A Solstice Song

Love Will Come Again Like Wheat That Springeth Green.

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Once our world was young and all our hopes were new.

Once our songs were sung, and all the words were true.

Look deep within, the song is still in you ~

Love will come again like wheat that springeth green!

 

 

 

When the world was darkened, and the skies were cold.

Then our hearts did hearken to the wisdom old,

In frozen soil and snow does the sleeping seed unfold ~

Love will come again like wheat that springeth green!

 

Now the wheel is turning, turning from the dark.

And our hearts are burning, burning with a spark.

The flame has died low, but its life has left its mark ~

Love will come again, like wheat that springeth green!

                                        ~ Traditional French Carol (Words by Farida Shaw)

The Power of Practicing Patience

img_2486“Summertime … and the living is easy …” I love that old song and the message that comes from within its lyrics: “… one of these mornings, you’re gonna rise up singing, and you’ll spread your wings and take to the sky …” Those words speak volumes to me.

However, we human beings tend to fill our summers to the max to get the best out of longer, warmer days and nights. Some of us are elated at our opportunity to work our gardens, digging in the dirt, embracing Mother Nature. Our family terraced garden extends one entire side of the house, plus we added nine Earthboxes, thus creating an ongoing summer “job”, attending to, reaping and finally enjoying the “fruits” of our labor. It seems we have created the potential for a most stressful summer!

Gardening is not the only thing we may have going on. Somehow, we find ourselves becoming relentlessly active all summer: places to go, things to do every night of the week: barbecues, city-wide events, hikes, yard sales, movies … and on and on. There are people to visit, vacations that tire us out. Of course, there are those who come to visit us! OH YES! There is work. As Huffington Post author, Kira M. Newman, maintains: “We can try to shelter ourselves from frustration and adversity, but they come with the territory of being human.” So much to do … so little time!

How can we help ourselves enjoy this summer more, make our living a little easier … rise up each morning, singing and spreading our ‘wings’ to move more gracefully through our day?

PATIENCE.

L.L. Hay eloquently affirms: “Patience is being at peace with the process of life, knowing that everything happens in the perfect time/space sequence.” Patience is defined as the state of endurance under difficult circumstances; various resources add it means an ability to wait … remain calm … give attention to something fully, to exhibit forbearance when under strain. An Rx for mindfulness!

“Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather, it is ‘timing’. It waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.” (Fulton J. Sheen) As an alternative to our mind’s restlessness, we can cultivate “… the quality of patience every time we stop and sit and become aware of the flow of our own breathing.” (J. Kabat-Zinn) Patience is ever accessible when we tap into its subtle invitation to become more in touch with each moment. It is definitely linked to greater overall health and wellbeing. Everyday strategies for building patience include reframing situations, consciously regulating emotions through self-control, and practicing gratitude. Again, an Rx for mindfulness!

img_2102Ultimately, to practice patience, look no farther than your breath: “… simply to be completely open to each moment, accepting it in its fullness, knowing that, like the butterfly, things can unfold only in their own time.” (J. Kabat-Zinn)

This summer, let powerfully practicing patience become your daily intention: it definitely is mine. As we move into Autumn and all the changes that are happening, continue practicing patience …. inhale … exhale … repeat!

Blessings & Peace ~~  TYQ

 

“You Are a Light in the World!”

Life is just too short!

Recently, I attended the memorial service of a high school classmate, a friend of mine. Shortly before he passed away, he was an active, vibrant individual, full of life. Yet, like many of us are, he was vulnerable to age-related physical issues, his time on earth shortened due to an illness he could not overcome. He always emphasized that life is short, reiterating distinctly: “… so you better enjoy it while you can.”

None of us face exactly the same challenges. We are each an individual expression of our personal experiences. We “shine” in our own unique ways. Since each decade can bring new physical challenges, stayingIMG_2576 healthy becomes more complicated as we age. Basically, life happens. Focusing on personal health and wellbeing through self-care must become our priority. Attending to our own needs allows us to age more gracefully, and to be able to assist others more readily.

