Going Out to Go In: Nature’s Healing Power

Windswept

 

Our son gave me a journal earlier this year, for Mother’s Day. In it, he had copied a quote from a book I brought him back from Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum.

 

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out til sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in”—-John Muir

 

Where do you go when you want to refresh? How does this reset, recharge impact your day?

Summer of Learning: Knowing and Not Knowing

Spaciousness

From June through mid-August, I experienced three breast biopsies, including one surgery, two mammograms, and two MRIs. That’s the old story. The new story is that I only envision vibrant cells and glowing health. The precancerous cells were removed.  Emotions of shock, fear, anger, sorrow, relief, glee, trust, gratitude ebbed and flowed. I asked myself questions such as, “How could I, with an LDL of 60, have these precancerous cells in my body?”. I also asked other questions that provided meaning to the summer’s experience. What would you ask yourself, given the same scenario? What questions do you ask yourself when confronted with fear…the unknowingness of life? I ask my clients these kinds of questions to help them illuminate meaning to their stories. I hold myself to the same standards.

One of the meanings and deep appreciations I came away with was the import and impact of asking for support, love, check-ins, and communication from others. This is a loving practice to self. Don’t we all need that? I received much unsolicited, loving care. Thank you family, friends, clients, my coach, coaching group members, and colleagues. Thank you for calling me, your cards, your texts, your visits, your symbols of healing and power, your prayers. The care that I received from nurses, technologists, receptionists, my surgeon, and radiologists was profound. After three decades, now almost four, of being a health professional, I am awed by the expertise of those we entrust our care to when we are most vulnerable.

So there’s the knowing and not knowing of life. What practices and skills do we build along the way to surf these waves? What are your foundational ones?

Growing Wings

Altitude Attitude
Altitude Attitude

 

How do your thoughts limit your life? What if you acted “as if” you really could accomplish a dream?

In A Year Of Living Your Yoga, author and teacher Judith Hanson Lasater suggests we take time to listen to ourselves in order to move closer to what matters most to us. She provides the self-reflection prompt “What would I do if I believed I could?”

Practice and Plan

  1. One way to move closer to making dreams actionable is committment to time, even 5 minutes, and practice a form of meditation that you like. Then, write down the answer to Lasater’s question. Record your thoughts in a voice memo if this feels more like your style.
  2. Next, write down or speak one small, measurable step that you can accomplish today that will bring you closer to what you want. This could be as simple as sharing your dream with someone who you know will be supportive. Or, it may be putting your words somewhere you can see them everyday. Be creative, make this yours.

We all experience limiting thoughts and beliefs. We can choose to pay attention to them and move closer to who we really are, which is, according to yogic philosophy, the true goal of yoga.

Coming to the Senses

digital roots

The human body receives constant sensory input that provides up to the second information about the world around us. This is great news! And thankfully, we are created to modulate these responses. So, how can we use this amazing instrument, the human body, and play healthier music within? Intentionally noticing the five hard-wired senses gives us opportunities to do just this.

Whether or not you believe in behavioral resolutions this time of year, bringing awareness into our lives is a powerful practice. Why? Because when we go through the motions of the day without noticing how we feel physically or emotionally, stress, body pain, and inflammation occur. Instead, when we tune in and witness what our sensations and reactions are, we can use this information to calm, center, and choose a different response. 

Use this simple exercise to practice sensory self-care. Please be patient and compassionate with yourself. Noticing the world around you, your reactions, is a process of change by itself. It takes practice, for all of us, every day, moment by moment. 

What sight, sound, touch, smell or taste reminds you of relaxation, comfort, joy… or any other positive emotion or experience that’s linked to your health?

Take a few moments to be still and visualize easy, accessible things you can do to bring pleasant awareness to the senses. Is it listening to a favorite song on the way to work? Enjoying a cup of tea with a friend? Using essential oils? Feeling the feet on the ground as you sit at your desk? Wiggling the toes? Looking up from the laptop and allowing eyes to rest? Taking time to really taste food while chewing? Taking a deep breath? Hugging someone you care about, love? (Remember, to get a hug you’ve got to give one).

