Why This is a Defining Moment for Greek Life

Why does Greek life matter? How do stereotypes still perpetuate other people’s views of it, and are they right? Does it do more harm than good? What can I do?

I’ve been pondering these questions and more on a daily basis since news broke that a grand jury is bringing charges against 18 members of Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity for their involvement in the events that led to the death of 19-year-old pledge Timothy Piazza back in February.

The details from the timeline of that night that were presented in the jury’s findings were so intensely disturbing, I read them through hot, tear-filled eyes. As a member of Greek life myself, I felt betrayed and sick to my stomach. Continuing news updates and reactions from people all over the Internet deadened the weight. I spent days trying to articulate my thoughts on the situation, and even still I feel like there is so much more I could say.

In the days since the charges were reported, I am astonished by the number of online comments from people who are calling for fraternities and sororities to be completely dismantled. They say that these organizations serve no purpose other than to foster the hazing, binge-drinking, rape culture environment that is prevalent at many colleges and universities, and society would be better off if frats and sororities didn’t exist at all. Eric Barron, President of Penn State, wrote an open letter to the school’s Greek community where he reviewed the administration’s past interventions to change the adverse behaviors and expressed disgust and surprise that Beta Theta Pi, a “model fraternity,” could fall prey to the cycle. He imposed new measures for all 82 official fraternities and sororities to follow from now on and predicted that if not, it would result in the permanent end of Greek life at Penn State.

One particular opinion piece from the Philadelphia Inquirer struck a nerve with me. In it, the author agrees with President Barron’s questioning of the future of fraternity life and takes it one step further by explaining the storied history of misogyny, sexism, and assault in fraternities as reasons for why they should be eliminated.

The main reason I take issue with this article (and many similar ones that have been published in the last few weeks) is because it skims over one very basic, very important fact: This is NOT limited to Greek life.

In my opinion, toxic masculinity is at the center of what happened at Beta Theta Pi that night and what happens in fraternity hazing rituals (I cringe at even referring to them as “rituals” because they don’t deserve to be associated with honor and the so-called values of these organizations). Acting tough in even the most extreme situation to prove yourself, staying quiet and internalizing fear or guilt in order to “man up”, the bullied becoming the bully…these behaviors are taught to boys at a young age and drilled into the way they experience the world growing up. When they become men, the pressure of performing masculinity to fit society’s ridiculously rigid mold makes it easy for groupthink to take over in risky situations, or for men to objectify women and degrade themselves to prove that they are strong. Toxic masculinity has dominated nearly every aspect of the patriarchal system we live in for decades upon decades. It is one of our country’s many systemic, institutional weapons of inequality.

Using reductive Greek life stereotypes as your justification to get rid of fraternities may tug at the roots, but it will not improve things overnight. It will not remedy a complex cultural problem that extends beyond the Greek bubble and pervades Western society as a whole.

An op-ed piece from a Philadelphia Daily News columnist evoked even more outrage from me as I read the headline: “Why didn’t the women call for help?” Yep, seriously. Because why look at this tragedy as a moment to educate the Greek community and reevaluate what our society is or isn’t teaching young people when you can just blame the women who were at the function, right?!

The author goes on to say that women are “supposed to be the more nurturing gender, instinctively prone to help,” which, aside from being blatantly sexist and ignorant, conveniently places the blame on the Trilogy guests for not helping and therefore indirectly contributing to Piazza’s death. This cannot be explained by an oversimplified statement like “No one helped, someone died, they’re all cowards and Greek life is despicable.” It’s not that easy. The lack of action from the brothers and female partygoers failed Piazza, and the fraternity certainly bears full responsibility for what happened, but I think this goes beyond a gendered individual or group level. This was a failure of the college experience, of friendship, of respect and care for other human beings, and those are basic concepts that have to be taught from the beginning. That’s why this story is so gut wrenching.

But even with the bleak state of events, I believe this is a defining moment for Greek life at colleges and universities across the United States. It is heartbreaking and extremely difficult to grasp that things had to get to this level in order for attention to be brought to hazing and other internal problems plaguing some organizations, but this is an invaluable learning opportunity for students, parents, and college administration members.

