Category Archives: Awareness

What Fills Your Rain Barrel?

I’ve never been so happy to have rainy days as I’ve been this week.  We’ve had an unusually long spell of hot and dry weather in our area, creating extreme drought conditions.  Lake Cochichewick, our town’s reservoir is fortunately quite large, however, even with a voluntary water ban for most of the summer, the water level is noticeably lower.  We have relied on our rain barrels to supplement watering pots, gardens, and foundation plantings.  At times, our rain barrels ran dry.

To me, rrain-barrelain barrels seem like a metaphor for our own inner resources.  At times during this busy summer, I felt as if my rain barrel was empty.  Even though this season was full of so many blessings—visits with friends and family, a coaching Summit, a retreat, travel, work, gardening, camping, and swimming,—there were times when all of that activity and doing became overwhelming.  As I returned to the meditation cushion after a few very hectic days when I let my practice lapse, I could sense that my rain barrel was beginning to fill again.  I made a mental note of this and for the rest of the summer I did my best to find ways to incorporate some moments of stillness or sky-gazing into every day.

To navigate this transition period between summer and fall with more balance and joy, consider:

What fills your rain barrel?

What depletes it?

What commitment(s) do you want to make to yourself to insure that it doesn’t run dry?

What’s Your Body’s Message?

anatomy-254120_960_720I’m still reeling from a week earlier this month in which a fellow swimmer died, a neighbor had open heart surgery, and my husband suffered from lower back pain and spasms.

My swimming buddy (we shared a lane during an adult swim class) had taken about a month’s break from exercise in between sessions.  I swam with him twice before the next round of classes was to begin.  He said he was having a hard time getting his breathing back.  He was using a heart rate monitor and I recall him taking long rests whenever his heart rate got too high. I may have been one of the last people to see him before he died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving a wife and three children.

My neighbor was fortunate to also be wearing a heartrate monitor when he began having some cardiac symptoms. An ambulance took him right to the hospital for tests which identified the problem. He was lucky to have a successful bypass surgery in time. They were told that with the type of blockage he had, people often just drop dead of a heart attack. Looking back, he and his wife have been able to identify earlier signals, such as pallor, chest pain, and shortness of breath when exercising (which doctors thought was exercise induced asthma.)

My husband, Bill, went into back spasms the day after celebrating his 60th birthday with a party with his mountain biking friends. He’s always been very active and enjoys challenging himself. For example, he recently did a “tri-peak” event where they rode up and down three mountains in one day.  His back pain may have been from his mountain biking or lifting a heavy rock while trail building. He’s never been one to stretch much or do yoga, but he’s becoming more open to it now. He has already benefited from a “yoga for back pain relief” practice that a yoga teacher friend of mine shared with me.

Our bodies are constantly giving us messages.  Sometimes we fail to notice them.  Other times we choose to ignore them.  What I’ve witnessed over and over again is that if we don’t pay attention to the whispers or subtle signs, our bodies will keep turning up the volume until we finally hear the messages.  For instance, I ignored headaches and resisted admitting that alcohol, (even just one drink or glass of wine) is like poison to my body.  It took routine blood work revealing elevated liver enzymes and a thermogram (which I do instead of mammograms) showing a lot of congestion to finally make me serious about healing my liver.

What’s your body’s message?  I invite you to take a few moments to tune into your body:

Close your eyes and slowly begin to scan your body from head to toe.

As you bring your awareness to your body, listen.  Where are the whispers or shouts?

Focus on one area at a time, beginning with the one that’s clamoring for the most attention. What sensations are you feeling in this part of your body?

What emotions might that be expressing?

If this area was trying to tell you something, what might be the message(s)?

What does your body want you to do?

Repeat the process for any other areas of your body that want to be heard.

I highly encourage you to then heed your body’s wisdom!

Have You Discovered the Magic Yet?

