: 3 minutes of “Ego Eradicator” meditation practice a day. For me, this entails waking up 30 minutes earlier than my family to practice. I’ve also integrated a 5 minute meditation to settle in and 5 minutes of loving prayer meditation to close.

Within a 48-hour period and a fresh start to the year, I’ve had quite an interesting experience with choice information coming to light. This information has led to a deep reassurance and knowing that it’s essential to take responsibility for our mental states, projections, intentions and emotions….this is the essence of our magic. To harness this energy, is to live beautifully.

So what happened on January 1st?

I spend a good amount of my personal time reading about the human experience, esoteric studies, love and the extraordinary. Last night, while charging my Kindle, I picked up a book that was given to me by my Aunt months ago. I hadn’t given much time to the book but I figured I’d dive in. While reading a few passages, I stumbled upon the research work of Bernard Grad from Montreal’s McGill University. A biologist, Grad’s initial work was fairly conventional and involved research related to cancer, aging and the endocrine system. Grad’s work shifted after studying with Wilhelm Reich and his controversial work related to the concept of life energy and body armoring. (Side note – I studied the work of Reich in a weeklong intensive workshop at Esalen at the age of 24 and it profoundly shifted my perspective on emotional energy having an effect on our physical bodies).

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Grad’s research and laboratory studies related to nonlocal healing intention have been recognized and honored by Harvard University. His work was able to show in a laboratory setting that our thoughts, emotional states and intentions are powerful enough to influence other living things while explaining away the placebo effect.

To start, Grad tested whether or not our moods can have an effect on others who are near to us. He tested his theory using water. In a controlled experiment, Grad took three subjects: two were clinically depressed and one had an upbeat, positive personality. Each person held a sealed bottle of water for a half hour and then watered barley seeds. The depressed female happened to be in a positive mood that day and actually held the bottle as if she was cradling a child. Consequently, her seeds grew quickly. Otherwise, you can probably guess the rest of the results. The seeds watered by the upbeat man grew the fastest and the seeds watered by the depressed man grew the slowest. The findings suggest that our emotions do have both a negative and positive influence and objects we hold can pick up this energy.

Grad also studied nonlocal healing intention and the ability to physically heal trauma. He conducted experiments in which mice had a small piece of skin removed. The mice were then divided into three groups. In one of the three groups a healer (using his/her mental ability and intentions) would hold the cage of the wounded mice for fifteen minutes twice a day for two weeks. The second group of mice were placed in a heated cage. The third group received neither heat nor healing intentions. The results showed that the mice who received the loving care from the healer actually healed significantly faster than the other two groups.

What Grad’s work has shown is something we all intuitively understand. The sentiment stretches beyond just moods. Think about the healing power of homemade chicken soup. Or the warmth from a blanket that was knitted by a relative. Or simply the unexplainable power of loving touch.

After swimming in excitement for what I had just read, I ended my evening with a meditation on my Grandparents. It had been a long time since I really took the time to remember them and I was missing that connection. I sat and visualized their memory, their walk, how it felt to hug them and the sound of their voices. It was a lovely meditation and my memories were so vivid that it didn’t seem like it had been over 11 years since they passed. To my wonder, I woke in the morning to a 6am text message from my Aunt who simply sent an undiscovered photo of my Nanny with our female lineage (pictured below). I hadn’t spoken to my Aunt in about a month and she had no idea I started to read the book she gave me, or the fact that I had intentionally been thinking about my Grandparents the evening before. My Aunt and I have always functioned on a similar wavelength intuitively, so I took this as a loving sign from beyond.

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In summary, the work of Grad echoes the sentiment of quantum physicist, Albert Einstein that all life is connected and therefore we need to be mindful and compassionate towards all living beings. And on that note, I look forward to the mental and energetic shift that results from this 40-day meditation challenge.

