Recently, I had the opportunity to take a small group of uniquely inspired ladies on a retreat at the Keys Creek Lavender Farm, out in the country setting of Valley Center– which is about 30 miles from San Diego, CA. In this space known for growing, healing and well-being, we spent the day focusing on and celebrating “The Self”. We weren’t cultivating conceit, self-righteousness or self-absorption. What we were doing was finally giving ourselves permission to treat us the way we treat others in life… with love, kindness and compassion. Spending time to focus on ourselves is not commonly encouraged in our western culture, where to get ahead (and sometimes just to make ends meet) we work the extra hours doing as much as we can, in addition to taking care of those around us, and responding to their needs– be it our significant others, children, parents, pets, etc…. As women of the 21st century, we are conditioned to do it all: juggling work, family and home life. We rinse and repeat these conditions all the time. Given that there are only 24 hours in a day, sometimes we run out of time to do it all, and find ourselves stressed out, burned out and most of all– out of balance.
It’s All About the Selfie Retreat allowed these women to regain balance and well-being, and give themselves the care they need. They had the opportunity to slow down and experience life focusing on the present moment. They asked themselves questions like “Who am I?” and “What do I need?” They did this through various reflective exercises, mindful meditations and intentional activities that supported savoring the moment and experiences. They participated in strengths finding, walking meditation, mindful yoga, mindful eating (nourishing themselves with purpose), sending loving-kindness to their loved ones, themselves and the world, and mindful self-talk—applying self-compassion techniques to cultivate both positive emotion and to use as coping tools when things don’t go as planned.
There’s not enough time and space to describe the full retreat in one post, so I’ve broken the day down into a few posts with this being installation #1. By the way, The Selfie Retreat is a staple service of BeingMerry.com, and is scheduled to happen at least once per calendar quarter. For this post, I’d like to focus on the mindful walking meditations that promoted self-love, self-care and gratitude.
Mindful Walking Meditation
We held a few different perspectives during our walking meditation, where we either focused or opened our awareness intentionally as we moved through nature, from a vintage barn setting where the ceiling was covered with bunches of drying lavender, to the labyrinth space where a magnificent crystal sits at the center. We initially focused our awareness on the sensations of walking – noticing the sensations in our leg muscles moving us through this space, the functioning of our joints supporting our bones, and our feet touching the ground and propelling us forward. We also focused our attention on our breathing—the intake of air at our nostrils, the releasing of stress in our exhale, the rising and falling of our chests or abdomens, and the opening of our hearts as we took in all of these sensations. We were aware of feeling of gratitude inside ourselves, for the ability to walk, breathe and exist without too much difficulty in those moments.
Our focus of awareness shifted once we reached the rock-lined labyrinth. These structures are unlike mazes as they have only one starting and ending point, which are one in the same. Labyrinths have been used throughout history in many cultures and over many centuries as a symbol of one’s spiritual journey, among other things. As we slowly walked through the labyrinth, we contemplated our life’s own journey, accepting all that we have gone through that has led us here to this moment. Sometimes the difficult times we experience are hard to accept, however, if we reframe those times and look for the silver linings (the lessons we learned as a result of those hard times), we see that without both the good and the bad times, we would not be exactly where we are today.
We ended our walk with an open awareness meditation, sensing and savoring our surroundings. In this type of meditation, we are encouraged to notice everything around us employing as many senses as we can. We notice the strength and temperature of both the breeze and the sun on our skin, as well as the aroma of the sweet lavender and fresh outdoors, and finally the songs of the birds chirping nearby and the sound of feet shuffle along the dirt path. Looking at the trees we pass, we notice the texture of the bark and the shape and color of the leaves with all their gradients. We are aware of our feet on the dirt path, and realize that many before us have walked this way as well. We may feel a sense of common humanity—being a part of something much bigger than ourselves. We feel a sense of awe and gratitude for life itself—all around us, and the ability to be a part of it. We realize that we are so very blessed.
How will you take time for yourself today? Trying going for a walk in nature.
