Special Edition… ‘Tis the Season

‘Joy is Prayer. Joy is Strength. Joy is love.” -Mother Teresa

Season’s Greetings darlings! I read a most beautiful article written by Elizabeth Lesser  yesterday, featured in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, and I felt compelled to share it with you. I love, love, love Elizabeth Lesser and her style of writing! Her messages are always so deep, profound and life-altering! So, here it is:

10 Ways To Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday

by 

It’s that time of year again: the modern miracle known as “The Holidays,” when into the dark little months of late November and December, we squeeze Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years Eve, and a myriad of other celebrations, from ancient Solstice rituals to the more contemporary rites of school plays, office parties, and community gatherings. Throw into that mix a generous dose of unrealistic expectations, dysfunctional family feasts complete with political disagreements, airplane flights and long drives, darker days, colder weather, budget-busting shopping, excess eating and drinking, and no wonder that along with “peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” come seasonal stress for most, and for some, real depression and loneliness.

Some greet the season with excitement and joyful expectation. Others dread the whole thing. Personally, I harbor both excitement AND dread. So I’ve come up with some ways for all of us to stay healthy and sane, to celebrate and enjoy, and to dig into the real meaning of the holidays. Of course, another option is just to ignore the madness completely (good luck with that) or to knock yourself out trying to live up to all of your holiday expectations (good luck with that, too).

Here are my ten ways to approach the season with reasonable expectations and good cheer.

1) Be Kind: Stress doesn’t bring out the best in us, so remember to take a few breaks during a busy day or at a family gathering or whenever you feel overwhelmed. Find a quiet spot—even if you have to go into the bathroom and lock the door—and just sit still for a minute or two. Put your hand on your chest and pat your heart gently. Then take a nice deep breath into that spot and flood yourself with warm feelings of kindness toward yourself first. Breathe in acceptance and forgiveness and appreciation. If you only have time to do that, it’s enough. You can add this to the practice, too: As you exhale, let the breath of kindness move back out and feel it all around you—as if you were wrapped in a cloak of light. Now inhale again, and breathe kindness into your belly, your organs, your bloodstream. Exhale, and feel that cloak of light expanding. Inhale again, all the way down to your fingers and toes and deep into the center of your bones, flushing every cell with warmth and vibrancy. On each inhale, bring kindness into your body. On each exhale, extend the cloak of healing light further and further—embracing the people in your life, those in the world with whom you disagree, and finally our whole big, amazing, hurting, evolving world. This is a wonderful practice to do when you wake up, when you go to sleep, or whenever you like during the day. 

2) Simplify: We live in an excessive culture. There’s just too much going on. But there’s one thing we seem to have too little of: time. We fill each day with too much activity, too much stuff, too much media, and too many responsibilities pulling on us in too many directions, and time races away. We go to bed at night and wonder where the heck the day went. We wake up and do it again. And now at the holidays, we’re supposed to add more excess to the excess. More food, more socializing, more presents that require more money. I think it’s a revolutionary act to resist the more-more-more culture and, instead, to simplify. Purchase fewer gifts and put more thought and meaning into the ones you do give. Say ‘no’ to engagements that will only add more stress to your week. Say ‘yes’ to gatherings that fill your soul and make you and others happy. Unplug from the 24/7 news and social media. Spend time in nature. Look at the stars. Find a little kid and hitch your wagon to their wonder.

3) Roll With the Changes: As families change and grow, traditions change as well.  For example, if you are a working woman who had a stay-at-home mother, instead of knocking yourself out trying to reproduce the exact old-fashioned holiday of your childhood, relax your standards. Do what fits YOUR life and infuse it with meaning, humor, and love. Or if you are a divorced dad or mom, share the holidays with your ex with as much generosity and harmony as you can conjure up. It will be the best gift you give to your kids this year. If you are far away from your family (or choose not to be with them), invite others into your home and give the words “extended family” new meaning. 

4) Help Others: not because you SHOULD but because it feeds everyone—the giver and the receiver. Find someone who is struggling financially or emotionally or physically, and lend them a helping hand, soothe their loneliness or hunger or confusion or pain. Check out the stories of every holiday tradition—from Thanksgiving to Hanukah to Christmas. If you celebrate any of these holidays, you might as well get down to what they are really about: generosity, connection, the promise of light-in-the-darkness. Be that light for someone else.

