How I create [Calling the Muse]

Have you ever wondered how people do what they do? How bakers create their cakes, how designers come up with gorgeous logos, how photographers photograph? And no, I don’t mean backstage footage or photos (which is also fascinating).

I mean what comes before: the process that leads to an idea being born.

The rituals that help us conjure the inspiration, call in the Muse.

 

I’ve shown backstage videos and photos of my work and I’ve created step by step tutorials many times too. But I’ve never talked openly about the process that leads to my photos being a certain way.

A part of it is science: I know about color theory, design principles and I know my camera well enough to make it do what I want it to do.

But the crucial part, I must confess,  is magic.

Not the magic of card tricks or flying wizards, I haven’t joined Howgarts yet (the damn owl refuses to bring me a letter).

The magic of calling in and opening myself to the creative energy and allowing it to show me the way.

I have a series of rituals that help me be in the right mood for creating, and today I wanted to share with you one of them: Creating my amulet mixed art painting.

I learnt this process from Jo Klima‘s beautiful course AMULET and it has been a fantastic way to let go of blank photo card paralysis (like white page paralysis, but for photographers). And since then, whenever the fear of starting a new project settles in, I know I can exorcise it with a bit of paint.

The process is simple, and highly intuitive and it seeks to create an anchor, a reminder of our intention. To declare our openness to divine inspiration and divine guidance. To call in the energies we want to play with, intentionally and consciously.

It’s not about knowing how to begin a project, it’s about feeling our way into it, one brush stroke at a time- which is why it works so beautifully. It shuts down the mind, and opens the heart.

It starts with a paint and paper and dirty hands…

It continues with glue, and glitter, mantra music and marker pens…

And by the time I’m done, resistance is gone and taking the next steps of a new project are easier, because it feels like I’ve already begun. 

The painting above marked the beginning of a project I’ve been dreaming about for some time and that I’ll be birthing into the world in the next few weeks.

I used red, orange and turquoise to call in creativity, passion and free-flowing communication. I called in the energy of Goddess Fortuna, so it’ll prosper and the help of the dragonfly, to connect me with the best ideas within me. I called on the Earth to anchor this project into reality, Fire, to bring it to completion, and the Moon, to imbue it with divine feminine essence. I called on Mars for strength and courage and Jupiter for blessings.

I saged the room before beginning, lit a candle to illuminate the way, and played one of my favorite mantras while I painted.

I’ll tell you more about this project and the rest of my creativity conjuring rituals in my next blog posts.

And now, let me know: how do you create? 

 

PINK M

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5 business lessons from 2016

Last year, as 2016 began, I took a leap of faith and told you my biggest mistakes of the previous year. The blog post, which would become the most visited one in my blog last year, and which landed me a place as Huffington Post blogger, was both an exercise in self-reflection, and in honesty towards you, my readers. And what started as semi-journaling, ended up  guiding many of my actions and decisions.

When it comes to life and business, though, lessons don’t end with the accomplishment of a goal, or the turning of a calendar’s page. A putting 2015 lessons in action required more than just awareness of what had previously gone wrong.

So, this January, as I dreamed and planned the next 12 months and took stock of what worked and didn’t, I started looking for patterns to write this post. And here they are: my 5 most important business lessons from 2015.

May my mistakes help you avoid pitfalls, may the solutions I’ve found inspire you to find your own. More than anything, may we continue to grow businesses and lives we enjoy living, no matter how winding the path or hard the road.

1. Alignment comes first

I could write a book on how the outcome of every single decision in my life could have been predicted by paying attention at whether it was coming from a place of alignment or not. Business decisions were no exception.

Every time  I made a decision from a place of fear, insecurity, or lack, it backfired and I ended up regretting it.

Every time I took on a client despite my gut telling me we weren’t the right fit for working together, it resulted in tears and exhaustion.

Every time I pushed myself to the limit of my resistance in the name of “hustle”, my creativity suffered.

Every time I pushed and pushed and pushed instead of allow, allow, allow the results I achieved were unsatisfactory.

Every time I rushed through important decisions, said YES when I should have said NO, and looked for answers outside of myself, either it all went to pieces, or I did.

What do I mean by alignment? That moment when words flow, we feel inspired to create our best work, ideal clients land at our feet as if by magic and we seem to glide through life, unstoppable, feeling in love with everything, and  blessed by the forces of the Universe.  Those moments of bliss, when we trust and know everything is alright.

Most of my life, I looked for alignment the wrong way: by pushing and working harder. By learning some new technique and practicing a new routine. Maybe I needed a new mantra, a different yoga routine, timing the moon cycles or following X ritual. The whole of it was mental, not intuitive, another item in my to do list…and lack of alignment another sign of my inadequacy.

