Learning to Love Yourself (It’s an Inside Job)

oprah and deepak love yourself beachInspired by Deepak Chopra’s and Oprah Winfrey’s recent meditation challenge on Miraculous Relationships I want to talk about feeling loved and learning to love yourself.  The last day of the challenge, the centering thought Deepak had us repeat was “love begins with you“. It truly does. If you did the entire meditation challenge you may have noticed that the first week or so of the meditation challenge, which focused on relationships, focused soley on loving ourselves.  That is because the foundation for healthy, loving relationships is having a loving relationship and feeling love for ourselves.  Most of us don’t realize or forget that. That’s not to say you can’t have a loving relationship without being able to love yourself. It’s that the quality of that relationship, the dynamics of that relationship, the way you see the world and your life is intrinsically different when you love yourself.

Image from Attractology.com
Image from Attractology.com

Many of us see life as a never-ending struggle, as an unfullfilled experience, a relentless search for satiety where we search for love or something else in our external world to make us feel complete …never realizing that what we’re searching for is inside us and has been with us all along.  The message  we tell ourselves is that when …in the future.. I meet that person,  I finish school, I get my dream job, I have a house, I have a fancy car, designer clothes, I am debt free, I retire, I have grandchildren… I will be happy and complete. With that happiness and wholeness always residing in a fantasy future and the present being not enough and unfulfilled. The hole we are searching to fill with this person, event, or thing in the future is love for ourselves. Understanding that no matter our present circumstances, we are perfect, we are whole, complete, worthy of love (both giving and receiving love), and to connect with that feeling and enjoy that feeling in the present – that is the magic we are searching for.

Do you Love Yourself?

loveyourself
Image from Kleopatralove.com

Ask yourself this question – Do I love myself? What is your answer? If your answer is a resounding booming yes – you get it, you understand this concept, and this article is just confirming what you know is true.  For many of us though, the answer is uncertain –  “I think so” or “of course I do? right? aren’t I supposed to?” or “I don’t know“. You may even have trouble checking in with yourself and “feeling” the answer to the question. You are just faced with this dull, uncertain void. For many of us, our sense of self-love that we were born with has long been abandoned or been drowned out by criticism, self-loathing, negative tapes playing, so much so that we can’t even remember the last time we felt filled with love for ourselves.  Feeling love for ourselves is different from feeling good about things you did for someone else or accomplished (getting a promotion, getting engaged, having a child, planning a special birthday party, or making someone feel good about themself). It’s about looking in the mirror and feeling love for you just being, just breathing, for existing. Letting go of seeing ourselves with criticism and judgement.  Some of us only know love as something we tap into when we feel it for other people, beings, experiences or things we love.  I would break learning to love yourself into two key steps. The first is developing awareness of your thoughts about yourself and the second is learning to love yourself. When you accomplish loving yourself, unconditionally, truly, deeply, everything in your life and the way you see the world shifts.

Developing Awareness of your Internal Dialogue

If you start tuningdebbiedowner into your feelings, you can start to explore the internal dialogue that goes on in your mind. Often we’re not aware of the messages we tell ourselves because it’s such an automatic process that goes on in our mind but we are always able to tune into how we’re feeling.  If you can tune into the times when you don’t feel loved, you feel critical, you feel bad about yourself – using the feeling as an alert signal – you can then explore that feeling like a curious child. What is here? What caused that feeling? Why do I feel that way? When have I felt this feeling before? The underlying answers might surprise you.  It may be helpful to write down some of the messages you notice or become aware of.  You may be surprised to discover you have a little internal “Debbie Downer” in your head. Perceiving what happens around you and creating a negative dialogue. Internalizing what goes on around you in a negative way and tying it to your self-worth. Where do these messages come from?   You may have grown up around people who criticized you and caused you to develop a low sense of self-esteem or you may have perceived things that happened in your life in a negative way.  Regardless of the source you can start to rewrite those negative messages.

Developing Self Love

There are a number of ways we can start to generate feelings of self-love for ourselves. These are but a few. You need to try these practices for a solid month to really start to feel their effect.

I am open to the beauty and positive loving energy around me

I forgive the past and let go of worry, fear or doubt

I fully embrace healing, life and love and feel guided protected and loved

I am positive sweet energy and unconditional love

Patience and serenity are now filling my mind and heart

I am a love-filled being

See how they feel when you say them and read them everyday to fill yourself with the love-filled feeling these positive messages bring (see my blog link posted above for guidance on using affirmations).

  • Being kind to yourself – if you have low sense of self-love you likely are used to accommodating others and ignoring your own needs. It’s time to start being kind to yourself. Start saying no to things you are dreading and just doing to please others. Start doing something every day as an act of love to yourself. It might be giving yourself a foot massage, taking a bath, taking a walk in nature, ignoring a phone call and choosing some time for silence and peace for yourself. You may find it awkward to do at first but empowering each time you practice it – treating yourself with loving kindness.

