5 Meaningful Gifts to Give and Receive Abundantly

The gifts we give, we want them to have meaning. It’s why we search for that perfect something for someone special. We want our gifts to be valued, so we spend generously. We want the gifts we give to make a difference, so we try to think of what people really need.

You are a beautiful and generous soul, especially to those you love. You deserve to feel that sense of fulfillment when you give, but if it’s not what’s happening within you, maybe sharing in any or all of these 5 gifts will do the trick!

Fresh Air

Yeah – fresh air. This is important stuff! Living inside all winter can aggravate your lungs with stale, recycled air and it’s dusty allergens. Fresh air is inspiring, invigorating and refreshing! Your body responds to a deep breath of fresh air mentally and emotionally, and you know this! Remember the last time you lost your temper or felt really really disappointed. You wanted some alone time, so you took a walk outside and got some….that right! FRESH AIR!!

No matter what the weather, put your gear on and go outside! Give your body a big breath of fresh air and feel it. Take a walk out in nature and notice the difference it makes! Bring your friends or family members, especially the ones who need a breath of fresh air and notice, acknowledge and validate the difference it makes in them. “Wow Mom, you’re cheeks are so rosey and you look so vibrant!”

Fresh air costs nothing and deeply enlivens us! Share this gift generously!!!

Smiles

Smiles are the easiest thing in the world to give, when you’re feeling them! (And they require some serious strength when life sucks.) When we share our smiles it makes a difference and usually a really big difference.

I know of some pretty crabby people, and when they smile, it is exciting! Laughter erupts and fun ensues. “Look at Grandpa! He likes it!” Now everyone gets engaged in the joy that lit up grandpa’s smile. This is how much of a difference is made when some smiles! I can imagine what life would be like with them if they smiled more!

Smiles, like laughter, can be contagious! It’s the good contagious! The world needs more smiles. Just find a reason to turn up the corners of your mouth and then make eye contact. Notice your contribution to Joy to the World!

Kindness

Kindness is a gift that gives back because of the natural flow of Karma….well not just Karma. Evidently, Kindness is good for your heart – really – physiologically good for your heart!! David R Hamilton, PhD explains in his 2011 blog The 5 Side Effects of Kindness,

“Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. Of recent interest is its significant role in the cardiovascular system.
Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure). The key is that acts kindness can produce oxytocin and therefore kindness can be said to be cardioprotective.”

Kindness is something we can pay forward to heart health and that’s an incredible incentive for finding the gentle, accepting and sweet side of ourselves. However, when we are not in a good place (emotionally/mentally) being kind can feel like a struggle. If that’s you, simply focus on being kind to yourself. Watch your inner critic and asks her/him to quiet down. Give yourself a reason to smile with some special treat.

If you have real hearth health concerns and struggle with kindness, then practicing acts of kindness becomes medicinal – something to do regularly and maybe with the help of someone else and truly you can begin to heal! That’s right, if you struggle with kindness, seek out kind people and be in their presence. Receive their kindness and learn from it. Give yourself time to process and change and kind you will become.

Kindness takes no energy and requires no money. Kindness is holding the door for the person behind you. Kindness is doing something unexpected, necessary and with good intention. “Here, please, you go first.” “I am glad we are together right now.”

Compliments

Words can lift us up and they can let us down. Your words are yours to give, and you don’t even need many! You just need quality! Consider how you talk to yourself, your pets, your family members and friends. At worst, you are hating them and at best you are loving them – no matter which, you have words to describe them. Begin with the people easiest for you to compliment or dive right in there and find a way to compliment your arch nemesis – either way, start a practice of offering kind, appreciative words to the people, animals and things in your life. Notice the difference it makes in them, in you and in your environment.

Hey, but don’t get insincere with it…that’s like giving someone dog treats instead of cookies. They are going to see through your insincerity and it will leave a bad taste in their mouth. It will be the same if you insincerely compliment yourself – you won’t even take a bite because you know it’s a dog treat.

Be sincere. You don’t have to go deep. I have seen people uplifted by something as simple as complimenting someone’s favorite sports team having potential. Like, respect and appreciate yourself verbally. Let people know you like them respect them, appreciate them. It makes such a difference, it could change your entire community’s life.

Companionship

We all do better with friends in this world. Be the Friend! If you have it within you to be a companion and to be a friend, especially to those who need friends, then do it! It costs you nothing and means everything to them.

