Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Unplug Occasionally!

It’s been a busy week of connecting and participating in community via the web. I’ve enjoyed a Reiki circle, a yogini prayer ritual, a dance party, an energetic healing ritual, meditations galore, amazing Kundalini yoga classes, an active imagination journey, monthly astrological and energetic updates for April, a play date with my favorite kiddos, a chat with a friend on another continent, a chat with a friend and neighbor who might as well be on another continent, more chats with friends and family, and surely I’m forgetting several other events.

It’s amaaaazing how interconnected we can be these days. I’m so appreciative for all the quality content available from all over the world and the access I have to spiritual and sisterhood communities regardless of my inability to leave the house.

It’s also overwhelming. My nervous system just can’t handle all this connectivity all the time!

Today, I’m taking a break and unplugging. Allowing time to turn inward and acknowledge the array of emotions and spectrum of energy within me that needs to be sorted, processed, some of it released, some of it integrated, much of it welcomed and tended to with kindness.

You might not be able to step away from your electronics for an entire day. I get that. Yet there’s likely something you can dial down, some information you can let lie, a website or two that could be safely ignored, or a brief time out from constant social media connection that would benefit your mental and emotional health.

I’d love to read about how you’re managing this constant barrage of engagement. Just not today.

Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Acknowledge ALL Your Feelings

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster the past two weeks. Much of the time I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the tools and skills that help me navigate the intensity of this global crisis. Frequently I am overwhelmed by grief for the suffering that so many people are enduring. And in between there’s an entire of array of confusing, yet equally potent, feelings.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I experience a lot of joy due to the freedom of a blank schedule. I feel frustration sometimes at being stuck in the house or not having access to the places I want to go. I feel anger when another effing jogger sneaks up from behind me and violates my personal 6′ radius. (Seriously joggers, you are not moving fast enough to escape rival contamination!) I can easily sink into a pit of despair thinking of the debt I will incur if I’m unable to work for months.

This second tier of emotions is easy to explain away by comparing my situation to others. My relentless inner critic wonders how I can be happy, sometimes even thriving, at a time when so many are sick and dying? How can I be so insensitive when others don’t have a house to be stuck in or a credit card with which to buy the food necessary to fill their bellies? What of the hospital employees who willing go to work, the epicenter of contamination without proper protection?

I’ve come to realize that yes, it is absolutely true that millions of others are suffering much, much more than I am. Yet this does not invalidate my emotional response to a very difficult situation. By denying or suppressing my own feelings, I block the flow of life-force energy in my body, putting myself at greater risk for illness and most definitely inhibiting my ability to help those in my community whom I am able to help.

So I’m allowing the full range of emotional expression to work its way through my system. Pretending not to be joyous when I am joyous doesn’t help anyone who is sick and prevents me from receiving the heart healthy rewards of exuding joy. Pretending not to be worried about my bills wreaks havoc in my digestive system when simply acknowledging that I’m worried and that I’ve already done everything in my power supports greater assimilation of nutrients and elimination of waste.

Somewhere there is a balance of accepting and experiencing my emotions and allowing them to move through me without distracting, numbing, avoiding or wallowing. I aim for that balance. Even if I never master this art, every step in the right direction is beneficial to my health and well-being. And that’s good enough for me to continue my efforts.

Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Move Your Body!

I’m finding that all the meditation in the world doesn’t touch the edgy feeling of adrenaline in my system. It’s impossible to connect with the outside world without having a stress response. While I’m over here having a mostly wonderful stay-cation, many people are suffering. I don’t wish to ignore that, and at the same time I recognize that empathetic suffering won’t help them; in fact it diminishes my capacity to support anyone.

Movement, particularly movement that elevates the heart rate, helps the body to process stress hormones. If you are safely able to get your blood pumping, I believe you’ll find it very helpful. My rebounder, this mini trampoline pictured below, is my saving grace these days. There’s not much a vigorous 30 minute bounce can’t cure.

