It’s my birthday and here’s what I’m doing

Today is my 33rd birthday. I like the sound of “3-3″…I think those are lucky numbers so I’m going to go with it. One thing I want to do this year is to write more, and I’m beginning today. Kind of like making a commitment to go to the gym except I don’t need to go anywhere, I just need to sit with my laptop and click on the “add page” for a new blog post, instead of immediately checking emails or scrolling through Facebook (busted, I know…do you do it too?)

32 was a roller coaster year. I now know what it feels like to deeply love someone but not have that be enough to make a relationship work; to fall apart in front of friends and allow myself to be supported while I nurse my heartache; to uproot from where I live and work and be consumed by the fear of “what if I can’t make it” and “what if everything I’ve worked for fails”; and to take a leap and pitch my UNBRIDLED Retreat to a national magazine and invite their editor to attend and write about it.

It’s been a year, alright. The main takeaway I have from 32 is that change is scary but there are gifts in it.

time

What I know for sure is that you couldn’t pay me to go back to my 20’s. My 20’s were riddled with fear of not being perfect and putting an enormous amount of pressure on myself to look and act in a certain way.

My 30’s have been much better and although challenging at times, I feel more settled in my skin and better attuned to listen to myself and what my soul wants, as opposed to listening to who I “should” be.

My soul is telling me to write and share more, even when it’s not perfect (ahhh, the ol’ ego still rears its head at that.)

I like this quote from one of my favorite books, The Write to Write, by Julia Cameron, “Taking the time to write how we feel helps us to know how we feel.”

Today, I feel hopeful for the new year ahead and I’m glad I made the commitment to write as opposed to procrastinating and making excuses.

After posting this, I’m going to change out of my fuzzy robe and treat myself to a shopping trip at Murdochs’s to get Bogs winter boots (I refuse to go through another winter wearing crappy boots while feeding horses with freezing feet). Then I’m going on a horseback ride with a friend, having a massage at Massage Heights (I booked 90 minutes! #selfcare), come back feed and all the critters, and then meet a friend for dinner.

A good birthday in my book.

Thanks for reading and I will continue to write and share more with you this year. Basically, I want to connect more and this is how my intuition is guiding me to do it. So stay tuned, and I hope you have a great Friday.

Off to Murdoch’s where I’ll try and not get distracted by all the pretty, shiny, horse buckets.

Older, bud-weiser,

Devon

From handcuffs to horses…my people-pleasing journey

Chronic people-pleasing is a crime. It’s a crime against your soul, who you are, your unique gifts, purpose and message to share with the world.

By the time I was 21 years old, I was addicted to people-pleasing and external validation. I didn’t believe that I was good enough. Or smart enough. Or cool enough. Or attractive enough. Or lovable enough. So I manipulated my body, my behaviors and my personality so that I would be accepted, approved of and liked by everyone. I was always nice and said “yes” no matter what.

I did this at the cost of betraying my soul.

The people-pleasing road led to bulimia, blackout drunken nights, and self-loathing.

I was a shell of a person: I lost myself: in the midst of depression, I attempted to end my own life. I hit my rock bottom.

Friends and family were at a loss about how to help me, so my parents called the police.

I was handcuffed and escorted into a police car with neighbors gawking and tears in my parents’ eyes.

This was the wake-up call I needed to get real, start healing and take back my personal power, and quit committing crimes against myself.

From a hospital, to a psych ward, to a treatment center, to experiencing equine therapy and life coaching, my people-pleasing recovery journey went from handcuffs to healing through horses.

Horses ignored me during equine therapy if I attempted to be anything other than my authentic self. Horses only wanted to connect with me when I was being real, imperfections and all.

It was mind-opening and heart-opening.

Through working with horses and peeling back protective and inauthentic layers, I found the woman I was meant to be.

I began to accept, approve, like, and, yes, even love myself.

People-pleasing will cost you everything.

You are doing yourself and the world a disservice by saying “yes” to things when deep down your soul says “no.”

Especially as women, we need serious reframing around saying “no.”

Saying “no” to others doesn’t mean being a bitch, being selfish or being ungrateful.

It means we care about how we feel, and we value our precious time and energy.

