The Heart of Forgiveness

Iyanla Vanzant (image from Huffington Post)

Iyanla Vanzant (image from Huffington Post)

I just finished the six-week online course on forgiveness given by Iyanla Vanzant and hosted by the Oprah.com website. She is one of the amazing life coaches/spiritual gurus Oprah Winfrey has introduced to a wider audience through her old network TV show and more recently through the OWN network. I have completed my own work on the topic of forgiveness and developed my own forgiveness practice, and have used what I’ve learned to help clients struggling with this same issue. I have a couple of forgiveness meditations I play during life-coaching and/or Reiki healing sessions to help open clients to this topic and to open this door to healing. One of the meditations goes through a series of visualizations and towards the end of the meditation, calls for you to breathe out forgiveness. I was surprised to notice with a number of clients that as soon as they were asked to do this – breathe out forgiveness – they stopped breathing. That their body, mind and spirit locked down their breathing…like they were saying “forgive you, no way, I’m not breathing out forgiveness, forget that, I am holding on with all my might “. When I asked these people after the session was complete whether they were aware they stopped breathing when they were asked to breathe out forgiveness, each and every person was not aware they had stopped breathing. It’s an amazing testament to how tightly and closely we hold our hurts, our stories about what has happened to us in our life, and unforgiveness inside of us. When I saw the opportunity to learn more on this topic through a six-week online course with Iyanla I jumped at the chance, thinking it would be beneficial to use with my clients who really struggle with letting go of their hurts and opening to forgiveness.

From Etsy.com

From Etsy.com

My understanding of forgiveness has evolved over time. I can remember reading the Dalai Lama’s book the Wisdom of Forgiveness many years ago and struggling to understand how Tibetan monks could feel compassion and forgiveness for the military personal who harmed them and their fellow monks. I wondered how you get to that place. I later realized that forgiveness had absolutely nothing to do with the people who hurt you – it was all about you. It was not about blaming or being vindicated but about acknowledging, releasing and finding your peace independent of anyone else. As I developed my own forgiveness practice and discovered a healed and neutral state of mind with old hurts, I also came to understand that you really had to be ready to surrender and be tired or sick enough of your story in order to be ready to forgive. That you had to get to that point where you really were so very tired of reliving the past, the hurts, the pain, going back there again and again, and defining yourself by your past and story, and that you were truly willing to surrender and change. Forgiveness work ventures into some uncomfortable territory dealing with an unearthing old feelings, memories, and triggers your ego, so in order to be willing to go there and be in that space you have to be sufficiently motivated by your goal of healing and learning to see your life through different eyes.

With my healing practice, I encounter people who cling strongly to their stories of what happened to them, defining themselves by their wounds and their past, instead of who they currently are. It’s our ego’s way of trying to protect us from similar hurts and taking us out of the present moment and getting us to believe that our past is more important than where we are right now. Of course what is interesting is how despite the seemingly protective nature of this mechanism, we end up repeating the pattern of our hurts over and over again when we hold onto unforgiveness, attracting the same hurts or types of people into our lives, allowing the same unhealthy behaviors into our life, and reliving and re-experiencing the same emotional hurts again and again.

So I embarked on this course believing that this work would be of benefit to me as a healer and life coach when working with my clients. I am a pretty self-aware person and have done quite a bit of forgiveness work and wasn’t at Stage One but of course found I had more uncovering and releasing to do to let some old wounds heal. As someone who has completed previous work and guided clients on this topic, I thought I would share my perspectives on forgiveness after completing this course. I would also like to share some of my favorite messages from this course that may inspire you, a reader looking for more on this topic, or one of my clients who is starting to work on or just struggling with the task of forgiveness.

My Viewpoints on Forgiveness

I have always loved Oprah Winfrey’s definition of forgiveness:

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.”

