Searching for some inspiration, I shuffled through the prompts in a journaling app. There were a few I felt no spark from, but I knew when I found the one. “What does personal development and growth mean to you?”

After all, this blog is called Optimal Mastery. It’s obvious I’m invested in progress, but I haven’t actually talked about what that means to me on the blog yet. Well, here it goes!

Optimal = better than perfect

I’ve been obsessed with the idea of optimization for years now. Ever since taking philosophy classes in college, I’ve wanted to learn more and more that allows me to live better and better. Sustainability, cooperation, appreciation – things that amplify blessings and benefits get my heart racing.

I don’t want to just own any home. I want to own a home with a negative carbon footprint, that’s completely off-grid and self-sustaining long term.

I don’t want to just do any work. I want to write, publish and create from around the world, on my own time, and still live more luxuriously than most.

I don’t want to be just any human. I want to be a person who’s learning and exploring each and every day. Someone who serves others, honors herself and invests in her convictions. Optimization, to me, means never giving up on my own personal best.

Mastery = getting personal

Mastery is the “how to my why.” Essentially, I believe optimization can only be achieved through personal mastery. Self-control, discipline, but also awareness, patience and compassion are all a part of it.

By committing to oneself, to master oneself, one commits to becoming both their own student as well as teacher. It requires life long recommitments too.

Optimization isn’t a static goal, and neither is the tool of mastery. It is ever fluid, its disciplines and devotions ever fluctuating, flowing and reforming as it is informed again and again through the awareness of presence.

A Lifelong Dedication to Refinement

In all, Optimal Mastery means I will never stop learning, growing and evolving. It doesnt mean I must be perfect. It doesn’t even mean I believe perfection exists. It does mean I’ll always be asking myself the hard questions.

I want to live a full and complete life. I want to leave it all “out there.” I want to test my limits, prove my strengths and develop my weaknesses past my comforts, conditions or excuses. I want to live my life on purpose and create intentional meaning.

So that’s what personal development means to me. That’s why my daily blog is called Optimal Mastery. That’s how you all got to be so lucky as to witness the messy art of my growing.

I do.

And I don’t.

I love myself, I’m thankful to be me and to have my body, flaws and all. I love my playful mind, gushing heart, endless soul and timeless spirit… but I also have things I’m working on. Does it mean that I think I’m ugly? Sometimes, in some ways, but it’s not an incessant monologue.

I have goals, not because I don’t think I’m beautiful, but because I know I can provide even more beauty for myself, with myself, by learning and growing in genuine love for myself. Is being sedentary and having poor eating habits beautiful? No. Are defeated and defensive thoughts beautiful? No. Is emotional avoidance and projection beautiful? No. So that’s the kind of stuff I’m working on being aware and mindful of.

So yes, I am beautiful, but I’m also an imperfect human who makes ugly choices sometimes. I look forward to becoming more beautiful throughout my life as I honestly search for the astonishment of my raw glory. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to appreciate every bit of the ugliness along the way either…

That was a prompt…

Being alive and awake in this great chasm of space-meets-time is well enough to appreciate all imperfections as opportunities to marvel at potential-in-action

That was poetry flow…

P.S. soooo tired

P.S.S. so happy

P.S.S.S so fulfilled, blessed and honored – cooking meals, doing dishes, bringing family together in love… Editing, collaborating, studying… Sweating, pushing, listening – feeling like I’m gulping life down lately and still crave it’s bitter-sweet nectar all the more

That was an update!

Elk Creek Trail, Park County, CO

Sitting on grandma’s couch, I’m distracted from the Hallmark channel romance playing on the television. “I need to dedicate a few weeks to the Amor Fati course, at least, then I can start my Astrology course…” The thoughts are scattered as I check emails and direct messages I haven’t gotten to yet today.

I consider writing myself a schedule, but I don’t end up getting to it before remembering I need to write a blog post today. Feeling somewhat uninspired, or perhaps just still distracted, I open my Paperblanks app for some help. Of course, the prompt that then jumps up on my screen makes me laugh a bit, “I want to learn more about…”

Well then. I guess it’s a theme tonight – my curiosity will in fact get the best of me after all.

