Gratitude List: 36 Wonderful Things for 36 Wonderful Years

30 Mar

Birthdays are one of my favorite things. They are a day that marks rebirth, renewal and staring over. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next year of this great life. I think it’s more important than New Years or any other momentous holiday, for it is a celebration of the unique day, time, and place of your birth.

For my birthday this year, I decided to reflect on 36 things that I am grateful for. At first, I thought, “I don’t know if I can find 36 unique things. That just seems like a lot!”…and then I had to stop writing as I had more than 36 things that I have found gratitude for in my life. So here it is.

I am grateful for…(in no particular order)

1. That I have walked this planet for 36 years in great health.

2. My growing relationship with my sister, Jackie, who teaches me more than I think she realizes; who lives life to its fullest, and who inspires me to dream.

3. Reconnecting with my father whom I’ve had an estranged relationship with throughout the years. He reminds me that people can change and we are capable to forgive.

4. My grandfather who taught me the most important lesson, giving and receiving love are our greatest gifts in life and we should always be doing just this.

5. Every heartache, for it has taught me that even through heartache and heartbreak, I am willing to open my heart up again to love and be loved. I have a fearless and bountiful heart.

6. My mother, who while has her own troubles, gave me all that she could and did her very best to love me and provide for me. I can’t imagine that being a single mother is an easy job and she did it as best as she could. She always exposed me to new adventures, new food, and new experiences.

7. My yoga group– Erica, Patrick, Mario and our mentor Brima. We had a very special bond through a transformational time in all of our lives. We grew with each other, learned from each other, and supported each other to blossom into the great beings we are today.

8. My yoga mentor, Brima, who helped me see my own beautiful light and encouraged me to shine.

9. My very dear friend Darren who dares greatly despite all of life’s challenges. Who shows me what it means to live courageously in this sometimes cruel world.

10. Flowers—they bring brightness to the day and are a reminder that we can blossom after the darkness of winter.

11. My soul sister, Stefanie, who when I graduated college gave me a small reminder that still sits on my desk to this day, a 3 inch by 3 inch plaque that says “I believe in you” to remind me on those tough days and that there are people out there rooting for me.

12. My aunt Leah, who had a direct conversation with me at the age of 15 that education was my way of getting out, of living. I was on the verge of giving up and dropping out. That moment changed my life forever.

13. My grandmother who taught me that sometimes you just need to have a chocolate dipped cone on a hot day, or any day rather.

14. Reconnecting with family who I’ve lost touch with. This has been a reminder of how important family is to me, regardless of how nontraditional of a family I have.

15. My cat Ollie. He shows me unconditional love and despite being a pain in the ass and slightly overweight, he gives me cuddles and kisses when I need it most.

16. LeaderShape, for it has given me the space to connect with my values, live in my truth, and live in possibility.

17. My dear friends who have supported me, particularly over the last 8 months, through one of the most difficult times in my life where I have lost love and family. I am evermore grateful for them as they have truly reminded me of my own resilience.

18. Growing up in an alcoholic and addict family with domestic violence and abuse. While difficult, trying, and sometimes miserable, it has given me strength and forced me to overcome the greatest challenges.

19. Alanon, a fellowship that has helped me grow as an individual, connected me to people who have experienced the family disease of alcoholism, and allowed me the opportunity to find gratitude in the disease.

20. My yoga practice has invited me to become my true self. To shine my light bright. To share my full self with the world without being afraid. To be with my self. To connect with my inner sense. To be my authentic self.

21. My life in San Francisco for I have lived the intention I set—to live life to its fullest. To fully realize and live the life I always imagined. I am doing just that. Each city has been a new chapter in my life and San Francisco has certainly been a great chapter!

22. My one hour commute by train to work for I am able to take the time to read, meditate, and center myself. I see parts of the Bay Area I wouldn’t if I had a car and drove.

23. Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder’s lyrics and that band got me through those difficult teenage years. I felt like the music was written for me and felt a deep connection to many of their messages. I could release the pent up anger, the pent up sadness, the pent up unworthiness, the pent up despair. I felt like I wasn’t alone in a time when I felt very alone.

24. My gift and love of writing. I’m able to express the truest sense of myself and tap into a creative world where I can explore my innermost thoughts, desires, and troubles.