That I believe is at the heart of forgiveness. Letting go of the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual anguish and torture of thinking about why did this happen, how could this have happened to me, how would my life have turned out differently if this didn’t happen to me, how could have I prevented this, or why didn’t anyone help me, and so on..”. Those thoughts just deepen the pain we experience.
In the forgiveness course, Iyanla shared the Byron Katie principle that “to deny reality, is to create suffering”. Byron Katie’s book “Loving What Is” helps guide the reader, by sharing many examples we can relate to of how when we project our beliefs and ideas of how people and the world should work or how we were wronged or treated unfairly, we create suffering for ourselves. Instead we can choose to love what is and understand that other people have different values and different ways of viewing situations and the world than we do. What unnecessary struggle and pain we create when we deny who people or situations really are or were . This concept also ties into Oprah’s definition of forgiveness, that to not accept what happened or wish it would have happened differently, just creates suffering….for you. Not for the person or people who hurt you, but for you.

forgiveness quoteNow forgiveness work is not for the faint of heart. The C.S. Lewis quote above is so true. To do this work you need to be brutally honest with yourself and not deny the reality of what happened in your life, your role in things, your beliefs, judgments, and decisions that led you down your path. If we are just starting this work we may be in denial of what we experienced not wanting to label people in our life as “bad”. Often, we have a strong tendency to grasp tightly onto our hurts and upsets in our life, filled with a fear of letting go of them and also with a fear of facing them head on. We think that if we let go of our upsets that it will lessen or invalidate what we experienced; or, we think that if we are giving in and giving up our feelings and beliefs of being wronged, that we are somehow condoning what a person or people did to us. There is also an internal struggle with our ego – a perceived risk that we will have no idea who we are anymore if we let go of our hurts and upsets because we (our ego) defines ourselves so strongly by them . Why is it that we think by holding onto and defining ourselves by our hurts, waving it like a flag proudly, that it affects or has any impact on the people who hurt us? After they hurt us, they moved on, while we go on to continue with suffering from what happened and re-experience the hurt. We seek outside validation, sharing our story, feeding off of reactions and validation that what happened to us was horrible, gaining sympathy, or resonance. But what if instead you just released your story, took the lessons from it and saw how they molded you into the person you are today, this strong, resilient person (even if you don’t see that) who survived their past, and started living in the present as the you of today – not who you were yesterday. How exciting and freeing that would be to start to embrace life from a point of excitement of not knowing what was around the corner and being delighted rather than scared of that – trusting the Universe has positive things in store for you. What about just starting a new narrative of who you are now and throwing away that old story? Letting go of the negative emotions and energy that weigh you down and starting to feel the positive energy of life and emotions you’ve forgotten. Starting to see yourself in a loving and forgiving light instead of beating yourself up for your self-imposed shortcomings, limitations, or flaws or things you could have done differently.

healed_heart

Image from godguysandthegoodlife.blogspot.com

Forgiveness is clearly not about saying whatever happened to you was okay, acceptable, or right. People experience some horrific things in their life. It’s not about saying that you are alright with the people who hurt or wronged you. It’s about freeing yourself from old beliefs and judgments so you can start to let your wounds heal instead of keeping them open, and reopening them again and again, and experiencing those negative emotions again and again. It’s about seeing you can change by embarking on a healing journey of forgiveness and truly let your past be the past and seeing yourself and others in a new loving light. Starting to unclasp your hands from your story and open to just being present and just being you.

The process of forgiveness followed by Iyanla’s course allows the participant to review the upsets in their life and emotions with them, to forgive others and themselves for their part in the upsets, their judgements, beliefs, and to liberate themselves from their stories. It has a strong spiritual basis, which I love, including content from the Course of Miracles, and connecting with Spirit, shifting your energy, and trusting the Universe and your guides on your healing path. Much thought and effort went into the course content, format, videos and supporting materials provided in the online course. They definitely had some top-notch people working on the content and presentation. Taking the course, I was awed how I could accept the Buddhist concept that a thought is just a thought and can create suffering or eliminate it if you release it, but I never thought of major upsets in my life as simply thoughts that I could choose to let go of. What a liberating concept. I also love that there were six weeks dedicated to this concept and that it wasn’t glossed over. There is online access “forever” for this course, so for those who are just starting to scratch the surface, you could go back again and again and peel those layers of your “onion” (a great analogy for healing) and get more and more out of the process, as you develop and release on your healing path. Another amazing observation I  and friends or clients who took the course made is that upsets from totally different facets and times of our life, which seemed absolutely and completely unrelated, created the exact same emotional response – it was the exact same type of upset. Kudos to Iyanla and her team for creating such an invaluable healing tool. I know some of the concepts I’ve learned will be of great benefit to my clients and valuable additions to my daily spiritual routine.

