Treat Yourself to a Retreat

20150125_120806
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/

Crones versus Monsters

230x183xcrones-monsters-230x183.jpg.pagespeed.ic.a2rDRED3lcI have been given permission by Ann Winfred to share her latest post. I refer to these monsters as gremlins – the little voices in my head who remind me of all the mistakes I’ve made. What ever you call them, Ann has some great ideas for quieting them, a must for those of us on the self care journey.

Remember when we were young and monsters hid under our bed, made ugly noises and frightened us from our sleep? And do you remember when we screamed some adult always rushed into our room, scooped us into their lap, and shooed away the bad monster? Hugging our little stuffed bunny, we snuggled deeper into the warm lap and drifted back into our dreams.

Well, guess what, Ladies? There are no *adults* left to hold and rock us, but inside each of us huddles a little girl frightened by monsters. We must be the grown-up for that girl and save her. The only difference now is the things that go bump in the night live in our heads, not under our beds.

Buddhists call our adult-sized monster Monkey Mind, a room full of drunken monkeys that ring the fear alarm and incessantly jabber about the negative pages in our lives. The more we try to ignore them, the faster they fly around in our heads clamoring for attention.

Can we tame those drunken monkeys? I’ll tell you what works for me – sometimes. First, you must prepare yourself for battle. The adversaries are jealous, seasoned and entrenched and won’t give up without a fight.

Ready? You just fought three rounds with a bad dream and lost. The elated monsters go straight to work with their barbs of negative predictions and memories. You wake drenched in sweat, heart pounding, gasping for air.

Step One: Take several deep, calming breaths then crawl out of bed. Be careful, you may be wobbly. Straighten the snarled sheets then go to the kitchen, holding on to the hall wall if needed. Grab a piece of fruit or a slice of leftover pizza or a large spoonful of Rocky Road ice cream from the refrigerator. Eat slowly, savoring each bite. Feeling calmer? Good. Return to the bedroom.

Step Two: Climb back into bed, wrap your body in the sheet and curl into a fetal position, arms wrapped around your shoulders. Squeeze yourself like you were your beloved stuffed bunny and rock gently, focusing on your breath. Breathe IN, breathe OUT, breathe IN, breathe OUT. Think joyful thoughts between breaths – monsters hate joyful thoughts. If the fear bubbles up, rock some more and go back to your breath.

You may feel strange and awkward at first. After all, you’re a tough ole broad who’s been kicking ass and taking care of business for decades now being asked to cower and act like a ninny. But remember, it’s your frightened little girl who needs the comforting.

If you sense a lull in the monster’s attack, let your mind stray away from your breath for a few seconds and do a systems check. Shoulders tight? Relax them. Teeth clenched? Loosen your jaw. Face scowling? Paint on a smile. But stay alert. The monster knows when you wander and ramps up the barrage of arrows. The minute you feel the first sting, quick, go back to watching your breath going in and out, in and out. Slowly your body relaxes, your mind stills, your breath steadies, and you slip into a peaceful no-monkey sleep.

I have been duking it out with these drunken monkey devils for several decades now, and I promise you it gets easier with each round. They still jerk me awake but they no longer fool me. I know they’re not real monsters, they’re just thoughts — untested, unproven thoughts and often not even my own thoughts but ones leaked in or planted by others. They are the thoughts of drunken monkeys and drunken monkeys cannot know the future or the truth. So stand strong. With the monkeys tamed and the dialog in our minds re-written, we will have a friendly space to spend long happy hours playing in our thoughts and memories.

Are you wondering what has become of our frightened little girl? She sleeps peacefully most nights now and spends her days outside in the sunshine, building sandcastles at the beach or flying high in a swing or wrestling with a puppy in the tall grass. Listen. Can you hear her laughing?

Read more from Ann at http://comingofagecroneicles.com/author/ann/

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

Clock

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.

The Huge Hug

Hugs Are Healthy

Hugs Are Healthy

We’ve all observed them: the exuberant embraces between two people at the airport baggage claim that tell a story of long separation and aching hearts soothed. I love watching them happen while traveling, but often I’m too involved with my own search for my suitcases or worrying about finding the car in the airport parking lot, that I miss out on just what those huge hugs are all about.

Then it happened to me.

My twenty-year-old daughter was finally coming home after six months studying abroad, and I was waiting for her at the baggage claim in the Phoenix Airport. She didn’t see me at first so I sneaked up behind her. She looked to the left and then to the right probably wondering where her mother was – and then it happened. We squealed with excitement as we embraced each other not caring who was watching our special moment. And she didn’t let go after the usual few seconds, but remained fully enveloped in her mother’s arms. No words needed to be spoken to let me know she truly missed me and was so excited to see me. Ahhh, I’m still feeling the effects from the huge hug.