Thank you Benshen

xx
Sam

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FLOWEREVOLUTION: DATE PALM

This is the FINAL post in a series of reflections on our adventures with Lotus Wei’s 6 month FloweRevolution movement! This program focuses on the powers of a brand new flower elixir each month, and since we’re doing it together, we wanted to share our thoughts as we finish up each batch. We highly suggest you look at the line of Lotus Wei elixirs available to see if there is one that speaks to you. We really couldn’t be happier with the results! Click HERE to look back at last month’s post, where we focused on the Rattlesnake Euphorbia elixir.

OCTOBER’S FLOWER ELIXIR: DATE PALM
EUPHORIA, THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX. TIMELESSNESS.Wallpaper-DateFlower-2560x1440-Desktop

SAMANTHA:
Oh October, what a month. October was filled with major ups and downs and a lot for me to tackle, process and let go of. At first, I didn’t like the Date Palm. I felt like I was attracting situations that threw me for loops. I had mirrors constantly being shined in my face, forcing me to look at myself in ways that I didn’t want to see. Then I understood that the Date Palm was helping me to look outside of my typical ways and I learned the lessons I needed to learn. Although the process was not what I expected and I had to face those shadows within, I learned to follow the flow (and this has been my mantra for November). I have a tendency to be forceful and to do what it takes to get my way, even when the universe is showing me the big red signs to not continue to push. So now, I’m following the flow and focusing on the areas in life that need attention because they’re opening like a beautiful flower. I’m trying to let my ego step aside to listen to my intuitive heart and that has been a beautiful AND MAJOR lesson for me to learn.

CAITLYN:
As I sit down to reflect on October, I am realizing, yet again, just how much  I managed to cram into one month. As anyone reading these reflections might have already noticed, this is  a re-occurring theme for me. But if I am being honest, it is a theme I am looking to do away with. Some of it has to do with my personality, yes. I’m a do-er. A list maker. A task master…. All of which has gotten me to the place I am today, no doubt. But, as I’ve learned over the years, true happiness is about creating a balance between all the different elements in life- work, love, play, friends, family, self-care, community, doing good, etc. I do believe you can have it all, and do it all. But, it has to be broken down into equally weighted manageable pieces first, and you gotta prioritize. For me, it means learning to put myself first, before work, scheduling time with family and friends even when my week seems too full, and a commitment to exercise and meditation to balance out a hectic schedule.

Thankfully, October brought with it an opportunity to steer myself in a new direction with a change in jobs, and I am eternally grateful for it. I must admit, October was so full, I barely took the time to take my elixir each day, leaving me with over a half bottle come November. Not saying I didn’t use it, because I definitely did my fair share of “thinking outside of the box,” but it was irregular. And I know from past months, the more I used the elixir, the better the results. So now that I have a minute to sit back, take a breathe and start re-prioritizing, I am happy to have the opportunity to re-commit to the last half of my bottle of flower magic! I truly can’t say enough good things about the Lotus Wei brand, the FE program and all of the elixirs I have tried over the past 6mos. The next one I am going for is… Quiet Mind. Yea. I could definitely use that.

Exploring Valle de Guadalupe in Ensenada, Mexico

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I was born and raised in Los Angeles and yet, I had never driven down to Mexico. This past weekend, we made the 3-hour drive to Ensenada for our dear friend’s wedding and I’m fairly certain that my life is forever changed. In the same time it would take us to drive to Ojai, we were transported to a little slice of Mexican heaven packed with rustic scenery, delicious Baja cuisine and miles and miles of vineyards. Most are likely familiar with the Baja beach town, Ensenada but head inland into the valley and you’ll find Valle de Guadalupe a recently developed wine country where chefs and hoteliers have begun to set up shop. The area still feels relatively untapped, completely authentic, non-touristy and perfectly rustic.

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When driving down, be sure to stop in Puerto Nuevo for lobster. There are a handful of restaurants on the coast in this tiny little town and each one will try to offer you the best deal. You can’t go wrong for $20 which will get you lobster, rice, beans, tortillas, guacamole and margaritas.

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We stayed at Cuatro Cuatros, a heavenly glamping compound situated on a vineyard where each tent features your own private indoor/outdoor shower and the most comfortable bed you’ve ever slept on. The restaurant onsite (also housed in a tent) features delicious Mexican food where we’d dine on fresh-pressed green juice, coffee and huevos rancheros each morning. Take a trek up the hill to the awe-inspiring outdoor bar, Mirador, for the most spectacular views of the coast and sip wine that comes from the Cuatro Cuatros vineyard.

