Urban Adventure Meets Ancient Wisdom

Last week I headed downtown for a change of scenery. I don’t get out of the neighborhood very often these days and I was getting a bit antsy. The bar for excitement is set pretty low right now, so I’m choosing to call this excursion an “adventure”. It’s all relative, right?!

I met a friend for an outdoor chat and then set off with several free hours and no agenda. Naturally, I was drawn to find some yummy treats on this journey. 🙂 I splurged on an organic, gluten-free, vegan cupcake that was almost as heavenly as sitting in the sunshine somewhere besides my porch for a change. Not the greatest photo, but it isn’t all that easy to balance a very dear dessert in one hand and snap a pic with the other in the middle of a public park!

.

This delight inspired a tour of my other favorite dessert dispensers, and I’m sad to report that two had closed down over the past year. Sigh. But my spirits remained high because I was out of the house and had no responsibilities; so a-wandering I went. I allowed curiosity and beauty to guide my way. I’ve always found the colonial alleyways of Philadelphia to be charming, so I meandered, trying to avoid the busier streets and absorbing the essence of the hidden nooks and crannies of the city.

Which is how I stumbled upon this interactive installation, courtesy of the Mural Arts Philadelphia program.

The Atlas of Tomorrow by Candy Chang. Photo by Steve Weinik

I was perplexed that passersby kept passing by without a glance! We city-folk can be like that sometimes. But as I stopped to read the instructions and took a spin of the wheel, others began show interest. Number 17 came up for me. That’s my birthdate and chosen numerical talisman, so I wasn’t at all surprised when it popped up out of 64 possibilities.

“THE NOISY MAN: if you want to be heard, adapt to the changes of this world. Examine your opinions and prejudices. Power lies in meeting the needs of others.” This was the message conveyed by my spin on this intriguing wheel.

Exactly what I needed to hear! It was more potent after allowing a sense of wonder to navigate my adventure and after discovering the closed restaurants, which had apparently been unable to adapt to the changes of this world.

The universe is full of magic and beauty if we only pay attention and follow the guidance of spirit. I’m reminded of Joseph Campbell’s famous quote, “Follow your bliss.” Well, this path of bliss via healthy-ish cupcakes and charming alleys led me to a surprising gift and reawakened my intention to let my spirit guide the way. I can’t wait to see what appears next!

Leave the Red Zone, by Dr. Rick Hanson

My inbox is quite the mixed bag today! There’s an astrology report announcing super-intense cosmic energies and a weather forecast predicting a major winter storm in my area. All this on top of so many people already struggling with cabin fever. Massive snow seems to bring out either the very best or the very worst in Philadelphians. Some people gladly shovel their neighbors’ sidewalks and others get aggressively proprietorial about parking spots. All in all, I’m expecting a very interesting next few days!

If you find yourself stressed out, overwhelmed, frazzled or irritable, you might enjoy this blog by Dr. Rick Hanson. He outlines some simple techniques for cultivating inner calm despite outer chaos. Stress has major physiological affects which can negatively affect one’s health over time. I can personally attest to the beneficial results of these methods. The more consistently I apply them, the happier I am.

Whatever the world is throwing at you, there’s help to be had for minimal investment of time and effort. Safe, easy, and free plus the side effects of improving focus, relationships, and overall wellness? It’s a no-brainer for sure!

Efforts Rewarded!

I’m accustomed to strangers telling me their life stories. Dr. Judith Orloff’s book, The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, is helping me to understand that my compassionate presence attracts people needing compassion. As you might imagine, listening to the problems of people, lots of people, some of whom I’ve never met before can be somewhat draining, if not downright exhausting. So I’ve been working with energetic techniques to protect myself (thank you Dr. Orloff!) and to shift this pattern. Guess what? It’s working!

This morning there was a man sitting in front of my home, apparently supervising work on the house across the street. Conversation went from “Hello” to “Beautiful morning, isn’t it?” to “This is great weather, my allergies are practically gone.” At this point, I’m poised to bolt as historically this type of statement was followed by a lengthy description of symptoms and suffering. Really. It happens to me. All. The. Time!

Or, it used to. 😉

But this gentleman, with a sparkling smile, went on to tell me about a plant remedy. A holistic concoction that has helped with his asthma, allergies, arthritis, and various other aches and pains. Something I had never heard of, and sounded completely bizarre. (Normally I’m the one saying such things!) How refreshing!

