VidyEssence

How to bring the sacred in the ordinary

Posted by in Self-Care

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“As surely as there is a voyage away, there is a journey home.”

Jack Kornfield,  After the Ecstasy the Laundry

The journey home is exactly what I am experiencing since I went through a series of difficult eventsand strong reactions to themlast year. This includes a concussion and being on a watchlist for greater breast cancer risk. With this breaking news came the search for solutions, sustainable ones, because the short lived ones, I did try.

I knew I was burning the candle by both ends. I knew I needed to slow down, maybe even stop certains activities in some cases. I pushed through a little too long. I should have know better not to. But I did. The gift that came with it is the spiritual quest I am going through. I have found that from everything, what I crave the most (no, exercise even though needed, is not the one) is spiritual self-care. The search for meaning and a sense of purpose and contribution to the world has been haunting me. I toned it down because I had let my mind take over for far too long. As my coach of the time said to me: ‘’Let the heart lead and the head will follow’’. Now I am ready to quiet the mind chatter and listen to the whispers of my heart.

I looked many places for a spiritual self-care assessment and finally came up with the following list:

  • Ability to spend reflective time alone
  • Being able to find meanings of events in life
  • Spending time in nature
  • Finding a spiritual connection or community
  • Being open to inspiration
  • Cherishing optimism and hope
  • Being aware of non-material aspects of life
  • Trying at times not to be in charge or the expert
  • Being open to not knowing
  • Identifying what is meaningful and noticing its place in my life
  • Meditating and/or Praying
  • Singing
  • Having experiences of awe
  • Being able to practice forgiveness and compassion in life
  • Contributing to causes in which we believe
  • Reading inspirational literature or listening to inspirational talks, music
  • Developing a purpose in life

 

I am attempting all of this and some days are quite better than others. We may not be thinking about spiritual self-care at first, but what I realized is even though everything else would fall into place, if there is no peace inside, it is hard to feel joy and lightness of the heart. Let me explain briefly. You have done your morning exercise, ate healthy food all day long, slept well the night before and had good sex on top of that. Still you are not able to let go of what was said about you from a superior at work. This is not the first time you have to deal with a situation like this. You are getting exhausted mentally and emotionally.

These words have really hurt your feelings and you cannot get them out of your head.  ‘’What am I doing wrong?’’ you think. You wonder how to resolve the issue, ask for advice, mumble the words to make sure it will be clear and not offending when voiced. Now, after all this, you even wonder if you should bring up the subject in the first place or try to make peace with it on your own!

Obstacles on our path have a greater meaning. I am sure this is not a new concept to you. There is a teaching that is aching to be learned. If not learned this time, the message will just get stronger. This could take the shape of a greater roadblock or a more intense physical sign. The digestive upset maybe now transmutes itself into stomach ulcer. The event is just too hard to digest!

When we do care for our spiritual self, we take and make the time to inner reflect and find tools to help us address the greater meaning of each and every event. We may learn detachment, forgiveness, or speaking up for ourselves. As we open up our heart to the spiritual growth, we become closer to our divine self and better equipped to fulfill our life’s mission.

This is why spiritual self-care is essential to be happy and by default, healthy. We all care to a degree or the other about our contribution to the world, whether it is by being a loving parent, an excellent contributor to our work or ending suffering at a large level on this planet. Microcosm and macrocosm, it is all the same. All work is important. It is hard to live thinking that we do do not matter. We all need to feel our life has a purpose. When our emotions take over, we need to quiet the mind and let out spirit soar to make some magic happen. The need to let go is definitely there.

I invite you to take inventory of your current obstacles and note how you address them in a way that nurtures and nourishes you. It is important to not just get rid of the issues asap but to be in the moment and to feel the pain, cry the tears. As we bring more spirituality into our care it is easier to see life as it is and bring more contentment and gratitude on a daily basis. As we know, there is light, it might be just crowded momentarily with the  shadow of our thoughts.