Ongoing evidence-based research demonstrates that awareness-enhancing practices in combination with relaxation techniques provide increased resilience, the strength we utilize to bounce back in the midst of stressful times. Such hardiness cannot make our problems go away, but cultivating resilience definitely generates ways to respond to adversity, to go with the flow, and subsequently thrive in the midst of traumatic and stressful life events. By developing skills in practices that allow increased understanding of what triggers heightened stress levels, we create our own “security guard”, harnessing and using our inner strength (often referred to as mindful awareness). We become more trusting of the process of life.

Besides working with any limitations to remain as healthy, active, and nutritionally balanced as possible, we must concentrate on mental, emotional and spiritual senses of wellbeing. Again, we are all individuals with unique lifespans and experiences. Letting situations that occur become our “teachers” establishes a direct path to “healing from the inside out”. When unpleasant or uncomfortable situations occur, we tend to exaggerate feelings, blowing the incidents out of proportion, developing in our mind, perhaps in words and actions, what potential consequences could result ~ “making mountains out of molehills”. Using sound, evidence-based mindful awareness-enhancing and relaxation practices helps us make more responsive, powerful choices. Employing an introspective approach enables learning the lesson at hand; balancing life in this way encourages a more proactive yet calmer approach to life. Roll with the punches, working through personal journeys. Inner work is not about avoiding or pushing away unpleasant challenges. Rather, take time to make needed changes slowly but surely, in a way that works for you.

There is an answer waiting deep within each of us to help deal with challenges in life. Pay attention to the good that life has to offer! Choose to grow older more comfortably with the understanding that you are the “perfect” age, right here, right now.

Life is just too short! Commit to a daily dose of inner work. Let your special unique self sparkle and shine ~ you are a light in the world!

Twilight’s Guidance

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Twilight’s Guidance by Mary E. Araas, J.V.

(NOTE: Thank you, sister Mary for letting me share your incredible talent! tyq)

In twilight’s stillness
I watch the play
of distant stars.
The crescent moon
gently smiles
calling my emotions.
I feel your presence
in the luminescent eve
of the cosmos.
Divine love
is shared between
inner and outer worlds.

In the silent eve

I hear the chimes
of your beckoning song.
Gentle chords
of healing love
I welcome your presence.
Within tender shadows
you patiently await
my understanding.
Let me embrace
your loving guidance
in twilight’s beauty.

Copyright 2016, Mary E. Araas-Wright, J.V.

Blessings & Peace

My “Health Watch” article in this morning’s Sheridan Press is a perfect way to work mindfully … Check it out right here! TYQ

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Blessings & Peace

When Managing Editor Kristen Czaban asked me to create my final 2015 contribution to “Health Watch” right between Christmas and New Years, I was ecstatic! I knew exactly what I wanted to share with all of you ~~ “Blessings and Peace”. This is the valediction I use at the end of most letters, notes, emails and texts. I am grateful for this opportunity to share why choosing uplifting, inspiring and hope-filled complimentary closings can be a powerful means to working toward a calmer, more stress-free world.

“Blessings” are acts or words that invoke special favor, gifts of praise that convey best wishes. Using the term “blessings” as part of farewells is one way of honestly offering kindheartedness toward those on the receiving end. Clearly, extending blessings towards others expresses high respect, honor and distinction. It encourages esteem and a sense of worth at a personal level. Reassuring phrases offer warm, tender thoughts and can exponentially expand a universal flow of affection and tenderness across our instant messaging world. Personal touches in the form of inspiring thoughts can create an effect like ripples on a still pond, caused by dropping just one pebble into its quiet waters. Jack Kornfield, PhD, world-renowned mindfulness teacher and clinical psychologist, assures us that sharing a bit of love from our heart in little ways truly allows us “… to discover a capacity to bear witness to, suffer with, and hold dear with our own vulnerable heart the sorrows and beauties of the world.” How powerful that can be!

