Simplicity.

As I mentioned in my Goals for 2017 post, I am trying to minimize and focus on living a more simple, and meaningful life.

I am wildly intrigued by minimalism and the thought of doing more with less. If you haven’t heard of The Minimalists, check them out.  Their documentary is viewable here as well as on Netflix and they have authored three books that share their journeys into minimalism (I recently purchased Everything That Remains, if anyone would like to borrow it).  I also subscribe to their podcast and I love it!  If you commute to work, prefer stories over songs when working out, or just need to change up the pace, give them a listen.

The thing that I love most about minimalism is that it’s different for everyone.  Every person has a different definition of minimizing, living simply, and what is valuable to them.  For me, being a minimalist is all about finding value in the possessions that I have.  While, I hate clutter, and don’t want to ever live in a way that allows clutter to rule my home, my journey is most importantly about building a relationship with the stuff that I do have and recycling-tossing stuff defeats the purpose of minimizing waste and impact, so donate, repurpose, etc., please-the things that don’t add value to my life.

I’ve always been a pretty simple liver, but I finally started my adventure into this minimalism thing when I was living back at my parents house over Christmas break.  Being home for almost a month gave me ample time to sort through the junk in my room at their house.  I haven’t used most of the stuff in that room for a large portion of the last five years, and I know they’re not using any of it.  My twin brother, Adam recently moved out of my parents house too, so our room now felt awkward, like somehow it was no longer ours.  It was weird to be sleeping in a room that now felt lifeless.

My door was still covered in pictures from high school cross country, and old Runners World magazine snippets that I had cut out for inspiration.  Clothes that no longer fit littered my closet floor.  Posters hung limply on the walls-with the exception of my autographed Switchfoot poster, which definitely adds value to my life, I realized these posters no longer represented the person I am today-so I tore them down and tossed them.  Cleaning my room and sorting the stuff that is no longer needed from the stuff that will be kept felt so good.  It made the space feel a little more like mine-if even only for a few more days.

Since coming back to Verm, I have tried to make conscious decisions as far as my relationships go.  Is this person, thing, or activity adding value to my life?  Am I happy with this?  Is this just taking up space-even though I have literally nothing in my apartment, it is still a thought that I have?  I love that The Minimalists define living minimally as living with only the things that you value.  To me that is the perfect definition of how I prefer to live.


I recently downloaded a book on my Kindle that is written by a worship group that I love.  I have been a big fan of Rend Collective for quite a few years now, and they just released a devotional book that supplements their latest album-I just had to download it.

What I love most about Rend Collective is that they release Campfire albums every few years.  They unplug from the world, pack up their bags and instruments, and head into the wild.  There they are able to get back to the basics and produce simplistic and meaningful music that reflects who they are as a group as well as focusing on the things that really matter to them.

The first devotional in this book is titled Simplicity (also a title of one of the songs on the album) and talks about the reason why they go into the wilderness to write music.  It talks about the beauty of nature, the wonder of the stars, and the fact that today’s society is so focused on things that distract us from simplicity-from what is really important.  There is a quote in this reading that I am absolutely in love with.  It reads:

Simplicity is the art of restoring a clear and unobstructed view of the things that really matter.

This quote struck me because it really defines the emphasis on value and relationships in the minimalism movement, and the reason that I am so intrigued by minimalism in the first place.  Removing distractions and going back to the basics-stopping to smell the roses, if you will-helps me to realize the things that are important to me and why I value them.


I am also reading a book called The Longest Race by Ed Ayres.  I chose this book because it is written by an iconic ultra-runner, and as you all know, I love running.  Ayres articulates how I feel about running and minimalism in a great passage from his book, which is actually the inspiration for this post.  It reads:

As the world gets more complicated, people become more appreciative of the things that remain simple-and few things do.  Running is in some ways the simplest of all sports.  All you have to do to run, is open the door and go out.

Ayres explains that one of the great appeals of running is it’s simplicity and I couldn’t agree more.  In fact, I am attracted to the simple sports-the ones with few rules, little to no equipment, and those that require very little coordination, competition, and grace, but lots of attitude, stamina, and heart.  It’s why I love running, swimming, and hiking…and have enjoyed dabbling in yoga recently, too.

