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San Francisco golden Gate view

Four years ago today, I came to San Francisco for a one-month sublet. Life had proven to be quite hard in Los Angeles, nothing was working out, and I was stagnating…badly. Knowing that I had to make some kind of change, I figured I’d give San Francisco a whirl and see what came…

Five days later, a job offer fell in my lap, out of the blue. The next thing I knew, I was packing up my LA apartment and driving a large U-haul, by myself, up the I-5 to San Francisco. As I made that journey, unsure of what was to come (other than an Operations Management position at a start-up), I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined what would be coming in my future.

Here I was at my second start-up: lots of long hours, nose to the grind, managing a team of people in San Francisco, and eventually overseeing an entire call center in Denver. I was busy, doing the job of two people, and I was on the go all the time. I got promoted in that position, and then shortly thereafter I was tasked with building out a brand new sales division, something I embraced and into which I threw myself headfirst.

But…only a few months later, much to my surprise, I was let go… for the first time in my life. And why you might ask? Because I was “unhappy,” or so that was the reason they gave me. I will never forget that cab ride home, sharing my confounded emotions with my friendly and empathetic Brazilian cab driver.

That day was the end of one chapter, and it was about to be the beginning of another.

Whatever shock and upset I felt, somewhere on a deeper level, I knew that this event was a gift…an opportunity.

And somehow, as if on autopilot, I began writing; something that cascaded seemingly accidentally out of a simple request to share my story of healing through yoga. That story opened a floodgate that I didn’t know existed within me, and in me was revealed a writer with whom I had never before been acquainted.

A serendipitous email invitation to a Hay House (my favorite publisher!) Writers’ Workshop led me to San Diego where I learned how to write a book proposal and build a platform, all the while following my deepest intuition. Before I knew it, I was blogging in English and Spanish, to tens of thousands of people around the world. And to my surprise, they seemed to be listening.

The next thing I knew I had a solid book proposal, the help of an agent, and I was pitching a book about the power of positive thinking to publishers all over the country. Me. The same girl who only months prior had been running a customer service call center in Denver. Me. The same girl who had built out a client service team at a start-up in Washington, DC. Me. The same girl that had planned international student tours in Boston. Me. The same girl who had dropped out of graduate school and hated writing papers all throughout school. I was writing a book! And I had a lot of support.

As I worked to grow my platform, I began blogging for a couple different lifestyle, wellness, and yoga blogs. My audience grew, as did my list of invaluable connections. And then came the initiation of the second book project: The Yoga Diaries. Oh yoga! I haven’t properly mentioned yoga. No story of my life in San Francisco is remotely complete without talking about my beloved practice of yoga.

Those of you who have followed my blog already know that yoga has and continues to change my life radically, ever guiding me into new and mind-blowing adventures and experiences. What started as a practice from a deep place of pain and sorrow in Los Angeles, carried me forth on my healing journey into San Francisco. And now free of a very stressful job, I had more time to devote to my yoga practice. I enrolled in a 7-month intensive yoga immersion, fully intending to take my practice and my understanding of yoga history, principles, and philosophy to an even deeper place.

Triangle

And deeper I went. Over that 7-month period, magic happened. There really are no words with which I can adequately do justice to how profoundly yoga has changed my life and my entire existence. But suffice it to say, through the consistent and dedicated practice, I tapped into a well of calm and peace so deep within me, a profound oasis of joy and bliss. I blasted my heart wide open and my spirit began to expand into the heavens.

I was able to take it all in: the beauty and joy that was around me every single day, the delightful moments that occurred at every turn once I opened my eyes and began seeing them, the love and human connection that was all around me, and within me. I was buzzing with delight and I was seeing the entire world, all of existence, through a completely different lens…a permanent and unshakeable lens.

The Yoga Diaries began to grow. I received more and more wonderfully inspiring stories of healing through yoga, from people of all walks of life, from all over the world. And in no time at all, I realized that I was on a mission, a personal quest to bring greater healing to the masses. I knew that yoga had transformed my own life in breathtaking ways, and from all of the wonderful friends that I was meeting in my yoga immersion, I could also see that yoga had transformed many of my friends in equally sweeping and speechless manners. I knew that yoga had the power to change the world and I knew I needed to spread that message.