“Peace” is described as a state that occurs when mutual harmony exists between people or groups, especially in personal relations. In addition, the term “peace” refers to freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, or anxiety. Combining the healing powers of stress-reducing elements such as harmony and freedom generates a sense of tranquility and serenity, in mind and body, and deep into the very depths of our soul.

Many times, in our chaotic world of instant messaging, we discover that our reply must be forceful, clear-cut and convincing. We can get our point across more effectively by “responding”, rather than “reacting”. So, we take a few long breaths – full inhales with extended exhales, calming the body and mind. Then, our reply can come from a more peaceful center. “With a peaceful heart, whatever happens can be met with wisdom” (J. Kornfield).

It is said, “actions speak louder than words”. Yet, in our exceedingly high-tech world, we humans depend heavily on instant communication. Being purposefully creative in choosing inspiring complimentary closings, we can enjoy our journey through life more by utilizing this easy, yet powerful way of working toward a calmer, more stress-free world. Let’s all put the words of one of my favorite hymns into action now, as a stepping stone into 2016: “… Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now … Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”.

What a perfect New Year’s resolution!

Blessings … AND … Peace!

Immune System Self-Care ~ Naturally!!

The Highest Time of Living!

IMG_1775“Don’t talk to me of solemn days

In autumn’s time of splendor,

Because the sun shows fewer rays,

And these grow slant and slender.

Why, it’s the climax of the year,

The highest time of living!

Till naturally its bursting cheer

Just melts into thanksgiving.” (From “Merry Autumn”, by PL Dunbar)

As I slip out into early dawn with our doggies, Tika and Buddy, for our morning walk, I feel a crisp breeze brush against my cheek. I smile, giggling to myself: “Nature is stirring things up!” Off we trek to fields where deer and rabbits play, anticipating the sun’s warming glow. I am reminded of PL Dunbar’s poem “Merry Autumn”. He invites us to embrace this stunning season of phenomenal colors, picturesque greenery transforming into glorious oranges, reds, and yellows, “the highest time of living”. Natural mulch is created as leaves fall to earth. Bees, bats, bears, and other creatures search for quiet, hidden places to hibernate, intent on rejuvenation.

Teaching practical ways to prepare for such challenging changes is one of my greatest passions. Moving from summer into autumn, we should enhance immune function. Our immune system is comprised of a network of specialized cells, tissues, proteins and organs that work to protect us from infection and disease, keeping us healthy throughout colder months. It attacks illness-causing organisms through the immune response, shielding us from destructive substances, strengthening our overall health and wellbeing.

A recent weekend workshop we hosted focused specifically on “tuning up” our immune system. Valuable “take-homes” included slowing life down, following a structured routine, and making necessary changes in three crucial areas: 1) dietary behaviors; 2) sleep habits; and 3) overall stress management. Nutritionally, adding oil and heat to our bodies is essential. Pouring extra virgin olive oil over steamed veggies as well as massaging ourselves with organic skin treatment oils reduces body dryness, inside and out. Internal warming stimulates a “bursting cheer” of energy! Try eating yummy autumn foods: baked sweet potatoes, cranberry chutney, crisp apple pie. Homemade hot cereals, topped with nuts, fresh or steamed fruits, and a dobble of locally made honey is a terrific plan. Creating soups, simmering assorted fresh veggies in organic broth, then adding flavorful spices and nourishing meats of choice is a delightful option. Join body-friendly yoga classes that focus on flow and seasonal breath work, empowering your mind, energizing your body, and nurturing your spirit. Embracing gentle movement in autumn is a powerful reinforcement for your whole being. Learn to meditate … cherish contemplative moments, the chance to be alone with yourself, cultivating your exquisite breath. Relax early in the evening, encouraging peace-filled slumber.