Each of these sports requires strength of mind and character.  They are not for the faint of heart.  But they are simple, independent, and can be done by anyone who is able.  They leave minimal impact, require minimal conditioning, and can all be done at your own pace.

There are very few distractions in these sports, and because of that I am able to think, breathe, and focus.  I can focus on the things that truly matter such as spiritual growth, reconnecting with my environment, and listening to my body.

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Another huge aspect of simplicity for me is always remembering to #LiveLikeMike.  Check out this link to read his story.


I look forward to continuing this journey into minimalism and exploring what that means for my relationships with material possessions, food, activities, and people, and the value that I place on each of them.

If you have thoughts on minimalism, feel free to reach out and share.  I’d love to connect.

-Joel

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Goals For 2017.

Honestly, I can’t believe how fast the year flashed by.  I feel like 2016 just started…and yet here we are, on the second to last day of the year.  I think it’s been harder for me to keep track of time this year because of all of the big life events that happened during the last 365 days.

Just to recap, 2016 brought:

  • my final semester of college
  • a stressful and exciting grad school/job search
  • an offer (and acceptance) for a graduate assistantship at the University of South Dakota
  • the creation of this blog!
  • college graduation! #NMUAlumni
  • a move back to my parents house for the summer
  • a new summer job at the local cafe
  • my first big adult purchase-my 2011 Chevy Impala!
  • a cross-country trek to my new home, Vermillion, South Dakota! #FromNoMiToSoDak
  • my first semester of #SAGrad
  • new friends
  • an interest and focus on holistic wellbeing
  • meditation
  • an unforgettable roadtrip and hiking adventure to the Badlands with my best friend, Monica
  • trips to exciting cities-St. Louis, Missouri, and Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • more time spent in airports than any year prior

and…

  • lots of new adventures!

So, as I ring in the new year, I can’t help but to think back on all of the positive and negative things that I experienced in 2016 and the things I look forward to in 2017.

I am not really big on new years resolutions because I don’t believe they really work.  I don’t ever stick to them and neither do most people…it’s just a fun trendy thing to do so we all hop on that bandwagon.

However, something that I am pretty big on is goal-setting (cue all student affairs related programming).  So, rather than creating a resolution each year I try to make a few reasonable goals for myself.

This year my goals are:

  • land a summer internship.
    • I am currently applying through ACUHO-I  but am also looking into other internship hosts and campus locations.
  • read six books.
    • I am working on knocking off some books on my To-Read shelf on Goodreads.
  • #RunTheYear2017.
    • I hope to run 2017 miles in the year of 2017, which equates to 5.5 miles a day.
  • Build a mostly plant-based diet.
    • This one I am still unsure of but really interested in!  
    • I am shooting for 75-80% of my diet being plant-based but am not sure how I will track this yet.  Because of my running goal, I want to focus on filling my body with nutrient-rich foods right from the ground in order to provide the energy needed to reach this lofty fitness goal.  I have been thinking about and researching plant based lifestyles for a long while now but have been scared to try it.  I hate the idea of dieting and restricting myself to only certain foods, but I wholeheartedly believe that a mostly plant based lifestyle is the way to go for me.  Being mostly plant-based will allow for me to consistently practice positive physical wellbeing and monitor the foods that I am eating while still being flexible enough for me to feel unrestricted and still have fun too…aka ice cream, french fries, and craft beer.
  • minimize.
    • The idea of minimalist living has always intrigued me.  I hate living in clutter.  I hate having things that are unused or don’t bring me happiness and positivity in some way.  I would like to be able to pack up the items that I have and move easily when I am done with grad school, so it makes sense to start minimizing now.  The less I have the less I have to worry about, right?

As of right now, these are the goals that I have set for myself in the next year.  I am sure I will add, subtract, or alter my goals, but I think that I have a great foundation right now.

I will be sure to update my progress as I go along.  Good luck to everyone else on their 2017 endeavors!

-Joel

Misadventures.

Hello, Winter; we meet again!

I have wrapped up my first semester of grad school and have been trying to relax and unwind.  I have yet to do much of that…

My trip home lasted 34 hours.  I left Vermillion on Wednesday morning and flew from Sioux City, Iowa to Chicago, Illinois.  There I was scheduled to have a 7.5 hour layover, but due to weather this turned into a cancelled flight and an overnight stay in Chicago.  Being young and reckless-and going against everything I have ever been taught about strangers and trusting people-I made friends with some fellow college students in my gate and decided to split a hotel with them.  We took a shuttle from the airport to the hotel and got a few hours of sleep before heading back to O’hare to board my new flight in the morning.

