Be Your Beauty

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Be Your Beauty

I learned long ago that thought is reality, and the way that I saw myself became the way I carried myself.   For many years I let my self-image dictate how I showed-up in life, and it wasn't pretty.  I was awkward, always seeking to be invisible—letting my hair hang in my face, never making eye contact, wearing baggy clothes, and never speaking up.  I didn't value mySelf. 

At the encouragement of my parents and a friend's mother, I attended modeling school and started to see my beauty.   I started modeling and while this began to change things for me, seeing myself as physically beautiful was not the same as seeing myself as innately noble.  I had to do the inner work necessary to accept the nobility of my soul as an absolute, unchangable fact.  As I walked this path of "knowing" to my core my inherent worth something striking happened in my photoshoots, I began to show-up differently in the images.  Images that once looked pretty but hollow became vibrant and full of life.  I realized that in order for an image to truly capture a person's light, that light has to be lit from within—this isn't something photoshop can "fix". 

Now I work behind the camera lens, supporting others in their journey of embracing their inner light so that their brand images truly reflect their inner certitude.  I do this through my Brand Your Beauty program.  This program supports entrepreneurs in stepping into their light on camera leading to an increase in both confidence and clients.  During our time together we  explore the various barriers—myths, fears, and insecurities—that keep individuals from honestly recognizing their inherent beauty and transform such barriers into bridges to their true calling.  For you are a noble soul.  Once you embrace this truth and show-up in life knowing to your core that you are a vibrant, brilliant, beautiful being, the world cannot help but notice.  And when you feel confident, it is a catalyst to your calling, and THAT is what this work is about—empowering you to serve.

An essential aspect of the Brand Your Beauty program is the virtual Radiance Retreat, which consists of three mini-intensives: Exploration, Transformation, and Sophistication conversations.  During the Sophistication conversation I share tips and tricks from nearly two decades of experience in-front of and behind the camera lens.  Much of this learning comes from my time as a model—both in terms of techniques to amplify physical beauty and, most importantly, to boost inner radiance.  However, most of this learning comes from my own journey to truly see myself, my whole Self, as beautiful.

So while much of this may sound like it is only for entrepreneurs or those preparing for a photoshoot or live event, the truth is that all of us could stand to recognize, appreciate, and embrace our genuine and natural beauty in a way that elevates our souls, awakens our purpose, and catalyzes our calling.

For a glimpse at the kinds of things covered during the Sophistication conversation, click here for a free gift, "Be Your Beauty".

So much love,

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Grasp the Paintbrush

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Grasp the Paintbrush

Lately prayer has been on my mind, as I share my perspective please consider sharing your own in the comments below.

Prayer is focusing all of your intentions, hopes, desires, gratitudes, and longings on the Omnipresent.  Prayer is spirit calling out through your very pores for harmony, patience, peace.  Prayer is offering harmony, patience, and peace.  Prayer is watching a newborn babe, in all his or her glory, sleep.  Prayer is riding a bicycle for the first time, the fiftieth time, the last time.  Prayer is photographing a moment of beauty that would otherwise go unnoticed.  Prayer is singing a song at the top of your lungs, or under your breath, just because it makes you happy.  Prayer is smiling at a stranger, your mother, yourself.  Prayer is uncovering the infinite depths of your nobility.  Prayer is climbing a tree, climbing a mountain, jumping off a cliff, and standing in a prairie.  Prayer is breathing.  Prayer is life.  Prayer is living your life in a state of humble gratitude and awe.  Prayer is living your life with love and compassion.  Prayer is upholding justice.  Prayer is being.

Every thought we think is a prayer.  Every word we utter is a prayer.  Every action we take is a prayer.  Whether we know it our not, the Unknowable Essence is ALWAYS present.  It’s really on us to recognize that our thoughts, words, deeds, and energy are perpetually in motion, headed Home.  If acknowledged, maybe we’d pray a little differently.  Maybe we’d live a little differently.  Maybe we’d live our lives with greater authenticity―for the more authentic we are, the more potent our prayer.