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Driving into the valley can get confusing so I highly recommend taking taxis. Most streets are actually dirt roads (besides the main highway) and are not lit at night. You’ll wind down roads with no concept of time or space and then suddenly, you’re on a beautiful vineyard eating the most delicious food and you can’t help but feel like you’ve discovered the secret to life. Thanks to our gracious hosts, we spent our first night eating octopus tostadas, sliders and truffle fries from the Troika food truck while we drank wine under the twinkle lights at the Vena Cava Winery. The actual wedding took place at the restaurant Finca Altozano where the food was out of this world good.

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Overall, the trip was so great that we now want to buy a vacation home in the valley! A girl can dream right?

 

 

Burgertime at Super Burger.

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I’ve been going through a sort of burger dry spell of late, but thank goodness for the other burger lovers out there! A friend of mine came to the rescue a few weeks ago with a beyond delicious recommendation, and I think I am back on the burger track :) Super Burger in Altadena is one of my favorite kinds of burger establishments. The burger’s got lots of cheese, a huge side of crinkle cut fries and is served  from an altogether unassuming shack. Normally shack burgers have pretty thin patties, so I always opt for the double, but I  shamefully didn’t finish it this time around. Those patties were thick! Next time I promise to come hungrier. And I highly suggest you go, now. xo Cait

Conscious Consumption: Moorea Seal

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It’s been a long time since I’ve done some shopping damage but as the seasons shift and the holidays approach, I have one shop on my mind: Moorea Seal. I first stumbled into this tastefully curated shop in the heart of Seattle on a mini-vacation/destination wedding trip. It was clear that every item showcased was selected by a keen eye who took the effort to seek out the extraordinary. From accessories to apparel and home goods, there’s a general vibe of sleek simplicity with a rustic edge. The best part? Moorea Seal has an entire portion of the store dedicated to non-profit support. Simply click on the “Shop by Cause” tab, select the charity you’d like to support and then shop a curated selection of goods where a portion of each proceed is donated in support of the cause.

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FLOWEREVOLUTION: RATTLESNAKE EUPHORBIA

This is the fifth post in a series of reflections on our adventures with Lotus Wei’s  6 month FloweRevolution movement! This program focuses on the powers of a brand new flower elixir each month, and since we’re doing it together, we wanted to share our thoughts as we finish up each batch. Click HERE to look back at last month’s post, where we focused on the Bamboo tree elixir.

SEPTEMBER’S FLOWER ELIXIR: RATTLESNAKE EUPHORBIA
vacation in a bottle, Meditative mind AND celebrationWallpaper-Rattlesnake-2560x1440-DesktopIMAGE COURTESY OF LOTUS WEI

SAMANTHA:
First of all, I can’t believe it’s October. Where did September go? I’m sitting here reflecting on the past month and my experience with the lovely Rattlesnake and one word sums up the month: Dreamland. I noticed that I spent a lot of time out of my body with my thoughts time traveling to other spaces and places. Whether it was taking an afternoon break from work to sit in the grass to daydream or enjoying a little walking-meditation with my dog in the early hours of morning, my head was dancing in the clouds. By the months end, I focused more on grounding my thoughts back into my body to be more present in the moment. I returned to my dance practice and worked on a few resolutions under the Blood Moon. With the month coming to a close, I’m more focused on reality but am still enjoying my vacation in a bottle.

CAITLYN:
I can’t believe how quickly September always seems to fly by. This year was no different. Between birthday celebrations, a dreamy photoshoot, the release of Peacock Apothecary’s new website, another wonderful collaboration with Conclave and landing myself a new job, September seemed to be trying to push me beyond my limits. Miraculously, I am still here, and feeling victorious! I’m not gonna lie. I need a break. But as I look back at September, I feel like patting myself on the back for handling it all with real grace. It was an overcommitted month to say the least, but I think the rattlesnake elixir took the edge off. My mind was busy alright, but it was focused and peaceful, not panicked and overwhelmed. It was easier than ever to slip into a ‘meditative mind’ space, when my mind should have been anything but. Next month threatens to be even more jam-packed than last, so I’m really looking forward to our next elixir, which promises to release tension and create balance. I’m sure gonna need it!