I suspect he was sent to support my transition by acting as an indicator that I’m on the right track, and that assistance comes in all sorts of unexpected packages. Fascinating! Because of the grounding and shielding practices I’ve been using to protect my energy field, I was able to enjoy a random interaction with a stranger rather than heading for the hills.

I’m sharing this here in case anyone else tends to attract emotional dumpers or drainers and has yet to learn that there is hope beyond moving to a deserted island. I doubt that I’m forever free of hearing about people’s problems and ailments, but it is encouraging to have a different experience after making an effort to attract different experiences! I really can’t say enough about how useful this book is. If it can help me be less vulnerable out in the world, I’m guessing it can help you too.

“We’ve got it so good and it’s still hard.”

I was struck by the wisdom of these words overheard at the farmers’ market the other day. It’s been a rough 10 months for most of us. Pretending that it isn’t hard just because others have it harder isn’t particularly helpful. I often hear people who have the privilege of a safe and comfortable home, plenty of food on the table, and good health downplay their struggles, knowing that others are suffering more.

It’s nearly impossible to take action to improve a situation if you deny that it exists. Acknowledging that it’s hard to be separated from loved ones or restricted to one building, no matter how lovely it may be, is the first step to creating solutions- compromises probably, but something that can at least begin to fill the gaping hole where hugs from grandchildren and travel used to reside.

Admitting that these times are hard allows us to fine-tune the adjustments we wish to make. It allows us to draw on the resilience that is present, although possibly inactive, in everyone. Most of us haven’t had to endure any sort of lasting challenge like this, but our ancestors survived World Wars and The Great Depression. Clearly we come from hearty stock or we wouldn’t be alive today!

“We can do hard things.” Another sentence crammed with wisdom, this one from Glennon Doyle’s Untamed.

I’m not suggesting to exclusively shift your focus to the difficulties you are facing. Thoughts are powerful things and it pays to choose them wisely. But just as ignoring the “check engine” light on your dashboard will not lead to a perfectly operational vehicle, neither does avoiding your feelings lead to wellbeing. Just as the light is meant to motivate a visit to the mechanic, noticing your emotional state can propel you to getting the help you need.

Somewhere there is a balance between wallowing in self-pity and disregarding an unpleasant truth. Allowing ourselves to accept what is real gives us greater power to create change. Freeing up all that energy of projecting a shiny façade enables us to see more clearly how we can make the most of what we’ve got and how we might be able to assist those who have less.

Wherever you are on the difficulty spectrum, I wish you greater ease and comfort. If you’re in a position to lend a hand to another, please do so. There’s very likely a food bank or shelter or agency in your area that’s overwhelmed by demand or a neighbor who could benefit from a small act of kindness. I know from personal experience that you’ll feel better if you do and your efforts will ripple outward into the world.

Yes, it’s hard. Fortunately we can do hard things.

Help for Empaths

I’ve been revisiting the tools and techniques in The Emphath’s Survival Guide; Life Strategies for Sensitive People over the last few months. As the fear and anger in the collective realm continue to escalate, I’ve been finding a need to step up my protective mechanisms.

Judith Orloff, MD says, “Empaths have an extremely reactive neurological system. We don’t have the same filters that other people do to block out stimulation. As a consequence, we absorb into our own bodies both the positive and stressful energies around us.”

If you’ve ever been scolded for being “too sensitive” or commanded to “toughen up”, you might be an empath.

If you’ve ever wished you had armor like Ultraman, you might be an empath.

If strangers tell you their problems and people dump their emotional garbage on you and it feels like being slimed by ectoplasm, similar to what happened in Ghostbusters, you might be an empath.

If you’ve ever wanted to move to a remote forest with no neighbors, well that’s probably a human thing, but if you’ve actually looked up properties in Alaska and learned how to make your own candles, then you might be an empath!

The good news is that once you understand that there’s nothing wrong with you, that sensitivity can be a blessing, that there are ways to protect yourself that don’t come in a bottle or loaded with sugar, you can take action to cultivate your wellness. In these pages, you’ll find great wisdom to help you navigate. I sure have!

Simple Wake-Up Practice to Influence Your Day

I recently posted about my morning ritual, an elaborate and highly personalized, somewhat flexible routine that I designed to maximize my well-being. I’m following that up with a simpler, yet still very effective, technique for those who cringe at the thought of devoting so much time to a daily practice. I will reiterate that it doesn’t really matter what you do, just that you do it with consistency. There are countless approaches to health and healing. Choose one that suits you.