I am curious to know what works for you? Share your comment below so we can all learn from each other!

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When your emotions guide your life

Posted by in Self-Care

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When comes the need for more self-care, inevitably I can easily say now that there is a need for more self-love in the first place. I can tell this now because not so long ago, I did not connect the dots between the two. Let me tell you part of my story and you will understand why.

For as long as I remember, as a child and still until recently, there was one emotion I wanted to  avoid as much as I could: fear. I know that fear would still creep in my life from time to time. Yes it could delay my course of action but never stop me though! After observing  my elders’ many fears and witnessing how this had impacted negatively their life, I was to fight this thing with all my might.

My dad seemed to live either in the past or the future. He kept a lot of things, and yes some real physical ‘’stuff’’ to accomplish, read, and do for when he will retire, and then finally threw them away once my parents moved into a retirement home. I heard him talk so vividly about acts of courage and the vibrancy of his life as a young man.This was his story. It seems like his real self died when he committed to marry my mom.

My mother would see things with shaded glasses all the time. Her glass was always  half full. There was never enough money to do this or that. Worry and anxiety were part of her daily life, (now not as much though, seems like aging polished a lot of her edges). It was so normal to me that it took a long time to realize and name this as anxiety. I thought she was just negative, stressed out by life, work, finances, and not very lucky in life. I became her best defendress!

Turns out there are a lot of things that she could have seen differently. We all do. When I say this there is no judgment; I  am merely stating a fact. Now I know we have the choice to perceive things for the best. However, for the longest time, I unknowingly kept the same thinking process I had when I was a child; this had become a pattern, a habit. As a young child I saw one scenario: through their lenses.

As a young adult I discovered self-development books. What a treat for me! I was determined not to live in fear and in insecurity like they did. It would be boring and I may miss out on my life, I thought. By being so focused on what I did not want, I did not look around to realize that some of my fiercest decisions were made out of fear of missing out or fear of living in fear! All this time, until in my forties, my focus could have been on fear’s opposite emotion: love.

I am sure we can all testify with similar stories of ours. I thought I was in charge and in some sense I was. I made tremendous progress during those last 20 years. However, I still did a lot of things based on fear without knowing. The point I am bringing up here, is that we need to constantly create time for introspection so we can redirect our lives as we discover ourselves and our values, in order to keep walking in the only path that will brings us happiness, ours.

Now, please take a break from the screen and go grab a pen and a piece of paper.  We  will do a quick one question exercise. Do not ponder too long on the question, just let the words that come to mind to be written on your paper without analyzing them.

If you were to list the emotions that rule your life what would they be?

If you want to get further in the process you may want to know why, where this came from. For me personally, it helps tremendously releasing the trauma. Be mindful not to be over pensive though as it moves you away from taking a direct action to create a new life for yourself. You can start by being aware when those emotions surface and find a new sentence or affirmation to positively phrase what is felt, and thus change your experience in the moment. For those of you who work with essential oils and emotions, this is where they come into play. Associating multiple senses multiply the effect of any action. Furthermore it has been scientifically proven that the sense of smell is the one that retrieve the oldest memory.

If we would refer to the self-care assessment as we did in the previous  blog posts, you would have a list that looks like this:

  • Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
  • Stay in contact with important people in your life
  • Treat yourself kindly (for example, by using supportive inner dialogue or self talk)
  • Feel proud of yourself
  • Reread favorite books and see favorite movies again
  • Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, and places, and seek them out
  • Allow yourself to cry
  • Find things that make you laugh
  • Express your outrage in a constructive way
  • Play with children
  • Give myself affirmations, praise myself
  • Love myself

As you can see I want to help you dig deeper, even though applying any of these suggestion is an amazing start. By understanding why we don’t do some of these items on our self-care list, we are getting closer to creating sustainable habits, routines or rituals to incorporate what would be beneficial. This will be the subject of a post to itself. For now, let’s say at least that logging in a journal when you skip reading the book or playing with your children and what was the reason for not doing it may help you discern some patterns and correct the course.This is one simple, effective and easy way to  bring consciousness into our self-care.

