With each sunrise, a new chapter awaits…

In a spur of a moment decision last night I decided to cross an item off of my bucket list. I have witnessed MANY Florida sunsets and they are beautiful and mind blowing but something that always hits me about a sunset is the darkness afterwards, after witnessing the day closing to something so beautiful it leaves me wanting to make the night the best evening ever, but after sunset you are on limited time.

Today i discovered, sitting on the beach, watching the sky change from a deep navy blue to cotton candy pink before erupting into yellows and oranges as the sun breaks the horizon, it filled my spiritual fuel tank to the brim and I was ready to start the day running head first in any challenge, it made everything after feel so small and easy to handle.

Watching the day break over the ocean, complete with the soothing sounds of the waves gently crashing on the sand…. well it lifted me up after what has been a few frustrating days filled with a lot of  self doubt.

I tried to go and explore some ruins shortly after the sun had fully risen, come to find that the park was closed today, but the drive to the entrance, through the deep florida wilderness on a sand/gravel road that weaved in and out of the trees, the canopy broke every few 100 yards letting in the suns gorgeous rays… it was beyond breathtaking, I pulled over to take a photo to try and capture the beauty.

After this attempt i ended up strolling around Saint Augustine for the afternoon, exploring one of my favorite towns in this state. The town is oozing history, every building on every street has a story, and that, to me is exciting. For the first time i was able to visit the St Photios Shrine Greek Orthodox National Shrine and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine. Two heavily spiritual locations in the town, both of them were beautiful, the stained glass windows in the Cathedral managed to capture the sunlight and make the colors dance across the inside of the building. The smaller St Photios Shrine was a hidden gem with Rhythmic chanting and the fragrant incense that could transport you to back in time. Its funny how our senses are able to transport us back in time with sights and smells.

St Photios Shrine Greek Orthodox National Shrine:

Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine:

Both of these locations were free admission but accepted charitable contributions if you were so inclined… I was, in both places i stopped and silently prayed while lighting a candle. I am not someone who prays but i am open and willing to learn about every religion, with the peace i found this morning with the sun rise, praying just felt right.

I think there was something enlightening about today that relaxed me to my core. I can’t promise that will remain tomorrow when I am back to work. But I will be positive going into the week. There were some new stores that I visited that focused on spirituality not specific to religions… that’s what works for me. There is so much to see and learn out there but hey every day the sun will rise starting a new chapter…. and at the end of the day when the sun sets, that day is closed and we cannot change what happened. It’s all about moving forward.

Are we wandering to escape life or are we wandering to find life? 

This question has been on my mind a lot the last few weeks… too many times people assume someone who has the urge to travel is running away from their problems… looking for an escape. While I understand that point of view I disagree whole heartedly, the need to wander is about finding life… finding a purpose to exist beyond the mundane daily rituals we deal with every day of every year.
It’s about finding yourself outside of the prerequisites that have been installed and developing a new understanding of life. It’s not easy… it’s scary, it’s outside of your routine and it’s beyond the safety net. 

But they always say life begins at the end of your comfort zone, it’s true! How many times have you been faced with a challenge or a problem that has pushed you to think outside of the box, think with your heart instead of your head (or visa-versa). Those are the moments that you expand your understanding and the more you do it the further out you have to reach to find the end of your boundaries.  

One of the quotes I see at Work daily is “only dead fish go with the flow”… are you just floating along in your life or are you actively participating? Are you at the point that when ever something happens you go “oh so this is what we are doing now? Ok!”. That’s not living… there is so much out there to see, do, explore and taste. But more importantly there is so much to learn… about yourself, about each other, about kindness, about respect and about understanding. Even if someone has an opinion you don’t agree with you need to respect that. 
Traveling teaches you to expand your horizons, it teaches you that there are wonderful kind people all over the world, it teaches you that you are you and that’s perfect. 

I encourage everyone to go out and choice to find life and not just exist… because when the time comes and you stop existing you will realize what you were missing out on. 

Find your happy

Today I decided to take a free online course through Coursera after putting it off for awhile… so I should probably mention that I have not attended any classes outside of graduating high school. I didn’t learn well within a class room, so this is new to me… the world of online classes.

