I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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nyc actress turned photographer smiling following her intuition

Photo by Ash and Ember

As part of a celebration of sorts (this is my 100th published blog post!!) I wanted to write a post on something more personal and of the most important to me. This topic is on following your intuition and what happened when I gave up my past life as an NYC actress and became a destination photographer. 

Intuition is that deep resonating part of us: our spirit, inner voice, higher self, hunches, It’s the inner knowing part of us that gently guides us through this human journey on earth. It’s that gentle nudging, hose gut feelings, hose coincidental signs that keep popping up over and over again.  It’s energy. It’s physics. It’s universal. It’s us. 

Are We Taking Action Based from our Ego or Intuition?

We all have intuition. It’s that voice that is kind and gentle and accepting. It is all-knowing. It is simply…pure love. It is our bare selves, without the mind’s interference.

We also have an ego  – one that is judgmental and impatient, seeking praise and approval, wanting security and shiny pennies. The ego wants to protect us. It wants us to be safe, and it wants us to survive. It is not bad nor good; it just is always there.

When I refer to “ego” I am referring to Eckhart Tolle’s definition, not Freud’s. To read more in-depth about the ego, you can check out my favorite book HERE!

Both the intuition and the ego sound and feel very different. Some people are skilled in hearing them, whether it be a quiet inner voice or through writing. Others (me included) can feel what is honest and true and in alignment.

 

My Intuitive Journey 

Since I was a little girl, I have always known things without being able to explain them. Many spiritual people call it the term “Claircognizance,”

Now this might seem a little silly, but bear with me! Everyone is made up of energy (when you break us down: atoms, subatomic particles, pure energy) and everyone has intuitive abilities. Gut feelings. An inner voice.  The more aware of them you are, the stronger it and that energy become. Some see visions, some hear words or songs, some are sensitive physically and others sense colors. There are countless talents in psychic ability. I often see visions, particularly while dreaming and walking in nature. While I don’t ever hear things, I also easily am able to know things without being able to explain to others how I know them. I just sense what is true.

My Past Life in Acting

If you haven’t read my first blog post on how my life changed when I discovered my love for travel, know that the person that is writing now is nothing like the person who ventured to New York City alone at 18. That girl was brazen, that girl had guts. And I look back at her with admiration. But that girl was following the guidance of her ego from the moment she booked that one-way ticket to La Guardia Airport. She followed her need for applause, for accolades, for achievement and for a title. She wasn’t following her inner voice and values.

When I look back at my dreams to have my name on a Broadway marquee, I wish I had paid attention to my inner voice. I wish I followed the signs: my heart constantly questioning whether “making it” and earning “fame” was worth it when there were bigger world issues I was more concerned about when my heart nudged me to write over reading a script, when I would rather enjoy spending a day taking pictures on my cell phone than singing. Those were faint nudges. But my ego, time and time again, kept reappearing and reminding myself that I wanted to become a successful actress. For what? So, that I could prove to the people back at home that I could.  Let me say that that’s a pretty twisted reason to follow a goal, don’t you think?

nyc actress turned photographer smiling following her intuition

Photo by Ash and Ember

 

But here’s a thing: a lot of people do that. In fact, I’m sure most people do that. There are so many people who want fame or money or stability for someone else other than themselves and their inner spirit. Just like there are so many young people going to college and enrolling in accounting for their parents’ approval. Just like some of the kids considering law school or medical school or pursuing interests that aren’t what they really want to do with their lives. This all boils down to people-pleasing to make the ego safe and satisfied. 

What if instead of pursuing things for others, we quiet our minds and follow those passions that are gently guiding and quietly nudging our hearts?

What if we gave up our need to please our parents, our peers, our teachers and mentors?

What if we stopped listening to the voice that merely wants to protect us?

Because when we open up that part of us that feels light and joyful and free and then pursue and take action on the things we love?

then we soar.

Following Our Intuition: Signs and Symbols

As a 19-year-old actress living in New York, I began to hate the entire process from auditioning to performing. But I would force myself. I’d keep putting my head down and plugging away on material and showing up. But all the while, I would feel out of alignment. It simply didn’t feel right.

Where Does Your Attention Always Go?

I would sneak off and take photos, write in my journal and teach myself photo editing. It would be almost another two years before I got so fed up that I began to follow my intuition. 

