Ready For The Good Stuff?

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Homemade cookies fresh from the oven.

Cards and notes from faraway friends.

Time with the ones you love, even if they’re the ones that drive you the craziest.

This is the season when we get particularly focused on what we are thankful for. I know a bunch of folks who are posting daily gratitudes on Facebook. And for the past few months, on most nights before I go to sleep, I’ve enjoyed a practice of listing five things I was grateful for that day. I keep a beautiful journal and a pen on my night table so it’s easier to remember to do it.

As someone who has a tendency toward depression, especially as the days grow short, dark and cold, this regular focus on gratitude helps me to keep things real. Since the brain is naturally wired for the negative, maintaining a focus on the positive goes beyond the new-agey or any hint of superficial fluff — it infuses us with the truth that life is never all one thing or another.

Bad days happen — shit, bad months or years can happen! And yet…and yet…any opportunity to slow down and recognize all that is good and working in our lives (roof over the head, food in the bowl, cozy socks on a cold morning, working stove to boil water for tea) is an opportunity for wonder. For awakening. For remembering and taking our place in the mosaic of life.

Take Stock of What You Are Taking Stock Of

What do you want to give your energy to? Where does it make the most sense to focus your precious time and emotional bandwidth?

This month, I have also seen friends on FB protesting stores opening Thanksgiving night to usher in the holiday shopping madness as early as possible. I am not a proponent of this practice, but I have to wonder: what about the people who DON’T have family or friends to be with that day? What about the person who is struggling financially and is thrilled to pick up extra hours, perhaps at a higher pay rate?

Maybe this is something that they are thankful for, along with the people who will have had their fill of family and friends and be happy to do some shopping on their way home.

What I most want to know is this:

  • What are you grateful for and why does it matter to you?
  • Where are you putting your energy, and does it feed you or deplete you?
  • How will you make this holiday season one of meaning, connection and sacredness?

If you want a safe container to explore these questions, please join me for the

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.
 
HOW MUCH? Free with your donation of any size to Feeding America. Simply go to their site, make your donation, then email me to confirm at sharon@heartofselfcare.com. This will automatically register you, and the call-in info will follow.
*Why BETTER THAN FREE? This time of year is, more than any other, about caring and sharing. It can also be about busier schedules, greater distractions and emotional surfing on many levels. And in all of this, your natural desire to be generous and share your life’s bounty with others might fall to a back burner, a great idea you somehow never quite get around to (been there, done that).
I got this idea from a marketing coach and was very inspired by it — so much so that I made a more generous donation than I might have otherwise, and still haven’t gotten around to looking at his material! I hope that something in this inspires you too. One of the greatest gifts most of us have is the ability to pretty much eat whatever we want whenever we want it. I feel passionate about helping others to simply have enough food to end the day feeling nourished and satisfied.

Aside

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.

 

 

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.

Assume The Position

What is the most important part of a meditation practice? Most would say it is being present to your breath, focusing on a mantra, opening your heart to God, feeling connected to the Oneness that binds all of us together in the web of life.

But after years of dancing in, out and around having a consistent practice, I believe that the most important part is sitting down. First there is getting yourself to stop whatever you are doing and actually get your tush on the cushion. That part is huge, and one of the biggest obstacles most of us face.

And then there is the posture itself — relaxed yet upright, spine straight yet fluid, base firm and solid, hands resting lightly on the knees or thighs, eyes closed or half-closed with an unfocused gaze, shoulders down, face soft and jaw unclenched. It is a regal posture; you are saying with your body “Here I am, present and attentive to whatever shows up, whatever thoughts or sensations or emotions flash through my being.” It also says “Here I am, taking my place in the lineage of people who seek to know themselves and how their minds work, so we can relate to ourselves and others with more compassion, wisdom and grace.”

Assuming the position on a fairly regular basis allows your muscles, bones and nervous system to acclimate to what that posture means. It allows cellular memory to build, so that even in your most unruly, agitated meditations, bringing awareness to your body brings you back to the task at hand. If the mind is indeed a monkey, swinging from branches and grabbing at bananas, then lightly touching into the sensation of our body in the meditative posture can slow the movement down and offer it an anchor.

So if you want to meditate but think you can’t, or are having trouble staying with the practice because your mind just WON’T…STOP…WHIRRING, forget about trying to meditate. Instead, make an appointment with yourself to sit for a few minutes every day; relaxed yet upright, spine straight yet fluid, base firm and solid, hands resting lightly on the knees or thighs, eyes closed or half-closed with an unfocused gaze, shoulders down, face soft and jaw unclenched. Take a regal posture.

Feel yourself suspended in space, either on your cushion or on a chair, embodying the solid, compassionate posture of a meditator.  Pay attention to your breath as it moves in and out of your lungs, and let your awareness connect gently with the feel of your tush and legs as they contact the seat, or your hands as they rest on your thighs. Your body holds much wisdom and a huge capacity for sense memory. Train it to carry you to where you think you cannot go.

This Could be The Best Part of Your Day

So, what is the best part of YOUR day? Is it that first sip of coffee (or tea, as in my case)? The moment you hit “send” on that email you’re been putting off for almost a week? The unexpected smile and kiss you get from your teenager? Or is it the moment that you finally get to put your head on the pillow after getting through another overfull and mostly uninspired day?