An authentic life is the most personal form of worship. Everyday life has become my prayer.
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Authentic living is equivalent to potent prayers.  Why?  How?  Prayer is a deeply personal expression of truth.  In the privacy of your own internal sacred space prayer is an unveiling of your innermost secrets, desires, wishes, dreams, gratitudes, and longings to yourself, as well as to your Creator.  Therefore, Truthfulness = Authenticity.  The more earnestly and honestly we share with our Healer, the more clearly we will see and understand ourselves.   This internal honesty is crucial to our growth.  For as we walk up our own personal mountain path, we will never be able to forge ahead if we do not acknowledge the boulder blocking the way.  Once we are honest with ourselves and our Maker about our boulders we will have perspective, tools, and capacity to move beyond them.

Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness, progress and success in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also become acquired.
― ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Additionally, once we express to our Guide where we are at―once we acknowledge what state we exist in at the present moment―we offer up our load, unburden our souls, and allow ourselves to be clear channels.  This experience is remarkably transformative.  Yet most people close their prayer thinking the prayer has ended…yet the Divine is ever present; we continue to offer energy that will always be received.

However, if we continue to remain open, humble, and honest, live with authenticity, and exude an attitude of gratitude, our conscious intention allows us to embrace that all of life is a prayer. On a moment to moment basis we are interacting with each other, living our own prayer and respecting each others prayer.  With this level of authentic awareness our lives are lived as potent prayers, focused and directed at honoring the Divine in all we see, do, speak, think, feel and experience.

Action is the normal completion of the act of will which begins as prayer. That action is not always external, but it is always some kind of effective energy.
Dean Inge

As more and more people come to live their lives as a prayer, more and more people will arise, transformed into healers.  We will recognize that a smile has the capacity to heal a broken heart.  We will recognize that a kind word, an open heart, an attentive ear, mends and transforms sorrow into joy.  We will understand that every action, even the actions that go unnoticed, are a part of the prayer that is life.

Prayer is not…idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.
Mahatma Gandhi

For as we live authentic lives, allowing our souls to be open to the promptings of the spirit, pursuing our calling, and ever mindful of what is God’s, we begin to see the art of prayer in creating a new and beautiful reality.  So come pray with me…won’t you?

The man who makes a piece of notepaper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God. Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.
― ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

graspthepaintbrush.jpg

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The Story that Starts and Ends with a Turtle

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The Story that Starts and Ends with a Turtle

A couple weeks ago I saved a turtle.  My husband and I were driving in Henry County along a winding road to New Castle, KY, and we saw a turtle in the road.  After I shouted “that was a turtle!” Adam asked if we should turn around.  Of course I said yes, and so we did.  It wasn’t the safest idea I’ve ever had, but I did it.  I ran into the middle of the road and picked the little guy up by his shell, and, while he hissed at me, I placed him safely in the grass on the other side of the road.  As we drove away a huge tractor drove by which would have totally crushed the poor guy, and I said out loud that I felt saving that turtle was one of the most significant acts of gratitude in my life, no joke.

In May of 2011 Adam and I went on a nine-day pilgrimage to the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel.  On the final day of our pilgrimage, at our final Holy Place visit—at the House of the Master—I stepped outside to take a moment for myself and I saw a turtle, right smack dab in the center of the sidewalk.  He was looking right at me, as if to say “I have something to tell you”.  In that moment I was overwhelmed by a knowing that Adam and I would be taken care of, and not in a general sort of way, in a very specific way—our housing would be provided for us for a good long while.  So this turtle, who carries his house wherever he goes, was showing me that our housing would be taken care of so that we could focus on other, more important things in the early years of our marriage. 

I was a student, and after we were married in January of 2011 I transferred to the college Adam worked at in Saint Peter, MN.  Shortly after returning from pilgrimage, my husband was offered a secondary position at the college as a head resident at one of the campus dorms.  So in the summer of 2011, we moved into an apartment on campus—our accommodations provided for—for two years.    