I can only speak from personal knowledge and experience, but I know firsthand how positive and life-changing being a member of a Greek organization can be. My university has over 25,000 students and my sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, has given me a tight-knit place to call home within the larger community. I was timid, lonely, and thinking of transferring schools before I went out for formal recruitment, and now I look back on that girl as a completely different person.

I am more confident in my classes, my other extracurriculars, my career field, and everyday life because of my sisters. They are my roommates, confidantes, and friends, the ones who motivate me when I’m at rock bottom and the ones who celebrate every success with me. My sorority has connected me to countless people and resources I never even knew I needed and helped me experience the joy of giving back, both through philanthropy service events and through my position on the executive board. It has made me want to achieve more and try my absolute best to live out our values — courage, graciousness, and peace — every day for the rest of my life. When I entered college I never imagined such a constantly high level of commitment for anything I joined, but all of the time and energy I put in is worth it, and I have been rewarded with incredible growth as a sister, student, and person.

I also know that not everyone who goes through the Greek rush process has this kind of experience. Unfortunately, for many organizations, the instinct to work hard to achieve and maintain a successful reputation on campus is overshadowed by the negative stereotypes that many of them end up playing into: binge drinking, partying, sexual assault, hazing. Underneath that dangerous and lethal culture, though, lies the potential for leadership and positive legacy that attracts so many students to Greek life in the first place. The potential to become a more self-aware, self-assured person who is always striving to be better than they were, a person who wants to enact change in a way that is bigger than themselves, a person who knows what they are capable of and plays to their own strengths to empower those around them. That potential still exists, and it cannot be abandoned.

So instead of closing down all fraternities because, according to the Inquirer, they apparently “teach men that they must degrade women — and debase themselves — to cement their tough-guy bona fides” (a gross generalization that does have a grain of truth but is untrue for many fraternal organizations) then why don’t we try to change what they teach? If Greek life was shut down entirely, it would only drive members to create underground groups with even less moral structure and regulation, which would surely make matters worse. Why don’t we restore oversight, acceptance, and integrity to the organizations that have existed without them for so long? Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I truly feel that with a comprehensive overhaul of the Greek system and fraternity member programs and a long-term effort to remedy this warped sense of “brotherhood”, it can be done.

Penn State Interfraternity Council’s Executive Board penned a succinct, well-written, mature response to Barron’s letter that lays out some steps to achieve this; it is a perfect example of the open attitude that is needed going forward. They noted that the school has been without a Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life for nearly two years, which is a significant part of the problem. They expressed the need for student inclusion in policy conversations with the administration, and they directly encouraged the Greek community to take responsibility and staff and alumni to fully support members in their Greek life experience.

The letter has a tone of hope that a large-scale, collaborative effort at all levels will lead to significant cultural change, that a plan of action needs to be in place so one day standards will serve as a preventive measure, not a reactive one after a student’s death. And I couldn’t agree more with every word. It’s time for reflection and action to bring back a focus on the fundamental values of each fraternity and sorority. Greek members, it’s time to remember why we were created in the first place and think about what each of us can do to fulfill the promises we made when we joined. This is our defining moment.

“The fraternity experience” failed Timothy Piazza like it devastatingly failed many students before him, but it cannot fail any more. Greek life is a microcosm of the many problems at hand within college culture. It is just one part of the storm, not the eye. And getting rid of it won’t make the skies clear up. In fact, it would take away a vital source of social connections, academic and professional development, leadership opportunities, and a sense of belonging for young people across the country who are finding their place in the world. I know those may sound like empty buzzwords but trust me, we truly care about them and we need mentors who do, too. We need people to believe in us like we believe in our organizations and what they can become.

Instead of giving up on something that is broken, let’s come together to fix it.

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Musings on Social Media: Ain’t It Romantic?

I wonder why so many things are romanticized.

It’s almost like they have to be in order for our culture to perpetuate the ideas behind them, whether they are good or bad. I think the word has a negative connotation because people typically use it in association with unhealthy habits or behaviors. Proper nutrition, healthy relationships, simple living, appreciating what you have, an equal society…these things are not romanticizeable. But they also don’t sell or resonate with the masses like drug use, abusive relationships, excess materialism, or traditional gender roles do. These things, if marketed well enough, can slip through the cracks of people’s ignorance or indifference and become acceptable in our society. These ideas are seeds that have already been planted in mainstream culture for decades and centuries, so all that The Big Guys have to do is subtly alter them to make them appealing or masked and unrecognizable.