Amazing souls began to cross my path, so many deeply spiritual beings, soul brothers and sisters in exploration on this seeking journey. We were all working to help others and change the world in different, yet complementary ways, and we came together to support each other in ways that still astonish and amaze me. One thing led to another and I was introduced to a best-selling yoga author, for whom I began working as a consultant. The connections grew, the Universal support continued to flow, the right person continued to show up at just the right moment.

And all of that culminated in me finishing my second book proposal, this time for The Yoga Diaries. And as if the Universe wanted to show me that it continued to support me, more and more magic began to unfold. I became friends with several published authors (including the best-selling one!), all of whom offered happily to refer me to agents and publishers. I began to simply follow the breadcrumbs and they led me from one door to the next. When one door would close, another window would open and there were more breadcrumbs to follow. And I knew to simply keep trusting…Until eventually my book proposal had personally arrived into the hands of a dozen acquisition editors, among them the head editor at my favorite publishing company; yes the aforementioned Hay House!

As I write this blog, on my lap sits another Hay House book that was personally sent to me by the acquisitions editor at Hay House. And as my bookmark, sits the hand-written note-card from this editor, a truly prized possession which will eventually go into a frame and onto the wall of proud and awe-inspiring moments of my life.

Once I walked through all of the open doors, and my book had safely arrived into all of these capable hands, I knew that my part was done. And from that point on, I released the project into the arms of the Universe and there it presently resides, cradled in the vast unknown.

And as to the outcome, I have let go of it. For I know that I have done all I could do. I know that I put my heart and soul into this project and I know that beyond any book, my main purpose was to spread the word about the healing power of yoga. Earlier this week, I published a truly inspiring story about a 68-year-old man who had overcome a stroke and is now healthy and thriving from his yoga practice. As a result, a 65-year-old stranger reached out to say he was inspired and wanted to begin a yoga practice. In that moment, I knew that it didn’t matter if the book ever got published. That 65-year-old man, and hundreds of others like him, was the outcome. That is my happy ending.

And so in recent weeks, as I’ve begun to move on from the book project, I’ve felt that the writing chapter is coming to a close, at least for the time being. And I’ve felt an internal shift and a readiness to get back to another career. And I can sense deep inside of me that just like the previous chapter that began with me losing my job, that the next new chapter is also about to begin, with the finishing of my book.

As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane flying home from Maine, where I just spent an all-day interview, for a job (here in San Francisco) that I would love to have. And I don’t know if that job will come through or not, but as I look down on the Earth from 30,000 feet, I know that I stand on the precipice of the next great chapter.

I fly home to San Francisco knowing that it truly is home. San Francisco has changed me in ways that were once unfathomable to me. I came to this magnificent city, a little bit lost and very damaged, and somewhat “by accident.” And as I fly back to the Bay, I know that I am whole. I am happy. I have a life and a community that I love, in a city where magic awaits around every turn. I am living more authentically and vibrantly than I have ever lived in my life. I have awakened within me a writer whose voice will never be extinguished, no matter where else my path takes me. And with that new voice and a clear mind, I stand ready, open, and excited for the next chapter…and with it, all of the wild and amazing adventures, and magic, that await.

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I was sitting on my futon writing when suddenly I heard a creaking in the walls. Assuming it was the usual bus driving down the street, I thought nothing of it. Seconds later, my two kitties came flying erratically into the living room and suddenly the entire room began to shake. We were having an earthquake. My legs involuntarily turned to jello.

I live in San Francisco, so I am no stranger to earthquakes. But despite that, they still give you a shock when they come, always so unexpectedly. Several hours later, having wound down from the adrenalin of the small quake, I was laying in the acupuncture chair, full of needles and definitely ready for the relaxation of my weekly acupuncture treatment. Suddenly the acupuncture clinic began to shake somewhat violently. I threw my upper body into the air and yelled out an expletive! We were having yet another earthquake! Twice in one day.

Those two earthquakes were several months ago now, but I was reminded of them early this morning at 5:30 am when I was jolted awake by yet another earthquake. Fortunately none of these quakes were serious ones, but each one of them has gotten me thinking… thinking about change. It has me thinking about how change can come at any moment, when you least expect it, and often when you are not remotely prepared for it. I am certain that we have all learned this lesson in our lives, often the hard way.