I know, that there are plenty of people in the entrepreneur world who believe and say that hustling and pushing and hard work are the path to success. What I realized in 2016 is that this is not the only path, and even if it were, it’s definitely not mine.

In 2016, instead of adding another ease-seeking task to my to do list, I sought help to find a better way.  Last April, I started working with Kerry Rowett, from Awaken Kinesiology, to unblock what kept me moving at snail-pace (or feeling like it), and learn ways to quickly get back into alignment when like kicks me down. 

Kerry and I worked together, 1-1 for 6 months, and after our sessions were finished (because Kerry went into maternity leave), I signed up for her course, Align and Attract, so I could learn how to stay and get back into alignment on a consistent basis.

Every 15 days, Kerry and I met over skype and worked on my goals. She muscle tested blocks, we did EFT, and used a variety of other methods to clear them away. One by one, goals that seemed impossible became possible, doable, and things started to shift.

I honestly owe this process pretty much every breakthrough I had last year, and they were many: I doubled my revenue, I was hired to shoot abroad (case study coming soon), I was sought after for consulting services (which are not even advertised at the moment), I started outsourcing some areas of my work, I became clearer on where I want to go. I lost a crippling fear of the future that had been with me for so long, I only noticed it when, one November morning, I woke up and it was gone.

It was not easy, mind you. It was deep, core work. But by committing to it, and accepting I didn’t know how to do it alone, I committed to myself and to my business, and this consistent coming back to myself paid of.

I had at first wondered whether hiring Kerry had been the right decision. Whether perhaps I should have opted for a business coach, or a marketing coach or something more…tangible. By the end of our 6 months together, I realized why I had been guided to this instead: Beacause when we’re in alignment, the strategies, the tactics, the ideas, the specifics come to us, and the path ahead becomes clear. We become our business advisors.

When we’re able to shut all external voices and listen (really listen) to our inner guidance, everything else falls into place.

2. Keep planning simple and goals in check

I started 2016 like most years: over planning. But in 2016, I took it to the extreme.

Back in January (and don’t ask me why!) I found myself with 3 planners, 2 goal setting notebooks, a binder with printable rituals, a gratitude notebook, a journal, and a notebook for business ideas (the ones that strike in the middle of nowhere and seem so brilliant I just have to write down).

Needless to say, the “system” only ended up making me more overwhelmed. Filling up my to do list was so time consuming that it ended up being a dreadful- and excruciating- task in said list…and as you can imagine, one I ended up avoiding.

The obvious consequence of this was that important personal projects took the backseat, and never got done, while minutiae filled my days. I didn’t make time for what I truly wanted to do, because my priorities were scattered all over the place.  I felt, at times, like that famous scene from The Notebook:

[ I should make a pause here and make it clear that this, in and of itself, is a sign of lack of aligment. And speaking about alignment, as I type these words, this graphic came up in my instagram feed…talk about being aligned!]

This year, I simplified everything: I dreamed and set my goals with the Life + Biz Planners by Leonie Dawson (and I have 3 main goals for the year only).   For daily tasks, I have Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map Planner, daily edition. For everything else, I use a bullet journal (greatest invention ever!).

Leonie’s notebooks and Danielle’s planner are on my desk. Leonie’s, open on the main objectives for the year page (as a daily reminder of where I’m headed). Desire Map Planner stays put next to my computer. Bullet Journal comes with me everywhere.

Having just one little notebook that I can carry with me at all times, and where I can jot down all ideas, to dos, strategies, journaling prompts and check ups means I’ve already accomplished more in one month, with more ease, and without all nighters or working on weekends than in previous years.

Which brings me to the next point…

3. Reduce, reduce, reduce

There’s no point in simple planning if the list of goals is never ending or your project list overly ambitious. Which is what I did until this year…

At the beginning of 2016, I had too many big projects on the pipeline. Whenever I would start working in one, the others would get neglected and when I was fully booked with clients, many important things (like this blog) had to take a back seat.

The worst part was that I felt guilty for not accomplishing more, which in turn impacted my ability to work at peak performance levels (guilt and shame are not catalysts for action, in my case they cause paralysis). And my energy, scattered as it was, affected not just me, but those with whom I shared joint ventures.

By the middle of the year, it became obvious that I couldn’t continue like this, and that if I wanted to reach December 31st accomplishing my most important objectives, I needed to determine what those were, and let go of the rest.

And it was really hard to do so.

