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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 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 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!

What type of yoga is best?

As a Hatha yoga trained teacher under the umbrella of the Raja type of yoga, I am often asked if one style of yoga is better than another.  It has always been my belief that all yoga has mind-body-soul benefits and recent research appears to support such a belief.  However, what I think is important to understand is that yoga does not just include the physical poses or shapes that most of us first think of when asked ‘What is yoga all about?’.

Sacred yogic texts offer that there are four types of – or paths to – yoga, which is often defined as the union of body, mind, soul and spirit.  Raja yoga is the type of yoga that includes techniques, such as movement, meditation, and mudras, and is what is most often practiced here in our Western world.  Bhakti yoga is the type of yoga focused on devotion, also referred to as the path of love.  Jnana yoga is the type of yoga focused on the attainment of knowledge or wisdom through study and self-inquiry.  Karma yoga is the type of yoga focused on action without attaching to the outcome of your efforts, also referred to as the path of selfless service.

With this basic understanding of the four types of yoga then, when we think of yoga practices we start to realize it is all yoga.  When we focus on the yoga most practiced here in the US, Raja yoga, then we can begin to broaden our perspective as to what is included in this particular type, beyond the physical movement we do on our mats in a yoga class.  Yoga practices or techniques can include breath (pranayama), intention setting (Sankalpa), visualization (Bhavana), mudra (body/hand positions), mantra (chanting/sound), meditation (all kinds!), and how we interact with others and ourselves.

When we do take a moment to focus on the physical movement on the yoga mat, within the Hatha yoga style of Raja yoga, multiple yoga styles have emerged, which makes this type of yoga available to everyone.  Options run the gamut from Vinyasa flow, which is a faster-paced, sweaty practice to Restorative, where bodies are supported by blankets, bolsters, and other props to find comfort and held for at least 10 minutes.  Other classes might simply focus on breath practices or sound healing through musical instruments or chanting/singing.  Even others might offer guided visualization meditations.  Yoga class descriptions might represent the offering as a Beginner’s class or a Level 1 class.  Newer trainings include Yoga of 12 Step Recovery and Trauma-informed Yoga.

Therefore, my answer to the question is ‘Whatever works for you!”.  Not all yoga is equal.  Yoga is not the vanilla flavor of union and instead has evolved into a more ‘flavor of the month’ approach to broaden its reach and appeal.  And, the more we learn about the roots of the ancient tradition, we come to realize that it was originally taught in a one-on-one format, passing the knowledge of the guru to student, most likely taking into consideration that student’s individual needs.  So, in reality, yoga (with all of its techniques or ingredients) is meant to be a personal practice, customized to what is needed in the moment.  With this understanding then, my answer might include a response such as “You are your best guru, so listen to your body and allow it to join the mind in making the decision as to what feels best in the moment”.

If you still believe just one type or style of yoga is best, I encourage you to click on the link below to read more about the research that concluded that the choice of yoga style can be based on personal preferences and availability:

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.

Are you looking for a magic pill for anxiety, but without the pill?

As a yoga teacher, you might expect me to tell you that meditation is the answer.  And, although meditation has absolutely been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, many people who suffer from anxiety get anxious just thinking about the idea of meditation.  Instead, non-invasive brain stimulation (i.e., direct neurofeedback) might bring more immediate relief of symptoms, creating space in the mind to contemplate meditation and even begin to practice it!

As someone whose nervous system tends to lean towards anxiety, my yoga practice including but not limited to pranayama, meditation and self-inquiry has brought me much peace over years of practice.  Yet, when chaos would begin to brew as it will and I would begin to feel a sense of overwhelm, I would greet my fear all over again, like a familiar (yet not comfortable) old friend.  I wondered if all of my body-mind-spirit practices would ever be enough to soothe my root chakra to the point of simply accepting fear for what it is – an early warning system meant to guide me to safety.