love hand

  • Look at yourself with love – practice looking in the mirror at yourself with loving thoughts. This is especially hard to do when you’re in the buff with no enhancements but give it a try. Look and try to see love reflected back at you in your eyes, smile at yourself, drop the criticism and tendency to look for faults. Try being excited to see yourself – like the feeling of when you run into a friend you love unexpectedly or see someone you love that you don’t get to see often. Do this daily and start to see yourself through loving eyes.
  • Let go of criticism, self-judgement, and perfectionism – All these practices diminish us and make us feel we are unworthy unless we do something to earn it. Try being kind to yourself in your internal dialogue. Think supportive loving thoughts. Be compassionate with yourself. Treat yourself like you treat your best friend when they’re going through a hard time. Be your BFF. Let these thoughts go like a helium balloon into the air and breathe the sigh of relief that comes with shutting down your inner critic.
  • Think of something nice to say about yourself to yourself everyday – start to replace the old negative critical comments with loving comments noticing things about yourself you take for granted. It can be physical, emotional or spiritual qualities or recognizing your qualities in action.
  • Notice the energy drains – As you work on building yourself up and filling yourself up with positive energy you may start to be very sensitive or notice people or situations that are energy drains. Could be a coworker, family member, or someone else who goes on a negative rant or is just difficult to be around or a job that’s not the right fit. You can start by giving yourself little breathers from these people or situations when it is too much. Leave the room, go for a walk, get a coffee. If it’s your job, start to think about what you’d like to do and take action to start moving to a more positive work environment or career. It may be cutting phone calls short with people who drain you (remember you aren’t doing them any favors by letting them stew in their negative story). Do some shielding and surround yourself with white light and fill yourself with love before and after being in these situations.
  • Toxic relationships – Further to the previous point, if someone is really a continuous drain you may want to consider letting them go from your life. Let go of someone toxic in your life and let someone loving into your life. It’s funny how the universe does this for us. We are often, when we have low-self esteem or in a toxic relationship – for some reason – scared of letting go of it  – be it obligation, fear of being lonely, fear of conflict. The Universe is kind to us though and you will find when you let go of a relationship that is toxic not only you feel a big sigh and sense of relief and liberation – but the Universe will send someone in who is living at a higher, more positive frequency to replace that person. It is also empowering to choose happiness and let go of toxicity.
  • Bask in gratitude – See the blessings in your life and each day note the things you are grateful for and feel the shift being grateful brings into your energy field ..into how you feel. Start to see the world as a loving kind place and you in it – as a loving kind being.
  • Take care of yourself – Don’t let yourself run yourself ragged. Get sleep when you need it. Seek medical care when you need it. Eat healthy foods. Exercise even if it’s walking. Start to care for yourself in a loving way. Sometimes when we don’t love ourselves we neglect ourselves.
  • Let go of your negative stories – Maybe you focus on the past and negative stories or see negative things happening to you in the future. Let go of these stories. If it’s in the past, it’s already happened and reliving it over and over only tortures you. If it’s a negative future, try to picture positive and exciting things around the corner. See yourself as a happy and loving person in your future. Recognize it’s your ego that keeps you focused on the past and future as being more important than what is happening in the present. Let yourself let go of past regrets and negative future forecasting and just bask in the present and focus on the positive aspects in your present (bask in that gratitude and self-love).

Learning to love yourself is a process and truly a gift – because it’s not something someone can give you or that you can buy but it’s something that is totally in your power to give yourself – and no one can take it away from you.  It takes time but learning to love yourself will truly change your world and you will fill full from the inside out and then be able to share that loving self with the world.

Letting Go of Worry

Image from http://opinion-forum.com
Image from http://opinion-forum.com

I have had seen so many clients this month that have been so overwhelmed with worry (and stress manifesting from that worry) that I felt it was a much-needed topic to talk about this month.  I will share some thoughts to help change your perspective on worry and also offer some practices you can try to let go of the habit of worrying.

First a confession. I used to be a consummate worrier. I’d fret about things in my mind constantly. What happened during the day, what was coming around the corner, and the “job” I was doing on all aspects of my life.  When I was done worrying about myself, then I worried about/for everyone else in my life. As someone who has gone from being a worrier to more of a “going with the flow” person, I can tell you that the effort is well worth it. I can remember when I really couldn’t understand what “go with the flow” meant, because I was such a control freak, but as you let go of controlling your life and world it will become more natural. Your life becomes more joyous, freer, exciting and alive when you let go of worry. You can see what you can influence in your life and what you have no control of, and let go of the things you don’t have control of and have faith.  You see no matter what your past, that your life can be different in the future, but more importantly also in the present moment.

Generally, most people believe worry and stress are a result of the world around us, spinning chaotically; in reality, worry and stress are a construct in our mind created by us for us.   The beauty in that is because it’s something we’ve created in our mind, it’s something we have the power to transform and let go of ourselves.

What is Your Worry Story?

Most people tend to worry about things in the present and future. The worry may or may not be about something that is actually present or manifested in the present-day.  Firstly, I think it’s important to recognize that worrying is a habit.  I came from a household of worriers so this was a habit I was taught as a child. Almost that worrying about someone is a way you show you love them. Worrying is a mental pattern we replay in our mind. The subject of the worry may change but the pattern is the same. We manipulate the subject of our worries in our mind. We create stories of what may happen with this subject of our worry in the future. Elaborate stories. We start with a story, we go back to it, add to it, make it worse, relive it over and over again in our day.  Never recognizing it’s a story, it’s a movie we are playing over and over again in our mind, that it doesn’t exist and that it’s creating stress for us, in our mind, body and spirit, and is making us feel powerless.  If we can take a few steps back and observe that we are creating and playing this movie, if we can be in the audience, watching ourselves and seeing this pattern, we can start to separate from our worry, our story, and start to see this is a construct of our mind…and with that start to let go of it.

Image from http://dailyoftheday.com
Image from http://dailyoftheday.com

Think of yourself when you go to a movie in the theatre. You get absorbed and immersed in the experience of what you’re watching – the sights, the sounds, the characters, and the story. It completely occupies your mind when you’re watching the movie.  Then the movie ends and you come back to yourself and walk away to your life. When we play these future scenarios filled with worry over and over again, we get immersed in the feelings those scenarios  create and get filled with stress.  If you can start to see your worries as a movie or story you’ve created, you can see that is a false reality you’ve created and start to let go of and walk away from these worries and this habit.

Secondly, and most of us recognize this, worrying doesn’t accomplish anything for us. It doesn’t create anything constructive. It just manifests stress in our body, mind and spirit and wears us down. It leaves us in a state of mind where we are waiting for the bad things we imagine in our minds to happen.  It also gravitates us towards the negative, so when we’re watching the news, or other media form we hear the stories that mesh with our worry scenarios. We think wow if that bad thing could happen to that person, it could happen to me too.  We attract fellow worriers into our life, where we go for coffee and end up in group worry sessions.  The felllow worriers confirm our worries are possible and even give us new scenarios to add in.  We leave those sessions feeling drained and even more stressed. It brings negative elements into our life.