5) Drop In: to a church or mosque or synagogue or temple or . . . you get the idea. Even if you have no religious affiliation or belief—even if you have deep-seated problems with religion in general—these kinds of spaces have a mysterious quality that can bring peace to a visitor. They carry within their walls the prayers and songs of our human family. Most places of worship welcome all people, even those just looking for a touch of grace. Instead of hurrying by that church you have passed a hundred times on the way to work, take a moment to enter its doors and sit quietly, imbibing the beauty.

6) Take Care: Eat well, drink water, exercise, and then be merry. Instead of making one more feeble New Year’s resolution to join a gym or cut back on the drink or sugar or Twitter, do it right now. You will be amazed at how just the littlest bit of movement and healthful habits will lift your spirits and reduce your stress. And sleep for goodness sakes, do whatever it takes to get enough of it. Sleep deprivation is at the root of so many of our mental and physical problems.

7) Love Everything: Even the hard times; even the cranky and crooked people of the world; even yourself, with all of your embarrassing shortcomings. If loving everything seems impossible, start with forgiveness. Forgive all sorts of people—those from your past, your work, your family, even those abhorrent jerks and so-called enemies in the news. Bitterness towards others is like drinking poison. Put down the bitter cup and take up… 

8) Tenderness: See what happens if you keep your heart open and soft. When you feel fear, or anger, or judgment clutching at your chest, put your hand on your heart and pat lightly. Instead of shutting down, stay open. Stay tender. Just try this and see what happens. Your mind will tell you it’s not safe to be open, that you don’t want to soften, that you’ll tenderize only if the other person changes first. But those strategies haven’t really worked, have they? Try something new.

9) Connect: When you practice love, forgiveness, and tenderness sincerely and consistently, you begin to feel so connected to other people and to life itself that your sense of “me” frays at the edges, loosens, merges. I heard a man at a retreat with the teacher, Eckhart Tolle, say that he’d been practicing compassion meditation and a weird thing was happening to him. “I don’t know who I am anymore,” the concerned man said. And Eckhart replied, “Congratulations.” When you let go of that firm sense of who you are, and what you must protect, and why you are better or worse than anyone else, you are free. There’s less fear, less striving, less of the need to prove your case. There’s more room to let others in, more comfort with the world just as it is, and at the same time, more courage to speak up for truth and beauty.     

10) Joy to the World: How strange that we have everything we need to cheer up right this minute, but so often, joy alludes us. You may recoil at this idea. You may think, “She has NO idea what I am going through; cheering up is not possible.” But I have met some of the most joyful people in the most unlikely, difficult places, including jails and hospitals. And some of the gloomiest, most aggrieved people in luxurious homes and privileged situations. Albert Einstein said that the most important thing to pursue is “sacred awe.” If you think about it, how awe-some—preposterous really—that we are here at all. That YOU showed up here on this little blue marble floating in space. Each one of us has a joyful core that is truer than the worry, the sadness, the blame, the fear. Find your joyful core. Trust it. Be it. Share it.

ELIZABETH LESSER is the author of several bestselling books, including Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and Marrow: Love, Loss & What Matters Most. She is the co-founder of Omega Institute, recognized internationally for its workshops and conferences in wellness, spirituality, creativity, and social change. She has given two popular TED talks, and is one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, a collection of a hundred leaders who are using their voices and talent to elevate humanity.

 

Together we can all inspire, love, serve. And if you choose to Lead from the heart…right from the start, you will see a big shift in your life and the lives of the people around you. Now go out and Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday!

See you all back here on Wednesday for my own little holiday to-do list.

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

Hold the Vision…Trust the Process

Security…it’s simply the recognition that changes will take place and the knowledge that you’re willing to deal with whatever happens.” Harry Browne

The month of December can really mess with people’s emotions for a number of reasons. Between preparing for the holidays, hosting parties, going to parties, shopping for the “perfect” gift, decorating, and dealing with work and family chores and obligations, we are sometimes left feeling depleted and perhaps even sad. For many, the memories of loved ones long gone, perhaps the recent crossing over of a family member, or the ending of an irreparable relationship makes getting through the month of December a little more challenging to say the least. These circumstances and events leave us needing some major grounding, clarity and stability.

Guided mediations are a wonderful tool for cultivating a feeling of grounding and stability. They are also helpful in making us feel safe and secure. I sometimes envision myself as a tree with deep roots in the ground. It gives me a sense of unshakable energy, strength, inner fortitude and protection from destabilizing forces. This visual also allows me to maintain that “calm in the chaos” and readily go with the flow with whatever is happening.

There have been many times in my life, especially at work, when someone has looked to me as the calming, sensible voice in a confusing and chaotic situation. During my time as a school administrator, I wanted to “lead from the heart” and be an exemplary role model of what it is like to maintain “calm in the chaos.” It is a gift of balanced strength. And it is something we can all achieve with the help of the many tools that are so readily available to us today – guided meditation being one of them.

