Treat Yourself to a Retreat

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Remember my Top 100 List (of ways to pamper myself)? I just added going on a retreat to that list.

I recently returned from a women’s retreat in Minnesota where twelve women came together from across the U.S. and Canada to delve more deeply into self compassion, our strengths and our purpose. For four days we challenged ourselves to look at how we showed up in this world while experiencing giving back, supporting one another, and giving ourselves this time to retreat. It was four precious days for all of us to put aside our very full lives and do something just for us; a time to relax, reflect and feel rejuvenated.

We also celebrated each other for all sorts of accomplishments: one of us turned fifty over the weekend, a few women declared they would start looking for new jobs, one woman was singing in an off-Broadway musical the following week. We rejoiced in who we are, not who we think others want us to be. I was lifted up by these amazingly courageous women. I was reminded that I am enough despite the gremlins in my head who tell me otherwise. I was also reminded of the healing power that comes with gathering with like-minded women.

This Sunday, my friend Harumi and I will conduct our next Fuzzy Red Socks Workshop and I am so looking forward to making the space for women to gather for four hours of sacred quietude with yoga, meditation and SoulCollage. It’s only four hours, not four days, but even in that short amount of time, the soul can be quieted and the spirit can be lifted. In fact, I have been known to feel refreshed and full of new energy with just four minutes of meditation.

I invite you to find some time today to treat yourself to a retreat – no need to fly across the country, just have coffee with a friend, share a spa day with your sister, or sit quietly in meditation for a few minutes. Let the warmth of friendship, the pampering, the dedicated time for SELF wash over you so you can relax, reflect, and feel rejuvenated.

Top 100 List http://fuzzyredsocks.com/2014/06/05/top-100-list/
SoulCollage http://www.soulcollage.com/
Harumi Yoga+ http://harumihealinghouse.com/

You Are A Child of the Universe

My twenty-year-old daughter just left for the airport to return to school in Portland, Oregon. We shared the most magical Thanksgiving weekend. In a short seventy-two hours we crammed in lots of FUN including Black Friday shopping, Christmas tree decorating, hiking, swimming, the annual Christmas family photo shoot in the desert, baking cookies, and watching movies. We even roasted marshmallows and made s’mores – all while spending quality time catching up on our very full lives.

“But wait, I’m not ready for you to leave,” I whispered to myself as she and my husband pulled out of the driveway towards the Phoenix airport. “There was so much more I had to say.”

There’s so much more to tell our kids, right?  All the advice and the suggestions and the ideas we parents believe is so incredibly important to impart on our children. We know so much more then they do, right? Then I was reminded of this poem I memorized when I was her age so many years ago. At the time I thought it explained my entire life. It empowered me to pursue my dreams and take responsibility for my life. Isn’t that really all we want for our kids? It was written in 1926 by an Illinois lawyer and recorded by Les Crane. Right now, when I can think of a million things I would like to say, pearls of wisdom I believe she needs to hear, I read this poem and think, “This said it all to me back in the 70’s, maybe, just maybe this is all she needs to hear now in 2014.”

Desiderata – by Max Ehrman

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

To hear the original version go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNq_DTmVCWs

The Perfectly Imperfect Halloween

CandyWrappersDid you have the perfect Halloween this past weekend? What does the perfect Halloween look like to you? Seeing the neighbor kids all dressed up? Going to a party and winning a prize for best costume? For me it was a quiet night at home with my husband meeting new neighbors and their children. This was our first Halloween in our new home. And it would have been perfect if I hadn’t eaten so much of that candy!

In Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection she reminds us that “Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfectionism is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception – we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable – there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.”

I’ve spent much of my life trying to be perfect and have to work hard at honoring my imperfections the way Ms. Brown invites us to do. I realize now that I was just trying to gain acceptance and approval all those years. Brene also tells us that one of the best ways to counter perfectionism is with self-compassion. Owning our imperfections and being kind towards ourselves when we make mistakes is the first step to self-compassion. Ok, so I ate too much candy. Then I had a choice to accept what I could not change and move on.

So, as soon as the last of the Trick-or-Treaters was gone, my husband and I threw away the remaining candy. And then I walked it out to the garbage can, just to make sure I didn’t get it back out of the kitchen trash can (please tell me that I’m not the only person to have done that before). That was the choice I made after my previous choice of eating lots of Halloween candy. I’m choosing to be kind to myself and acknowledging me for what I did well, rather than continuing to berate myself for what I didn’t do well.

I think I had an perfectly imperfect Halloween. How about you?