25. Late nights at the ocean. Whenever I go to my home town of Pompano Beach, I love to go to the beach at night and listen to the waves crash and see the moon shine bright against the water. My heart feels at peace and my mind quiets. I feel like I am truly at home.

26. My grandma Luellen. She is one of the strongest, bravest women I know. I recently got to experience and know this admirable characteristic she holds. 27. A hot cuppa tea. Not only does it provide warmth on a cold evening or day, it soothes my soul, inspires me to write, and allows me to slow down to reflect.

28. My desire to learn and my general sense of curiosity, for without it I wouldn’t have the urge to travel, to have thoughtful conversation, or to learn new things and hobbies.

29. Knitting. It has taught me about imperfection, slowing down and the gift of moving meditation.

30. Sunrises and sunsets. They happen every where and are a reminder that each day begins with brightness and ends with brightness.

31. Sharing a delicious meal with good friends. I don’t have to say much more than that.

32. My name, which my parents gave me. It’s uniquness has challenged me to speak up, to challenge assumptions, and to live out the little fiery one I am meant to be.

33. My Pilot House family. Living in the Pilot House in Gainesville, FL during college helped me to find community and be connected to an amazing network of women who empowered me to be the woman I am today.

34. My job. For it allows me to connect with my passion for justice and empowering young adults to live to their full potential.

35. My love of cooking. Cooking for me is meditative and an opportunity for me to express love to others. Cooking a good meal for someone else is one of my greatest joys.

36. This life I have lived so far. While it has presented some of the greatest challenges, I am grateful for every trying, tribulation one. It has taught me of my own strength and the ability to overcome and be resilient.

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Spring Clearing

23 Mar

Last week was a doozy and Friday in particular. If you were feeling super charged and wacky (as was I) and if you have any doubt in why you were feeling that way, there is some astronomical science to it. It was a new moon, Spring Equinox, and an eclipse. Spring is always a time where I feel the need to clean and clear out all the dust (physical and metaphorical) that has collected over the fall and winter months. And it’s always this time of year when I start feeling the itch to feel the warmth of the sun and see colorful flowers blooming. The sun is out a little longer and I feel a little more energy by looking around at how nature has changed over time. When that starts to happen, my heart begins to soften and a beam shines out from within.

I spent my Sunday morning in my backyard taking in the spring flowers that had blossomed as I sat under the wisteria-encased gazebo. I took a moment to listen to the birds chirp, to feel the sun warm my skin and to look around at what had changed over the course of the winter months. I hadn’t been in my backyard in quite some time, mostly because I’ve been travelling a lot and I’m not a big fan of sitting out in the cold (granted it only gets about 50-60 degrees F). Taking that moment to see how nature has changed over such a short period of time, yet it has returned where it always was, year after year, season after season was a reminder of the flow of my own life. The wisteria always blooms over the gazebo around this time. The garden always looks a little greener and the the leaves always begin to grow back on barren trees. I often forget this process year after year and yearn for this moment in a state of forgetfulness that is always happens. As I think about my own life and the dormancy of the winter, I remember that I have my own flow. The darkness of winter is soon passing and I am beginning to blossom again. To take in what the past 4 months have offered me– the post-yoga school, post-holidays, post-funeral, post-breakup to a new space and a new clearing. This inspired me to take some action and clear out some things in my house. To do some Spring Cleaning and Spring Clearing. I spent most of my day and evening reorganizing my space, cleaning the nooks and crannies of my apartment, putting new pictures in frames, and getting rid of what no longer serves me. I then burned some sage to cleanse my home after this clearing out and spring cleaning. I had never done this before and honestly always gave people a look when I heard of them doing this. However, after doing so, I felt a sense of clarity, of peace. I had a restful sleep that night and upon awaking this morning, that clarity of mind continued. As I walked around my apartment to get ready for the day, it was uplifting to feel the effects of my spring clearing. To know that I had rid of items and felt no attachment. To reorganize and see no clutter. To brighten up my living space so it truly felt like a space of aliveness.

