Puddles of Mud

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Lauren Ashley Photography

                                                                                                                                                                                                             Lauren Ashley Photography

Things are colder now
as I sink below your thoughts...
drowning inside your memory
...now you have space
and regret hangs in the air around it.
Breaking the silence for the first time
since the sand fell through your fingers...
shadows are all that is left behind.
All my days are spent in mud puddles
you said you were the first one there;
So I thought that is where I'd find you.
But the sun fades into streetlights
and I'm dodging shadows again...
and they disappear into the earth.
So this is how it's going to end...
In water-stained gutters
in puddles of mud...

Natasha Mandel  (written: 2009)

The return of the sun...and my word of the year...


"Within each of us there is a silence, a silence as vast as the universe. And when we experience that silence, we remember who we are."
~Gunilla Norris

As we welcome the Winter Solstice, the sun transitions into Capricorn (my sun sign!), and we welcome the return of the sun! This is a potent time for rebirth; and the slow, symbolic awakening from darkness into the light. Our emergence from hibernation is slow, steady...deliberate. As we stretch and grow into the next season, the sun brings with it, hope; and warms the seeds that we plant this season to burst forth and bloom in the seasons ahead.  

And on the heels of the solstice, comes New Years; where we gather together to welcome in a fresh start. A new beginning. Reflecting on the past, we celebrate all the wonderful moments we had...and are also grateful for all we learned from the hard times in the past year.

Looking forward to the future, we express our hopes and intentions for the new year; showing gratitude for life and another chance to better ourselves and the world around us.

So, have you thought about your "word of the year"?
What intentions will you set for the next turn of the sun? Mindfulness? Balance? Transformation? Surrender? These are just a few words you could choose to empower you! There are no rules! But it is important to take this sacred and symbolic time, to realign our vibration and reconnect with our inner wisdom; and choosing a word of intention can help empower us through the year ahead! After some meditation, I chose "TOGETHER". There is so much we can good we can create together. So much light we can bring to darkness. So much healing we can bring to pain; if only we connect and create it together. Connection is what my heart deeply knows to be what many of us need right now in order to heal so many wounds of the earth and of humanity.

Together we stand strong.
Together we tear down walls.
Together we burn bridges and build new ones.
Together we change the world.
Together we fucking RISE.
They don't know that together we ARE the lotus...
rising slowly through the darkness.

So my intention is to show up. TOGETHER. To create beauty. To create connection, communication and healing. To create change. To do what *I* can do WITH my fellow humans to create a better world for all of us. This is my commitment to myself and my fellow humans.

And just as we create intentions for new beginnings, we must know what to release from the past. We are not the same as we were last year, and we won't be the same next year. We are continually evolving. We must release what we are in order to become who we are meant to be. This year, let us step into a new story. We must ask ourselves what we need to let go of this season; and what seeds we want to plant for the year ahead?

Let us take this time to set our intentions and watch as the year unfolds.  What word or words will you choose to empower you through the next turn around the sun? I would love to hear yours!  

My hope for us is that somehow, someway, we find some kind of beauty in our transitions; in the metaphorical thresholds of ourselves and humanity. No matter what, let's try to find some way to celebrate...because, LIFE! Let us LIVE while we are alive and LOVE because it is the purpose and what we will return to. I hope everyone has a wonderful year ahead!

Whatever you do...
Live, laugh, love
Eat the cheesecake
Have the glass of wine
Dream from your heart
Create adventures
Choose forgiveness, choose love, choose hope. 
Choose life.

"May the long time sun shine upon you, ALL love surround you, and the pure LIGHT within you, guide your way on."~ Blessing

I Love You,

Love notes...ebb & flow...


"Nature has a way of reminding us, that all things great and small,
ebb and flow in rhythm with the heartbeat of her call.”~ Gabriella Goddard

There is something about the snowfall; the cleanse in the winter. A reminder of the ebb and flow of seasons and of life. To savor all it's moments in all their forms. And yet winter still reminds us...that there will be a spring.

Not allowing things to ebb and flow creates resistance. It has taken me all year to finally get into a space where I have been able to cultivate some flow and mmmm it feels so good! It is amazing how when you ALLOW things to flow and just work with where you are in the moment, things really start flowing better! There is a lot less tension, resistance, therefore a lot less anxiety.

How do you honor your own ebb and flow? How will you honor your heartbeat this season? What seeds will you plant this winter, to come alive in the spring? I would love for you to share with me!

