Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Life’ Category


Testing 1

Important Message to With an Open Heart followers!!

Hello all 5,000+ of you! It has been A WHILE since I last wrote! I sincerely apologize to those of you who had become daily/weekly readers who were let down by this. I’ve been dropping the ball with not only the blog but Facebook, and Twitter as well.

But please hold out! With an Open Heart will be back and up and running soon! I’ve decided to move my blog to, which will change a few things for you, but not much. The plan is for it to be better than ever! The only problem is that the learning curve for customizing a blog on is WAY over my head! I’m trying, but with all of my other commitments, it’s taking a while.

I want to thank each and every one of you for your support, kind words, enthusiasm, and patience with the many ups-and-downs throughout the last year. I’m working to make With an Open Heart more than just a blog, and more of a vehicle to help people around the world improve their lives, so stay tuned! New beginnings are just around the corner!!

New Beginnings with an open heart

You can continue to follow through the wordpress reader, twitter, Facebook, google+, tumblr, or email.

Thanks again,

With Love,


Letting Go: This is How You End Suffering

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 41: Letting Go: This is How You End Suffering

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” –

Ann Landers

Let Go, Be Free

This is not the first time the idea of “letting go” has been discussed throughout this project. And frankly, it probably wont be the last. Letting go, is something that is so important to inner peace. Holding onto emotions, thoughts, believes, perceptions, memories play a role in our lives. Sometimes we hold onto a memory for pleasure, because it brought us joy. Or we hold only a belief because letting it go bring us fear. We can’t image it any other way. However, there is a lot of suffering that remains when we continue to hold onto negative events, beliefs, and/or perceptions of people or events, etc. When we do this, we create another reality. Read more

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day and Neither Were You!

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 40: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day and Neither Were You!  

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

― Theodore Roosevelt


Progress and Growth

Nothing in life worth having comes easily. Can you hear the voice of your father repeating those words to you as a child? Just as you were trying to throw in the towel and quit whatever it was that you felt was too difficult. No matter where we heard those words, or who said them to us, we’ve all heard, in one way or another, that the best things in life require work. The most rewarding things in life require work.

Personal growth is just the same. It takes time, and it takes works, but the pay off is worth every last second. Don’t forget to give yourself credit for every single accomplishment you make. Give yourself credit for stopping your negative self-talk. Give yourself credit for those five minutes of meditation. However big or small, don’t believe your accomplishments are small. They’re not! They all lead to something much larger, and each and every component towards a more awakened self is a piece of the puzzle. You wouldn’t be where you are if you didn’t make those choice to consciously change.

Read more

Finding Your Spirituality

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 39: Finding Your Spirituality  

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is Spirituality Anyway?

What does spirituality mean to you? Do you even know? Is it synonymous with religion? Is it something that you practice? Something you believe in? Or is it deeper than that?

Spirituality is vaguely defined, and is unique to each individual person. Conscious Bridge: Evolving to Oneness writes, “[Spirituality] is one of those terms that we use thinking that we all have a common understanding as to what we are talking about, what the truth is; we don’t. It’s like the word “God” – it means different things to different people depending upon their worldview.”


Social scientists define spirituality as “the search for the sacred”, where the “sacred” refers to God, higher powers, and also other aspects of life that are perceived to manifest from the divine or exhibit divine like qualities which are transcendent and boundless. This can be experienced through beliefs, practices, experiences, relationships, motivations, art, nature, war – virtually any part of life, positive or negative, can be endowed with sacred status (Pargament, Mahoney, Exline, Jones, & Shafranske).

The term “search” refers to Read more

The Benefits of Aquarium Therapy


Have you ever wondered why many doctors’ office waiting rooms display fish tanks? Well, turns out, fish tanks can have a calming and therapeutic effect for many individuals. Fish tanks can have a dramatic positive effect on mental and physical health. Research has shown that as little as 5 minutes contact with nature features, like an aquarium, can significantly decrease stress, reduce anger and fear, and increase pleasant feelings. Much like a day at the beach, or a walk in the woods, spending time around aquariums can have the same calming, effect. It’s almost as if the calmness of the tank provides a meditation like focus and serenity. Read more

The 5 Love Languages

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 38: The 5 Love Languages 

All of us blossom when we feel loved and wither when we do not feel loved.