Much of this spring clearing has to do with our mental capacity to let go and make room for something new. To make the decision that something needs to change. Often times, we (and I’m including myself in the “we”), are afraid to change or are in denial. Once we have awareness, we can no longer be ignorant. We must accept this need for change and then take action. In only taking action, in changing our behavior can we truly move forward and find peace. Take the opportunity to clear some space. Make room for something new in your life.

C.S. Lewis

Quote by C.S. Lewis

Childlike Curiosity and Wonder: In Memoriam to My Grandfather

25 Feb

The other day I was going downtown and traveling by street car in San Francisco. I was lugging around many things on my way into work and my mind was preoccupied with the troubles of my current day. My grandfather had just gone into hospice care, I had a big event at work that had all the little details to address and I was consumed with the regular and not-so regular tribulations of life.  Two young children got on the street car with such excitement and were followed by what appeared to be their grandparents. Their eyes were glittering with wonder as they looked out of the streetcar, gazing up at the tall buildings we passed by. Their smiles were wider than the Mississippi, each corner reaching for their ears with a dimple marking their extraordinary joy. I gazed over at them and began to smile, thinking about what that feeling was like when I was a child. The excitement I got from such simple things as riding on a bus or a car, looking out at the great world around me, in awe of how much larger and bigger everything was from me. The world felt so giant and expansive at that time. Looking over at these two children, I smiled and filled with the same joy they experienced. My day’s and week’s troubles had dissipated from vicariously experiencing their childlike curiosity and wonder. They asked their grandparents about where they were going and what each building was, what each street was named and why. Their faces pressed up against the glass trying so desperately to look as close to the grand scene before them as the street car wheels rumbled against the tracks, with the “ring-ring” singing in the background to alert cars that this Awe and Wonder Wagon was barreling through the streets of San Francisco.

Watching these two young children reminded me of my own curiosity and wonder as a child. I spent many summers and school breaks with my grandfather. I would go on treks with him to the grocery store and felt like that store was bigger than life. I would gaze out from the passenger seat window of his car and ask him about the roads we took and where we were going and what was what as we travelled along. He worked for the city for some time opening buildings and community centers for group meetings. I would travel along with him and acted as his little assistant. Watching his every move and assisting him with the doors and checking the rooms. While it seemed like work for my grandpa, it was a fun adventure for me. Travelling from place to place, feeling like a grown-up, exploring the wonders of those seemingly boring community centers. To me it seemed like I was in my own world, on a treasure hunt through the city buildings he worked in, being a child full of curiosity and wonder.

My grandfather passed away this past weekend, which was a very sad day. He brought so much light to me as a child and throughout the years. He allowed and encouraged me to have curiosity and wonder with the world. He exposed me to life in ways I didn’t have the chance otherwise. He encouraged me to experience all of life and reminded me of the most important things– laughter, eating a delicious and hearty meal with family and good friends, and that giving and receiving love were one of the most important gifts we had.

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When I visited or talked with my grandfather through my 20s and 30s, he would ask me every time about when I was going to get married. I would laugh yet deep down inside, I felt so uncomfortable. I felt like I was letting one of the men I admired most in my life down. That his little granddaughter wasn’t capable of receiving love. What I failed to realize, and only realized most recently, is that my grandfather was so proud of me, knew how beautiful and amazing of a woman I was, knew that I was more deserving of love than anyone else in the world. And what he wished so much for me, was for someone to see the same beautiful things in me as he saw in me. I didn’t realize this until most recently, in his final days, as I reflected on the love my grandfather expressed and demonstrated to me; the unconditional love my grandfather gave me in my 35 years. I always dreamed that I would be able to have my grandfather walk me down the aisle on my wedding day.  And while that can’t happen now, I know he will always be with me. His spirit lives within me and reminds me that I am more deserving of love than I ever realized or could have known until now. A reminder that at any age, I can experience the curiosity and wonder of a child, and see the world as an expansive flow of love that I am deserving of receiving.