According to HuffPost Healthy Living “The simple act of a hug isn’t just felt on our arms. When we embrace someone, oxytocin (also known as “the cuddle hormone”) is released, making us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The chemical has also been linked to social bonding. “Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding,” DePauw University psychologist Matt Hertenstein told NPR. “It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.””

Hug someone today and don’t let go. That huge hug will have huge health benefits for you both.

Read more about the benefits of hugs at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/27/health-benefits-of-huggin_n_5008616.html

Top 100 List (Part 2)

Thank you to all who commented on my last post with ways you pamper yourself which included (I’m adding these to the list started in my previous post):

9. Get a manicure
10. Go for a walk
11. Meditate
12. Go kayaking

I had the first three already on my list, but I can’t kayak close to my home here in the Arizona desert. I can, however, go swimming in my pool. I know swimming isn’t the easiest way to pamper yourself; it involves changing clothes, putting on sunscreen, enduring a few seconds of pain when you first jump in, and then of course, if you get your hair wet, you’ll have to wash it afterwards, right? I have yet to find a swim cap that really keeps the water out – what a hassle.

But there is something about that feeling of fully immersing myself in the water which is just so luscious. It all seems worth it as I dive under water and spread my arms and legs like a frog while the blazing sun warms the surface and invites me to come up for air. There is something about the feeling of fully immersing myself in the cool turquoise water where sound and sight are diluted and I feel totally separated from any worries, troubles, or fears.

Immerse yourself in the pleasures of being pampered

Immerse yourself in the pleasures of being pampered

My point is that if you fall short making your own Top 100 List of Ways To Pamper Yourself because, like me, you were having a tough time coming up with only ways that took 20 minutes or less, know that there are times when you deserve more than just twenty minutes. Take a whole hour, an afternoon, or even a whole day. Go get your hair wet and immerse yourself in the simple pleasures of pampering yourself. Keep adding to your list and don’t stop until you reach 100.
More from my list (what’s on yours?):

13. Go swimming and get your hair wet
14. Call a good friend and just chat
15. Make yourself a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate
16. Light a candle
17. Call a friend for a lunch date
18. Watch old Seinfeld re-runs that will make you LAUGH
19. Use your special china even though it isn’t a holiday
20. Listen to music
21. Write in your favorite journal
22. Watch an old movie
23. Take a nap
24. Get a facial or give yourself one
25. Write a poem

Top 100 List

On days when I feel blue, things can seem pretty dark even with the bright Arizona sun shining in my windows. Depression usually gives me no warning, but I am getting much better with how I deal with it. I call it my Top 100 List.

A dear friend and Life Coach Reggie Adams recommended this years ago, and I’ve been building on it ever since. It’s a list of things I can do to pamper myself. I think she meant for me to look at this list before depression hits, but it doesn’t always work that way. Here are some examples from my list:

  1. Buy Myself Flowers
  2. Do Yoga (even if you only have time for 10 minutes of sun salutations)
  3. Eat a Healthy Snack (make it pretty and sit down to enjoy it)
  4. Read a Book (curled up on the couch in your fuzzy red socks)
  5. Scrapbook (play with your photos)
  6. Write a Letter (maybe even to yourself)
  7. Sing Loud and Proud in the Shower or Car
  8. Take a Long Hot Bath

This week I found myself feeling blue, so I chose to add a new idea to my Top 100 List, a foot soak my friend Charlotte found on Pinterest. In a little more than 20 minutes I had slipped from feeling lethargic to feeling positively lovely again. Here’s the recipe for the foot soak:

Pamper Yourself Using Your Top 100 List

In a large basin mix: 1/2 cup Listerine, 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 cup of very warm water.

Soak your feet in the warm mixture for 15 minutes. Dry both feet completely and wrap one in a towel while you work on the other. Use a pumice stone, pedicure paddle or even just a dry towel to rub the entire foot, focusing especially on the dry calloused areas. Add lotion and enjoy soft, silky skin.

Stay tuned for more ideas to pamper yourself next week.

Who Are You Really?

I often struggle with trying to fit in and making everyone else happy. I’m a people pleaser and it has taken me years to figure out my light is brightest when I am just being me rather than who I think people want me to be.

I love finding new blogs to follow and The Happiness Bank in Australia (don’t you just love that name?) is a goldmine filled with lots of great information, ideas, and insight into ways to care for ourselves and be more mindful. Please enjoy Claire’s latest post about who we really are – complete with a video of excellent visuals for imagining the layers we take on over the years of labels we need no longer accept about ourselves. Isn’t it time to shed those old tapes of who we think we should be and start being the person we want to be?

I say, “Yes!”

Thank you Claire for allowing me to share this link.

http://www.happinessbank.com.au/who-are-you-really/

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