How to Break the Worrying Habit

Now your next question may be okay I see the habit but how do I break it? With breaking any habit, the first important step is to observe and see the pattern. Once you bring that awareness to your habit, you can start to see it when you repeat it over and over again. “There I go again”.  Then, when you observe yourself enacting your habit of worry, you can start to replace that stressful habit with something that calms you.  For example, you can see the worry, stop it, then practice some meditative breathing – taking a deep breath through your nose, down to your belly, holding it for a couple of seconds, and then breathing out. You can repeat some positive affirmations to calm and reassure yourself telling yourself  in the present “I am safe, I am okay, I am healing, I am calm, I am loved” (pick whatever works for you).  You can picture whatever you are worrying about and let it go into the air like a balloon or throw it in the garbage like some refuse you don’t want to carry around anymore.  If it’s a physical issue that causes worry, you can visualize sending a soft healing pink light to that area of your body with your in-breath and breathing out grey coloured smoke, representing your worry about your health, with your out breath. With health problems, you may also find it helpful to regardless of what diagnoses you may have received, to visualize your body renewing, as all cells and parts of our body do, and coming back in a healthy state; reminding yourself that all diagnoses have uncertainty and limitations associated with them and that your body has natural healing abilities. You use these techniques to calm and clear your mind. For more ideas on ways to calm yourself, see my blog on finding peace and serenity in your life https://justbreathereiki.com/2012/07/23/finding-peace-and-serenity-in-your-life/ . By replacing your stress-inducing worry habit with something that calms you, you start to teach yourself that you can move from that stressed place to a calm place in an instant. This teaches you that state of mind is easily transformed and unnecessary. You will naturally be attracted to this calmer state of mind and start to incorporate practices, like those detailed in my blog noted above, to help calm yourself. You will become a lighter, calmer, less-stressed and more in the moment person.

Image from http://www.thrive80.com
Image from http://www.thrive80.com

Many worriers tend to be control freaks.  We think if we worry enough about something there might be some way for us to figure out how to control it. That maybe through these stories or scenarios we create we may find a solution.  We tend to forget we are not in control of the world. We may either try to control the world or think we should be able to but we can’t. Know the one thing you have control over is you and your thoughts and perspective.  So let go of the thought that if you worry enough about something you might be able to control what happens.  Trust that whatever happens is for the best and whatever is around the corner will be wonderful.  Start to let go of the wheel and trust that your life is divinely guided. Shift your focus from the things you worry about to the things you can be grateful about and to being loving and compassionate, with yourself and others.  When we focus on worry and other negative things or scenarios we can attract that energy into our future. So shift your focus on something positive. When you are thinking of the future, think of positive things or that you can’t even imagine the amazing possibilities out there and leave your future as a blank slate of wonderful.

On that note if you tend to focus your worry on the future, you need to see that it’s your ego that likes to keep you out of the present moment. You can stop your habit of future forecasting of this is going to happen, then this terrible thing will happen by thinking of a more positive future.  The uncontrollable snowball of the horrible things around the corner becomes a pleasant meandering boat ride into the future where you are a passenger.  What if you let go of the future forecasting and instead imagine there may be some exciting and wonderful things waiting for you around the corner. That life around the corner might be amazing and realizing that your life in the present might be amazing but you’re so lost in the future that you wouldn’t even realize it.  Replace the habit of imagining stressful happenings in the future with imagining lovely things, even lovelier than you can imagine.

Worry truly is a ride we take ourselves on.  We can get off that ride at any moment and bring ourselves into the present moment into a state of calm and trust. Breaking the worry habit is something you have to try out and experience first hand to “get it”. That this worry is just a passing state of mind that I can eliminate and let go of in an instant. It doesn’t mean we don’t ever worry about anything ever again, but it means that we don’t become engrossed in worries. We become aware of this habit and when it starts to arise again, we nip it in the bud, so it doesn’t overwhelm and overtake our sense of well-being. Give it a try to become a calmer and happier being.

Green Up your Life and Send some Love to Mother Earth (With Tips for British Columbians)

Image courtesy of inspirationaldaily.wordpress.com
Image courtesy of inspirationaldaily.wordpress.com

Today the earth is under so much stress due to anthropogenic activities…climate change, unsustainable resource use, species extinction…even more so today in Canada with so many federal environmental regulations beings stripped down or removed entirely by the current government.  It’s hard not to get in a negative state of mind or feel powerless…that an individual can’t help or make a difference.  I believe that every little thing we do matters and we can feel empowered that we are doing the best we can and make choices that better support the planet and other creatures that share it with us.   I thought I’d share some ideas on things I do in my daily life to help the earth and ultimately myself.  I am not extreme in my approach but thought I’d offer up the little changes I’ve made in my own life to send a little love to the earth.

Green up Your Home and Beauty Routine

queen of green Why expose yourself, the people and pets you share your home with, and the creatures in the receiving environment that receive water we use for bathing and cleaning to harmful chemicals.  For your home, there are tons of natural options available for cleaning products. The Queen of Green, who hosts a blog on Dr. David Suzuki’s site http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/ has lots of recommendations, recipes for natural products and shopping checklists. The Environmental Working Group (EWG, http://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides) has a series of guides and searchable databases you can use to look up products to see how they rate in terms of toxicity based on ingredients.  I used their cosmetic database as well as the Good Guide’s database to search for new products and examine the existing products I was using when I greened up my beauty routine.  Just because items are approved by regulatory agencies for use does not mean they are adequately tested for human health effects or that they’re safe for use in the long-term.  The inspiration for greening my beauty routine was Canadian journalist Gillian Deacon’s book, “There’s Lead in my Lipstick”.  It’s a great starting point.  I have since switched to much simpler beauty products, started using henna on my hair instead of commercial colour mixtures, and making some of my own beauty blends (including those I use for my Indian head massage treatments).