― Dr. Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages for Singles

How Do You Speak Love 

Love is a universal way humans speak to one another. From a very early age, we show and receive love from the people in our lives. The love we receive (or lack there of) and how it is expressed helps to shape us into the people we become as adults. Individuals that grow up without love and security typically grow up to have serious mental health, behavioral, interpersonal, and/or personality issues later in life.  Love, truly is one of the most important aspects of a healthy, happy, life.

Although we know love is critical, we don’t always know how to express it. Further, we don’t always know how to express it in a way that the person receiving it, knows that our intentions stem from a place of love. Some of the conflict with this too is due to the fact that we, ourselves, don’t always know what makes us feel most loved and/or how others can show us love. Expressing and receiving love is another form of communication in itself. We all respond to different forms of communication differently. What works for some, may not work for others. Thankfully, Dr. Gary Chapman has developed The Five Love Languages an easy way to breakdown how we each can communicate love to one another in a language that the receiver can understand. For more on Dr. Chapman, CLICK HERE.


The 5 Love Languages

Dr. Chapman believes that there are 5 Love Languages which people understand in the expression in love. Each individual will have a preference as to which language they understand the easiest. This may Read more

Forgive, Accept, Embrace

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 35-37: Forgive, Accept, Embrace

“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.” 

– Steve Maraboli

Life Lesson 35: Forgive 

They say, “Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” Do you agree? I think in many ways, yes it is. Forgiveness is something that no doubt hard to do. We have these emotions and thoughts that surround our experiences, and the ones that hurt and leave a scar often make us jade and resentful. Pain shuts us down and causes us to put up a wall for protection. We build a moat around our heart, and guard it with everything we have. We say, “This will never happen again. They will never hurt me again. They can no longer we trusted”. The problem with all of this is that these walls also keep out the good. Further, when we don’t allow ourselves to forgive, we are unable to release the pain. This pain will stay with us forever. Even worse, sometimes, the pain was simply a misunderstanding, that could quickly and easily be corrected if we didn’t jump to building that wall and moat around our hearts.


We are all just human beings. We’re not perfect. We make mistakes, and sometimes that means hurting others. Sometimes, it’s intentional, but many times it is not. Before you jump to conclusions about another persons intentions, take a step back and ask yourself if you’ve even made a similar mistake. Or ask yourself, could I be thinking too much into this? Perhaps, there’s an explanation. The best approach however, is ti simply TALK to the person that hurt you. Tell them how you felt, and how you interpreted their actions. A mature, reasonable person will take the time to give you an explanation and often Read more

Creating Your Bucket List

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 34: Creating a Bucket List 

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” 

– Zig Ziglar

Life Lesson: The Bucket List 

Have you seen the movie Bucket List? The one with Jack Nicholson, and Morgan Freeman? It’s a great little movie. The kind that’s rather cliché, but makes you smile, makes you cry, and leaves you feeling warm inside. It’s the story of two men, who are both dying. As they realize they’re running out of time, they decide to complete everything on their bucket list…together. The movie captures incredible moments -some on a grander scale than others. Nonetheless, it leaves you thinking, “Yes! I can do that! I need to do that!”

Creating life goals that aren’t always career focused or family focused is an important part of building a meaningful life. It seems many of us have constructed bucket lists that are centered on excelling in our careers (e.g. to be the vice president by the time I’m 40). Or, centered on money and material objects (e.g. to make a six figure income, and build my million dollar home). Or, the lists are more about others or hopes, but things that are totally out of ones control (e.g. to have three boys that all play soccer).

courage does not always roar

Don’t get me wrong; ALL of these goals, dreams, and aspirations are important and relevant. There is nothing more important than family, and having career aspirations is admirable to say the least. On the other hand, we are made up of far more than just our careers and Read more

Maybe Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Are All Wrong

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 33: What Are Your Basic Needs? 

“We need others. We need others to love and we need to be loved by them. There is no doubt that without it, we too, like the infant left alone, would cease to grow, cease to develop, choose madness and even death.”