We arrived back at the airport, made it through security, and boarded our plane.  And there we sat.  For what seemed like forever.  Another delay.  Good thing I have literally nothing to do for the next three weeks.  We finally took off and it was a half hour flight from Chicago to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

I was greeted by my cousin-who was willing to meet me last minute, when I had to change my flight itinerary from Traverse City to Grand Rapids.  At last, I was back in Michigan…but at this point, I was exhausted and just wanted to be home.


I am back in the 231 and I can finally catch up on much needed sleep, relaxation, and forget about responsibilities.

It’s been a while since I shared a wellness update but it is for good reason.  Being trapped in the airport and refusing to pay for wifi, I decided to skip this weeks update.  Last week I didn’t share because I was busy putting the finishing touches on my semester…as well as attempting to figure out what exactly I was going to be doing with my life.  As you all read in my last post, I was worried about my classes this semester.  It was a tough transition to grad school and to South Dakota, but I survived.

I passed the class!  I don’t have to worry about anything anymore.  I can stop stressing and I can focus on being excited for next semester and the opportunities that come with it.  Since getting my final grade, I have felt significantly lighter.  The stress and worry associated with classes this semester definitely took a toll on my wellbeing.  I didn’t realize how much it had an impact on how I felt until now.  Thank God this is over!

Anywho, I hope to continue with my wellness update this week as I will be much less busy.  I also hope to write a few more blog posts while I am home for the holidays.  For now, I am just happy to be on a couch with nothing to do.

Sending positive vibes everyone’s way as they wrap up school years, and gear up for holidays-stress and joy both come with this season so we all need some love!

-Joel

#NASPA4WE: My First Professional Conference Experience.

As you all know from my previous posts, I recently spent a few days in St. Louis, Missouri for the NASPA4WE conference.  This was my first professional conference and let me just start by saying…I’m hooked.  I know that I am meant to be in Student Affairs.  I know I say this a lot, but it just keeps getting reaffirmed.  This conference was definitely an opportunity for reaffirmation.  I fell in love with Student Affairs all over again.

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Attending this conference with fellow graduate and undergraduate students from USD was so great!  I love getting to know my peers outside of work and class.  Seeing them in action in settings such as this is the perfect way to get to know them better.  Being in attendance with my boss, Dean of Students, and Associate Dean of Student Services was also awesome.  I got to meet their colleagues and friends and see them in a different professional setting than what I am used to.  And…let’s be real here, who doesn’t like to have a glass of wine with university administrators?

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Connecting with other inspiring, creative, adventurous, and driven individuals in the field is something that I truly cherish.  The Woo in me obviously gets a little carried away.  It is in times when I am in the company of other passionate educators and leaders that I find myself digging deeper into my love for working with students.

While I love connecting and networking with other professionals-both new and seasoned-what I absolutely cannot get enough of is time spent connecting with students.  This is one thing that I love about NASPA.  They allow for undergraduate and graduate students to be widely involved in their conferences and their organization at large.  While I was not involved with NASPA as an undergraduate student, I am so happy and encouraged to see student leaders from across the nation getting so involved with this organization.

I was privileged to meet an amazing group of undergraduate students and I spent an evening getting to know them and their pursuits.  It was this night that I felt the most invested, uplifted, and fulfilled.  This is what I strive for.

Yes, meeting students and professionals and having the time to network and socialize is fun, but we also know that Student Affairs is not all fun and games.  We are educators, leaders, professionals, first-responders, counselors, and peers.  Why we attend conferences and network with others in the field is to build off of the foundations that others have established.  We connect and bounce ideas off of each other.  We seek innovation and creativity in our everyday jobs and we are always on the look out for upcoming trends and issues within our field.

I attended some great presentations and sessions on topics ranging from peer assessment to social justice.  And from forgiveness as an aspect of health and wellness on our campuses to generational trauma for the American Indian student population.  I wanted to attend sessions that I both found interesting as well as applicable to my future or my current job.  Some sessions were obviously more interesting and impactful than others, but all relevant and worthwhile to our field.  I look forward to attending my next conference and seeing what other topics are presented upon.