It seems to me there are three types of change: 1. the type of change we consciously make and for which we are excited, 2. the changes that we do make of our own volition, but yet which are still very difficult and sometimes heart-wrenching, and then there is the third type of change: the type of change that catches you completely off-guard, takes you completely by surprise, knocks you over and has the ability to shatter you, just like an earthquake. I have learned through my own experiences that we can learn to approach all of these types of changes in the same fashion: with openness, vulnerability and a willingness to accept whatever may come our way…and not only to accept it, but to embrace it. But I did not come to this place easily.

I’ll never forget the very first major change of my “adult” life. I was 18 years old, just barely an adult, and due to a broken heart and complex emotions in which I was stagnating in my home town, I made the decision (at the encouragement of my mother) to drive the two hours north to spend the summer living at my grandparents’ adorable little beach cottage in the resort town of York Beach, Maine. I had spent all of my childhood traveling there in the summers with my family. It was, in fact, my favorite place on earth, so moving there should have been an exciting change. And in part, it was.

But after packing up the car and making my way part-way up the highway for what felt like a journey to another dimension, I suddenly found myself gripped with panic. I had never lived anywhere except my small, quaint colonial town of Wrentham, Massachusetts. I had never known any friends but those friends with whom I had gone to school for the previous twelve years. Suddenly the thought of moving to a new place, where I didn’t know a soul (other than my family), was terrifying.

I pulled over to a gas station, pumped the pay phone full of coins and called my best friend back home. I was in tears, I was gripped with fear. The tremor of change had taken me over. This friend, who had been my closest friend all throughout my high school years, was wise beyond her years at 18. She somehow knew I needed to overcome this fear and confront this change. She told me to forge on. My eyes brimming with tears, I got back in the car and continued on, steeped in my own trepidation.

Well, I am so glad that friend encouraged me to continue forth because that change turned out to be one of the most important ones I have ever made. It was that step that allowed me to see that there was life beyond the 20 mile radius that I had known all of my life. That move opened up a whole new world to me that I never could have imagined; a new job, new friends, and most importantly…a new perspective. But even more importantly, it was this move, this first spreading of my wings that would pave for the way for me to dive head first into many more significant and life-altering changes to come. It was largely this change that allowed me to put myself on a plane, by myself, to go live in Spain for a year; to subsequently move to several new cities and then furthermore to move across the country and begin a whole new life. It all started with that two-hour drive to York Beach, Maine.

But it seemed that those intentional changes, despite having to overcome fear, did little to prepare me for the unexpected, undesirable and involuntary changes that were to come my way down the road. When the first true love of my life left me in my mid-20’s, I felt like there had been a massive earthquake and the whole earth had fallen out from under my feet. It seemed that there would be no possible way to put the pieces back together again. My world had crumbled.

I did everything in my human ability to try to adapt to that change, but despite my best efforts, it was a change to which I simply could not adjust. Without realizing it, I was fighting tooth and nail to resist that change, and I suffered greatly for it. Life was trying to pull me with the current, but I refused to go. I couldn’t go. I didn’t know how, where or why. It wasn’t until an even more devastating broken heart, six years later, that I would begin to realize that there was only one way to deal with an unwanted, gut-wrenching change. If that first heartbreak had seen the earth fall out from under me, this one had done both that and had overcome me like a giant tsunami and I was drowning in my own sorrow, in utter despair. As I struggled to breathe under the weight of the crushing waves, I reached a point of complete desperation, a point where I knew I only had one option: I had to surrender.

Since reaching that point of surrender in recent years, I have begun to perfect the art of surrendering, going with the flow and trusting in the Universal forces. I have learned that though we cannot see them at the time, there are reasons why all of these changes, however painful and unexpected, come into our lives: they come to teach us powerful lessons; they come to take us with the current and deliver us to new found places we never could have before imagined; they come to transform us into the people that we are meant to be. Those changes, however unsought and however devastating, have allowed me to live through a transformation, a more powerful alchemy than I ever could have imagined. They have allowed me to blossom into a person I never could have known, living a life of emotional and spiritual richness of which I never would have dared dream. Those changes, however unwanted, were in the end…gifts.