DIG!

How about we put our focus on a few subjects fear, self-love, setting boundaries and  creating a support system or team.

Fear and Love

I could write many articles on fear and still would have a lot to say about it. What I have learned that was the most beneficial piece is that the opposite emotion is love. Love, along with joy, is said to be one of the highest vibration on earth. Every time we do something out of fear we are subtracting love from the equation, is isn’t it sad? By bringing more mindfulness and consciousness into our daily gestures and life, we can have an enhanced experience of love and joy. It is a lot about making a conscious choice to think and live differently, to cut the negativity, to turn our back on the false belief from our childhood and create a brand new positive experience for ourselves.

By slowly moving up into the highest vibrations, self-love will show up more, without any doubt. In the present moment it is all about creating conscious positive thoughts about ourselves in order to feel more joy. Believe you deserve it! As you live more often in higher state of vibration, you create higher vibration for you to be in. The perfect vicious cycle! Also the opposite is also true. This is why we are attracted or distancing ourselves from certain people. It is all about how we  all vibrate!  

Setting boundaries and creating around yourself a community of support

At first these two statements in the same sentence may seems contradictory. Life is about starting all over again so we need to deal with darkness and light, motion and motionless, yin and yang, etc. Both opposites have their importance in specific circumstances. It is all about balance!

I have learned this year to say no. How bad I felt at first, letting guilt creeping in! Now I feel so good about it because I know that when I say no, I do it mindfully, not to hurt someone else, but rather in order not to hurt myself more. Nobody can give from an empty cup anyway.

Now, write  this down and place it in your planner or on any visible helpful place so when you are about to commit to something you make sure you took a good look of the impact on your life before stepping in. Saying no to others means saying yes to me! Now because you are starting this new habit for yourself how about rewarding you by doing something you love for 15 minutes? Chances are it will prompt you to say no more often. And if you’ve stepped in and said yes too soon, it is not too late to retract yourself and explain in plain truth. I bet that by modeling it with your behavior you will help someone learn to say no too!

On the other end of the spectrum we also need to balance this out with asking for help. If you are the kind of person who gives a lot and rarely let yourself receive, you are creating a perfect terrain for un-ease, and further on, dis-ease. Human beings are interdependent, remember. We can’t do it all on our own! Again self-love is  about being able to see our limit and ask for help. Look around at your family members, close friends and community members. Think who you can ask for help and what you can ask for help with. If you have once given help for a friend who asked for help, it should be easier to reach out and ask them when in needs. As we learn to setting healthy boundaries and rely on our support system or team, we will be taken better care or our emotional self.  

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Mental Self-Care, starts with the ‘S’ word

Posted by in Self-Care

 

 

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No,  I am not referring to the one in a sentence like I don’t give  a s***. This is anger, careless,  avoidance or denial, and even though this describes a bit what I will talk to you about here, this is not the word.

Before I get to tell you what the word is, let me get a few things out of the way:

  1. Some may also refer to the appellation ‘’intellectual’’ or psychological. Mental, intellectual, psychological, these words will be used interchangeably here. To me, in this blog post, they mean the same thing.
  2. As I am referring to a wellness wheel and as I did, and still do extensive research on anything self-care, I need to give you the list of most physical self-care assessment tools I found out there. This is  a way for me to bring some continuity and also give you access to a quick tool to evaluate where you are at in your life but there is  always more as I do not believe quick self assessments are deep enough to find sustaining healthy solutions.
  • Take day trips or mini-vacations
  • Make time away from telephones, email, and the Internet
  • Make time for self-reflection
  • Notice my inner experience – listen to my thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, feelings
  • Have my own personal psychotherapy
  • Write in a journal
  • Read literature that is unrelated to work
  • Do something at which I am not expert or in charge
  • Attend to minimizing stress in my life
  • Engage my intelligence in a new area, e.g., go to an art show, sports event, theatre
  • Be curious
  • Say no to extra responsibilities sometimes

 

We will go back to some of these items later in this post but let’s keep our eyes on the list so we can really address the subject.