Support your Local Environmental Protection, Conservation, and Preservation Groups

David-Suzuki-medium
Dr. David Suzuki

In British Columbia, there are some outstanding environmental groups practicing solid science and really taking a stand against the current government’s focus on economic growth without due consideration for the short or long-term impacts on the environment and future generations. While as an individual you may not be able to create big changes (not to say you shouldn’t be inspired to try), supporting a local environmental group and their initiatives is a great way to try to create positive change and protect the earth. Some of the groups I’ve been very impressed with especially in the last year with their efforts to use science to analyze potential impacts of the Keystone Development include Nature Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation. The Land Conservancy does great work finding donors with beautiful parcels of land that are preserved and sometimes made into parks.  There might be a garden or park you visit that has a Conservation Society you might like to donate to. Find a cause that resonates with you, something you feel passionate about and support it! Even if it’s a small donation it will be put to good use.

Teach the Children in Your Life to Connect with and Respect the Earth

Whether you’re a parent or an aunt/uncle or friend to those of the younger generation, teach by example on the importance of respecting the earth.  Getting kids to feel a connection to nature, be it a pet, spending time outdoors, visiting the aquarium, is so important to children feeling that they are sharing this planet and not sole owners of it.  In today’s society there’s a bit of disconnect of children understanding where all the things we use in our daily life come from.  Help them to see all the things the earth gives us and why it’s important to protect it.  Be an inspiration… if you’re out for a walk in a park and see some garbage, pick it up and throw it out in the next trash can you come across. Instead of letting the little ones pick a flower or plant on a walk, only to toss it on the ground halfway down the trail, share with them that the plant is a home or food for someone smaller, be it an ant, bee, rabbit and to leave it be for them to enjoy.  Get them to join in on a shoreline clean-up. Teach them to respect and be kind to animals. To turn off the tap when they brush their teeth. To see how we are connected and rely on the earth, and to see the impacts of their actions and to feel empowered that they can do little acts that help protect the earth.

Sending Love or Healing Energy to the Earth

As a Reiki Master, I teach my students how to send healing Reiki energy to the earth. As part of my personal practice when I go for a walk everyday in nature I send Reiki energy to the Earth and creatures in the park and surrounding area I go for walks in.  You don’t know Reiki? Just visualize connecting with the earth and nature and send love and gratitude for all the things the earth gives us.

Amp up your Recycling

I live in a condo and based on the City of North Vancouver’s recycling program we can recycle:

  • glass jars and bottles
  • metal (aluminum foil containers, food and beverage cans)
  • plastic containers (with labels 1,2, 4, and 5)
  • mixed paper (e.g., magazines and junk mail)
  • newspaper and inserts
  • corrugated cardboard (boxes)

Because of the refundable deposit system in BC, there is great incentive for people to return beverage cans and bottles to recycling centers for cash money.

pacific recyling
Line up at Pacific Mobile Recyling Depot

Going beyond this though is where you can really impact the amount of garbage you produce by visiting the Pacific Mobile Recycling Centers (http://www.pacificmobiledepots.com/), which is a pay-by-use recycling service. We’ve been using this service for a few years now and when we first started going I think the North Vancouver location was the only depot in the Lower Mainland. They have since expanded their operations and now have a depot set up in more locations in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.  In North Vancouver, they come to the Presentation House Theatre the 3rd Saturday of every month.  The cost is usually $6 for a big garbage bag. We recycle tons of things that would otherwise go in the garbage and be sent to the landfill including:

  • all the other plastics items not accepted by City of North Van including plastic bags (including food manufacturing bags as well as the grocery store variety), plastic bottles, various hard and soft plastics)
  • styrofoam (be it packaging from electronics, popcorn or take-out containers) – it is truly astonishing the amount of styrofoam they collect each month
  • foil-lined bags (chip bags, tea bags)
  • electronics (by weight)
IKEA Dimpa Bin with Stand (courtesy of Polyvore.com)
IKEA Dimpa Bin with Stand (courtesy of Polyvore.com)

We bought a great container at IKEA, which we use to organize our materials with plastic bottles for beverages in the largest compartment, foil-lined bags on another, and all the other plastics that can’t be recycled by the City.

You’ll learn alot and be inspired by going to the drop off location. We have a friend we see there who has dismantled all kinds of things.  You will be amazed and inspired by the hard-core recyclers.  You’ll also learn it’s easiest if you sort the night before (wow look at those smart people) instead of digging stuff out of your bag and wandering from container to container.  Sometimes when it’s not too busy the people there will help you sort your items.

You will be shocked at how much you recycle if you start doing this and how little garbage you’re producing!!!

Buy Organic or Cruelty Free Products

pesticides
Best organic produce to buy From EWG

I know there’s debate on how “organic” some of the organic produce and items you buy are.  I won’t get into that debate but say just try to become informed about labels and what they mean if you’re concerned about the authenticity or degree of “organicness” to something you’re buying.  When I initially started buying organic produce I was buying it more to protect myself from consuming pesticides. Later on I realized that when you buy organic produce you are also supporting a farm that is using better, safer methods, which may be more expensive to produce, and you’re also protecting the environment and other creatures from use of unnecessary chemicals. If you eat meat or eggs, you can choose to buy products that are hormone-free, free-range, or eggs from hens raised under more humane conditions. There is definitely a movement afoot to be more compassionate and humane to the livestock that people consume, with new regulations coming out in the last year; it can be shocking when you realize how animals are treated because they’re going to be slaughtered anyways.  You may want to read books (e.g. Food Inc) or documentaries on this topic to help you choose more responsible options.  Again this is a peace of mind thing. You may even want to consider reducing or eliminating meat from your diet.  In the Lower Mainland there are so many wonderful local producers to choose from that you can support. We buy our groceries from Spud (http://www.spud.com/ – shout out to Spud, which I absolutely love). They offer a wide range of local products, organic produce, and even calculate how far your groceries travel and deliver them to your door with alot less packaging.