It wasn’t until I experienced direct neurofeedback that I sensed that shift in my relationship with fear.  I came to understand that trying to train the mind when the brain is caught in a deeply patterned dysfunctional loop can only do so much to soothe my nervous system and create new neural connections.  Operating from the conscious mind, we quickly discover that making the unconscious conscious is really hard heart work!  Awareness brings understanding and understanding creates an opportunity for choice, yet our unconscious mind can throw so many barriers up to prevent such awareness for fear of breaking our hearts.

When we can work with the body directly – specifically the brain – we can address the root source of the problem, circumventing the barriers of the mind while supporting the body’s self-healing abilities.  For anyone that has tried acupuncture, this idea may sound familiar.  By soothing the fear centers in the brain, the mind begins to notice space where there was none before.  Space to consider our experiences (past and present) in a new light with a new perspective.  And when we venture into those places of fear, such as chaos, we have a greater capacity and ability to stand in our own power and not get swept up in that sense of overwhelm.  From this place of power, we being to experience a greater sense of connection, to our authentic self as well as to the larger collective consciousness, realizing we are not alone.

When we truly can accept that ‘we are not alone’ into our belief system and we add ‘interdependence’ and compassion to our value system, the fears of uncertainty and unpredictability that underlie anxiety can be replaced with equanimity.  With the help of direct neurofeedback, I no longer found myself plagued by the belief that independence is the source of happiness, where shame is abundant when asking for help or support, or the thoughts around needing to be perfect in order to be acceptable and loved, which drove me to exhaustion.  Direct neurofeedback appeared to create space in my mind for new beliefs and values much more quickly than psychotherapy and/or yoga alone.

Recent research on non-invasive brain stimulation such as direct neurofeedback in generalized anxiety disorder is beginning to explain such results.  If you are interested in reading more, click on the link below:

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!

Can 8 weeks of listening to a 13-minute daily guided meditation change your life?

The second most frequent question I get asked – after how many times a week should I do yoga (Click here to read my reflection on this question) – is how long should I meditate each day in order to reap the benefits?  Well, it appears that brief daily meditations can have a positive effect and it can be as simple as picking your favorite meditation to listen to each day for just 8 weeks!

When I was first introduced to the idea of meditation on my yoga mat, I was still struggling with giving myself permission to include taking care of myself on my “To Do” list and was in the process of embracing the idea of that in order to take care of another, I must take care of myself first.  So, the idea of creating time to sit still and empty my mind of my thoughts did not seem realistic.  And, at the time, we didn’t have “smart” phones we carried around with us all day!

As I continued my yoga practice on my mat, I learned that meditation can take many forms, not just one.  In fact, the very last pose of all yoga practices – savasana – is a very powerful meditation opportunity.  When I initially found myself in savasana, I used the time to organize my “To Do” list for the following day, leaving my mat feeling uplifted by the clarity this time created for me to get even more organized.  It took me awhile to release my attachment to the need to be productive even in the quiet, still moments of life and fully appreciate those moments to simply BE.

As I slowly began to embrace the concept of less is more and challenge society’s demand for multi-tasking, I opened up to the idea that creating more opportunities for “being” brought balance to all of the “doing”, which, I personally discovered reduced my anxiety and allowed space for a response instead of a reaction.  I found myself in yoga classes 5, 6, 7 times a week as my body was motivating my mind to get through the “doing” to settle into the “being” that savasana supported.  The challenge then became how to learn how to meditate off of my mat, without a teacher guiding me in a group class.

And that is one of the exciting offerings that advances in technology bring to us today – you can access meditations online without ever leaving your own place of comfort!  So, the question then becomes, is this sort of meditation effective, where you are listening to someone guiding you through the practice or is it required that you sit in silence trying to quiet your mind on your own to gain the benefits?  Well, recent research conducted with non-experienced meditators suggests that such a daily practice can enhance attention and memory and improve mood and emotional regulation.  The research had participants listen to a 13-minute recorded, guided meditation for 8 weeks and found that such a short, practical meditation practice affected cognitive functioning in these ways with non-experienced meditators!

So now might be the perfect time to find that guided meditation that you find comforting and soothing to download and start listening.  This research also found that only 4 weeks was not enough time to experience the beneficial impact, so don’t give up!

