Two treats, no trick

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You may love Halloween and be all decked out in costume, or simply tolerate it {guilty — I prefer to choose for myself when to get goofy and act like a zombie, a kitten, a witch or a pumpkin!}. Either way, even more than the shift to fall in September, this day truly marks the line between the holiday season and the rest of the secular year.

It’s a time of darkening days, sweet gatherings, excessive food, and a natural yet often uncomfortable descent into blue moods and quieter energies. A time when balance is hard to find and most sorely needed. So for you, on this hallowed day, a few no-calorie treats:

First, join me for the November 21st FREE Teleclass on Holiday Sanity Solutions. It will set the stage for meaning over madness from Thanksgiving through the new year. Holiday Sanity Solutions — Thursday, November 21, 2013 

Mark Your Calendar Now For This {BETTER THAN FREE} Teleclass!

Gift yourself with simple antidotes for holiday stress. This will be an hour filled with powerful tools and mindset shifts guaranteed to get you through the holiday season with sanity and grace.

  • Learn a simple meditation — even if you think you’re genetically not wired for it!
  • Practice one movement that will release stress from your nervous system instantly.
  • Clarify and embody your intention for the kind of holiday season you want , regardless of external obligations
  • WHEN? Thursday, November 21st, 7:30-8:30 pm ET
  • WHERE? Via phone, from the comfort of your own home! Call-in details will arrive after you’ve helped to share the bounty of the season with some of our less fortunate neighbors.

Second, enjoy three minutes of joy and light via one of my favorite folk/bluegrass/alt duos, Mike + Ruthy. It’s called Bright As You Can and you can check it out HERE.

 

 

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Are You a Bushwhacker or a Pathfinder?

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It’s the end of October already, and you know what that means, don’t you? Yes, it’s the beginning of the beginning of the holiday season. Ready or not, plans will be made, festivities organized, invitations issued and received, gifts bought or made, food purchased and prepared with love and at least a pinch of frayed nerves.

If you have some sort of spiritual practice already in place, this is when the fruits of those labors can bear a powerful harvest. It’s like having a secret, sacred pathway through the inevitable whirlwind that lots of time with family and lots of plans on the calendar can create. Perhaps you don’t anticipate having much of that in the offing, and your practice allows you to carve sacred space out of solitude.

Or maybe bushwhacking is more your style. Even though you know your sister-in-law makes you crazy every Thanksgiving or you tend to get lost in big, noisy parties, you forge ahead each season, hoping for the best. You avidly read articles on surviving the holidays and try to put those ideas into action, and then you open the door and BOOM, the good intentions go scurrying out like the wind.

The Power of Mapping Your Inner Terrain

Unless you’ve already been there, it’s hard to get anywhere without consulting a map or receiving some kind of guidance. It’s not really all that different when thinking about the inner terrain of emotions.

You think you’re moving ahead with no visible potholes or detours and then you find yourself on a rocky road with nothing pointing the way to the next clear road. (Also known as “I swore after last year that I wouldn’t let her get to me!” or “Oh shit, I forgot to stock up on pecans and now the store is out of them!”)

Having a specific practice of mindfulness, gratitude, moving meditation, or whatever speaks most to your heart is like always having your own GPS available. 

  • It carves new, positive pathways in your neurophysiology, allowing you to show up differently in real time situations.
  • It builds your emotional muscles so they are stronger when you’re called to carry a heavier load.
  • It keeps your inner compass pointed to the true north of your soul, inviting deeper connections with yourself and those you love.

Now is a great time to start a new practice or dust off one you’ve put aside. Take time to clear the path ahead so you’re not wildly bushwhacking through the holidays, when what you long to do is savor every moment.

What Do You Say When You Talk to Yourself?

I used to call my Mom “potty mouth.” Not only did she like to use expletives when she dropped things (which she did a lot, bless her, due to incredibly arthritic hands), but she also said things like “how stupid of me!” or “Dumb, Barbara, really dumb” quite frequently. If things didn’t go as she planned or she found herself standing in a room not quite remembering why she walked in, the litany would begin.

So what? you might ask. I say stuff like that all the time and I know  I’m not really stupid. But words have power — our bodies believe every word we say, and our mind lives in every cell of our bodies.

“Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones…”

The new science of neuroplasticity tells us “thinking, learning, and acting actually change both the brain’s physical structure and functional organization.” (from Wikipedia). Research shows that “repetition of the same information or experience may lead to more modifications in the connections that house it, or an increase in the number of connections that can access it…as a result of the amazing plasticity of our brains.”

