Tag Archives: Coffee Table Book

The Storms Of Our Lives Revisited

The Storms Of Our Lives Revisited

I am revisiting a post that was written one year ago this month when Coastal Regions of the United States were facing another hurricane.  That hurricane did little damage but as I am writing this, Hurricane Matthew currently a Category 4 Storm is threatening the Florida Coast and has already brought destruction to Haiti and is now hitting the Bahamas.  In the below post  I contemplated on the storms of our lives and what they mean, whether they are environmental or not, for we are all subject to them.

I’ve been thinking about storms lately. As a Hurricane now blows its way around the Southeast and the Atlantic, there is a sense that these storms can be random. We never know where they are going to hit and who will be effected. These real physical storms are felt but storms are not all of an environmental nature. We all are subject to storms in our lives. These storms can take the form of a health, relationship, business or financial crisis that can land unexpectedly. What these storms do is put us at a choice point. The storm signals to us that something needs to change in our lives. Perhaps we need to make a change to really move forward in our lives, and the storm awakens us from complacency.

The Storm Offers Two Choices

I believe that the storm offers two choices. The first choice is to resist the need to change or remain stuck. The second choice is to flow and adapt to the change to become unstuck. The stuck choice is motivated by fear. Perhaps the fear is of an unknown future, a desire to cling to the past, or a lack of confidence regarding our ability to handle it all. The unstuck choice on the other hand is motivated first by an acceptance of the situation, of what happened. It is also marked by a calmness and a knowing that you have the ability and inner resources to deal with the crises. It is out of that calmness with curiosity, openness and belief that a new direction, a new course can be forged.

They say that it is darkest before the dawn and so it is with the storms of our lives. I believe that we are never given a situation that we cannot handle, and we have more ability and wisdom than we know. It is also within the storms of our lives that our greatest life purpose can be excavated. When Moses was a privileged Egyptian prince, he saw and felt the storm of a people in bondage. His exile from his known life, his storm, allowed him to hear the voice of his God to move into his life purpose as a leader and liberator. Whatever your life purpose is, pay attention to the storms you may find yourself in. It is those storms and the way you process them that may lead you as well to your greatest purpose and destiny.

The following is a passage from our book, Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth. The Passage from Reflections On Transformation/Change calls on you to see a storm in your life in an empowering way: The passage is paired with Elise Okrend’s original pastel painting, Southern Sky:

A Cycle of Change. A storm can free your desire, your calmness can free your wisdom, your actions can free your destiny.


Southern Sky Pastel by Elise Okrend, www.eliseokrend.com

Finding Guidance In the Unknown

Finding Guidance In the Unknown

About 2 1/2 years ago, we decided to move from Raleigh to Asheville. It was a creatively inspired move as my wife Elise Hodara Okrend was drawn here for the mountain landscapes, and interpreted them into her paintings. I also loved the vibe, musically, the progressive ideas, the beauty, the idea of expansiveness. It was also the perfect place to introduce our book, Messages to the Heart which was a joining of my writings with Elise’s beautiful art. So the reality of the move made sense on many levels, but hasn’t always been a straight line, where you can predict anything. Yet, Elise has found a home here to make art, to really be the artist that she has dreamed of. I think I came here for a sense of rediscovery, and to let go of ideas or preconceptions of my life that no longer served. That is a process in itself that is still occurring.

A New Chapter

Now after renting since our start in Asheville, we have bought a place in Black Mountain. Its beautiful here, but I feel a new phase, chapter is beginning, and I don’t even know what it will look like. I think it is the acceptance of this not knowing that has been most challenging for me. I am willing and able, and open to listen more and more, and to get out of what I think it will or should be. It is this sense of allowing that I think will make me happier, more fulfilled in this journey. I think learning to be grateful for all is key, whatever the experience.

The above reflection that I wrote shortly after my move drew me to the passage and art in Messages to the Heart that speaks to Trust.  The painting paired with the passage is Lake Fontana by Elise Okrend.


What is it to radiate love? What is it to radiate peace? Let the clouds of illusion lift from your eyes and see that all the fears you thought were real were just distractions from you realizing your strength, your beauty, your purpose. Allow a sense of trust to rise above and lead you to a better way. The illusions you thought were real will crumble as you stop giving them power. They will melt away and you will see the path. Follow the sun and if you don’t see it right away, feel your way there, listen and trust. It will get brighter. It will get warmer.