These are just a few things that come to mind and I’m sure you all have great ideas to share. Just give some of these ideas a try. They’re really easy to implement and you’ll have great peace of mind over the choices you’re making in your daily life that help you and the planet.

Connecting with Gratitude

gratitude-rainbowspiral1
Image from the upsidedownworld.com

Connecting with gratitude will add magic to your life.  The way you see the world will change.  It’s not about wearing rose-coloured glasses and seeing the world in an idealistic way. It’s about realizing you choose how you interact with and perceive your world.  When you start to see the world through eyes of gratitude, you realize how kind people are to each other (especially when it’s complete strangers), how much beauty is around you, how sweet the little things in life are. You see the things you missed when you were in a rush, in a place of anger, when you were annoyed at the person who cut you off in traffic, when life gets you caught up in your ego and chaos.   You also start to notice you give a little more to others…you are kinder in your opinions, less reactive, more patient/generous with your time, and more easily let go of holding grudges with others.  You connect with the living world around you because you take a minute to notice it, appreciate it and don’t take it for granted…the smell of cut grass, the warmth of the sun, the bird chirping outside.  You start to see things with a child-like newness, engaging your senses more fully as you experience life. You start to shift your focus to noticing things to be grateful for, which allows you to come from a place of abundance and positive thought, instead of a place of scarcity and negativity.

grat journal
A journal for this exact purpose (Image from http://www.soulsalon.wordpress.com)

So how do we do this? Connect with gratitude.  A good way to start…as recommended time and again by Oprah Winfrey is laying in bed, about to fall asleep, reviewing your day and recognizing 10 things to be grateful for.  Oprah recommends keeping a gratitude journal and recording all the things you’re grateful for. A journal can be helpful if you get in a negative frame of mind… you can remind yourself of all the little things you were grateful for before.  If you are going to get a journal, get something or make something you find beautiful or appealing, something sacred to write in.  You may find it hard at first thought. ..hmm… 10 things to be grateful for. Then once you get started you realize all the things that were lovely, to be grateful for in your day.

IMG_20130512_161846
A peony in full bloom at Park and Tilford Gardens

It’s important you really connect with the feeling of gratitude when you do this exercise…to not make a “fake” list of things you think you should be grateful for. My wife, my home, my job.  Add detail and emotion. Make it real. Sources for inspiration can be physical comforts (your soft, warm comfortable bed, a hot shower), tastes (fresh strawberries, home-cooked meal), sounds (heard your favorite song playing, wind in the trees during your walk, your child’s voice),  smells (smell of your body lotion, cup of tea, humic smell of after rainfall), interactions or special moments in your day (with people, friends, family, a stranger, a pet, nature), opportunities you took to share, love, or be there for someone, and/or just breathing and being alive.

If you find yourself finding it hard to be genuinely grateful in this exercise it is a sign that you need to open your heart

Image from www.phoodjournal.wordpress.com
Thomas Haas..food art (Image from http://www.phoodjournal.wordpress.com)

more to receiving the wonderful things around you, to seeing the wonderful things around you, and getting in touch with yourself.  Just try sticking to it, even if your list includes less than 10 things. Start to add things to your day that you can be grateful for. Maybe it’s taking time out to take a short walk on a sunny day even though you’re busy. Making a special trip to visit a special coffee/pastry shop (like Thomas Haas instead of your neighbourhood haunt). Just appreciating the strangers who treat us so well or help us through the day.  Again..once you start to shift your focus to gratitude, the world becomes a more welcoming and loving place.

You can also start to share your gratitude with the world. Little acts of kindness or generosity or literally saying thank you. You can say a very genuine thank you to the bus driver who gives you a ride to work everyday, or the barista who makes your drink, something you appreciate about how they do their job, that makes them special. You can pick up garbage you see littering a park, that someone else dropped because they didn’t appreciate the nature around them. Not in a I”m better than this person who dropped this garbage, ego-driven way, but in a hey mother nature thanks for this beauty.  You can be patient and let someone go in line ahead of you, share a kind word or compliment with a stranger.  You can also share this practice with your partner, children, friends, and family. My husband and I have created a gratitude list on Thanksgiving to see if we could fill in a list 100 things to be grateful for and easily did. It’s a lovely practice to pass on (as a thing to try).

Try it for a month and see how it changes you, your feelings, and how you perceive the world around you. Have fun with it!

Spring Post – What does Dr. Oz have to say about Reiki? and Upcoming Caregiver Event

IMG_20130408_150647

Ah it’s spring in Vancouver. You can’t beat those blue sky days in Vancouver in the spring that feel like a gorgeous summer day..even if the next day it feels like winter again.  Seeing plants start blooming in the spring always makes me feel gratitude for living in such a beautiful part of the world and excites me for the beauty that will enfold in the coming days. It also reminds me to let myself blossom and shine.

For this month’s post I am writing about Dr. Oz and what he has to share and say about Reiki and about a Caregiver event coming up on the North Shore, where I am giving complimentary Indian head massages to people who graciously give day in and out to their friends and family.

Dr. Oz and Reiki

It’s fantastic to see a doctor as well-known and respected as Dr. Oz being an advocate for Reiki. I really appreciate how Dr. Oz tries to inform and educate his North American audience, and open their minds to non-Westernized approaches and empower them to take control of their own health through nutrition, exercise, and other preventative approaches. On a show where he talked about alternative medicine, he, as you can see in this video, is most excited about the potential of energy medicine. Dr. Oz’s wife is a Reiki Master and he has shared how she’ll be writing symbols on his back when he’s turned around to help heal and protect him.  Dr. Oz apparently  has Reiki practitioners in his cardiac surgery rooms while surgeries are conducted.  I thought I would share this video with you from his show on benefits of Reiki.