Here is one example that has bothered me for years: living a life of self-deprecation and indifference is NOT cute, but somehow it has turned into a romanticized inside joke, especially with my generation. I get that humor is a coping mechanism for some people, but this seems different. Since when is it cool to hate yourself and the entire world?! This has always confused me because I see passion in any aspect of life as the most attractive quality someone can have. So why are people afraid to show that they actually care about things?

I think that to hide these insecurities, we have become desperate to present our lives as the subject of ultimate envy. We romanticize the moments of the past as better than they were (like a perfectly put together Insta photo of you and your best friends from last night before everyone puked an hour later, but the sparkle and glam is how you remember the whole thing) and the future as a glimmering vision of what we hope will be. Obviously no one wants to share the real, deeply personal, or negative parts of their life on the Internet — and realizing this is key to not letting them heavily influence your view of yourself and your own life — but it is scary for me to think about how many of my ambitions, dreams, and opinions are shaped by the media I take in. I am guilty of looking at photos of my friends all dressed up for a night out and shaming myself for not having as much of a social life as they do. I remind myself that what I see online is only the tip of the iceberg, but it still affects me and leaves me feeling bad about myself. Hell, at some point after I graduate I want to travel the country in a Volkswagen hippie van and “be one with nature,” even though in reality a road trip is nowhere near effortless or idyllic. Where do you think that #lifegoal came from? It was informed and shaped by what I read and see on the Internet. How much of what I actually think and feel is completely original and free of influence? Probably nothing, and that is so disconcerting to me.

Every second of every day is saturated with images, videos, movies, music, and constant media, so much so that it’s basically unheard of to actually like your life as it is now. Why enjoy the present reality when you’re surrounded by messages telling you to reimagine it as something different and better?

Can I digest things at face value or do I need a layer of fluff to make them more palatable? Am I even able to take a step back and recognize the good, the bad, the real, and appreciate it all? Can I separate myself from the romanticism?

Can any of us?

I wrote this in my journal a few months ago and recently found it, and it’s brought up a lot of ponderings for me. I’m sorry if my thoughts seem jumbled here — I was just bursting to get it out! I hope my words make sense. How do you feel about romanticism in social media and our digital lives today? How does seeing other people’s lives on social media affect you? What does all of this mean? Leave a comment and let’s have a conversation.

Stay free! xo

— Morgan

The Storm: Post-Election Day Thoughts

Writing has always been my catharsis in times of trouble and, since the results of the 2016 presidential election were made official early Wednesday morning, this is one of those times for a lot of people across the country.

This blog is supposed to be about living mindfully, but it is also somewhere for me to share my thoughts on what is going on in the world. Although it may irk some that I am bringing politics into this space, mindfulness is still a key part of what I have been thinking about in regard to the election. The next president-elect is a man who has never been mindful with his words, actions, or the promises he made on the campaign trail. And as a result, far too many wonderful people in the United States are increasingly fearful of what might happen to them over the next four years, of what human rights and protections they could lose. They are afraid for their own futures and those of their loved ones. They are grieving.

TL;DR — I was waiting for words to come to me through the pain and they finally did. So yeah, I’m talking about it.

Wednesday was difficult and devastating. I went through the day in a haze, weighed down by defeat and grief, but I couldn’t help noticing how eerily quiet my college campus was. I had never seen it like that before. I took a necessary social media break (okay, mainly Twitter and Facebook) for the rest of the week to escape what I’m sure has been nonstop arguing about every aspect of Donald Trump’s win and its aftermath. Events like this open your eyes to the toxic nature of being online 24/7. I cried myself dry, burned incense, read books, listened to meditative music, and practiced self-care more than I ever have in my life. I am extremely fortunate that I had the time to do these things without immediately having to fear for my safety.