It’s easy to let go of what doesn’t work, or the things we don’t like. It’s freaking hard to let go of projects we love, with people I love and who may feel disappointed or even angry by our decision.

And yet, I found that, for me, it was necessary, not just for myself and my business, but also for the sake of those I was working with. Growing any business venture requires work, effort, commitment, focus, time and energy. My scattered energy was causing, not just my own projects to become stalled, but also my shared projects not to grow as fast as they could have. I was stretching myself to the limit and, to make it worse, I wasn’t being of use to anyone.

So I released them. I released everything that wasn’t a priority and decided to focus on just 3 goals: 1 financial goal, and 2 creative goals. That’s it. No more.

The logical consequence of which is …

4. Say NO

I’m a people pleaser, especially of those I love. This has brought me one too many headaches, and a good deal of overwhelm and exhaustion. I’ve always had a tendency of getting involved in way too many projects because I don’t want to disapoint others.

And because not disappointing others was so important, historically other people’s projects, ideas, and time took precedence over mine, until I exploded and ended up cutting everything off from my plate…only to start again a few months after.

Let’s call it my special blend of sabotage, as Denise frames it in her bootcamp.

The solution, I found, was not in reclaiming my time ex post facto, as I had been doing all these years, but in saying NO from the beginning, when less explanations are needed and there’s less chance of hurt feelings and broken friendships.

In view of my natural tendencies, though, I created a test for me to know when to say yes to something new. Want to use it too? Here it goes:

I ask myself the following questions and only move ahead if I feel, in my gut, a clear YES for all of them

1. Does this project make your heart sing? 

2. Do you know very well the person you’ll be JVing with? Would a contract be written, spelling out clearly from the beginning all responsibilities and other legal matters such as copyright? 

3. Does this project allow enough time for pursuing of your main business and personal goals? (No more than 15% of total time)

4. Have you waited 48hrs since the proposal? I’ve found this one is key because it kills the initial people pleasing impact.

But it’s not just projects I now say NO to. I also say NO to courses, for example, unless I’m planning to follow them and implement them within a month. I say NO to prospective clients that I feel wouldn’t be a good match. I say NO to food that doesn’t give me energy. I say NO to exercise routines that don’t make my body glee with joy.

And by saying NO more, I create space for what I truly want. For the opportunities that make my heart sing. For the work I adore doing. For the moments of idleness, play and recreation that feed my soul.

5.  Nurture thy creativity

In last year’s post, I mentioned one of 2015 big mistakes was that I had stopped creating.

In 2016, I wanted to break this cycle but forgot one crucial step: to nurture my creativity.

Because of points 2 to 4 above, my agenda was full to the core and I felt that all I did was work work work. And when I wasn’t working? I felt guilty for not working, because therewassomuchtodo. So I told myself I didn’t  have time to go on artist dates. That I should limit my reading to business-related books. That I should take advantage of house chores to listen to business podcasts. That maybe I should skip my daily walk in the park and catch up on work since early morning.

And do you know what happened? I became creatively blocked.

I spent full month looking at the blank page in my monitor, unable to write a single word of copy, a single blog post. I couldn’t come up with single photo project idea.

My soul was starved. I couldn’t create because I didn’t have where to create from.

And then came Outlander.

Some time in the middle of November, 4 different and unrelated persons recommended this epic, historical, sci-fi series to me. 4 persons within a week. On that same week, my whole Instagram feed burst with quotes from the books and photos from locations in Scotland. “You should see it”, a friend said, and I felt that the Universe was kind of screaming at me to do it.

So one night, I found episode 1 on Netflix and pressed play. One episode became 6, and I went to sleep at 4 am in the morning. I was so hooked I couldn’t stop watching. I loved everything: the dialogues, the costumes, the scenery,the music, the story, the magic. I binge watched two seasons in a weekend, the downloaded the 8 books in my kindle and read them all in 3 weeks.

And the more I read, the more I watched, the more I allowed myself to do something in my free time just for the joy of it, ideas started to come back. Photo projects began to pop up, fully fleshed in my mind’s eye, ready for me to sketch. Poems, blog posts and copy started to flow. Daily tasks became simpler and more joyful. And I realized creative time is not just made of the moments we produce, but also of the moments we consume the work set to inspire us.

This year, I’ve set aside in my calendar days to create and times to gather inspiration. And I’ve blocked them both in my calendar.

This year, I’m starting my mornings by reviewing my goals and aligning to them. I’m making time and space for what matters most, including iddle times to nurture my soul.

Your turn: What lessons did 2016 leave you? What are you committing to, in your business and life, in 2017?