I was also inspired to look into ways to further my involvement with NASPA and to grow and develop professionally.  I am tossing around the idea of presenting at a conference next year or joining the conference committee.  We will see!

In addition to networking and attending presentations, conferences also allow for the opportunity to adventure and experience a new city…you all know my passion for adventure and experiencing new things, so I am sure you can imagine how in my element I was in St. Louis.  I hopped on a walking tour of the city, went out to a few restaurants and bars, and obviously went up into the Arch…because, well duh!  Oh, the conference also hosted a 5k fun run…so I was able to connect with members of the running community that are also part of the Student Affairs community.  Dabbling in two of the most important spheres of my life makes my heart happy!

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Going back home to Vermillion, and encountering snow after 75 degree highs was definitely the low of my week.  But, all good things come in moderation, and then it’s back to reality.  Luckily I only had three days of rest and work and it was back on the road.

Thanksgiving break is upon us, and I am spending my week in Minneapolis visiting some relatives and one of my closest friends from NMU.


Since it’s Thanksgiving day, I couldn’t end this post without suggesting to take some time to reflect on what you’re most thankful for this year.  I’ll start.

Just a few things that I am most thankful for this year are:

  • Friends; new and old.  Moving far away from home is tough.  Leaving the place I love and the people I love is painful.  But, I am so so so blessed to have found a great group of people to fill that void.  South Dakota has treated me pretty well so far.  Shout out to those of you who’ve made my transition to Vermtown easier.  You know who you are!
  • Health and wellbeing.  Obviously, this has been a huge aspect of my life in the past few months.  I have a whole new perspective on what it means to be well, and I hope to continue living a healthier lifestyle.
  • New experiences.  This year has been full  of them.  I am so grateful to be expanding my mind, heart, and soul as I adventure on this path into my future.

 

Sending big love and positive vibes to all today!

-Joel

November.

November.  It’s the month of the year that is always hard for me.  It’s definitely not my favorite month.  With the start of November comes the end of my favorite time of the year.  It means that snow covers the ground instead of bright colored leaves.  And with snow comes cold weather.  I am realizing as I get older that I hate cold weather.  I love the snow, but I am miserable in the cold.  This makes for a miserable four(ish) months of my life each year.  I definitely believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real thing.  I feel a drastic change in my attitude and behavior during the winter months.  Brought on by the cold, lack of sunshine, and lack of time spent outdoors, I go through a slight depressive state at this time each year.  I can blame it on the weather for the sake of pointing fingers but I also know that Winter time is not the only thing that makes me depressed.

I don’t typically share this part of my story, but I feel the need to do so today.  This post is hard for me to write but I want to anyway.  I want to share why exactly I can’t seem to shake this slump that you may witness me in during November.


November.  A time to give thanks; to be thankful for loved ones and jobs and all of the positivity that the last year has provided.  We can be thankful for sweaters and flannel, and hot cocoa and warm pumpkin spice/peppermint flavored drinks.  We can be thankful for holidays and time off of work and school.  We can be thankful for health and for an abundance of other things.

For me, as hard as I try to avoid it, I always find myself in a slump during this time.  I try to remember all the flannels and lights and fun flavored drinks that warm the body and the soul.  But I also remember sadness, sickness, and loss.


November.  The month in which I have experienced the most loss.  Unfortunately, I have lost a great grandmother, two uncles, a grandma, a grandpa and a relationship with running during the month of November.  I have been impacted by each of these losses differently, but each has been tough in some important way.

I was extremely young when I lost my great grandmother.  To be honest, I don’t even remember her very much.  This loss didn’t hit me until recently, actually.  For whatever reason the thought that I don’t remember any of my great grandparents saddens me.  I don’t think a lot of people know their great grandparents, but thinking about how special that relationship must be makes my heart warm.

When I lost my two uncles, I was more hurt for my cousins that were experiencing this loss.  I personally wasn’t that close to either of these uncles, but knowing that my parents, cousins, and grandparents were losing brothers, fathers, and sons makes my heart hurt.