  1. Stress’s definition. I want to strongly link our mental wellness and self-care into how we deal with what we call stress. With this in mind, here is what I found that resonates with what I want to talk about.

Merriam Webster partly defines stress as:

‘’A state resulting from a stress; especially: one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.’’

At the Oxford dictionaries dot com, there is this complementary  explanation to the first:

‘’A  state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.’’

 

Now let’s get clear!

So what we are looking for is basically to be mentally sane. Without saying that anybody that live under stress is mentally ill as I know this is not the case, I like to point out the second sentence here on this definition of mental health on medicinenet.com:

‘’Mental health is more than just being free of a mental illness. It is more of an optimal level of thinking, feeling, and relating to others.’’

As we often hear it is not only what happens to you that matters, but mostly how you decide to react to it. And I will stress the word choose.This may be an unconscious choice but the truth is, we can control our mental more than we often do and this is still a choice, whether we like to admit it or not. In my case, anything I learn about something I can control,  I am happy because this means I can change my life’s journey to the best!

Of course there are as many definitions as there are people. One person may say stress is when you have a lot to do, not much time to do itread feeling overwhelmed. Another person might say it’s being unemployed, while a third might say it’s his boss. Most of those stressors refer to how we react to what is happening and are directly linked to our relationship with first and foremost ourselves but also other people, time, space, objects, situations, etc. In the end, it boils down to mainly these few questions:

  • Are life events going as expected?
  • Are things happening in my life congruent with my value systems?
  • Do I live according to my life purpose?

In everyday situations,  a lot of us automatically react to stress with the flight or fight response. To me, this is when my essential oils come in handy (The how to is for another post!) However, because we can’t run away from the tiger because there is none, it becomes more of a “rough, tough or ‘’stuff” reaction. We may  feel rough and act irritated or we “stuff” our emotions, and we are also good at toughing it out. Repression, as we know will always come out later in other ways. The biggest and saddest problem with stress is that it accumulates.

At first we can witness some physical or emotional un-ease: headache, difficulty to fall asleep, digestion issues, skin irritation bouts of anxious moments, to name a few. When we are not asking ourselves the critical questions and acting upon the answers to create an appropriate course of action to make sustainable transformation it may lead to physical or mental-emotional dis-ease. For sure, the misalignment is real.

So I am sure you have not forgotten about the s word. Me neither. The word is Simplify. Simplify your life! And by this I mean the many different aspects (8, from the wellness wheel, more or less, as you wish) of your life.

As we feel un-ease  we may need to un-do,  aka change the way we do things in general, recreate a different thinking process as to not repeat the same detrimental experiences consistently. Unplugging literally and figuratively is a good example and metaphor. In some ways this is somewhat similar when we are referring to dis-ease.  We may need to ‘’dis’’ and ‘’de’’ a lot.  dis-connect de-cluttter, dis-charge, dis-engage.

Going back to the questions  above:

  • Are life events going as expected?

We may want to  look at our expectations and see if any of them are  unreasonable, or are questionable in a sense that we can lower them and we can still be happy. I am sure most of the time we can lower our expectations down a few notches. I am also sure we can still be happy when things do not turn out like we had planned. I am not saying I can do this easily. Not-at-all!

This is where the perfectionists in us will have difficulty. This is where we need to release control and let life flow. This is where we ought to simplify our to do list, ‘’forget’’ a few things and still be content.  For my oil fans, this is where you want your cypress nearby as a reminder.

Mothers! Yes you! You know deep down in your heart that your children would rather have your fullest attention when they share a wonderful discovery rather than have you make sure the counter is cleaned up right after lunch. Yep! This was me a lot when my kids were younger and this is still me from time to time. We need to go see behind the need for cleanliness here. What is it we are avoiding?

  • Are things happening in my life congruent with my value systems?