As I go through my own journey, it is comforting to know that almost everything that I fear, love or need to overcome is addressed in this book. I know as well that whatever struggle I may be going through, others may be going through as well. If a piece of art or passage in Messages to the Heart has spoken to you at a time when you needed guidance, please let us know. We would love to hear about it.

Wishing you peace and comfort on your journey,

Phil Okrend, April, 12, 2016


Celebrate Valentine’s Day with A NEW Edition of Messages to the Heart plus Live Workshop


EXCITING NEWS: A NEW EDITION of MESSAGES TO THE HEART, REFLECTIONS OF BEAUTY AND TRUTH will be available in time for this coming Valentine’s Day. The New Edition of the Book will Include Larger Art with New Pieces of Artwork by Elise Okrend.

As A Special Gift for ordering your New Edition Book for Valentine’s Day, we are including a FREE Emergence CD, A Meditative Journey Through The Seasons(60 minute CD with soothing piano music and guided visualizations)

A perfect companion piece for your book!
$32.95 plus $6.50 shipping/handling

footerDiscover What Moves Your Heart:  Join us for a Special Workshop, Sat. Feb 13th, 2-5p.m. at the Beautiful Om Sanctuary in Asheville using the art and words from Messages to the Heart to help you on your own path of self discovery. We look forward to seeing you in Asheville.  Read more and Register


Elise and Phil Okrend

Message For The New Year

All we have is this Moment. Make each moment Peace

12313966_704129576383869_6363620406300799895_nContemplation Pastel by Elise Okrend, www.eliseokrend.com

Thank you for your wonderful support since the launch of Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth.  We have heard how the book has touched you, and we are pleased that in 2016 we will be introducing a second edition of our book with larger art.   You can now follow us on twitter where we will be sharing art and words to inspire you.

Wishing you a world of Peace and Happiness

Elise and Phil Okrend

Feel The Warmth Of Possibility

Feel The Warmth Of Possibility

Feel The Warmth Of Possibility

The power of creative expression to move people, to create positive change is something that I strongly believe in, and try to practice. Whether it is using visualization and original meditative music in coaching, making presentations and writing, I am always striving to move others to create positivity and fulfillment in their lives. This theme of creative expression to move others is also very much alive in my family. It is in my wife, Elise Okrend’s beautiful healing pastel art, and my son, singer songwriter Jordan Okrend’s soulful music. Jordan has just released a video of one of his songs, “Go My Way”, an original song that tells a story about seeing possibilities and positivity in life when things seem the contrary.

Is creative expression something that you could bring out more in your life, to touch others with, and that would give you greater fulfillment? “Feel the warmth of possibility” as Jordan sings in his song, and imagine what gifts you have that are wanting to come out.

Take a listen and watch Jordan’s video filmed in and around the subways of New York City. 

There is a notion of optimism that is present and true even as you may face difficulties or obstacles in reaching your goals. It is what my son, Jordan sings about in his song and video, and it is a theme that runs through our coffee table book, Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth.

Take a look at the art and read the passage below. I hope it gives you pause to reflect and understand your own power, and what is really true.



What is it to radiate love? What is it to radiate peace? Let the clouds of illusion lift from your eyes and see that all the fears you thought were real were just distractions from you realizing your strength, your beauty, your purpose. Allow a sense of trust to rise above and lead you to a better way. The illusions you thought were real will crumble as you stop giving them power. They will melt away and you will see the path. Follow the sun and if you don’t see it right away, feel your way there, listen and trust. It will get brighter. It will get warmer.

landscape08Lake Fontana Pastel Painting by Elise Okrend

Phil Okrend, June 10, 2015

Sophie Magazine Reviewer Surprised

Sophie Magazine Review

Here is a wonderful review of Messages to the Heart from Sophie Magazine, Asheville’s premier woman’s resource. Thank you Betty Sharpless!


I have to admit, I was not expecting very much from this lovely little book.

In this day of e-books, it is a pleasure to see a beautifully designed and crafted book. The work is a combination of an artist, Elise Okrend and her partner Phil, a life coach. While they now call Asheville home, their joint venture was total serendipity resulting from both of them posting their works on the internet.