Burst cheerfully into October, utilizing some of these practical tips to jumpstart your immune function. Every little bit counts! An immediate effect that you may notice is an increasing ability to calmly confront stressors, those things that “push your buttons”; then you can expedite stress relief! Try slowing down a little by bolstering your immune function now!

Then, truly enjoy “autumn’s time of splendor”!

Building Resilience Can Transform Your Life!

yoga2Years of working with students and clients, and personal life experiences have helped me discover the undeniable significance of absorbing life’s challenges, adapting, managing, and persevering in the midst of adversity. This skill, called resilience, is the capacity for maintaining strength during stressful life events. It helps us recover and spring back. We can face difficult experiences, drawing on our strengths, relationships, and communities, thus gaining greater confidence in our ability to rise above obstacles.

Fundamentally, resilience is an inherent process of life, not a trait; it can be learned and enhanced by nearly anyone. The common misconception that resilient individuals experience no negative thoughts or emotions is just not true! Resilience cannot make our problems disappear; rather, it provides ways to look past them. We are human, experiencing “ups and downs”! Greater flexibility and growing confidence help transform our tribulations into enriching contributions to a more satisfying life.

Factors enhancing resilience include supportive relationships, an uplifting outlook, and the ability to create realistic plans and carry them out. A few tips for building resilience are as follows:

  • Make connections, accepting support from those who care and will listen to you;
  • Help others in their time of need; a compassionate act of kindness may bring many blessing your way ~ and it makes you feel good!
  • Avoid considering crises as insurmountable; reframe your life, changing how you interpret and respond to such events;
  • Accept that change is a part of living, adapting to unalterable situations and focusing on managing those you can modify;
  • Navigate toward your goals: Ask yourself: “What can I accomplish today to help me move toward my objectives?”
  • Take decisive actions to manage problems rather than trying to “wish” them away;
  • Look for opportunities for self-discovery: Oftentimes, experiencing hardship allows strengthening of body, mind and spirit, increasing feelings of self-worth, resulting in heightened appreciation for life;
  • Nurture a positive view of yourself, maintaining a hopeful outlook and confidence in your capabilities; trust your instincts rather than worrying about your fears;
  • Keep things in perspective, viewing the “big picture”, avoiding blowing situations out of proportion; just ask yourself: “Will this really matter in five years?”
  • Take care of yourself! Self-compassion and loving-kindness go a long way; attend to your needs and feelings, engaging in activities you find relaxing.
  • Exercise your body, mind, and spirit through movement as well as quiet, contemplative times ~ every single day! (http://resliencyquiz.com/index.shtml)

IMG_1058Why should we build resilience? Ultimately, when we are resilient, we embrace our body as a whole, reducing stress and renewing our spirit. Our thinking becomes clearer, our balance and flexibility soar! We can minimize reactivity to stressors and recover more quickly, secure in the understanding that using specific skills will carry us through challenging situations. The key is identifying ways that work best for you. Developing resilience is a personal journey.
Consider the tips above and begin to transform your life ~ adapting … navigating … managing … and persevering!

 

 

LAUGHTER!! … It’s Good for You!

We all enjoy a good, hearty laugh!

Guess what? As it turns out, laughter on a regular basis is really good for us, too! It is considered one of the most natural ways we can treat ourselves to a greater level of happiness. Adding a little humor to each day can improve our lives – body, mind and soul – encouraging optimal health and wellbeing by creating better balance and enhancing a sense of calmness. Laughter is an important element of emotional health, and part of what is referred to as our “psychosocial dimension of wellness”, essential for healing and quality of life.