I’m a huge fan of Dr. Rick Hanson’s work. He teaches practical tips for maximizing well-being based on neuroscience. If you’re interested in starting your mornings off with an easy strategy for “growing the good” based on research and facts, I highly recommend this blog post.

“There is a traditional saying that the mind takes its shape from whatever it rests upon.” Why not make a choice to rest your mind on something positive to get your day going on the right foot? I look forward to getting his free newsletter every week, and this particular one really hit home.

Enjoy!

Ask Rick: What Can I Do To Minimize Holiday Stress?

I found these tips from Dr. Rick Hanson’s newletter to be very doable, simple and quite effective. “Slow down, do less.” Good advice for most of us during the season of cold, long nights. I’ve copied it below in case anyone needs some gentle guidance.
In your body, keep engaging the balance to the sympathetic nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Potential ways to do this include long exhalations, relaxing the tongue, warming the hands, and relaxing the body as a whole.

In your emotions, keep turning to the small positive experiences available during the holidays: for example, decorations are pretty, oranges smell good, it’s fun to go sledding, kids are cute, and it feels sweet to make others happy. Then take a dozen seconds or more to savor the positive experience so that it can transfer from short-term memory buffers to long-term emotional memory, and thus really sink into you.
Take care of your body, emotions, thoughts, and actions.
In your thoughts, beware “shoulds” and “musts.” The things we do during the holidays are only means to ends: goals such as happiness, love, sacredness, generosity, and fun. If the means get in the way of the ends – as they so often do at this time of year – it is time to lighten up about the means. Keep coming back to simplicity inside your own mind as an end in itself: the simple truth that in this moment, each moment, you are actually basically alright; the simple fullness of being in the present, not regretting the past or worrying about or planning the future.

In your actions, slow down and do less. Keep coming back to your breathing as you look for gifts, do dishes, wrap presents, or visit friends. Don’t let others rush you. Be kind; cut others slack; this time could be stressful for them, too.

One last thought would be the reflection that the practices of thought, word, and deed that lead to sanity during the holidays sound like a pretty good way to live year round!

Change Me Prayers

“Change me, Divine Beloved, into One who honors my emotions. Let me have my feelings without judgment, and then release them. May I feel deserving to say no when needed. Show me how to be kind and loving to the child inside who needs care.”

This little gem comes from Tosha Silver’s book Change Me Prayers. It resonated with me deeply this morning and intuition tells me that others can benefit from these wise words as well, so I’m sharing them here.

My emotions are all over the place these days, and I hear the same from people of all walks of life. I’ve observed that the simple practice of noticing and accepting whatever comes up without attachment, denial, or aversion contributes tremendously to my ability to return to peace with greater ease.

Witnessing all the parts of myself is essential for reclaiming wholeness. I cannot be whole if I’m rejecting any aspect of myself, including inconvenient or uncomfortable emotions. I’ve spent decades and loads of money and energy avoiding grief and anger only to discover it controlling my behavior from the shadows. Now I’m choosing to face it head on and allowing it to flow through me.

It is my hope for all of us to cultivate and enjoy inner calm despite the turmoil of the outer world. Tosha’s book, and this prayer in particular, are simple tools for spending maximum time feeling as serene as possible. Why not give it whirl and see what happens?

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

I talk a lot about the follow-up steps after a Reiki session; paying attention and taking inspired action. (My most recent post about this, You Don’t Need to Know How, can be found here.) Healing isn’t usually something that just occurs voila! in a treatment and then you’re all done, ✔. I suppose that might happen occasionally, but more often than not, we are given directions to the next step on the journey of recovering health and wholeness. It’s then up to us to follow through. Or not.

The perfect circumstances in my own life have aligned to illustrate this. I’m sharing it here because I am often greeted with blank stares when I tell clients to watch for insights and synchronicities that occur in the days following their sessions. Generally these hints turn us in directions we are unlikely to have found on our own. Yet if you don’t know what to look for, it can be easy to miss them.

Here’s my example.

I yearn for a sense of belonging. It’s been an elusive experience in my life, partially because I’m an introvert and have some peculiar habits, a ridiculously early bedtime and a very low tolerance for superficial conversation. This is compounded by frequent callings to up and move across the country every 8 years or so. While I have occasional glimpses of belonging, most of the time I feel like a misfit. I don’t see that changing, but I would enjoy being a part of a larger community of misfits. 🙂

A friend mentioned a teacher/author that he appreciates and so I followed her blog, bought her book, and happened to be sitting in front of my laptop when an invitation arrived from her. An online class, the description of which used different language, but essentially outlined a way to grow a sense of belonging wherever you are. Yes please! But completely beyond my budget given a recent out-of-pocket root canal and dental crown. But a 50% scholarship was offered, I applied, and was accepted. Some might call this grace. I call it Following the Yellow Brick Road.

