This category contains the intention-setting ideas from the monthly newsletter.

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Holiday Self-compassion Breaks

Once again I feel the holiday season crept up on me this year without a sound!  Although my eyes enjoyed the seasonal changes in nature and my skin noticed the chill in the air, my fine-tuned skill of denial also kept me from fully leaning into what’s to come.

Why, you might ask . . . well, it’s because my Perfectionist starts to get really loud at the beginning of November!  My “To Do” list seems to grow exponentially longer and, with the number of daylight hours shrinking, my energy level seems to decline.

It is at this time of year that I remember one of the things I am most grateful for in my life and that is my self-compassion practice!  And it is a practice, one that must be tended to on an ongoing basis to keep that harsh, critical voice of my Perfectionist at a low roar.

I also like to remind myself that I am not alone in this experience.  So, if you too experience a loud, critical voice inside of you, that tries to drive you to do more with less and sits in the shadows waiting to judge your every move, below are some intention-setting ideas to invite the more accepting, nurturing voice of your compassionate self forward:

  1. Honor your unique qualities.  Our Perfectionist part looks through the lens of what is needed for improvement while our Compassionate part looks through the lens of complete acceptance of who and where we are on our journeys.  So taking a moment to be proactive and choose to move through the holiday season from something inside of you, embracing your unique expression of you, instead of from that space where we feel pressured to do ‘it’ from an outside influence or pressure.  Consider trying this self-compassion break soon, before the rush of the season becomes overwhelming:  Find a space to sit for a few moments and invite your Perfectionist part to step forward.  What does it look like?  Let your imagination flow.  What does it sound like?  What does it want you to do?  What does it want to do to you?  Notice how your body feels when visiting with this part of you.  Let the images fill in as many details of what the experience is like to sit next to this part of you.  Now invite your Compassionate part to step forward.  What does it look like, sound like?  What does it want you to do and what does it want to do for you?  Again allow the images to flow to fill in the details and notice how your body feels when sitting with this part of you.  Now as you are sitting with your Compassionate part, ask your Perfectionist part what it is most afraid of and respond to that fear as if it was a dear friend revealing their deepest, darkest closet that holds this fear.  These two parts of ourselves often feel as though they are in battle and through this self-compassion break, they can realize that they both are valued and can be friends instead of enemies.
  2. Step-up your self-care.  The mantra that you will often hear me repeat is ‘Self-care is not selfish!’.  It is mission critical for survival.  So consider setting an intention now to commit to setting aside time each day for an act of self-care and while engaging in that self-care act, invite your Compassionate part to be present, reminding yourself that you deserve such care and acts of kindness.
  3. Accept your limitations.  Let’s start with the simple fact that we only have 24 hours in a day and we are all limited by this fact.  Now, start with an intention to not compromise on the number of hours you need for sleep during the holidays.  From there, begin to consider how you currently spend the rest of the hours you have each day, such as working, commuting, etc.  Inviting your Compassionate part to participate in this break, sense into what you are doing that truly brings you comfort and what does not feel good or healthy to you.  If you sense anything that brings you discomfort, this is an area for change.  When we act from a place of discomfort, even if the mind thinks it is necessary to please others, we are not serving the world or ourselves.  When you act from a place of compassion and comfort, even if it creates disruption and inconvenience to others, you are spreading true joy to the world.  And when you bring joy to what you do, it might surprise you how others will respond to this change. Remember, we cannot be everything to everyone, we can only be ourselves!
  4. Stop trying to digest other people’s energy.  When we become more aware of what our Perfectionist part looks and sounds like, we might realize that the critical voice inside is not our own.  If the voice belongs to someone else, such as your mother or father, then you can begin to accept that you might be carrying and trying to integrate or digest their stuff!  Inviting your Compassionate part to engage more fully in your life, you will be better able to discern what is yours and what is not.  Having compassion for others is a way of being of service, yet we cannot take responsibility for another person’s choices, including their intention for healing and growth.  When we are able to take responsibility for disentangling ourselves from the processes of others, we might just feel relief, lighter, brighter and more freedom to be ourselves!
  5. Use your voice.  Perhaps start with writing down what your Perfectionist part has been saying, what that inner critical voice has been saying to you repeatedly that you now recognize is not your own encouraging, motivating voice.  Then, for each statement that it makes, confront it, inviting your Compassionate part to assist with the words.  It might be something like “No, I don’t have to listen to you, because I don’t believe you anymore”.  Or, if your Perfectionist part keeps saying “You must continue to work very hard to be worthy of love”, then you might say (out loud!), “I’m worthy of love simply by being here.  I do not need to work hard to be worthy of love.  I am love!”  Perhaps consider taking such a self-compassion break under the Full Moon this month on the 12th, where you take what you have written down, use your voice to express your Compassionate response, and then burn what you have written down!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Honor Our Achievements

The Season of Harvest is Upon Us – Let’s Celebrate!