Psychosocially healthy people possess a zest for life, are internally healthy and thrive intellectually. Such individuals enrich the lives of others; overall, they are energetic, resilient, focused and open-minded. They feel good about themselves, so they are comfortable around others and meet daily demands with a hopeful outlook. Cherishing experiences that bring a smile to the day, they adapt to change easily and maintain sensitivity toward others. The components of psychosocial health are emotional (feeling), social (relating), mental (thinking) and spiritual (being). They are essential aspects of our wellbeing, especially when dealing with stress. Each of us experience occasional “dips”, downturns during our lives, yet those who utilize sound coping skills are capable of giving and receiving affection and love, working continuously to employ strengths to improve weaknesses. Let’s look at a few of the physical benefits of laughing:

  • Enhances “aerobic activity”, increasing breathing and heart rate, blood pressure and circulation
  • Increases oxygen delivered to cells throughout our body
  • Clears mucus from the lungs
  • Strengthens our heart muscle (20 seconds of laughter = 3 minutes of rowing!)
  • Boosts immune cells and immune-related hormones, decreases stress hormones
  • Breaks pain/spasm cycles through muscular relaxation
  • Decreases inflammation, assisting with sleep

What a phenomenal list ~~ But wait, there’s more! The psychological benefits of laughter are significant, too. Stress relief actually lasts long after laughing, bolstering “stress immunity”. A new perspective can emerge, altering our perception of discomfort and distress, and enabling greater resilience and stress management abilities.

Laughter is contagious and the mere anticipation of a good chuckle makes us feel terrific! A big smile from someone nearby can catch our eye, with the likelihood of laughter, which stimulates one-on-one bonding. Research even tells us that, overall, women prefer a man with a sense of humor; men prefer women who laugh at their wit. Clearly, a daily dose of laughter is valuable, so exercise your skills today:

  • Make a pledge to laugh out loud every day
  • Set aside time to call someone who adds fun to your life at least once a week
  • Start a humor collection (jokes, clippings, cartoons, cards, mugs, books, videos)
  • Watch funny movies
  • Do something silly each day

As one of the most natural and beneficial gifts we can give ourselves, laughter is the perfect Rx to include in our daily diet. Go ahead … let it be the self-induced prescription that spices up your life.

Laughing is good for you … JUST DO IT!

READY – SET – GO! … FLOWING INTO 2015…!

  • THE BREATH = LIFE!

Breathing is normally completely void of will: seldom conscious of it, we enter life with our first breath and end with a final exhalation. Defined as the process that moves air in and out of our lungs, breathing can be explained as a basic delivery system, exchanging carbon dioxide molecules from inside our bodies for oxygen molecules from our environment. Flowing like a mountain stream, it connects moment-to-moment experiences and quietly renewing our energy. We all find it paramount to optimal health and wellbeing, especially individuals who struggle with chronic respiratory challenges (e.g., asthma, bronchitis, emphysema). Enhancing breath capacity is should be an integral part of daily life. READY – SET – GO with the FLOW!

  • THE HEART = LIFE FORCE!

An essential and equal partner of the breath, our heart begins working even before we are born! As the hardest working muscle in our body, it generates a rhythmic, contractile beat, pumping blood throughout vessels of our circulatory system, and teaming up with the breath to provide life-enriching oxygen and nutrients, as well as to remove metabolic wastes (i.e., surplus or toxic substances). The heart not only functions as a physical force. Most appropriately, the dictionary also defines ‘heart’ as the “center of total personality, especially with reference to intuition, feeling, or emotion” … as … “spirit, courage, or enthusiasm” … finally, as … “the innermost or central part of anything”! (Reference: www.dictionary.com) READY – SET – GO with the FLOW!

  • THE MIND = POWER!

This element of our being includes cognitive faculties that provide intellectual ability to reason, think, feel, will, perceive, remember, desire, imagine and make sound judgments. Its physical “home” is our brain, which consists of soft, convoluted matter, housed within the cranium. It can serve us well as controller and coordinator of thoughts, words, and actions when we choose to listen.