Caregivers Event on the North Shore

One of my lovely clients invited me to join her in an event she is hosting celebrating National Caregiver’s Week.  The event is taking place on May 10th in West Vancouver to inspire and care for people who are are unpaid caregivers for friends and family.  I will be giving complimentary 15-minute Indian head massages at the event. There will be other wellness stations at the event and a music segment with rhythm and drumming.   If this speaks to you or someone you know please pass this on. Registration for the event is $10 and more info is provided if you click the link posted below.

NSCR Heart&Soul 2013

Wishing you all a blossoming spring!

New!!! Reiki-Charged Chakra Crystal Collection

Chakra Crystal Collection

I have created a special set with Reiki-charged semi-precious crystals that you can use to continue with your Reiki treatment at home, help clear energy blockages and improve energy flows, and enhance your meditation practice.  Currently available for sale for $30 at my North Vancouver studio and sold on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/JustBreatheReiki

Each set includes:

  • 7 semi-precious crystals that have been charged with Reiki energy;
  • a booklet that outlines how to use the kit and includes information on chakras, their properties, characteristics of imbalanced chakras, and description of crystal properties (this information comes from Reiki Level 1 Class); and,
  • a sacred bag to hold your crystals.
Image of chakras from festivaloftibet.com.au
Image of chakras from festivaloftibet.com.au

Each crystal in the set has unique healing properties and has been chosen to be used on a specific chakra:

  • clear quartz – crown chakra,
  • amethyst – third eye chakra,
  • aventurine – throat chakra,
  • rose quartz – heart chakra,
  • yellow calcite – solar plexus chakra,
  • moonstone – sacral chakra, and;
  • hematite – base chakra.

By placing these Reiki-charged crystals over the chakras they can help unblock and enhance energy flows.  You can use the whole set of crystals by placing the crystals over each chakra while lying down (preferably while you are mediating or focusing on releasing blockages). You can also use the crystals independently, to address an issue with a problematic chakra.  You can carry the crystals with you or also sleep with them in your pillowcase.  Crystals should be cleansed monthly by placing them in the moonlight during the full moon, setting an intention when you do so to cleanse the crystals of any negative energy and let them be charged with light energy. I am also happy to cleanse and recharge them for you with Reiki energy when you come for a treatment.

The bag the crystals are stored in is quite special and has images of a Buddhist monk (LP Koon) who is said to bring luck and the bag carries inscriptions wishing the carrier abundance, happiness, and luck. It is the perfect place to store your stones when not in use.

Letting Go of Resentments and Hurts from the Past

As part of our healing journeys, letting go of resentments and hurts from the past is so important.  No matter what efforts you make moving forward, if you don’t let go of the past and its hold on you, you are keeping yourself from living your best life.   The past is the past, there is no reason to keep reliving it.  Our dwelling in negative memories, regrets, or feelings from the past either through conscious thought or on a subconscious level does not serve us.    On a conscious level, you reliving a hurt that you cannot change or alter, that has already happened, and re-triggers those old emotions and feelings you have about yourself as a result of this hurt, repeats and deepens the hurt. On a subconscious level, you may not even be aware of old “tapes” playing in your mind, repeating the messages resulting from these old hurts (maybe I’m not lovable, I’m not good enough, I’m stupid…) when you encounter a similar situation in the present; you may not be aware of the tape playing but you will certainly be aware of the feelings that come up and this most often presents itself as an overreaction to a situation. You overreact because you are getting poked in an old wound.

Jhaimy Alvarez Acosta
Jhaimy Alvarez Acosta

I love an analogy I heard when I went to see a Peruvian healer, Jhaimy Alvarez-Acosta,  speak http://www.childrenofthe7rays.com/aboutc7r/bios.html.  Jhaimy is very wise and has a beautiful soul and way of communicating spiritual guidance from his elders.  I’m going to paraphrase him (noting he speaks much more beautifully and eloquently about these matters).  He talked about how we tend to wear and carry around the garbage people throw at us in our life.  He was wearing a traditional Peruvian poncho..so he talked about how someone throws some garbage (maybe negative words) at you and it lands on your poncho and you make a choice…I can grab it and throw it off of me or I can keep it on my poncho. As time goes on,  you get more and more garbage on your poncho, but for some reason you don’t throw the garbage off. You carry it around with you and your poncho gets heavier and heavier and dirtier and dirtier.  So for me I felt it was time to clean off the garbage from my poncho.

So yes, a wonderful idea to let go of past resentments and hurts. But how do you do that??? I have to say I was a bit lost when trying to tackle it myself. But like anything, once you set an intention, you start slowly to dig and break ground, and before you know it you’ve let go of a hurt. Then another and another. Then you feel freer, lighter, and as you’ve dislodged some icky bits from your past, you’ve made space for more positive energy, love, and goodness to enter your life.  I’m still working at this and it’s a process but as you go along you finally feel free of some old hurts and you notice that you deal with situations differently in the present then you would have in the past (you’ve healed that hurt and respond differently) and feel more compassion for people who previously you may have felt differently about.  Here are some things I find helped me that I thought I would share.

1) Becoming Aware of Your Thoughts

Start to become aware of what you are thinking when you’re not living in the present.  Write down the memories from the past or negative feelings/thoughts that come up from present circumstances. Start to make an inventory.  Once you have a few written down, try to see a pattern and then label it (one or two-word labels work best).  Examples could be: victim, conflict, being right, unworthiness, unlovable, loser,  idiot, ugly, whatever negative labels your inner critic assigns.  Then when you have one of those thoughts or memories come up, start labeling it objectively, be aware first of the feeling, then look at the thought and label it…e.g., conflict.  It’s shocking once you start to become aware of the patterns and interrupting the thought process and objectively labeling it, how repetitive your thoughts are and connected to the past.  When you start this process and have a random memory come up that is hurtful or negative see that this is not random, the memory is coming up for a reason …there’s something  here that needs to heal.