Watching the Clock

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I know something’s up when I check my watch in Yoga Class and say to myself, “When will it be OVER?” I know I’m sliding down a slippery slope when I am going over my to-do list while in downward dog. And then the next day I choose to skip yoga all together. This past week has been like this. I realized I was losing focus while meditating. So I just chose to not meditate at all – add to that eating poorly including too much sugar and skipping lunches. By the end of the week I spent an entire day feeling lethargic and wanted to do nothing but crawl back into bed. At 10 a.m. I wished it was bedtime so I could go to sleep and start over the next day.

These dark days sneak up on me usually because I have stopped doing the things I do for self care – the things I know allow me to rest, reflect and feel rejuvenated. That’s when depression hits and even the bright Arizona sun can’t help me get out of the funk.

I’m getting better at recognizing these days and have a plan for them. If I’m lucky and they happen on a weekend with no appointments or commitments, I put on my fuzzy red socks, make a cup of tea, and curl up with a good book on my comfy couch. I get out my Top 100 Things to Pamper Myself List and pick one or two. This week, once I realized what was going on, I chose to take a walk after dinner with my husband. I immediately felt better. Then I made a list for what I’d do the next day to make sure the darkness didn’t return. I went to the grocery store and bought salad makings for a healthy lunch, I made plans for the evening to do something fun, and I got back to my writing with this post. Eventually, I forgot what time it was and started to feel like myself again.

Today I feel the cloud cover is gone and I have my mojo back. Once again, taking care of myself got me back on track and made me feel whole. In fact, I think today I’m not even going to wear my watch.

Making Meditation Matter

DSCN1049John Kabat-Zinn reminds us that meditation is simply “paying attention” and that paying attention is the first step to living more mindfully and learning to reduce stress. In his book Full Catastrophe Living Mr. Kabat-Zinn teaches us that through meditation we can learn how our own mind works and how often our mind is thinking about the past or the future and not about right now, the present.

I’ve been meditating consistently now for eighteen months and I’ve seen the difference it can make in how I handle stress. I am more likely to respond to a situation with grace than react with anger. Learning to quiet my mind and focus on my breath has helped me navigate life through a much clearer lens, one that is magnified with love, acceptance and compassion.

One of the easiest ways to get into meditation is by using a simple body scan. Try this 9-minute one from The Wild Divine:

To make meditation matter in your life download the Insight Timer App onto your phone to provide you with beautiful Tibetan singing bowls and a dynamic worldwide meditation community. Insight Timer is the fun and easy way to support your meditation practice.

Forgiveness

ForgivenessWith the passing of South African President Nelson Mandela last week I began to think about the word forgiveness and what it means to me. I was surprised not to find Mr. Mandela in Wikipedia’s definition of forgiveness – to forgive the people who incarcerated him, who were responsible for keeping him away from his family and any sort of normal existence for almost thirty years – now that is the quintessential example of forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense – (and) lets go of negative emotions such as revenge, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.”

Earlier this week I saw the recently released film Philomena based on a true story. Judi Dench portrayed an Irish woman searching for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in an Irish convent. The nuns practically enslaved these poor girls and sold their babies to wealthy Americans. Over the next fifty years they covered up any proof these babies or their mothers ever existed. In the end Philomena forgave the nun who was instrumental in the cover-up.

President Mandela and Philomena made me wonder, “Could I forgive such atrocities? Could I be so strong as to let go of the anger, not want revenge, and gain an increased ability to wish the offender well?”

And then two nights ago my nephew was shot three times by a masked man in his driveway after coming home from taking his last test of the semester as a graduate student at Ohio State University. Just writing those words is difficult – almost as much as it has been saying them aloud. These are not words my family has ever had to say, “One of us has been shot.”

The man is still at large. The reason for the shooting still unknown. My nephew has just gone through his third surgery to repair the damage to his chest and leg. They removed part of his spleen and pancreas. He is still on a ventilator and heavily sedated. My sister and brother-in-law have been going through hell while praying their son will once again be a healthy, happy 24-year-old.

Can I forgive the man who did this? I’m trying to use all my energy to send positive thoughts, prayers, and love to my sister and her family. I am working on staying upbeat and hoping for a speedy recovery. There doesn’t seem time for the anger right now with a multitude of texts, phone calls about the latest surgery, the tubes, the medical procedures that are being done to save his life; instead I am focusing on all the amazing stories my sister has told me about the generosity of strangers, the talented doctors and nurses in the trauma center, the loving and caring messages pouring in from co-workers and friends and the encouraging Facebook posts. It’s all filling my heart with compassion and love. There is no room for anger right now, but I’m guessing that it will come.

And then I will have to make the decision to forgive or not to forgive. I hope I will choose the weapon Mr. Mandela says will liberate my soul. I agree it would be so much better than the one used on my nephew.

Photo Credit: http://www.truthdig.com/cartoon/item/mandela_on_forgiveness_20131208

Be Aware. Be Kind. Breathe Deep.

Fuzzy Red Socks
Be Aware. Be Kind. Breathe Deep.

I supplement my regular yoga practice with at least one hot yoga class a week, just to mess with my mind and to get out of my comfort zone. This morning’s class seemed exceptionally hot. I had taken a few weeks off because of vacation, so it was even harder to acclimate to the heat.

Our instructor took us through asanas I know very well from my almost ten years of practice, but in the suffocating humidity it felt like I had never done them before. Eagle Pose was suddenly that position yoga is often confused with – wrapping ourselves into a pretzel like a contortionist. Of course, everything seems harder in a 106-degree room, but my monkey-mind was racing and the critic in me was declaring war with my ego. I was humbled to my core.

I kept my goals simple: Be aware. Be kind to myself. Breathe deeply and often. And don’t leave the room.

I am taking an online course with Brene Brown, author, public speaker and TED Talk extraordinaire, who invites us to look at our imperfections – such as being humbled by our daily yoga practice. Brene is teaching us to learn to accept these imperfections so we can have more joy in our lives. In this process we are exploring shame, a cousin to humility, and the power it can have on us. Did I let shame get in the way of the learning this morning when I couldn’t do Eagle Pose? In Brene’s course I have had time to reflect on past shames in my life and, this time, I liked what I saw. Despite the shame I felt from them when they happened years ago, despite the deep scars I believed I had to bear forever, this time, I could see these experiences for what they were. They were a chance to practice the basics of what I believe in and stepping stones to get to where I am today. Like the heated room, shame can derail me – or it can empower me and remind me of what I know for sure:

“When the heat is too much, don’t be burned by shame. Just be aware. Be kind to yourself. Keep breathing deeply.”

Find out more about Brene Brown at http://brenebrown.com/

Create Your Space

Fuzzy Red Socks

January 2, 2013

The December 2012 edition of Yoga Journal gave me the wonderful idea to create a “space for gratitude and inspiration with a beautiful home alter that celebrates the loves of your life and the qualities you want to embrace in yourself.

So that is exactly what I did. I created a space for reflection.

Making my new year’s resolutions and creating my theme for 2013 (12/31/12 post), I realized I needed a special place where I can center myself, be calm, feel safe – and get on my yoga mat every day.  My writer friends have special places where they write. I needed a special place to find the courage to do the writing, to feel the motivation to make the music, to hear myself sing loud and sing proud, “I Believe.” I needed a place to reflect.

One person in the article created her space on the floor of her bedroom, another guy used the inside of a fireplace. I chose the inside of my closet in my office where I can open and close the space as needed. It took a little consolidating and some pre-spring cleaning, but I managed to make a space I now call home to my mediation, source of creativity, heart center and reflection.

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With closet door closed, time for work.

 

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With closet door open and yoga mat and zafu in place.

Learn To Meditate

February 16, 2012

Fuzzy Red Socks – A Journey Towards Health

Learn To Meditate

I have been meaning to meditate now for months and just can’t seem to make it part of my daily routine. It seems so strange to have mediation on my to-do list, but I know that is what it takes for me to start anything new. I need to plan for it, work it into my schedule and then just do it.

So on Sundays, I go to a free meditation class at my yoga studio. There the instructor leads us into a 10-15 minute meditation, we discuss how that went and what came up for us, then we do one final meditation for another 15 minutes or so. For just this short time once a week I can “practice” meditating and realize the relaxing and restorative effects that come from meditation.

Similar to taking a short nap, when I meditate, I feel refreshed and invigorated afterwards. The instructor guides us with ways to empty our minds of our “to-do” lists and our worries and he reminds us to keep coming back to our breath. He suggests that when a thought comes up to label it “a thought” then return to our breath. The practice of this may seem simple, but it really can be difficult. The errands I need to run after the class or the argument I had with someone keep surfacing. But the practice of softly acknowledging those thoughts, labeling them, and saying good-bye to them, lulls me into a state of lightness, a feeling of peace, and a sense of wonder about what lies beneath the surface of my mind.

I always leave that class feeling like a new person and thinking that I will be sure to meditate every day. But then life shows up and gets in the way and I am once again looking at it on my “to do” list. So for now, I am at least meditating once a week.

If you would like an easy idea for meditating check out Kirsten Florian’s blog entry which includes a Yoga Mudra Mediation outlined for you from her recent trip to India at http://www.kerstinflorianusa.com/blog/

Then get it on your to-do list and learn to make your to-do list melt away even if it is only once a week..