Notice the Gut Feelings

I’ll never forget the moment: I was in my bedroom on a 5th floor walk up on 137th and Broadway, and I had this intense moment of heightened clarity and focus. “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I said out loud. Suddenly a thought I had been hearing daily for two years was said aloud. And I felt so free. I didn’t even have to think about it because my inner-knowing already knew. The next day, I sold all of my sheet music, theatre books, plays. I took my acting website down and backed out of the acting classes I was attending. My mom was in shock. Friends were surprised, and many of them disappeared. But in that moment, my shell instantly broke apart and my intuition moved over to the driver’s seat from that day forward.

Data-Collecting

Once I started following my intuition and quit my past life, I began data-collecting. In other words, I began testing out new ideas and interests. If I was at all curious about something, I just went for it. I fully committed my days and nights to exploring. I began trying out new hobbies, read different books and took an internship in an agency and a casting office. I started asking people about what they loved to and experimented with ones that were of the slightest interest to me.

I basically took on lots of different passion projects and followed the ones that my inner knowing felt most aligned with.

While I was dabbling in casting, I began practicing photography and when my intuition silently told me the entertainment industry wasn’t aligned with my values anyone, I let go and moved along. That’s an important step: you have to be able to let go.

I immediately got myself a credit card and bought myself an expensive camera and two portrait lenses, despite not having the funds to do so. (Don’t worry, I made it all back in the next two months from photo sessions.)

If I was going to follow my heart, I was going all in.

nyc actress turned photographer smiling following her intuition

When you follow your intuition, doors effortlessly open

When we begin to follow our intuition and our inner voice, doors effortlessly open for us. Opportunities start rolling in. Things just start clicking. For meI started a family portrait business a month after leaving acting and new clients just poured in, thanks in part to friends in New York and word-of-mouth referrals. And more than the “success” or a steady stream of money, I was happy. I felt intense joy during every family session, location scouting appointments, and photography class. It just all flowed. And I felt in a l i g n m e n t. Wonderful adventures, opportunities, and abundance began flowing in my life ever since I picked up that little Canon 6d. You can read about all my favorite minimalist camera gear here!

Sure, there were times of struggle when I began pursuing money instead of why I loved taking portraits, but when I began to trust and let go, when I began to surrender that need for money, it began flowing again. I even met my future husband right exactly at the time when I was walking away from my ego and “past life” as an actress. Suddenly, my new life was there and waiting for me. 

Don’t push those nudges away

When your heart desires something, let it be known but then, let it go. Surrender your desires. I know it’s hard! I still struggle with this part, too, but it really is the most important aspect of following your intuition and allowing things to manifest. When you beg and plead for something to happen in your life, you are pushing it farther away from you. By all means, go ask for it! Pray for it. But then trust and allow. 

let it go.

I write more in detail about the process of surrender and manifestation here. 

As time goes on, I have delved deeper and deeper into topics like intuition, spirituality, and manifestation. And the more attention I give it, the more powerful it becomes. My faith in a higher power is so strong. My connection with my inner self intense.  These days, not only do I write to my intuition daily, but I connect through my inner being through the akashic records, line activation mediations and taking walks in nature.

Although I don’t necessarily hear a “voice” yet, I feel a knowingness. It’s a knowingness that has guided me during my happiest years so far. And whenever my ego bears its head back into my mind, I smile and let it go. I let the anxious thoughts and worrisome feelings pass on and I begin listening to the breath. Always back to the breath.

What was something that your intuition guided you to recently? How were you able to differentiate it from your ego? Would love to hear your thoughts on Instagram – you can connect with me here! 

xoxo Helena 

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Here’s What Happened When I Started Following my Intuition

June 12, 2018

  1. Christine Boris Esteban says:

    Helena, you continue to amaze me with your writing and your courage to live the life you imagine. Such wisdom, beauty, and grace. You are a testament to living through intuition and passion. As a beginner on this journey to find a writing outlet, you are my inspiration and “educator” for all the possibilities of a creative life.

    • helenawoods says:

      Oh i am tearing UP! Christine…thank you so much for these loving, kind words. You were such an inspiration to me as my english teacher my junior year, and you’ve always been one of my favorite teachers in high school. I have so many fond memories of that class, the books we read, discussions we had, and your teachings. Thank you for these words; I will treasure them. 🙂

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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