Be as specific as you can and write down three things that bring you relaxation for each sense. Before you begin, take a few deep breaths. As you hold your pen, or write on your laptop, drop shoulders away from ears. You may want to write about or focus on one sense each week, or each day. Do what “makes sense” to you!

 Sight

1.

2.

3.

Sound

1.

2.

3.

Touch

1.

2.

3.

Smell

1.

2.

3.

Taste

1.

2.

3.

After you complete the exercise, even if you haven’t actually done any of these things yet, check in with yourself and notice your mood. What do you notice? How’s your body feel, compared to when you began this writing or visualization exercise?

Incorporate with any meditation practice and en-joy coming to your senses.

2 Minutes of Laughter Exercises To Practice Alone

 

Laughter Connections
Laughter Connections

Try Laughter Yoga, a healthy mood booster shot

Laughter Yoga is based on the philosophy of “acting happiness” – tell your body what to do and your mind will follow. It is a physically-oriented exercise routine, not a mental process, allowing anyone to laugh without using jokes, humor or comedy. There are no traditional yoga postures in Laughter Yoga. It’s laughter through simple, playful exercises, deep breathing, and stretching. Laughter is a powerful way to exhale what you don’t need anymore. You can actually choose to laugh, for health, regardless of your mood or what life is bringing you. Listen to this interview from Japan with a professional yoga instructor and laughter yoga teacher, a testimony to the transformative power of laughter.

Try these exercises:

  1. First, take three deep breaths. Notice your “internal weather report” and define your mood and how your body feels in this moment. Assign this weather report a number, from 1-10, 1 being pretty stormy and 10 sunny and breezy, for example.
  2. Now, notice your breath. Is your breath shallow, in your upper chest? Or, is it in your diaphram, rib area, or in your belly? Just notice it.
  3. Lift your shoulders to your ears, hold your breath a second or two, tense your shoulders, then drop your shoulders while letting out a big HA. You may do this silently if you are somewhere that a loud HA may be disruptive to others! Repeat 2 more times.
  4. Open your mouth wide. Inhale, laugh loudly for 8-10 seconds. Or again, practice this silently, as if you are in a library. Inhale, repeat 2 more times.
  5. Get in a comfortable seated postion, or stand tall like an oak tree with your feet planted firmly on the ground, rooted. Now notice your breath and your internal weather report. What’s your number now? What do you notice?

 

 

Writing & Befriending Brain’s Reticular Activating System

writing it down
writing it down

 

Search for books on keeping a journal, and you’ll find many. I own at least fourteen and can think of several more I’d like to read. One can find themes of writing for health, goal oriented writing, and expressive writing, for example. I believe writing is for EVERYONE. Really. Writing is not necessarily therapy, however writing is therapeutic. Writing is also an active process which can be used to move from hopes to action. Regardless of your assumptions about the quality of your writing, or what messages you’ve heard along the way, you can gain benefits from putting pen to page. Let’s call this process Journal Writing. We’re talking about writing for yourself, for your eyes only. Why is this important? When you write without filters, as if no one else is listening besides yourself, you will learn to write from the heart. Themes come alive, what you pay attention to, what you’ve learned, been through, who you are, what you stand for. Your Journal can be your good friend. To that end, let’s call it Journal for now, because it’s a relationship, and a loving one.

Journal can be written on a computer or paper, your choice. I prefer paper, since I can seem to bring more awareness to the whole process, such as breath, pen moving on page, sounds around me. I started keeping a journal ten years ago, after some apprehension. I knew I wanted to do it, and didn’t know how to start. I went to a conference, read a bunch of books by Kathleen Adams, a journal therapist from Colorado. Since then, I’ve read quite a few others and used a journal frequently as a personal tool and with coaching clients as well. There’s no question that I’m an advocate of this tool! Journal lives by my bed for final thoughts, gratitude or prayers, one on my desk for business ideas and projects, one for meditation, one for my Hatha Yoga Teacher Training journey. I’ve kept some pages over the years, shredded some, burned some.