I thought about electoral systems and the institutions of our country. I thought about the white working class voters who voted for Donald Trump because they finally felt seen and understood. I thought about every discussion we’ve had in my class on the role of communication in the 2016 election. I am still questioning journalism and the media’s part in this. I am constantly thinking about women, people of color, immigrants, people of Muslim and Jewish faiths, the disabled, the LGBTQIA+ community, Native peoples, children, every marginalized group out there. I wondered, over and over again, how this could have happened…I know it shouldn’t have been a shock but it still came crashing down on us. I was upset with myself for not getting out there and protesting in the streets with my progressive sisters and brothers over the last few days, but I was (and still am) going through my own coping process. I was overwhelmed with sadness and heavy emotion then. Now I am angry, especially after hearing of the horrific hate crimes that are taking place. I am determined to fight.

I think it must be the epitome of disillusionment to wake up on November 9 and feel like everything you thought you knew about “democratic” American values is wrong. We grow accustomed to our bubbles and being surrounded by friends who share our political views. Even the polls and projections said that we would elect the first female president. It is so easy to forget about the silent majority until something like this smacks you right in the face and knocks the wind out of you.

I know the results of this election were a loud rejection of the establishment and formal politics, and I get that. I know priorities must radically shift within the Democratic Party. I know the problems that are being repeated in every news story. don’t want to pick apart the “what ifs” or every possible reason Hillary Clinton lost or hurl insults at third-party voters; I’m sure you have seen enough of that in think pieces and Facebook statuses. The main point I want to get across is that I hope no one is telling anyone how to feel about this. If you are in a place of privilege where you are mostly unaffected by a Trump presidency, please do not tell people that it will all be okay (because right now it is not), that they need to accept the results and move on, or even that they should keep an open mind. Please do not say cruel things about protestors who are bravely asserting their vision of an America who opens her arms to all. While you may see the uncertainty of the future as a possibility that things might not actually be that bad, that same uncertainty is exactly why people are afraid. Our next president is a man who is celebrated by the KKK. There have been numerous instances of some of his supporters committing public acts of hate against Muslims, Latinx, immigrants, and other minorities. Parents and teachers have to assure kids that their families will not be forced to leave the country or worse. The dust is not yet settled and people have every right to what they are feeling.

I know people who supported Donald Trump. Although I may not understand them (and I feel that this lack of understanding is a problem that will continue to plague politics and divide both sides until we start paying attention), they have their reasons for voting for him. I am trying really hard not to judge them for that. What really makes my blood race is that his rise to the presidency has resulted in the normalization of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and sexual assault. His campaign and election have normalized white supremacy, hatred, and discrimination, and I do not respect him or what he stands for. Trump is #NotMyPresident and I know I am not alone in saying so. We’re entering uncharted territory and that’s fucking terrifying, but the popular vote affirms that is NOT the America most of us want to live in. So let’s make that known!

Now is the time for compassion, support, and strength in numbers. Now is the time to be an ally.

I am a strong advocate for healing at one’s own pace and I encourage people who still need to process this election to do so, then join the cause when they are ready. It is time to firmly stand in solidarity with those who have been oppressed for so long and elevate them. Demonstrate along with thousands of other people. Participate in constructive conversations and events in your community. Make sure your flame of passion stays burning. Share your voice with the world and do not let it be shut down or silenced by fear. Do not stand for bigotry but radiate positivity, openness, and love to those who need it most. Find the power in your tears of sorrow and pain. Try hard to include everyone in your efforts to uplift the marginalized. Give money or volunteer for organizations and causes that do ground work and need your help. This has all been said before but the future of America depends on it. Instead of apologizing, it is time to listen and take action. Progress must continue.

I do not know when that joyous, accepting tomorrow of our dreams will arrive, but let us always strive for it.

xo,

Morgan

“You will not be called a weakling nor a fraud for feeling the pain of the whole wide world.” – Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”

Some helpful links:

If You’re Overwhelmed by the Election, Here’s What You Can Do Now (Huffington Post)

How to Cope With Fear After the Presidential Election (Teen Vogue)

18 Compassionate Poems To Help You Weather Uncertain Times (Huffington Post)

Today I Rise, a short film for women (Films For Action)

 

 

20 Meaningful Words to This Twenty-Year-Old

Hi, friends!

The month between my last post and this one was full of stress and preparation and contemplation and hellos and goodbyes. Summer is swiftly ending…it seems like it was just the end of July and I was soaking up the Florida sun with my boyfriend and his family! Now I’m all moved in to my apartment at college and I have officially started my junior year. It’s madness, I say!