Did you realize that loneliness increases the risk of dying by 26%? We are social creatures. We all deserve a friend in this world. Senior citizens are especially vulnerable this time of year. Here in central New York, seniors are often locked inside due to the ice and snow and long nights. Seniors who are alone often find themselves easily and gravely depressed this time of year. Imagine the difference a cup of tea with you would make to them.

You don’t need to be the “host with the most”. You don’t have to have the perfect words or manners. You can be yourself. You can be talkative or quiet. Simply be present. Give the gift of your companionship. Whether you silently help a neighbor shovel their walk, or you chat up Grammy’s ear visiting her at the home, or you simply sit next to someone for a few moments in an open and friendly way, enjoy the gift of companionship- that experience of not being alone.

Be Generous! It’s All Easily Freely Given and Shared!

Give these gifts abundantly to yourself and share with others! Share with me in the comments the difference you experience in sharing gifts like fresh air, smiles, kindness, compliments and companionship. In what way does it change your experience this holiday season?

 

Click here to see the first video accompaniment to my blog. I’m a technical work in progress, so sorry for the shaking here and there!

Posted on December 15, 2016 .

4 Steps to Creating a Good Life

We all deserve the good life, don't we?

I believe it , but believing it doesn't make it so. There are some big questions that must be asked - What is the good life? Who gets to live one? How?

First, it makes sense to me that one would need to aware of what "the good life" really means for them because "the good life" is so subjective. For one person, "the good life" can mean material success and class status while for another it could mean adventure and freedom and for another it can mean quality family time or community service. For me, the good life includes an inspired awakening to my days. I awake with an awareness and deep connection to my purpose and my contribution in this world. The good life includes the joys of connection with my partner, family, friends and community. The good life includes feeling good in my body.

And there are problems with "the good life"  - whether we are born into it, fated to live it, worthy of it, know it, take it for granted or lose it completely and irrevocably. If you have a good life, then you certainly have something to lose, and perhaps, a lot to lose. So who gets the good life - the golden child? the legendary pioneer? the wizened sage? Maybe, everybody....well everybody who commits to the process of creating and living the good life.

So, what's the process for creating and living the good life? Here are 4 steps that have helped me!

1.) Identify the philosophy behind the way you live. What motivates your daily perspective, relationship and actions in your environment? Knowledge is power and self-knowledge is empowerment. Ask yourself these questions - What is Truth and how do you know it? What's your purpose and the purpose of life?  What is a Good Life?

I know it's the transcendentalist in me that drives my outlook, interpretations and choices. I believe in the inherent goodness of things. I believe we can value what we feel and intuitively sense along with what we observe through the five gross senses, like sight, sound, etc. I believe that we are all capable of being ourselves and fully engaged in life. So, I behave in a way that for better and worse reflects these underlying beliefs. Now that I've identified my philosophy, I can consciously engage it. I can choose more clearly to what extent I listen to instinct, reason, intuition and inspiration, knowing that I assume inherent goodness and hold space for the opposite. As a result, I am better prepared to navigate my present moment.

2.) Get into and with your body. It's your partner, not your enemy. A good life is worthy of good health. Start by engaging awareness around your hygiene, sleep, eating and movement habits. Notice what habits are working for and against you. Immediately break habits that you know you can break. Slowly and steadily take on your other habits until you feel like your body care is supporting your energy, mood, vitality and clarity.

I remember believing that my body was against me, like it hated me and wanted me to fail. With awareness, I came to see that my body actually tried very hard to keep up with my expectations. It willingly pedaled 26 miles in an hour and a half on a bicycle and hiked 18-miles up three giant mountains in single day. My body tried to wear the smaller sizes and tried to not eat when she was hungry. My body did all that I asked and then I blamed it when my expectations where larger than life. From this awareness I tried to be with my body in different ways. I realized that it didn't need to work out more, my body was exhausted and needed sleep. I realized that my body needed attention and touch, so I tried self-massage and yoga. I realized I didn't want to feel deprived of food, my body wanted to feel nourished and this changed the way I related to eating. My life with my body changed and as I felt better, my outlook improved. As my outlook improved I made better choices that were more generous and connected with the greater good. Feel good, Be good.

3.) Know your Direction! Set your intention and become aware of your direction in relation to it. Are your actions taking you away from your intention or are they bringing you closer to what you want to experience and how you want to be in life? If you know how to check in with your inner compass, then do it often to discern mindful steps and opportunities that build a good life. If you're not sure about how to access what you really believe, intend and want, then be assured that this ability works like a muscle - use awareness to find it, practice working with it often, watch it develop strength!

When I first entered the Holistic Healing and alternative therapies world in 1999, I encountered a lot of resistance from those around me because they were afraid for me and the challenges I would face as a business owner and alternative health practitioner.  Sometimes, I felt like I was being foolish to follow my heart into the world of self-care and yoga. Years passed and I couldn't have lived without the support of my friends and family, who showed up for me despite of their fears and doubts. It was a humble, frugal and desperate time for me. And still I stayed true to my direction. I knew in my heart that I was listening to my life's calling. I knew I was engaged everyday in work that inspired and fulfilled me. During these years, I had other opportunities come my way, and by being in touch with my intention and authentic self, I stayed true to my path, to my way. And I get to experience inspiration and fulfillment during my work days, which, to me, is part of a good life.

4.) Take New, Persistent and Mindful Action Everyday.  Take at least 1 action in moving toward what you want to create in your life. Actions can be direct, like calling an opportunity back and saying 'yes' and they can be symbolic, like meditating, creating vision boards or journaling. Stay focused and connected with your intention and what you want to experience in life.  Ask yourself what you can do to create your experience and try doing it. You will find out what works and what doesn't work in creating a good life by trying different actions and mindfully noticing the results of the action. This strategy supports you in being more graceful and effective in navigating life toward goodness.

Taking new action has inherent edge - it has unknown consequence. In ways, this is both the opportunity and the challenge. In 2011,  I decided to sign-up for a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training. I was in a transition at the time, and was almost ready to quit my alternative health care and yoga practice. I knew I needed action to stay with my authentic life calling. The risk was financial, and, for me, it was big. To engage with this risk, I engaged in other actions like asking for support, praying, filling out a financial aid form and working as much as possible. Now, I direct Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy's yoga teacher training program, and the risk I took in 2011, along with the diligent attention and action I took in support of myself while engaging in this risk has paid off with a dream job!

 

The good life is available to everyone and there are many skills and strategies that can support you building yours. By recognizing your personal philosophy, your values and your frame of reference, you are empowered to understand and respond to yourself as you would to your best friend. By taking good care of your body, like your vehicle, you are readily available to engage and enjoy life. Be aware of your direction at all times. Are you facing forward? backward? Are you veering off? Be aware of your direction and keep your path aligned with what you want. And finally, be committed to your process. Take consistent steps in the direction you want to head, and be willing to take acceptable risks.

With awareness, care, direction and action, you can live the good life. It's yours to create. No need to hold back. Start your process right now and work on it everyday. I believe you deserve it and I know that if I can do it, you can too!

Posted on November 16, 2016 .

Find the Light & Love Inside.