One book I like quite a bit that I keep returning to (I read it on a plane several years ago and still have my original notes, which I have cut and pasted with a glue stick in my other journals) is Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser. One of the many things that captured my attention in her book was the description of the human reticular activating system. Here’s a 4-minute video that describes this concept, not by Dr. Klauser, yet I liked the white board approach. It’s a reminder that what we pay attention to is what we create.

 “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power”—Alan Cohen

Affirmations

Sunny
Sunny

Your mind believes what you put in it—-Gayle Davis, sports psychologist

Have you ever practiced affirmations? They simply state how we want to be in the world. Here are some examples. Make your own, make them brief if you like. Put them on sticky notes, your smart phone notes, , your screensaver, write them in your journal, draw them, sing them, record them. Meditate with them.

Brief examples…

I am healthy and strong.

I use my intuition to guide me.

I make good decisions.

I am calm and patient.

I listen to what my body tells me.

I am clear on what I want.

I choose to be brave.

I am loving and compassionate.

I am forgiving.

I am capable and courageous.

Others:

I use my intuition and intelligence to guide me at all times—Pamela Davis

 The smallest action can make a difference. —anonymous

 When your mind is busy with fearful or negative thoughts say directly to those thoughts, “You are not invited to my party!”–Nancy Belestrini

 It feels good to move my body. Every muscle and cell works in harmony. I am graceful and strong—anonymous

 I am calm. I keep my stability even when the people around me are out of control—anonymous

 I am in charge of my own happiness and responsible for filling my own needs—anonymous

 I have always been worth loving; I just did not know before. I love and accept myself now—Louise Hay

 Every circumstance is a chance for you to practice being the person you truly want to be—Marianne Willliamson

Heart Meditations

Earth Heart
Earth Heart

Repeating a favorite prayer, spiritual passage, poem or affirmation can bring calm and ease into the day. Perhaps there’s one in your memory bank, or one that you’d like to deposit.

Here’s one from the Christian tradition. Choose one that fits you. May your heart be open today to what is possible.

 

The Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

 

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

 

The above text is from Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, a helpful and rich resource for meditation practice.

 

 

 

Where are you the boss of yourself?

Observation
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my ship.”
—Louisa May Alcott
 
Recently, I read Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants. I noticed her keen ability to laugh at herself, go toward what gave her purpose, while remaining grounded in fundamentals such as family, integrity, play, hard work, and friendship. As I consider the title Bossypants, I appreciate the words of our children’s preschool teacher which were something to the effect of  “You’re the boss of you”. To our children, these words seemed to convey
 
“YES I CAN DO THIS”.
“I CAN SAY NO”.
 “I CAN SAY YES”.
More than that, these words create moments of considerations such as  
“I AM CAPABLE”. 
“I AM COMPETENT”.
 “I AM COURAGEOUS”.
 “I HAVE FREEDOM”.
 “I CAN CHOOSE”. 
 
Simple and empowering. After all, in our lives, aren’t we driving our own bus, sailing our own boat, steering our car, flying our plane, dancing our dance, singing our song, writing our own story? Where in your life can you experience truth, vibrancy, lightness…these things which allow us to become our own best bosses?
 
“Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.”
—Helen Keller
 
“To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you that you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson

What’s Coming Up

Spring Lineup

Here comes spring in the South, and I’m wondering how your intentions of 2012 are budding, blossoming, or transitioning in another way. If they are budding, what is the most important part of this beginning? How will it inform what you wish to make happen this year? The budding may be manifested by an intuition or an action step, even both. Using your intuition, an inkling, is often effective to laying plans. If your hopes and aspirations of the year are blossoming, that is, they are evident in some way, how do you know this? Maybe your relationships at work or home are different in some way. Perhaps you’ve committed to an enjoyable form of exercise regularly!

Since the end of February is nearing the first quarter of the calendar year, it’s often helpful to take stock of the outlined plan. Is there an item on the list, that if subtracted, might strengthen priorities? Plans are blueprints of a life which beg modification along the way.  Revisions may come in the form of reshifting, reprioritizing, realizing something else is possible, or even better for you in some way. What in your life is budding, blooming, lessening, growing, shifting? How might you refashion what you are building and strengthen what you’ve already got, what you know?