To read more about this research study, click on the button below:

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Open Your Heart

November is National Gratitude Month!

The ‘attitude of gratitude’ is finally having its day . . . or an entire month!  Research focused on the benefits of cultivating more gratitude in your life is showing many measurable psychological, physical and interpersonal benefits, such as lower blood pressure, less feelings of isolation and loneliness, and higher levels of positive emotions, including compassion.  If you are interested, you can read my personal experience below (Heart and Soul Healing Reflections) to learn how the practice of writing down what we are grateful for significantly impacted my own journey of healing, inspired by a recent research study validating this anecdotal experience.

Also, below I have offered some simple practices you might explore to celebrate this month and kick start your own gratitude practices.  I encourage you to set a global intention as you try out some of these practices of focusing on your heart center and lean into the sensation of creating space for expanding the sense of appreciation, for what we have in our lives, for others and for ourselves.

  1. Say Thank You!  As we grew up, somewhere along the line, we were told to say “Please” and “Thank You” to others that do something kind for us to be polite.  Maybe our ancestors instinctively sensed that the act of saying “Thank You” had a more profound purpose.  My suggestion for consideration is to delve a bit deeper into the act of expressing this form of appreciation to another by bringing more awareness to this expression, being more conscious in our choice of when, how and to whom we express it.  For example, instead of simply saying “Thank You’ to someone that holds the door open for you as you enter a store, you might slow down and say “Thank you for being so kind and considerate to take the time to hold the door for me today.  I truly appreciate it”.  And then watch, listen and sense into the response!  And, if you are feeling even more adventurous, you might try it with a dear friend or family member.  Set an intention in the morning to catch a loved one “doing something good” and when you do observe them in the act, stop and thank them for what they did.
  2. Focus on the Positive.  Even when things in our life don’t go as planned, if you take some time to sit with the experience, you will be able to discover a unexpected benefit of the change in plans.  By doing so does not necessarily diminish the immediate impact of the sadness or disappointment; however, searching and finding the silver lining and appreciating the benefit has the amazing power of shifting us into an experience of more positive energy, creating space for a more balanced, equilibrated perspective and sense of being.  Consider trying it out today!
  3. Create kindness.  Here’s a fun idea you can do as a craft with friends and family and then share with anyone and everyone.  Collect a bunch of rocks and write something kind on each one.  Then go around your neighborhood or office park and place them where they can be easily found. To read more about this movement started by Megan Murphy, check out this website:  https://www.thekindnessrocksproject.com.  Trust that your message will find the right person at just the right time to change their life!  After you have placed your rock messages around, take some time to sit with yourself and reflect on how the experience in your heart has expressed itself.
  4. Honor our Service Members.  Feeling like you might want to stretch yourself a bit this month and go beyond our borders?  Perhaps consider writing a ‘thank you’ note or letter to a Service member.  Our Active Duty Service members are dedicated to making a difference in our lives without even knowing us.  And, although they may not admit it to many, combat is a scary place, even more so without the comforts of home for some solace.  Receiving an unexpected thank you from a stranger, acknowledging their contributions and sacrifice, might just fan their internal flame of dedication and validate their motivation to serve and protect our freedoms.  Check out Operation Gratitude to learn more about sharing your appreciation with the troops and cracking your own heart wide open!
  5. Write a letter to yourself!  Or maybe this month you are feeling a bit more reflective and sensing your heart needs a more intimate approach to cultivating gratitude.  Then may I recommend writing a ‘thank you’ letter to yourself.  The ultimate practice of kindness might be to express kindness to yourself.  See if you can identify at least 10 aspects that you love about yourself.  Maybe ask someone you care about deeply to do this practice with you and consider sharing what you come up with by saying them out loud to each other.  Again, sit a few moments afterwards to sense into the experience, especially noting the sensations around the heart.  I would love to hear about your observations!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Emotional Wellness

I believe we are all feeling the heaviness of the divisive energy that we are experiencing in the world, whether we want to acknowledge it or try to pretend it doesn’t exist.  So many of us can’t wrap our minds around what is happening!  I keep reminding myself we must have destruction before construction.  The heavy, destructive energy is bringing the darkness into the light, so we can more clearly see what needs to change in order to elevate the collective consciousness.