In order to find an answer to  this question, we need to first clarify our values. This in itself is quite a process, an important one that is. For this reason, I  will make sure we address this either in a blog post series but most probably in a webinar and playshop program. Let’s say though that at least asking ourselves this question is the first step towards clarity. When we have clarity we have what is needed to  head in the right direction: a map!

  • Do I live according to my life purpose?

This is another huge question, I know one that I cannot briefly go into. No wonder why? this is the work of a lifetime! Another program on it’s way! One clue, notice when you feel the most joyful, what you really like to do when there is not time nor money constraint. This is a great first observation.

So when overwhelm comes your way de-stress and ask yourself one of these additional questions:

  • Where is the dis-connect and where do I need to really disconnect?
  • Where and when can I create stronger boundaries and say no? to others, to activities, to more stuff?

What can I de-clutter?  

  • My address book or contact list (relationship)
  • My space (stuff)
  • My planner (activities)

Relating to your life purpose or values you can ask: ‘’How does this (activity, person thing) add value to my life or serve my higher purpose?’’ Those are not always easy questions to find answers to but they are surely the ones that will render you more happiness once you find the answer.

Now enough said, this is your turn! Share you thoughts and tips so we can all benefit from each other’s experiences.

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Our body: The messenger we need to decode

Posted by in Self-Care

 

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When we look at most people’s New Year’s resolutions, there are a lot of those who are falling into this category-physical health. Have you  ever wondered why? Here is my theory. Either we fail year after year to keep our resolutions, going back to old habits or we have an easier time referring to this aspect of the self when it comes to health. It is obvious that our society focuses more and more on  physical perfection goals. No need to go far to understand this; we are bombarded by images of  “ideal people” showing off their body as if this was the standard everyone should achieve. Even if we are somewhat immune to this and understand that fact in our brain, we are still influenced by these images and comparing comes easily. Of course we also know well,  I assume at least you, my readership, where we need to make some changes. The issue is not what to change, it is how to do it in a way that will be sustained. This is why I am in the making of something refreshing and original for you in the Spring so we can all look at this with a 360 degree view rather than an  “I have to make a resolution today” one on December 31st.

Back to physical health. Body-mind connection is real and even though more people believe in this, we are still navigating what this all means and how to read in between the lines. I love to do that! In fact I have been doing this for the last 20 years, slowly learning with my personal experiences and also by dealing with all the human beings who have crossed my path. Without becoming  a full-blown detective, I want to open a new door for when it comes to caring for your physical self.

Most physical self check lists include something similar to this:

  • Eat regularly (e.g. breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise
  • Get regular medical care for prevention
  • Get medical care when needed
  • Take time off when sick or needed
  • Get massages or any holistic care
  • Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other fun physical activity
  • Take time to be sexual – with myself, with a partner
  • Get enough sleep
  • Wear clothes I like
  • Take vacations

This is exactly where most resolutions go when we are talking about our health! If you have tried any of these self-care items above and have not made sustainable progress, chances are there is a deeper need to evaluate what is preventing you to get there  and most importantly  how to sustain the healthy habits over time.  This is what I want to start talking about here: the real thing! Of course gyms, weight loss programs, pharmaceutical companies and retail stores gain from you playing yoyo with your  body. In fact they love it! It keeps their profit margins high and their shareholders happy too! Now I am all about  creating a sustainable conscious  life and hopefully you are willing embark on this Journey too!

So what I would like to encourage you to do today is pick one area of physical health you want to care for and ask yourself these questions below. I will use one personal example to help you see how digging deeper can really affect your overall success and what we are really truly looking at, greater sustainable health. As you are doing the exercise think of it as if you were having a discussion with a friend and you are the one asking the questions (and of course you will also dig deep inside to find the truthful answers). This way, there are less chances for self judgement. The questions in bold are part of a script whereas the others typically flow naturally from the answers as if in a real conversation. Think of having tea, coffee or a green juice with one of your friends and this is how the conversation goes.

