Spiritual Practice – D & E

D – DEVOTION  &  E – ENTHUSIASM

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Prayer ~ Prayer Circle ~ Mantras ~ Zikr or Remembrance of God ~ Bhakti Yoga ~ Chanting ~ Prayer Dancing ~ Icons ~ Prayer Beads ~ Altars ~ Prayer Flags and Wheels ~ Amulets ~ Milagros

Devotion is the practice of bringing yourself closer to your deity and spirituality which brings a sense of peace, calm, and connectedness. Many of the practices listed above are means for one to find that path. There are specific acts to help you achieve connection and peace, like prayer, yoga, mantras, chanting and dancing. These are ideal for focusing your energy in all aspects into your devotion and practice. They can help you release the temporal thoughts and worries.

The others are tangible means to connect to spirituality, like  beads, amulets, altars, milagros, flags, etc. These act as reminders of your connection and help keep you close to your spiritual connect. Many items hold much spiritual significance for people and are held sacred, like saint medals, prayer beads, and amulets.

Find things that have meaning for you. That may connect you to your spiritual peace and practice. It can be anything you feel deepens your connection, that feels peaceful to you.

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Spiritual mentors ~ Emulation of Saints ~ Singing Hymns ~ Praise and Gospel Music

Music is powerful! It is one wonderful way that many religions build enthusiasm for God. Music of any type invokes emotional reaction. People are moved by music. Religious saints, deities, and figures represent an ideal of how we may to live our lives. They are the guides to our behaviors and beliefs. When we choose one to emulate, it helps us make healthy and clear decision, like WWJD (what would Jesus do).

Find music that moves you to feel good, open, warm and accepting of others. Chose someone you find inspiring and spiritual that you might want to emulate in life. You can find a mentor or do your own research to utilize certain beliefs, values and behaviors in your own life.

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Spiritual Practice – C

C- COMPASSION & CONNECTIONS

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LovingKindness mediation  ~  tonglen   ~  empathy  ~  visiting the sick  ~  service to the poor and suffering

Compassion is the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” We show compassion from a very early age. Children will try to comfort others as soon as they are capable of comprehending and interacting in the world. A toddler will bring a blanket, toy, pacifier, or bottle to a person who is sad or crying. We innately connect and feel compassion for our fellow earth dwellers. We learn to suppress these feelings as we grow. Compassion is an integral part of happiness and contentedness in humans.

There are many options of find service in your community.
Here are short videos which explain and guide through a brief LovingKindness mediation or Tonglen mediation.
People of different professions around the world

CONNECTIONS

Honoring ancestors & the communion of saints  ~  home shrines  ~  kinship with animals  ~  dedication to all beings and future generations

Humans are social beings and need others. We need other people, animals and plants together. We are all connected and impact each other’s lives.
Honoring ancestors and home shrines can be as simple as having photos of your family and keeping family and cultural traditions. While we remember and honor our past and heritage, we need to honor the future generations also. By being accountable for our impact on the environment, communities and legacy and raising children and neighborhoods well.
How can you impact the future today? 

Body satisfaction

Being ok with your body is hard business. Our culture seems to identify the nature of the body as aesthetic. Our value, worth and overall acceptance is heavily reliant on what our body looks like. Though, our bodies are not meant to be wholly valued on it’s appearance. Bodies do lots of things! They carry our brains around, which are the majority of who we are, our thinking and personality. They make us capable of doing things, going places, caring for others. What we look like can not change all the things your body is capable of. Body satisfaction is not what you look like, it is feeling satisfied with the way your body is overall.

I have read a few articles recently about body satisfaction. One was on Ravishly.com about a woman who said she was happier “fat.” Which she means is her focus was on her family and her interests rather than her appearance. Her main point was thin does not equal happy. Happy = happy regardless of your size.

Another was in the Counseling Today (January 2015) about body satisfaction in professional women. Having a healthy perception of your body, it’s capabilities, it’s purpose and relation to your own needs and desires leads to an overall psychological, emotional and physical healthy self. The summary of the article was that women with body satisfaction tend to see their bodies are capable not merely attractive. Their body is more important than societal ideal because that ideal was improbable. They did not feel like they had to fit into an altered and impossible idea of beauty. Their bodies were also less important than societal standards in that they do not judge themselves and their bodies merely on the size or shape of it. Being “attractive” was not their primary value. They also could attribute some spirituality to their body acceptance in that they were “given” a certain body in which to live. They expected themselves to accept their body as it was, not fight against nature or how they were made.

Many women have some sort of body dissatisfaction at some point in their lives.  Every women’s magazine has an article on low calorie recipes or burn fat exercise or how to look more attractive. Women are bombarded with the “evidence” of our societal beauty. We are not just how our bodies look. We are whole beings. Our bodies are vessels for us, thinking, feeling, caring, doing people. Our bodies are important in more ways than how they appear.

  • How you think about your body?
  • What does it do for you?
  • How important is how you look compared to the performance of your body?
  • What do you do to take care of your body?
  • How does your body care for you?

Increase your happiness

I attended an amazing seminar on how to integrate positive thought and increase happiness. The first few hours were about the brain and it’s chemicals that “create” happiness, or lack thereof. Apparently, I need to learn more about the limbic system.

The presenter then cited several studies which demonstrated how particular behaviors can help one achieve happiness. For example, just proximity to happy people can impact your own happiness by about 5%. That would go up by how many people and how close a relationship you have with them.flower_smiley_face

Cool! Hang out with happy people! 

Toward the end he got to some good stuff about what kind of behaviors, thoughts and practices you can incorporate in your life to increase happiness. I thought I might share some with you.