As I approached graduation we began to look at other opportunities, one of which was service in the Holy Land, at the Bahá'í World Centre—where we had visited for pilgrimage.  Prior to my graduation we were invited to serve for 30 months.  Moving to a new country is an exciting and challenging experience, and it was seamless in part because our accommodations were provided for us while overseas. 

As our time in the Holy Land drew to a close, and we began to think about next steps, we decide to return to the US and be near family.  We didn’t want to just jump back into life as we knew it, for we had been changed by our experience overseas, and we wanted to be mindful about what we did next.  We were very fortunate in that we were able to live with Adam’s parents for 17 months while we adjusted to life back in the US.  As our time with them drew to a close we were offered a service position in Louisville, KY, which provided accommodations.

For the last six years our accommodations have been provided for us, and every time we moved I thought about that turtle and was grateful.

Last month our service ended in Louisville, and while we were offered another opportunity that would have provided us with accommodations, we decided it was time to change the course of our lives.  My husband accepted a position teaching High School English in Henry County, KY, and on our way to the high school to see his classroom we saw a turtle.  Yep, the turtle at the start of this story.  And while I was carrying him over to the side of the road I felt something shift.  It felt so significant, saving that turtle.  It was almost like saving him was my way of expressing gratitude to that other turtle for its message all those years ago.  It was more than that; it was my way of thanking God for sending me messages in ways that I understand, for truly providing for Adam and me while we began the work of building a solid foundation for our marriage, and for letting me know that while it is a bit scary to have all the bills that come with having your own place, we made the right choice, and we will be provided for in other ways.

So here I sit, in our new apartment reflecting on the gratitude I feel for the years of support that we have received, in awe of the mystical workings of the Divine, leaning into this new chapter in our lives, and humbled by the message of not one, but two turtles.

In awe of God's will,

 Sunset from Henry County High School

Sunset from Henry County High School

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The Tattoo

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The Tattoo

This, here, is my right foot.

The one-and-only tattoo I have is on this foot. Before getting this tattoo, I used a sharpie marker and drew it on every day for a month, just to make sure I wanted it. And boy, did I want this one. And even now, after 10 years, it means more to me every day than it did the last.

This word “kon” in Arabic means “be”. At the time I had been reading all about certain experiments in Japan that indicated that the energy of a word could visibly transform the molecular structure of water, so I decided to get a word tattooed on my body to support my overall growth and development (I mean, our body is overall 60% water and our brain and heart are 73% water!). I kept thinking of words, and at the time I was really focused on understanding and upholding justice in my life, so initially I was going to get that on my foot.  But then I thought, "is this really the attribute I'm going to want to work on in 10 years?" Well, it's 10 years later and I'm glad I went a different direction.

Ultimately I decided on “be”, thinking I could mentally insert whatever attribute I was focused on at any given moment: “be just” or “be joyful”. Only after I got the tattoo did I learn that in Persian the same word “kon” means “do”. I thought this was pretty darn cool back then, but today it is my favorite thing about my tattoo.

This one word, in two languages, means both “be” and “do”. This is what I am striving to live into at this moment in my life, being myself through doing the things that remind me of who I am. 

The whole being and doing thing is so fascinating to me. This symbiotic relationship is called our “two-fold moral purpose”, and essentially it states that the individual and society develop together. I, as an individual, cannot develop my character and capacity without being of service to my community. AND the community cannot develop its character and capacity unless individuals are being of service to it and supported by it. So if I want to “be” my best self I have to “do” what I can for my community.

It's truly incredible if you think about it. The lessons I keep learning from this one little tattoo. 