PINK M

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5 Business Mistakes I made in 2015 and what I’m doing differently

BUSINESS-MISTAKES-MARCELA-MACIAS-PHOTOGRAPHY-CYPRUS

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post during the past two months, wondering if I should write it or not. And the reason I’m here, typing these words, is because it’s easy to hide. It’s easy to show a facade of perfection and great decisions, to develop a persona, to tell partial truths and allow the spaces in between to be filled by a fantasy view of who we truly are.

But that doesn’t serve anyone, don’t you agree?

It doesn’t serve me, because  when I hide my authentic self, my fears creep up. And it doesn’t serve you either, because you don’t get to learn from what I’ve done wrong, and because if you believe I do everything right and that I’m blessed by some kind of magic fairy godmother, you may not try to go after your dreams-despite the possibility of failure.

And I want you to go after your dreams, to do what you love, to grow a business you adore. 

So, in the hope that my business mistakes serve you, here are my lessons from 2015, and how I’m turning them into the fuel I need to grow.

1.I listened to others more than I listened to myself

At the end of 2014, I was exhausted and confused. I had been working a lot and homeschooling Luka and Zoe at the same time, and my sleep patterns had gotten disturbed.

When January 2015 rolled out, I was barely recovering from the stressful past three years, finalizing old projects and getting the house organized in the little time I had in my free mornings. I realized I needed to make changes in my business, if I didn’t want to burn out…but I didn’t even know where to start. I had thought that getting started was going to be the hardest part, but once I did and started having my first clients, I just didn’t know how to grow from there to where I wanted to be.

B-school gave me that clarity.

It allowed me to give voice to my true desires and give thought, not only to growth and profit, but to quality of life, and it showed me how my business needn’t be like any other, and that I could design the business model that suits my lifestyle best. During the program, I was tremendously inspired and felt unstoppable…but when the program ended, my feelings of not enoughness and my fears started to take hold of me and, instead of going within to find the answers to each challenge, I started to massively consume information, in search for the right way to grow my business. Perhaps you’ve been there too?

I became so overwhelmed by everything I was reading and there were so many dissonant voices, that for a while, implementation took a step back. I was listening to everyone, instead of listening to the only person who had the answers: me, and instead of doing the only thing that truly works: testing.  

Here’s what I discovered: Most people teach what has worked for them. But just because someone is successful using X or Y tactics, it doesn’t mean everyone else will. I believe this is especially true when it comes to personal branding, because our personalities do have an impact in how we show up, what comes naturally to us and  the clients we attract. An email sequence that works fantastically for the person who created it may sound completely fake coming from someone else. A photograph designed for one person, at X level of her career, may look out of place in someone else’s website.

There really is no replacement for the simple act of taking a moment to slow down, and check in with ourselves where we feel called to go.

I discovered that there isn’t a single way to reach our destination. That the methods, tactics and strategies we use for our business, should only be the ones that fit our personality, our desired lifestyle and our objectives. And I discovered that when we apply tactics that we’re not comfortable with, they never work.

I believe our lives and businesses work in cycles, sometimes we need to retreat and reflect, sometimes we need to implement, work hard, and push things forward. And I believe it’s important, for our own well being and that of our businesses, to learn to know the difference.

This year, I’m going back to my B-school worksheets, where I poured my heart and where I was able to realize what it is that I truly wanted. I’m making sure I listen to myself first and that I implement only that which feels aligned to my voice. For that, I have developed a structured spiritual practice, that helps me center and ground before starting to work, and which reminds me that silence, meditation, and self-care need to be a part of my business plan.

2. I buried my true voice out of fear

Because I let the voices of fear of not enoughness take hold of my brain, I shut down my true voice. The weird part of myself got locked in a room and not allowed out. This became most obvious in the copy of my website.

Here’s the thing: I’m not a rebel, I’m not the kind of person who will push your buttons, and I’m not confrontational.I would never instill fear of missing out or lack in you- yet that’s how I wrote my copy because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do.

But that’s just not me, and I cringed every time I read those words. I wanted to work with my ideal client, but everything in my copy was pushing them away. And because I felt embarrassed and deeply uncomfortable about what I had written, my energy pushed them away too.

Here’s the truth: I’m not the friend to get drunk with, I’m the one who bakes you cookies, makes hot chocolate and pats on the couch so you can sit and talk about what worries you.

I’m not the person who will tell you you’re doing something wrong and you’re an idiot,a loser or a low performer if you don’t do X,Y,Z. I’m the one who will encourage you to look at the patterns in your life that have led you astray, and to connect to your heart to find your truth, but will know that this is your life and your business and your path and that whatever you decide is the right choice for you.