Yes, I know the gyms are closed. Your preferred form of exercise may not currently be available. You may have a tragic relationship with exercise due to 4th grade gym class. I get it. You don’t actually have to enjoy it to benefit. But once you get started, I suspect you just might! Please note that I’m not talking about enduring pain or physical discomfort! That’s not at all what I mean. I am talking about perhaps stepping out of your comfort zone for the sake of your mental, emotional, and physical health during this crisis.

There are all kinds of activities available for free right now online. Vinyasa yoga and fitness classes are more readily available than ever. If you have stairs in your home, a dozen trips up and down should do the trick. My personal favorite is dancing. All you need is your go-to foot tapping music and a little bit of space.

Don’t overthink it. It doesn’t have to be perfect and no one is judging your moves or lack thereof. Just choose a safe and sensible activity and give it a try for 10 minutes. Notice how you feel. Check in with your body. Does it want more? Need a rest? Tone it down? Ramp it up? It will guide you if you listen. You have all the information you need within yourself.

Just like any other journey, take that first step and let your inner wisdom lead.

Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Trust Your Intuition

For those of us who are healthy and confined at home, this is an opportunity to slow down, get quiet and listen to the still, small voice within. We’re faced with such a huge volume of information, much of it conflicting, some of it utter nonsense, that it’s often hard to make sense of it all.

When in doubt, I trust my gut. My intuition has been guiding me for months now to prepare for this crisis. I’ve been stockpiling books and tea and essential oils without knowing why. Now I know! Hundreds of subtle nudges have led me to be much more comfortable in this situation than if had I ignored them. (If only I hadn’t overridden the message to not purchase a monthly transit pass for March, I’d have an extra $130 in my pocket. Oh well, I have taken note! Don’t argue with the gut!)

As I lean into this internal guidance system, my trust deepens and the messages are easier to decode. Generally I don’t know why I’m urged to go to a particular place at a seemingly random time until I get there and find the very thing I didn’t even know I was looking for! Given that I’m mostly moving between the chair and the couch lately, the messages are more often related to reaching out virtually to someone or which meditation or yoga class to enjoy. Still, each step in the right direction brings me closer to my greatest good.

My sense that I’ve been gently herded towards maximum health, safety and comfort by a higher power was confirmed when I received a message with this picture attached. My dear friend Rod is creating a multi-layered chakra affirmation painting for me. He started with root chakra affirmations, painting each next layer on top of the last and for some seemingly random (but I know otherwise!) reason captured the 6th chakra and shared it with me.

I wrote these words several months ago and believe them to be true. Yet it was still very powerful to be reminded of this Truth. I am guided. Every step of the way. And when I remember this and take guided action, I am empowered and more likely to experience my optimal reality.

Won’t you join me in taking this time-out in our collective narrative to tune-in to your inner guidance system and develop a relationship with your intuition? It does take patience and practice, but I can promise you that it’s worth the effort!

Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Support Someone in Need

Well, it’s official. The mayor of Philadelphia has essentially sent me to my room. As an introverted homebody, I’m actually looking forward to an even slower pace and the challenges of occupying myself without any outside influence. It’s a brilliant time to get creative in the kitchen since it’s clear that popping out for snack food can literally kill me. Strange times!

Many other people have had a less cheerful reaction to the shelter at home restriction. If you’re healthy and confined, I have some ideas to help ease the tension. Stress is incredibly damaging to the immune system, and minimizing it is probably the most important thing you can do for your health aside from social distancing and hand washing.

Given that I have some time on my very clean hands, I recognize this as a brilliant opportunity to devote more time to my blog. I keep saying I want to do that, but life interferes. With much of life on hold for the moment, I have no excuses. I’ve cancelled all my appointments except the long-distance Reiki healing sessions, and since I have no commute for those, I’m blessed with the gift of free time. So here we go.

Once you’ve done all the things you need to do for your own wellness, consider how you can help someone else. Is there one small step you can take to make someone’s life easier? Can you help a local business stay afloat? Can you reach out to someone who might need to hear a friendly voice?

Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

The clients, students and friends I speak with who are actively engaged in being supportive to others seem to be faring much better than those who are obsessed with their own microcosms. Don’t get me wrong, first we need to attend to our own stuff, emotions included, but shifting the focus to someone who might be needing a hand can work wonders. It doesn’t need to be an expensive or heroic act either.

