How to Cultivate Inner Peace

 

leaf dipped in water

My friend Marcy and I are creating a retreat for women focused on experiencing and cultivating inner peace.  Our focus on this subject has reminded me how important it is to nurture the peace within us and return to it often.  It is only from that place that we can really experience all life has to offer and the joy it can bring.

If you are like most people on earth today, you may not be feeling very connected to your inner peace.  There is probably a lot on your schedule and even more on your mind.  What you need are some tools that will help you ground in peace fairly quickly and I just happen to have some for you.

Focus on the Present Moment – Easier said than done.  Right?  You might be surprised how simple it is when you practice regularly.  In moments of stress, worry, or dis-ease, try one of these easy strategies for grounding in the moment:

  • Take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed, focusing on the air moving through you
  • Put your hand over your heart and count each breath you take
  • Bring mindfulness to your movements and what is around you – feel and watch every detail
  • Designate something as an anchor to your present moments, like a specific hand movement, the face of your watch, the veins in your wrist, or anything you can focus on quickly and easily.

Create Daily Peace Practices – when you start and end your day with activities that calm and center you, the time in between will be peaceful as well.  There are unlimited ways to do this and it is important to choose what feels right and you are willing to commit to.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Journaling
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Affirmations
  • Walking in nature
  • Reading meaningful or uplifting material

Live Simply– inner and outer clutter are distracting and complicate our lives.  On some level they keep us on edge all the time.  Creating a physical environment that is peaceful and calm will nurture the same within you.  Take a careful look at your space, calendar, and the people in your life.  It may be time to let some things go.  When you are able to focus on what you love and what is meaningful to you, more peaceful moments will follow.  This isn’t selfish.  When you are in a calm and relaxed state you will be more effective in what you do and present with the ones you love.

Don’t Marinate in Your Upsets – we are all faced with events and people that disturb our peace.  It’s part of living in a world of humans.  When you are triggered, the feeling that comes as a response only lasts about a minute.  The problem is that you keep replaying the story and triggering the feeling over and over again.  The opportunity here is to learn not to keep repeating the story so that you can return to a peaceful state as soon as possible.  Here are some of the strategies you might choose to work with:

  • Give it a minute or two – let the feeling dissipate on its own
  • Any of the tools above for returning to the present moment
  • Ask yourself if being upset is serving you and if not, let it go
  • Move into neutrality by stepping outside of yourself and observing the situation
  • Imagine you are watching what is happening on a movie screen
  • Bring compassion and understanding to all involved, knowing everyone is doing the best they are capable of in that moment

Cultivating inner peace is a gift to yourself and those around you.  It is from this grounded space that you can be your best self and create your best life.  And, it feels sooooo good.

Learn more about the Inner Peace Retreat

Feeling Scattered or Overwhelmed? Try This…

women with puzzle pieces falling away

We all have a lot going on in our lives and it is easy to get caught up in it.  The result may be feeling overwhelmed or like pieces of you are scattered all around.  Some of my clients describe feeling drained, not fully present, or just stressed about all they are trying to do.

The following visualization has supported many of my clients in returning to a more peaceful and empowered state.  I hope it supports you, as well.

  • Find a quiet, peaceful place (if possible)
  • Take a few deep breaths, allowing yourself to come into a relaxed state
  • Visualize pieces of yourself scattered around you and maybe even at a distance
  • Form an intention to draw them back in and become whole again
  • Breathe in deeply and as you breathe in visualize the scattered parts returning to you
  • Sit quietly for a few minutes breathing in and out and enjoying the feeling of wholeness

28 Ways to Be Your Own Valentine

I love me! card

Whether you are in a relationship or not, you deserve some special time for loving self-care.  When you take the time to nurture yourself, you will be more loving with those around you.  It all begins with you.  And, if you are like most of us, you have been neglecting yourself way too long.

Take some time this Valentine’s Day month for you.  Only you.  Do something that feeds your soul, lifts you up, or gives you a sense of peace.  Remember that you are the most important person in your life, and you deserve to be nurtured and loved. 