 

 

Gratitude journal (Try This):

This includes a daily recount of good things that have happened to you that day. It might be easy to list things you are grateful for in general. Much like thoughtful and intentional prayer, you might recite those things you are glad for in your life, but have to think about particulars that day that are meaningful and brought you some joy. If you do pray, you can just write those things down in your gratitude journal after. If not, spend some serious time considering some events that brought you some joy that day, everyday. You can think of at least THREE. These should be things that are positive and specific to you. Not, “I did not die today” unless you were in a horrible accident and might have actually died, then you might say “I lived!” (see, positive).

Optimism:

Hey, I just covered this! He was talking about not only being positive about your personal possible future, seeing a good long term outcome, but other people too.  This optimism is about looking at your life in stages, seeing what good will come ahead, that things will always improve. You can also see that for others. Forgive them of their minor transgressions, like rudeness, forgetfulness or disregard. It will not hurt you, but only them, in the long run. Hold onto those things that will increase your happiness over time, like good friends, family, happy moments, health. Let go of those things that cause you pain, like anger, resentment and grief.  

Happiness is about finding those things in life that already make you happy, content and peaceful, holding onto them and searching them out. Let the good things rule over the bad. It is a matter of mind.

Resolutions or not

A long time ago I decided that resolutions were ridiculous. They are a way to help you look ahead and feel good about yourself and your future, for a minute. Today, the first Monday after New Years, has been deemed “Blue Monday,” the most depressing day of the year. Is it the blustery, cold and dark weather, the loss of the holiday excitement, return to work after vacation, or disappointment in your resolution failure?

Resolution means “to resolve, a strict determination toward action!”  That sounds pretty great.  I WILL _____.  You have every intention and purpose to do what ever it is you resolve to do.

Why is this ridiculous? It usually doesn’t work. Once a year people sit down to make a list of things they would like to change about themselves without addressing how to make that change.

  1. A special day is not necessary to make a change
  2. Focus on the negative repels change
  3. There is no way to measure the outcome
  4. There is no method for change

Resolutions should be the beginning of your goal setting. Goals can be made at any time, for any reason, they are measurable with steps, actually achievable and relevant to you.  You can stick to, alter, and adjust goals. Goals should work for you, not against you.

Once you set a goal, you outline your steps to attain that goals (what does it look like). For example, you want to be in better shape (resolution). Your goal might be to start with walking twice a week. Move up to 3 times a week plus 2 days of weight lifting. Perhaps you want a goal to run a 10K. You find a program for training (or a trainer). You set your goals for each step of that training. You figure out how that is going to fit in your schedule.

Sometimes goals require research, time and outside help. Like I mentioned above, you may need a trainer to get in shape, a dietician to help you with a diet. Professionals are out there for a lot of different areas. Look at your community education classes too. You will always need support from family and friends.

Look at your resolutions again. Are they relevant to you? Do you really want to do these things? How will you accomplish them? Create steps to attain the goals and celebrate your accomplishments.

Change of seasons can change your mood

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People are effected in all kinds of ways with the change of the seasons. Today is blustery, windy, cool, dark with the promise of rain, lots of rain. It’s fall. That means there will be less sunlight in the day, more cold weather, more darkness. I don’t mind the fall. I love Halloween, the change of colors, the cooler temperatures.

Some people dread the fall. It means the beginning of a season of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), now called Depressive Disorder with seasonal pattern in the DSM 5, is the onset of depression at the beginning of a specific season, like fall or winter, which disappears at the onset of a specific season, like spring or summer. Yes, it could happen the other way around, though rare. If you start to feel more sad, irritable, sleepy or anxious and your desire to do your usual activities wanes in the shorter days. You might have SAD.

Like “regular” depression, the brain chemicals that regulate mood, serotonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine, seem to dip during the shorter days. The theory is the decrease in sunlight impacts circadiam rhythms, causing sleepiness, disruptions in sleep and drop in serotonin. Therefore, theoretically, using a UV light should help! Light therapy has been demonstrated to work well for people with seasonal patterns of depression. I have seen it work with clients who used it properly. Getting an at home UV light can be tricky. Not all light therapy boxes are created equal. Be sure to get one with full spectrum UV/UB lights. One that won’t burn you like the sun, but will give you the advantages of the light.

Depending on the severity of one’s depression, light therapy and being active socially and physically, can make all the difference. Some others may need medication to alleviate the seasonal sadness. Some people just head south and spend the winter in warmer climates.

Here is some information from NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) on SAD.

http://nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Helpline1/Seasonal_Affective_Disorder_(SAD).htm

Treat yourself as you would others

I know, the Golden Rule. “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”  When I hear this I think, be kind, courteous, patient and understanding. Generally, other people will also treat you that way. If you are a jerk and rude, people will be rude to you.

What I am talking about is self care. I am a mother. I tend to put my family first. I put the things I want to do at the end of the list. Sometimes. Sometimes, it’s important that I do certain things. I also try to take care of myself as if I were my own child (or husband). That means, if I am hurt or in pain, I go to the doctor. I get regular check ups at the dentist. I get enough sleep and eat healthy. There are all the things I make my children do to be healthy and happy. Plus, love, affection and fun.  How many of you don’t do these things for your self?o-kindness-facebook

I have encountered numerous clients who treat themselves as non-entities. What they need does not matter. If they are hurting they do not seek assistance. They suffer. If they are stressed, they don’t take the time to manage it or deal with it. Rest, food, clean living space, kind friends, etc are not priorities. They just don’t deem themselves worthy of proper self care.

Would you allow a child to go without any of those things? Someone you LOVE? If your (or any) child was hungry, would you not do what it takes to get him/her fed? Make sure they were safe and cared for? People outrage over neglected and abused children. We are all children. We all need the same kinds of basic care. We should do more than shove our needs to the side as if they do not matter.

They matter. YOU MATTER. Take as much time for your self as you would to care for someone you love.