If we hold the vision of that state of  grounding, clarity, stability and trust the process, our sense of security will feel effortless and unshakable. Guided meditations that connect us to the earth element do just that. With time and practice, you will feel like a huge, unshakable oak tree….just hold the vision…and trust the process!

The following guided meditation will enhance your sense of support and stability. You can have someone read it to you, voice record it so you can listen to your own voice, or just glance at it, close your eyes and be with the vision and the feelings for however long. Sit comfortably on the floor and, if you would like to add a hand gesture, you can make peace signs and touch your index and middle finger to the ground alongside your body (Bhu mudra). If sitting on the floor is not an option, sit in a chair (or in bed) with your palms face down on your lap.

  1. As you hold Bhu mudra, take several natural breaths to attune to all the feelings and sensations evoked by this gesture.
  2. Visualize your body as a mountain with your legs as the base, your arms as the slopes stretching out to the sides, and the crown of your head as the mountain peak rising into the sky.
  3. With each inhalation, your spine lengthens naturally, and with each exhalation, the base of your body connects to the earth more firmly.
  4. Sense breath flowing up and down your spine, creating space between each vertebra, cultivating a sense of alignment and stability throughout the entire structure of your body.
  5. Resting in your mountain’s stability, take some time to notice how the pause at the end of your exhalation is lengthened gradually, allowing you to experience the earth’s deep serenity.
  6. Attuned to the earth’s stability and serenity, you naturally receive all of its healing qualities.
  7. Begin by taking several breaths to receive the earth’s minerals in the exact quantities you need to support the structure of your body, cultivating optimal bone strength and density.
  8. With a greater sense of support, you naturally inhabit your body more completely, experiencing all areas of your being integrated as a seamless unity.
  9. As you inhabit your body more completely, the serenity of your mountain naturally permeates your thoughts and feelings, allowing you to experience absolute security at all times and places along your journey.
  10. With a deeper sense of security, a feeling of oneness with the natural world infuses your being, allowing you to feel completely at home within your surroundings.
  11. One with the earth, and infused with its healing qualities, you rest within your mountain of stability, allowing its absolute stillness to permeate your entire being.
  12. Deeply attuned to the earth, repeat the following three times, aloud or silently: “Embodying all of the earth’s essential qualities, I experience complete stability.”
  13. Slowly release the gesture, taking several breaths to integrate all of the earth’s healing qualities.
  14. When you are ready, open your eyes, returning slowly and gently, continuing your journey with a greater sense of support and stability.

If you are interested in adding another tool to your “toolbox” and want to explore mudras, guided meditations, energy centers (chakras), doshas (constitution), balance, and health conditions more in depth, Mudras For Healing and Transformation, by Joseph and Leslie Le Page, is a spectacular resource. It’s a wonderful compliment for anyone wanting to expand their spiritual practice(s) as well. This book is perfect for Yoga students, teachers, and/or anyone in all types of healing professions……and makes for a great, meaningful holiday gift.

Attuned to the earth’s stability, may you move confidently throughout the next few days, weeks and months!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Simple Reminder

“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means being in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” Unknown

With the state of the world, the full moon energy and the preparation, anticipation and craziness this time of year brings into our lives, a simple reminder is called for throughout the day. Whether that reminder calls us to stop, breathe, get out in nature, repeat a mantra, pray, move our body, listen to an uplifting song, or just sit in stillness to connect to Mother Earth, we can cultivate a sense of peaceful grounding that we can turn to again and again throughout our day.

Is it possible to maintain that “calm in the chaos” outlook? It sure is! Once again, it is our choice to make. With practice, patience and mindful intention, the choices we make become more evolutionary. We arrive at that place where we are aware of the impact our energy has on those around us and the ripple effect it has on the collective consciousness. We are so finely tuned into what our reminders are telling us, that we can operate from auto-pilot mode. Our trajectory shifts, and we find ourself operating from a place of peace, calm and ease – especially if we have been protecting our energy field (my last three blogs contain some good pointers, a prayer and affirmations that may be of help if you don’t know where/how to start).

We can become so rooted and grounded in our practice(s) that our awareness is heightened, and we see ourself as the witness. I refer to it as sitting with a bowl of popcorn and watching the movie unfold without getting caught up in the plot, characters and story line. I can bear witness to the unfolding chaos. When I am in this state, I feel like I am flowing smoothly. There is this sense of knowing and feeling the connection to earth, spirit, the Source, and joy. It feels like I have a skip in my step, and my heart is smiling! Speaking of smiling, do people need to smile more, or what?