A quote of great truth from the first lesson was that unforgiveness is an act of violence against yourself. That is not an exaggeration. It seems shocking but think about it. What does unforgiveness do to you, your heart, the way you see yourself and the world, and what mind space does it keep you in? Start working on forgiveness if you are holding onto hurts from the past, through a course like this, by reading a book (Iyanla has published a book on this topic), getting a forgiveness-based treatment (like a Reiki ties-that-bind session), or seeing a therapist or life coach to help you work through and release your upsets. This kind of work raises your frequency to a higher level so you can manifest more love, happiness, and peace in your life. You can start simply with just making it a daily practice to forgive those in your life and yourself for little daily annoyances or things that happened in your day so you start to learn that forgiveness really isn’t that hard and let the healing begin.


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.


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!


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!


Finding Peace and Serenity in Your Life

Adding peace and serenity to your life is an easy thing to do and it will reward you in many ways: better emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health, better relationships, making better decisions at work and in your personal life, performing better and being more creative and free at work, being more fun, joyful and more present…and many other ways that might surprise you. Just think simply – who am I and how do I feel when I am peaceful and when I’m stressed?  If you bring more of the peaceful you in your life, how will you and your day-to-day life  change? If you think about times when you haven’t been at your best, maybe  you’ve said something you’ve regretted or snapped at someone, made a decision in haste,  times you’ve forgotten to do something you’d promised you would.. have those things even happened when you’ve been feeling peaceful and serene or when you’ve been stressed and rushed??? Maybe your health has been suffering from being stressed – manifesting in physical, mental and emotional symptoms.  It’s time to make relaxing and destressing a priority – put the oxygen mask on yourself first and so you can take care of others later!

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I don’t have time for that..that’s for other people who aren’t as busy…I wish..you don’t have my life”. Then this post is the perfect thing for you to read – because you need to schedule some time for you to destress and relax. Finding time for peace and serenity in your life is definitely not a selfish act. Taking time for this benefits your relationships with your spouse/partner, children, family, friends, everyone around you; it also benefits your career – your job performance and creativity and ability to interact effectively with your coworkers.  Most importantly,  it benefits you directly –  your body, your mind, emotions and spirit will be rebalanced and healthier and you’ll be happier and more joyful.   Reducing stress can add years to your life and greatly improve the quality of your day-to-day life.

So how can you add peace and serenity to your life??  It’s about making time, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, to breathe deeply, relax, connect with yourself, empty your mind of worry, fear, of what you have to do, and do something you love and that relaxes you.  For me, now that it’s summer, before bed,  I love sitting under the stars at night on my balcony with some twinkle lights on, burning some coconut incense, sipping some tea and looking up at the trees, the stars, my plants lit up.  It completely relaxes me and clears my mind of the day.  On rainy days, I get out for a walk in a local park and enjoy the peaceful sounds of the rain falling on the trees, birds chirping, the lush plants and the humid earthy smells of the temperate rainforest…check out the slugs on the ground in front of me, a baby squirrel in the tree.

There are lots of ways to add these peaceful moments to your life:

  • Relaxing with Sounds  – Maybe it’s finding time in your work day to shut your office door and listen to some classical, nature sounds, or music that moves you for 5 minutes and resting your eyes.  There are many timers (http://www.reikifun.com/free-meditation-time) and apps that you can find online to give yourself a timed break so you can just relax and stop when the bell goes off.
  • Relaxing with Touch – Try going for a massage to destress.   I give Indian head massages to people to relax and destress and you can use some of the techniques I use on yourself.   One thing people love during the massage is getting their face massaged – we hold so much stress in our faces.  Try spending a minute or two squeezing your eyebrows with your fingers moving outwards to your temples.  This will instantly relax you. Another thing people love during the head massage is getting their temples massaged with peppermint oil – which instantly awakes you and helps relieve headaches.   Get a portable rollerball with some peppermint oil (you can buy one at the Body Shop, Aveda, or any aromatherapy store) and roll it on your temples – the peppermint feels great and the roller gives you a mini-massage.
  • Relaxing with Nature – go for a walk on a tree-lined street or local park and connect with the nature around you.  Take some deep breaths, focus on the trees and plants around you as you walk and their beauty, listen to the sounds of the birds chirping, watch for animals scurrying around or birds flying. If you are walking by water enjoy the sound of the water moving or waves coming in.  Just appreciating the natural beauty around you makes you relax and gives you perspective.
  • Relaxing through Movement  – Adding some movement to your day can help you release and work off stress.  Going for a walk when you’re stressed during lunch or a coffee break is a great way to destress. Just walking away from your desk and a situation for a few minutes gives you space and perspective on your situation and whatever you’re working on.  Maybe you can go for a vigorous run in the evening and listen to some inspiring music.   Perhaps incorporate doing some stretches during your workday to let the tension you hold in your body release.
  • Relaxing with Yourself – Just try sitting in silence for a few minutes.  Connect with how you’re feeling and take some deep breaths.  Become present and quiet your thoughts. Try meditating by just focusing on your breath as it goes in and out and the sensation in your body.
  • Relaxing with Other Pleasures – Maybe it’s sending the kids to bed early and reading a fun, guilty pleasure book in bed or having a bath with some candles.  Just choose pleasures that aren’t terribly addictive and doing you more harm than good (like emotional eating or gambling..)

Planning for your time for peace and serenity provides an important message to yourself: “I”m planning this for me because I am are worthy of some peace and serenity in your life and adding this to my life makes me a better person”.  At first you might find it strange to say “hey I’m going for a walk/shutting my door for 5 minutes/going to bed early”  if you’re not used to taking time to take care of yourself..but that will pass and you’ll notice that people notice the difference in you.  Maybe you’re just smiling more and easier going. Maybe you don’t react in the same way or can laugh at yourself more.  The more moments you add in your day like this..the more peaceful and serene you’ll become.  You might even want to share your special time with a friend, family member, child, spouse sometimes so they can enjoy and experience peace and serenity with you (but it’s best if you do this as a solo activity most of the time so you can turn off your mind and relax). So give it a try…the only thing you have to lose is stress.


Living in The Present

Living in the present is a powerful and joyful way to live your life.  When we move away from living in the present moment and focus on how we wish past events could have turned out or simply relive them, or worry or fantasize about the future, we get lost in our thoughts and mind.  Living in the present moment allows you to experience life as it happens, let go of worrying about the future, and start to let go of old patterns or responses that are rooted in the past. When you first start to observe your thoughts and notice how much time you spend thinking about the past or future it can be shocking.  You’ll wonder why I am back to this same moment in time again.  When you’re focused on the present moment you start to notice the people and your surroundings with a new alertness and joy and deal with issues or problems that arise in an empowered and effective way.

Eckhart Tolle with Oprah Winfrey on set of the New Earth web series.

I first learned about this practice from Eckhart Tolle, author of books including The Power of Now and The New Earth.  He is a wonderful teacher and really shows you how simple life can be if you live in the present and let go of your ego (a topic for another post). I found the New Earth web series he did with Oprah really enlightening and transforming. I actually found the web series alot more easy to relate to than the New Earth book.  In the 10-episode web series, Oprah and Eckhart discuss the book chapter by chapter (each episode focusing on one chapter is over an hour long).  They also answer questions from readers from all walks of life on how to implement ideas presented in the book.  If you are tired of living in the past, worrying about the future, feeling in conflict, feeling inferior/superior, and being lost in your thoughts/mind, I highly recommend doing a ego/living in the present “boot-camp”; watch one of the episodes daily or every couple of days until you complete the series. In a short amount of time you’ll be in a different frame of mind.  As Eckhart says on the first episode (and in his book), if  this information resonates or makes sense to you carry on..if it doesn’t you aren’t ready for this information yet.   The link for episode#1 is:

http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/Chapter-1-Oprah-and-Eckhart-Tolles-A-New-Earth-Webcast-Video

Give the first episode a try.

Remember too that living in the present is a practice and a process.  You’ll start out just noticing your thoughts and then begin shifting from past/future thinking to living in the present. It takes some time so be patient and kind with yourself. To start out I recommend noticing your thoughts when you’re doing something on autopilot, like showering, and seeing if you can stay focused on what you’re doing and experiencing in the present (smell of your shampoo, sensation of hot water) and stop those thoughts about what you have to do next or something that happened the day before. Just being aware of your mind patterns is a huge huge step and accomplishment.