Increasing awareness and understanding of the inner voices of our mind, our life-giving breath, and the rhythmic beat of our heart can decrease everyday stress by helping us relax tense muscles, cope with pain, deal with anger, attend to relationships ~ day-by-day, moment-by-moment. No matter the challenges or circumstances we face, consistently tapping into these personal “friends” through empowering practices will allow them to become more familiar and effective.

Try this simple hands-on practice that utilizes the powers of breath, heart and mind:

  • Tune into your breathing during the day: consciously observe your breath with a sense of keen interest, as if for the first time; feel your breath in your belly; observe it rising and falling;
  • Develop increasing awareness of your thoughts and feelings at these moments, just consciously observing them, but not judging either yourself or them;
  • Take time to notice any changes in the way you feel about yourself and life. Take mental notes.
  • Wait awhile ~ Check in again … and yet later, again!

IMG_1009READY, 

 

  SET, 

 

   GO with the FLOW! 

    ENJOY the JOURNEY! 

Making Life’s Balancing Act Work for YOU!**

Creating and maintaining balance in our lives …

…seems difficult, impossible at times, due to today’s fast-moving, technological world interfaced with daily challenges. Stress from changes in our “routine” stems from our perception and appraisal of the situation and specific reaction. When some “stressor” disrupts our sense of equilibrium, we receive an inner call for help. Our body’s built-in system immediately jumps into action, resulting at least in increased heart rate and blood pressure. If this acute reaction persists, becoming repetitive – day after day, week after week – the “stress reaction” ultimately develops into chronic ailments: high blood pressure, arrhythmias, sleep disorder, headaches, backaches, and pervasive anxiety. Effects can be devastating emotionally, psychologically, physically, and even professionally. What we ALL know is that stress is not going away. It is a natural part of our human experience. Without gaining a deeper sense of the full context of life experiences, we can be taken down by chronic stress, perceived threats and change. Developing focused problem-solving strategies fosters quicker recovery of mental equilibrium and physical homeostasis. Internal stability can be well maintained when new options are used that bring calmness and balance of mind, body and energy. Attention to carefully perceiving and intentionally working realistically to alleviate each situation that is “stressing us out” makes perfect sense.

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To be in balance within the complexity of our day-to-day routine is to be “in synch”. Thus, we convey a sense of equanimity, projecting serenity, calmness, and composure, even in the midst of unsettling circumstances. To be balanced in life means that we feel relatively calm, clear-headed, and motivated – overall sensibly grounded. Dimensions to consider for bringing our lives into greater balance include two basic classifications: internal (core elements: mind, heart, health, wellbeing) and external (outer elements: family, work, social activities, fun). At times, we are pulled to focusing on one dimension more than the other, throwing our life balancing abilities out of whack! When this happens, realigning this balancing act we call “life” truly becomes critical to our health and wellbeing. How can we accomplish this task?

Take some time to examine lifelong foundations that promote the ability to handle whatever life brings. To overcome habitual stress, reflect on personal values, starting by setting just a few goals, then plan some goal-achieving tasks. Reflect, prepare, and – little by little, moment by moment – build upon coping strategies, such as these:

  • Pleasurable joys (giving/receiving hugs, laughing, warm baths, listening to music);
  • Physical nourishment (physical activity, rest and relaxation, a variety of foods);
  • Social connections (cultivate random acts of kindness, volunteering, spending quality time with family, pets and friends);
  • Emotional welfare (nurture an uplifting attitude, respond to stressful situations with others in honest, fair and direct ways);
  • Spiritual harmony (connect with nature daily, take time to meditate/to pray)

Make this life balancing act work for you as the unique – yes!! – one-of-a-kind spiritual being that you are ….

Moving forward, try some of these strategies –

– Create your own –

 

– AND ENJOY FULLY this thing we call the “human experience”!

 

(**This is my recent Sheridan Press “HEALTH WATCH” article, in case you missed seeing it … I am elated to be invited to write for them again!)