This Season's Reminder - Embodied Presence

Does the world ever seem so dark and cold to you, that you emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually turn away from it? You internally shift from loving the temperatures, the colors and the smell of the air and flowers to not wanting to get out from under the covers and sighing "ugh", as you pull on your boots and add your layers? Where you once saw the miracles of Mother Nature, you now see the mud and sticks and feel no warmth from Mother Nature's Love....often that' s what life can be like in Upstate New York. Today is a grey, wet and bone-chilly cold. The rain comes down in a constant drizzle, and to look outside my windows, I see dead and dying plants, withering over. Externally the world has become harsh, and to stay focused externally is to focus on the harsh.
Perhaps, this is an invitation to look Inside instead of Outside for Light and Love.
Just like it is a comfort in conditions like this to linger in bed, stay home and experience the warmth and light of a fire, it is a comfort to go within yourself and experience Embodied Presence.
I am affected by the Outside. I feel the cold. I miss my dog. Many things feel like a challenge. I resist being a part of the natural world right now. My walks are interrupted. My attitude could be better - thinking more positive and feeling more peaceful - I want these things for myself, and yet, life has affected me, as I believe it should, as a human being. I am grateful to feel so strongly in my life, but when my feelings are all uncomfortable in relation to the Outside, I want them to change. I don't want to feel uncomfortable.
To take my uncomfortable feelings to my Yoga Mat is my way, and closing my eyes, I go inside myself to watch and witness my body, my thought, my intuition, my experience. On the inside I see powerful Yoga Positions and Flows gratifying my body with exercise and aerobic activity that I miss in walking. On the inside I experience warm memories with my family and past adventures with Lenny. On the inside, I see me using all of my awareness, breath and knowledge to care and nurture my body, and that feels so validating. I can take away that feelings are not always comfortable, and with my awareness, uncomfortable feelings are where I really nurture and care for myself - loving myself and my body in ways that only I can. This sense of empowerment feels bright, and I suddenly feel completely at home in myself. I recognize this experience as my Being state of Embodied Presence and it empowers me to step out as a leader, even on days like this.
When your days are dark and cold on the Outside, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually Be Present on the Inside. It begins by letting go of what you see, by closing your eyes or lowing your lids, and noticing your breath. As you notice to your breath, begin to listen to it audibly and in a deeper way. Witnessing your breath just as it it and not trying to make it something. Be aware of what it is that you notice about your breath. Through your breath let your awareness expand to your entire body and begin to witness your entire body having an internal sensory experience. Just notice sensations - like balance, body temperature, your shape in space, as well as physical sensations. Notice how it is to be with your body in this way - completely focused on receiving and witnessing your body's experience. This is Embodied Presence. You are being Present to your body.
What it's like for you to be completely present to your body? Notice the difference your Embodied Presence is making. How do you feel to know that you are caring for yourself in a way that no one else can?
Are you beginning to find the Light and Love?
If No, Keep Practicing, You Will.
If Yes, Keep Practicing and Shine On!

Posted on December 2, 2015 .

Retreat into Self. Breathe and Be.

Yoga can be an experience of body-tending, mindful breathing, moving meditation, and wordless, non-thinking sensation. Yoga practice offers an opportunity to retreat from the outer world of influence and stimulation, to an inner world of inner being, doing and witnessing. Your yoga practice can be the right time and safe space to access to experience your authentic self. On your mat, you get to look like you do, experience what you experience, create the posture and movement that works for your body, be aware of only yourself and make your own informed choices. On your mat, you can embody your true self and discover ways of safely sharing your true self with your world.

Life can be a whirlwind, For me, it usually seems that way and I do feel blessed to experience life so fully...and yet, it is exhausting! Losing a beloved pet (Lenny passed Aug 16), a big wedding (Sept 5) and a wonderfully exciting honeymoon, a new career as faculty with Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy -  all of these events happening over the course of the past 9 months, and I found myself suddenly deflated. I was tired, uninspired and mentally cloudy. I knew that I needed to get to my yoga mat to retreat into myself, but I avoided it. I knew that retreating into myself meant that I would also encounter the grief and exhaustion of all that I was holding unprocessed in my body, mind and soul. But unprocessed life becomes more and more uncomfortable to hold, so I went to my mat and retreated into my body.

The first thing I encountered was a felt sense that t I could trust the process encountering my grief and exhaustion as it would unfold in my body. I remained present with my breath and body. I responded to what I felt in my muscles, posture and heart. I moved with my breath, my awareness focused moment-to-moment on my experience. I began to let movement come from a non-thinking, more intuitive place within. Listening to my body released tension from my neck. I heard small pops and felt better with each natural adjustment. My body had a wisdom all its own, and my mind just watched and rested. I cried and missed Lenny, then came back to my breath and body experience. I thought of Scott and our honeymoon, and then came back to my breath and body experience. I worried about new opportunities in my career as much as I celebrated them, and then once again returned to breath and body.

And when I felt complete, I opened my eyes and re-emerged from my inner space. I wanted my practice to make a real difference in the way I was experiencing life, so I took a moment to consider what I was taking away. I realized just how mentally supportive and comforting it was to return to the present moment experience. And I knew that I could apply this realization to my life - when I noticed whirlwind, I could return to present moment experience even for a few breaths to support my mind clearing and feelings settle. This supports me in processing my experience, rather than hold onto it. It makes it easier for me to share that some days I really miss my dog and some days I am walking on sunshine as a newlywed and some days I am trying to find the words to express what I truly have to say. Everyday that I can be present to myself, I can be ME!

Stop thinking yourself into existence. Just BE Here Now.
Fully, Totally, Authentically You! 

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Posted on November 30, 2015 .