Today I reached out to the farmers I usually buy my produce from at the farmers market. I figure they have vegetables, I want vegetables, there must be a way to connect. I’d much rather spend my money with local merchants who must be struggling than support the richest man on earth by ordering online. I was delighted (perhaps overly so!) to hear that I can get my veggies at the end of the week and even more delighted to have shared a brief connection with the farmer.

It was a small act, but really the high point of my day. I suspect we have a lot of days ahead sheltering at home, and I’m eager to make the most of them. Lending a helping hand where I can is definitely going on my to-do list. I’d love to hear about ways others are being supportive. You never know what might inspire another person to take action.

Is There Enough?(Hint: Yes! If We Change the Way We Look at Life)

I probably sound like a groupie, but I am utterly enchanted by Dr. Rick Hanson’s work. I just read his newsletter, Just One Thing, Simple practices for resilient happiness from Rick Hanson, Ph.D. , and immediately wanted to shout from the rooftop.

Resilient happiness. Who doesn’t want that?

The newsletter is free, informative and totally relatable. I enjoy reading it every week. Today’s message was about feeling already full. I’m simply going to copy and paste the entire thing here as he says it all.

No, I am not financially affiliated or rewarded in any way for promoting his (or anybody’s) work. This is just too helpful not to share!

Is There Enough?

The Practice:

Feel already full.
Why?

One slice of the pie of life feels relaxed and contented. And then there is that other slice, in which we feel driven and stressed. Trying to get pleasures, avoid pains, pile up accomplishments and recognitions, be loved by more people. Lose more weight, try to fill the hole in the heart. Slake the thirst, satisfy the hunger. Strive, strain, press.

This other slice is the conventional strategy for happiness. We pursue it for four reasons.

1. The brain evolved through its reptilian, mammalian, and primate/human stages to meet three needs: avoid harms, approach rewards, and attach to others. In terms of these three needs, animals that were nervous, driven, and clinging were more likely to survive and pass on their genes – which are woven into our DNA today. Try to feel not one bit uneasy, discontented, or disconnected for more than a few seconds, let alone a few minutes.

2. You’re bombarded by thousands of messages each day that tell you to want more stuff. Even if you turn off the TV, worth in our culture is based greatly on accomplishments, wealth, and appearance; you have to keep improving, and the bar keeps rising.

3. Past experiences, especially young ones, leave traces that are negatively biased due to the Velcro-for-pain but Teflon-for-pleasure default setting of the brain. So there’s a background sense of anxiety, resentment, loss, hurt, or inadequacy, guilt, or shame that makes us over-react today.

4. To have any particular perception, emotion, memory, or desire, the brain must impose order on chaos, signals on noise. In a mouthful of a term, this is “cognitive essentializing.” The brain must turn verbs – dynamic streams of neural activity – into nouns: momentarily stable sights, sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and thoughts. Naturally, we try to hold onto the ones we like. But since neural processing continually changes, all experiences are fleeting. They slip through your fingers as you reach for them, an unreliable basis for deep and lasting happiness. Yet so close, so tantalizing . . . and so we keep reaching.

For these reasons, deep down there is a sense of disturbance, not-enoughness, unease. Feeling threatened and unsafe, disappointed and thwarted, insufficiently valued and loved. Driven to get ahead, to fix oneself, to capture an experience before it evaporates. So, we crave and cling, suffer and harm. As if life were a cup – with a hole in the bottom – that we keep trying to fill. A strategy that is both fruitless and stressful.

All the world’s wisdom traditions point out this truth: that the conventional strategy for happiness is both doomed and actually makes us unhappier. The theistic traditions (e.g., Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity) describe this truth as the inherently unsatisfying nature of a life that is separated from an underlying Divine reality. The agnostic traditions (e.g., Buddhism) describe it as the inherent suffering in grasping or aversion toward innately ephemeral experiences.

Call this the truth of futility. Recognizing it has been both uncomfortable and enormously helpful for me, since you gradually realize that it is pointless to “crave” – to stress and strain over fleeting experiences. But there is another truth, also taught in the wisdom traditions, though perhaps not as forthrightly. This is the truth that there is always already an underlying fullness.

