Tag Archives: Elise and Phil Okrend

Inspiration From Peru

Machu Picchu

This January, we had the opportunity to visit the magical and sacred country of Peru.  We had always wanted to go there, and of course Machu Picchu would be at the heart of our visit.   What struck us the most was the warmth of the people, and their connection to their land.  They seemed to be very much in tune with the natural beauty around them.  You could feel a warm energy as you traveled.  The Sacred Valley region bordering Machu Picchu was filled with majestic mountains and a winding brown rapidly moving river making its way through the land.


The memory of the Incas was alive with ruins and geometric terraces where corn, quinoa  and potatoes grew.  As an artist, Elise was struck with the awe inspiring landscape, the morning mist over the mountains, the colors of the artisan market places.  She has always been drawn to the inspiration of the mountains as a source of healing, and this healing art has served as the basis for the creation of our book, Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth. The trip to Peru will stay in our consciousness, and sure to serve as a point for future art, contemplation and writings. Here are some pictures from our trip, ending in a new work in progress from Elise, Mystic Mountain.

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Original pastel by Elise Okrend, Mystic Mountain, Aguas Calientes, Peru. www.eliseokrend.com

March 7th Workshop- Gain Clarity, Passion and Purpose Through Art & Words

We have a few programs coming in March based on the Art and Words from Messages to the Heart. We are grateful to the Asheville Citizen Times for their write up on these programs. See article below:

ASHEVILLE – Elise Okrend and her husband Phil have a passion to help others find their own personal truths. Elise, a pastel painter, and Phil, a writer and professional coach, came together to produce and release the coffee table book “Messages to the Heart: Reflections of Beauty and Truth” in 2014.

The book pairs Elise’s pastel landscapes with Phil’s poetic passages and is divided into chapters to inspire readers to connect with their own fulfilling life vision. Chapters include “Reflections on Following Your Heart,” “Unity,” “Love,” “Optimism,” “Transformation,” “Awareness” and “Empowerment.”

Read more of the article HERE!
Register for the March 7th Workshop HERE!



Wholeness In The New Year

How Do You Look At New Year’s Resolutions?

At the beginning of the year, it is commonplace to think about change, and to set new intentions. At this time, many people set New Year’s Resolutions. Normally this may consist of setting goals you want to achieve, your “To Do List.” Often as you move through the year, these New Year’s Resolutions seem to lose their sustaining power. You either feel a great deal of resistance in pursuing them or your goals get lost to the distractions and busyness of life. Did you ever think that the block to achieving these resolutions comes from the mindset that created them in the first place. The mindset tells you that you don’t have what you really want, that you are somehow flawed where you are right now. This mindset comes from a sense of lack or not enough. It takes a great deal of striving, effort, willpower and the overcoming of resistance to get anywhere. It simply doesn’t feel good to do it.

Why do people continue to set themselves up again and again for these disappointments and defeats. Statistics show that only 8% of Americans actually succeed in achieving New Years resolutions.

What If There Was Another Way To Look At The New Year?

What if you came from a place of abundance and wholeness. What if you knew that there was nothing lacking inside of you when you set your intentions for the New Year. Then the motivation to change would look different. It would come from “I have everything I need inside me.” “What do I do now?” Instead of feeling that you need to get something outside yourself to feel good, you already feel good. Then life would look more like a playground of possibility. You would be called by questions such as, What do I want to enjoy? What do I want to experience? What am I curious about? What are the skills I want to develop to enjoy the life I was given? What are the relationships that honor or compliment me? What is the work situation that speaks to my abilities, my potential? What am I here to contribute?

From this place of wholeness, you see that control, willpower, major effort and striving are irrelevant. What is highlighted instead is a sense of surrender to a higher calling. It is a sense that if you trusted the knowing of your true self, your authentic self, you will be led exactly to the situations that will contribute to your greatest growth, joy, wisdom and potential. You will still take steps, and action. However those steps will be characterized by non attachment to outcome, a feeling of lightness and enjoyment. Your life will also be lived in the present moment as you would not be driven by a dissatisfaction that would judge or make you feel bad for not having what you want right now.

Ultimately, as you look at your New Year, there are two paths you can choose. One is the Path of Efforting. The other is the Path of Surrender. Which one will you choose?

The following passage from our book, Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth. This passage on Empowerment calls on you to see your life from a place of wholeness. The passage is paired with the original Pastel Painting of  Artist Elise Okrend. The title of the painting is Into The Light.


There is only one essential assumption to make in life. That is You Are Worthy.
By understanding the truth of that, you understand that you do not need to prove
anything, control anything, force anything. All you have to do is share what you
already are with others and you will thrive. To believe otherwise is false to your
true nature and causes needless pain and suffering for you and others. When you
know you are worthy, you know that you do not lack anything and you are truly
abundant. You are here to grow, share, learn and love. All the other stuff is just
conditioning and learned behavior. All you need to do is let go of those falsities
and come back to the truth of your worth.

