3 Tips for Practicing Spiritual Self-Care

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It’s tough to put yourself first when you’ve been taught to put others first: your kids, friends, spouse, patients, parents, boss, coworkers, siblings, clients… Everyone but you!

What do you notice when you’re always on the go, running from here to there to meet your “obligations”? What’s your energy level like? Are you able to focus on others’ feelings, and what they’re saying? In other words, can you really be there for the other person?

It doesn’t make sense to put others first if you’re burning yourself out doing it.

Enter spiritual self-care. Here are my top three tips for daily actions that will help you feel more balanced:

Spiritual Self-Care Tip #1

Breathe, really deeply. Even if it’s for just three breaths a day. Do it in the morning when you wake up, or in the middle of the day when you’re stressing out, and/or at night before you go to sleep. Breathe in and out through your nose.

meditation-1837347_640.jpgBreathe in for as long as you can, filling the belly and not just the lungs. Breathe out for as long as you can. Stay with it. Feel the air moving in and out.

Bonus: You can tell yourself and your friends that you are meditating every day. Because it’s a mini-meditation, this breathing thing. Woohoo! Look what you did.

Spiritual Self-Care Tip #2

Intentionally do one physical act that is just for you, every day. Maybe that’s sitting by yourself for a few minutes in the morning, enjoying the smell of your coffee. It could be taking a walk at lunchtime instead of sitting at your desk. What about buying something at the grocery store that will give you sensory pleasure, like a ripe plum?

One physical act a day. A small thing or a big thing, but one thing.

Spiritual Self-Care Tip #3

Bathe yourself in golden light. You can do this at any point during the day, but at first it’s easiest to do when you’re lying in bed in the morning or at night.

Imagine a huge golden sun above your head. Put a magnet inside that sun and energetically pull to that magnet everything you need that day. Don’t think about it too much. Just call in whatever feels right:

  • Courage
  • Safety
  • Laughter
  • Joy
  • Wisdom
  • Confidence
  • Love
  • Gratitude
  • Self-awareness
  • Patience
  • Abundance
  • Connection to the divine love
  • Energy
  • Peace

woman-591576_640Pull the golden sun energy down into yourself. Feel it from the inside out and the outside in. Let it fill you up. Feel it in your organs, skin, hair, chakras, and aura. Feel it from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Let it radiate.

The whole practice can take anywhere from two minutes to several minutes, depending on how much you want to call into the magnet and how long you bathe in the light. (A slightly longer “bath” will allow in more of the energy you need right then.)


So there you have it—three ways you can practice spiritual self-care that take a total of 10 minutes a day. I guarantee you will feel more grounded, energized, and happy as a result. And guess what? That means there’s more of YOU to go around!

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Happiness Is a Warm Hug

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I want to create a ministry based on hugs.

Have you ever noticed how you feel when you get a long, warm embrace from someone who has loving intention behind it? Maybe warm, or valued, or wanted, or seen? It feels good.

Cut to last Friday night. I’m out with a friend in a nice neighborhood, sharing food and drinks and good conversation. My companion says to the restaurant owner, who is playing host at the bar, “Does anyone ever tell you that you look like ______ (a local politician and businessman)?”

He smiles tentatively, responds in the affirmative, and adds, “But he’s much more successful than I am.”

Ever the minister, I say, “But how do you define success? I define it by level of happiness.”

He says, “Then I’m not successful.” I pause, wait him out. Nothing. I look at him–really look at him. He is sad. He looks beaten, like he’s barely made it through the day.

“Do you need a hug?” I ask. He pauses, waits me out. Looks at me–really looks at me. I’m not sure what he sees, but he feels accepted and safe.

“Yes, I do.” My friend and I pay our tab, and he says he’ll meet me at the front near the exit. I tell him I have to put my things down to give him a proper hug. I introduce myself, and he tells me his name is Steve.

“Hello, Steve.” I shake his hand. And then I give him a hug. I wrap my arms around his neck and move in close. He puts his arms around my waist. We stand there for a good long while. I put my head on his shoulder. We part.

“Thanks,” he says, “I needed that.”

“I’ll be back when the restaurant reopens,” I say. I want to support this man who is carrying such a heavy weight on his shoulders.

That’s me. Keeping the faith, one hug at a time.

How to Get the Most out of Gift-Giving

Most of us go into the holidays with the best of intentions. We want to really connect with our friends and family and have a wonderful time. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that buying gifts is an obligation, a duty, or even a burden.

Regardless of your choice to give or not give gifts, it’s important to do it mindfully. What makes you feel good? Most true to yourself?

If you decide to give gifts, make a practice of thinking of each gift purchase as a celebration of the beauty of the recipient and your relationship with that person. It’s a much different giving experience than mindlessly buying and consuming out of obligation.