It means we make choices based on what enhances our spirit versus what drains our spirit.

It means we proclaim that we can truly be there for others, only when we are there for ourselves first.

In a world of 7 billion people, not everyone is going to like you. Or accept you. Or approve of you. Or love you. And it’s okay.

In fact, it’s liberating to know and accept this because you will stop betraying your soul in an attempt to gain other’s fleeting acceptance and so-called stamp of approval.

Are you betraying yourself?

Awareness is key. Pay attention to the choices you make, and notice if they drain you mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

If your choices drain you, it’s a red flag. If you are fueled by your choices, you are feeding your soul and curing the “disease to please.”

Practice saying “no” in the mirror. When you say “no” to someone, use K.I.S.S., aka Keep It Short and Simple.

You will want to kiss yourself when you act on this because it feels empowering!

People pleasing

When you start saying “yes” to your soul, you take back your personal power. This is a practice and you begin to build an emotional muscle over time.

It could mean saying “no” to others. It could mean speaking up even when your voice shakes. It could mean sharing an opinion that goes against what your family/friends/co-workers/spouse thinks.

By pleasing yourself first, you start living the life you are born to live. Only then can you be of the highest value and service to the world and those around you.

When you break free of the chains of always being nice and relying on external validation to feel worthy and good enough, you take the reins of your life. And there is nothing more likable, attractive, and lovable than a woman who says “yes” to herself and “no” to what doesn’t resonate with her soul.

So don’t get handcuffed, get real.

Devon

P.S. If you want to learn how to say “YES” to yourself, join us at an Unbridled Retreat for Women. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO. 

P.S. Share this post if you know someone who can benefit.

Is your relationship with your body based on CONTROL?

My relationships have changed drastically in the past ten years.

First, is my relationship with horses. Second, is my relationship with my body.

Both of these relationships are now based on a two-way street of communication, mutual respect, trust and compassion.

I grew up in the ego-dominated world of showing horses competitively where it was strictly a one-way street of communication. The horse had to do what I demanded in order to “look good” and receive external validation from the show judges so we could beat the competition.

Even though my body was in the saddle, I was mostly “riding and living in my head”. When my horse would act up, giving me feedback that he was confused or frightened, I would grit my teeth and do what I was taught, which was to tighten the reins and get my horse under control immediately.

As the rider, I was programmed to be in control at all times and to make my horse do what I wanted.

Funny thing is, this was the exact relationship I had with my body for many years. I controlled my body by “holding onto the reins” as tightly as I could. I accomplished this through extreme restriction and desperately trying to look perfect to receive the external validation that my ego craved.

Always in a matter of time, my body would revolt and act up out of hunger and exhausted, I’d “drop of the reins” momentarily. This allowed me to buck and kick and run wild, eating everything in sight. Then I would capture my body and beat it back into submission through purging and then depriving it of any basic needs or nourishment.

Whew, I think back on the amount of energy it took me to keep my horse AND my body under control and it was a constant struggle which turned me into a shell of a person.

Dev and Detail moment

Through my personal journey of healing from an eating disorder, I discovered the profound impact of listening to my body. This gift was uncovered in my treatment process, through partnering with horses in an experiential way, with no agenda.

By connecting with horses and with the help of a facilitator, I learned to ground myself, experience emotional clearing and healing and stay present which allowed me to tune into my body. This was not about horsemanship at all, but about listening…to what the horse was communicating and to what my body was communicating.

Today, I no longer “tighten the reins” when I get scared and desperate to control things. I tune into what my body is communicating to me through awareness and quieting my mind. Then I can decipher what it is I need in that moment; many times it has nothing to do with food!

Horses have taught me the profound impact of a two-way street in a relationship and this is the juncture in which healing occurs, in all of our relationships.

 

Peace,

Devon

How to overcome your resistance to getting started

I just did something I haven’t done in a long time.

I went for a run. Laced up my sneakers and bolted out the door before my familiar excuses could sneak up on me.

I took off down the dirt ranch road and hit the street pavement running.

It felt foreign and liberating to move my body in a range of motion that didn’t include swinging a pitchfork, lifting a hay bale or scrubbing out a water tank.

Especially to wear shorts and have my legs exposed to the light of day after constantly wearing jeans.

I didn’t make it too far before running out of breath and getting a side cramp. I slowed down and walked. Power walked. Swinging my arms to maintain momentum.

A half block later, Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” blasted in my headphones and brought me a second wind. (I love how certain songs will do that.)

The renewed running pace lasted a few blocks. Huffing and puffing with a beet red face, I slowed to a walk again. My original “go for a run” concept turned into a run/walk and every speed in between.

And that’s ok. It was a start.

It felt good to be breathing hard, sweating and moving my body in a new way.  I felt alive and finally over the mountain of resistance that tends to keep me from starting things.

Often, the hardest part is getting started. We often waste more time thinking about it than just doing it.

Our ego isn’t a fan of the messy, awkward, beginning stage therefore it keeps us from starting at all.

Start anyway.

You might be out of practice (and end up with a side cramp). So what. Give yourself some compassion (and an epson salt bath later, that’s my plan anyways).

The important part is to just start somewhere…you will feel better by beginning AND, side bonus, feel inspired to do other things. Like me, here, writing a new blog post which is also something I have put off starting until my run/walk happened. Funny how the positive domino effect spills over into other areas of our life.

Don’t wait until tomorrow (that’s what your ego wants). Today, start one thing that you have been resisting. You’ll feel better by starting it, guaranteed.

With sneakers still on and a beet red face,

Devon

From Self-Loathing to Self-Compassion…Top 5 Tips to Healing

Twelve years ago I was in Tucson, Arizona as a patient at a holistic eating disorder treatment center called Mirasol. I had hit rock bottom and was in the throes of self-loathing, addiction, and numbness. 

Recently I returned to Tucson, Arizona and it was for a different reason…to lead UNBRIDLED, a holistic healing retreat at White Stallion Ranch, not far from Mirasol.

It was a full circle experience. What made the Tucson trip even more symbolic was visiting Marla Kuhn of Blue Horse Medicine.

Marla was my equine therapist at Mirasol and she and her horse Jack, turned my world right side up when I experienced equine therapy for the first time. To read the full story, CLICK HERE.

Mirasol was the start of my healing journey which led me down the trail of where I am today.

I have learned a lot in the past twelve years and here are the top 5 lessons that changed my life…

1. The only way out is through.

Take it from a pro, I tried every escape and numbing technique in the book to avoid feeling pain, including moving across the world to New Zealand. Problem is, wherever we go, we take ourselves.

I stuffed down and purged away my feelings through food and did whatever I could to numb out my self-loathing. It wasn’t until I faced my inner demons head on in a safe, supportive and therapeutic environment, that I was able to release fears and tears that had been bottled up most of my life.

It’s not our pain that ultimately harms up, it’s suppressing it that does.

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” ~ Rumi

2. The most important journey of your lifetime, is the journey within.

Before Mirasol, I had never heard of self-discovery or emotional healing. At first, I’ll admit, I was skeptical. Sharing feelings and talking about emotions seemed flaky and was what I perceived as “weak”, which I’d do ANYTHING to avoid.

It wasn’t until I experienced equine therapy, acupuncture, yoga, reiki, inner child work and family therapy, that I got it. Getting to know myself on a whole new level was life changing and it gave me insight to WHY I struggled with certain things. I developed self-compassion and my hard edges began to soften.

The better relationship you have with yourself, the better relationship you will have with others and the world around you.

“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” ~ Alan Alda

3. Forgiveness is the name of the game

My bottled up emotions were closely tied to not being able to forgive myself and others for events of the past. It was a constant tug of war between blaming myself and other people.

Through the self-discovery process and practicing self-compassion, I was slowly able to ease up on the hold of resentment and regret. The more I practiced forgiveness and letting go, the more inner peace I felt.

When you can forgive yourself and others, you are free.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” ~ Paul Boese

 4. You are not alone in your struggles

For years I felt desperately alone in my struggles. I thought something was wrong with me and I was convinced everyone else “had it together”.

It wasn’t until Mirasol, that I had ever sat in a group of women who openly shared their struggles. It was mind-blowing to witness such vulnerability and to realize that I was not alone. Through hearing other people’s stories and by speaking up in the group, my shame began to vaporize.

We are not alone in our struggle and it’s important to find non-judgmental environments where we feel safe to share ALL of who we are.

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Brene Brown

5. Connect to something outside yourself which fuels you

My world was very small when it was only about me, myself and I. I felt little connection to the outside world when I was stuck in my head all day. When I began to connect to things that fueled my spirit, my soul came alive.

My connection touchstones are spirituality, nature, horses, and being of service. When I’m engaged with any of these things (or all together at once, my holy grail), I feel energized and connected to the world at large. For you, it could be family, sports, music, faith, volunteering, creativity or a combination of many things.

Connecting to something outside of yourself which fuels you, expands your world and gives you meaning and purpose.

“We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there too.” ~ Kristin Martz

So there it is…a girl who once hated herself and shunned her feelings is now a woman partnering with horses to lead others down the trail of self-discovery.

From the holistic treatment center to leading a holistic retreat, it has been a full circle experience. Twelve years ago I never would have imagined where I’d be today. And most importantly, who I’d become.

You can’t always see where the trail leads and that’s why it’s called a journey. A journey of discovering who you are and why you are here. 

No matter where you are, trust that it is for a reason. Our greatest gifts often come from our greatest struggles.

The horse-crazy, holistic healing cowgirl,

Devon

Want to instantly feel better? Try this…

GRATITUDE.

This morning I was tossing and turning and got up at 3:12am and could not go back to sleep. It was because of a couple of things.

I was focused on feeling alone and not having a special someone to share my life with (a “lack of” thought).

I also believe and have experienced that NOTHING we want ever manifests if we come at it from a “lack” mentality.

So I don’t like to dwell there too long.

I also had lots on my mind from our Women’s Connection Group last night at the ranch.

Mostly around gratitude. It was a hot topic in the group.

Before the sun rose over the ranch, I got out of bed and did something about it.

I went over and hugged my dog Namo, who was contently sleeping on his dog bed.

He extended a paw out at me and took a deep breath and promptly went back to doggie dreaming. He warmed my heart and made me smile.

Then I went outside to look at the stars. Nature always leaves me in awe and gets me out of my “lack” thoughts. Especially a starry night.

More so, I feel connected to something beyond myself and I experience GRATITUDE.

“The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.” ~Neale Donald Walsch

When I focus on what I don’t have, I’m miserable. My energy plummets. My mood and thoughts can spiral down real fast if I allow it.

So I have to flip the switch. To gratitude. To what I DO have. To what’s right in front of me.

It raises my energy and mood instantly and put things into a new perspective.

The world looks a lot brighter through the lens of gratitude.

For me, gratitude saves the day, every time. I sometimes forget that I can always access it.

So I started to name things that always make me feel better.

I call them my “gratitude touchstones”.

Here are the two recent examples of my go-to gratitude touchstones:

This sweet face that I look over and see in his dog bed each morning aka Namo. My hearts bursts with gratitude for this dog and I squeeze him and tell him that every day.

gratitude 1

As it got a little lighter out, I snapped this pic. It’s the horses grazing in the crisp morning air, before the sun rises. Their peaceful presence touches the depths of my soul. #immensegratitude

horses yo

Animals and nature. Those are my two gratitude touchstones that never fail.

What helps you flip the switch to gratitude?

Is it a quote? Is it a picture of a calming image? Is it looking to the mountains? A piece of jewelry that holds meaning for you?

Or maybe it’s a literal “Gratitude” stone like the ones we had in the arena last night for our Women’s Connection Group. Stones are awesome because they carry lots of energy and you can keep them in your purse or pocket!

stones

I suggest making it something that you have easy access to. It might even be walking outside. Breathing in fresh air.

When I’m in nature or with animals (especially both at the same time), I surrender to gratitude and feel better instantly.

The “lack” feelings are ushered out and replaced with something much more powerful…GRATITUDE for what is, for what I do have.

I’d love to hear in the comments below what your gratitude touchstones are.

If you don’t have one yet, that’s cool too.

Just notice what ALWAYS makes you feel better on the inside. That’s a good place to start. Then you can name it and begin a daily practice of tuning into your gratitude touchstones more often. Whenever you need them.

Gratitude is where it’s at.

In gratitude, clearly:)… (I’m smiling as I type this because I love the way gratitude feels),

Devon

How to not be so hard on yourself

look back

The last few days have been weird.

A flashback into my past.

I stayed at my parents house for a few nights taking care of their dogs, koi fish and bullfrog (I clearly hail from a family of animal fanatics) while they are out of town.

It felt strange being in the childhood home I grew up in.

The energy of the house took me right back to my teenage years.

Sharp memories of lurking in the kitchen and binging on all the sweets and carbs I could get my hands on, cutting off my long hair in the downstairs bathroom, and trying to overdose on pills in my bedroom to end the self-hatred I had at the time.

I was a handful to say the least.

I’ve grown up and changed A LOT since then.

Yet an old part of me was still triggered being in that kitchen again. With every opportunity to binge my face off.

It had been years since I felt triggered like that.

And I still remember the exact pattern if I choose to “go there.”

I will feel a high, then relief, then numbness, then disgust, then shame, then panic and extreme anxiety which leads to more crazy and irrational behavior to get rid of what I just ate.

It’s a slippery slope indeed.

The good news is I have gained traction (aka self-awareness and self-esteem) in the past 10 years.

Through a sh*&-ton of therapy, life coaching and ongoing personal development work, I know my triggers like the back of my hand.

When I feel binge-y I know I need to channel that energy into something else asap.

So I got in the car and went to a nearby place that helps settles my frantic energy; a place that helps me chill and see the big picture of life; a place where I can lose myself for a bit in a healthy way.

The museum.

Yep, I took my triggered self to the Museum of Nature and Science and an IMAX movie that looked interesting. Then I mosied around the exhibits like a kid on a field trip.

Afterward, I went to the grocery store and bought food that makes me feel good, which my body does well on.

Whew, I felt like myself again. My 30-year old self. Not my 20-year old self who rears her head once in a blue moon.

Ten years ago I didn’t have the life experience, body awareness, or self-esteem to consciously decide and act upon choices that serve me vs. harm me in the long run.

Now I do. That is a big fu&*ing deal. Yet I forget how far I’ve come.

“Always concentrate on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have left to go.” ~Unknown

It may not FEEL like you have come far but take a moment and reflect back on where you were 10 years ago.

I can guarantee that you are not the exact same person doing the exact same things.

If you were, you would not be drawn to this blog nor interested and immersed in your own self-discovery, spiritual awakening, healing process or whatever you want to call it.

BUT YOU ARE. And you’re here.

You might be beating yourself up for not being where you want to be.  Trust me, I get it.

My inner critic still hounds on me, not so much for body stuff, but for business stuff and not being where I “should be” financially, blah, blah, blah.

But I’ve come a long way, baby. And I know you have too.

We don’t give ourselves enough credit.

No matter where you are today, you have overcome something. You have endured, survived and gotten through (I’m guessing MANY things) or you wouldn’t be here reading this.

Whether it was a turbulent childhood, an addiction, loss or traumatic event, YOU ARE HERE NOW. Still showing up for life.

That speaks volumes in my book and sends a big ol’ message to the universe.

“Your past does NOT equal your future.” ~Tony Robbins

Amen, Tony Robbins and this is SO true.

You have changed more than you realize and built internal muscles of perseverance.

Take a moment to reflect back on what you were doing 5 or 10 years ago?

What comes to mind that perhaps you haven’t thought about in awhile or really given yourself credit for?

I’d love to hear in the comments below what you have overcome or how you’ve changed since then.

You are an inspiration already. Know that.

Here’s to self-compassion, living AND learning,

Devon

Cancer. And what a real hug feels like.

The last few weeks have been tough for my family. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news was a shock to all of us. It felt like someone hit me with a stun gun. I couldn’t react. I couldn’t believe it.

Yet the tests were in and it was confirmed. My family huddled together. One sister drove home from college. Another sister Skyped in from Peace Corps. I saw tears in the eyes of the men in my family.

I’m blessed that my family has always been close, but recently we have become closer on a new level.