Oh, also, I turned twenty on August 7.

I was pretty melodramatic about it the night before, driving around my small hometown for hours just brooding and desperately trying to piece together the fragments of my teenage years so I wouldn’t feel like they were a waste. And looking back, I can conclude that they most definitely weren’t. I know my adolescence technically isn’t over yet but when I flip through the events that took place in my life between the ages of 13 and 19, I get a warm, satisfactory ending feeling about it all. I did some of my most important growing as a person in those years; I feel confident the personality I’ve developed and the way I present myself to the world, as well as in the special people whom I have chosen to hold close to my heart — my best friends and family. I love my passions and hobbies and thoughts and I am striving to work on myself so I can become who I want to be. As a twenty-something (gosh, that’s strange to think about!) I know that this upcoming period of my life is the time to turn my dreams into realities, to actually make stuff happen.

So here are twenty words that have been circling around in my head lately! Some of them are more abstract than others. Some I will explain and others speak for themselves but they all reflect who I am, what matters to me now, and what will matter as I walk into the future.

  1. Clarity – This is the one thing I hope and pray for when I’m at a crossroads and need to make a tough decision. I also strive to live in a way that brings me more clarity every day. In my twenties I want to really expand on this through yoga, meditation, clean eating, and whatever else I can do to clear my mind.
  2.  Justice
  3. Oppression – It seems like examples of oppression have become daily headlines these days. You’d think that as groups like Black Lives Matter and other activists spread awareness of discrimination against women, ethnic and racial minorities, and immigrants, people would wake up and realize that things need to change. Unfortunately, the switch from bigotry to acceptance is an especially slow one in the Western world. This word, its presence in society, and its implications never leave my mind.
  4. Rhythm – I am a firm believer that a catchy beat in a great song can get you through anything.
  5. Coffee – This is probably the only way I am going to survive college and being an adult. Related words: cream, extra sugar
  6. Connection
  7. Ambition
  8. Listen – The power of listening — to loved ones, to yourself, to anyone and everyone — before speaking is so, so impactful. I want to make sure my interactions mean something.
  9. Learn
  10. Regret
  11. Outward – People like to say that your twenties are the right time to be selfish, to act and choose and live with yourself in mind first and foremost. And while I agree with that idea to an extent, I want to expand my perspective to include so much more than just me. I need to figure out where I fit into this big old world, yes, but that will come with time. I think taking yourself out of the equation and observing the workings of your city, community, the web of people in your life, and the parts of the world far away from you is such a necessary way of learning.
  12. Woman – I am one. I love being one. I love all of the amazing women in my life who inspire me and strengthen me more than they know. Womanhood is a beautiful, badass gift!
  13. Risk – I need to take one every once in a while.
  14. Spirituality
  15. Natural
  16. “Real World” – When the phrase is shoved down your throat 24/7 and mentioned by every adult professional you know, it’s kind of hard to not think about it. Can’t wait!!! Ha ha…
  17. Progressive
  18. Empathy – This is the best and most important characteristic someone can have, in my opinion! Practicing empathy lets you relate to others and gain insight that may prove invaluable later on.
  19. Long-term – At this point in my life I am only interested in things that will make me a better person in the long run. This applies to relationships, career opportunities, habits, friendships, et cetera…if it adds positive, stimulating energy to my lifestyle, I’m all for it!
  20. Alive – Something I aim to be (as well as fully present and aware) with every part of my being.

Stay free! xo

— Morgan

To My Sister, On Her Graduation Day

Dear Little Sister,

You’re not so little anymore! Wow, when did this whole growing up thing happen? It seems like just yesterday we were chasing each other around the house and having secret conversations in Nintendo DS chatrooms…now I’m halfway done with college and as of today, you are a high school graduate!

I know this time in your life is full of uncertainty and so many goodbyes. I know you have that bundle of nerves, excitement, and fear in your gut; I remember feeling the same way when I graduated two years ago. Once you realize that a part of life you grew so accustomed to is ending, every day is more bittersweet than the one before it. But I am not writing these words to make you cry even more tears than you have today. I am here to tell you that this is where it all begins.