Happiness & Love,

Turn on the light...


"As a child, I never imagined that all of the real monsters in the world would be humans."~ Mobeen Hakeem

We tell our children that monsters only exist in the darkness and that to make them disappear and not live in fear, all you need to do is to turn on the light. 

But the only true and living, breathing monsters live within us; in the dark places of our hearts...whether by nature, nurture or trauma. So what shall we do to rid ourselves of our monsters?...

The answer to the problem is the same. To acknowledge the fear, stare them down as we turn the light on our darkness...our monsters. To realize they first exist in our own minds and hearts, and then make their way into the world, destroying everything in their path. Until we shine a light on them, on ourselves, our monsters will always be lurking in the shadows.

It's time to invite them to speak with us; ask them the questions. Get the answers. And begin to heal. 

Happiness & Love,

Humanity is our responsibility...


Use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, your hands for charity, your mind for truth and your heart for love."~ Unknown

Repeat after me... "I do NOT have to quiet my voice...to be peaceful." We can be both peaceful beings and as well, moved to action by the inhumanity we see in the world around us. To be peaceful because we block out the suffering of others is a symptom of privilege. We absolutely CAN love all those around us and send them peace while honoring the fact that we are pissed off and WILL do something to change things in our world. Humanity is our responsibility. And LOVE is humanity in action.

Humanity is being human on a COLLECTIVE level. To say that we LOVE, we must begin thinking and FEELING in a collective way, not in our singular and selfish ways. Can we push past the self? Leave our egos at the door? Can we love as one entity? All our parts and hearts working together for the greater good? I have to believe that we can get there.

Happiness & Love,

Love notes...


I meet myself daily knowing that I am human and will fuck shit up and do some shit right; hopefully the positive outweighs the negative. In the moments when I struggle to know what to do, I think to myself...are my heart and intentions pure? Are my intentions matching my actions? The truth is, that is not always the case. I can be bitchy and self-righteous and stubborn as hell. I can also be very caring and have a great capacity to love, as we all do and I have forgiven some seriously heinous shit. But when I know that my heart and intentions are pure and matching up with my actions, I am at peace knowing I am right where I need to be in this moment. Imperfect and trying to journey to my heart. Everyday, I have to knock on that door and listen for the answers.                                                                    

Happiness & Love,

Love notes...


Always step into your truth. Always speak your heart. Even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts. Especially when it is scary. There, in that space, a gentle but powerful force resides and rises. THAT...is you. The real you. I know it is scary, oh my do I know. But it heals. And it is so beautiful. Let it come out of the shadows. Don't hide that shit.

Happiness & Love,


Forgive...not forget...


"I do forgive, I don't forget these things...I do forgive, I don't forget these things..."~ Nahko and Medicine for the People

On forgiving and forgetting...

There is an ocean of difference between forgiveness and forgetfulness.

Forgiveness allows for forward movement; for a ray of goodness, of correction, to come from all our fuck-ups and failings as humans. Forgetfulness allows so much space for those same failings to spin right back into our reality; as a circle that meets back up with itself...lessons will keep appearing until the student is ready to learn.

Each of us will be a part of both of these; the forgiving and the fucking up. 
May we forgive ourselves and others, yet may we remember and NOT forget, the lessons within these things...

Happiness & Love,

Humanity is our responsibility...

FullSizeRender (2).jpg

"As Human Beings, We Have To Help Each Other, You Know?"~ Mohamed Bzeek

Our spirituality or philosophies do not absolve us from speaking out about social and political issues that are a concern to humanity.

If anything, they should call us to fight for humanity and to prove our spiritual and philosophical practices stand up to these universal tests. Otherwise our spiritual and philosophical ideals are not practices, and ring hollow.

I try to focus on love and positivity, and again I am human and sometimes when fighting for humanity, I can come across as harsh, but it is more my passion that drives me. I want to cut to the heart of things. I hope you all can see that. I've gotten a little push back on my personal social media pages for standing up for humanity because some people close to me think I am stuck in my point of view. In some respects, they are correct. While I will always try to realign and focus us all (including myself) back to love and healing, these push backs only reaffirm my passion and purpose for standing on the side of humanity. Honestly, in a way I'm kind of grateful for these kinds of push back conversations. It is painful but as well further solidifies that I will not back down in this reLOVEution. I'm not going to sit idly by as humans fight for their right to exist without harm; I won't sit back and say nothing when people are systematically dying at the hands of others. And I can totally live with the fact that. I won't stand for that. In order to heal, we need to be willing to face dark truths as often as we bring the light. It's a delicate balance we must remain in. I hope you'll stay with me on this journey. 