Consider too the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto. He shows through vivid photographic images how simply placing a written word on a glass of water changes the structure of the water molecules. The structures become more coherent and symmetrical in the presence of words like “love” and “joy” and more fractured in the presence of words like “hate” or “intolerance.”

You are over 75% water – what words and energies do you want reverberating in
your body/mind? Knowing that they are malleable and changeable, how can you shift your train of thought when it starts heading down the path of least resistance?

You can start to call the shots

Thoughts are like bowling. There’s a pathway that you want to send the ball down, and sometimes it lands in the gutter. So you practice your throw and find that it starts staying more easily in the lane, knocking over pins at the end. And with even more practice and concentration, you are able to get that ball down the center and score more strikes with each game.

The mind isn’t that different, and there is a way to keep it out of the gutter – by training it with phrases of loving-kindness and mantras of wellbeing.

It’s clear to me that the more time I spend in meditation and mantra repetition, the more fluid my emotional world is and the less likely I am to stay engaged in negative self-talk when I find myself slipping up.

The Magic of Blessing

Many spiritual paths use blessings and repetition of specific phrases as forms of mind training. Through the concentrated use of these phrases, it’s possible to override negative thought patterns and invoke feelings of peace, happiness and compassion for oneself and others.

Here is a lovely series of phrases from the Buddhist tradition. You invoke them first for yourself, because compassion for others must begin with compassion for oneself, and because we are often harder on ourselves than on anyone else.

After repeating them for a while, replace “I” with the name of someone who has helped you or been an inspiration; then the names of friends and loved ones; then someone who you don’t really know but see in the post office or behind your deli counter; then those who you find especially challenging; and then say the phrases ‘for all beings everywhere.’

May I dwell in the heart,
may I be free from suffering,
may I be healed
may I live with ease.

Stay with this as long as you’d like, and repeat as often as possible. You can even challenge yourself to use this practice in the midst of your busy day, silently sending blessings instead of curses to the slow cashier whose line you’re impatiently stuck in, or the person who honks if you don’t move the millisecond the light turns green. And see if you don’t begin to have more emotional strikes than gutter balls, no matter what is going on around you.

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Step AWAY From Your Keyboard (but first read this)

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I have a question for you — when was the last time you picked up a favorite pen and wrote a letter by hand? How long has it been since you connected through something other than a keyboard and your fingertips?

Last weekend, I attended a workshop on The Art of Letter Writing. But it was about more than the composition of letters — it was also about the physical act of writing, and how that differs from the writing we construct in our computers and phones.

If you spend time journaling or writing anything in longhand, you know it feels differnt in your body. Another set of synapses fire in your nervous system. Your breath deepens and shifts as your hand moves down the page. There is level of care and focus that occurs as you naturally strive to make your writing legible and clear, just as you strive to make your words express your thoughts clearly.

The word calligraphy literally means beautiful writing. It doesn’t necessarily mean “write just like this.” One of the things we explored during our time together was our relationship with our own beautiful writing — no matter what it looks like, it is a unique expression of who we are.

Text and email are fast, fast, fast forms of communication. And as wonderful as that immediacy can be, something is lost in it, too.

  • A sense of connection to our deeper creativity.
  • An understanding that a swift reply is not necessarily the best one.
  • Realizing that “getting something out of the way” doesn’t always make space for something more satisfying to come in.

So your contemplation and challenge is this:

Make time to find your favorite pen and fine paper or card stock and write a letter to someone. It doesn’t have to be long. It can be to someone who is no longer living or whom you’ve never met. You can either send it or not, depending on what you need to say and to whom. The idea is to express yourself freely and fully, in your own beautiful writing, perhaps embellishing it with some doodles or drawings.

You might even want to write to yourself, either in the past or the future. Then consider taking it one step further: seal it in an envelope, stamp and address it, and ask a trusted friend to mail it to you in a few months. What wisdom might you share with your tender self, dear one?

When Simple Presence Is Enough…

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Sometimes, dear friend, words elude me. I just want to stare out the window and watch the leaves fall, attend to the shifting light on the no-longer green trees, become one with the warmth of the teacup against my palms.

This is when I am especially grateful for the poetry of others, the gentle gathering of words that speak the depths of what I am feeling. Here is a particularly beautiful offering by the late John O’Donohue….from my heart to yours.

For Presence

Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses. Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May the warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue Copyright 2008

Love and blessings,

Sharon~*