Q: How do you want to better care for your physical self?

A: I want to … Get to bed earlier and sleep at least 7 hours each night.

Q:Why?

A: I tend to go to bed late, after midnight, and when I wake up at six am to get ready for the day, I am still tired. And grumpy. And less effective; I lack concentration.

Q:But why are you getting to bed so late? What are the obstacles keeping you from sleeping more?

A: You know, working from home and  the demand of still being what I consider a mother at home. I want to be involved in my kids’ lives but mine takes a toll!

Q: How will you find a solution ..You do not want to become burned out, do you?

A: Of course not! Then I would not be involved in their life at the level I want either. I  think I need to find new habits and reevaluate my priorities.

Q: So what are the options you are thinking about? What are the self-care habits you could implement to go to bed early and sleep better?

A: To allow myself only to work until 9 or 10 pm and then have time to wind down and go to bed at around 10:30 pm. I guess I will  fail a few times before it is the new habit for me but any night I can get more and better sleep is a gain! I guess I could put aside a few things. I would really benefit from watching where I spend my time while working. Social media is a tool for me but I often get distracted by it too…

Q: I think these are wonderful ideas! Think also how much more present you will be with your children by  being more alert and more patient too… How will you make sure these new habits are sustained? Are there any ways you can reward yourself for doing the right thing?

A: I could set up an alarm on my calendar so I know I need to stop. Like a reminder. Oh! I can set up an appointment with myself to do something I  really enjoy doing.I could read 10 pages of a good book before going to bed.

There are a lot of web sites on nutrition, exercise and anything health wise. I will soon start to make a compilation of my best alternative health resources but today, the point is not about telling what is best for you. Ultimately you are the one best equipped to find what works for you by observing and listening to your body. One thing I may suggest is journaling or if this sounds too new age-y, having a real or electronic notebook to log, in a simple format, bullet point like, so you can see patterns emerging.
If you have any physical health related questions please post them in a comment below and even though I do not have a medical degree, I can certainly point you in a healthy direction, using all of the alternative health resource and contacts I have.

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Are resolutions the solution for January 1st?

Posted by in Self-Care

If you feel like all you did was cook, buy, celebrate, eat, sleep and start again, you may not feel ready to answer the crucial question: “What are your resolutions for 2016?’’.  We have  enough stress and pressure all year long to add this one to the mix, don’t you think? Isn’t it  about time we bring more mindfulness to this tradition?

When hearing from most of us, it often ends sadly before spring comes. By understanding why  we took on some great or grand resolutions in the past just to watch them fall  to the wayside,  we can learn how  to make sustainable changes that will last all year long and beyond.

Although I had time to relax in the past two weeks,  with family around, it seemed like there was not enough time  alone for me to really figure out what my intentions are for the New Year. I love introspection and with all of I experienced this year especially, I need even more time to figure out what I want my life to look like, not only for 2016 but this year and beyond. (Fortunately,  I realized that depending on the calendar we use there are other dates for the New Year!

If we make some resolutions, they should be done when we feel ready to do so. Personally I plan on spending most of the winter in soul searching mode., I am balancing my life, relaunching my career according to my dharma, and creating a  lot of new habits to reflect this new journey. This is no small task but this is feasible and… highly desirable! I want to  devote enough time to really reflect on what and why long enough to have a sustainable approach to it. I know the how will come naturally if I bring in faith and trust in the process, even if I will also plan it a little bit. As you know a dream without action stays a dream and I want to live the dream I will paint. The most important piece is to let things flow and believe there is a reason to everything that happens in our lives in the present moment.

If some of you feel the same way, I invite you to use this next upcoming 8 weeks of  Self-Care Sunday on Facebook and blog posts on the web as I will share about the many aspects of the wheel  of wellness and  see how these sharings could help you use this winter season to inner reflect and be ready to act on real, well thought out goals and dreams for your life when everything is renewing itself in the spring.

When we really think about it, resolutions  seems to be a lot about self-care.

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