All love,

Love notes...what if...


We all seem to wait until our last days to seek forgiveness; to do right by each other. What if we simply lived and loved that way? Didn't do things that needed forgiven? Lived to do right by each other?

What would that life look like? Because I think THAT would feel light. And I think THAT would look like LOVE. 

Photography by @dincturk. Thank you for capturing diversity in photographic art. 


Happiness & Love,

Love notes...

"Humble your heart. Futures are crumbling at the feet of ego."~ The Art of a Happy Heart

While meditating this morning, these words came into my minds eye. Feels appropriate.

Let us think to ourselves how we can humble our hearts when speaking to each other.

Just a little love note from my heart to yours! 
Share the love, share this image. Tag @theartofahappyheart! 

Happiness & Love,

Love notes...


"NORMALIZE being kind."~ The Art of a Happy Heart

Some simple wisdom for your Wednesday! I am ALL for gratitude and being appreciative. I do believe that gratitude and kindness has the possibility to completely change the hardest of hearts!...but have you ever noticed that sometimes kindness seems so RARE that we find it to be extraordinary?!?!?!

A little story...while at a festival a few weeks ago with @kyaracreations, we met our festival neighbor selling at the tent next to us. It was a very hot day and this nice man forgot to bring water. Britt shared a few bottles of water so he would be hydrated throughout the day. He was sooo grateful, that he thanked her over and over again! It was truly very sweet and he seemed like a very nice person, and it all felt really good taking CARE of each other. But he was sooo grateful for freaking WATER!!! Don't get me wrong, I know many countries, and even cities in the states (Flint, Michigan!!!! <---) lack clean water...but let us normalize kindness! And care for one another and help when we can. Not only for the feeling we get from gratitude, but because we care about doing what is RIGHT and good for each other.

How can you normalize kindness today? In what way can you do something good because it is the right thing to do? 

Just a little love note from my heart to yours! 
Share the love, share this image. Tag @theartofahappyheart and show the world that we stand together in kindness and care for one another!

"As Human Beings, We Have To Help Each Other, You Know?"~ Mohamed Bzeek

Happiness & Love,

Lion Heart


The truth is...
I'm afraid you'll see my darkness.
My barren lands.
My suffering.
And that you'll think I cannot serve.
That I cannot survive.
That you'll think I cannot bring my own kind of healing.
That you'll not count me among the tribe.

But this heart has taken beatings.
Has bled for the poetry that flows from its veins.
This heart has cracked and shattered and still fucking LIVED!

For many moons and many suns I've seen the darkness flooding the horizon.
Have felt the suffering of a body stolen.
A bird trapped in a cage and without a song.
All the carnage strewn about at the hour of sunset.
And I cannot alone heal that kind of brokenness.

When the hours grow dark,
those birds they still beat their wings inside my chest.
But this heart, she is a LION!
And this lion has already died a thousand deaths for songs unsung.
No more.

I am not just a bird without a song.
I am that lioness.
And I long to let out my roars
across those barren lands
And awaken myself and the world.

For I came to this place with flaming mane and claws that scratch and fight for life
and for love.
For truth and honesty.
For all the hearts that shatter and come together.

So here I am...thundering out of the darkness.
Heart pounding and bleeding.
Arriving and departing all at once.
Holding on and letting go all at once.
and dying all at once.

So here I am...are you still with me?
Shall we come out of the shadows?

Natasha Mandel (written : April 14th, 2017)

Nature's Reflection...

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."~ John Muir

One morning, while taking a little walk in my yard, just sipping my coffee, I looked down on my favorite little bench, and saw this one little leaf with the most stunning droplets of dew just reflecting back the morning light!  It was so beautiful and in that moment, I just had to capture it's beauty with a photo.  It is just more evidence that nature has so many little things to teach us about ourselves and the world around us.  Today, take time to see extraordinary in the ordinary.  Something as simple as a dew drop reflects back your own beauty.  I see you; and you have meaning on this earth.

"Life is truly reflection of what we allow ourselves to see and be.” ~Trudy Vesotsky


"Nature's Reflection"-

♥ Adorn your hOMe and sacred spaces! Photographic art nature prints are now available!

If this piece resonates with your heart, take a peek in The Art of a Happy Heart SHOP!