– Leo F. Buscaglia


Life Lesson: What Are Your Basic Needs? 

Last week we talked about define who we are from our internal world rather than external world. We tried to rid our identity of labels with “assumed roles” to define who we feel we are at our deepest levels, -our souls. This week, we expand on the theme of internal and external influences, but more specifically needs.

More than often, we put the external world in which we live in before anything else. We put our jobs first, the carpool first, the expenses, etc., well before we put our internal needs and desires. We are raised to believe that “This is how you live”, -this is what is means to be a “productive member of society”.

In 1943, humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow proposed his theory of The Hierarchy of Needs. This hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs. He displayed this hierarchy as a period. At the foundation level, humans much fulfill basic physical needs like food and shelter before moving onto other needs, such as self-esteem and relationships needs.


This theory does makes sense. However, I recently came across a somewhat opposing viewpoint by Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakenings that I found just as true. Nepo writes:

While this is in part true, I believe there is a dimension of the inner life that is as imperative and equivalent as food and shelter. Without the fulfillment of these basic inner needs, we are just fed and sheltered bodies void of life. Without love, truth, and compassion, all the comforts of modern life don’t matter, because we are simply reduced to biological machines, not even as present as animals.

Nepo argues that when we begin to live our life from the perspective that basic needs must be met first, the result is that we often defer the risk to love in the process. We make comments like, Read more

Who Are You? Forget Labels and Redefine Yourself.

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 32: Who Are You? Forget Labels and Redefine Yourself. 

“Sincerity is the fulfillment
of our own nature,
and to arrive at it we need
only follow our own true Self.
Sincerity is the beginning
and end of existence;
without it, nothing can endure.
Therefore the mature person
values sincerity above all things.” 
― Tzu-ssu

Life Lesson: Who Are You? 

Who are you? Have you ever really thought about this question? Who are you as a person? I’m not talking about how others define you. I mean, how do you define you? What makes you who you are internally? Sadly, the definition of ourselves’ tends to be defined by external circumstances. For example, you fail a test in school, the definition of yourself becomes, “I’m a failure”. You get married, the definition of yourself becomes, “I’m a wife” or “I’m a husband”. In contrast, if/when you get divorced, you come, “The divorcee”.  But it’s not like in the time you were a wife, to the time you were divorced, you suddenly transformed into a new self, right? Or what if you were employed in the morning as a bank teller, but by the end of the day you were laid off. You’re no longer a bank teller, but are you a different person? No, you’re not. These external labels do not define you. Inside your soul, you are so much more than these labels.

How many times have you been introduced to someone and they ask, “So, what do you do?” immediately implying that they want to know what you do for a job. How often do you respond with something other than your job? I’m guessing hardly ever, yet I’m sure most of us do much more than what’s in our job description.

define yourself

What if, instead of asking, “What do you do?” when you met someone knew, you asked, “So, who are you?” What do you think their response would be? Would they take a minute baffled by your question to reflect on it? Would they simply ignore it and describe their job as if on autopilot, unsure of how to answer such a question? Think about it for a minute; if someone Read more

Vulnerability at the Core: When Your Sister is Diagnosed With Breast Cancer [Revisited]

One year ago today, my sister Jessica was diagnosed with breast cancer. It left me and my family in total shock and devastation. Her diagnosis was frightening and full of ambiguity, but the most difficult aspect of it was the fears we had regarding how  Jessica would handle it. Jessica was born with Down Syndrome, which changes many aspects of life for her and us. Our primary fear was her lack of ability to cognitively understand her diagnosis, and her emotional ability to cope with everything that was to come.

Jessica’s diagnosed left me feeling especially “blank” and lost. In time, I did find myself able to write. Albeit, with difficulty. The following is a post I wrote after Jessica’s diagnosis. In the coming week, I will be writing another post as a reflection of this one, one year later. I wanted to share this post again because it was such a vulnerable and open time and I think it’s worth while to revisit it (even if I’m the only one that reads it!).

Today, Jessica is doing soo well! She is not done with treatment yet, but she’s in the home stretch. If you would like a closer look into Jessica’s life her journey throughout the last year, and our family please visit us at Jessica & Life: Cancer, Consciousness, and Eternal Youth – a Facebook page created by my brother Justin (photographer) and myself to document Jessica’s experience.