Coursera by the way offers a lot of free courses (unless you would like a certificate then there is a fee), their classes vary from business, personal development to creative writing. I figured I could find something that would hold my attention. After half an hour of clicking through different options I stumbled upon a course called “a lifetime of happiness and fulfillment”… well with a title like that and my new found excitement to explore every aspect of life…how could I not enroll. I know it sounds like a course for those not looking to actually learn but this is a legitimate educational class discussing the different layers of happiness and fulfillment and comparing the differences between career fulfillment, educational smarts and happiness smarts. So far it has been fascinating…

The easiest way to to find out if someone is happy is to ask… imagine that. Are you happy? Such a simple question with so many different levels, then asking the persons family and friends “are they happy?”…. now this is where the variables come in… where to a certain degree the facade you put on during the day comes into play and we find out how good an actor you are…. or how well your family and friends know you. Another thing to consider is personal happiness vs career happiness… just because someone is happy with their career doesn’t mean they are happy personally. But professor raj explains that someone who is just happy…. has a better quality of life and progresses better in other aspects of their life.

It lead me to thinking “what makes you happy?” Not just happy in the moment, but genuinely happy to the core… what warms your heart to the point that you can’t help but grin… because that’s the feeling that we should all be able to appreciate and grip onto tight. That intense sensation is what can get you through the darkest of times because it’s so overwhelmingly positive just to “be happy”.

This is a judgement free zone, you can say what ever makes you happy and I won’t judge or laugh. There are so many things that make me truly happy, some things that i don’t get to experience enough to hold on. My family mean the world to me, i would do anything for them, and I mean every kind of family from blood relations to my significant other to my absolutely wonderful fur baby. Spending time with them makes me feel warm and gooey like a fresh chocolate chip cookie…. which brings me to something else that makes me happy… food… food makes me very happy, I will try almost any kind of food and i love learning where it comes from…sure sweet things are my weakness. Travel is my long lost love, something I haven’t experienced much but there is an insane feeling inside me when I plan a trip somewhere or the idea of taking a trip… it can only be wanderlust.

That’s where I will leave tonight, find your happiness and grab it with both hands… never let it go.

What is stopping you?

What is holding you back from trying something new? Doing something different or making up your own mind about something?

This past week I have started trying many new things, not sharing them with anyone from fear of judgement for the most part. Why do we let what others think control our thoughts and actions? If you think back to being a child… nothing held you back (other than your parents telling you not to do something dangerous). But outside of their supervision, on the play ground you could be anyone you wanted, run as fast as a race car, pretend you were swimming under the sea… the innocence of being a child is talked about a lot from many different aspects… but in my eyes the true glory of my childhood was being fearless, believing that anything was possible the feeling of nothing holding you back.

To some setting up a meditation regime, starting a blog, becoming more self-aware of your body/emotions and time isn’t a terrifying thing. Being able to be open and honest with everyone about your feelings and life isn’t something to hide. But to me… just the idea of writing this blog is scary, the idea of admitting to people I know that i want to explore more of life than what the boundaries i currently have just sounds… unappreciative especially when i look at the great things i have going on… so for now i write sharing with a few that i don’t fear will judge (and of course the wide open internet where people will always judge anonymously).

I always read travel blogs, food blogs and photography blogs and think… well there’s no way that I can possibly do that/go there/create that/capture that… but why not? What is stopping me? Yes i am aware of the (actual) excuses I use (money, time, pets, responsibilities which to a certain degree are justified)… but beyond that there are more layers to those excuses and when I examine them it’s like opening Pandora’s box… all my insecurities come pouring out, because of that.. my pandoras box remains sealed and tucked away behind a thick wall of excuses and a moat filled with responsibilities… and ultimately that is what prevents me from following through with those ideas and dreams I am on some level too scared to pursue.

Scared of the potential failure?

Scared of being disappointed that things won’t be as awesome as they seem?

Scared of letting others down?

Scared of not being good enough?

I don’t need to answer yes or no to any of those questions because to some degree we all share these insecurities… but what truly matters is whats inside…

Will it make you happy?