Meet our Girl Gang.

In celebration of one of our dearest friend Miriam’s birthday, we fulfilled a collective dream of donning matching Girl Gang jackets and stepping back in time for the afternoon…

So thankful to have ladies as fun, beautiful and amazing  as these to call  our friends.
xo Cait & Sam

Switchblade, aka Miriam21404193270_b6317cba1a_k 21601093631_e1227ea5e6_k (1)

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MADAM, AKA MIA21566064986_9a2338a590_k

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BABS, AKA SAM21601123611_f33f680485_k

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TOMMY GUN, AKA KIM21404252420_49975395c6_k

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POISON IVY, AKA CAIT20971193863_6308f35a88_k

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ALL PHOTOGRAPHIC RIGHTS OWNED BY CAITLYN MONTGOMERY
SCREENPRINTING: FAMILY INDUSTRIES
JACKETS: AMERICAN APPAREL

FLOWEREVOLUTION: BAMBOO

This is the fourth post in a series of reflections on our adventures with Lotus Wei’s 6month FloweRevolution movement! This program focuses on the powers of a brand new flower elixir each month, and since we’re doing it together, we wanted to share our thoughts as we finish up each batch. We’re 2/3 the way through the program now and can’t recommend it enough… Even if you can’t swing the next 6 month program (which is taking sign ups NOW), we highly suggest you look at the other elixirs available to see if there is one that speaks to you. We really couldn’t be happier with the results! Click HERE to look back at last month’s post, where we focused on the Black Bat flower elixir.

AUGUST’S FLOWER ELIXIR: BAMBOO FOR POWER, STRENGTH, DETERMINATION.Wallpaper-Bamboo-2560x1440-DesktopIMAGE COURTESY OF LOTUS WEI

SAMANTHA: July ended in a state of exhaustion and depletion and a monumental lesson in priority, trust and surrender. But August cracked me wide open in so many. The month began with my yearly journey to Esalen in Big Sur. I still can’t quite put into words everything I took away from the trip but it provided profound perspective and a deeper understanding  for my purpose. Maybe it was the workshop, maybe it was the bodywork, or possibly the people but something magical definitely happened. All I can really say is that I’m along for the ride right now. Without giving up too many personal details, I can honestly say that I feel like I’m living each day in a higher frequency. The impossible is feeling much more possible and I’m finally starting to understand what I’m capable of. Fears have diminished, my one-to-one interactions feel more connected and I’m manifesting my intentions at a much quicker rate. To top off this spectacular month, I purchased a brand new 2nd chakra crystal bowl and I can’t wait to connect with it. Oh sweet bamboo, thank you.

CAITLYN: August is by far my favorite month of the year, which has a lot to do with the fact that it is my birth month, making it generally  full of celebration, feasting and the hard to ignore Summer sun (also three of my most favorite things). This year was no different. But boy oh boy did I manage to get a lot of things done amidst the celebrating and birthday cake! For once it felt like time was on my side, and I did my best to pack it in. Besides a month’s worth of birthday festivities, there was a lovely weekend trip to celebrate a wedding held on an island off of Washington. Plus, we managed to put the finishing touches on our back house AND rent it out, start a new training regimen with our goofy black lab, take photos for the new Peacock Apothecary website and I painted our duplex’s front doors red! Another month gone by now that I’m going to have to say I owe a lot of my strength and direction to the Lotus Wei elixir. The word I keep coming back to when talking about the effects of these flower elixirs is “effortless.” I’m a busy bee anyway and get a lot done in any average month, but usually it feels like a struggle. Like there aren’t enough hours in the day or weeks in the month for me to get through my to-do list. But somehow I managed to get an amazing amount of shit done in August, while barely even noticing how effective I was really being! It all just, happened.