Vulnerability at the Core: When Your Sister is Diagnosed With Breast Cancer [Revisited]


with an open heart . Down Syndrome

Tuesday, July 31st began like any other day. I studied in the morning, went to work in the afternoon, and came home. When I arrived home, I talked to my mom about my day, said hello to my sister Jessica, who has Down syndrome and who was coloring at the kitchen table, and then I went up to my room to grab a couple things before heading back down to the kitchen to have a snack. As I made my way down to the kitchen, my mom softly called to me from the top of the stairs, “Nina, can you come here a second?” I continued on, and yelled up to her, “What is it?” Again, my mom says, “Nina, can you please just come here a second? I need to talk to you about something”. What? I thought. My stomach sank. That sick feeling that lingers in your gut when you’ve done something wrong and you’re about to get caught ran through me. I immediately felt like I did as a kid, -especially as a teenager, when I was about to face a major lecture and punishment for whatever terrible deed I had committed. My mind began to scramble: What did I do?

Have I done anything bad recently? Did I do something ten years ago that she’s just finding out about now? I can’t think of anything that would warrant this private talk! I’m not a child anymore! What is going on?!

I came around the corner to the stairway. My mom was sitting on the landing halfway between the first and second flight of stairs. I cautiously took two steps up and stopped thinking again, what the hell is going on? My mom, with her hands clenched together, looked at me blankly, and then uttered, “Jessica’s test came back positive”. I had a moment of total blankness, and then a subtle moment of half-clarity where my mind was only beginning to comprehend what she was saying. It lasted for only a second, but it seemed as though a thousand thoughts crossed my mind and I was racing through each trying to find the answer that would make it all make sense. As I took another step closer to my mom I replied, “What?”

“It’s cancer. Jessica has cancer”

As my heart began to race, and tears filled my eyes, all I could say was, “I don’t understand. What do you mean?” over, and over again. How could this be happening? The doctors said there was a 95% chance it was nothing. Neither one of my parents said they were worried about her biopsy last week. Jessica is only 28. How is this happening!? My mom began to explain the diminutive information that she was given over the phone that morning, which was just that, -diminutive. “We caught it early,” she said, “It’s Stage 0 but the growth is Stage 3”. What the hell does that mean? That doesn’t make any sense, I thought. My mom goes on to explain that Jessica didn’t know yet, so we both made our way up the stairs and into my parent’s room where she couldn’t hear us. We sat there on the bed talking and crying. My mom explained that there’s a meeting with the doctors on Friday, and then we’ll begin to figure things out. As we sat there quietly, tears falling down our cheeks, my mom hugged me and said, “We’re both sitting here crying, and she’s downstairs coloring”. We both understood that this contrast of emotion and awareness is a symbol of Jessica’s innocence. How sad that she can’t understand all of this, but how beautiful that she is able to be so happy; so content, despite what she will soon face. The rest of that day was a blur. I know I cried. But I cried differently. I remember feeling incongruent and distant from myself. I felt lost in my heart and in my mind. I couldn’t comprehend how I was feeling and what I was thinking. I went out to the yard and just starred blankly outward questioning this new vague reality where “the C word” now resided, but where few explanations existed. And I stared inward searching for strength, for solace, for hope, for answers, for emotion. How could the doctors just call and tells us this kind of information over the phone and then tell us to wait almost a week to speak with someone? I was angry. I was sad. I was scared. I called two of my closest friends, but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to talk about “the C word” as we were calling it for Jess’s sake. Maybe I wasn’t ready to talk about it. Maybe I wasn’t able to wrap my head around the magnitude of what was at stake. I literally, was not able to talk about it. I simply couldn’t find the words. I remember sitting outside, trying to talk to my friends thinking, what is the matter with you Nina? This is serious, -verbalize! Once people started to find out, I shut down even more. I remember one conversation with one of my closest friends where I couldn’t say anything more than, “I don’t know”. That’s all that I kept repeating, “I don’t know what I’m thinking. I don’t know what I’m feeling. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know”. I felt broken. I’m assuming on many levels this type of reaction is normal, but I still felt puzzled and frustrated by it. I wanted badly to write about everything in that moment, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t find any words to produce a complete thought. It was like my mind was blank. Just gray. Of course I had thoughts and feelings, but getting them out was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I think my subconscious mind was numbing me from emotions I wasn’t ready to face yet. I was beyond stressed with life as it was already. Nonetheless, I felt that running from my feelings was everything I said I wouldn’t do this year; it’s why I started this blog! What progress had I made if I couldn’t be vulnerable, open and honest at a time like this? I felt like I was silencing myself against my will. Looking back, one of the reasons I think I felt this way was that, as a family, it was decided that we wouldn’t tell anyone until we knew more, which meant waiting till Friday’s meeting. To me, this felt like lying and I hated it. Although I understood why waiting was a good idea, and probably for the best, carrying that with me each day, and putting on my “I’m happy” mask was difficult. At work, I was happy. At home, I was borderline happy. But each day as I got into my car and drove away from the house, I welcomed each tear that fell down my cheeks. That was my time to grieve, -to feel. The afternoon we found out about Jessica’s cancer, but had not told her yet, I said to my parents, “Why don’t we just get a mastectomy and be done with it?” (I now realize how ignorant that comment was). My Dad made a comment that if it came down to that, we should do breast reconstruction so Jessica still feels good about herself physically. Not sure if she would really care or not, I said, “Hey Jess, would you be upset if someone took your boobs?” Jessica replied, “Uhhh, uh, yeah. These are mine. They’re fine”. I asked again, rephrasing, “So, if someone had to take them, and you didn’t have any boobs, you wouldn’t like that?” Then Jessica replied in her humorous way, “Hey! GET YOUR OWN BOOBS!” Of course we all laughed, and Jessica the loudest. Even in tough times, and in seemingly serious conversations, she’ll always make you laugh. I spent the evening trying to find solace in art, images, other peoples’ personal struggles with cancer, blogs, etc. I spent hours on the Internet trying to find that one quote, or blog post, or photograph that resonated with me in a way that helped me remain focused on the positive; to bring me some sort of peace. This image gave me a sense of solace in that moment, and I’ve return to it frequently.

with an open heart Friday’s appointment at the Jane Brattain Cancer Center in Minnesota finally arrived and the whole family attended the meeting. Jessica was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), which is a cancer that occurs within the milk duct of the breast. Jessica also had a 1 and half-inch calcification. That day, the surgeon recommended Jessica undergo a bilateral mastectomy and any other treatments would be determined after surgery. After receiving a second opinion, which was the same, we agreed that this was the best option. Surgery was scheduled for August 29th, and until then, it was a waiting game.

[My brother Justin, a photographer (among many awesome things) decided to document this whole experience through his photography. I’ve included his photos from the first meeting at the Jane Brattain Cancer Center. Justin and I are in the process of creating a blog for us to write about this experience as well as share the many amazing photos Justin has taken. I will share that blog as soon as it is up and running. Stay tuned!] In Justin’s words: These photos are from our first doctors visit since getting the biopsy results. There was a lot of information for us to take in during that meeting, and you can see there are many moments where Jessica is trying to understand what is being discussed. When Jessica doesn’t fully understand, she tries to gauge the emotions of the people around her. You could describe her expressions as “quizzical.” She can be incredibly empathic this way, soaking up your emotional signals and reflecting them back at you. Or sometimes if she senses you’re sad, she will respond with a hug, some sweetness, or say something silly to make you laugh. This empathy is one of Jessica’s most endearing traits.

(Talking with the nurse)

with an open heart

With an open heart. Down Syndrome. Breast cancer

(me entering the room…)

with an open heart. Down Syndrome. Breast Cancer

with an open heart. down syndrome. breast cancer

With an Open Heart. Down Syndrome. Vulnerability. Breast Cancer

with an open heart. vulnerability. photography. down syndrome. breast cancer

with an open heart. breast cancer. vulnerability. down syndrome

(Talking with the surgeon)

with an open heart. vulnerability. breast cancer. down syndrome

With an Open Heart. Vulnerability. Breast Cancer. Down Syndrome

with an open heart. breast cancer. down syndrome

with an Open heart. breast cancer. down syndrome

with an open heart

with an open heart

With an open heart

with an open heart. Justin Hickman Photography Photos by Justin Hickman Photography

As a family, we began to cope with things as pragmatically as we could. We did research, we asked others for advice, and about their experiences with cancer. We talked to Jessica about her cancer, and tried to help her comprehend everything that was going on around and within her. Back in March, I wrote about Jessica in the post, Happy Birthday to My Sister Jessica: The Epitome of Unconditional Love and Living With an Open Heart. I wrote about how much of a blessing she is, and how her simple view on life allows her to find happiness at almost every moment in her life. She’s so innocent. She’s so gentle. She’s so kind, and loving, and compassionate. Ironically, it’s these qualities that have caused additional pain with her diagnosis, yet also, ease. It’s painful to watch her struggle with the many appointments and changes to her routine, and the mere fact that she really struggles to understand what cancer is, and what it means for her going forward. At times, we feel as though we’re carrying her emotional pain with us, since she is not able understand much of it. Everything that she would likely be feeling emotionally if she didn’t have Down syndrome, we’re feeling for her. It’s like a child having cancer. It’s complicated and it’s not fair. One of my cousin’s said, “Cancer is not fair. Cancer is never fair. But cancer is really unfair when it’s Jessica”, and I agree. On the other side of things, Jessica is happy every day. She’s smiling every day. She’s silly, she jokes, she laughs, and comforts us, and she goes on with each day like any other. Her inability to really grasp what it means to have cancer, or go through such an altering surgery, allows her to live each day to the fullest and be incredibly happy despite cancer. That’s a blessing for sure. Although I wish Jessica never had cancer, I do believe that the world works in mysterious ways, and that everything happens for a reason. The day the doctor called to report that Jessica’s biopsy came back positive my grandma was discharged from the ICU for the second time in two months after breaking her neck. Sometimes you need a little good news to balance out the bad. That same day, by brother Justin also moved home while he looked for a new apartment and/or figured out if he wanted to move out of the country again. Oh, and did I mention, our feral kitten Magdon is now a fulltime resident, and he’s crazy! Although it is a lot having five of us live together again, it has also been comforting. Yes, it’s often tense, but at least we’re all still there together, as a family.

with an open heart

I know for me, having my brother at home has been essential to my wellbeing. My parents have been mentally and emotionally preoccupied much of the time, so having Justin around has been really helpful when I need someone to vent to and talk to. Magdon has also brought all of us a lot of joy and happiness. There’s just something about a cute animal that warms the heart.With an Open Heart

When I set out to begin this year living more vulnerably, being less afraid of my feelings, and consciously making an effort to become more open with my emotions, I was not prepared for the many significant family medical issues that surfaced this year. Jessica’s diagnosis has been the most difficult for me. It set me into an emotional unrest, and numbed me in a way that has truly tested my ability to live with an open heart. Although I wish I had written this post earlier, in the moment, I just wasn’t able to, and that’s okay now. Having compassion and patience with myself coincides with living with an open heart. It’s more important for me to open my heart, and simply let this story out. Nothing is ever perfect anyway.

If you’ve been in a similar situation and have any helpful advice or comments please post them. This is still so new to my family and me and we’re always open to recommendations, and/or hearing about how other people have coped.

Nina Shadi Signature Length

Jessica & Life Cancer Consciousness and Eternal Youth

Did you find this post inspiring / Thought provoking / Worth reading? Share it with your friends!

Your Values Become You

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 29, 30, and 31: Your Values Becomes You 

“To be nobody but yourself
in a world which is doing its best,
night and day,
to make you like everybody else
means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight,
and never stop fighting.”

~ E.E. Cummings

Life Lesson 29: The Value of Values 


Defining your values in life is an important part of growth and development for many reasons. I think Kevin Daum puts it well when he explains, “Our personal core values are there to guide behavior and choice. Get them right and you’ll be swift and focused in your decision-making, with clear direction. Get them wrong or leave them ambiguous, and you’ll constantly wonder how you got into this mess. ”

Life constantly pushes and pulls us in different directions. In order for us to maneuver through life, we need some sort of compass. That’s where values come in. Our values help guide us through life. They help us develop into the people we want to be. They help ensure our path to personal growth and fulfillment is headed in a direction that is conducive to our happiness and well being.