How?  I asked my some of my clients and friends about their favorite self-nurturing activities and this is what they came up with:

  1. Buy yourself flowers
  2. Play with art or crafts
  3. Have a technology free day
  4. Soak in a bubble bath surrounded by candlelight
  5. Get a massage, facial, or mani/pedi
  6. Spend the day in your most comfortable pajamas
  7. Journal about the blessings in your life
  8. Treat yourself to your favorite chocolate
  9. Read a good book or watch a funny movie (or 2, or 3, or all day long)
  10. Go for a walk in nature
  11. Make yourself your favorite comfort food or bring home a great take out meal
  12. Visit a museum, art gallery, or zoo
  13. Lay on your back and watch clouds or stargaze
  14. Hire a photographer to do a professional portrait celebrating you
  15. Meditate
  16. Set a formal dinner table for yourself, including candlelight and flowers
  17. Color in a coloring book
  18. Enjoy a sunrise or sunset
  19. Do yoga
  20. Snuggle with a pet
  21. Sit quietly and listen to music you love
  22. Daydream
  23. Go out into the garden and get your hands dirty
  24. Float in a pool
  25. Write a loving letter to yourself
  26. Spend time sitting on the beach
  27. Go for coffee and a treat at your favorite café
  28. Take a class or go to an event that will inspire you

 Whatever you choose to do, remember that you are your own Best Valentine and treat yourself accordingly.

Do you have any self-nurturing practices not listed here? I would love to hear about them.  You can share by leaving a comment below.

Coupons, Discounts, and Shopping Zombie Syndrome

tired woman surrounded by shopping bags

I admit it. Last Sunday I found myself spending 3 hours of my life at Kohls, all because of a 30% off coupon burning a hole in my pocket.  It wasn’t that I needed anything.  I was just looking for something to buy so I could feel good about getting a discount.  And, I wasn’t alone.  I ran into friends there doing the same thing.

These stores have it down to a science.  They do research and stuff to figure out how to pull us in.  And, it works. 

When I checked out, tired and frustrated from trying on lots of clothes that made me look fat, the sweet young man pointed out that I spent about $20, and saved $75.  He looked at me like I was the smartest person in the world.  And then, for some unknown reason, he gave me a $10 off coupon that can only be used next week.  I just wanted to kick him.

It’s not only advertising and stores we need to look out for.  There are endless ways we can become shopping zombies.

I have a client who came to me because she felt stressed and dissatisfied with her life.  She had set goals to make friends in her new community and felt more people were falling away than sticking around.  In our first conversation, I noticed the word Groupon came up a lot.

She thought she could use Groupon opportunities to meet new people and make friends.  What really happened was that she became so busy with her special offers she didn’t have time for the new people in her life.  When deadlines approached her stress levels would rise and she would find herself canceling time with new friends to use her expiring discounts.   Eventually, they gave up on her as she fell deeper and deeper into Groupon addiction without even realizing what was happening.

How are we to live within our means and in alignment with our values when we are being constantly programmed to become shopping zombies? 

Staying tuned in to your highest self, what you value most, and your financial goals will serve you well.  Chances are, it’s not shiny new objects you really want, but something deeper and more meaningful.  This focus on values will support you in making conscious choices and putting shopping strategies in place, like the following ones that have worked for my clients:

  • Read your intentions and goals before going to the store.
  • Create a list and stick to it.
  • Rate what you want on a scale of 1 to 10.  If it is not an 8 or above, don’t get it.
  • Walk away and sleep on it.  Chances are you won’t want it as much the next day.
  • Avoid malls and online shopping sites.
  • Ask yourself if what you want will bring meaning to your life or fulfill a current need?
  • Set a time limit for being in the store.
  • Give yourself a set amount of cash each month and don’t use your credit cards.
  • Put a note on your credit card reminding you of your goals.
  • Learn to say “no” to your children.  Spending money does not equal love.
  • Don’t live in scarcity.  Plan for small treats.
  • Freeze your credit card
  • Create a 30 day wait list for things you think you want to buy
  • Know what you have.  You may already own something that is similar or will work.

Shopping is not a bad thing unless you are spending more than you earn or stepping out of alignment with your goals and values.

We all deserve something new once in a while.  But, when you get that guilty feeling in the pit of your stomach or like me, find yourself wasting entire afternoons looking for something to buy, chances are you are experiencing Shopping Zombie Syndrome and it’s time to come alive again.

I would love to hear what shopping strategies you use.  Please feel free to share by commenting below.

How to Tell When It is Time to End a Friendship

sad women with thumbs down

People are like elevators.  Some lift you up. Some take you down.  And, some keep you trapped in a little box, unable to move at all.

