Finding Contentment in Sadness and the Best Macaroni and Cheese on the Planet

I took you on my hike this morning and shared some of the helpful tools I’ve learned and applied in the last few weeks. I edited together all the nuggets plus a 15 second avocado meditation at the end! You can view the video here.


Some of the resources which I mentioned are included below:

  1. On allowing your feelings to move through you (rather than burying them with social media, food, TV, alcohol or busyness): Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach is a game-changer when it comes to allowing your feelings to move through you—especially conflicting feelings. The book has been pivotal for me in terms of changing my relationship to recurring themes in my life.
  2. On forgiveness and healing: I mention this SuperSoul Session by Caroline Myss, 7 Myths and 7 Truths about Healing which can be viewed here. While I’m a fan of Myss’ work, I don’t always like her tone or delivery, but this short talk is well worth it, especially the ending. It contains that apology and forgiveness exercise which I referenced on the mountain.
  3. On letting go of the effort to control outcomes: Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead and Change Me Prayers: The Hidden Power of Spiritual Surrender – both books are by Tosha Silver and can be found here. These books have felt like they have saved me–from my own thoughts–in the last few weeks. People tell you to surrender all the time, but she does it with such humor and great anecdotes to model it again and again.
  4. On letting go of anticipating and being prepared for every scenario: If you want to know more about the concept of hypervigilance, I really like this post titled Parentified Daughters as Female Leaders: Keys to your Emergence by Bethany Webster. The concepts also apply to sons, so if you’re a man reading this, it’s worth taking the time to click on the link.
  5. On boundaries which are essential to employ the tools outlined on my hike: I don’t mention boundaries in the video, but I did ask myself on the way home, “what’s missing?” “What else can I share to help folks test these tools in their own lives?” The most powerful tool for me has been to make boundaries, even with the people I love. Here’s one of my favorite short (6 minutes) videos by Brene Brown on that topic. 

I love you.







I Love You More than a Boy Cheese Sandwich

Girl Cheese Sandwich by Rebecca Villarreal

How I’ve missed you! I have so much to share with you today. First, let me tell you why I love you more than a boy cheese sandwich. When I was a wee one, I thought grilled cheese was “girl cheese.” So a girl cheese with ham was a “boy cheese” sandwich. I love cheese.

True story: As a toddler, in order for my mom to get me to walk home from the “avenue” (where she went to the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker), she’d buy a pound of sliced muenster cheese. She’d take out that slice of cheese and hold it out in front of me. You get where this is going. I followed her home, eating slice after slice. Ergo, cheese = love.

Today, my act of love is to share some of the tools that have shaped my ability to love myself and you. For if I cannot love myself, how can I love you? Think of this post as a meander down your favorite aisles of the grocery store. If I was in the cheese section, for example, I might pick up my favorite Petite Basque, some shredded asiago and ask Robbie, my cheese guy, for some tips on a slightly stinky variety. My only hope is that you think about opening at least one of these gifts. Some are free and some are recommendations for books and courses.

Aisle 1: Forgiveness I’ve touched upon forgiveness before, but I have never known forgiveness like I know it now. Here’s what made all the difference: the e-course “Forgiveness with Iyanla: How to Forgive Everyone for Everything.” If you find yourself holding on to even the most minute grudges, this is for you. If you are hard on yourself, constantly striving and finding a level of internal criticism, (even mental abuse) for your behavior, thoughts, judgements, food choices, friendship or relationship choices, this course is for you. Basically, if you’re human and would like to begin to feel a flow in life that’s new and different, check it out here.  And if you’re not ready for the course, she has also recently released a book Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything.

Aisle 2: Relaxation Relax? How can you ask me to relax? I have so much to do! I am busy! I don’t have time for that, you, exercise, meditation, meal planning, writing, pursuing my dreams. Guess what, there is a way. Check out Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You AreShe helps us overachiever types learn, “I am imperfect and I am enough.” The chapters are short! If you haven’t seen her Ted talks, watch this one first and this one second.  And to get a sense of how wonderfully human she is, watch this short excerpt of a speech on blaming which was animated. It’s one of my favorite stories of hers and I think you’ll love it!

Or if you’re not a reader and you feel like taking an e-course on the your computer, tablet or phone, my husband and I have been enjoying her course called The Power of Vulnerability through Udemy. She also has a course on the book which I have not taken myself, but have had friends who have enjoyed it. You can view that information here.

