What's The Best Advice You've Ever Received?

With Ashley Wintersteen

Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hello! My name is Ashley, @sunshine.meraki, and I am 23 years old. I was born in Philadelphia and have been a wanderer and wonderer ever since. I have lived all over the United States, but I am currently in Okinawa, Japan living with my loving husband and beautiful fur babies. We have two cats named Onyx and Flint, and two dogs named Sav and Luna. Our pups love loading up in the car to go to the beach and that’s how we spend most of our days. Our cats are the real MVP when I’m wiped out and need some cuddles. I love the island life, and am currently soaking up plenty of vitamin sea. The beach is my sanctuary – I love scuba diving in the beautiful waters of Okinawa!
When I am not at the beach, I am teaching yoga or seeking out adventure. I have recently gotten into acrobatic yoga, which I have quickly grown to love. I enjoy staying busy and traveling as much as my bank account allows. If I’m not on the move, it’s probably because I frequently have “pet paralysis” i.e. the inability to move because a cute animal is sleeping on my lap. I am learning and growing to love myself daily, while building the life I’ve always dreamed of.  I’m flowing through this life one inhale and exhale at a time, and loving every second of it.

What is one thing no one really knows about you?
I have been told by many people that their perception is that I am a confident and fiery woman. Growing up, I was told by family to smile even if I wasn’t happy, so I learned that I had to build a facade with certain people in my life for the sake of their feelings, regardless of my own. As I grew older, I came to realize that I am human and flawed, and that’s okay. Like most other people, I struggle with trauma and self doubt, but I aim to wake up everyday just a little better than the person I was the day before. My journey toward self love revolves around facing my many demons daily and transforming their negative energy which I have absorbed over the years and transforming it into positivity.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I have ever received is, “You can’t grow flowers from an empty well.” I have lived most of my life for others and at times I still forget that I am a priority too. Like anything in life, self discovery is an ongoing process that involves many emotions and is always a work in progress. Sometimes I need to remind myself that I can’t water the world if I don’t have water within my own well.
I need to remember my worth daily and make sure that I am growing too. This has helped me tremendously because I realized that I wasn’t loving myself nor being kind to the vessel that carries my soul. I have come to learn the necessity of a self-care routine and communicating when I need help. I am slowly learning to break down my walls and allow my husband and friends to help. That lesson is what allows people to overcome the internal monster inside most people: the Ego. It is the beast that consumes and vanquishes growth.
Learning to break down and throwing away the ego is the best thing “one of the healthiest steps you can take toward learning to communicate you can do because then you have no problem communicating where you are within your own headspace. Asking for help even though I could do it all has helped release the weight on my shoulders. I learned that I can do so much more when I feel fulfilled and happy. Self-care is not selfish nor is putting myself first, no matter what stage of life I am in. I am worth it and so are you.

What would you say to 16 year old you?
There is so much that needed to be said to 16 year old Ashley. I would hold her because I know how strong she has had to be and how hard those years were for her. I would tell her it wasn’t her fault that her innocence was stolen and so many people asked her to grow up faster than anybody should have to. I would tell her that she’s worth so much more than she believes; that all of the people trying to tear her down are just projecting their inner demons onto her and it’s not her fault. I would tell her how amazing she is, how talented, and how there is so much more to this world than what she cannot control right now.
I would tell her that she’s going to make it through the tough times and touch many lives because of the trials that she has faced.  I would ask her to please be kinder to herself because even if it numbs the pain, hurting herself is not okay. I would tell her to walk away from toxic people and relationships and toward the life she craves.
Most importantly, I would tell her that she is enough, and worthy of the love she receives. I would tell her that one day she will see the world with a different lens, allowing her to teach and spread positivity to those in need. She will aid in third world countries. She will comfort orphaned children. She will help bring new life into this world and will shepherd loved ones into the next. I would tell her one day not too far off, she will be strong. Unstoppable.

What message do you think every woman should hear?
I think every woman should know her worth and know that she is more than her outward appearance. We as women are bigger than whether or not we fit into society’s standard of perfection. Women can be whatever they want to be– a mother,  career woman, an adventurer, an innovator, modest, free spirited, religious, spiritual, non believer, or safe haven. We can be all of those things– whatever we dare to dream up, because our possibilities are endless.
In a world of possibilities, “no” is the most daunting. Being told no either by ourselves or by somebody else is one of life’s greatest challenges. Sometimes we are controlled or forced to constrain ourselves because of a “no” from someone else, and the greatest battle we face is asserting our worth. Somebody once said, “Always remember our payment to exist in this universe is not based on exterior features or what we can provide to a man. Only princes need a queen to become kings, not the other way around. You don’t owe anyone anything.”
Women are strong in countless ways, yet it is more common to see us tearing ourselves and others down, rather than building and empowering. All humans struggle with self doubt, so it takes internal fortitude and surrounding yourself with positive sources to grow and be supported. Be kinder to yourself and include people into your life that do the same for themselves and for you. We are all unique and it is important to allow that diversity into our lives so we can continue learning and growing. Even with life’s challenges, we should never adopt the mindset that we are too experienced or smart to stop listening and learning.
Whomever or whatever you believe created this universe did so by making the stars, the moon, and the galaxies, and also believed that each one of us was necessary for this existence. The universe knows of our cosmic destiny and true nature. That same power and energy to create is within each of us, and it is incumbent on us to remember to use those forces for building and growing, rather than destroying. We become our truest selves when we can acknowledge the negativities within us, accept them, and let them free so we can continue, weightless and renewed. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others.

What do you love most about yourself?
I love that I am a fighter. Not in the traditional sense of containing hatred, ill will toward others, and a temper, but more so having a border of peace that surrounds my life. I strive not to allow energy into my world and those around me unless it adds light and love. I combat negativity in and around my life. I fought the odds and worked my tail off to earn the place where I am today by learning how to defend myself, which allowed me to have more control over the things I felt I had none. It is a daily battle to move forward and accept the pain I have endured, and that quotidian fight has sharpened me.
I refuse to allow negative space within the walls of my sacred heart, no matter if you are blood or not. I continually work for happiness for myself, and for those around me. I welcome peace and calm within my home and I don’t allow anyone to taint that. I want the entire world to find happiness and success, regardless of where we stand in our relationship. I want everything that I do to contribute to the prosperity of others in the world. I will fight for those who have no voice or are misunderstood. I’ll fight toward universal understanding and to eradicate judgement. I’ll fight for equality and love for all. I’ll fight for our planet and all those that inhabit it.

Why do you love to travel?
I absolutely love to travel and I learn the value of traveling each time I do. Traveling and sharing your life with the world is quite rewarding. It opens your eyes and heart to new ways of life and broadens your outlook. Observing and taking part in other cultures and practices puts life into perspective, and that has allowed me to see through a different lens. I love the human connection that traveling affords me. Human connection is such an important asset in life and everytime I travel I am able to meet amazing people with fantastic and awe inspiring stories.
When I travel I return with vivid and wonderful memories, which are so much more valuable than the materialistic items I could have had instead of seeing the world. From my perspective traveling is an excellent way to catalyze growth, and growth is the only way to truly progress in order to live a full, satisfying life. Exploring different lands and cultures brings a greater understanding to all, which breeds less judgement and more love and acceptance. Maybe to most profound reason I love travel is that there are people who need us and you may just find out you need them as well, though you didn’t know it.  Everyone has something special that they can share with the world, and sometimes that is our ability to give to others.

How do you manage your work-life balance?
I feel that we live in a society of numbers with an “I’ll be happy when…” attitude. Mainly, people are chasing numbers on a check or on a scale and because our lives are structured from that frame of reference, we lack that fundamental key to happiness. We are taught to tip the scales in one direction in order to sustain a healthy life by having more money or the ideal weight, but I believe those are symptoms of deeper seated issues. We are searching for stop-gap solutions to a larger problem. True happiness stems from equilibrium between the mind, body, and spirit, and those are our pillars of health, even though we are taught to stack one or two pillars in order to be successful, but there is more to be said about fulfilment.
How I work to seek my own fulfillment and happiness through equilibrium starts with my inner self. To ease the mind I read, meditate, write, and listen– all forms of self growth for me. Another way I calm the mind is I try to choose happiness and see the beauty in all things, because there is always something from which I can learn and grow. It is when I meditate that I allow my inner negativities to escape out into my mine. I allow them to roam, accepting them for what they are, and letting them pass and settle. That is what I would describe as choosing happiness– seeing negativity for what it is, but letting it be so it may fizzle itself out.
As for the body, I love developing my hobbies like cooking tasty vegan food, teaching and practicing acro yoga, dancing, and expanding my own yoga practice. Generally a majority of what is enriching for my body also washes over into the other aspects of my health, since the forms of exercise I choose include my husband and friends, more often than not. Even cooking, I am sharing my recipes with everyone through my blog, instagram, and then enjoying the finished product.
What nourishes my soul is spending quality time with my furbabies, my friends, and my husband. We go on adventures, hikes, snorkeling, scuba diving, or snuggle up on the couch. I love getting outside and exploring this beautiful world. Positive human connection and giving back to others feeds positivity into my core being, obviously.  I also have a self care routine which has lowered the stress in my life. I love face masks, massages, bubble baths, and diffusing my essential oils. Home spa days are a must!
The way I gauge where I am in my balance is by asking myself if I feel fulfilled and happy in all that I am doing. If there is a part of my life that feels troublesome, I focus on it. There is no point in telling yourself to suffer because it will be worth it in the end, or “you’ll be happy when _____.” Be present and be grateful in the moment. Happiness is not “when,” it is now, so whatever weighs heavy in your heart, let it go and follow your heart toward whatever breathes life into it.

What is your favorite meal?
About two years ago I found out I was gluten intolerant so I worked that out of my diet. That change had a harsh learning curve for me because there is gluten in just about everything because it’s a filler. Then about almost a year ago I decided to become vegan based on my morals and principles. It just so happened that it ended up working out better for me in the sense of my health, which was an added benefit.
Anybody that knows me will tell you I love cooking– especially good vegan, gluten-free food. It’s hard to say what my favorite meal is because I’m constantly experimenting to find a new yummy meal to make, but I do have a love for vegan stir fry and snacks. I love figuring out ways to recreate meals I enjoyed making and eating before I was gluten-free and vegan. I’m slowly building a repertoire of recipes of all the things I have made, and I post them on my website since I am asked so frequently what I do for food. I would have to say my favorite meal is a healthy one that is shared with friends.

What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
I recently graduated from nursing school, but I have felt like I have lost myself and I have wanted to rediscover who I truly am and grow as a human. I simply cannot help others if I am unable help myself first. As it would be, I found yoga which has developed in practicing self thought and incorporating that into my daily routine. I decided to get yoga teacher certified and the training course requires self discovery and meditation, which helped me learn more about myself and my own struggles, providing tools for self actualization in order to continue growing in all facets of my life.
Since my training I have been reading and little by little I am knocking off the books on my “must read” list and I’ve been journaling my thoughts. I believe therapy also helps– I saw a therapist while I was enduring times of hardship when I was younger and would absolutely recommend it. Having had a therapist I can reflect on the growth I have experienced, and being mindful has continued that journey of growth.
Additionally, patience, forgiveness, and humility allow you to break down your own walls and really take a look at your unadulterated soul. Forgiving yourself for all that you have done and consistently allowing yourself to have the space to grow at your own pace will help when you do have days that you check in with yourself to assess the situation. Growth is per the individual and everyone goes at their own pace. Understanding those fundamentals really helps, and ultimately you are where you were supposed to be. Also we are not fungus, so we cannot grow in a dark place– we must find light, both big and small things. That way we can have an appreciation for all, which helps us continually grow.

Where do you find inspiration?
In my ever progressing journey toward happiness I have learned that you must start small in order to aim large. I started to walk more slowly and look around to observe my surroundings, finding deeper meaning. I started seeing the true value in small things, which has been paramount for my own understanding of the world.  I am constantly finding inspiration in all things, big and small, and I believe if you wander this world with an open heart and mind you will see the light and energy that everything has. We are all connected to something bigger than ourselves whether you believe it is God or the universe. I see the earth as a part of me and my inspiration dwells in that belief.

What are your biggest passions?
My biggest passion is kindness and understanding and I strive to spread them in all that I do. Some of my other passions are flowing on my yoga mat, traveling, acrobatic yoga, human connection, random dancing, making a difference, service work, nursing, singing, any outdoor adventure, and cuddling my fur babies. The best part about being passionate about kindness is working with someone to achieve a common goal and watching their soul light on fire from the simple kindness that you have shared.
One way I have shared my kindness toward a common goal is through yoga instruction. I am developing my own version of instruction called Meraki movement. I would describe it as moving with your entire soul, creatively and lovingly. The essence of our self is born from mindful movement, and allowing that concept to flow into your daily life. Meraki movement, and yoga as a whole, focuses on breathing and becoming fluid, allowing the energy all around you to envelope you with each cycle of breaths. I have seen how adopting that schema and has transformed my life and others’ lives as well. My ultimate goal for becoming certified as a yoga instructor was to help others find their own light and beautiful unique presence in this world. Through social media and my personal website, I continue to share my practice and the little things I have picked up along the way that have made life a little more blissful.


A note from the author:
Thank you so much for taking the time to read a little part of my written soul. I hope something that I have said finds a home within your heart. I would love to connect with any of the beautiful humans that read this Q & A . If you have any questions please email me and for more blog posts visit my website and instagram. I am always looking for more inspiration for a new blog piece so if there is something you want to see I am all ears. I wish all of you the best and I look forward to connecting with you in the future.

More About Ashley

Ashley Wintersteen was born in Philadelphia and has been a wanderer and wonderer ever since. She has lived all over the United States, but is currently in Okinawa, Japan living with her loving husband and beautiful fur babies. 
When Ashley is not at the beach, she is teaching yoga or seeking out adventure. She has recently gotten into acrobatic yoga, which she’s quickly grown to love.

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