When you consider that the people you surround yourself with influence how you feel and live your life, there are times when it makes sense to hit the emergency button and get off the elevator.  This doesn’t mean that you become reactive and ruthlessly start cutting people out of your life.  We all have ups and downs and no one is perfect

So, how do you know when it’s really time to let someone go?  Start by asking yourself these questions: 

  • Is there a long term pattern of negative behavior or worldview, or is this person going through a challenging time that is temporary?
  • Is your perception of this person or their behavior even true or could it be seen differently?
  • Are you contributing to the situation by jumping in to the negativity with them?  If so, what might happen if you shifted your behavior?
  • Are they a part of a group or family that you value and want to stay connected to?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how much is their negativity impacting you?

Once you have a deeper understanding of the situation, listen within.  What is your heart telling you?   The answers will be there.

And then, your choices become more clear:

  • Keep things as they are
  • Limit your exposure to their energy
  • Have a powerful conversation asking for change
  • Shift your behavior to see what happens
  • Visualize being protected by a white light when you are around them
  • Bless them and move on

Only you can decide whether to stay on their elevator or get off.  Whatever you choose, I encourage you to let your actions and communication be guided by compassion and love for all concerned (including yourself).   This will provide the best possible foundation for an outcome that serves everyone in the long run.

Activate Your Goals with Accountability

women_at_coffee_shop

Over the years, I have participated in many success oriented programs.  One of my favorite things about these adventures was being assigned an accountability buddy.  I found myself more engaged and committed to the process because of these partnerships and many of the people I was paired with are still my friends today.

Studies have repeatedly shown that you are more likely to achieve your goals when accountable to others.  Knowing you are going to report your progress to someone else will motivate you to get things done.  Another key benefit  is that your wins will be recognized and acknowledged by the other person.  This reinforces how good it feels to take positive action and keeps you moving forward.

Some people choose to create accountability by making an announcement of their goals or intentions.  Posting your weight loss goals on Facebook or making a commitment before a group like AA are great examples of how this works.

Last week, I posted my intentions for how I want to be and what I am going to focus on this year.  When the emails started pouring in, I became nervous.  Did I really say that out loud?  To the whole world through my blog?  And then, the feeling shifted to a sense of peace.  I now have all of you watching me and providing support and accountability for my heartfelt dream.  How cool is that?

Whether your goals are large or small, having someone hold you to your commitments and dreams will increase the possibility of your success.   I encourage you to find a friend, group, or coach you can trust to support you with accountability.  When you make that commitment, the magic can begin.

You will not only create forward momentum and success, but you will also be increasing your levels of self-trust, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

What could be better than that?

Celebrating 2014 – A Year End Process

woman writing

The end of the year is a perfect time to honor the blessings that came our way and acknowledge ourselves for all we have achieved.   Because human nature is to focus on what is not working, we often minimize what went well or special moments along the way.  I encourage you to review your year with open eyes and an open heart.  You might be surprised what you see…

Year End Process

  • Create quiet time and space so that you can focus without interruption
  • Set a clear and positive intention for your process

Write your answers for the following:

  • List your wins and accomplishments for the year (at least 50)
  • Write about what you learned from the challenges you faced
  • What are you proud of yourself for?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What do you want to take away from this year and integrate in the future?
  • What issues, mistakes, habits, or beliefs are you willing to let go of at year’s end?
  • Anything else that feels meaningful to include

Take time to celebrate all the year has brought and all you have learned.  Acknowledge yourself for your wonderful moments and your days of being fully human.  Bringing a sense of completion to this year will open the door to even more amazing possibilities in the year ahead.

Giving Gifts from the Heart

hand holding out a gift

It’s easy to go a little crazy this time of year looking for the “perfect” gifts for your family and friends, many of which will go unused or be forgotten within a month or two.

Gift giving is not about:

  • Proving your love for someone
  • Maintaining your image
  • Pleasing people to feel accepted
  • The expectations of others

 Gift giving is about:

  • Looking into your heart for what feels right
  • Choosing gifts that have meaning or bring more comfort to someone’s life
  • Matching the gift to the needs of the receiver.  Fancy gifts don’t make sense when someone needs groceries.
  • Value, not money.  A gift certificate for a couple hours babysitting to a harried mom is likely to be appreciated more than the latest thingamajig.
  • Having a plan and working within a budget.  People who truly care about you will not want you to go into debt.
  • The personal touch.  Little extras like words of appreciation or personal references that make it clear your gift was specially chosen for that person.
  • Holding your gift to your heart and infusing it with love before passing it on

Lessons I’ve Learned from My Friend in Hospice

Sybil's Valentine Tree 2013

My friend, Sybil, has a disease called CBGD and has been living in a guest home for a few years.  Her disease has frozen her body and taken away her ability to communicate and care for herself.  And yet, she is still my friend.