When spent mindfully, money is a spiritual asset. When you spend gladly, with love and joy in your heart, you bring the money and love back to you tenfold. Here are some mindful buying tips for the holidays, to help you connect with your best, generous, and joyful self.

Personal Touch

Does it make sense to buy a gift card to Amazon? It’s not a super personal gift, unless you know the person really could use the gift card and loves shopping on Amazon (in which case, it would bring her great joy). But if you’re buying it because it’s the “easy” thing, you might instead consider making something for that person, something you know she would really love. What about brownies with her favorite candy in them, or a pair of earrings in her favorite color? Gifts made with the hands and infused with energy of the heart vibrate at a different level than a more generic gift.

Mindful gift-giving brings joy to you and the recipient.
Photo courtesy of FreeFoto.com

Thoughtfulness

Really paying attention to what people say they want or need, in passing conversation, is a wonderful way to gather gift ideas. For example, your friend comments that she needs a solution for an inconvenience she has been complaining about, such as an easier way to look at the GPS in her car. So you buy her a dash-mounted or mirror-mounted cell-phone holder. She’s thrilled because you have solved a problem for her, and because you paid attention to her and her needs.

Maybe your aunt has not had time to find that perfect pillow for the new couch. Or the pillow would bring her great joy and comfort, but she doesn’t feel like she has the money to spend on it. Rather than thinking in terms of, “I have a $50 minimum I have to spend,” make your gift-buying decisions about thoughtfulness. If you spend the time to find the pillow in the exact shade of blue she’s looking for, with just the right amount of “squish,” but it costs only $20, you’ve more than spent your minimum. You’ve spent time and energy. You were thoughtful.

Grace

If you decide a gift card to Target is the best gift, perhaps because it is easier for you or because you know that person will enjoy it, buy the card with grace and a blessing. Spend gladly, with joy in your heart, because you love and appreciate that person. It makes the buying experience magical rather than something you do by rote.

When you buy each gift this year, send the money out into the world with love and light. You’ll be less stressed and feel more peace and joy. Mindful gift-giving is a powerful spiritual practice.


To learn more about the spirituality of money and the power of manifestation, I recommend the bookCreating Money: Attracting Abundance, by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer.

Bring Joy into the Holiday Season with Sensory Awareness

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I find it essential to really tune in to what I am experiencing in the moment. It’s important to me to really connect with the people I choose to be with. If I can’t—and find myself spacing out or keeping things on the surface level—that’s OK, too. Practicing neutrality toward myself and my feelings helps me stay in self-love and acceptance.

But when I can really connect, these moments help me feel loved and loving. Though I try to practice it all of the time, it’s even more important during the holidays, as people are voluntarily creating a stressed out, anxious, and hurried environment. I make it a point to fully experience the rich opportunities within my reach and create meaningful holiday moments.

Sensory awareness practice is the discipline of really tuning into something, during those small and everyday moments, to the point that it becomes an exquisite experience. During the holidays, this can be as simple as focusing on a cozy scent, or meditating on a seasonal sound.

Here are some ideas for bringing sensory awareness practice into your holidays:

Musical Event

If you go to an event where there is singing or music over the holidays, instead of letting the experience simply flow over you, try to really hone in on the melody of one instrument, or focus on the sound of one person’s voice in the choir. Notice how the sound resonates in your chest or through the floor in your feet. This will help you tune into the exquisite nature of the sound and make it a much deeper sensory experience.

Cooking

One of the reasons I love cooking so much is because it is a very sensory experience. If you bake holiday treats or cook meals for the holidays, you have the opportunity to really get in touch with your senses in terms of the texture of food and the smell of the food you are preparing. Tune into the sound of different foods when you are chopping them and biting into them. As you let yourself tune into these small moments, they become richer and more meaningful.

Greeting Loved Ones

Ironically, often the reason we are rushing around during the holidays is because we want to make the holidays joyful for the people we love. Although our intentions are good, urgency and hurry work against deep connection with others.

One example of an exquisite sensory opportunity we often miss out on during the holidays is fully experiencing loved ones when greeting them upon arrival. When you first see someone you haven’t seen in awhile, or when you are in the company of someone you are really happy to spend time with, allow yourself to take in the whole person. Fully experience how you feel, being with them, in the moment.

Before you open the door to greet a guest, or before you knock on their door to be greeted, take 30 seconds to prepare yourself to really take in the energy of that person. Prepare yourself to connect with how she looks, what her smile is like, the feel of her skin or clothing as you hug her. Take pleasure in her company. Be in the moment.


There are many ways to bring sensory awareness practice into your holiday season, which can bring you back from the hustle and bustle into your highest self. I would love to hear about your ideas and experiences. Please feel free to share them in the comments.

Photo courtesy of FreeFoto

The Faces of Prayer

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Call it meditation, prayer, mindfulness, consciousness, or sitting quietly with self. What matters is the intention behind it. When you take those actions, do you intend to connect to something larger than ego? The divine within you, perhaps, or God, or Buddha, or the universal consciousness?

