gratitude

Are you positive?

It’s amazing how easy it is to spread negativity without even realizing it, or possibly even meaning to. Certainly, when our day begins with a lack of enthusiasm, we cannot be surprised when the day turns out to be unproductive. And one day turns into two, then three ... and boom, the result is an unfulfilled life.

But how to change the script? By embracing a new definition of radical self-care!

There is nothing wrong with pampering and treating oneself to spa treatments, mani/pedis, and healing sessions. In fact, I highly recommend them! But what about the internal work - the work that needs to place deep down in the soul, that space where no one else can go with you, the place we often cover up, gloss over and avoid because intuitively we know it requires some WORK and we are the only ones who can do it? Yes, THAT inner space.

The first (and most difficult step) is developing the habit of shifting the focus of the critical eye away from others and onto ourselves. When we are avoiding that inner work, it's easy to gaze outward and see all that's wrong with the world, as if we are somehow above it all - exempt, apart, better than.

The challenge is to accept that there will ALWAYS be situations beyond your control, that there will always be people who act contrary to what "I" think is right, and that more times than your care to acknowledge, you often create your own negative situation(s). In essence, the task is not to focus on others, but rather, on self, and create opportunities for BREAK THROUGH.

Begin by devoting the first few minutes upon waking to the planting of positive seeds that will continue to grow, manifesting compassion, humility, joy, peace and beauty throughout your day.

Give prayer, meditation, laughter, generosity and peace an exalted seat within your sacred internal space.

Check YOURSELF for behaviors of self-sabotage, manipulation, and divisiveness.

Commit to the intentional, conscious ushering out of negative energy by refusing to loiter in conversations and situations that make themselves known as energy drains.

Surround yourself with people who are continually working on self-improvement and moving toward greatness.

Count your blessings, literally - every. single. day. Maybe even write them down or say them out loud.

Hug a tree. Take a walk in nature. Or simply sit quietly and breathe without action or thought (or television or phone or music) for a few minutes each day.

Help someone just because you can.

Look directly in the mirror and tell yourself "I. Love. You." 7 times. Slowly. Do it.

Eat something that grows naturally from the earth (a fruit or vegetable) in it's raw form without any preparation, at each meal.

Give yourself 30 days of positivity and observe how you begin to naturally redirect and quell the rudeness, nay-saying, jealousy, sarcasm, indifference, and other negative attitudes.

Always remember ... positive energy flows abundantly in the universe. Open a pathway for it to come in and help you create a empowered and joyful life. 

Ashe!

Fasting

Eating is always an adventure and I am continually amazed at the volume of lessons one can derive from food.

Over recent months, I’d gotten very good at listening to my body’s voice. People were commenting on how nourishing my food was, how healthy I seemed. And Ah! I had amazing physical energy.

Then Ramadan, a lunar month during which we abstain from all food and drink (as well as sex, gossip, anger, etc) between dawn and sunset hours, arrived bringing much needed spiritual recentering. As always, it is destined to be a life-affirming experience!

 

For me, the first four days are the most difficult. Not because of hunger, headache, weakness or thirst but due to the emotional energy needed to break free of habits centered around food, like going to the refrigerator out of boredom, random snacking, mindless eating and the annoying habit of leaving the grocery store with more than I ever intended to buy, only to get home and realize that my eyes are indeed bigger than the shrinking ability to stuff myself. We are so addicted to food.

But with consistency, transition doesn't take long.

Ramadan is about so much more than food. The word translates as “a burning off” – of greed, vanity, gluttony, lust, wrath, envy … those all-too-familiar desires. The fast requires daily self-imposed restraint from all that feeds the physical (lower) self, in order to elevate the spiritual (higher) self. When the physical things are removed, we are left with a sharper focus on introspection, reflection, charity, humility, positive productivity, gratefulness, worship, and the development of an environment conducive to inner purification.

It never fails that every year, at the very moment I am pondering this powerful integration, someone asks how I can go without food and especially water, all day long . Often the inquiry ends with them saying, “I just could never do it”. I’ve given this sentiment a lot of thought over the years. Oftentimes I’ve explained how it is not really difficult or how we have way more than we actually need or how I am used to it after so many years.

I am not saying that fasting for 30 days is a walk in the park. But the truth is that we are reminded of the Creator's promise that the fast will be easy. It is then, up to us to foster a mindset which embraces that truth. When the mind shifts, the body follows suit, adapting and solidifying a new consciousness of and appreciation for the the ability to self-regulate and choose how we move through this life.

10 Tips for Supporting Caregivers

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We all know a family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor, who is a caregiver of an aging, ill or disabled parent, spouse, sibling or child. Unless you’ve done this work of caregiving, there’s no real understanding of the limitations, the complexity of difficulty, or the toll it takes on the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial well-being of the caregiver. And although it’s extremely rewarding, it’s a very tough, never-ending job. 