2) Start Singing a Different Song

Once you have your list of labels, then come up with a list of the opposites for those labels (the opposite state of mind). So if it’s a victim label, feeling powerless, the opposite would be feeling guided and protected or empowered.  The opposite of conflict would be peace.  Carry this list around with you.  So if the label conflict comes up for a thought or memory, acknowledge the thought and feeling it brings up and then evoke feelings of peace and let that feeling enter your space and breath the sigh of release.  When we are hurt for the first time, and the same hurt happens again our brain starts to make the connection and draw up an emotion in response.  Each time that same hurt occurs, the emotional connection is made and the wound deepens. When we start healing that wound, we allow ourselves to let go of all the times we felt that way.

3) See your Resentment/Hurts in a Different Light

It’s a great process to write it down an inventory of all your hurts on paper (focusing on one label at a time or person/relationship). Let memories you may be holding onto come.  Then write down who you think the person who hurt you was at that time. Try to get in their  head space at that time.  Often we try to see people in the best light and paint a prettier picture of them to allow us to continue to have a relationship with them (say if they’re family), to make our choice to be in a relationship with them in the past make more sense, or to honor their memory.  It’s when we start to see people as they really are/were and not who we want or wanted them to be that we can start to heal and let go of disappointment.  If these people are still in your lives, you will find it much easier seeing who they are/were instead of them not being who you wish they were…and being disappointed when they don’t meet your expectations.  You may also be surprised to feel compassion for who they are/were.   If your hurts happened when you were a child, it can help you to see the hurts with adult eyes instead of the powerless persepective of a child.  If you can see the past in a different light with objectivity, you can let it go more easily.  Ask questions like who or where would I have to be in my life (with respect to the person who hurt you) to have done that.  When you’re finished burn, rip or tear up the letter and set the intention to let it go. Forgive, knowing forgiving does not mean you condone what happened but that you don’t want to carry this with you anymore.

4) See the Gift in the Hurt

In retrospect, did the hurt change you as a person, who you are, make you turn a corner in your life, make you kinder.  Look at your past hurts and resentments and see if there was a lesson you were supposed to learn. If you didn’t learn it, it likely repeated itself again and again in your life until you learned the lesson.  Was it a life changer for you for the better.  Feel gratitude for what the hurt brought into your life, even though the hurt at the time wasn’t a pleasant experience.

5) Try The Journey

brandon bays
Brandon Bays

I was lucky enough to have a dear friend Jennifer who was studying the Journey program founded by Brandon Bays http://www.thejourney.com/, who offered to try some sessions with me.  She did the process over the phone, focused on getting me out of my head and into my body, where memories can be linked and stored. I read the book at her suggestion before we tried a session. Brandon Bays talks about her own healing journey, hurts in her life, and how she cured cancer in her body by processing and letting go of memories.  She also shares other client stories, as well as a guided process in back of a book you can get a friend to talk you through (and do a journey process with you). It sounds fantastical and surreal. Overall, I was skeptical (curing cancer!) and thought it definitely wouldn’t work for me.  Then I tried a session over the phone with her, skeptical as hell. My friend did a guided meditation, asked me to see what I sensed in my body, tune into what emotion was there.  All of a sudden, boom, a memory came up from my childhood and I started crying. As part of the process you ask the people involved in the memory to come to the campfire with you and say what you need them to hear and then ask them to say what you needed to hear.  It is amazing and healing. It sounds crazy but I as one who was skeptical was blown away at how effective this process was. I felt so much lighter after the sessions (and did do several after the first one). Very healing.

6) Seek Professional Help

If your wounds are deep, you’ve buried painful memories (from abuse, rape, etc.) or are very resistant, finding the right professional counselor or therapist or psychologist can help you immensely. These individuals are trained to help you heal.  Just find someone who you feel comfortable with, trust, can see that they are walking the talk (seem like they are very happy themselves) and don’t settle until you do. If they don’t feel right to you or you don’t feel comfortable with them or respect them the path will be much slower and harder. Find someone who you feel safe with, can connect with and maybe even inspire you.

Letting go of resentments or hurt may seem daunting but the lighter, happier, more peaceful joyful you is worth it.

Finding happiness and love inside you (instead of yearning for the outside world to be perfect)

As humans we’re famous for feeling incomplete and that we’re not quite enough, yearning for a future where we find the perfect….job, partner, home, expensive car, weight, …(fill in the blank) and finally feel complete, sated, happy and loved.  We do this despite our own past experiences where we’ve wanted something, received it and then felt a temporary blip of satisfaction and then a quick return to our baseline of feeling that something is missing or not enough in our lives and ourselves.   We also do this despite seeing people who seemingly have it all be miserable (e.g., celebrities) or people who have little and have struggles in their life but are nonetheless happy.   So why do we continue with this quest to try to fill ourselves from the outside in, instead of from the inside out?  Why do we fool ourselves with this game?

Image courtesy of lynnrush.com

Instead of questing for these external sources of possible happiness and love, why not try to gain this sense of being filled with happiness and love from the inside?  It’s definitely a journey, a process and work but if you know trying to get this sense of self-worth and love from your external world doesn’t work..why not try a different approach. Below I share some of the things I’ve found worked well for me on my own search for inner peace and happiness.

The first step I recommend is trying to become aware of your thoughts and feelings and how much your sense of love, acceptance, and worth come from the outside world.  Are you constantly striving to be the perfect friend, partner, parent, employee or worrying about what others think? Does your world turn upside down if a component of your life goes out of whack, if you fight with your son, or have a project go off kilter at work? Are you criticizing yourself or thinking negative thoughts about yourself? What is driving your need for something to fill you from the outside.

Once you get a handle on those thoughts, start trying to turn the tide inside and replace those negative messages you may be giving yourself with positive affirmations.  Replace negative beliefs you may have about your self, and your “lovability”, if you will, and worthiness. Once you start to feel these affirmations are true (see my previous post on affirmations https://justbreathereiki.wordpress.com/wp-admin/customize.php), you start to feel differently about yourself.  You will be more resilient to the influence of external factors.