It will require serious perseverance and energy to take back our power from whatever it is that we believe is keeping us powerless.  And, yet we don’t have to do this alone.  The past couple of years brought even more clarity to the people in my life, helping me to better discern those that I can turn to and trust to have my back, no matter what, while, at the same time, helping me to release those who I refer to as “energy vampires” that were vibrating at a different wave length.

As we experience the October new moon today (10/08/18), let it be a reminder that we are presented with another opportunity to start a new cycle, a chance to build upon what we already know.   When we experience a new moon, it is not visible from Earth as the moon steps directly between the Sun and Earth.  However, with each following day, the moon slowly begins to reveal itself again, thanks to the Sun’s reflective light.  Let this monthly lunar cycle inspire our sense of hope that there is light after the dark and that the Universe is at play here, bringing the world into a new state of balance as it continues to work toward homeostasis.

It is our growing awareness and understanding of the cycles of life and how connected we are that helps us acknowledge the impact of not only the energy of others on a more intimate level but also on a more global level.  Therefore, in honor of Emotional Wellness Month, I offer the following intention setting ideas to fan the flame of your internal light that will support your emotional wellness and help you navigate these trying times:
  1. Get more sleep.  I think most of us experience a change in how we move through the world when we have a bad night’s sleep.  One of the most important – if not the MOST important – way to support our emotional health is to ensure we get an sufficient amount of sleep each night. And when we are feeling more stress, we need even more sleep.  Lack of adequate sleep affects the brain, turning up the pressure in the parts of the brain that support the ‘flight or flght’ response and short-circuiting the connection to the parts of the brain that support awareness, compassion and gratitude, all of which are necessary for our emotional well-being.  Therefore, consider setting an intention to create space for yourself to add more time to your regular sleep schedule, following the cycle of the shorter days/longer nights that this month presents us.
  2. Gather together for meals.  When we experience overwhelming situations, we can feel alone in our pain and suffering and tend to want to withdraw from the world.  Set an intention to share as many meals this month with someone that “gets you” instead of eating alone.  Maybe include a new restaurant that you have been wanting to try one week with your best friend.  It has been shown that spending time together during meals supports overall physical, mental and emotional well-being.
  3. SLOW DOWN.  Don’t buy into the belief that we must multi-task and do more than others to be appreciated, accepted and/or worthy.  In fact, this belief supports the divisive energy that is so prevalent right now.  Set an intention to give something – better yet, someone – you care about your undivided attention for one hour and then step back to assess the impact, both on your sense of well-being as well as on the outcome of your undivided attention.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised  to discover that being fully present (AKA one-pointed focus) in your interactions with the world creates space that welcomes in peace and a sense of connection to the flow of life, that calms the mind and opens the heart.   
  4. Ground yourself through breathing.  When the world begins to push our buttons, we become more reactive, instead of responsive.  Consider setting an intention this month to make a plan to breath more consciously when you notice one of your buttons has been pushed and has turned on your internal alarm system.  One simple practice I learned and use often includes closing my eyes, visualizing my inhale coming up through the soles of my feet and traveling all the way to the crown of my head as I say to myself “I am” and then releasing a long, slow exhale (from my crown back down through the soles of my feet) as I say to myself “here grounded”.  I do that two more times, saying to myself “I am, here present” and “I am, here ready” before allowing my breath to return to a natural rhythm and open my eyes.
  5. Commit to your own self-care.  Our social culture has twisted this practice into a belief that doing self-care is selfish.  And, if it is the current state of our social culture that is supporting divisiveness, then now is the perfect time to challenge this belief!  It is mission critical to our own individual emotional health as well as that of the world to ensure we prioritize our own self-care. Otherwise, we won’t be able to provide kind and nurturing care of others, thus contributing to the vicious cycle of neglect and abuse that the light is in the process of bringing out of the darkness.  Reflect on what keeps your inner light burning brightly and consider setting an intention to embrace that self-care practice this month!