And one of the most powerful lessons I have learned from walking through the fire of my own changes, is how to truly open myself up and surrender to any changes that may come in my future: whatever they may be; however painful, however unimaginable and earth-shattering. As I think about this morning’s earthquake, those that have already gone by and those that will come, I have realized that earthquakes provide us with a powerful lesson for life:

Dramatic change can come at any time. To cope, adapt and thrive, we must soften, surrender and go with the flow.

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Our society largely teaches us that if we hope to find happiness, we must have a myriad of very specific things, among them: romantic love, marriage, children and a stable, high-paying career. I have none of these things, and yet I am living more fully than I have ever lived before. Only one month into 2012 and I can already see that my 37th year is gearing up to be the best of my life. And I am yet again reminded that if we are open, if we pay attention to the signs, if we listen to our instincts and trust, we can create and experience nothing short of magic in our lives.

One year ago today, shortly after being fired for the first time in my life, I reflected on the idea of the “life plan,” the idea that there are certain milestones towards which we are “supposed” to work and specific benchmarks by which we measure our success in achieving said milestones. And I am now able to see that it wasn’t until I rejected those measurements, and let go of any idea of the life I had planned, that I began to see the true magic unfold in my life. It was truly by surrendering that my life began to flow with the current.

Today I turn 37 years old and I stand in awe of the life that has manifested before me. It is not a life I ever could have dreamed of or imagined. It is, in fact, the farthest thing from any picture I ever could have painted for myself. Nor is it a life that any of my friends or family ever would have predicted for me. Yet I look back in wonder and amazement at the incredible journey, the unexpected twists and turns, the surprising detours and the life-altering and mind-blowing experiences that have delivered me to this very place in time and space.

Simultaneously, I am mesmerized by how much has happened, by how quickly the years have passed, a blip on the dashboard of universal time. And I find myself sounding like my father when I say, “I never thought I’d get to be {insert age}!” Just the other day I expressed this same thought to a friend of mine, who very wisely responded, “You’ve earned your 37 and you have to admit it is probably better then 17 or 27 for that matter.” As I pondered this, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the veritable accuracy and poignancy of that statement. I looked back on my life at those ages and this is what I realized: 17 was the year of my first broken heart; 27 was the year of my second broken heart…So what of 37?… 37 is the year of my LIBERATED HEART.

For much of the two decades between my tender 17-year old adolescent self and my now 37-year older and wiser self, I have been through the wringer of broken hearts, time and again left dripping helplessly into the floor. I have touched every range of emotion and their deep and often painful polar opposites. I have lived, breathed and tasted them. And I have drowned in them. I have looked for love and happiness in all of the wrong places, and I have fought tooth and nail for loves that left me broken and wrung out. And in the process I have seen the inner fibers of my heart carved out, leaving me with gaping holes of emptiness.

Whatever remnants of an intact heart were left after the first two broken hearts, were finally completely shattered by the third (and hopefully last!). But though I did not realize it at that time, it was that utter smashing of my heart that would actually be the key to cracking me wide open. I saw a beautiful quote the other day:

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

The day that my heart was shattered into smithereens, was the day that my true healing could really begin. Since that time, I have dived more deeply into my soul than I ever dared dream possible. I have touched the source of the divine within me, the deep well of wisdom and knowing, and I have connected with the celestial forces all around me, above and beneath me. I have drunk, tasted and touched the pure light of love. I have found Bliss.

So yes, it is true: I have no romantic love. I have no marriage or children. And I don’t have a stable, high-paying career. But I lack nothing. I have found true happiness in myself, with myself and by myself.

On that note, age 36, I bid thee a loving farewell. You have been a true and trusted friend on the journey to the heart, you have been the gateway to my liberation. I will always look back on you with reverence as the year that changed everything and I will carry you with me as I walk forward into what I know will be one of the most powerful and transformational years of my life.

Hello age 37. I welcome you with open arms and a fully intact heart.