A Great Bedside or Breakfast Table Book

Messages to the Heart is a series of Phil’s observations on life, change and empowerment paired with Elise’s pastels. Each page gives you just enough to think about in a clear non-judgmental manner on a particular topic, such as forgiveness. This would be a great bedside or breakfast table book, to be read in little bites.

Favorite Page

All the commentary is positive and upbeat, with the actions suggested small enough to seem possible. My favorite page is the commentary on Destiny, not just because the lovely pastel happens to have a picture that looks like a Tuscan view at twilight!

Messages to the Heart is available from the authors at messagestotheheart.com, and at Malaprops bookstore and Asheville area visitors center’s gift shop.

Messages to the Heart
 Elise and Phil Okrend

Betty Sharpless is a professional gardener, quilter and writer based in Asheville, NC

Vulnerability Is Strength

Reflections on Empowerment

This latest blog post was inspired by a passage from Messages to the Heart, Reflections on Empowerment, Self Worth. The art and passage appear below the article.

Being vulnerable is difficult for many people

Being vulnerable is difficult for many people. It can conjure up intense feelings such as fear of being judged, loss of control and weakness. When we want to project a certain image to the world, we may try to avoid vulnerability. It is as though being vulnerable will leave us feeling alone and abandoned because we will not be accepted for who we really are.

At the moment that we feel vulnerable, it presents us with a choice. The choice is one between acting from the ego or false self, or acting from your true or authentic self. While the ego may crave control, predictability and looking good in the eyes of others, the authentic self, wants to give and receive love, connection and compassion.

I think we have reached a critical point in our culture where many people are literally burnt out and exhausted from the demands of the ego. The ego is never relaxed or satisfied, and always wants control. It is getting harder to hold on to a sense of control when so many personal and world situations seem beyond our control.

Being vulnerable allows us to let go of the struggle for control

Being vulnerable allows us to let go of the struggle for control. It allows us the freedom to enter into relationships where truth and authenticity are valued, where flaws are not shamed, but merely seen as human. Vulnerability leads us to a shared connection with others because it allows us to have shared empathy with others. Vulnerability is then the place where true community building can occur. Vulnerability is in essence, the opposite of what we have been set up to believe. Vulnerability is not weakness, it is not shameful. Vulnerability is strength. It is real. It is connecting.

If we can understand that vulnerability is positive and life affirming, then perhaps we can learn to overcome our resistance to it. However, it means getting out of our own way and questioning habitual reactions.

Questions for you to consider

Here are some questions for you to consider that can help you examine your own perspectives on vulnerability.

What is it costing me to avoid uncomfortable issues? Where do I hold myself back? Where have I been unwilling to risk? In what ways will facing my vulnerability give me strength? In what ways will facing my vulnerability bring me connection to others? In what ways will facing my vulnerability bring me peace of mind?

This is the passage from our book, Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth, Self Worth with Elise’s pastel painting, Jane’s Meadow. It calls you forth to see your vulnerability as strength.


None of us are perfect, and yet all of us are deserving of love and understanding. We don’t let ourselves be who really are because we think others won’t like it. But the truth is that others won’t like it when they can’t tell who you are and that what you say really reflects who you are. That just leads to cynicism, distrust and fakeness over time. We need to give others permission to be exactly who they are so we can be who we are. No one is perfect, and yet we are all perfect in our imperfections. That is the human experience. We are here to love, learn, grow, be ourselves and know that our being here is our ticket to self worth. As we accept that and believe that, we build true authentic bonds of connection with others. All the striving to be something we are not in order to get self worth is a losing game that eventually catches up with people. You can only be an act for so long. It is your vulnerability which will make you strong and make you soar. Be yourself and be proud!


Finding Your Yellow Brick Road

What is the truth about you?

One of my favorite movies of all time is “The Wizard of Oz.”

Find Your Yellow Brick Road

This timeless tale of Dorothy, her little dog Toto and her three friends, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion has touched generations of children and adults alike. I invite you to stroll down the Yellow Brick Road to share some insights that may be helpful in your own life journey. As we are introduced to the main characters on their journey to meet the Wizard, we learn about their beliefs.


