Radical Self-Care, Spiritual Practice

Defining “spiritual practice” is a task that I’ve been avoiding for some time now. In the broadest sense, it includes the activities that help me remember The Truth about who I am: a spiritual being having a human experience. Some practices anchor in the sensation of this truth. Others increase my awareness of the beliefs that cover it. Many are designed to open my heart and release the layers of fear that keep me separated from the divinity within.

I’ve discussed many of the individual practices over the course of my journey; meditation, yoga, mindfulness, affirmations, letting go, connecting with kindred, nature, and kindness toward myself are but a few. These are all exercises or ways of being that establish an awareness of The Truth that resides within me; that I am safe and I am loved, I am always guided and protected, and everything I need has already been given me.

Given this awareness, I’ve come to recognize that spiritual practice in all its forms is the cornerstone of taking good care of myself. When my body and mind are aligned with spirit, then I’m in balance and in the natural flow of life. I can tap into my intuition and inner reserves to know which way to go and have the strength to follow through. When an imbalance occurs, it becomes apparent quickly, and shifts more easily because I’m tuned-in to my essence. Many of the problems of the mundane world simply fall away.

I’ve been super-charging my spiritual practices by bringing in Reiki energy and symbols. Reiki assists me in letting go of negative beliefs about myself and the world, and guides me to release patterns of dysfunction. It encourages my chakras to open and align, creating energetic balance within my body which is then reflected in my actions. It allows me to send healing to my past and reduce the influence of old wounds. And it creates a synergistic unity of all the parts of me that I’ve abandoned or forgotten while reminding me that my essence is perfect, whole, and complete.

This journey has helped me expand the way I use Reiki in my personal life. It remains my go-to therapy for aches and pains, first aid, anxiety and stress. I doubt that will ever change. I’m also using it more and more for personal growth and reestablishing connection to the divine. The results of these deeper practices are profound and affirming. I’m tempted to say that the sky is the limit, but I remember my very first Reiki teacher asking me, “Why have any limits?”, so I’ll refrain and say that I’m looking forward to exploring the limitless potential of Reiki as a spiritual practice.

Radical Self-Care, Dance it Out!

Any inner emotional demons can be released on the dance floor, simply by setting an intention and moving the body. Especially when there’s a full moon with accompanying eclipse during the change of seasons! Ability and fitness are of no consequence. And contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is not at all necessary.

I’m a big fan of 5 Rhythms, a style of conscious dance that is loads of fun. This is a form of free-style dance and according to the official website, “a dynamic practice to both workout and meditate in the same breath. Practicing them helps us become attuned to the underlying patterns in our everyday existence.” It’s an opportunity for creative expression as well as releasing stress. And I will repeat that it is FUN!

It’s not necessary to take a workshop or a class. I dance in my bedroom all the time. Just one song can change my mood from grumpy to sweet or angry to peaceful. I learned last night that you don’t even need music! The facilitator gave a room of 60 joyful participants a theme and a count and before I knew it people were jumping, bouncing, and twirling without a song. It was crazy and beautiful and here it comes again… great FUN!

Of course, music does make it easier. So fire up your iTunes or Pandora or burn a mixed CD and give it a try. Think about what you’d like to surrender, what you wish to create, and let the rhythm move your body. Apparently Isabelle Duncan said that as long as one finger is moving, you are dancing. Give it a try and let me know how you feel afterwards.

 

 

Radical Self-Care, Gadgets

Perhaps the most valuable lesson I’ve learned on this journey of self-care is one of not getting lost in the world of technology. I think we all know what it’s like to sit down in front of a computer to do one quick thing and not emerge for an hour or more. When my schedule is tight, I keep a strong focus on my priorities, which means not getting distracted by electronics, especially in the morning before I meditate.

The challenge lies in the fact that I use my smartphone for a lot of self-care practices. Music for yoga is stored in there, as well as my brain booster apps, affirmation meditations, and my idea list for this blog. I often check the weather on my phone before heading out for a hike, and it’s very tempting to see what’s happening on Facebook. Yet I know what’s down that rabbit hole and that I can easily get sucked into scrolling through status updates and loss track of time.