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I am not a great meditator. Just as I often lack the patience to sit down and finish a book (and believe me I’m in the middle of many!), I too often lack the discipline to sit down and meditate. But that does not mean that its benefits escape me. I have been through periods in my life when I have had deep and prolonged meditations, out of which have come powerful and even life-changing insights.  And equally I have been through other periods where my life just simply gets busy and I’m running in a million different directions. That’s when we find ourselves in the old Catch 22: Because of course that is when meditation can benefit us the most, but as we all know, it can sometimes just be hard to make the time. Tonight I made the time.

My meditation routine is a simple one. I sit in a cross-legged position, on a soft pillow, and I begin to focus on my breath. It does not take me long to get into a steady rhythm and as I do, inevitably one of my cats will meander over to take up a meditation position of his own on my lap as I breathe in and out. They too are not ignorant to the benefits of meditation. As I dive deeper through the different brain waves, I can feel the cat’s energy field connecting with mine and I can feel his body moving up and down with his breath and his purring grow deeper and deeper. This simple scenario is my constant reminder that we are all one, that all creatures on this Earth are connected.

After a steady period of focusing on my breath, it gradually reaches a state where my breathing begins to slow down, almost to a seeming halt, and I begin to become unaware of it. And then the powerful surges of energy come. Simultaneously, I can feel myself diving deeper within and my consciousness being elevated to a higher state of awareness; a state in which I suddenly have a stronger sense of knowing, a state from which clarity and insights often are revealed to me. Tonight, the message was a simple one and one I get frequently. As my eyes welled up with tears, all I could feel and know was that…love is all that matters.

Well that’s an awfully vague statement, right? What do I mean by “love”? Am I talking about romantic love, or perhaps love of family and friends, or simply a love of life? I am talking about all of those and none of those at the same time. And no, you do not need to be “in love” to experience what I’m talking about. I am talking about Universal love: The love that encompasses all things. The love that connects me to my cats as I meditate; the love that connects us to people across the globe who are grieving after a horrible tragedy; the love that wells up inside of us at the sight of a newborn baby; the love that overcomes us when we see ocean waves crashing passionately against the shoreline. Love is everywhere, and it is everything. Not only is it within each one of us, but it IS each one of us, whether we feel it or not. It has the capacity to awaken us, to move us to our core, or humble us to our knees. It has the capacity to transform us. It is all that matters.

Upon finishing my meditation, I immediately posted the message, “Love…is all that matters” to my Facebook page. Within seconds I had a plethora responses and thumbs up. After all, love reaches out and grabs you by the soul strings. But I was struck by one response that was in disagreement with my own. This person commented that “people are really selfish” and that “they do not care about others.”

This notion will likely elicit lots of diverse responses and emotions in each of you. My first emotion was empathy. For I too have at times in my life felt exactly what this person has expressed. I am certain that we all have at one time or another. Whether we’ve been hurt or betrayed by a friend or lover, or been trampled on in our careers, most of us can relate to feeling this way. I used to feel this way a lot more than I do now. And this is where the meditation has changed my life.

Meditation has the power to change our thought patterns and our brain chemistry. By maintaining a regular practice over time, we begin to notice that things that once bothered, upset or even enraged us, suddenly do not anymore. In fact often we can surprise ourselves by not even being remotely ruffled when something negative happens to us. I continue to delight in this surprise in my own life. The longer I meditate the more I am amazed at how I have this new-found capacity to rise above whatever malice or negativity is being directed at me; I have developed a better ability to let it wash right over me and not get me wet.

I have found that when my life hits a rocky patch and I find myself back in the midst of turmoil or distress, when I return to meditation, I am immediately able to find peace…and love. When we meditate, we go within and we connect with something deep inside of ourselves, a bottomless well of Universal love that is connected to all things, to all beings, to Earth and Spirit.

So while it is almost certain that we will have our bad days and we will come on hard times, sometimes at the hand of other people who may or may not be bad-intentioned, it is up to us to decide how we respond to it. At a time on the Earth when there is more turmoil and division than we’ve seen in a very long time, it is more important than ever that we can all develop this capacity to rise above negativity, anger and fear. So I invite you all to learn to meditate or return to your own practice: go within, touch the bliss of divine consciousness that is the connecting force between all beings on this Earth and beyond. Seek out peace and light. And never forget that love IS all that matters.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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The year was 1995. I was 20 years old and I found myself alone at a friend’s apartment in London. It was a cold winter day and because London was dark by 3pm, I was stuck in the apartment very early in the day. Dinner consisted of a pathetic bowl of ice-cream as I watched a dreadfully boring tv show (on a screen full of static snow) about cheese-making in Britain. This was my first Christmas spent alone. It is a day I will never forget. I had never felt so alone in my life.