When this truth sinks in emotionally, into your belly and bones, you feel already peaceful, happy, and loved. There is no need for craving, broadly defined, no need to engage an unhappy strategy for happiness. And you have more to offer others now that your cup is truly full.
How?

Recognize the lies built into the conventional strategy for happiness to wake up from their spells. Mother Nature whispers: You should feel threatened, frustrated, lonely. Culture and commerce say: You need more clothes, thinner thighs, better beer; consume more and be like the pretty people on TV. The residues of past experiences, especially young ones, mutter in the background: You’re not that smart, attractive, worthy; you need to do more and be more; if you just have X, you’ll get the life you want. The essentializing nature of cognition implies: Crave more, cling more, it will work the next time, really.

As you see through these lies, recognize the truth of fullness. In terms of your core needs to avoid harms, approach rewards, and attach to others, observe: that you are basically alright right now; that this moment of experience has an almost overwhelming abundance of stimulation, and you probably live better than the kings and queens of old; and that you are always intimately connected with all life, and almost certainly loved. Regarding our consumerist and status-seeking culture, consider what really matters to you – for example, if you were told you had one year to live – and notice that you already have most if not all of what matters most. In terms of the messages from previous experiences, look inside to see the facts of your own natural goodness, talents, and spirit. And about the impermanent nature of experience, notice what happens when you let go of this moment: another one emerges, the vanishing Now is endlessly renewed.

Abiding in fullness doesn’t mean you sit on your thumbs. It’s normal and fine to wish for more pleasure and less pain, to aspire and create, to lean into life with passion and purpose, to pursue justice and peace. But we don’t have to want for more, fight with more, drive for more, clutch at more. While the truth of futility is that it is hopeless to crave, the truth of fullness is that it’s unnecessary.

Finding this fullness, let it sink in. For survival purposes, the brain is good at learning from the bad, but bad at learning from the good. So, help it by enriching an experience through making it last a 10-20 seconds or longer, fill your body and mind, and become more intense. Also absorb it by intending and sensing that it is sinking into you as you sink into it. Do this half a dozen times a day, maybe half a minute at a time. It’s less than five minutes a day. But you’ll be gradually weaving a profound sense of being already fundamentally peaceful, happy, loved, and loving into the fabric of your brain and your life.

Needless to say I highly recommend signing up to receive this gem in your inbox every week. He also links his podcast, classes, and other news in the world of resilient happiness. And I want that for all of us.

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Rejected. Thank Goodness!

Today I received a “thank you for your application, but…” email from a local non-profit group I want to volunteer for. Or at least I thought I want to volunteer. As I’ve been waiting to learn if I was in or not, I’d begun to feel anxious about the time requirements, both for the training and the monthly commitment afterwards. I’d put several other opportunities on hold to save time for this group and felt mildly resentful about that too.

So now I feel as if a burden has been lifted! Once again I didn’t know what I really wanted and chose to pursue something that wasn’t an ideal match for my needs. In fact, had I been accepted, I can now see that one of my favorite pastimes would have been irrevocably linked in my mind to volunteering and likely forever tainted by a sense of obligation .

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

How cool is it that fate or the Universe or Divine Planning (or whatever you want to call it!) didn’t give me the thing I thought I wanted that I really didn’t? Not only that, but during my interview I was given the name of a book that actually contains the information that drove me to seek out the training in the first place. Perhaps that was the whole point!

Most magical of all, I’ve been able to see this potentially upsetting news as the gift that it really is. If it weren’t for my consistent practice of filling myself up with Reiki before getting out of bed every morning, I would have likely been sucked into a downward self-pity spiral. Instead I was able to tap into my inner resilience and wisdom.

I tell my students that Reiki always works, just not always in the ways we want it to. I had been using Reiki to support my hopes of being accepted into the program. I didn’t get what I thought I wanted, but I did get what I needed. Fortunately Reiki can see the bigger picture and has my highest good prioritized. My only job is to activate it, trust, and follow through on the steps I’m guided to take.

Whew! That’s totally doable.

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