For those on a path of mindful living, the best moment can be any moment we are fully awake to; it is the ability to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. A cat lying in a patch of sun, a squirrel running frantically across the lawn with its cheeks full of seeds, even a spiderweb that we really look at before we knock it down or suck it into the vacuum cleaner; putting our mind chatter on hold and being fully present to any moment is an extraordinary gift and challenge.

There is so much emphasis in popular culture on being the best, the most amazing, the superstar!! Yet most of daily life is filled with boring or ordinary things, many of which need to get done, some of which we choose but are not quite thrilled by: it’s easier to love a clean sink than the act of dealing with grimy, greasy dishes.

What if this moment, this small, simple moment of taking time to read these words and pause a bit from what may be a chaotic day, could be the best part of your day? What would that mean for you? A smile. A memory of some silly, tender moment with your child, your dog, your best friend. A realization that whatever else is happening, whatever else needs to happen, can wait and the world will not fall apart. That presence trumps perfection, and you are running the control panel of your awareness.

So tell me…what is the best part of your day?

 

Some Notes on Faith

Yesterday I bought myself a “transition gift,” a sparkly strand of small white/gold Swarovski crystals surrounding a gold bead etched with the word FAITH. It represents this poignant moment in time as I continue becoming a motherless daughter, finally leave a location and healing practice I’ve been associated with for 20+ years, publish my first book and step more fully away from the work of massage into a primarily spiritual and emotional healing realm.

For me, FAITH is a promise of good things to come and the ability to weather the rough spots with my sails intact. FAITH is the absence of cynicism and narcissism, both so rampant in modern culture. It is FAITH in something larger than myself weaving reality together, even when I’m not always sure of the weaver’s form or existence. And it is the ability to have FAITH in myself above all, in my own hard-won wisdom and innate goodness, in my need and right to take my seat fully at the table and share gifts of heart and soul that assist others in taking their place fully in a world that needs so many more healed souls.

In her book Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience, Sharon Salzberg writes:

“Faith does not require a belief system and is not necessarily connected to a deity or God, though it doesn’t deny one. This faith is not a commodity we either have or don’t have — it is an inner quality that unfolds as we learn to trust our own deepest experience.

Such faith is not superficial or sentimental. It doesn’t say everything will turn out all right…Life is not likely to deliver only pleasant events. Faith entails the understanding that we don’t know how things will unfold. Even so, faith allows us to claim the possibility that we ourselves might change in ways that will allow us to recognize and trust the helping hands stretched towards us. It enables us to aspire to a better life than the one we have inherited.”

Yes, this is the FAITH I am reminded of when I look at the sparkly stones and word encircling my wrist. FAITH that I can go on without my mother’s love and guidance and inherited way of skewing towards the pain and negativity of life. FAITH that I have something valuable and necessary to offer besides what I can do with my hands (and I was blessed with really great hands, hands that find sore spots and know how to ease them). FAITH that as I step fully into the new and unknown, the path will open before me and my feet will always find a place to land.

Take a few moments to think about your own relationship to faith. What do you have faith in? Do you allow yourself to touch into your essential goodness on a daily basis? Can you reach a little higher, a little deeper, to connect with the faith you may have temporarily lost touch with? How does faith live in you? Please share…and check out the beautiful bracelet at sealedwithlove.com.

3 Simple Ways to Welcome Spring

1) As more light comes into our lives, think light in terms of your food intake. Not to eat so little you feel hungry or unsatisfied, but in terms of what foods you eat — when you eat clean, you can eat a lot and not feel heavy, congested or tired.

What does “clean food” mean?

  • Fill your plate at least half with salads and fresh cooked vegetables, then let the other half be mostly grains and beans, with whatever meat you’re having being more like a side dish or flavor boost.
  • Take in plenty of fluids and high water content foods (again, basically veggies) so there is less room for denser foods. I just made a quick, satisfying soup from prepared chicken broth in which I simmered onion, carrot, mushroom and zucchini, with a Gardenburger on the side for added protein and satiety. My favorite ready made broth is Rachel Ray’s brand — it actually has less sodium than most brands, including those marked “low sodium” and has a true chicken flavor.
  • Try homemade smoothies for a treat or a meal replacement. Freeze ripe bananas by peeling, breaking into small pieces and storing in a container. For one serving, mix about half a banana with some frozen berries or peach slices, add a scoop of whey protein powder (Designer Whey is a great brand), a tablespoon of flax or coconut oil, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a little sweetener to taste if needed. The combination of protein powder and healthy oil keeps you full and satisfied for hours.

2) Do some mental spring cleaning. Take an hour to meditate and journal on a habitual behavior you are wanting to let go of and what you want to replace it with. For example, if you’ve been beating yourself up about spending too much on non-essentials, think about what other resources you have to fill that need. What sets off the desire to acquire? State your intention to stop, breathe and contemplate the richness of your life the next time you feel the impulse to make a purchase. Then extend your gratitude by passing on clothing items, CDs and books that no longer fit your life.

3) Touch the earth. Find a place to take off your shoes and really feel the ground supporting you and the grass or moss that is coming back to life. Open all of your senses to the moment — the air on your skin, the wind in the still bare trees, the buds that are forming on the branches, the sounds of birds and other creatures becoming active again. Open your arms and breath deeply, knowing that you are part of this cycle of cold and warm, dark and light, dormant and fertile. Embrace your place in the natural order of life.

Happy spring! Wishing you light and warmth in all aspects of your being…