Witnessing this part of her life has been an interesting experience for me.  For the most part, I have been surprised how much I enjoy visiting her and there have also been times when I feel like my heart is breaking.  She has modeled pure grace and I love that the last word she can speak clearly and often is the word, “yes”.  It speaks to who she really is and how she has lived her life.

Sybil’s journey is also a learning experience for me and I would like to share some of the lessons and reminders that have come my way because of it.

Live each day fully – we never know how much time we have or when things might suddenly change. This may be the best year of your life or the last time you get to do something you really enjoy.  Approach your days with awareness and appreciation because each one is truly a gift.

 Trying to understand “why” is a waste of time – sometimes things just don’t make sense.  Why is my friend who loved to travel and have compelling conversations sitting in a wheelchair unable to move or speak day after day after day?  What could God possibly have in mind?  I have learned to accept that it is not for me to know the answer to this question.

My life is truly blessed – it is so easy to get upset about little things like bad hair days, computers that don’t work, and other challenges that come along, but visiting Sybil puts my life in perspective very quickly and reminds me just how blessed I am.  I can move, take care of myself, talk, drive, read, and even swallow easily.  She reminds me to be grateful for all of these, and more.

Sometimes being loving is all you can do – most of the time, now that we can’t have conversations, I read to my friend.  But, it’s really about just showing up and being there.  I believe in the power of love and when that is all I can offer, I know that it will be enough.

(Thank you Sybil for saying yes to my sharing this story.)

A 4 Step Process for Healing Your History

Crying-Baby 500

We all have stories about our histories and many of them are about childhood experiences where our needs were not met.   Some of us continue to feel the pain and anger of those early times.  The beliefs we formed about ourselves and the world also continue to shape our lives.

Holding onto our childhood stories can keep us stuck in the past and blocked from living the life of our dreams.  We can make ourselves sick by keeping the emotions in our bodies.  We live as victims and are controlled by fear.  This is what feeds our deepest feelings of being unworthy and unlovable. Continue reading

6 Ways to Bring More Happiness and Positive Energy into Your Life

woman laughing

Years ago I went through a time period when I was feeling sad and I wasn’t sure where it was coming from.  It had happened gradually without my realizing what was going on.  My days felt hard and my heart was heavy.

And then, one evening I was sitting on my couch watching TV and began to cry.  I realized this was becoming a pattern and that is when it hit me.  I cried when I watched the animal rescue show every evening that featured starving, abused animals in desperate situations.

My choice of “entertainment” was impacting how I felt in a big way.

There are many ways that our small choices can influence our moods, feelings, and level of hope about the world.  In many cases the descent into negativity happens so gradually we are not even aware of it.

Taking the following steps will help you reset your life and start to feel positive again: 
Continue reading

The Love Balloon

For some reason, this week I feel called to repost this story from October 2011.  My sweet cat Smoky has since passed on, but I will never forget our experience with the love balloon.

smoky-and-the-love-balloon-003

For my recent graduation from the Spiritual Psychology program at the University of Santa Monica, my dear friends Patricia and Kaleo gave me two balloons.  One of them said, “congratulations”, and the other had hearts on it.  I took the balloons home, where they floated up to the ceiling.

The balloons stayed by the living room window for several days and then I noticed the one with hearts was missing.  While the congratulations balloon has never moved, the heart balloon began to explore my two story home.

One morning, I woke up feeling compelled to write a loving email letter to someone in my family who was facing a challenge.  After finishing it, I sat in my desk chair enjoying the feeling of love I had for that person.  When I looked over my shoulder, I discovered the heart balloon had come up behind me, as if to inspire or share in the love.

I renamed it the Love Balloon and over the next few days watched it travel from room to room as if spreading love throughout my home.  One afternoon it centered itself in my bedroom window and seemed to be beaming love out to the world.

The Love Balloon is coming to the end of its life now and has made a new connection.  It chose to spend its last hours above my cat, Smoky’s  food bowl and they seem to have formed quite a bond.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with the Love Balloon.  Think what you want.  Believe what you want.   But, for me, it’s been a beautiful reminder of the importance of sharing love with the world.

A New Perspective on Stress

hamster with hair sticking out

Recently, I presented a program about strategies for dealing with stress to employees at a local insurance office.  One of the things that became clear is that most people think of stress as something big, powerful, and overwhelming, that controls them.

Not true. Continue reading