You can quiet those thoughts of wanting this or that by simply recognizing all that is good in your life. Replace the lack with gratitude.  When you go to bed each night think of the range of the things you can be grateful for..from your hot shower in the morning, smile from a neighbour, to a hug from your child. When thoughts of wanting arise, question would that really, really, really make me happy and think of something you have that you are grateful for, and let the wanting go.

Once you’ve tackled these internal assessments, start testing the waters with the world a little. Give up the fight to be perfect – say what you really feel (in a kind way), say no when you don’t want to do something, and see what happens.  Start learning to separate yourself from the things that influence your feelings about yourself – your family, your friends, your work, your community. See yourself as a whole being and start to feel the love you can feel for others for yourself.  Think of someone you truly love, feel that intense feeling of love, now can you feel that for yourself??  Can you delight in your own being?

Image courtesy of inspirationaldaily.wordpress.com

A meditation I like to do to help feel filled with self-love, is to imagine the love you feel for another.  Now picture that feeling, that love as being tiny soft pink bubbles of energy you are transferring to that person.  Now focus on that love energy and picture it filling your own body.  Picture those tiny pink bubble of love energy filling your body with this soft pink light.  See it filling every bit of your being. Sense whether there are any dark areas where you don’t feel this light hitting…these are your blocks to feeling self-love and worth.  Now keep picturing your body filling with this light with these light bubbles until the dark areas one by one are cleared.  Recognize any thoughts that arise when you encounter one of these dark areas then let them go.  Get to the point where you body feels loved, overflowing and cleared in its entirety.  Then start to see yourself as a fountain bubbling over with this pink light. This is the source of the love you have for yourself and others. It is always there and will never run out.  You don’t have to feel depleted when you give love to others because you give it to yourself first.

Practice the above meditation when you go about your day picturing yourself being a fountain and transferring that love to your coworker, strangers you see, to the squirrel on the branch, and to the universe around you. Start to see yourself as a loving being.  Start to let go of co-dependency and let your love for others and the love you receive be less conditional. Start to try accepting people for who they are and where they are and do the same for yourself. When you start to shift these beliefs about yourself your relationships will change for the better, become healthier, and those toxic people in your life will see they can’t influence you like they once did and start to interact differently.  Keeping a journal to track your progress on your sense of self-love and worth can be a great tool to help you see your progress on days when you stumble and feel like you’ve fallen into an old pattern. It is a slow process but such a nourishing thing for you to do for your self and for your soul.  Often what we are yearning for and looking for when we think if I could just meet the perfect partner, find the perfect job, change this or that about my self..is really just that sense of love and worth that fills us with genuine lasting happiness. When you have that feeling of love inside of you, the happiness will be there automatically. They go hand in hand. Give it a try.

Learn how to meditate with Deepak Chopra and Oprah (for free)!

Update: This post is on the first meditation challenge Deepak and Oprah did in November of 2012 on “Abundance”.  For those of you looking to join in on their new August meditation series on “Expanding your Happiness” click on picture below to go to Chopra Center website and sign up.
deepak oprah meditation

I attended the Vancouver Seeds event this last weekend (which was an amazing event) and had the good fortune to see Deepak Chopra speak.  At the end of his  talk, Deepak mentioned that he will be hosting an online meditation class with Oprah Winfrey starting November 5th.  The class will last 21 days and there will be a different meditation to do each day. The class focuses on attracting abundance in your life through meditation.  You will be e-mailed a link for a daily guided meditation video to watch. You also will have a private online journal you can use to record your thoughts and progress as you complete the 21-day course.  You can register for the class through this link: http://www.oprah.com/packages/deepak-chopra.htmlImage

Deepak is a wonderful teacher if you want to learn how to meditate. In developing my own meditation practice over the  years, I’ve watched several videos and talks on meditation by him and read several of his books.  He suggests starting to meditate even for 1 minute and building from there.  This is a wonderful way to bring inner peace into your life.  Meditation is an excellent destressor and mood balancer, which can calm you and give you perspective in your life. A wonderful way to start or end your day.  Try it for 21 days (they are calling it a challenge).  Maybe get a friend or family member to sign up with you.  I am sure this is designed for both those new to meditation and those who are more experienced.  You will find Deepak’s voice and presence very calming and relaxing. If you’ve ever thought of trying meditation, this is the perfect opportunity. You will not believe what an amazing influence meditation can be in your life. Sign up!!!

Here’s what Deepak has to say about the class:

I want to be the first to congratulate you on giving yourself the experience of meditation, and for your decision to join us for the Creating Abundance Chopra Center 21-Day Meditation Challenge™.

Meditation has completely transformed my life, so I’ve made it a daily practice for more than 40 years now. It’s my sincere privilege to share this time-honored practice with you so you can begin to enjoy the infinite benefits of meditation in all areas of your life.

I’m especially eager to begin this next all-new challenge with you, Creating Abundance. I will be your guide each day, as we journey to an authentic abundance consciousness. We’ll discover what true abundance is, the source from which it springs, how consciousness and the mind affect its flow, and that each and every one of us is worthy and deserving of an abundant life. You will learn how to leverage the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success to manifest your heartfelt intentions and live a more abundant life, attracting more comfort and ease, joy, peace, love, or anything you desire.

The challenge begins on Monday, November 5, 2012. You will receive an email from the 21-Day Meditation Challenge with access instructions on Day One. In the meantime, I encourage you to add meditationchallenge@chopra.com to your contact list to ensure all our emails reach your inbox safely.

I also encourage you to invite your friends and loved ones to join you for this life-changing experience. You will be sharing what I consider to be an invaluable gift—the gift of meditation—which will infinitely enrich the lives of those you love and enhance your relationships with them.

I look forward to this challenge with great anticipation, knowing that together we are sharing an experience of expanded consciousness that is increasing peace, joy, love, and abundance throughout the world.

Much gratitude to Deepak and Oprah for offering this class to the masses. What a gift to the people that participate and the Universe!

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