I had the pleasure of visiting the Kripula Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts for a day recently and participated in creating this sand mandala (below) or sacred cosmogram with a compassionate community of others raising awareness of something larger than each of our small worlds.  It was a reminder of the impermanent nature of all things – including ourselves.

As we move deeper into the Fall season, Mother Earth and her beautiful nature begin to remind us that we are all shapeshifters.  When we are conceived and born into this incarnation, it is the infinite universe manifesting into a finite human form.  And what we have to always keep in mind is that this incarnation is temporary, transitory and will ultimately shift us back into the infinite universe.  When we can truly embrace that, by divine design, we are all simply passing through this human experience, constantly in flux, growing, changing, transforming, we open our hearts up to embracing every moment as an opportunity to celebrate our lives.

So let this change in season, when nature offers its last harvest for the year before its annual shapeshifting where it begins to pull back within itself, shedding its last fruits, flowers and leaves, slowing its growth down, and turning brown and as the breezes begin to cool down, encourage us to honor the abundance in our lives by celebrating.

Below are some intention setting ideas to honor our personal experiences of shapeshifting by acknowledging, sharing and celebrating our own achievements:

  1. Reflect on achievements.  If I were to ask you right now what is the biggest thing you have accomplished in your life so far, what would come up?  Is it difficult to identify what you have accomplished, what you have done that might bring you joy when you think about it?  Does it seem that no matter how much you do achieve, it feels like it is never enough and you find yourself needing to accomplish more and more, until you feel overwhelmed and exhausted?  Well, you just might need some perspective that offers an alternative to measuring the value of your life by the number of achievements.  I remember when I was younger, I would tell people that I wanted ‘She was productive’ engraved on my headstone.  As I write this now, I am laughing at myself.  Perhaps set an intention to see your achievements in a different light, as ones that have contributed to your growth and transformation instead.  When seen in this light, failures might now be relabeled as achievements.
  2. Write down achievements.  After reflecting on those things that you have done that brought growth and change into your life, write them down.  Some of these life-changing events might be graduating from school, having and raising a child, buying your first car, taking your first trip, or starting your own business.  Keep this list out where you can see it every day . . . and set an intention to add to it, perhaps every couple of months or once a year.  Reminding yourself on a daily basis that you too are a shapeshifter will help to challenge those moments when you might think that you haven’t accomplished enough or feel a little stuck or stagnant.
  3. Share your accomplishments.  This suggestion might feel like I am asking you to brag about your successes.  However, many of us avoid sharing our accomplishments for fear of appearing boastful.  But keeping your achievements to yourself or minimizing them robs your friends and family from learning and growing.  It’s good to share such experiences with your loved ones as long as you do so in an authentic and humble way.  When we allow ourselves to tell others what we have achieved, we are letting them know that it is not out of reach or impossible.  In fact, we can inspire them to continue to reach for their own personal goals for growth and transformation and connect more deeply with what is really important to them!
  4. Celebrate moments of accomplishment.   As we move through this process of honoring our experiences of shapeshifting, we must not forget the celebration!  Whether it is folding the last piece of laundry after doing 3 loads in one day, getting to work on time after getting your kids dressed, fed and off to school in the morning, and/or after a long day at work where you finally finished that project that you have been dreading for so long, if you begin to experience a sense of accomplishment, celebrate!  Consider setting an intention to not rush onto the next thing on your “To Do” list without taking a moment to relish the fact that you accomplished something you set out to do.  The more you don’t sweat the small stuff and instead celebrate it, the more joy you will invite into your life and the lives of others!
  5. Celebrate milestones.  Last but absolutely not the least is the intention to celebrate any and all milestones in your life.  Whether it is a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion, plan to celebrate to commemorate your human beingness.  Some of us avoid doing so for fear of bringing attention to ourselves, again believing it might be viewed as self-focused or selfish.  Consider setting an intention to mark such moments in your life, whether you celebrate by yourself or with others, to remind you that the sands of time are flowing, moving, changing by divine design and you are too!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Self-care in Chaotic Times

It is so difficult to not be affected by what is happening in the world, especially when we are deeply aware of how interdependent and connected we all are.  We can feel small, scared, overwhelmed and helpless in such times of chaos.  We might think to ourselves “What can I do, I am only one person and this is so much more than I can fix by myself.”  Yet action, even the smallest of steps, is the antidote to such feelings and supports the flow of love and healing back out into the world!