For instance, let’s say you value family, but your job keeps you away from them 70 hours a week AND you travel. Your children are young so by the time you get home, they’re asleep. You find you’re only seeing them on the weekends, while also trying to get everything else in your life done. You tell yourself that you must provide for your family to justify being gone all the time.  But in time, you begin to resent your job, you become depressed, and you feel disconnected. Then, you begin to wonder is the pay worth the sacrifice? For many people it is, but for others, it isn’t. They’ve simply been living on autopilot and never realized they turned down a road that took them away from their values and livelihood.


You see, our values give meaning and purpose to our lives. But when we don’t live by our values, we end up living by someone else’s. Further, dissonance between our beliefs and our actions is significantly distressing, both mentally and emotionally. Believe it or not, long term, it can lead to problems like depression.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

 Your thoughts become your words, 

Your words become your actions, 

Your actions become your habits, 

Your habits become your values, 

Your values become your destiny.” 


-Mahatma Gandhi

Are you destined to live a life of someone else’s values? I hope not. Your life can be exactly what you want it to be, but it requires you to take some time to evaluate what you want out of life, what you don’t, and what paths you’re willing to take to get there.

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do”. 

-Elvis Presley


Life Lesson 30: Defining Your Core Values 

Understanding why establishing personal core values are important is just the first step. The next step is to spend some time actually thinking about what these values are, and writing them down. It may be difficult to hone in on your top values, but I challenge you to do so.

“There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from things we do”.

-Freya Stark

Exercise in Action: 

Below, I have provided a table of core values for you (128 total!). This is just a list of suggestions or common values. Please feel free to add to it as you wish. This exercise is for you, not me, so do what’s best for you.

Step 1 – Go through the list and cross off any values that don’t resonate with you.

Step 2 – Write down your top 30 values.

Step 3 – Go through your list of 30, and write down your top 10

Step 4 – Go through your list of 10 and write down your top 5

Hey, no one said it was going to be easy! But if you’re like me, you’ll end up lumping many into categories.

Lists of Personal Core Values photoshop

There are a number of websites out there that can help you do it if you don’t want to take the time to write them down. While in school, I had to complete the Card Sort Activity which is very similar. It is more related to work values and how you want to structure your work/life balance, but it’s still incredibly useful. If you would like to complete that, click HERE

This is a great image of another way to organize your core values: Values-Mind-Map

I know it can be hard to determine your top 5 values, so don’t get too caught up in getting exactly five if it’s a struggle. Like I mentioned before, I categorized quite a few things to fit them in. For example, Friendships and Family I lumped into the same category. This question can be helpful when narrowing down your top values, especially number one. 

The most important thing in life to me is….


Life Lesson 31: Living Your Values 

 How will you know if you’re living your values each and every day? For each of us, this will be different, but it’s important to write down some sort of ideas to help you visualize successfully doing so. In the research and science field, we often state that, “Outcomes must be measurable”.  Taking the example of the overworked parent again, maybe valuing family means leaving their job for a less demanding job with similar income. Or maybe it mean, leaving letters for their children in the weeks their gone, or committing to two hours of no distraction on the weekends. Remember, it will be different for every person. What’s important is deciding how you will fulfill your values. Knowing how you will do this will also help you recognize if/when your lifestyle is headed in a place that will not be fulfilling. Here is another question that may help guide you: 

I will know when this value is being met in my life when…


Did you find this post inspiring / Thought provoking / Worth reading? Share it with your friends!


The Awakened Heart Project 

Registration for The Awakened Heart Project is closed for the year. However, follow the blog for the opportunity to participate in 2014. With An Open Heart will be going through some major changes in the coming months! Stay tuned!!!

Please fill out the form below to be notified when The Awakened Heart Project will begin again. Thank you.

Nina Shadi Signature Length

You Must Always Move Forward in Life

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 28: You Must Always Move Forward in Life.

“Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today?”