Happiness & Love,

"Realign & Reconnect"...Spring cleaning for your heart & home...

"I touch and surrender myself to the earth.  I become one with my true nature.  Allowing...it to EMERGE...From these roots I shall grow... ~ Julie Timms

We have spent winter in hibernation; examining, letting go and stoking the inner fires of transformation.  But spring has come and it is time for yet another shift and rebirth. When the earth begins to awaken from yet another slumber, we too begin to slowly awaken to who we are now.

As the heaviness of winter gives way to sunbeams and honeybees, we are renewed with the hope that comes with spring...more aware and in tune with our purpose and vision of who we are becoming.  All that lay dormant now comes to life!  Our burdens seem lighter, our hopes ignited.  The seed dreams we planted are ready to blossom in the warmth of a new light; inspired by the wisdom we found in the slow, unraveling of our layers in winter.

After the cold and dark of winter, our heart and home are likely in need of a little love and tending.  Now is the perfect time to realign and reconnect with those most sacred spaces.  Spring brings with it a transformational energy, and we can use its wisdom to transform our heart and home energy through release, ritual, and reconnecting.

Clearing out the cobwebs of our heart and home both physically and metaphorically can do such wonders!  It allows us to energetically realign our sacred spaces with our intentions and invite in freshness and a new beginning; untangling ourselves from all that keeps us from coming into full bloom and clearing out stagnant energies that no longer serve us.  Usher in a new, fresh energy and feel yourself come alive!

Tending to your hOMe...

Cleanse your space.  Take this time to declutter and donate.  Keep only things that are meaningful, useful and bring you happiness.  Purging out the old and rearranging or redecorating your home does incredible things for releasing and clearing stagnant energies.  You will be amazed how the energy and vibration changes just by letting go and weeding out the old to make space for the new!

Create an Altar Space.  Set an intention for this season and then begin to create a beautiful, vibrant, and relaxing place for you to reconnect back to your heart and intentions throughout the day. Decorate your altar with crystals such as citrine for abundance, rose quartz for love and clear quartz for clarity!  These are beautiful and symbolic stones to work with in the Spring.  Add a soft, warm glow by using candles or salt lamps.  And clear stagnant energy by burning sage or palo santo.  Come back to this space anytime you feel you need to  reconnect with your heart's intentions.

Connect with nature.  Embrace the lushness of spring by filling your home with plants and pieces of nature.  Invite in LIFE and fresh air into your space by throwing open the curtains and windows!  Allow fresh air and sunbeams to enter and brighten the energy that surrounds you.  And spend time outdoors!  Reconnect with nature and your soul.  Throw up a hammock and take rest under the shade of a tree, soak in the sun until it fades to moon, and you cant tell fireflies from stars.  Take in the medicine of nature; the trees and the animals. What messages do they have for you at this time? What can you learn from them this season?  Discover yourself again in the earth, and renew your cells among her wild love.  There is healing there.  

Tending to your Heart...

Be free.  Unearth those things no longer serving you and leave them behind.  What do you need to release? Old thought patterns? Negative self talk?  Toxic relationships?  Step into a different story.  Weed through and release those things that hold you back or weigh you down.  Free your spirit.  Take time to appreciate where you have been and where you are going.

Deepen your practice.  Recommit to meditation or yoga.  Open your heart space through self inquiry; this is key for awakening your authentic self.  Your heart has it's own intelligence; what is it trying to tell you this season? What do you need in order to grow? Follow it's call.  Quiet your mind and be fully present in the wisdom of your heart.  This is also a beautiful time for self~love!  Do things that make your heart happy and bring you joy and peace. Be gentle and kind to yourself during this time of powerful transformation.

Dream and reconnect.  Spring is a fertile time and the perfect season to give birth to a new idea or try something new!  Dream, visualize (perhaps create a vision board!) and show gratitude for what your life is now and all the abundance coming.  Notice and connect.  Embrace and show gratitude.  When we send out gratitude, the Universe responds with an echo; giving us more moments and experiences to be grateful for.  Light a fire in your heart and watch as your intentions and gratitude bring these seeds dreams to life!

We are in a metamorphosis.  With the freshness of spring comes a shift within our spirit; something feels different and our spirit is reawakened.  Our hearts are opening...we are transforming.  Take this time to become familiar with this new rhythm.  Reconnect with your heart and recreate yourself in alignment with your intentions and visions of who you are becoming.  Allow spring to inspire your emergence from the cocoon.  Your heart and home are your most sacred spaces.  Take this time to do little things to create big shifts and transformation and rebirth.  Create space in your heart and home for joy and abundance.  Nourish them and invite in LOVE.  And watch your true nature EMERGE!