It’s not uncommon for caregivers to give and give and give with little in return. Oftentimes the person being cared for is unable to reciprocate appreciation or affection, especially over time. As a result, many caregivers feel isolated, and for a number of reasons, are unable to ask for help. An elderly woman caring for a sick husband may fear losing her independence, the mother of a disabled child may worry about how she is viewed as a mother, a man caring for his demented mother may feel he’s not living up to his role as a son. There is an entire range of unspoken emotions and thoughts to deal with, none of them easy.

So, supportive interaction becomes critical to the stability and stamina of caregivers. Support must come from the heart, clothed in genuine love and compassion. There is no room for criticism or controlling gestures. Here’s how you can help:

1. Pick up the phone and call. Caregivers need human connection. More importantly, make the call about THEM. Ask how they are doing. Bring them some good news. Make them laugh. Do it often.

2. Give ample notice when extending an invitation. Attending something as simple as a lunch date or holiday party often requires advance arrangements to have someone ‘stand in’ to provide care. 

3. Learn about dementia, Aspergers, autism, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask/talk about these conditions in an appropriate setting. Pretending nothing is wrong is isolating. 

4. Be aware that caregiving is very different from (and often more challenging than) raising children. With childrearing there is an end goal in sight. Your children are growing UP and, at some point, moving on to their own lives. Even as our children lose their innocence, there is a lasting sense of pride and joy that comes from raising a child into adulthood. With caregiving, temporary illness care aside, the opposite is usually true. There is a deep sense of loss (of that person, of one’s personal life, of one’s freedom from the situation, etc) that accompanies caring for someone who will never be independent or who is slowly moving toward the end of their life. 

5. Be sensitive.  Some caregivers are on limited or fixed incomes, sometimes having had to give up their job/career to care for someone else or living on part time employment wages. Something to consider when asking them to go out or travel. 

6. Visit. Traveling with a sick or disabled person is disruptive, often requiring both the caregiver and the one being cared for to go without resources they rely upon for activities of daily living. Traveling without one’s charge means finding someone trustworthy or paying HIGH fees for their care in your absence. So if there’s a family gathering or special occasion in the works, consider bringing it to the caregiver’s home! Since those being cared for usually respond best to routine schedules, be sure to include the caregiver in all the plans … and be prepared to lend a hand when you arrive.

7. Help them locate community resources - home care aides, physical or occupational therapists, chaplains, social workers, hospice. See if they are interested in attending a caregiver’s support group. If so, locate one (or several) and perhaps offer to go with them. This can be especially helpful for long time caregivers who’ve never sought help but are exhibiting signs of caregiver stress.

8. Ask how you can help. The caregiver knows what they need but may need a little coaxing. Be prepared for anything from ‘would you sit with him/her while I take a bath?’ to ‘can you recommend a ____?’. 

9. Know the signs of caregiver stress (denial, frustration, anger, guilt, social withdrawal, depression, lack of concentration, loneliness, exhaustion, unchecked health problems) and how it affects health. Encourage and do what you can to make it possible for them to take better care of themselves, to get out of the house, and to enjoy life.

10. Reassure them know you are there for them. And really, really be there when they need you.

Life's not-so-little reminders

Funny how we plan, and then another Plan comes into play. You know the One. The One we never take into account when we are doing what we do. The One we conveniently forget about as we move-n-shake our way through life. Yeah that One. The Ultimate Plan.

While it is true that we can manifest what we want in our lives, it is also true that life is interconnected. And every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It's the domino effect.

So, in the words of my grandmother, "be careful what you manifest. Think it through, yet know too that there exists what you cannot see or know or plan for, so be prepared for life to throw you a curve when you least expect it, but most need it". Wisdom.

Recently, a bout of severe pain, chills, fever, exhaution, a trip to the emergency room, and a diagnosis of pneumonia, brought my Nana's words rushing back to me and everything of real importance into clear focus ... again, because we get off-track. And I am reminded of a few observations to share:

  • Slowww dowwwn
  • The healthier the body, the harder it fights to maintain homeostasis, and the faster it heals
  • After 3 days of self-treatment with no improvement, seek medical care
  • A strong tolerance for pain is NOT a permission slip for needless suffering
  • Allow those who love you and can see what you can't, to advocate for you
  • Doctors are great diagnosticians and symptom-solvers
  • Sometimes the immediate benefit of drugs outweighs the potential harm
  • 'Healing' is a personal commitment we make to ourselves every day
  • Strengthen the use of foundational wellness tools (like prayer, Reiki, healing affirmations, essential oils, fresh water, fruits and veggies) at every stage of dis-ease and every stage of wellness
  • Get with a health coach to improve daily wellness choices to cleanse properly, boost the immune system, and regain strength
  • Give thanks - good health is a precious, delicate, beautiful gift

Peace and good health!