Since I value the convenience my gadgets provide, I’m disciplining myself to use them intelligently. Many days I have plenty of time on the train to respond to messages. On days that I don’t, I actually schedule time for electronic communication and do my best to stick with it. This means checking email and Facebook two, maybe three times a day and not 4oo. This simple strategy really helps keep me on track and allows me the time to focus on my goals without getting waylaid. It also improves productivity because I’m not rushing to get back to what I “should” be doing or multi-tasking.

Just as I schedule time for working on my website or newsletter and time for exercise, rest, or creative projects, I’ve come to an awareness that social media and other communication needs a time slot. While I do wish to remain in touch with friends and clients near and far, I’m not willing to sacrifice the supportive practices I’ve developed over the past six weeks. This technique helps provide a healthy boundary that prevents surfing the web from overtaking my precious downtime. Basically I’m using my gadgets to support my goals rather than letting them use me.

 

Radical Self-Care, Just Do It Already!

This morning I find myself procrastinating. I know I’ll feel better on my yoga matt and most definitely I’ll feel like a new person after practicing. Yet I’m dragging my heels. I felt into this resistance and there’s no substance to it. It’s not a message from my body saying “rest” or from my heart saying “listen”. It’s actually a stubbornness arising from my inner three year old who is stomping her foot and saying “You can’t make me!”.

Funny, that’s not where I thought I was going two minutes ago when I sat down to write this! But I’m going to roll with it and acknowledge her presence. So it seems there is a message after all! I could easily override this sweet child and Just Do It. I was ready to ignore her, but the willingness to tune-in to my resistance seems to have opened up the channels of communication.

So what I’m going to Just Do, is sit down and receive what she has to say, show this girl some empathy and really hear her. I’m guessing she needs some reassurance that her needs are important and that I care. I will take the time to do that and explain my reasons for wanting to do yoga; that it is a gift I offer myself because I love how it makes me feel, not because someone told me I have to do it. Or because I need to do it in order to be worthy of approval. It’s not an assignment needing to be accomplished to please anyone else.

As I’m sinking into this awareness I notice the resistance is melting away. While I still plan to have that conversation, I’m astounded by the realization that I often do put pressure on myself to get my self-care activities done so I can cross them off my list, boost my ego for having done so, and move on to the next seemingly necessary achievement. Once again, I’m reminded that intention is everything, and that just like anything else, self-care activities can be distorted to feed the ego or distract myself from the real job of expressing kindness to myself and others.

Be loving. Just Do It. Everything else appears to be questionable!

 

Radical Self-Care, Being of Service

Helping others is guaranteed to blossom in my heart. Countless times I’ve gone work tired or grumpy or out-of-sorts in one way or another and after giving someone a massage, I felt uplifted. Usually it’s the “before and after” contrast in the client that does it; one short hour later and they’re feeling relaxed and experiencing less tension or pain than when we started. I hope I never stop appreciating that.

Last week I was travelling home after a long day at work. The train was 30 minutes late and crowded. So crowded we couldn’t even get in. The attendant kept saying “move back”, but there was nowhere to go and the people who had space to move back into couldn’t hear him. It was frustrating and uncomfortable and it didn’t seem like there was an end in sight. Of course this slowed things down terribly and we were even later getting to the station.

I was in quite the mood by the time I finally got onto my connecting train and sat down. I overheard a conversation in front of me; four young people wondering if they were on the right train. I decided to be a good Samaritan and asked where they wanted to go. It took about two seconds for me to see they were NOT on the right train. I was able to help them sort out a new plan and send them on their way. I realized my mood had totally shifted; gone was the irritable, tired woman struggling to get home. Hello cheerful do-gooder, helper of naïve college students.