I’m the one who will be direct and honest, but never harsh. I believe the world would be better if we were all a lot kinder to each other, so I try to model that.  I’m nerdy, and have a nerdy sense of humor.

And I’m very spiritual- of the woo kind…I go daily to a nearby park to hug trees, I feel the energy of gemstones, and practice reiki healing, and channel messages, and can communicate with the dead.

Yet I felt it was not “professional” to be any of those things- so I remained quiet, and silent about them.  I stopped myself from writing so many blog posts because I thought what I felt called to share, was not what I was supposed to write about.

In 2015 I learned, the hard way, that when we don’t speak with our true voice, we can’t resonate with the right people

Every time I came to this blog, I felt blocked and this is why I didn’t write. For some crazy reason that contradicts everything I’ve always fought for in my life, I thought I should be, in this pages, someone I’m not. My true voice only came forth in Cult of Hybrid, because the live component of it, the fact that I was talking to a great friend, and that we were recording at midnight, Cyprus time, allowed me to let down my barriers, and my fears.

This year, I’m committing to speaking my truth in everything, and, lucky me, I have Marbel to keep me accountable. And I’m re-writing my copy and my sales pages to be what I truly want them to be: an invitation to work together, if you feel called. I got started by finding my Ikigai– an exercise designed by the always inspiring Sara Bobkoff that I highly recommend you do too.

3. I became invisible

No, not in the super hero/cloak of invisibility way. In the marketing way. I was almost nowhere to be found and my marketing was…erratic, to say the least.

But how could it be otherwise, when I was hiding who I truly am, when I was speaking with a voice that is not mine?

When we’re proud of who we are and proud of the work we do, we are able to shout it from the rooftops. When be believe the false voice of fear, and buy into our inadequacy, we grow increasingly uncomfortable with visibility- and that is exactly what happened to me.

I’m turning 40 in less than 3 months, an age I always looked forward to. And, for the first time, I’m now ready to truly step into my power and do what I feel truly driven to do, to do work that makes me happy.  So I’m creating tiny habits and developing systems to support this determination. Systems help us trump the ugly voices in our head.

This year, I decided to invest in the tools and training that can help me learn what I need to make my business become visible, consistently and strategically,  in the way I want without spending tons of hours glued to the computer.  I took a course on social media strategy by Kimberly Jimenez (she has amazing free material too),  signed up for Co-schedule (I’m wondering how could I live without it all these years!) and signed up for Canva for work because, yes, I can design in Photoshop the graphics I need, but Canva’s magic re-sizing tool saves me a ton of time- time that I prefer to spend shooting and creating resources for you.

If you have something that’s blocking you from taking action, don’t hesitate to invest in the tools and resources that can get you out of the rut. The investment will be recouped quickly.

4. I stopped creating

There’s no bigger creativity block than fear.

When we question the Muse, we stop hearing her calling. She’s still there, but we can’t see her.

During 2015 I kept wondering what I should create, instead of getting out of my mind, connecting to my heart and birthing whatever I felt passionate about. I felt I was not “expert enough” or “talented enough” and I forgot all the times when I had busted glass ceilings before and done things that seemed impossible. I forgot I got started in photography thanks to my children, as a way to create and play with them, and that the key to growth and improvement had been not judging what I was creating, but simply putting it out there and allowing it to fly on its own.

Living in my head is not good for me. It’s what I did for most of my life, because I was praised for my mind and being intellectual was my way of being a good girl and doing what I thought was expected of me. I bought love with grades- or so I thought. But it didn’t make me happy. I’m at my happiest and most joyful when I’m a vessel for creativity and love to pour through me and reach others. That’s when I’m at my best.

So this year, I made a commitment to create more, experiment more, play more, without judgement or perfectionism.

I’ve had photos in my head for 18 months, that I’m dying to bring to life, and this is the year I finally will. And because money is energy, I invested in a wacom tablet, to be able to play in Photoshop with composites like I want to. I’ve also started a 30 day creativity program by Brooke Shaden and blocked time in my calendar to nurture my right brain.

5.I didn’t take good care of my body

You may think this is not a business mistake, but it is, because when we don’t take care of our bodies, we don’t have the energy, the focus or the stamina to perform at our best.

Luka and Zoe have never been great sleepers and, still to this date, they may wake up several times at night. A disrupted sleep for 8 years sent my hormones into chaos in 2015 and I failed to take action to regularize them.