Aisle 3: Meditation You only need 10 minutes a day for meditation or even less! Here are some of my favorite resources:

1. Insight Timer app: this app for your phone contains the most eclectic mix of guided meditation from 1 minute to 30 minutes and it’s free. My son and I often use this app to help us fall asleep.

2. Kirtan Kriya Meditation: You can purchase this on amazon or iTunes or do your own search. It’s been studied by Harvard and the National Institutes of Health for its impacts on age-related cognitive decline and depression. There’s a slide show here to learn more. You are expected to feel and see great energetic shifts if you do it for 40 days or more. I learned it in December and did the 13 minute version for 40 days and saw tremendous changes in the way people reacted to me, everywhere I went. It’s hard to explain the shift, but it’s a lot like winning the lottery for your heart and spirit.

3. 21-Day Mantra Meditation Journey with Deva Premal and Miten: I first participated in this meditation for free through Mentors Channel. And guess what, there is a Vol II starting on February 14th! I’m so excited for us! I didn’t even know that until I was writing this post for you. Here’s the link to sign up! I purchased Volume 1 through iTunes because I enjoyed it so much. What’s fun about these meditations is that they are in Sanskrit, a language which is more than 5,000 years old. Deva and Miten explain a little bit about the mantra before we begin chanting to their beautiful music. Sometimes I just listen to it rather than chant along if I can’t keep up. I do it in the morning, on the bus, on the L and even while walking. Ideally you are still for meditation, but I’ve learned to make it work with my lifestyle.

(**This just in: Oprah and Deepak Chopra just announced a new free 21-Day series called “Manifesting Success” beginning on March 16. You can sign up here. I’ve enjoyed several of their free meditations before. For first timers, this may be an easier starter than the chanting above.)

Aisle 4: Spirit Vacation I’ve recently experienced a revolution in my faith. You don’t have to believe in a certain God to read on. I’m not going to suggest that you take my path up the mountain, I’m suggesting “seeking” as a kind of vacation. Here are some resources to help you explore the freedom of letting go.

1. Thich Nhat Hanh: I’m recommending several books by this Vietnamese Buddhist monk who was nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize: Teachings on Love (which I’ve never read in a linear way–I just let the pages pick me). The meditations at the back are priceless especially Touching The Earth in Chapter 13. I also love his Living Buddha, Living Christ, The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation, Anger and No Death, No Fear, which is a priceless resource for any kind of grief.

2. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young: A friend started snapping pictures of this daily devotional and sending them to me. It felt like back in the nineties when I read Simple Abundance but with God and a few excerpts from the Bible sprinkled in. My experience as a Catholic Buddhist is that I know very little about the Bible so this has been a fun way for me to learn more and also receive a single message every day which hinges on trust. Along a similar vein, I have recently enjoyed the e-book 9 Days to a Deeper Prayer Life with the Holy Spirit by Anne and John-Paul Deddens. It’s only 99 cents and it’s a lovely way to start my day by reading these short prayers on my phone.

3. The Sufi Book of Life: 99 Pathways of the Heart for the Modern Dervish by Neil Douglas-Klotz: This is a wonderful book to use as an oracle. When you are feeling like you need some guidance, just let the pages fall open. When I opened it just now, it came up with “The ‘I Can’ Power of the Cosmos.” You’ll learn some incredibly powerful approaches to life that date way back and yet integrate multiple traditions. I’m still exploring this book as I write this. Each chapter is only approximately four pages long.

I hope you enjoyed this trip with me down the aisles of my spiritual grocery store. Remember that free samples are always available through Google. If someone appeals to you, find their website or Facebook page and sign up for email updates or “like” them. Then you’ll get those bite-sized chunks to taste.

Remember, I love you more than a boy cheese sandwich!

Boy Cheese Sandwich by Rebecca Villarreal PS: Now that I’ve made you crave a girl or boy cheese, check out one of my new favorite movies (which is on Netflix) – it’s Chef! And here’s the video of the making of the perfect girl cheese sandwich. (Note: adult language used in both videos.)

**I am not an affiliate of any of these resources so I don’t get anything but happiness knowing you may pick one for your heart.**

As we forgive those…

You have so much power. You have the power to choose what you eat, how you exercise your body, and how and who you forgive, even if it’s yourself. Bear with me, I’m going to give you something so light, you’ll be breathing easier at the end of this post.

Sweet Forgiveness by Rebecca Villarreal

I went to confession this past Sunday. As you know from a past post on faith and boredom and another on divine noticing, I’m re-examining or reviving my spirituality. It’s been completely organic. I’m a bit unplugged about it intellectually at times, but it seems my spirit’s plugged in, even if I don’t always understand it in my mind.