The second Christmas I would spend alone was in 2007. I was now 32 years old and living in Los Angeles. I spent the day curled up in an agonizing ball of tears, grieving over the man I loved, who would be spending his first Christmas with the woman who had replaced me. There was no eating on that day. The pain was too great to allow for food. It was too much to even answer the phone. I talked to no friends or family that day. The only place I could bear to be was alone with my grief. That was the low point of my life.

The third Christmas I would spend alone is this one: 2011. I am now 36, almost 37 years old and I am living in San Francisco. It is so fascinating and thought-provoking for me to reflect on all of the Christmases between this one and that first lonely Christmas spent in London. To be honest with you, I don’t even remember where I spent all of the Christmases in between. There may have been other lonely holidays spent alone, but the ones I remember are the ones I’ve mentioned. Those are the ones that stand out as the painful and defining moments in my life.

I ponder the 16 years that have passed since I served myself that Christmas ice-cream “feast,” and it is hard to even fathom the person I was and the person I have become. A lifetime of changes, heartaches, joys, triumphs, laughter, tears and adventures have taken place over those 16 years. From Spain to Boston, to Washington, DC, Los Angeles to San Francisco, I have lived across a span of 6,000 miles. I have gone from being a student living in Spain, to planning international travel, to being a graduate school drop out, to working at the United Nations in Geneva, through my first acquisition as a manager at a start-up, to working at a minimum wage job struggling to pay my rent, back to management in a start-up, to being fired and now to being an inspirational writer. It has been a path I could never have imagined and a level of growth and transformation that is immeasurable by time or space.

As I write this post, it is Christmas Eve and I am curled up in my pajamas with my two kitties, the only two constant companions in my life over the past decade. They are the wall between me and the full grip of loneliness. I will not be with close friends or family this Christmas, not because I don’t have those, but simply because we are all in different places this year and circumstances prevent us from being together. Is it easy to be alone? I would certainly be lying if I said “yes,” but I am here to tell you that there is an indomitable strength and fortitude that has come from having to face the depths of such solitude. Walking through such loneliness over a span of so many years has forced me to walk through the fire and it has allowed me to emerge a Spiritual Warrior. And with that has come the knowledge and the wisdom that I am my own strongest ally, that with my inner strength and fire I can overcome and endure any plight or challenge that comes my way.

I am here today to reach out to all of the other lonely souls out there who feel that they are all alone and who feel that they are the only ones. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. I am here to tell you that you are one of millions, that as I write these words there are countless other people in the exact same situation, wishing that they had loved ones with whom to share the holidays. And I am here to tell you that there is strength in that. You are not alone. None of us are alone. We are all connected by heart and spirit. We are all Spiritual Warriors and if we can tap into that collective energy we can feel the love and brotherhood among us.

I am also here to tell you that there is opportunity in solitude. I could spend Christmas Day alone and depressed about how everyone else I know is with loved ones. It would be far too easy to go to that place. But I refuse to allow myself that poisonous indulgence. Instead I will begin my day with a deep meditation, allowing myself to access that profound well of inner calm and the connection to my higher self and Universal love; that place where peace washes over you. Then I have organized a Christmas dinner, a dinner of complete strangers, an opportunity for other solitary souls to come together to share a dinner in the comfort of community; an opportunity to get to know new people, to share stories, to laugh and to allow ourselves to feel the joy of simple human connection.

If you are alone this Christmas, be comforted in knowing that in fact you are not alone. Reach out and connect with strangers. Go out to the pub and strike up a conversation with your neighbor. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen and connect with others by giving of your heart. Go to a yoga class and flow with a community of like-minded souls. Remember that we are all brothers and sisters on this journey of souls and none of us are ever alone. We are all connected.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, from my heart to yours…..

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