But don’t take my word for it… try a walking meditation for yourself. Focus your awareness on your bodily sensations, or open it up to nature and the world, noticing all her splendid details. Try one perspective and then the other. Explore which twist of mindful walking resonates with you. There are other things you can think about (or sense) on a mindful walk (in each step “you arrive”, in each step “you are home”—Thich Nhat Hahn encourages this perspective). The main point is that you focus your awareness, or open it up. When you find your mind wandering, as it will during meditations, just bring it back kindly to the object of your focus or intention. This kind of slowing down, and focusing or opening does not only change your body (giving it a break from the crazy running around many of us do), but also your brain (rewiring the stress response) and spirit (responding with awe and offering gratitude) as well. Try it as your-SELFIE just may thank you for it!
It’s “the most wonderful time of the year” again, when emphasis is placed on giving gifts to our loved ones to acknowledge our relationships and to keep the connections going. This holiday, my gift to my readers is sharing tips on how to give gifts of happiness with all, as recommended by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. These folks know what they are talking about as they study what makes a meaningful life. Great suggestions to put into practice… your social connections are sure to be strengthened by them… Enjoy and be sure to make yours merry!
Five Ways to Get the Gift Right! by the Greater Good Science Center!
photo creds: http://www.flower-arrangement-advisor.com/
So, I’ve started a tele-course through MentorCoach with a leader in the field of Positive Emotion– Dr. Barbara Fredrickson. She teaches/conducts research out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the Positive Emotions and PsychoPhysiology lab. Her previous book, Positivity, is one of my favorites and her new book, Love 2.0, is closing in on that rank quickly. I won’t give much away regarding the book and course, but I will say that it’s mind-boggling how important this stuff is and the effect it can have on our bodies and lives. In the class and in the book, Love 2.0 is a new look on the biggest hitting positive emotion- and tweaking the definition to have three conditions: a connection over a shared positive emotion; a synchrony of biochemistry and behaviors between those involved, and reflected motive to invest in each other’s well-being that brings mutual care. Dr. Fredrickson is a “psychological scientist looking at love from biological measures.”
Broaden and Build
In a nutshell, her past research has looked at how positive emotions (The book Positivity lists the top 10) can help broaden our thought-action choices and build our resources from psychological to physical to cognitive/intellectual to emotional. This is known as the Broaden and Build theory of Emotion. Where as negative emotions send us into a “fight or flight” mode, mostly to escape danger or a perceived threat — and support us in focusing attention to take immediate action (which allowed our ancestors to survive), positive emotions open us up – physically and intellectually– allow us to see more options for actions, and think creatively about how to use the resources around us. Love is one of many positive emotions she looks at in Positivity. In her new book, love is the only emotion she explores for its importance to social relations, personal functioning and overall well-being is great.
Need for Positive Emotions in our Daily Diet
In both of her books, Dr. Fredrickson states that we need a steady diet of positive emotions to help us build these resources over time. She likens it to a heathy nutritional diet. Eating one piece of broccoli at one sitting will not be as life saving as eating broccoli weekly for a longer period of time. This is the same with positive emotions. They do help you feel good in the moment (and that moment can be short), but trying to increase your intake of positive emotion daily can help you build a resilience muscle that you can flex and use during times of hardship or discomfort. It is during these hard times that the effects of positivity come to the forefront…. and allow us to cope… with a healthier mindset. Here’s an excerpt from Love 2.0 that describes the effect of positive emotions: “science documents that positive emotions can set off upward spirals in your life, self-sustaining trajectories of growth that lift you up to become a better version of yourself.” Who doesn’t want to become a better version of themselves? Well, you can start now, by choosing more positive emotions in your life (which also reminds me of the Hapacus course I will start teaching next month…. sharing strategies and more).
Start Today, Start with You
Wondering how to increase your positive emotion in general? Look for opportunities where you can connect with others. Try starting with three people today. Think about how you can contribute to the health of your interactions by giving a person your 100% attention (instead of multi-tasking like the world tells us to do). Turn toward that person physically and take a moment to really HEAR what they are saying. Give them feedback to show you hear them (smiling & eye contact) and give them kind words back. And then check out Barb Fredrickson’s websites– www.positivityratio.com and www.positivityresonance.com. And call/email me and I’ll be happy to chat with you on the topic– and help collaborate your plans to start gaining more positive emotion today!