Some may think that this next one is a strange one.  But for me its part of my identity.  If you had known me growing up, you know that ALL I did was run.  Losing that in November of my senior year of high school is still something that haunts me.  My senior year of high school was when I realized that I would never be great at running.  While running was my passion, it wasn’t my strength or my calling or my future.  I realized that I was not as good as the others.  I was not going to compete at state finals.  I was not going to compete in college.  I was not going to compete ever again.

I still run; it’s just a little different.  I no longer have a running community.  I no longer run competitively.  I no longer run for others.  I run for me and me alone.  I run because it is my escape from the negativity in my life.  I run to let go.  I run to prove to myself that I have strength, stamina, drive, and endurance.  I run to prove to myself that I am worth it, no matter what anyone said or thought back in high school.  I run because I love it, and that will never change.

This next one is kind of strange too.  I didn’t actually lose my grandfather.  He’s still alive.  I just lost him in the sense that I no longer believe that I have a relationship with him.  When I lost my grandmother, I lost the thing that tied my grandfather to the rest of my family.  He has become like a distant relative in some ways.  I never see him.  I never speak to him.  Sadly, I don’t care to.  I feel like he doesn’t care about me, or anyone else in my family.  Part of me blames my grandma’s death for this.  I can’t even begin to imagine how anyone who has lost their partner must feel.  Losing a woman as special as my grandma must have defeated him.  I believe that when my grandma died, so did he.  He’s not the same man that he once was.  It sucks.  But, I also don’t care to know the man that he is today, so it is easier to avoid it all and to be distant.

Now, the hardest one of all…my grandma.

Today, November 19, 2016, is the nine year anniversary of my grandmother’s death.  I can’t believe that it has been nine years already.  It seems like just yesterday and it seems like forever.  But it doesn’t matter.  She’s gone.  It is still one of the hardest things to cope with.  My grandmother and I were incredibly close.  She was someone that I looked up to for everything.

I inherited many great things from her.  I inherited my love and passion for caring for others.  She did that well.  She was so attentive to her loved ones, and so willing to sacrifice everything of her own for someone else.  I believe I am pursuing work in a helping profession because of witnessing the love that she shared with others and wanting to do that myself.  I also inherited my outspokenness from her.  My grandmother had a way with words.  She didn’t care who heard what she had to say.  And, boy did she always have something to say.  She was full of stories.  I also inherited my storytelling from her.  I acknowledge the fact that I run my mouth to the point of trouble.  I acknowledge the fact that I talk too much.  I acknowledge the fact that I tell stories.  But I also acknowledge where I got these traits, and why I value communication, speech, and the power of voice so much.

Every November I am paralyzed with that sinking feeling that another year has gone by that I haven’t spoken to my grandma.  I haven’t heard her voice.  Every year I think about the fact that I am losing those memories with each moment that passes.  I no longer know if I remember what she sounded like or exactly how she looked or smelled.  That is scary.  It’s sad.  And every year I fall into this pit of November.

Today, I am far away from family and friends.  I am alone in South Dakota.  I am sad.  I am remembering.  I woke up feeling sick this morning.  I woke up to a work related emergency.  And I woke up to the reality that it was November.  November 19th to be exact.


Since I am working on practicing self-care and focusing on my wellbeing this year, I thought I would share some of my emotions today.  Part of being well is being honest and real with the fact that everyone has bad days.  I want to work on overcoming bad days and bad months and overcoming the demons that November always brings with the cold weather.

With love,

-Joel

Awakening.

I am really not sure how to write this post, so I am just going to dive right in.

For more than a year now, I have been participating in the #52HikeChallenge.  Today I completed Hike 51 (I am almost done!  Once completed, I will be writing a reflection on my experience so stay tuned for that post.  Anywho, now for a reflection on today’s hike).

For this morning’s hike, I went to the Nebraska/South Dakota border, just a few minutes outside of Vermillion, to an overlook called Mulberry Bend.

I like this hike because it is less than a 20 minute drive away, and the trail is just under a mile long, so I can do it even on the busiest of days.  Because of the ease, convenience, and simplicity of this trail, it’s never stuck out to me as anything special.  This morning, however, I saw this trail through fresh eyes.