― Mary Manin Morrissey

Lesson 28: You Must Always Move Forward in Life.

Living in the past is something many of us do, at least occasionally. Sometimes it’s heartwarming to reminisce about the past and talk about joyous memories. However, periods where ruminating about the past in a negative way, in a way that distracts you from the present and keeps you from moving forward, is never beneficial.

In life, you must keep looking ahead of yourself, not behind you. You must move forward, looking upward, as if you were a rock climber. You don’t look down, or back, because you know this will only trigger fear and uncertainty. This will paralyze you.

So, each and every day you remind yourself never to look back and second guess your life because there is no way to turn back. Each day you remind yourself that the present moment is all you have, and in that moment you have the ability to make changes. You stay focused on what it is you want out of life, not what it is you don’t have currently. You know that change will be hard, but you also know change can bring great joy. Just like a rock climber, moving forward and upward, takes strength, and determination, but in time it get easier because you’ll be stronger. Although it may be hard at first to never look back, you know in time, you will get stronger and it will get easier.

looking forward

Anything worth having takes emotional strength, the will to go on, determination, and focus. This is one of the major lessons in life. Nothing amazing is just handed to us. The things that are handed to us don’t have the same value as the things we work for. It may seem easier to just get carried to the top, but once you’re there, will you have the strength to stay there? Will you have gained the needed lessons to be successful there? Mountain climbers learn their way up with each step. They know how to navigate the terrain. They know how to recognize areas of “danger” (e.g. people that will suck life and happiness away from you). These climbers appreciate the view at the top, because they know how hard it was to get there. The individuals’, who take the helicopter to the top, miss out on every step along the way. And when it’s time to navigate their way down they are at a loss; their only way down is with a helicopter. That is, they will never feel they have the strength survive without help.

Pain = Gain. This is true in so many realms of life: The pain of sore muscles after lifting weights but the gain of seeing results in time; The pain of childbirth, but getting to hold your child moments later and watch them grow up; The pain of suffering through the loss of love, only to find love again.  Everything in life is constantly going through changes. We’re always under construction. It takes time to build something great. At first it’s complete chaos, and everything around you looks to be in disarray. But slowly and surely, these come together.

Everything in life is a process. Respect it, and appreciate every step along the way. Appreciate the messy areas. Appreciate the times of pain. These are the times when you have the most to gain and you will if you don’t look down, but only look up. Don’t look back and second guess. Don’t look back and think you should have made a different decision. If you don’t like where you’re at in life, go forward and change it. Our past got us to where we are today and there are great lessons in that. But our past is an impossible place to live, so stop trying.


Did you find this post inspiring / Thought provoking / Worth reading? Share it with your friends!


The Awakened Heart Project 

Registration for The Awakened Heart Project is closed for the year. However, follow the blog for the opportunity to participate in 2014. With An Open Heart will be going through some major changes in the coming months! Stay tuned!!!

Please fill out the form below to be notified when The Awakened Heart Project will begin again. Thank you.

Nina Shadi Signature Length

A Short Post on Feelings

I wanted to share these humble and thoughtful words with all of you today. They are soo true, and yet so simplistic. It’s simply a matter of how we view the work around us and everything that life puts in front of us each day.

Maybe you’ll find it as inspiring and thought provoking as I did. Maybe not. Either way, I would to hear your thoughts on these words. 

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

-Pema Chodron

zen image

Your Fate is in Your Own Hands

The Awakened Heart Project.With An Open HeartThis post is part of The Awakened Heart Project

Week 26 and 27: Your Fate is in Your Own Hands 

“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.”

~Honore de Balzac

Life Lesson 26: Your Fate is in Your Own Hands 

This week, the focus is on personal strength and believing in yourself. It’s critical to accomplishing goals, and achieving the life you want. If you can’t believe in yourself, what else do you have going forward? The first part of this weeks lessons is a Buddhist story. Read it with a clear mind and be open to the stories lesson.

believe in yourself

“Fate is in Your Own Hands”

Once upon a time, there was a general who was leading his army into battle against an enemy ten times the size of his own.

Along the way to the battlefield, the troops stopped by a small temple to pray for victory. Read more