You might call that prayer–not the, “Please save me,” kind, but the, “My eyes are open and I am grateful,” kind. Each time, each moment is unique.

What surprised me recently was how much I pray, and in how many ways:

  • My “20 breaths” meditation with eyes closed–which I can do anywhere, even on the back of the motorcycle–allows for immediate grounding and a new perspective on the world every time I open my eyes
  • Yoga practice, where I pray with my body by falling deep into meditation even while my muscles and ligaments are challenged; I am honoring the divine in myself, my teacher, and the lights in the rooms who are practicing with me
  • Wearing amulets, such as the lotus flower and an open heart charm, which represent my connection to the larger consciousness and honor my ability to stay present with the world even during difficult times
  • Kirtan, or chanting in Sanskrit, which removes the mind-created barriers to being one with the divine energy
  • Hiking, where I am at one with my surroundings and in awe of the sounds, sights, and smells of the physical world
  • Affirmations, which I speak to honor myself as a unique and beautiful expression of divinity
  • Mindful eating, where I thank three teachers, one with each of the first three bites I take

Without even counting the times when I converse directly with my higher power, I pray all the time. I’ve built these practices up slowly–over years–but I am pleased to notice that I am connecting to the light more every day. My aunt, an energy worker herself, once told me, “Honey, you are the brightest thing in this room.”

In what ways do you pray? How does being more conscious of that shift your perspective on your connection to the divine?

 

Photo: Buddhist prayer flags; (c) Rawich; courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Into the Great Wide Open

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Hot air balloon on a clear morning near the Rocky Mountain foothills

I’m impressed by people who ask for what they need–openly, honestly, and without shame. Their vulnerability amazes me. I aspire to be like them. They trust that their higher power, the universe, their communities, and their friends and family will support them and give them what they need. And they get it, albeit sometimes not in the form they imagined. They seem happy.

On the flip side, our capitalistic society has built in me a deep core of independence. Self-reliance. Strength. I know I can get through anything on my own by relying on my highly developed coping mechanisms (now mostly healthy rather than maladaptive). My faith in myself and my connection to the universe will get me through, most of the time with relative grace and ease.

So sometimes those same people, the ones I admire, also push my buttons. Who are they to ask for help? Can’t they make it all happen by themselves?

There’s the disconnect. It’s my tether to the universe that I rely upon to get me through the tough times, but that universe is comprised of guess who? Little ol’ me and all of the other shining lights that surround me. It’s these times of cognitive dissonance that make me step back and laugh at how my ego mind fights with my spirit self and the knowing of my true path.

The woman in this video, Amanda Palmer, found her way past the ego mind to get to the point of giving away her music in return for donations. She asked for what she wanted. It resulted in the largest crowd funded music project up to that point.

What my philosophy has distilled to over the past few years is this:

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Whether you ask the universe, your fans, or someone specific, you must ask. Put fuzzy, vague, static-filled intentions out, and what do you get back? Nothing. Or at least nothing good.

I vow to ask for at least one thing a day for the next 30 days. I am prepared to receive.

Lessons from Buddha by Deepak Chopra

Photo courtesy of http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

Photo courtesy of www.stockfreeimages.com

The fictionalized account of the life of Buddha by Deepak Chopra is an engaging, beautifully written story that inspires and educates. I picked it up because it’s different than anything Chopra has penned, plus I’m a sucker for well-researched accounts of historical characters presented in the format of a novel. This one did not disappoint.

Ultimately, Buddha is the story of a man, Siddhartha, who gave up everything he had–wealth, status, power–and went on a quest to understand the true nature of self and to attain enlightenment. He didn’t know what the answers would be, but he was willing to learn from spiritual masters and go to great lengths to delve deep into himself to connect with the source.

Once he found enlightenment and transformed into the Buddha, he was surprised that he had to use words, or sermons, to communicate. His healing touch and thoughts could bring freedom–from guilt, sorrow, and attachment to worldly pleasure and pain–but they couldn’t bring enlightenment. He found that without a Dharma, or philosophy, earthly beings couldn’t take the next steps away from their current way of life toward the understanding that the self is an illusion and that the end of suffering is possible.

Buddha never talked about God or the gods. He shunned ceremony and “religious practices,” because they distract from the true nature of being one with the source, or superconsciousness. Ultimately, each person’s path to clarity and freedom is unique. That’s what I love about Buddhism. It’s not a religious practice; it’s a personal journey. One can follow any of the paths to enlightenment and move toward peace, tranquility, and connection.

At the end of the book, Chopra wrote an FAQ about Buddhism to help make it more accessible to the lay person. If you’re seeking clarity, or freedom, or enlightenment, I encourage you to read this book. If it calls to you, it’s time.