It’s that time of year again!  Even though we are in the middle of a snowstorm on this first full day of spring, I’m still feeling the desire to spring clean.  If you have also been feeling the urge to weed out, organize, and clean, read on to learn about an approach that can
have a profound impact.

The book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo came out the fall of 2014 and has become a New York Times best-seller, but I’m still surprised by how many people still aren’t familiar with it.  I remember reading the book while sitting on the beach over Labor Day weekend and feeling eager to get back home to start organizing.   Following the “Kon Mari” method that Marie teaches, I began by organizing by clothes.  The first step in the process is to discard any item which doesn’t spark joy.  Sometimes all I needed to do was touch something to elicit either a feeling of, “Yes, I love to wear this!” or “Ugh.  I don’t want to wear this!”  Other times I tried things on to help me access what would stay or go.  It felt good to pass some clothes on to friends and the rest I donated to charity.  I weeded out so much that I no longer need to put out-of-season clothes in storage.

Once you have pared down to items that you love, the next step is to store them so there’s a place for everything.  Marie suggests folding clothes and socksstoring them upright so you can see each item.  I followed her method for my sock drawer and love the difference it has made!  I’ve maintained this orderly system ever since.  I must confess that I found some of her methods, for instance how to fold and store T-shirts, over-the-top, so I stopped there, despite her recommendation to tidy once and for all in one fell swoop.

Once the spring cleaning energy swept over me, I picked up her book, watched some of her YouTube videos, and am immersed in the process again.  And yes, I’ve learned to fold and store T-shirts in the recommended way.  I have now tidied my closets, drawers, books (although I probably need to be more ruthless here), and have made a huge dent in organizing papers.  With two home offices in addition to household papers and an enormous recipe collection, this is taking some time.  My husband caught the tidying bug and had a shred fest over the weekend.  So far he’s freed up an entire filing cabinet drawer.

Part of the magic of this process is the feeling you experience from this clearing.  You feel light, getting out from underneath the burden of unwanted and unneeded stuff.  This frees up your energy and creates space.  For what?  Well, you just have to wait and see.  There’s always a surprise element with magic.  I’d love to hear what, in addition to joy, the process sparks for you!

Open Hearts

 

hearts

How do you hug? I know this is a rather odd question, but think about it for a moment. Do you put your arms around someone with your head toward the left and their head toward your right, or is it just the opposite? Perhaps because I’m right-handed, it’s always been my habit to hug toward the left. However, I’ve learned that hugging toward the right is best because that aligns your heart with the other person’s. While it may feel awkward to change your hugging habits, you’ll likely find that heart-to-heart hugs foster a deeper connection. The next time you go to hug someone remember, “Right is right” and hug in that direction to open your heart to the other person.

You may be thinking, “Whoa! I’m not going to open my heart to another. That’s too risky.” We’ve probably all experienced the pain of a broken heart at one time or another. In order to keep from being hurt again, you may have chosen to protect yourself by not allowing your heart to be open and vulnerable. While a certain degree of guardedness can be a good thing, for instance, not getting into a car with a stranger or taking on someone else’s misery can be wise self-preservation. However, closing your heart off pushes people away and can lead to loneliness and lack of intimate, meaningful connection.

Opening our hearts can make a positive difference in our lives and relationships. An open heart increases our ability to love, to forgive, to be generous and compassionate. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, when your heart is open to love, when you feel worthy of being loved (all love must begin with self-love), when you come from a place of love, that’s what you attract.

In addition to hugging the “right” way, there are a number of other practices that can create open hearts:

An easy place to start is with your posture, drawing your shoulders back and down while raising your sternum.

Praying on another’s behalf both opens and uplifts the heart.  Plus, it’s much more positive than worrying.

If you practice yoga, there are many poses that are heart-openers: Bridge, Wheel, Cobra, Upward-facing Dog, Fish, Bow, Camel, Gate, and Crescent.

The meditative practices of Loving-kindness and Tonglen increase your level of compassion for yourself and others.

What have you found most helpful in opening your heart?