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My Transformation Through Yoga, A Reconnection to the Self

11 Jan

It was exactly 7 years ago today that I moved to San Francisco, CA. When I moved here, I set the intention that I would live the life I always dreamed and always imagined. When I reflect on these past 7 years, I am filled with a glow of gratitude. I’m captivated by the way in which these past 7 years have unfolded and how my intention set has become true.  Each day I have lived in this great city, I have set forth on the day as an opportunity to explore. To take in this great city around me and the people that live here or pass through. To breath in the clean, crisp air. To set my eyes with admiration on the crystal blues skies or the early morning fog and dewdrops that encase the wildflowers throughout the streets. To walk foot by foot through the streets with curiosity. To take risks. To fall in love. To be heartbroken. To rise. To fall. To treat myself to a sunrise and a sunset. To let the sunshine fill my heart and spread that sunshine all around me. To learn. To reconnect to my self.

In September, I started a Yoga Teacher Training and it was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. Ever. I began the training as a means to deepen my practice for myself and maybe just one day, I would teach. Through the past 5 months of the intensive, immersive experience of yoga, I have been given the greatest gift. Yoga to me is much more that physical practice. It started off just as that for the seven of so years I had been practicing (off and on, and more off than on). It was only when I committed to doing a 30 days of Yoga challenge for myself as a means to help me write, did I stumble upon the real gems of what yoga had to offer me. There is a life practice to yoga, how we take what occurs for us on the mat out into the world, onto the streets, with our relationships, with our inner world. Asana (physical practice) is only one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga as Patanjali outlines as guides for a life of yoga, for a purposeful life. These seven other aspects focus on how we interact with the world, how we have discipline with ourselves, connecting our mind to the breath, withdrawing our senses and removing distractions, having concentration and focused attention, practicing meditation and contemplation, and finally, the transcendence of the self. It’s all a process, a journey. A journey of the mind, the body, the heart, the spirit. A journey that has no physical destination, no finality, just to be and to be on the journey.

By ingesting and practicing the Eight Limbs of Yoga, I’ve reconnected to my self. I reconnected to the woman who moved to this great city 7 years ago. Who set out to live the life she always imagined. Each moment, each experience has brought me to this very place. Brought me to the path of yoga. My life has culminated in a series of disruptions, delights, enchantment, dismays. All culminating to this very moment. This very period of time. Yoga allowed me to reconnect to the parts of myself I neglected. The parts of myself that I kept hidden. The parts of myself that I didn’t ever heal or knew needed healing. Giving attention and love to these parts of myself has been my journey the past several months and continues to be my journey forward. By releasing the pain that has been the undercurrent of my being, I have become free. I have been liberated. I have been healed. I have become alive. I have become the woman I was always meant to be and that my life has brought me to become. Yoga has been much more that a practice. It is a way of life. It has given me my life back. It awakened my heart and my spirit in a way I never imagined and am evermore grateful.

My gratitude for yoga has inspired me to share the gift of yoga. To live my purpose. To share my love. To share the healing powers of yoga. I have never been more ready to do something as I am to teach yoga. I’m eager to teach my first full class this coming week, which will be a benefit class to an organization that I had the privilege of spending my Thanksgiving with this past year, Glide. My heart is full, my spirit is electrified, and I am ALIVE.

“Life is a work in progress, a process of uncovering our natural openness, uncovering our natural intelligence and warmth. I have discovered, just as my teachers always told me, that we already have what we need. The wisdom, the strength, the confidence, the awakened heart and mind are always accessible, here, now, always.

We are just uncovering them. We are rediscovering them. We’re not inventing them or importing them from somewhere else. They’re here. That’s why when we feel caught in darkness, suddenly the clouds can part. Out of nowhere we cheer up or relax or experience the vastness of our minds. No one else gives this to you. People will support you and help you with teachings and practices, as they have supported and helped me, but you yourself experience your unlimited potential.” ~Pema Chodron

Growing into Your Highest Self

Growing into Your Highest Self

Journey of Gratitude

31 Dec

Traveling by train invoke a sense of looking inward while also looking out at the scene around you. Taking the time to let go, release control and allow the conductor to direct the way. Much of life is like this in this way, except we often get in our own way thinking we are the sole conductors of our lives. There are so many facets to life, the push and pull of the universe, of each other.