February 14th. What better day to celebrate love and kindness in the world (besides on your own birthday) than on Valentine’s Day? Last night I spent some time writing words of love to my husband and family. Today I presented those words to them, and found it put me on a path of love for the day; on a gentler road. What if we started all our days like that? What if the world started all their days with loving words and compliments? What a changed world we would see– one of pure compassion. Makes me want to try to start every day this way. It does take time and effort, but it’s well worth it.
Words that Matter
Last night I also helped my 9-year-old daughter with her Valentines. She has moved away from store-bought valentine’s for a few years now, and prefers to make them herself. Last year she made bookmark valentines. This year it was even more simple: a piece of paper cut out like a heart (with butterflies printed on it– as her school’s mascot is the Monarch), a complimentary sentence, and a lollypop attached. She made these by herself, stamping names onto the heart, adding a scrolling glittery decoration as well, and composed each compliment. I loved reading what she thought of her classmates: “You are creative,” You are a good friend,” You are generous,” You are good at math.” On and on and on she went. How wonderful for these kids to have those words to go back to whenever they need a little lift. She made me a card, and her father, brother and sister one as well. I love her warm spirit and seeing the good in other people. I just wished she would see more of the good spirit in herself, every day.
Words for Thy Self
Though my youngest has a complimentary spirit toward others, she does not have one towards herself. Unfortunately, she is always comparing herself to others; but only in the areas in which she is lacking. She constantly replays tapes of negativity about herself. Where she’s heard this information from, I’m not sure. But I want to put an end to it. So, this month we’ve started an experiment using daily self-affirmations. I saw an interview this Fall on Oprah’s Lifeclass , “You Become What You Believe,” with Cheryl Richardson— a life coach, author and expert on self-care. On Cheryl’s website she states:
- “Self-care is good for the planet. From years of personal experience, as well as coaching great men and women, I’ve come to understand that selfishness leads to selflessness. When we care deeply for ourselves, we naturally begin to care for others – our families, our friends, our greater global community, and the environment – in a healthier and more effective way.”
During her interview with Oprah, Cheryl recommended– to improve your self-image– saying positive daily affirmations for 30 days to turn your attitude around from a half-empty to half-full perspective. Her thinking– shared by many– is that we need to retrain our brain to thinking we are what we intend, and then we will act accordingly. Repeating this process (saying an affirmation everyday) allows the brain to strengthen associations, making this an exercise of the brain as well. Self-fulfilling prophecy is in volumes of psychological research, and still exists after all these years, even though we know our mind can trick us into believing anything really. Cheryl recommends breaking away from old habits of self-doubt and into new habits of self-love. If we can trick our brains into believing the worst about ourselves and then acting to make that belief true, we are then able to trick our brains to believing the best about ourselves, and then acting to make THAT belief true. What I am talking about here is directly tied into self-compassion and self-kindness that I posted about previously.
Daily Self-Affirmation Resources
Below is a list of resources that I use for daily self-affirmations; little reminders that life is positive and we are up for the challenge. Take a look. Some are print based and others are electronic. The great thing is that they are available to all– and can help lead us in the right direction– the direction of self-love.
- Cheryl Richardson shares a list of affirmations on Oprah.com.
- Another source I go to– or one that comes to me in my inbox via email is from Owning Kristina. It’s called “Mojo Mondays” and it’s a way to start your week off thinking about something healthy… for yourself.
- Louise Hay, a motivational author and founder of Hay House Publications also promotes daily affirmations.
- I found a nice app recently for the iPhone. An Affirmations app that has numerous positive affirmations for all to practice, all at your finger tips. Worth checking out.
- Facebook has a Positive Affirmations page as well, with new posts daily.
Which ever source you choose to pull from, the point is– just be kinder to yourself and to do so, you need to believe in yourself fully.
Wishing everyone a lovely Valentine’s day full of kindness in any form!