The moment you crossed that stage tonight in your cap and gown (and you looked beautiful doing it, by the way), you closed a chapter full of memories, academic and personal achievements, hard work, friendships, and laughter. But you also opened a brand new chapter full of the exact same things. You did a lot of growing in high school, little sis, but you will grow leaps and bounds in college. You are entering some of the most important years of your life, although you might not realize it as you’re living them. Higher education is a whole new ball game — it is the place where you finally get to explore your passions and discover your potential. It’s where your social circle expands to include your roommate, floormates, classmates, and party acquaintances (and yes, your best friends since childhood will still be with you). It’s where you’ll spend many sleepless nights studying in the library or your dorm for a difficult exam you may never be prepared enough for.

All of the ups and downs that lie ahead of you are worth it, I promise. You know why? Because the one feeling that will stick with you through it all is the incredible sense of independence. Your time at university benefits no one as much as it benefits you. I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing better than waking up, walking to class, and taking in your surroundings at the place you will soon call home. You may not feel ready, and that’s okay — thirteen years of education have prepared you for the transition to adulthood, but no one is ever really ready for anything. You just have to jump into freshman year headfirst and have faith that things will work themselves out. Making a life for yourself is hard work and scary as hell, but it’s also more exhilarating than you can imagine, and you never have to do it alone. I can’t wait to watch you do so many amazing things tomorrow as you build on the strong, successful woman you are today!

So, little sister, as you lie in bed tonight and process the culmination of your high school career, I hope you feel accomplished. I hope you look back on the past four years with immense pride and joy while also anticipating the next four years. It’s okay to be sentimental and nostalgic and teary-eyed, as I demonstrated so well after the ceremony. And throughout these summer days before everything changes, I hope you remember some very wise words from Taylor Swift: “It was the end of a decade, but the start of an age.”

Long live all the magic you made. Happy Graduation!

Love always,

Your Big Sister ❤

Blue Skies Are Calling

Hello, friends! It’s been too long since my last post but I am on spring break this week, so I can finally show this blog some love 🙂

This brief stretch of time away from the stress of collegiate life, combined with the mild weather that has been creeping in here on the East Coast, has given my mind space to wander, and I have one thing on the brain: spring!

One of the best things about life on this Earth is experiencing the change of the seasons, and my favorite part of the cycle is the shift from winter to spring. After surviving the bitter cold and loneliness of the winter months, we are rewarded by nature in so many small ways. Suddenly the sun shines brighter, the grass looks greener, our favorite songs sound better, and each day is more inspiring. And as the world blooms with revitalization, we are reminded of our own potential to do the same.

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For me personally, spring allows me to take a step back and evaluate the way I’ve been living so far this year. I may still have to put up with the same crazy schedule, weekly meetings, and daily obligations, but in some weird way it seems like I have more time on my hands. I can sit down at the end of the day and ask myself things such as: How am I feeling right now? Why might I feel that way? How can I manage my time more efficiently? What can I do to take better care of my soul? What are the things that motivate me? Ideally we should always question ourselves in these ways, but the newness that we observe in springtime provides us with the perfect opportunity to actually do so.

I feel the most connected to the vernal equinox through sensory details: the music I listen to, the photos I see on the Internet, and the colors of the sky when I look up throughout the day. I can make it through even the most boring activity or routine because I have a heightened awareness of my mind, body, spirit, and lifestyle…if only things could be this way year-round, haha! But still, I am eternally in awe and appreciative of the surge of motivation that finds its way back to me right when I need it. I cannot wait to see what comes from it during this spring season! Let me know what you’re looking forward to in the warm months ahead 🙂

Stay free! xo

— Morgan

 

“New Year, New Me”

Happy New Year, everyone!!!

As the clouds turn their magnificent pink yellow and the first sun of 2016 begins to set, my mind romps about in a field of hopeful energy. Some like to mock the people who look up to the skies and declare, “New year, new me.” They shame them, tear them down for the simple utterance of a worn out cliche that has come to carry an empty promise. I embrace them as my own kind.

What good is there in wearing a cold guise of indifference when each one of us is lucky enough to have been given 365 days of pure opportunity? Why deny ourselves and others the potential for opened doors, new attitudes, and all the good that comes from beginning again? Why ostracize our fellow human beings for possessing even an ounce of clean, genuine positivity when we can learn from them instead?