Tell us how YOU release, realign & reconnect in the Spring! And tag us on Instagram @theartofahappyheart and use the hashtag #myheartandhOMe so we can see your Spring Altar photos! Happy Spring Equinox, love hive tribe! 

Happiness & Love,
(Written on: March 12th, 2016)


♥ For sacred offerings for your ceremonies and rituals and to adorn your hOMe and sacred spaces, take a peek in The Art of a Happy Heart SHOP

Every last drop...a life well loved...

""I told you I was gonna squeeze every last drop outta this life...love ya, love ya, love ya."~ Pop~Pop

It has been a heartbreaking and emotional few months. It is nearly impossible, in the midst of grief, not to think of the moments we have lost; the people we loved most, gone in the exhale of one single breath. It seems for quite some time, that we too, are unable to remember how to breathe.

I am just now beginning to breathe again...to process what it is to have lost. And to have loved.

In November, I lost my grandpa. My Pop-Pop. Even as I type those words, the tears come easily...and hard. How can it even be possible that this person, this person I LOVED, be gone? I ache to hear his voice, to hear him tell a story with enthusiasm only he had. I push play on the last voicemail he left me just so I can hear him say, "Love ya, love ya, love ya." The way he did at the end of every conversation. Those words filled my empty spaces. I hope they filled his too when I said them back to him. And I hope they gave him peace in knowing he was so loved, surrounded by family, when those were the last words he would ever hear.

We wanted to move him back home up to Maryland. He wanted to come. We had plans coming together to get him home to us. But his heart had other plans. I got a call. Can you please get to him? We can't make it until Tuesday. And so my whole family pulled together; reconnecting with each other to make new plans, gift flight miles, and lend support. I spent 8 days with him in the hospital and then in hospice care. I could fill a book with all the events, emotions and thoughts from those 8 days. Maybe another time. For now, I will tuck those memories into my heart. Maybe those are for only he and I.

He had moved down to Florida with my grandma before she passed away 5 years ago. I think for many years he probably couldn't leave because it was the last place they were together. She was his everything. Even in his last days, his thoughts were, "I just wanna be with my baby; I want to kiss my baby." I wanted that for him. So, even though my heart was and is deep in grief, I celebrate that their energy is reunited. Even if it really all is just dust to dust.

In the end, it seems there is a trembling. A shattering and breaking free from all the bullshit that never mattered. And a surrender to forgiveness, and to love and to wholeness once again. To a place of healing while being broken beyond repair. It is incredibly beautiful and if I am really, really honest, and not looking for the good, it really, truly fucking sucked. The happiness and sadness. The wholeness you feel from sharing love with another person, yet the heartbreak of losing them. It all feels so stuck. The knot in your throat of all the things left unsaid, all the calls you forgot to make, all the times you wished you had done this, said that. It is all there..

I promised him I wouldn't leave him. I saw him take his last breath. I wrote his obituary.

I think the finality of it all...that is the most excruciating pain a person can experience. For the one leaving and the ones losing.  How can we go on when this feels like the end? I don't have those answers yet.

And so I grieve. And celebrate. That he was a place where I felt like I belonged. That we brought comfort to each other in the midst of transitions.

I carry his heartbeat within my own. His unbreakable love and the lessons learned. His flowery, fish tale stories. And now I find his voice whispering in my heart, calling me home to my innermost wisdom.

As he completed his journey here on this earth, his last moments were spent in the company and thoughts of his loving family.  He passed peacefully in his sleep.

He was a man devoted to his family, and had such a special kind of love for my grandma, Cecilia. He loved old jazz music, bear hugging, watching his favorite old movies and daily stories and he knew that the way to end any great day was with a plate of homemade spaghetti and a spirited game of scrabble. 

We take comfort knowing his life was not just a life well-lived, but a life well-LOVED.

As he began the end of his journey with us here on this earth, one of the last things he said was, "I told you I was gonna squeeze every last drop out of this life."  And what beautiful life advice to leave behind.  To experience and to cherish; to not take for granted any moment of this one precious life.

With his passing, the end of his days...I am reminded...

"Sunsets are proof that endings can often be beautiful too..."~ Beau Taplin

♥ Pop-Pop...love ya, love ya, love ya. ♥