With love,

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Forever reaching

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Forever reaching

For as long as I can remember, I've been reaching for something higher, something more.  I'm not talking in the materialistic sense; I don't feel the need for higher status nor do I aspire to accumulate more things.  No, what I am reaching for is of the spirit.  I believe we are all inherently noble—born of Beauty and created in Love.  Because of this, I believe that each soul has a priceless opportunity in this life to bring to light all the latent gems inherent within.  My work is really about supporting you in bringing the gems latent within you to light, so that you are able to bring your true Self, and all of the attributes of your soul, into the world. 

Realistically, if I am not also doing my work to mine those gems latent within my own soul, I will fall short in my calling to support you.  AND if I am not supporting you to be your best Self, I will struggle in being my best Self.  This is because, as humans, we have a two-fold moral purpose.

We live in a world that seems to contradict itself.  On one hand, we are told to look out for number 1 at the expense of everything/everyone else.  On the other hand, we are told to sacrifice everything/ourselves for the betterment of others.  Well, if we remove the extremes from these two idea we find a middle path, a path that says it is necessary to support our community and ourselves.  What's more, the two-fold moral purpose says that rather than being dichotomous, the development of ourselves and the world is a dialectic—individual and communal growth happen in relation to one another—and the vehicle for such development is service.

If this is true, and I believe it is, than my community will be strengthened through my contributions and, in turn, the gems of my character will shine forth.  So you see, I will forever reach to be the best I can be, not because I want to be better than others but because the dark soil of this world has the capacity to bring forth the most fragrant and beautiful rose garden.  Through my efforts, our efforts, to be of service in the ways we feel called we will see this transformation take place, one gem at a time.

Ever reaching,

P.S. Visit Brand Your Beauty to learn more about how I can support you in shining your light.

P.P.S. Speaking of being of service to others, I'm in the process of developing a new program—a training program for fellow photographers who desire to truly bring out the best within their clients.  I realized recently that all of the work that I do is not "my" work.  It may be that I devised the Thru Beauty Method, but it isn't mine exclusively.  Therefore, I am going on retreat next week to fully develop a training protocol so that more and more people can experience the restorative power of healing Thru Beauty.  I believe this world will only transform into the rose garden it is capable of becoming as more and more people truly recognize their own inherent worth, and that is what my work is about—supporting as many people in stewarding their beauty as possible.  Therefore, the next logical step is to share this method with others.  Stay tuned, more to come on this after the retreat!

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Awaken and Surrender

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Awaken and Surrender

In the experience of beauty we awaken and surrender in the same act. ~John O'Donohue

What a remarkable concept.  Experiencing beauty leads to both an awakening to all that is potentially possible in this moment and to a surrendering to the larger, sweeping rhythm of life. 

In the last post I explored how beauty calls us, not to some distant future goal, but "to our inherent capacity in this moment, right now".

Beauty calls us beyond ourselves and it encourages us to engage the dream that dwells in the soul. ~John O'Donohue

In this sense beauty awakens our own calling and invites it out into the world.  It beckons.  It draws our attention to all that is noble within, here and now.  There is no rush to become, no urge to fix, no hustle to do more.  There is a gentle coming alive, a humble waking up to the truth of what has been inside of us all along, and in that awakening there is a surrendering, a recognition that while we are noble and grand and matchless in our capacity, we are but a drop in this one great ocean of humanity.  Beauty reminds us that if we relax into the present moment we will remain connected to the sacredness of all life.  We surrender when we appreciate that there is no place for competition in our quest to live into all that we potentially possess, for we recognize that what we truly seek is a meaningful life—a life lived in service—a life braided with luminous moments.

"Every life is braided with luminous moments." ~John O'Donohue

May your life be braided with luminous moments of beauty that lead to your awakening and surrendering, all in the same act.

Much love,

 

 

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... we feel called

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... we feel called

When we experience beauty, we feel called. ~John O'Donohue

I can remember being 12 years old on a crisp fall afternoon, sitting on my branch in the woods on the farm where I grew up.  I sat there completely still, transfixed by the way the light flooded through the falling leaves, casting its rays upon the ground.  All around me birds sang sweet melodies beckoning me into the moment.  I couldn't help but be exactly where I was, which was why I was there—I have always longed to be here, present. 