This incident was such a brilliant reminder of how acts of kindness, even small ones such as giving directions, can transform the course of a day. I’m sure I would have had a much more somber evening had I not chimed in to help. I had another opportunity yesterday while waiting for a bus. I had just pulled out my book when the man sitting next to me on the bench started a conversation. I went with the flow and had a nice chat with a stranger, who I’m guessing doesn’t have a lot of people to talk to. Again, I felt uplifted afterwards.

Living in a city it’s easy to find ways to be of service; holding doors, helping carry baby strollers up and down steps, giving up your seat on a crowded bus, putting a quarter in an expired parking meter, and smiling at people are all relatively easy tasks and don’t take much time. They’re also all great investments in feeling better about yourself. I’m all about getting involved in win-win situations, and being of assistance when you’re genuinely able to give without expecting a return reward can be a great reward on its own.

 

Radical Self-Care, Know Your Goal

It’s so easy to wake up and get overwhelmed by all the things that need to  be done that day. Even when most of my tasks are enjoyable, I can often start spinning out, worried that I won’t ever find enough time. That’s when checking in with my priorities comes in handy. Achieving a lot of stuff is not my actual goal, surprisingly! Spiritual evolution is. By that, I mean waking up and remembering who I am. Remembering that I am on a mission to be loving and to be loved. To be love itself.

Keeping this in mind  while I look at my to-do list brings a sense of ease and peacefulness. In fact, many of those to-do items no longer seem important at all and either get crossed off or moved to more appropriate times. Now that I’ve connected with my essential self, I feel supported by the flow of life and I am no longer struggling to accomplish meaningless goals. As long as I am being true to myself, it doesn’t really matter if my newsletter gets finished today or next week or if my furniture remains dusty for another day or two. Or ten. 🙂

True, there are still errands that need to be run. AND it’s crucial to remember that while I’m in the store buying a new battery for the smoke detector that my ultimate goal is to be in the flow of love. While I’m cooking dinner and taking out the recycling, if I’m focused on being love, any stress or upset about having too much to do evaporates. I’m just doing the task at hand, while being true to my mission. At that point, it’s all joyful. Knowing my goal makes each decision easier and every step along the way lighter. If I didn’t know where I wanted to go, how could I ever expect to arrive?

Radical Self-Care, Speak UP!

Over the past week or so I’ve had numerous occasions to speak up. It’s amazing how small I feel when I’m afraid to voice something that needs to be said. I so admire people who are able to sense their needs and communicate them without the inner torture that I experience. It seems that first I need to verify internally that it’s a reasonable request, then figure out how to say it in a non-offensive manner, then psyche myself up. It’s quite the exhausting process!

Yet somehow I muddle through. It seems that saying “no” is the hardest, and yet sometimes the most valuable sentence I could ever utter. It’s easy to look back over the years at all the times I didn’t but wished I had. Sure, I can give up my only day off to cover for a sick colleague. Sure, I can do a deep tissue massage but use my thumbs instead of elbows and forearms. Sure, I can do more than my share of household chores or errands or listening. Remembering the powerlessness I felt when I didn’t speak up all those times fuels me to keep moving forward.

So while I continue to struggle with this concept, I am forging ahead. I continue to voice my concerns when I get that “off” sensation in my gut and also to decline extra work that I really don’t want to do. I’m committed to reminding the people around me about my boundaries should they forget and to ask for what I want. Most definitely I am a work in progress. I look forward to a day when I am able to speak up with ease and comfort; until then I will just keep practicing. Every chance I get.

Radical Self-Care, Gratitude

One of the quickest and easiest ways to raise vibration is to express gratitude. Being grateful instantly elevates me to a sensation of peace and brings with it the knowingness that everything is exactly how it is supposed to be; even if I can’t see that from my human perspective. As I’m oozing gratitude into the atmosphere, I’m drawing more experiences for which to be grateful and simultaneously sending out blessings to everyone and everything I acknowledge.

Lately I’ve been spending a few minutes every night before bed reviewing the day and feeling gratitude for the experiences, events, people, and places in my life. Even the challenges usually contain a gift- a new understanding, renewed patience or tolerance, evoked courage or boundaries, or perhaps surrender of expectations. I do a chronological scan of my day, and finish by feeling grateful formyself  for taking such good care of me, and all the teachers who taught me how.