Phil Okrend, January 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

Living Well Radio Show Interview

Living Well Radio Show 

Messages to the Heart

We really enjoyed the opportunity to talk about Messages to the Heart during a November 2014 radio interview with Dr.Bob Hanna on Asheville Free Radio.  Dr. Bob asked some very insightful questions about how we came to our individual paths in life, Elise as an artist and me as a writer and life coach.  We also discussed how as a couple we evolved to living from what creatively inspired us, from building a greeting card company to writing the book, Messages to the Heart.  We read passages from our book, talked about art, philosophy and how we see our mission as helping and inspiring others to connect to the inherent truth and beauty in their own lives. We hope you enjoy this one-hour podcast.

Phil & Elise Okrend

Listen Here!

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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!


From the Head to the Heart

From the Head to the Heart

A few weekends ago, I had the privilege to attend a workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. Omega is a wonderful retreat and educational center offering courses on personal and societal change from some of the leading authors, speakers and educators in the country. The title of the workshop I signed up for was “Reduced To Joy, The Journey from the Head to the Heart.” That title resonated for me because as an ex attorney, I was trained to live in my head. Even though I made some big changes in my life, transitioning from the life of an attorney to an entrepreneur, and now a writer and life coach, it was still hard to shake off some of the old patterns that seemed to come from my head. I was still grappling with issues such as trying to control outcomes, or situations, taking things personally, or striving to achieve goals that had little authentic meaning for me.

I felt that taking this workshop would serve to help me “Let Go” and really move into my heart, the place I really wanted to live.

From the beginning, the workshop, and the way it was presented started to work its magic on me. I noticed that the instructor had no written outline, there was no power point presentation. There was no agenda at all except to create an environment of presence where the sharing of experience would be honored. The instructor read from his books. He shared stories and poems about life that were about real things that happen to all of us. The heartache of loss, how an illness can shape us, how unexpected events can change one’s direction, and how through all of it, there can be a depth of joy regardless of the obstacles we encounter. Almost everyone in the room shared, and it was sharing from the heart. It was powerful.

I left the weekend workshop at Omega feeling moved and knew that I was entering a new period of transformation. I knew that for me to make the shift, I would still need to let go, but I also realized that I had already begun. By moving to Asheville after being in the same town for 19 years, and by writing and publishing a new book about healing and personal empowerment, I had entered a new phase of a journey. I embrace that journey, and am starting to trust in the more unknown but true path ahead of me.

Phil Okrend

I believe that the path for all of us to make true change in our lives starts with “letting go” of what no longer serves us. This is a passage from our book, “Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth.” It calls on you to “Let Go.”

If you don’t know what you want, then let go of what you don’t want.
Perhaps when you empty yourself of outdated notions, limiting beliefs,
what you thought you had to do from your conditioned mind,
then the fruits of a new way will have the room to penetrate. It is
much like clearing the dirt and debris to plant a new garden. We fight
with ourselves when we try to force ourselves to be a certain way,
live up to life standards that weren’t set by us in the first place. Feel
what makes you come alive and do that, but first, empty out what is
no longer true for you. When you let go, don’t feel that you need to
rush into a new way. Allow yourself to take the time to be. Trust, be patient.
The new way will come.



Tropical Belize by Elise Okrend, www.eliseokrend.com


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


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


Imagine A New Story

From Separateness To Oneness

What if we knew that the individualistic ways that we were taught to be in the world are not working, and that there is another way calling to us, that is not yet here, but waiting for us to build. A world that is inclusive, whole and healing.  Imagine a door just waiting for you, and for all of us to walk through from separateness to oneness. Imagine a new story.

Imagine A New Story

From Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth, by Elise and Phil Okrend


Imagine a new story:
Instead of consumerism-humanism,
Instead of greed-giving,
Instead of competition-cooperation,
Instead of conflict-coexistence,
Instead of fear-love,
Instead of sleeping-awakening,
Instead of control-surrender,
Instead of holding tightly,
letting go,
Instead of feeling alone-feeling that we are one.
The truth us that this story has begun.
Let it live into our consciousness

Elise & Phil


Finding Your Path

Do you feel that you have a destiny to fulfill, a path to follow? Read our latest blog to explore this question.

Your life path.  It was present the day you were born, and it is there waiting for you. This path gives our lives purpose and meaning, and it is our job to find the path, connect with it and follow it.  It is what the  American writer, Joseph Campbell called the hero’s journey as it moves you from the known into the unknown.  Along the way, there may be temptations, circumstances, distractions that try to throw you off, but you may also find a mentor, a book, a synchronicity that will keep you moving along the path.  The following passage from our book, Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth outlines three things to help you realize your life path. The passage is paired with Elise’s Painting, “The Path.” Let us know how this passage and art speaks to you.


These three things will help you on your journey: Heal the Past, Live the Present, Dream the Future!

Heal the past- See what the old stories and patterns are costing you in your life. You will know who and what you need to forgive, and you will see that dealing with pain and discomfort now is better than having the past own you for “What you resist persists.”

Live the present- Your life only exists in this moment, and the more you can place your attention on what is in front of you, the more you will be alive, energized and resourceful.

Dream the future- Imagine an inspiring future where you are at your best, happy, fulfilled, contributing, engaged in life. From that vision, you will know what steps will either lead you there or will take you away from it.  Practice these three things and you will find the life path that has been waiting for you

Elise and Phil Okrend

To learn more about the Coffee Table Book, Messages to the Heart, Reflections of Beauty and Truth, visit www.messagestotheheart.com