Wait, there’s more! During this online class, we were given an assignment to learn the history of the land we live in, as well as the native flora and fauna. Well I couldn’t tell the difference between an oak and an elm tree and all those little birds pretty much look the same to me. A search of the library’s catalog showed nothing helpful and I hadn’t yet made it to the local bookstore when I received an email from a colleague inviting me on a hike organized by the group that maintains the wooded area near my home.

I’m not able to attend this particular hike, but when I signed up for the group’s newsletter, I was alerted that they are soon beginning the next round of volunteer training. A training that covers the history of the woods I so love to visit and the native flora and fauna there as well. Ding, ding, ding! I filled out the application, and was delighted to receive an email containing the training dates, which by some miracle (or grace or Follow the YBR magic) align with my somewhat impossible schedule.

The next day I received another email inviting me to schedule an interview with the volunteer director on one of the next several Saturdays. Saturdays are my busiest workday. I have appointments scheduled every Saturday for the next 10 weeks. But this coming Saturday, I have nothing booked in the afternoon and therefore am able to easily make this interview. This is exactly what I mean! I never could have planned this. I’m just following the road that is emerging before my very eyes.

I haven’t yet been accepted into this program. I might not be. I might not even want to be. I’m in a curious place of non-attachment, recognizing that if it’s meant to be, it will be. If it’s not meant to be, it has at the very least opened my eyes to the possibility of divine intervention through the unlikeliest of methods: email! All I know for sure is that I’m going to the interview and will keep following the clues as they appear, clearly showing me the way on The Yellow Brick Road.

All I need do is pay attention and take inspired action. Period. I don’t need to see the big picture, or even know where the next turn is. Obviously this doesn’t absolve me from making plans for my next vacation or paying my bills, but when it comes to healing it’s become crystal clear to me that I’ll be shown the way. Every single step!

New Moon Intentions

Yesterday we were gifted with the energy of a new moon, a time when the cosmic energies are supportive of planting the seeds for that which we’d like to harvest. I recognize the vast wisdom of astrology, but have yet to learn the language. Currently my bandwidth is fully occupied with other pursuits, so I turn to The Power Path School of Shamanism updates for a user friendly, fully digested version of what’s happening in the universe.

Here’s what they have to say about this month’s new moon energies:

“This moon supports expansion, freedom, practicality, a higher sense of intuition and beauty, and an increase in your inner awareness of what you want, what you can have and what you deserve.  This is the “proactive change” growing teeth and getting grounded in something substantial as you anchor a new vision or a new project.  
“This new moon also initiates a time frame of preparedness for what is coming in the future. It is not too early to get thinking about your goals and desires for the months to come. And, whatever you can get rid of that is no longer useful during this new moon time will make space for what you really want.
 
“This is a social time where you can share your visions and get support. Celebrate change, progress and all the aspects of your life that are on the move to something better, bigger, grander and more balanced. Be sure to take some time for self care as your emotional and physical health is a major component of being prepared for the future. If you have some clarity about what you want, this new moon is also a great time for actually making a concrete list of what is clear to you and how you plan to go about manifesting it.” 

I had the great joy of hosting a small gathering of people in my office last night. We joined together as a community to witness one another’s intentions and share a layering of energetic tools to support our goals. I’m all about stacking practices- a term I use to describe the combining of a variety of techniques to maximize outcome.

Keeping the quality of the astrological forecast in mind, we used the powers of awareness and connection, sound vibration (via my amaaaaazing crystal bowl), Reiki and all its potent symbols, grounding aromatherapy (cypress, cinnamon, rosemary- yum!), and a deck of oracle cards to offer concrete wisdom about how to proceed. (Forgiveness was the beginning point according to the group reading. Isn’t that always the case?!) All of this was amplified by the dynamism of intention, further amplified by the group’s combined efforts.

The invitation is clear. At the very least we all have the power of intention and the influence of the mind-body connection. Stack this with the understanding of the currents of the new moon energies and every tool you have at your disposal, and take a few moments to align yourself with the future you desire. Our vibration is constantly influencing our experiences, why not make the effort to influence them in our preferred direction?