That context is to tell you I seem to have completely forgotten things about religion. Like Catholics go to confession during Lent. It makes sense that the 40 days and nights prior to Easter, a time of rebirth and celebration, we would ask for forgiveness and absolution from our sins.

Lots of folks through the years have said to me in jest [somewhat], “Oh, you Catholics have it easy. You sin, then you go to confession and you get a fresh start.” Catholics, however, layer guilt like a yogurt parfait: one layer of forgiveness, a layer of residual guilt for the sin, a layer of Hail Mary in an act of contrition and so on. If you have never been to confession, it’s basically a chance, usually face-to-face these days, to speak to a priest. You tell him, “Bless me father, for I have sinned, it’s been x number of days since my last confession.” Then I think from my childhood days, you list the commandments you’ve broken. Since I’m not exactly on my game with all of the rules, I remembered the opening and then just honestly shared my struggles. I talked about the areas of my life where I’ve fallen. I asked for help—that is an incredible power. I asked for help to forgive. I know confessions are private. However, I’ve been woken at 5:00am to write to you, so I believe that I’m called to share this part of my confession. The priest was a little old school, yet firmly sitting in true Buddhist compassion for me. I could feel it. He said some wonderful things in response that were not perfunctory. And then he instructed me to say three prayers, one of which I didn’t know, so he gave me a pass on that one.

I went to the front of the church (this is after mass) and pulled a kneeler up to a saint’s statue. It was Saint Martin. Above him was St. Joseph and next to him was St. Cabrini, a woman. I was verklempt and crying quietly in this truly cleansing way. Then my mind took over and I started wondering about St. Martin and St. Cabrini. My cousin works at Cabrini College and that was my main mental reference. I didn’t even know there was a St. Cabrini. Then I started thinking about how saints are like the superheroes of the Catholic Church. I spend quite a bit of time now learning about Marvel and DC Comics superheroes and villains. I thought about how I need to research some of these saints. I bet they have cool powers. My tears had stopped during this mental adventure.

And then I remembered I just went to confession. I remembered that I had an assignment. So I began with a speedy rhythm to recite the “Our Father.” That prayer is one of the coolest during mass because we all link hands across the church and sing it. I can truly feel superpowers when linked with others in this prayer. It’s like grace-on-demand. So I’m in the midst of this prayer and I get to:

Give us this day, our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

And then I said, “Holy smoke!” and started crying again. I think I felt that prayer for the first time in my life. I glimpsed in my soul the idea that I truly want to be forgiven. And then [this is the holy smoke part], I want to be forgiven so much, the same way, that I want to forgive those who have trespassed against me.

Do you feel me?

I was astounded at the idea of true forgiveness and absolution. I felt lighter. I felt cleaner, clearer. What if I let go of all of these feelings? What if I forgave everyone who has hurt me in my whole entire life? What if I let go of the pain in my shoulder blade, the thoughts that drill in my head about people who have let me down. What if I applied that same compassion to myself in feeling all of that toward those whom I perceive have injured me in some way? What if I let go of the guilt? What if I dumped that yogurt parfait in the trash and started all over again?

What if I make a fresh dish in the kitchen of my soul? What would it look like? What are the ingredients to feel fresh and light?

My friends, you do not have to be Catholic or go to confession to lighten your load. Ask for help. Ask for forgiveness. Forgive those who have made the most egregious errors against you. Write it down. Keep it in a journal. Or use a piece of paper. Throw it away. Burn it if it makes you feel better.

Do you want to see how this manifests? I finished my prayers, my acts of contrition. I had received a text during mass which I could not open. And truthfully, I only check my phone during mass for family emergencies. I tried to check the text on the way out, but my old simple phone doesn’t always unlock. I pressed and pressed the button as I left the foyer. It didn’t open until I stepped outside into the sunlight.

I had received an apology text from a family member.

Again I say, “Wow.”

I wrote back, “I forgive you, Sweetness.”

Try it. Say it. I forgive you. Even if the you, is YOU. Taste the sweetness. It’s delicious. I promise.