Is it something you would love to try?

What are the amazing things you could learn?

There will always be that voice telling you “why waste your time?” “you are not good enough”, “There is no point doing that”. But don’t listen to it, what would your 5-year-old self say???? maybe that’s the voice we should listen to, the younger, care free, experimental super hero thats completely fearless.

 

Just Breathe

Simple right? Its something we do every moment of every day…until we don’t.

But have you ever really stopped to think about breathing, not the science behind it providing oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide… but the action. Well today I did,using an app I downloaded about 8 months ago and never used called “Calm“, at the time it was one of the “apps of the day”. I figured this would be a step in the right direction towards meditation and then moving onto yoga.

I started day 1 of their 7 days of Calm, “Learning the basics of Mindful Meditation”. It was 11 minutes of focusing on your breathing, NOTHING else, needless to say it was difficult because I was trying to focus SO hard on ignoring every little noise and itch… that I had to restart the class. The point is to focus on your breathing, inhale, exhale… I finally grasped it at the start of the second try.

I know what you are thinking, “What does this have to do with exploring life??”… see thats the thing breathing is part of living that we forget because its natural and automatic, focusing on your breathing is exploring the control you have over your body and exploring the different levels of calm you can reach by just breathing.

How many times have you been worked up so much that you can feel your heart beating in your ear drums? How many times have you felt completely overwhelmed by bills and money problems that you feel suffocated?How many times have you been so upset that you find yourself gasping for air through the sobbing? Could a simple solution be focusing on one phase “Just Breathe”

Thats what i challenge you to do today, find somewhere quiet, away from crowds, away from stress and just sit still, with your back straight, eyes closed, focus on the air entering your body on the inhale and feel the stress float away on the exhale. Honestly i can’t wait to start day 2 and see what’s next.

 

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”-Amit Ray

The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins was the generic title that Word Press creates when they auto generate your first blog post for you… I was going to adjust it out to something else but then i started thinking…What was the purpose for this blog i created… what does “Explore Life Always” really mean to me. When i came up with the idea for this page it was primarily to explore the world, create a virtual diary of trips i want to take and cross them off of the proverbial bucket list, but as i looked at “Explore Life Always” it spoke to me on many different levels. Life isn’t simple and there are so many aspects of life that we don’t realize we can explore for example Food, Religion, Art, Cultures, Nature, History.  Maybe that is all part of suffering from wanderlust… Always wanting to try something different, something new, go somewhere and explore… no matter how terrifying it can be its all part of living life to the fullest. I say suffering because when there are things that hold you in one spot or prevent you from doing what you want to do, you really do feel trapped and tied down, through no ones fault it’s just some parts of life become too hard to control. All of this pushes some generations down to the point that depression and anxiety levels are on the rise… where its more common than not to be seeing a therapist or on some kind of medication. I have been there sitting on the floor hiding in the back room at work looking up and seeing everything else towering around you with your heartbeat pounding in your ears so loud that you feel like you can’t breathe… and then as fast as it came… its gone. You stand up, put on a smile and walk back out into the world like nothing happened… That really was where my journey began… sitting on the floor between two giant racks of clothes breathing deeply trying to stop the world for a second…”just one second please” i remember chanting in my head, now of course nothing stopped, nothing changed, i calmed down dusted myself off and returned to work. But my time sitting on that dusty floor i calmed myself down by thinking about life and everything that is part of life, i decided that i was going to try something new and different.

I started creating a mental list of 8 basic things i could start doing immediately to explore life more so than sitting on a stock room floor hyperventilating:

  1. Start meditating/yoga
  2. Take a day trip somewhere different
  3. Eat something i have never eaten
  4. Plan a trip
  5. Try to cook food from a different culture
  6. Take time to watch the sunset at least once a week
  7. Put my phone down 30 minutes before bed time (with the goal to up this to an hour)
  8. Complain less be thankful more

I am sure this list will grow and change over time but it was just the basics. I have to remind myself every day that life is to be lived and not just to survive.

So last night, i sat down and watched the sunset… it was calming, i was at peace as the day closed…

sunset

After all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It’s better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life. — Sophia Loren