Much of what I've read about "calling" is that it is that "thing" we were created to do, to carry out, and that it is something we pursue, something way out ahead of us that we go after.  Much literature explores calling as being rooted in our uniqueness, inherent in who we are; yet, it is still something to move toward, as though it is forever out of reach.

What if a calling is not this elusive, distant dream or aspiration of our soul.  What if a calling is actually a prompting of the soul to awaken to our inherent capacity in this moment, right now.  I believe we are always growing and changing and transforming and becoming, that is what life is all about—striving to become the best versions of ourselves; little by little, day by day.  However, if we are overtly and solely focused on who we could be, we tend to neglect to be who we are, right now—and who we are right now is magnificent.  Sometimes we just need to be reminded of our own nobility.

That 12 year old version of myself knew this, which is why anytime I was feeling unloved/unlovable, not enough, or just plain down, I would go sit on my branch in the woods at my parents farm and immerse myself in beauty.  For when we experience true beauty we feel called—not to something out there far away from us, but to the present moment, to all that is worthy and good within us, to the glory and grace of God in our lives.

May we all seek the beauty that beckons us home.

With love,

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And so it begins

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And so it begins

Whew!  Starting a business is a whirlwind!  I've had to face fears and insecurities of my own through this process, and also recognize the ways in which I feel called to serve on a much deeper level.  And with this post, it begins ... so let's dive in!

Recently I was reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, learning about the research on shame and vulnerability and their relationship to joy and gratitude, and I found myself thinking of a few quotes from the Bahá'í Writings:

"In this day, to thank God for His bounties consisteth in possessing a radiant heart, and a soul open to the promptings of the spirit. This is the essence of thanksgiving." ~'Abdu'l-Bahá

"O My servants! Be as resigned and submissive as the earth, that from the soil of your being there may blossom the fragrant, the holy and multicolored hyacinths of My knowledge." ~Bahá'u'lláh

"Instead of complaining, they rendered thanks unto God, and amidst the darkness of their anguish they revealed naught but radiant acquiescence to His will." ~Bahá'u'lláh

After reading and calling to mind these quotes I sat back to reflect, and I looked out of the window of the plane I was in.  (I happened to be flying from California to Colorado after a whirlwind trip to work with two clients and present my Master's research on interfaith dialogue at a conference on immigration.)  So in that moment, I was directly above the Grand Canyon—like, crystal clear skies, perfect fall day, Grand Canyon.  Now, I've never seen the Grand Canyon before, never on a flight or in person, and in that moment I was breathless, choked up even.  It was stunning.  Here was this physical manifestation of beauty that comes from being "resigned and submissive", the water carved through this land creating vast cracks in an otherwise flat(ish) vista, and in its submissiveness it's beauty was born.  As an artist you'd think I would have whipped out my camera and taken a few shots out of the window.  In that moment, my prerogative wasn't to act as photographer, it was to simply allow myself to be taken on the journey the landscape beckoned me toward.  To quote one of my favorite movies (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013), "If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it", for "Beautiful things don't ask for attention."

If only I can continually recall that moment, how being "open to the promptings of the spirit" is much like the water flowing through the channel created out of "radiant acquiescence"—oh the joy felt in gratitude, the power cultivated in submission!  I was reminded of why I am doing the work I am doing, it is that feeling of returning home within one's self, the kind of homecoming that is only possible thru an encounter with true beauty.

So that is what I am here to support you in, returning home, to your center, thru beauty.  Whether through a specific program—Brand Your Beauty and Shape Your Sanctuary—or through customized artwork and prints—Radiant Creation and the Shop—it all centers around supporting you to come home within yourself through an encounter with beauty—the beauty within and surrounding you.

Ever in service,

 Since I didn't take a photo of the Grand Canyon, here is a photo of a rose in the morning dew.

Since I didn't take a photo of the Grand Canyon, here is a photo of a rose in the morning dew.

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