I want to learn, A LOT. I already know I’ll be learning my whole life, but I’m not waiting to get started!

I’m passionate about many things, and fascinated by even more. Along with philosophy and astrology, I also want to learn more about herbalism, shamanism, neuro linguistic programming, cognitive behavioral therapy, and various yoga practices. I’ve already started learning Reiki and am a level 2 practitioner, but I want to wait to finish my Master certification so I have time to develop my personal and professional energy healing practice first.

I also want to read, so much. Some of my current favorite authors are Pema Chodron, Alan Watts and Charles Eisenstein, but I have several books waiting to be read on my shelves by many others too.

Sometimes I feel the pressure of time, sometimes it feels like I will never have the chance to explore all the caverns my mind wants so desperately to venture down – but, I suppose that’s better than being bored and uninspired right? I’m certainly content to give it my best try!

“Today I saw a…”

Full disclosure, I’m writing this post a week early and scheduling it to publish while I’m on my retreat… But today, or for you all, a week ago, I saw a deer.

Now, this is nothing special “up here” in the Colorado Rockies, yet it stands out in my mind because of something my grandma said… “People coming from the city will see that and think it’s really something…”

We were sitting near the window at a newly opened restaurant a few towns over – the one we traverse about 13 or so miles to get to for our grocery shopping and most other sub-civilization needs. I didn’t take a picture. I didn’t stare. Again, I didn’t think much of it…

I see deer daily. Herds of them mosey through our front yard, dally by the back roads and intermingle with my periphery quite often. S’pose I’m a bit desensitized to the wonder of it all, to the glory of “wildlife.”

I am blessed to have these opportunities to witness nature, untamed and unconstrained. Yet, I don’t really percieve the deer, hawks, raccoons, foxes and the occasional bear or bobcat as that magnificent.

Don’t get me wrong, I am astonished by their beauty, immensely respectful and grateful for their existence, as well as even sensitive to the innate symbolism and resonance of their appearance when it seems out of character or blatantly synchronous with other patterns in my life. It’s just that I’ve never experienced the great chasm of separation from these creatures the way that my grandmother assumes, probably rightly, that people living in urban areas do.

I’ve always been a creature too…

Apart from the blessings of living here now as an adult, I’ve also grown up here. Other than an internship, college and my travel adventures, I’ve always been a “mountain girl.” This is home and the wildlife are my kin.

It makes me sad to think that there are children who grow up without an entire National Forest to explore in their backyard. I marvel at the thought of going to play outside on concrete sidewalks and other manufactured structures rather than climbing trees, making forts on the sides of mountains and having to take the family rotties everywhere because predators roamed along the deer trails we used to navigate the woods…

No wonder the world is the way it is; so fractured, so fake, so surreal…

I’m listening to a book in preparation for my retreat that talks a lot about this separation from nature that humankind has become so obsessed with. The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein. I’ve found it quite fascinating, especially to hear time and time again echos of my own disjointed and “socially unfit” thoughts and convictions.

It talks about the cult of technotopia and how humans are always looking to gain more control over nature. How things like agriculture, language and even art serve to disconnect and fragment our own nature from that of the natural world… And most importantly, how this has essentially robbed us all of our fulfillment, joy and purpose.

I highly recommend getting this book for yourselves as there is truly so much information and the author is extremely thorough in his anthropological excavations of the entirety of human existence. There is no way for me to even hope to summarize and explain its immense value in this post. Still – seeing that deer, hearing my grandma’s words and realizing my own wealth of natural experiences has directly triggered a bit of meditation on the information it contains.

I think, feel, live and experience my being the way I do because of my connection to nature…

I am so grateful. I am so blessed… For every creature, plant and rock – and today especially, for that deer.

When I was looking for an app for prompts, I collected a couple others for inspiration as well. One of them is a question diary and the other a gratitude journal. Both have been very stimulating so far.

This morning on the gratitude journal I was given the chance to think back over the past 15, 10 and 5 years and take note of the ways I’ve grown, finishing by offering myself gratitude for those achievements. It was quite encouraging and insightful. I’d like to share the excerpts and expound upon them in this post.