With cortisol through the roof, I was permanently tired and, to give me energy, I turned to sweets and bread and easy snacks.  I gained a lot of weight (which boosted my visibility fears).I couldn’t sleep and my brain was as foggy as a London morning.

I tried everything-except what my body truly needed: A drastic change in food habits, exercise, and stress-reduction activities.

At the beginning of this year, I finally took action. I started slowly eliminating foods that made me feel bad. Then, for our 10th wedding anniversary, my husband and I gave each other Garmin fitness trackers (because we want to live a long and healthy life together) and started going out for walks everyday. And finally, two weeks ago, I started a strict hormone reset diet that is proving almost magical. I’m also making sure that I send daily love messages to my body, through reiki and these meditations. If I thrive when I’m a vessel for creativity, love and joy, I must take care of the vessel of my soul.

In 2015, I discovered that growing a business requires us to pay deep attention to our mindset, and the ways it tricks us into staying stuck. I discovered that moving forward requires harmony of mind, body and soul- and that one cannot work properly without the other. And I discovered that I’m capable of much more, if I only allow myself to experience it.

Your turn: What lessons did 2015 leave you? What are you changing in your life and business this year? 

Leave a comment below, and if you think this post may be useful to someone, please share!.

Spirituality & mindfulness in business and why they’re important

MINDFULNESS- SPIRITUALITY- CYPRUS-PHOTOGRAPHER- MARCELA- MACIAS
When I was growing up, I used to think that spirituality and ” real life” were two separate things. I was born in a Catholic country, from an atheist father and an agnostic mother, and, to the horror of everyone who knew me, I wasn’t baptized. Aren’t you afraid that you won’t go to heaven? People would ask me all the time, to which I would respond: “ I like to think that, if there’s a God and a Heaven, it’s not limited to those who follow the rite of one of the many religions of the world, but rather that it’s open to good people, so no, I’m not afraid” . To the outside world, I was weird. Not because I was not Catholic, but because I didn’t have a religion. And I didn’t want one either. I rejected the idea of confession, and while I appreciated the beauty of sacred art, I believed that true connection with the Divine could only be found in nature. I was moved, not by a statue of the Christ (The image of the crucifixion always terrified me) but by the landscapes I saw when I traveled, the beauty of dawns and sunsets, the stars in the sky, random acts of kindness, undying friendships, art and poetry.

I saw the Divine in everything. I just didn’t call it that.

Until my late teens, I didn’t see the purpose of having a religion and I couldn’t understand those who did. I was young, and intellectually arrogant and had a lot of life to live before I came to realize the immense power of spirituality. During a particularly hard period of my life, I looked for refuge by going to Church, but found that the practice left me fearful and anxious instead of empowered, so I soon dropped it.

Even though I felt restricted by religion, in my 20s I started longing for a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself.

It started with yoga and meditation, in 2004, practices which sustained me during the difficult first years since Luka and Zoe’s diagnoses. Vision boards, gratitude-journaling, and tapping quickly followed. Then came the turn of oracle cards, Abraham-Hicks videos on youtube, mantras, reiki, channeling, manifesting, planning in accordance with the moon cycles, and the study of the Divine Feminine.

And then I understood. 

We don’t have a spiritual practice because we need one. We have a spiritual practice because when we are connected to a higher power, everything is easier and more beautiful.

It took me years to get to this point. It didn’t come easily to me.

I have a type-A personality that has given me as many triumphs as headaches, and until my kids were born, I never gave myself the time for pleasure, or contemplation. I was all the time on the clock, thinking about what else I had to do to achieve my goals.  Rain + a book was always my idea of a perfect day, but do you know how many times I allowed myself to enjoy a day like that? Until recently, very few. That’s the curse of a Type-A personality with a side of insecurity: the constant drive to do more and more and more, to achieve, to excel, to improve…to prove to myself that I was worthy. I was always on the move, always thinking about new things to do, always wondering how I could move forward in my career. I thought I was my career until Luka and Zoe were born.  

And then, one day, I found myself 24/7 at home, with young kids, and I thought I was going to go mad.

The calmness, the routines, the monotony and (for an introvert like me) the lack of silence were a shock to my system. A lightning bolt in my life, so planned to the detail, so structured before, and now so different. I didn’t know how to cope with my ever growing to do list, with my need to do something other than mothering and for the love of all things holly, I promise you, I had no idea how to be a good mother either. Add to that the lack of sleep, and that, apart from mothering twins, I was also studying for a very demanding Master of Laws and you’ll understand why, when the kids were 15 months I found myself crying with desperate sobs, in the middle of the night, that I couldn’t do it anymore, that I needed to please sleep and do nothing, that I needed a break.