I hugged my mom for the first time without quickly unwrapping my arms because “it was time” to release the hug. I hugged her and completely let my guard down. We held each other and cried together and I could not stop the flood of emotions.

I didn’t try to control my emotions. I didn’t try and maintain composure and be the “strong” one.

I feel so much love for her and I was able to express that without holding back…my heart wouldn’t let me close up or protect me. Thank god. The wall of bricks around my heart continues to come down.

2horses

I have horses to thank for that. They have taught me to allow my emotions to come up, flow through and be released.

To stop judging myself for what I’m feeling.

To ease up my self-imposed iron fist of control. To take risks when it comes to intimacy, autheniticty and vulnerablitiy.

They have taught me what it feels like to be in the moment. To stay present and not run for the hills, no matter how intense the emotions are.

To be grateful for today and not wait until tomorrow to give a real hug, open my heart and say “I love you, I’m sorry, I’m here for you.”

Mom just shared with us that if she plays cancer as hard as she plays her tennis match opponents, that cancer will have to lose.

She is beautifully resilient. I have much to learn from her.

I’m grateful for my brilliant, lovely, spunky, inspiring and courageous mom. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for horses.

I’m grateful for my physical health. I’m grateful that my previous priorities have been seriously “checked.”

I’m grateful for the woman I am becoming. By staying present through tough times with an open heart.
Love and light,

Devon

Do you kick yourself or forgive yourself?

Yesterday I got a horrible text.

It was from the morning feed crew at the ranch. It came at 7:27am and it read “I know you had a lot on your mind last night, but you left Archer in the stall.” My heart stopped momentarily and my upbeat morning coffee buzz came to an abrupt halt.

Translation: Archer, the oldest horse at the ranch, is brought into a stall each night and is fed grain and supplements. When he’s done eating, we let him back out into the paddock to join the rest of the herd.

Problem was, I forgot to let him out.

I was preoccupied with the small stuff.  Making sure every piece of hay was swept up in the barn aisle, the grain buckets were cleaned and put away and that the paddock was mucked and pristine. The place looked like it could be featured on the cover of Farm & Ranch magazine.

Yet, I completely spaced the most important thing. My inner critic was having a heyday. 

I initially felt petrified that Archer was not ok as a result of my mistake. Then a tsunami of mortification pounded me over the head. I couldn’t believe I had done something so stupid.

After frantically texting back, I received reassurance that Archer was ok. Whew, I let out a sigh of relief. But the mortification was still looming.

I had to take the reins of this situation and own my error. I dialed Archer’s owner. I took a deep breath and left an apology voicemail.

Hanging up the phone, I broke down. Broke down because Archer had  limited water for the night and was separated from his herd which is stressful for a horse. Broke down because I know better than to leave the barn without at least three final checks of everything. Broke down because suddenly I felt incompetent and like the worst person in the world.

As if my entire self worth was riding on this one mistake.

“Do not waste another moment of your life worrying about something you cannot change. Keep your eye on what you can do today and going forward.  Learn to handle your mistakes with love, forgiveness, a positive, quick response and arm yourself with a “what to do next time” strategy.” ~ J. Marie Novak

Archer deserved an apology and I had to see him for myself. I went out to the ranch to check on him and indeed he was fine. He didn’t try to run me over and kick me like I had been kicking myself.

No, he stood still with a soft eye and silenced my inner critic. Damn, horses are so good at that.

The tsunami of guilt was slowly replaced with a wave of compassion. Compassion for horses. Compassion for myself and that I am far from perfect which is perfectly ok. In general, horses are incredibly forgiving of our human mistakes. Another one of their gifts for us to learn from.

Archee

In that moment, I could acknowledge that I screwed up without it meaning that I was a bad person and a failure at life. It just meant that I was human and therefore make mistakes sometimes.

Do you ever find yourself so consumed with the small stuff that you overlook the most important stuff right in front of your face?

We all make mistakes. It’s part of being human. There’s nothing fun or sexy about making a mistake. We can’t go back and change it but we can learn from it and keep moving down the trail of life. Picking up more awareness and lessons as we go. 

Thou shalt not sweep the small stuff (not first anyway.) How do YOU move on when you’ve made a mistake? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!

Humbled by horses,

Devon