I’m grateful that in the last 15 years I have grown from a scared, unsure and self-conscious 16 year old who lied to get out of travelling to Peru and didn’t want to learn to drive, into a confident, self-assured, solo world traveler who isn’t afraid to face her fears again and again!

15 years ago, my oldest childhood friend died in a motorcycle accident just shy of a month before my 16th birthday. She, myself and my friend Kira had all been planning to go on a missions trip to Peru that summer. When the time came to finally leave – after all the fundraising, getting to the ministry headquarters in Texas and even volunteering at that campus – I couldn’t do it. I was paralyzed with anxiety, grief and depression that even manifested physically in my body as extreme IBS that had me in never ending pain and passing blood in my stool every time I went to the bathroom. The lie came into play when I was on the phone with my father who was insistent on my following through with my plans. I told him that “God had told me” I wasn’t supposed to go to Peru. It wasn’t true, God hadn’t said anything one way or the other, but it worked and I was allowed to return home. I remained physically ill though for another year. I was also self-mutilating at this time. I eventually learned to drive, but only with great resistance and trepidation, getting my license when I was already almost 17. I just didn’t want to do anything; I was afraid of everything.

I would also learn later that same year that I have Primary Ovarian Failure, that my body destroyed my ovaries, that I am completely barren, and that instead of going through puberty I had been thrust into menopause before I was 13. I had osteoporosis already, and I was also still growing too. Everything in my life at that time seemed completely out of control, hostile and torturous.

I’m grateful that in the last 10 years I’ve grown from an insecure, self-centered and self-deprecating young woman who didn’t know what she wanted, didn’t care for or love herself, and put up with abuse and manipulation, into an authentic, aware, mindful and passionate goddess who doesn’t take shit from toxic people and doesn’t put herself in toxic situations or allow toxic behavior from herself!

10 years ago I was 21, living with my sister and my convicted felon boyfriend (soon to be husband and then eventually ex-husband) in what could only be described as a party house. I was waking up with my cup of coffee, a cigarette and a bowl of weed. I was filling my days with drama and distractions. I was fueling my nights with alcohol, ecstacy, cocaine and whatever else I could get my hands on. Before the end of that year, I wound up in jail on a domestic violence charge for having punched my boyfriend in the face a dozen times in an intoxicated rage.

I’m so grateful that in the last 5 years I have grown from being a woman who felt undeserving of love, disgusting and completely burnt out emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually while suffering through a painfully failing marriage, flunking out of school for mental health issues and barely getting out of bed, into a vibrant, engaged, inspired healing healer who knows what she believes with conviction, experiences joy and bliss every day, and is blessed continually through her service and devotion to personal mastery and universal optimization!

5 years ago I was filled with self-loathing because I had flunked out of college my very last semester simply because I stopped going to classes. I had made the Dean’s list twice, I had recieved grants and scholarships, but I had also been working 3 jobs to support myself and my convict husband while he was in prison for 2 and a half years of my college career. I completely burnt myself out physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually; couldn’t even crawl out of bed most days because of my severe depression. I went to a therapist, I was put on SSRIs, but I continually spiraled.

By the time my ex got out of prison, I was a shell of a person, and he was disgusted with me. Subsequently, I was made to feel worse and worse about myself by the person I had loved the most. It didn’t help that before my complete collapse I had become progressively more and more reckless. Binge drinking, abusing prescription drugs and even eventually becoming unfaithful by putting myself in high risk sexual situations. I had been honest with my ex, telling him everything before he came home, giving him an out that he didn’t take – and then I was punished daily through looks of loathing and malice until he finally found another woman to take care of him and left me for good.

And yet, I’m so very grateful for all of it. As expressed by the letter I wrote my current self from my past selves to finish the gratitude exercise:

Future Mayryanna, WOW! Or more appropriately, though I don’t know it yet, WAHE GURU ❤ I am pinching myself, I cannot hardly believe that I am you! That I am capable of so much strength and resilience, that I will do so much, that I will become so impassioned and inspired! I am so grateful for you, for me, and for our never giving up! For our daring and tenacity, for our curiosity and authenticity, for our love and grace! Thank you, thank you, thank you – for learning how beautiful and amazing you truly are – for never giving up on us 🙏 I am honored and blessed to be MAYRYANNA!