Sunset along California coast by train

Sunset along California coast by train

I rode by train down along the California coast from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. It was my first train ride alone, and definitely for that long of a ride (total of about 9 hours). It was one of the most beautiful rides I’ve seen of the California coast. My snack bag was packed full, knitting bag overflowing with several projects, and I had two books in hand. Little did I know the ride would give me the much needed opportunity to reflect on this past year and my life. This year has been one of the most trying, yet joyous years of my life. Granted there have been many trying, difficult, challenging moments, but this year was particularly challenging. I was challenged to act with self-love. To look deep within to see the beauty in myself. To own my greatness. To rise up to the warrior that lives within and has always been there. When I look back on this year, I’m amazed at all that has happened and am evermore grateful for the journey. While I have experienced much loss, I have gained so much.
The journey of gratitude is not one filled with rainbows and unicorns (well, maybe for some it is). Gratitude is about experiencing the deepest, darkest parts of our selves and this life and seeing the light. It’s about owning our “stuff”, unpacking the closets, reorganizing that kitchen drawer that piles up in our minds, clearing the path so we can walk freely once again. The backpack I’ve been carrying around has been filled with bricks of my heavy past. Putting it down, letting go and knowing that I can walk without it is exhilarating. And also scary. When you’ve learned to hold onto so much, it can be daunting to walk through the world exposed and vulnerable. Yet, in doing so is the only way we can move forward, the only way I can move forward. I pay homage to one of my gurus, a woman I look up to with deep gratitude and admiration, Brene Brown.

“Vulnerability is not about fear and disappointment. It is the birthplace of what we are hungry for.” ~Brene Brown 

We are all hungry to be seen. To be heard. To be loved. To be wanted. To live. To be happy. Without shedding our cloaks and masks and heavy bags of history, we will forever be hungry. Vulnerability creates an unfolding and uncovering. An opportunity to be reborn or reconnect with our true self.

In January, I set the intention that this would be a year of rebirth. Little did I know how it would unfold and truly become the rebirth I needed. I am grateful for every experience, both joyous and painful, for it has made me into the courageous, brave, daring woman I am today. Here’s to another year of gratitude in 2015!

Brene Brown Quote

Brene Brown Quote

A Rebirth

30 Dec

Last week, I graduated from Yoga School and am officially a Vinyasa Yoga Teacher! I remember five months ago eager for yoga school to start so it could move me from the space of grief I was sitting in to a place of peace. The 30 days I spent before school were focused on clearing my path, making peace, and focusing my energy on what his experience would offer me. And now it’s over. It’s bittersweet in so many ways. While I’m so happy to have my weekends back and not 100% focused on yoga all day, e’eryday, the community of people touched me in ways that is indescribable. I recall coming into school on the first days with the first day jitters—a cocktail of nervousness, anxiety, exhilaration, uncertainty, and excitement. I was greeted with a loving hug and right away I knew this was the best decision I made all year. For graduation, we all showcased a little of our own creativity, so I wrote a poem and read it. It was my first time reading my poetry or anything I’ve written outloud. And it was to a group of about 50 strangers with a sprinkling of my yoga family throughout the crowd. I felt more alive than ever and know that this is only the beginning. Not only am I looking forward to my yoga teaching journey, but also my journey as a writer. This truly is a rebirth, a return home.

Here’s a video of my poem and written below.

Rebirth
By Keegan C Mills

She fell in love at age 5.

Ocean waves crash into the sand. Kisses her feet.

Eyes glitter against the clear blue waters.

Turquoise with a splash of sky blue and mountain granite.

Sweet, salty mist of air.

Salt crystals form on her cheek.

Who knew that 30 years would be like this?

Waves crashing in and out. The ebb and flow of life.

Loves lossed. Loves gained.

Why don’t you call me father? Why do you have to go mother?

I don’t understand, don’t you love me?

Darkness enveloped her heart to create a boundary between the cruel world and her soft heart.

She dimmed that light inside. Softened to a glow that only she could see and only she could let out when she felt safe.

A fire lit one night late. As she heard the screams coming from the other room.

The pounds of boot on flesh.

Ribs cracking.

Blood splashing.

Desperate cries for help.

Stop. Enough.

The warrior rose within her.

Fighting to make things right. To stop the violence. To stop the pain. But it didn’t stop.

Once the warrior awoke, it could never lie sleep again.

Through every heartache, through every trial, through every tribulation, through every loss, through every celebration.