Dorothy believes only the Wizard can help her get back home, the Scarecrow believes he doesn’t have a brain, the Tin Man believes he has no heart, and the Lion believes he has no courage. They all look to The Wizard of Oz to obtain what they believe they don’t have or possess.

But is their perception of who they are, flawed?

But is their perception of who they are, flawed? If the Lion has no courage, how does he summon the will to help his friends when they are in trouble? If the Tin Man has no heart, how can he care so much for others? If the Scarecrow has no brains, how does he conceive of the plan to rescue Dorothy? Each of them shows that they already possess the qualities they seek. So if they had believed in the truth of who they were, they would never have needed to get validation from an outside source, the Wizard.

There’s no place like home

How may this apply in your own life? You may ask the following questions: Do some of the beliefs you have adopted in your life, about what you are capable of, represent what is really true about you? Do your beliefs about yourself serve to keep you empowered and on purpose, or do they keep you from authenticity and fulfillment? Do you need external approval in order to believe that you are talented, loved, strong or grounded? The more you ask yourself, “What is the truth?” the more you can consciously choose to release the limiting beliefs that no longer serve you. You won’t have to look much further than your own backyard to do so. As Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home”.

The following passage is from our book Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth. It calls on you to find your special place of truth within.

Reflections on Love Trust, Meditation Pond, Pastel Art by Elise Okrend.


If you want love, look within.

If you want peace, look within.

If you want satisfaction, look within.

If you want to be in harmony with others, look within.

If you want to be free of distraction, look within.

If you want to honor your truth, look within

There is no reason to look anywhere else.
 All that you need is within. You were just looking in the wrong place.


Phil Okrend, Certified Life and Business Coach, transitioned from being an attorney, to the life of a creative entrepreneur, writer, speaker and musician. Phil is the author of the new coffee table book “Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth,” which pairs his mindful poetic writings with the art of his wife, Asheville based pastel artist Elise Okrend.  www.messagestotheheart.com  and www.steppingstonescoaching.com


Asheville’s River Arts District Studio Stroll

Asheville’s River Arts District Studio Stroll


I have been working in my studio all week preparing for Asheville’s River Arts District Studio Stroll.  Stop by on Saturday, June 14th,  12-5pm and Sunday, June 15th, 12-5pm to view my working space and new paintings.  If you are curious about how I create, I will also be doing a pastel demonstration!  Many of the paintings on display in my studio are part of Messages to the Heart, the wonderful coffee book that my partner and husband Phil and I have collaborated on and published. The book will also be available at my studio.

So thrilled to be part of the unique event. The River Arts District running along the French Broad River is home to more than 170 artists with working studios located in 22 former industrial buildings. You will find an amazing range of art— from cutting edge sculpture and paintings to traditional raku fired pottery, and everything in-between.It is a creative mecca

whiteSPACE Gallery

If you plan to come to the River Arts District Studio Stroll next weekend, you will find me at the whiteSpace Gallery, located on the 2nd Floor of The Wedge Building, 129 Roberts Avenue in the River Arts District. To preview my work visit, www.eliseokrend.com


In closing, here is a beautiful quote from the late Maya Angelou, who has been an inspiration to myself and the creative community. It appears on my website to honor her spirit.

“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.”
– Maya Angelou

Blessings, Elise


A Tool For Healing And Growth, Review In Choice Magazine

A Tool For Healing and Growth

It was our intention for Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth to be not only designed as a beautiful art book, but as a tool readers could use to pull themselves through life challenges and find inspiration. We are grateful that the product reviewer for Choice, The Magazine of Professional Coaching agrees, and has recommended Messages to the Heart as a tool for healing and growth to be used by life coaches and readers alike.

Here is an excerpt from the Choice review written by Marcy Nelson-Garrison, MA, LP, CPCC

Shift Your Internal State

Inspiration is like breathing, we all need it… I love Messages to the Heart… there is grace, softness, and a sacred invitation to pause, reflect and open to a new perspective to shift your internal state… a beautiful reminder on your coffee table…

Inspiration for Journaling

Messages to the Heart can be an inspiration for journaling, used as part of a daily meditation practice or as a simple and beautiful reminder on your coffee table to pause, to open up and to breathe in a moment of inspiration.

A special thanks to Marcy and Choice Magazine. 

Elise and Phil Okrend