One of the quotes by the Dalai Lama that might support our efforts to take some small action this month is “World peace begins with inner peace”.  September is also National Yoga Month, which might just be an ideal time to consider trying one of the intention-setting ideas for self-care to cultivate inner peace when chaos presents itself:

  1. Try something new.  If you already practice yoga, perhaps take your practice somewhere new, like outside in a park, or by a body of water.  If you typically practice by yourself, maybe consider joining a Yoga or Meditation MeetUp to sense into the powerful collective energy of such a group.  If you typically take a Vinyasa class, consider trying a different style, such as Yin or Restorative.  Maybe you have had your eye on a workshop around the new or full moons – make a step toward getting it on your calendar, whether this month or next.  If you don’t practice yoga, consider attending a Beginner’s or Gentle class, or an introduction to yoga workshop.  Yoga encompasses so much more than the shapes on the mat, so consider a group gathering that peaks your mental or spiritual interests!
  2. Share the gift of yoga.  If someone you care about is also currently struggling to connect with their core center of inner peace within, invite them along with you as you try something new.  You might frame the invite as their presence would be a great support to you to face the fear head on. Knowing you have each others’ backs can in and of itself reduce the level fear that comes with trying something new, even though we know it is good for us.
  3. Mindful minutes.  Throughout your day, consider committing to taking a mindful minute several times a day.  It does not have to be scheduled or occur at the same time each day.  Instead, perhaps having a Post-It note on your mirror or computer screen as a reminder and then, when you sense your body and/or mind tensing up, stop what your are doing for a minute.  In that minute, you can simply acknowledge the tension, place your hands in a gesture of care to yourself (e.g., right hand over your heart, Garuda mudra, Adhi mudra, Hakini mudra, etc.), and draw your awareness to your breath.  Another way to practice mindful minutes is to give what you are doing your full attention for that minute.  For example, if you are washing dishes, encourage your awareness to focus on the details of the object you are washing, such as its size, color, shape, texture and material.  Offer it your appreciation for being a part of your kitchenware and its role in nourishing your body.  Another example might be giving someone your full attention for that minute, such as when you interact with your family at the end of the day.  This one can be more challenging as we often are planning our response after the first few words.  So consider committing to only listen and releasing the attachment to the almost automatic need to comment on what they are sharing.
  4. Practice kindness.  Toward yourself!  When we experience chaos, it rattles us.  Recognizing how this manifests in yourself, whether it creates irritation, fear, anxiety, self-criticism, withdrawal, and/or dissociation, is the first step.  With this awareness, you can begin to discover techniques that help to soothe those responses, such as deep breathing, yoga Nidra, creating, reading, and/or talking with yourself as if you were your best friend.  The kindness is creating space to offer yourself those techniques.  Consider this mind bender:  If we don’t act kindly toward ourselves, how can we expect ourselves to act authentically kind to others!
  5. Plan a gathering.  Surrounding yourself with your tribe, those people that are like-hearted and lift you up, is important to remind you that you are not experiencing this chaos alone and by gathering together, we exponentially impact the collective love, compassion and intention of peace that the world so needs.  Consider a gathering dedicated to exploring the world chaos a little more directly by inviting your tribe members to share how they know the world chaos is impacting them and their ‘go to’ act of kindness to self-soothe.  Perhaps ask some of your members to guide the tribe through one of their acts of kindness or listen to a yoga Nidra practice together and talk about the change it created in the moment.  Make sure to check back in with everyone at the end of the gathering and collectively set the intention to continue to share newly discovered acts of self-kindness, facilitating the flow with love from the inside!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Celebrating Happiness Happens Month

Starting from the humble beginnings of celebrating happiness on Admit You’re Happy Day on August 11, 1999, Happiness Happens Month is now a whole month dedicated to celebrating what makes you happy!

This movement is founded in the belief that what you focus on grows – energy flows where attention goes!  Understanding that humans are born wired for connection, it is also rooted in the science that emotions are contagious, especially when we embrace our innate ability to feel empathy for others.

And since summer is typically a time to slow down a little and have some fun, I thought I might offer some ideas to celebrate such a noteworthy effort and invite happiness into focus:

  1. Watch the movie ‘Happy’.  The movie ‘Happy’ might be a bit dated (from 2011), yet always worth a second (or third) look and is available on most streaming services such as Amazon Prime, NetFlix, etc. Set the intention to watch this movie this month and afterwards, take a moment to note if your perspective on an area of your life might have shifted.  And, if so, I would love to hear from you on how!
  2. Read a book about gratitude.  The benefits of gratitude are gaining traction in the scientific realm, so if you want to delve a little deeper into this pool of happiness, pick up a book on the topic.  One of my favorites is The Gratitude Diaries:  How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life by Janice Kaplan.  Perhaps setting your intention to explore this idea by clicking on the link and dropping this book into your cart now!
  3. Try a mantra.  A mantra is simply a tool to help focus the mind and typically is practiced by repeating any meaningful word or phrase that resonates with and inspires you.  It can be your favorite quote, a line from your favorite song or simply a word, such as happiness.  Set an intention to identify a mantra and practice repeating it for one minute a day this month.  Don’t worry if your mind wanders away during the practice, simply return to the practice as soon as you notice the mind has wandered.  My mantra for the month is “Happiness is an act of courage”!  What’s yours?
  4. Do a good deed.  Personal experience and research has shown that humans feel good about themselves when they can help others.  This phenomenon might be tied to how we are wired for connection and born with the innate ability to feel empathy for others.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate, actually small acts of kindness, including smiling at strangers have been known to support the growth of happiness.  Set an intention today to try it!
  5. Watch a sunrise or sunset.  There is something magical about watching the sun rise and set that is hard to put words too, perhaps transcendent, spiritual, supernatural, or mystical are some of the words you have used to describe such experiences.  For me, I think it is a reminder of how connected everything is, how interdependent and supported we are, which warms my heart and soothes my soul.  Set an intention to recreate this experience for yourself this month and notice if you might simply describe the experience as HAPPINESS!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Embracing the Slow Flow of Summer

What if somehow you could know what days were the best ones to move your intentions and manifestations forward by doing more?  And, in addition, what days were best to simply do less and, instead spend time reflecting and daydreaming (or better known as visualizing what you want more of in your life)?  Would you change how you spend your time and energy to go with the flow more?  Or would you dig your heels in and continue to push ahead without such guidance?

In the past, I came to believe that in order to be successful I had to keep “the pedal to the metal’ so to speak 24/7/365!  With this belief, no matter what was going on, I pushed and I pushed hard.  There were times when I felt like I was banging my head up against a brick wall and/or swimming against the tide it was so exhausting.  I grew to believe that life was hard!  When I was finally able to take a step back from the chaos, I began to notice small coincidences that would occur making my next step forward that much clearer and easier.  When I began to express gratitude for those small coincidences, the size of the coincidences grew as did the frequency.

I started to pay attention to my own natural energy levels and how those levels ebbed and flowed, similar to the ocean tides.  My awareness continued to grow as I realized that the ocean tides are impacted by the cyclic energy of the moon.  I began to think ‘why wouldn’t we be impacted by similar energies?’.  This growing awareness brought the focus of my eyes to the sky and I started to lean into the universal flow of life more.  And when I did, life began to flow with more ease, providing a more balanced appreciation between working hard and taking time to rest.  So, when the planets all align, like they are this month, it is a clear message to me that July is NOT the month to be doing more, but instead, with 7 celestial bodies in retrograde, it is the month to do less, move more intentionally, spend time relaxing and enjoy the slow flow of summer!Below are some intention-setting ideas for embracing this slower moving time frame as we pass through the Eclipse Gateway:

  1. Leave things behind.  What might you consider letting go of if you knew it would take you to a new level of effectiveness, efficiency, ease, confidence and abundance?  What if you learned that in order to gain something, you must leave something behind in order to make room for the new?  During this Eclipse season, we are going to be asked to evaluate what no longer fits, whether it is clothes in our closets, people in our lives, or old beliefs.  The first step is considering what you might want to let go of, raising your awareness to what is holding you back or down.  The second step is simply to express what it is you decide you want to let go of, either writing it down or verbalizing it to the Universe.  The third step might be visualizing what you want instead, to fill the void created by the release, which could be purely more space.  Then all you need to do from this point is to follow the lead of the Universe as the coincidences begin to present themselves to you to assist you in making the change!
  2. Identify what does still fit.  Reflecting on what no longer fits assists us in gaining clarity on what we want to keep in our lives as well.  If we identify people around us that seem to bring us down when we gather and consider moving in a different direction without them in our lives, this effort will shine a light on those people that bring joy and comfort into our lives.  Consider setting an intention during the month of July to spend time with those people, connecting on a deeper level and enjoying the ease of the relationship, sensing how the connection fans the flame within, providing you with more clarity, energy, and motivation once we pass through the Eclipse season.
  3. Trust in the cyclic nature of life.  Remind yourself that this opportunity to move more slowly as you flow through this month will not last forever, so enjoy it while you can!  See the planets that are slowing down their rotation giving you permission to do the same.  View this time as an opportunity to look, listen, pay attention, and recalibrate your instrument (read your body and mind) to align more naturally with your soul’s calling.  If you need a little reminder, consider spending time in nature, whether at the beach, or taking a hike in the forest, or rafting down a river, as Mother Earth demonstrates to us around every corner how letting go creates space for new growth!
  4. Start a new self-care habit.  When the world starts to slow down around us, it seems to be beckoning us to consider taking better care of ourselves.  When things are more on the move, we barely have time to think clearly none-the-less add something new to our plates.  Have you always dreamed of taking piano or guitar lessons?  How about singing or surfing lessons?  Or trying a yoga or meditation class?  Consider looking at your community summer school guide and signing up for a class.  You might just surprise yourself at how much fun you have or at how much more ease you sense when you find a new groove to flow in!
  5. Embrace your spirituality.  Now I’m not talking religion here, although if you participate in a formalized religion, it might be a natural place to start in seeking the meaning of life.  When I think about spirituality, it takes on a more secular perspective in that I view it as a universal human experience that involves seeking our purpose and how fulfilling life feels when we offer our gifts to the world with an open heart and an intention of connection, embracing the meaning we make of our existence.  Consider creating some time during this slow flow Eclipse season to reflect on your gifts, what you might be good at or what might bring you joy.  It might include exploring your core values to ensure they still feel in alignment with how you are experiencing the world today.  You might also revisit some of the significant challenges you have gone through and consider the take-aways from those challenges again, as they might have gathered some dust.  Perhaps you write down your personal vision statement or, if you have written one in the past, you pull it out to review it – or revise it if it no longer resonates at your current vibration.

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Professional Wellness Month

When we start to attach our identity to our work, job and/or employer, we are teetering on a tight rope without a net.  Today, more than ever, it is vital to our well-being and longevity (both at work and in life) to find ways to maintain a balance between who we are and what we do!

Many employers, in an attempt to build a more harmonious work culture, encourage employees to socialize outside of normal working hours.  However, such encouragement from employers can create an internal conflict for those employees that are unable to join such social gatherings due to other commitments outside of the workplace.  It can also create a perceived sense of preferential treatment for those that do attend such gatherings versus those that don’t – or can’t – participate.

Employers would better serve their employees by supporting such things as flexible work hours, encouraging workers to go home after an 8 hour day in the office, requiring workers to take regular breaks and vacations, creating spaces in the office where workers can go for a few minutes of peace and quiet throughout the day, like a meditation room, a garden and/or a walking path, and offering regular group exercise opportunities during work hours, such as yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong classes.

Until all employers buy into the research that indicates such things enchance a worker’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being, boosting productivity, focus, memory, and creativity, below are intention-setting ideas for you to implement for yourself, to remind yourself every day that you are so much MORE than what you do and avoid burning the candle at both ends:

  1. Walking meetings.  If you find yourself either needing to schedule a meeting with a colleague or are invited to one, ask your colleague if they would mind making the meeting a walking meeting.  Take the walk outside and, if possible, into an area that has some greenery, like trees or flowers, or near water, such as a lake or water fountain.  Perhaps you can locate a bench outside that you can stop at and sit for part of the meeting.  Even if you are able to make one meeting a week a walking meeting to start, before long this idea might catch on as others begin to feel the difference it makes in their day!
  2. Take multiple short breaks.  Consider taking a one-minute break every hour.  You can set an alarm on your phone or a reminder in your calendar.  Some ideas for each one-minute break include:  closing your eyes and taking several, long deep breaths while visualizing something that brings you joy; bringing in a jump rope and/or hula hoop and using it for one minute; doing some seated yoga poses at your desk; and/or listening to a guided meditation.
  3. Ask a co-worker for support.  If you find the support of another as motivation to hold you accountable, ask a co-worker to start an at-work health challenge with you.  It could be around the number of steps you take at work (think taking the stairs instead of the elevator) or the amount of time you hold a challenging shape, such as wall squats, plank or balancing on one leg.  It might also be eating more healthy, such as getting points for eating fresh fruit or a salad instead of a taco or hamburger.  If stress is an issue, maybe consider keeping track of the number of meditations you participate in (by taking those one-minute breaks every hour!).  Don’t forget to set a goal, perhaps the ‘winner’ at the end of the month treats the ‘other winner’ to lunch.
  4. Start a gratitude circle.  I know when I worked in the corporate world, it was very easy to get caught in the experience of complaining about work to my co-workers, whether it was about other co-workers not pulling their weight, the unrealistic work expectations, and/or the lack of communication.  Although at first it might have brought some temporary relief, such complaining did not change anything.  Therefore, consider turning complaining on its head the next time you find yourself looking for a co-worker to vent with by challenging yourself to identify something that you are grateful for from your experience at work and sharing it with another.  Better yet, start a gratitude circle with several co-workers, scheduling a 5 minute gathering at some point in the day where everyone gets to share what they felt gratitude for that day (limiting the time to 1 minute or less for the sharing).
  5. Play music.  No, not your favorite dance music or rock or rap album.  Find some music without lyrics that you might enjoy and make sure to play it at an ambient noise level to avoid disturbing your co-workers.  It might be jazz or classical or it could be nature sounds, like the ocean or the sounds of the forest.  Research has shown music to improve mood, which impacts productivity and creativity

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Helping Kids Reduce Anxiety

Each May, I feel it is so important to promote Mental Health Awareness month, as it is a belief of mine (backed by recent research) that when we support the health of the brain/mind, our bodies respond in kind.

This year I would like to focus on the 2018 Children’s Mental Health Report from the Child Mind Institute, reflecting on the significant increase in child and adolescent anxiety disorders.  Below are some of the highlights:

  • In the past 10 years, there has been increasing recognition of anxiety in young people by health care providers, including a 17% increase in anxiety disorder diagnosis.  Yet anxiety symptoms are minimized or ignored. As little as 1% of youth with anxiety seek treatment in the year symptoms begin.
  • At some point, anxiety affects 30% of children and adolescents, yet 80% never get help.
  • Untreated anxiety disorders are linked to depression, school failure and a two-fold increase in risk for substance use disorder and suicide.
  • The average age of onset for Separation Anxiety Disorder and specific phobias is age 11.
  • The average age on onset for Social Anxiety Disorder is age 14.
So, even if we don’t have children of our own, all of us interact with children at some point, whether we see them while taking a walk or shopping at the supermarket.  How might we help?  Below are some intention-setting ideas you might consider modeling as body-mind self-care tools known to reduce anxiety.  You never know when a child is watching, listening, and learning!
  1. Practice Relaxation Exercises.  If your begin to feel yourself getting stressed out over something, maybe you get stuck in traffic or you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work (think homework!) ahead of you, consider cutting off the stress-to-anxiety circuitry by taking a breather!  Bee’s breath is a fun one that kid’s love because they get to make sounds and visualize themselves flying back home to the ‘family hive’ for a sweet treat.  Take a few moments to learn how to do it yourself and add it to your toolkit to do in front of your kids, inviting them to join you to clear their minds and soothe their bodies.
  2. Face Your Fears.  We all have them, whether we are afraid of spiders or dogs or flying or thunder and lightning or being alone.  Knowing that fear is part of the basic human condition brings with it some comfort in understanding we are not alone in this experience.  So, if we can admit we have one and then take a step towards our fear (instead of running away from it), we model our ability to experience both fear and confidence in our ability to conquer our fear.  And, don’t forget to reward yourself afterwards to provide additional motivation to lean into our fears, reminding ourselves that fear is an emotion that will pass if we let it.
  3. Mindfulness.  Anxiety arises when the mind gets caught in the ‘what if’ loop, whether about the future or the past.  So, helping the mind to break that loop, by focusing on the present moment for even a few moments, will help in reducing the level of anxiety.  Again, we can do this with our children so they learn this self-care tool from us.  Consider practicing right now – sit comfortably and begin to allow the awareness of the mind to focus on all of your senses.  Maybe start with the sense of touch, where the body is connected to something whether the ground beneath the feet or the body resting in the chair.  Move to what your eyes can see, noticing the colors and textures of the items in your view.  What might you be smelling or tasting?What do you hear – perhaps noticing the sounds in the distance first and then moving to the sounds closest to you.  Last, you might consider allowing yourself to sense into the body and simply labeling what you might be feeling, such as tension in a part of your body, or a temperature, or even a sense of that fear or anxiety.  Practicing this together once a day, even when you are not feeling anxious (perhaps right before going to bed) for a minute or two will give the gift of mindfulness for a lifetime!
  4. Self-talk.  We all talk to ourselves and setting an intention to be more transparent with it can be transforming.  Consider talking out loud, expressing your thoughts verbally to the universe.  The first thing we might notice is how biased (towards self-harm) our thoughts might be, which starts to raise our awareness around the energy these thoughts carry. Once aware of such energy, begin a dialogue with yourself to challenge those heavy thoughts, by offering yourself a different perspective, one that a dear friend might offer you.  Once you have practiced this for awhile, you might begin to demonstrate such dialogues in front of your children, admitting that you too have negative thoughts yet you create space for different ways of looking at things and how you might respond to someone you care about that might also have such negative thoughts.
  5. Self-compassion.  One of the most powerful gifts we can offer to and model for the next generation is the practice of self-compassion.  It is important to not only acknowledge our successes, but also our failures, without beating ourselves up.  It is only through the acceptance of our humanness, with both gifts and flaws, that we truly step into our authentic skin and be the shining light in the darkness.  Owning and expressing our imperfections to others is quite powerful, as it begins to empower others to step onto the path of self-acceptance.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience and, as such, we will trip and fall and make mistakes along the path as this is how we learn.  Reminding ourselves – and our children – that in order to discover our true gifts, sometimes we need to stumble through the heap of mistakes.  Consider setting an intention to use a mantra of “I am (you are) human and perfectly imperfect” as a response to mistakes, failures and flaws!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Allergy Season

As we move into Spring, the air begins to warm and Mother Nature begins to blossom once again.  And here in southern California, after our deliciously wet winter, the flowers are already in full bloom!  For many, this season can bring tears to their eyes just thinking about the flowers, not from their simple beauty but because of the misery they bring to the body due to seasonal allergies.

If you experience an increase in nose and ear congestion, sneezing, and/or itchy eyes and/or throat during this season, I offer 5 intention-setting ideas below for a more natural approach to reducing the suffering that accompanies such allergies:

  1. Honey.  Consider adding honey to your daily food intake.  And not just any honey – it must be LOCAL honey.  Bees create honey from their immediate environment and it contains trace amounts of the environmental allergens that your body may be trying to flush out through your allergic symptoms.  So, by adding honey either to your tea, smoothie, or oatmeal in the morning, over time you will build up your immunity to such substances and with a whole lot less pain than allergy shots!
  2. Bee Pollen.  Bee pollen is similar to honey and offers an alternative to how you ingest these substances.  You might consider adding bee pollen to your salads or other fresh fruit or vegetables.
  3. Nasal Cleansing.  Using a neti pot to rinse your nasal passages with a saline solution has been shown to not only relieve sinus symptoms due to allergies, but research has also shown using a neti pot can prevent several upper respiratory conditions, such as the common cold and seasonal allergies.  Not sure how to start such a practice, I recommend purchasing the Health And Yoga stainless steel pot that comes with a DVD for guidance.  If you still don’t think this is a practice you would want to try, consider using a saline nasal spray on a daily basis to wash away the irritants.  Personally, I got over my fear of pouring water up my nose and I no longer experience allergy symptoms and I believe I have successfully warded off a couple of head colds after traveling on airplanes!
  4. Apple Cider Vinegar.  Amongst many other uses, Apple Cider Vinegar has been shown to support your immune system, facilitate lymphatic system drainage, and reduce mucous production.  If the taste is too hard to take, try diluting one tablespoon in a glass of water with lemon juice and drink this concoction several times a day to relieve seasonal allergy symptoms.
  5. Nettle Leaf.  Adding nettle leaf to a tea has been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory and naturally blocks the body’s ability to produce histamine, which are the chemicals the immune system produces to get rid of something in the body it does not like and cause the symptoms of seasonal allergies.

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Creating Healthy Boundaries

What I have experienced since learning about and setting healthy boundaries is much more freedom and less stress in my life!

However, before a healthy boundary can be created, we need to understand what a boundary is and is not.  Boundaries are anything that limits something.  For example, time is a boundary, because there are only 24 hours in a day.  No matter how much we might want to negotiate for more, Mother Nature is not going to budge!

On the other hand, boundaries are not selfish.  In fact, boundaries can be quite empowering.  I was once offered a way of looking at setting boundaries as a gift that I can give another person, to help them reconnect with their own autonomy and competence, building their self-confidence.  This way of looking at boundaries does not mean that we stop helping others out when they are in need; however, it does ask us to deploy our skills in discerning what the best choice is in each moment.

When we can embrace the idea that setting boundaries is self-care (not selfish), then we can begin to take steps toward identifying the boundaries we want to create that will benefit both ourselves and others.  A mantra I was offered to assist me in shifting from the belief that it is selfish to prioritize my needs over the needs of others is “Say no, so others can grow”.  Take a moment right now and write this mantra down on a piece of paper or index card and place it somewhere that is accessible to you on a daily basis.  Now, think about it for a moment longer.

If you are still not buying it, here is an example that I think most people will be able to connect to.  Imagine a child is ready to learn how to tie their shoes.  You begin to teach the child how to do it.  Each day you teach the child, you watch them trying it on their own, showing progress and excitement as their fingers start to cooperate.  Now comes the hard part – the day you have to tell them “No, I’m not going to do it for you anymore, because I know you can do it by yourself”.  It hurts you to hear their protests and see their tears, but you stand your ground.  Now envision their face when they come back into the room and want to show you how they were able to tie their shoes by themselves.  Can you feel their joy!

Think of this example when you begin to explore setting healthy boundaries, remembering that when you say no, you are creating space for another person to figure something out for themselves because you BELIEVE in them, that they are capable of doing it without you doing it for them.  I know first hand that this sounds easier said than done, so below are some intention setting ideas to support your efforts in establishing, clarifying, expressing and reinforcing healthy boundaries:

  1. Identify Boundaries.  Many of us may have grown up in families that did not explain or demonstrate healthy boundaries, so we might need to take a moment and think about any boundaries we might have established or are aware of in our lives.  For example, the walls, windows, and doors of our houses create a boundary that we call home.  Our bodily reactions might have not allowed pets or certain foods in the house due to allergies.  Our spiritual roots might have offered rules of conduct that limit our behaviors, such as no public display of affection.  Creating time to identify some boundaries that exist in your life, starts to grease the wheels of the healthy boundary making machine because the growing awareness invites in choice.  For example, just because you might be allergic to cats, doesn’t preclude you from having a dog!
  2. Explore Emotions.  When you sense you are having an emotional response – whether positive or negative – stop and explore!  Emotions are the part of our intelligence that informs us about what is working and what is not working in our lives.  Emotions are the best guide to knowing when a healthy boundary is needed.  When an emotion arises, ask yourself ‘What is this emotion I am experiencing in this moment?’, ‘What is it telling me?’, and ‘Do I want more or less of it in my life?’.  When the powerful emotions such as anger (and all of its variations), pain and fear arise, the universal message is that your needs are not being satisfied.  Consider taking a moment to identify some recent situations where you felt one or more of these powerful emotions arise and write them down in the context of what brought them up.
  3. Clarify Your Needs/Values.   Now comes the hard part.  When we realize our emotions arise in response to our needs, whether they are being satisfied or not, it means we now need to own the fact that we have needs (AND WE ALL DO) and we have a responsibility to identify exactly what those needs are if we want to deepen the connections we have with ourselves and others.  Another way to view our needs is to consider them our core life values – what is it that we value enough to fight for in our lives.  To help you get started in this area, there are some universal human needs:  autonomy, connection, physical well-being including safety, honesty, peace, play and purpose.  If you would like to take a look at a longer list of such needs/values, Marshall Rosenberg has a Needs Inventory that I would recommend.  Reflect on this list along side of your emotional responses to help you narrow down the list to your top 4 values that will help guide your healthy boundary creations.
  4. Communicate a Healthy Boundary.  Now that you are armed with the knowledge of your needs/values and what happens when those needs are not being met or worse, being ignored or disrespected by another, the next step is to plan for an appropriate confrontation in order to express your healthy boundary.  Keep in mind that confrontation does not equal conflict and that you have a right and responsibility to ask for what it is you need.  Also keep in mind the other person might not be able to give you what it is you need; however, that must not stop you from at least asking and trying to negotiate a healthier space.  To help you craft your healthy boundary, consider using the 4-step process developed by Marshall Rosenberg which was designed to diffuse emotionally-charged situations by reducing blame and shame.
  5. Make a request.  It is not enough to tell someone that your needs are not being met and expect them to know how to respond to such a communication.  It is important to clearly ask for what it is you would like from them in order to have your need be met.  For example, if you determine that you value beauty as reflected by a neat and clean home and become distressed when when your need for beauty in your home is not being honored, the request might be “Will you help me clean our home or keep our home clean?”.  Such a request might lead you into a negotiation about the specifics (e.g., frequency, specific tasks, etc.), so consider making requests as concrete as possible (inviting a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response) such as “Will you help me keep our home clean by washing your dishes in the sink?”.  One last thought – when you start to clarify and express your healthy boundaries, it may seem awkward for both you and the other person because it might be a new way of interacting.  Some suggestions to support success include:  start with setting a healthy boundary around something that feels relatively minor on your emotional scale, write out the process (including your feelings, needs/values and request) and have it in front of you when speaking to the person, and know in advance that you will most likely have to communicate your boundary more than once (often several and sometimes many times) before the person fully integrates and consistently implements the request agreed to initially!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Spread Kindness

Valentine’s Day is a reminder to share the love!

This “Hallmark Holiday” doesn’t have to have the market corned on romantic love.  We can challenge the world to broaden the view of February 14th as a reminder to share the love and kindness with ourselves and others.

Below are some intention setting ideas to spread kindness and, by doing so, bring more peace and joy into our hearts and into the world:

  1. Write a note.  When was the last time you received a hand-written note expressing sentiments from the heart?  Can you remember what it felt like?  Take a moment now and bring to mind someone in your life (past or present) that meant a lot to you, perhaps because they took care of you in a time of need or maybe because they had your back during a difficult time in your life.  Consider writing them a note expressing what their kindness and thoughtfulness meant to you.  It is never too late to share the impact people have had on our lives, even if they have transitioned from this life.  Once the note is written, if possible mail it.  If not, light a candle, sit with the light of the candle visualizing the person (maybe you have a picture you can look at) and read them your note.  Trust the energy and love behind your words will reach them.  Take a moment to tune into your heart, noting any sensations present.  Often, the sensations are the human experience of love and kindness being shared!
  2. Say ‘thank you’ more.   These two simple words have a powerful effect!  Practice saying ‘thank you’ to yourself, when you make a decision that serves you well or when you remember to use one of your self-care tools in your tool box.  As you practice, again tune into your heart center and sense the response.  If you find this practice a little challenging, try saying ‘thank you’ to another, maybe your mail delivery person, the cashier at the supermarket, a co-worker or your child.  Like anything else, the more you practice, the easier it gets.  Don’t forget to come back around and thank yourself!
  3. HUG more!  Research suggests giving and receiving hugs has a positive impact on your body and mind health.  If this gesture of care, kindness and appreciation is not currently one of the tools in your self-care tool kit, no worries.  You can simply start by hugging aspects of Mother Nature, such as trees (yes, trees!) and animals.  Children also love to receive – and give – hugs.  You can also give yourself a hug, especially when life throws you a curve ball.  As you begin to embrace (pun intended!) this practice, if you are inspired to hug someone, make sure to ask permission first no matter their age, especially if it someone that you are just getting to know better!
  4. Take a walk & pick up litter.  Speaking of Mother Nature, it is important to share our kindness and love with her as well.  The next time you plan to take a walk, whether around the block or a 10-mile hike, bring a trash bag with you and pick up any litter you might come across in your travels.  As you do so, thank Mother Earth for all that she provides us, including the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.  She also provides for the materials utilized to build our shelters, so she has a significant and vital part in our lives.
  5. Write a kind story about yourself.  Start by listing 3-5 aspects of yourself that you like or appreciate.  It might be good qualities that you sometimes display, such as patience or generosity, or values that are important to you, such as beauty or connection.  Now, write a story with you as the central figure, including these good qualities (and any more that might rise into awareness as you are writing).  The story can be drawn from past memories of times when you allowed these good qualities to be seen by the world or the story might be written about how you might let these qualities come forward more in the future.  Remember, if any uncomfortable feelings arise as you are writing, you can step into the role of a compassionate friend and let them finish writing it for you.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!