Grateful for my home and the comforts within it, the food which nourished me, my body that carries my essence around. Grateful for my work, my colleagues, my clients, and the opportunity to share my gifts. Grateful for my friends, my family, that friendly neighbor who always gives me a big smile and a huge wave. Grateful for music and the electronics that expand my ability to connect, for air conditioning, and public transportation. Grateful for the freedom and opportunity to explore personal growth and spiritual evolution.

Realizing the vast quantity of things for which I am grateful creates a sense of security and well-being. This sets me up for a peaceful night and restful sleep, which sets me up to awaken feeling refreshed and energized. Starting the day off in a good mood creates a Domino effect of feeling grateful, radiating joy, attracting kindness, and on and on and on…! That five or ten minutes before bedtime are not only rewarding in the moment, but also a great investment in a happy future.

Radical Self-Care, Chew!

I have HAD a terrible habit of rushing through meals; like it’s just another thing I need to do so I can move on to the several dozen other things I need to do. What’s perplexing about this is that I go to a lot of trouble to procure the best quality food I am able and to prepare it as healthy, delicious meals. Which I then neglect to savor. It’s ridiculous!

Not only do I find myself scooping up the next bite while I’m still haphazardly chewing, the second that last bite is in my mouth, and I’m up and washing dishes. I know from years of study about nutrition that we best absorb nutrients when we eat slowly, chew every bite thoroughly, and take pleasure from our meals. The Institute for the Psychology of Eating has taught me the benefits of taking time to appreciate and enjoy the food on my plate. I know this to be true. Yet somehow I don’t actually do it. Until now!

Another step in this process is to be present when eating. I’m dedicated to not multi-tasking during meals; this means no books, gadgets, TV, or scribbling on my to-do list. I’ve got this piece down. But it seems that only makes the urge to rush stronger. Since I’m “only eating” and I really have a lot of other things on my plate (haha, pun intended!) I just want to get it over with and move on.

Well, I’m here to proclaim my intention to improve. I acknowledge the importance of nourishing myself, both physically and emotionally at mealtimes. And in order to do this, I need to carve out time to relax and relish every bite, chewing each one before even thinking of the next. I’m willing to commit to the process of pleasurable, although simple, dining on a daily basis. Starting with this ripe peach that is slated to be my breakfast. YUM!

Radical Self-Care, Affirmations

I’ve used affirmations over the past two decades consistently. Combined with Reiki, it is the most beneficial practice I know of to change limiting beliefs. As children, we are little sponges that absorb messages we receive from the world without questioning if they are true. As adults, we have the power to examine those messages and decide if we wish to keep them, edit them, or drop them completely.

This morning I downloaded an app for my phone and purchased a package of 16 guided affirmation meditations from the queen of affirmations herself, Louise Hay. To say that she is my hero is a vast understatement. To say that her book “You Can Heal Your Life” has transformed my life does not even come close to doing it justice. Her work is focused on creating healthy self-esteem, letting go of emotional blocks, and learning to love ourselves exactly as we are.

While it’s absolutely unnecessary to use technology or purchase any recorded affirmations, it is super-easy. There’s something about the tone of her voice that is soothing and seems to bypass my mental resistance. Listening to Miss Louise generates a willingness to surrender my false perceptions and to absorb the healing truth that I am whole, complete, and lovable. Right now. Not after I achieve xyz. Not after I accomplish this or that. Not after I change my bad habits or anything else. NOW.

If you’re not into the app or the book I mentioned above, you could check her out of Facebook. There you’ll find a multitude of affirmation statements to choose from. If you find one that really resonates, repeat it to yourself aloud and often. She would suggest standing in front of a mirror and looking into your own eyes as the most powerful technique. You can even write your own affirmations by using present tense, first person, positive statements. Here’s a favorite that might just float your boat.

affirmation