Erasing Big Mistakes, Watering the Seeds, Naming Your Own Matilda

Have you ever felt regret at a choice you’ve made? Or anger at yourself for that relationship? Conversation? Purchase? Meal? Do you wish that you could erase that moment or decision? There are always lessons in those moments. Sometimes they are harder to swallow than others.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and teacher, shows how the mind is like a field, where every kind of seed is planted–seeds of suffering, anger, happiness and peace. The quality of life depends on the quality of the seeds. By learning how to water seeds of joy and transform seeds of suffering, then you are creating space for understanding, love, and compassion to flower.

That sounds so good. But how do you do it? Here are a few of my favorite short meditations from his book, Taming the Tiger Within: Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions

1. If positive seeds are watered in a person’s life, it is partly because of luck and partly because of effort.

2. Inside every one of us is a garden, and every practitioner has to go back to their garden and take care of it. Maybe in the past you left it untended for a long time. You should know exactly what is going on in your own garden, and try to put everything in order. Restore the beauty; restore the harmony in your garden. If it is well tended, many people will enjoy your garden.

3. Compassion is a beautiful flower born of understanding. When you get angry with someone, practice breathing in and out mindfully. Look deeply into the situation to see the true nature of your own and the other person’s suffering, and you will be liberated.

4. Mindfulness means to be present, to be aware of what is going on. The energy is very crucial for the practice. The energy of mindfulness is like a big brother or sister, holding a young one in her arms, taking good care of the suffering child, which is our anger, despair or jealousy.

So whether you want to think about any negative emotion as a seed in a garden or a sibling or even a baby, you can work to be compassionate toward yourself and others. One time, I read that those negative seeds, like garbage, could be turned into compost which helps to tend your healthy garden. This helped me to accept my negative feelings and not just push them down with thoughts of gratitude. Once someone shared this insight as well: resentment is like taking poison yourself, then expecting the other person to die. Whoa.

The other approach I have learned is to name your negative emotion, whether it’s anxiety, fear, jealousy, anger or depression. Mine is named Matilda. I actually like the name Matilda. When she pops up, she’s wearing a light blue house dress with white polka dots and big black men’s wingtips with white socks. When I’m under stress, I see her coming. She just wants to squat inside me like a toad and take over. So I can tell her, “I see you, Mattie, thanks for reminding me to stick up for myself. You know what, have a seat in this corner of my heart. I know you want to fight for me. Let me take a moment to figure out how handle this one.” I know that I’m taking a risk in inviting you to think of your heart as a garden or a host to any number of characters, but let’s face it, we have all kinds of thoughts and emotions running through us every day. Why not try something new to help you navigate when the waters get choppy, or the garden gets weedy or a lady in a blue polka dot house dress shows up?

Self-Care September is Coming


Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington*, I invite you to forgive yourself. For it is only in forgiving yourself and then in loving yourself deeply, that you can radiate love and bring peace with every step you take, every single day.

Self-care September is coming. This is a month where we will practice the art of extreme self-care.  If you are scratching your head, that makes sense because I am declaring this for the first time. September is back-to-school season in the U.S. It’s a time when we can sharpen new pencils, our erasers are clean and notebooks are shiny and new.

If you have a chance to take care of 1-3 things about yourself, what would they be? Here are some ideas:

  1. Staying balanced, or as most folks like to say, managing stress
  2. Eating healthy foods
  3. Feeling good about your body
  4. Exercising, playing, dancing
  5. Learning that skill you have always wanted to learn
  6. Making time for the friends you rarely see
  7. Getting medical attention for all parts of you—body, heart, mind…and teeth!
  8. Remembering and nurturing your passions
  9. Cultivating your spiritual side
  10.  Managing your finances

If you are upset with yourself for putting on weight, overspending, letting yourself fall into the same pit of stress again and again, this is your chance to be kind and gentle with yourself—just the way you would be with a dear friend or a child.

One book that has helped me in the past is The Art of Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson. You can buy it here or view the first chapter here.  Don’t be turned off by the cover if self-help isn’t your thing.  What the book does well is create 12 opportunities for you to take care of yourself so that you can tackle one area each month—sometimes that can mean learning to say no or sometimes that can mean giving up control.

So, I’m inviting you to pick 1-3 areas to address during the month of September.  The list above is only for ideas.  Think about it and if you feel like declaring it to the world, add a comment on this post.  Or try writing it down in a journal. Or if you want to let me know privately so that you have some level of accountability, feel free to email me at –that way someone else knows about the exciting possibility of cultivating your power through forgiveness and self-love. I hope that you feel lighter already just thinking about letting go!

*If you would like to learn more about the U.S. civil rights movement on this momentous anniversary, visit one of my favorite organizations at: — there is even a mythbusters quiz.