I was almost back to the overlook from the trail when I spotted a patch of color on a tree off to my right.  It was the first trace of Fall that I’ve seen this season.  I love Fall.  The changing colors are beautiful, and vastly different with every season, every patch of trees.  The leaves change every year, and then drop off, dead.  It’s truly amazing.  This cycle of life shows its presence each year, and yet I find myself falling in love with October again and again.  What’s not to be in awe of?

I was stopped in the middle of the trail.  In awe.  Staring at the leaves.

It’s beautiful.  That’s why I fall in love year after year.  How can one ignore beauty?  You just can’t.  But then I thought about how soon these leaves will fall, turn ugly brown, and decay into the Earth.  I was thinking to myself how sad it was that this beauty only lasts a short period of time.  Why is it that this amazing season of year is so short?  It is overshadowed by this dark and cold time that seems to last FOREVER.  Why?

That’s when it hit me.  For leaves, beauty is in death.  Not life.

Leaves go silently.  They simply live their life hidden in plain sight, showing their true beauty only for a short period of time, and then they drop off.  They fall to the Earth and are covered in a blanket of cold for the next few months.

There it was.  Another sign of Mike’s legacy.  Mike was an autumn leaf.  He lived a short life of simplicity.  Full of life, adventure, and love, he showed his beauty to the world for a short 24 years.  Then one day, his time came.  He dropped off, and gave himself back to the Earth.

This post, is not meant to be sad.  Nor is it even about Mike.  This post is about life, nature, beauty, and simplicity, and how in a single moment I was reminded of each of these things.

I guess what I am trying to say is that in one moment I felt more spiritually alive and well than I have in a very long time.

As you’ve read in recent posts, wellbeing is something that I am trying to incorporate into my daily life.  In this moment, I felt deeply spiritually well.  I felt connected to nature, God, Mike, and my new environment.  I haven’t felt something like this since moving to South Dakota.

I long for adventure, and simplicity.  I miss the way I felt when I was hiking along the shore of Lake Superior.  I underestimated the connection that I have with water.  I underestimated the power of the outdoors.  I never knew how spiritually awake I was simply being in the company of nature.

This revelation from this morning has been on my mind all day.  Moving forward, I seek to live with a spirit of adventure and mindfulness, allowing moments like this to awaken my soul.

Sending peace, love, and positive vibes

–Joel

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Such a small patch of leaves on this tree left such a big impact on my day

 

Taking Breaks.

Hey pals!

I am going to stray from the norm of writing about Student Affairs.  After all, this blog is about my life and my adventures, and Student Affairs is only one sector of my life.  It does not define who I am.

Anyway, as you know from my post about wellbeing I am trying to focus on my personal wellness this semester.  So, I thought I would give a brief check in and update on how I am doing.

I have been taking my daily wellness tracker and according to it, I have been thriving everyday this month except for one.  I would say that this is relatively accurate, based on the questions that it asks me each day.  I have noticed that by starting my morning with this simple reflective practice, I feel grounded and  in tune with myself so I can focus on the day ahead and what it will bring me in terms of wellness.

This last week was quite busy and my stress levels were heightened.  I have my first presentation as a #SAGrad tomorrow, and I have a paper due this week as well.  The pressure and uncertainty of this week really started to settle in and I got very frustrated and overwhelmed.

This morning, I woke up at 4 am with a migraine.  This was a sign that I needed to focus on my wellness and get some rest.  So, I took some ibuprofen, crawled back in bed and skipped my first hour at the office.  Since then, my day has been surprisingly productive.  I have drank multiple bottles of water, I cranked out my homework, and I booked a flight to St. Louis for the NASPA regional conference in November!  Things are looking up and I’m feeling great tonight.

I spent the majority of my day by myself, at the library, in silence.  I needed that “I” time to restore my energy.  Normally I am not one to enjoy silence or alone time.  But today, I’ve needed it.

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I think that it is vital for us to be honest and to listen to our bodies.  I think of the song lyric “The body talks and meditation helps” from the great Nahko and Medicine for the People.  This message is so true.  We must take care of ourselves.  Be in tune with what our body is saying.  Take care of it and it will not let us down.

Practicing self-care and focusing on my wellbeing has been enlightening in the last month and I am excited to continue along this journey of health and wellness.  I look forward to updating everyone on my wellness as I go, but today, I felt that it was necessary to share my feelings.

Rest up pals,

-Joel