How are you feeling this first week in December? Are you feeling grounded or scattered?I invite you to sit with the following questions and perhaps even use them as journal prompts or just food for thought:

  • Are there parts of your life that are flowing smoothly?
  • Are there some that aren’t?
  • Can you name the feelings that arise when your life is flowing smoothly?
  • What thoughts, feelings, or sensations arise when parts of your life aren’t flowing so smoothly?
  • Are you a peaceful person, or are you filled with regrets, grievances and resentments?
  • Who are the peaceful people in your life?
  • How do they make you feel when you are around them?
  • Who or what disrupts your peace?
  • What are you willing to do about it?
  • What are some activities that bring a sense of peace, calm and ease into your life?
  • Where do you turn for inspiration?

On this first Wednesday in December, my wish for you is that you may know Peace. I will leave you with a lovely prayer/affirmation from meditation cards that I have (http://www.mayyouknowjoy.com). By the way, these cards make a lovely holiday or hostess gift. And if someone you know is in need of a simple reminder, then this deck of cards, and accompanying book, make the perfect gift!

May You Know Peace

May you know peace in the core of your being. May you breathe in and out and know that everything is exactly as it should be and you’re exactly where you are supposed to be. May the lightness of peace guide you. May it be friends with strength and hope. And, if peace seems far off, identify what needs to be removed or changed to make space for it.

Peace out darlings!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

The Art of Being Held

“I’ve got you.”

Three simple powerful words: I’ve- got- you. How many times have we said that to someone in the midst of a crisis or life situation? Why do we say that? We say it because we know the power of those words and their implication: no matter what is going on in our life, we know that someone has our back.

The inspiration and title for this blog came to me during one of my yoga classes. I was listening to the talk and the teachings we take part in before starting with our actual physical practice. We were commenting on how sometimes we get so caught up in the frenzy, what’s going on in the world, in our homes, in our lives, on the job OR what is not going on, and we tend to judge, become critical and get lost in the thoughts behind the voice in our heads. This is another time when we must hit the “Pause” button and remind ourselves that we are not the voices in our head!

So, how do we pull back, reign ourselves in from self-sabotage and that feeling of incompetency, ineptness, frustration or feeling like we are drowning without a life-preserver? Well, we once again stop, pause, breathe and remind ourselves that we are being held. And not just by those physical beings who we know have our back, but by the powerful, all-encompassing divine power of God (or whatever words resonates for you) this most magical Universe, guardian angels and even our spirit family. It’s truly an art we must learn to cultivate. As my lovely friend Andrea mentioned in class, these are the times we must remember that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. There will be times, people and circumstances that push our buttons, but if we tap into our toolbox and the knowingness that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves, we can bask in the glory of knowing we are being held.

One of my mantras when I walk outside is, “Feel the love. Have faith. Go with the flow.” I can’t begin to tell you how soothing and invigorating it is. This little mantra / prayer keeps me rooted in the truth of knowing that I am (and we all are) divinely guided, guarded, directed and protected. That’s BIG! If that isn’t the art of being held, then I don’t know what is.

In my last two blogs, I included a meditation in one and some affirmations in the other. Today, I will leave you with a prayer. Unfortunately, I do not have the name of the person who wrote it, but it wasn’t me. Just sayin’….total transparency! As one of my teachers, the lovely and much revered Angela always points out, if the word “God” does not work for you or your belief system, please use whatever word resonates for you…it can be Divine Being, Supreme Being, Spirit, The Universe, Mother Nature, Mother Earth, or the name of that one almighty power that is greater than you….that divine power that you know holds you.

God’s Love Has Got Me

Dear God, it is so comforting to know that You’ve got me, and that nothing separates me from Your love. Even when I mess up or trip up, You’ve got me! When I forget who I Am or Whose I Am, You’ve got me! When I go my own way and make decisions out of fear or dread, You’ve got me! When I stumble, I never completely fall because You’ve got me! You’ve got me in the palm of Your Hands, and in the power of Your Love. You’ve got me in the sacredness of silence and in the chaos and confusion of my own doing.

In my humanness, I sometimes forget Your love, and I attempt to walk away from Your tender mercies and still, I know You’ve got me! I am so grateful for Your presence and Your grace. I am so grateful for Your love and Your peace. And, I am so grateful for all the ways that show me Your Love. So that I know – that You, Mighty God, have always got me! Amen

 

Stay in the light darlings-the astonishing light of your own being and, remember, You Are Held!

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC