Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What Do I Need to Do to Take Care of Myself?

I’ve found a great deal of help in this tool, which I teach in my stress management classes at work. In any moment, the simple act of asking ourselves, “What do I need to do to take good care of myself right now?” can have a very powerful effect on our experience, our clarity and effectiveness, and even our health.

In the middle of our busy days, we tend to place our awareness “out there” for long stretches of time, concentrating on what needs to get done next. Because those to-do lists are never really finished, we can become stressed, tired, anxious, worried, or many other things without even noticing, because we are so focused outside of ourselves. Human beings are pretty adept at losing touch with our deepest feelings and most honest needs because we don’t practice paying attention to them. Our own truth gets lost in all of the “noise” around us.

We need time, and a space, for body and spirit to speak to one another, because without that communication our whole system can get out of whack. This can manifest in many different ways, such as having trouble sleeping, getting sick, or feeling like our emotions are out of control.

The spirit needs to hear the body’s deep emotions, to process the body’s experience in the way it seeks to. And the body needs to hear the spirit’s gentle voice to remember itself as whole.

Taking the time we need for meditation, prayer, writing, or whatever other technique we practice to experience our wholeness is not always possible when we’re in the middle of something.  But we can always take the time to ask what we can do to take care of ourselves in that moment.

I notice whenever I do this that my body immediately breathes easier, even before I answer the question. Just the act of asking validates my own precious existence, and both body and spirit are healed in that instant. I cease being a human “doing” and again recognize my being, which is perfect in and of itself and requires nothing else.

It’s amazing to me how after I’ve considered how I can best take care of myself, whatever I do in response is so delightful and appreciated, no matter how small. I woke up this morning tired and definitely not wanting to get out of bed to get ready and drive to work in the winter’s dark. I grumped internally for a minute, and then asked this of myself. The question assumes that we always have the perfect answer, which of course we do when we remember to ask.

What we focus on grows, and so after I asked what I needed to do to take good care of myself, I created space for more good in my experience. I got ready for work in a much lighter energy as I stopped to grab some bags of my favorite hot teas to take with me. I really enjoyed settling in to work this morning, considering which tea sounded the yummiest and getting it steeping while I turned on my computer and started to get ready for the day ahead.

I love how little things can become such big gifts! That cup of hot pomegranate tea helped me let go of my resistance, find my enthusiasm, remember my blessings, and bring the energy of gentleness and peace to every cell in my body. It was the answer to my prayer.

Considering what we need to do to take care of ourselves in any moment can be a wonderful way of reconnecting body and spirit, and a simple and powerful healing.

May you always take the time to focus on your own self-care, and may this tool be a blessing. . .

Monday, November 21, 2011

Being of Service

I have heard it said that it is in giving that we receive. I can see the truth of this on a number of levels. When we are reacting from fear of not having enough ourselves, we won’t feel like we can spare anything for others. Everyone loses with this type of belief because what we hold as true we create in our lives.

In other words, we get what we expect. In the midst of the world’s current challenges it’s pretty easy to believe in dwindling bank balances, eroding resources, and maybe even the possibility of financial collapse. But I’m learning that the most loving and spiritually creative thing I can do is hold fast to the truth I want to perpetuate in the world, regardless of all appearances to the contrary, no matter how convincing they may be.

The truth we hold, individually and collectively, dictates our outcome. When we’re sorely tempted to hold on to every bit we have because we aren’t sure when the time will come when we really don’t have enough, our experience can do nothing except reflect back to us the belief that we lack. And when we do that, we close the door on the infinite ability of divine consciousness to work through us to create all the good that we can imagine.

In giving we affirm the truth that we live in abundance, always able to create what we need and more. And there are so many ways to give! In our busy world our time is a treasure that we can give in ways that will make a big difference to a loved one, a stranger, or a worthy cause that speaks to us. Being of service to others is a validation of the deep truth that there really is no reality in lack. It is a celebration of all that we’ve been given, and of our own precious and abundant lives.

My father-in-law is a shining example and my inspiration about being of service. He’s 84 years old, has had two hip surgeries, and is affected by many of the limitations of growing older. I’ve watched him continue to give, even more as the years have passed. He takes food out to a 94-year-old friend who is housebound. He drives other friends to doctor’s appointments. He cares for an aging family member with dementia with infinite kindness and understanding. He loves his family, always asking about his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

My father-in-law recently gave my husband a book he made about his life, complete with old pictures and explanations about where he’s been and what he’s done. The book is a treasure, and he titled it, “My Life Has Been Good.” And if you ask him about his life, that’s what he’d tell you. Not fancy or exciting, maybe, by other people’s standards, but my father-in-law is a man who recognizes the love and the good in his life, and gifts it back to all of us who are lucky enough to be close to him.

I’ve said many times that I write to remember, and so today I will remember not to get so caught up in what I have to do that I forget how much I have. And I will remember that slowing down and giving my time is probably the most precious gift of all. God's perfect abundance expresses through me, and as me, and as all of us.

May you know the limitlessness of your own abundance, and give of it freely. And may this tool be a blessing. .

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Blessings From Strangers

Air travel these days can be stressful, and because people are rushed, cramped, and often frustrated, it has the potential to bring out the worst in travelers’ interactions with each other. My husband and I took a quick trip across the country last weekend to visit our daughter and her family, and meet our new grandson. The adventure was another example for me of the innate goodness in all of us.

It had been bumper-to-bumper traffic approaching the toll plaza to cross the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, even at 6:00 in the morning. The thought had crossed my mind that we might miss our flight. When we finally got to the toll booth, the woman inside took the money from my husband and said “You have a really great day today, OK?” What a blessing her words were, especially since she stands there for hours at a time taking money from one car after another, but still took the time and energy to reach out with what felt like very sincere good wishes.

At the airport we realized that not only were all of our flights full, but we had been assigned to middle seats, one in front of the other. As luck would have it, the only passenger who didn’t make the first flight had the seat right next to me. There were many more bags being stowed in the overhead compartments than there was room for, and the flight attendants were harried, to say the least. I asked one busy attendant about my husband taking the empty seat, and she told me we’d have to wait and see if the other passenger arrived. That made sense, of course, and I thought she’d forget all about my mentioning it with everything she had to do. But right at the last minute she came up and shifted people around, moving my husband up next to me, and asking everyone to do it quickly because we were going to take off. With all of the demands on flight attendants today, she did everything she could to make things a little easier for the travelers in her care. I really appreciated that.

On the second leg of the flight, from Denver to Atlanta, we were again assigned to seats one in front of the other. I was passing a book behind me, to my husband, and the lady in the aisle seat next to me asked how we ended up sitting apart. She offered to trade places with him so that we could sit together, even though it meant giving up her roomier aisle seat to be squeezed in between two others in the row behind. She did that without being asked, just because it was a kind thing to do for a perfect stranger.

I watched a young man grab bags from the overhead compartment for a small, older woman who was traveling alone. People helped mothers with strollers and stepped aside so that others could pass. The last leg of the trip left late, and people cheered and clapped when they announced overhead that no one would pay for in-flight movies.

It’s easy for us to overlook the small things, especially when we are harried and hungry and worried about reaching our destinations when we’re supposed to, but these small gifts happen all the time. We just need to pay attention. Human nature is the embodiment of love, generosity, and kindness.

It could be that I felt these blessings from strangers more strongly because they were strangers, and under no obligation to one another.  The action of a stranger reaching out in love is that much more special for its generosity. I watched over and over as people in frustrating circumstances rose to the occasion and tried to do their best for their fellow travelers, knowing that we were all in it together.

May you notice the divine love expressing in the strangers you share a moment with, and may this tool be a blessing. . .