I knew, back then, that I couldn’t continue like that, and that I needed to find a way to change. And what saved me were two things: an enormous love for my children, and the sheer determination to find a way to combine mothering and work with more ease, with more peace, lovingly embracing the present moment. Yoga and meditation, which were practices that I had briefly started before, became the cornerstones of my well being. Crafting, baking and photography became my creative outlets, my stress-busters, my oasis. And that’s when The Celebration Girl (my old blog) was born.

But when I started this new business, the old type A habits kicked in again, because that’s the only way I knew how to work. My mind kicked in overdrive at first, and I became obsessed with learning every tip, every tactic, every strategy. I subscribed to a gazillion of newsletters to the point where I felt overwhelm at the mere thought of opening my email account. I was always feeling guilty of not doing enough, not knowing enough, not being more advanced in my plans. I followed the kind of online gurus that shame you for not attending their webinars or buying their products and I allowed them to make me feel like a sore loser.

But, this time, because of my mindfulness practices, I could feel in my bones that something was not right. And around 18 months ago, I started to really pay attention.

I noticed that my body was providing me with signs: a tightening in the stomach when something felt wrong, a feeling of opening in my chest when I loved something, and many more. Could there be other signs I hadn’t noticed? Other patterns? I wondered. So I listened more.

It started like a game: I would give the Universe an ultimatum, or ask a question and then I would start noticing patterns. I was not looking for them, they were pretty much being thrown at me! It was fun, and it was simple, so I started using it for business too. My mind still wanted to take over, but now I knew when to allow it and when not to. I realized that I shouldn’t make decisions when too tired, nor be on social media, for example, because I can become snappy.

I noticed that my mood improved and I could work much better if I took a cold shower in the morning and had green juice for breakfast. I discovered that 15 minutes of exercise a day greatly improved my energy levels. And I found out that lighting a candle and asking the Universe to guide what I had to write before sitting at the computer, made every communication flow much, much easily.

And for the times when my mind was very persistent? I now had a series sacred practices that supported me.

Can I live, work, raise my kids without a spiritual practice? Yes, of course I can. But everything would feel harder. And, call me crazy, but I prefer things to flow and feel easy.

Spirituality (these set of sacred practices that support my well being) and Mindfulness are the keys of my happiness and my sanity. Everything I’ve accomplished these past years, and my positive outlook in life (which has often surprised many and, frankly, unnerved others) can be traced back to the moment I decided to develop consistent routines that support me feeling like I wanted to feel. I was this close to burn-out on many occasions, and I know it’s just not worth it.

Today, my days start giving thanks for everything I have before I step out of bed, followed by a morning walk (with a mantra playlist) and a meditation while sitting in a park near my home. I write my goals every New Moon, and review my intentions when the moon is full. I color mandalas when I feel down, and make it a priority to get back into alignment as fast as possible when life knocks me down. At night, I journal about the day and give thanks again for everything that happened, so my dreams are sweet. I try to surround myself with beauty everywhere I go (a pretty pen, a mug I love, a scarf in my favorite color,  the photo of a loved one). And the more I do this, the better my life gets.

This is what works for me. This is what makes me happy. 

My podcast partner and great friend, Marbel Canseco has been the person with whom I’ve developed these habits and practices during the past 2 years. Every Monday, during our accountability meetings, we’d share what was working for us, what was helping us move forward in business and life. We tested resources, tracked practices and finally arrived to a system that works for us. And the reason it does, is that it’s flexible and fun, because we’ve found that what feels like a chore won’t get done consistently.

And today, we want to share it with you. 

We created a beautiful set of printables, planners, calendars and meditations to help you plan your days with a mix of brain and woo, a lot of action and a dash of letting go. The same system we developed to make the best use of our minds-but to prevent them from taking control. A system to allow us to connect to our inner knowing, to our inner guidance, and to let the Universe show us the way.

This is for you if you believe the universe is power.If you want to add spirit to your planning, so that you can feel supported, and aligned, in every life and business decision.

This is for you if you have ever felt blocked, stuck, like everything in business was just plain…hard. If you’ve ever felt confused about the type of clients you want to work with or the type of customers you want to attract. If you’ve ever wished someone would just tell you what to do, give you some sort of step by step manual for YOUR business, that you could take some sort of back to the future trip in a De Lorean to meet your future self and ask her HOW TO DO IT ALL.

If you feel out of sync with yourself and your intuition, this system is for you.  It is not a crystal ball, it’s a system of resources for you to quiet your mind, go within, and find the right answers for your life and for your business.