And yet forgotten.

Overlooked by the glitters and glam of Prakriti.

The outside world of instant gratification, distraction, attachment.

Perseverance. Resilience. Moving Forward.

Lovers came and went. And she moved on. Opening her heart little by little.

But still encased with that darkness and fear.

Everyone knew her strength, her courage, her resiliency. Except for her.

As she walked the earth step by step, alone. Lost. Searching for that place called home.

She thought she found it. A great love. A deep love. A powerful love.

A flash of light. A look. A word. A moment. And then gone.

Heart cracked, split open and severed. Fallen to the ground. Sunk to the earth. Curled up. Confused. Broken. Uncertain.

She awoke one day in the presence of others.

Seekers just liker her.

Seeking to be seen.

Seeking to be heard.

Seeking to be loved.

Seeking to unleash the beauty hiding within.

Seeking to unleash that warrior within.

A feeling of home overwhelmed her as she looked around in the eyes and hearts in this room.

She had never been here before, physically, yet there was a familiar feeling.

A feeling of wholeness.

Of comfort.

Of aliveness.

She looked behind and realized all that had led her to this moment.

All the heartache. All the anguish. All the trials. All the joys.

All brought her here, to this very moment.

A return home. A rebirth.

To unfurl her butterfly wings and fly.

Who Am I?

6 Nov

“Who am I?” is often a question I ask myself and I’m sure I’m not alone. We are asked this question in many forms…What do you do?, Where do you live?, What do you want to do with your life?, Where are you from?, and so on. These are always such uncomfortable questions for me to answer, mostly because of my rebellious nature and not wanting to be boxed into whatever assumptions people have about what I do for work, where I’m from, where I live, what my hobbies are, or what I think about the latest Scandal episode (which I don’t watch by the way). Often times when we enter into this game of questions about who our external selves are, the self that is associated with job, location, hobbies, it negates who we really are inside, our true Self, what drives us to get up each day and breathe in the air that is available to us. Sometimes we can get so consumed by the external self that we lose sight of who our internal self is. Anxiety and depression take over, feelings of unworthiness, helplessness, hopelessness, and a general feeling of being lost. When we’ve defined ourselves by external things, how we can ever really know who we are?

Well, I did a little meditation on the question, “Who Am I?”. Asking this question of myself over and over and over again, for about 15 minutes (but more like 15 years!). In all reality, this is a question that I’ve pondered for quite some time, especially in times of heartbreak, loss, confusion, our general life disorientation. I haven’t ever really been able to answer it. I’ve answered pieces of it, but never felt satisfied. Never felt settled about whatever answer I created. Until recently, when I’ve been on this journey of self-discovery and self-inquiry. My road through yoga school has given me the tools to explore this inner self. And I have to believe that I’ve experienced enough anguish and difficult life situations to fully come to terms with who I REALLY am, who my authentic, true self is outside of all of life’s glittery goodness and distressing disappointments. This morning after reading and doing a little meditation on the question “Who am I?”, I put pen to paper and wrote a little diddy. I hope you enjoy and maybe this will be a little motivation to look deeply within yourself, to see all that you are removing the external world and feeling the true beautiful self within.

Who am I?
A Poem By Keegan Mills

I am a spirit that is deeply passionate about life, who sees beauty in all beings.

I am the air that moves through the world witnessing all that it is has to offer—pain, sorrow, forgiveness, love, peace, violence, hate, trust, darkness, light, wholeness.

I am the flower that blossoms from the kisses of sunshine in the day and closes inward with the darkness of night, feeling the pulsating glow from the pale moonlight.

I am the ocean that rolls in and out, crashing on the shore and tickling the feet of young children.

I am the bird that soars above, witnessing the landscape change and evolve.

I am the mountain standing tall and firm amidst the storms of each season.

I am the gentle breeze that whispers love songs to the despaired.

I am the cloud that changes form and sprinkles tears of love throughout the earth.

I am the seed that yearns to grow into a great oak tree, thirsting for water and light.

I am the oak tree stretching tall and wide, feeling every bruise, every gash, every ounce of water and light that has brought me to this day.

I am love.

I am light.

I am me.

I am we.

I am us.

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