I cannot stress enough the importance of supporting our loved ones’ optimism and ambition, especially at the dawn of a new year of life. This is because in the moments when we do so we gain empathy and perspective — perspective that we can use to realize our own goals, hopes, and dreams. We find the inspiration and bits of passion that make our hearts hungry for fulfillment and our bodies determined to satisfy that hunger.

So here’s to another year begun with resolute spirit and warm intentions. Here’s to you & I, life, love, and happiness. Here’s to 2016!

My goals for the new year are as follows:

  1. Strengthen my relationship with my God.
  2. Know myself soulfully & spiritually, through yoga and meditation and whatever makes me feel good.
  3. Be present in more adventures, moments, and days of my life.

What do you plan to accomplish in 2016? What are your aspirations and dreams, big or small? Let me know with a comment.

Stay free! xo

— Morgan

Finding Meaning in the Morning

‘Cause even though I know there’s hope in every morning song, I have to find that melody alone. — “Morning Song”, The Avett Brothers

I love the state I’m in before I fully wake up each morning. I feel so snuggly and warm in a little cocoon of content. I think I am only capable of seeing my world at its truest, purest form through sleepy eyes. Although I am blessed to be surrounded by family and friends I always look forward to mornings because I know it’s just the universe and me.

As I go through my daily routine around 9 a.m., the grogginess slowly fades and is replaced with my usual calm, clear energy. I make an active effort to leave my phone to the side as I make my bed, get dressed, do my makeup, and make breakfast. Instead I prefer to get in touch with myself and my surroundings. I like to think about the current state of affairs in the world and how they affect me. I like to bop around my apartment to any acoustic Spotify playlist I can find. I like to do a crossword puzzle or two to get my brain up and running. Taking things nice and easy is a must if I want to be able to function for the rest of the day!

There are two things I absolutely have to do every morning:

  1. Read the entry for that day’s date in Demi Lovato’s book Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year. I highly recommend this to anyone who is struggling to find peace or positivity in their life and could use a helping hand! The quotes and Demi’s words always give me the extra boost of inspiration and confidence I need to make it through the day ahead.
  2. Set my daily intentions. I love taking a minute or two to sit in silence and project my wishes for myself, my loved ones, and the world each day. If I don’t have time for yoga or meditation later on, at least I can say I had a moment of connection with the universe in the morning. This practice helps me stay focused in many aspects of my life and it is very important to me.

My special morning time is something I am trying not to take for granted. I truly enjoy waking up alone because it allows me to collect my thoughts at my own pace and comfortably prepare myself for whatever the next few hours have in store. I am reminded of how small I am in a great big world full of perspective and diversity. With the rise of each new sun I see my beautiful life through fresh eyes.

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Stay free! xo

— Morgan

Morning Mantras

mantra

noun
1. Hindiusm. a word or formula, as from the Veda, chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer.
2. an often repeated word, formula, or phrase, often a truism

Do you ever wake up and immediately know it’s going to be one of those days? Maybe you have a packed schedule ahead or the weather is overcast, and you feel drained and completely unsure of how you’re going to manage the upcoming hours.

Whenever I start to get overwhelmed like this, I open my notes in my phone and go to my running list of “morning mantras,” pick one, and take deep breaths as I repeat it to myself. I’ve found that these short, soothing messages of encouragement ground me and inspire me. They help me believe that everything will be okay, that I have the energy and poise to tackle whatever the day may bring. Some of them are song lyrics that resonate with me. I am a religious person, so some of them are drawn from my faith, too. I repeat my mantra slowly, almost as an incantation like the dictionary definition says, and focus on my breath with every word. Here are some phrases that work well for me:

  • Lord God, let me walk with a gentle heart, an open body, and a passionate soul, in Your name, amen.
  • You are what you love.
  • Inhale energy, exhale energy.
  • You are flesh & blood and you deserve to be loved and you deserve what you are given.
  • Lord, let Your plan work through me.

I highly recommend looking into mantras to use if you practice meditation or if you are in need of a positive boost to start your day. What “morning mantras” or phrases bring you peace? Why do you gravitate towards them? Leave a comment below! Here’s to a beautiful Wednesday and a smooth end to your week.

Stay free! xo

— Morgan