Yes this is New Age-y. No, it’s not for everyone. But if you feel called to it, if something in you says “yes, I’d like that”, it would be our pleasure and our honor to share our system with you.

We believe there’s a place for the Sacred in the Daily and the Practical. Don’t you agree?

You can learn more by clicking on the button at the bottom of this post.

How I got started in business {podcast interview in Spanish}

podcast-interview-marcela-macias-ximena-de-la-serna-asalto-emprendedora

I got started in business by accident.

I guess we could say that I put a wish out there, to the Universe, and the Universe delivered it to my complete and utter surprise, and before I was ready.

I’ve always found that the best things in life happen when we embrace the unexpected, and leap, so I leaped, without much idea of what I was doing, and these first two years as a photographer have been exciting, exhilarating, and a huge, huge learning process at every possible level.

I’ve changed. I’ve grown. I’ve cried. I’ve celebrated. I’ve been confused and I’ve learnt to ask for help.

I wouldn’t change it for the world, and I’m forever thankful that I leaped. 

This is why I was so happy when super blogger Ximena de la Serna contacted me for an interview in her podcast in Spanish, Asalto Emprendedora, to talk about the lessons I learned and what I would like to transmit to someone considering the possibility of getting started as an entrepreneur, going from dream to reality,  and leaping- as I did.

In this interview I talk about my most honest truth. What came easy, what was hard, what issues I had to overcome and how I did it (hint: it all goes down to mindset!). My best tips, my best resources: I share it all.

Click on the button to listen to the podcast (in Spanish)  to learn:

  • How I got started in business
  • How and where I found my first clients
  • How to overcome the “I’m a fraud” syndrome
  • How to raise your prices without freaking out.
  • How to know what will sell and what won’t
  • The secret formula to get a client
  • How to differentiate yourself from the competition (hint: there’s no competition)
  • The most important thing you 100% have to take care about when you’re getting started in business.

After you listen, come back and let me know: What’s stopping you from starting a business and how can I help you leap?

May you have the most beautiful day.

Being a Mumpreneur, client referrals and my first year in business

I’m writing today, from a very, VERY hot Cypriot Summer, while my kids play in the living room of our apartment and our cat (Kitty) sleeps on the sofa by my side.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the day my husband and I started dating, back in Abidjan. In just  2 days it will be Luka and Zoe’s 7th birthday (7!!!!) and my mom arrived to Nicosia yesterday to stay with us for 50 days (insert big happy smile here). This is a month full of happy memories and celebrations, when the abundance that we are graced with becomes even more apparent. A month of true joy.

And a great deal of this joy is due to being able to work from home (being a “mumpreneur”) and having let go of the expectations of what my work, success, and our lives, needed to look like. I used to think that I needed to be busy busy busy  all the time, or I was not doing enough. I used to beat myself hard whenever I was so tired that I ended up procrastinating on the things I had to do (or thought I had to do), because I simply couldn’t focus. I used to feel that I was never far along enough on the path to my dreams…until I realized that my dreams and goals were acting both as a surrogate to my self-esteem, and as an excuse to beat myself up.

Why am I telling you this?

Because Summers can be wonderful, but they can also be hard for working moms. I know this because, while I’ve always loved being with my kids, I also used to feel constantly guilty. Guilty for not being far ahead enough with my business goals, and guilty for wanting to do something other than just being with my children all day long. When night fell and kids went to sleep, I would rush to the computer to finish the work I had planned in my (always miles long) to do list and I would stay until the wee hours of the night trying to cross things off from it.

It was not sustainable, but I didn’t see it.

And then, with its peculiar sense of humor, the Universe removed all my free day time. The year when Luka and Zoe were home-schooled I learnt the true meaning of “I don’t have time”, and yet, and yet…it was my most productive year.

How is it possible?

This is something I talked about with lovely Laureen Oliphant in THIS INTERVIEW.

Interview with 2Clarify

We discussed how I had no choice but to go within and set priorities. How I was forced to chop down all goals that didn’t fit into those priorities ( I said sayonara to a gazillion goals, trust me).  How I had to make place in my work for my children, and a place in my home school routines for my work (and how I actually achieved this). And how, in order to implement anything at all, I had to put systems in place, so as to minimize the amount of decisions I needed to make daily.

If this sounds easy, let me tell you right now: it wasn’t. I rebelled against it at first, because I’m smart like that (Ha! NOT!. I can be stubborn). But when I surrendered to my new reality, things started to flow and I found more ease in my business and in my life.

Listen to the full interview to learn what’s the best thing I did (hint: it got me all my client referrals and it doesn’t cost a penny!)

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