Spiritual Practice – G

G – GRACE & GRATITUDE

GRACEhandcandle

Acceptance of God’s Love ~ Watching for gifts ~ Reading spiritual memoirs and biographies ~ Awareness of synchronicities ~ Gift of tears ~ Lighting candles

Grace, to me, is so much about living with what you got rather than envy what you do not. We are all given the gifts of body and mind. How you choose to receive and use those gifts are up to you. Grace is conducting your body and mind in a manner of gratitude and growth. Not only being grateful for your today and what you have and looking forward to new gifts and how to share them. We also grow by learning about those whom we look up to. Not only in a spiritual sense, but personality, career, political, etc. All of these lend to our sense of self and spirituality, or connection with others.

47a8247029aab1795c15cc371fd8fd9f  GRATITUDE

Gratitude journals ~ Naikan ~ Blessings ~ Greeting the dawn ~ Mealtime grace ~ Offerings

I have written about gratitude before. It is one of the aspects of “Happy” people. When we are grateful, for everyday things, we are focusing on our blessings and not shortcomings. It can be easy, especially in our culture, to get caught up in what we don’t have. This creates angst, resentment, greed, etc. Keeping a gratitude journal helps us remember that everyday we have things to be grateful for. The journal is simply writing down good things that happened that day and events, people or things you are grateful for.

Naikan is a the Japanese word for “introspection” It is a practice of self reflection, which includes gratitude. It can be a simple and easy way to include gratitude daily. It can also be a reflection of those who given to you throughout your life.

Naikan reflection is based on three questions:

  1. What have I received from __________?
  2. What have I given, what have I done for ___________?
  3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused __________?

Spiritual Practice – B

B – BEAUTY & BEING PRESENT

ikebanaBEAUTY

Living Simply  ~  Clearing Clutter  ~  Nature walks  ~  Ikebana  ~  Tea Ceremony

Beauty includes the everyday beauty and appreciating what you have right here and now. The Simple things that create and generate gratitude.

 

These suggested practices, and your own personal rituals, which give you peace and calm to appreciate things in the everyday; To see the beauty in the mundane.

I love to look at the details. I enjoy every sunset and sunrise when I see the glorious colors that nature can create. I point out to my children the beautiful details in nature or man, watching new leaves roll out, the autumn colors, cloud shapes, stars, cool rocks, spiderwebs, birds and bugs. These are in nature. Though, all things can be beautiful in their own way. The love between a couple or mother and child. Find the beauty in your day.

 BEING PRESENT83000386c7fa9a9b86dc5a881bcbee05

Living in the present moment ~ haiku ~ free intuitive writing ~ gardening

Living in the moment can be difficult if you have anxiety or depression. I have heard “Anxiety is always living in the future. Depression is always living in the past.” It can make living in the moment, practicing mindfulness, very difficult.

Mindfulness takes practice. You can not do it all the time, but most of the day. You still have to plan. You can find peace in the moment. Mediation, free writing, gardening, walking, etc can be very good ways to stay in the moment and appreciate today. These are only about the now.

Spiritual Practices

I found an amazing article called The Alphabet of Spiritual Practices by Fredric and Mary Ann Brussat in Spirituality & Health (Nov/Dec 2006). It outlines a spiritual practice for every letter in which we can connect with ourselves and our community to enrich our lives and well being. I am using this article as a basis for several following posts.

actus_14_1.pngThe first is

ATTENTION

Meditation ~ mindfulness ~ mantras ~ concentration exercises ~ descriptive writing ~ contemplative art ~ self witnessing

The many ways we pay attention, to ourselves and our world, really contributes to our reality. Our reality creates our emotional, physical and psychological space. Paying attention is not necessarily changing anything. It is more about seeing what is. Any of these practices puts your mind at rest, not thinking of anything in particular. It is okay to let it wander, see where it goes, then let the thought go. Keep it moving or at least moving toward calm. The point of paying attention is to be aware.

This is an excellent first step for any type of progress or even contemplation to change in ourselves. We need to know where we start before we begin any journey.

Mandalas are good for contemplative art (or coloring). They are repetitive patterns that can be soothing. You can find many books on these, they are popular right now. You can also find free print outs. I picked a couple that are simple to start with.

Easy mandala

I found many to choose from that are free to download here on Pinterest.

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?

Gratitude

I have written quite a bit about gratitude. It is one of the main characteristics of happy people! What is so important about being grateful and thankful?gratitude2

 

Sometimes, we think of things we don’t have rather than the blessings and gifts we do have. That can cause us to feel insecure, sad, anxious, discontented, jealous, and lacking. Our society advertises to the part of us that is insecure. We need a certain car, make-up, shoe, vitamin, exercise machine, etc to be who we should be, ought to be, to be more. Well, that kind of scrutiny should come from within. Those people who want to sell us some stuff, even magazines about how to be better at… everything, don’t know you. They just know people and how to hit insecurity buttons.

You know you, what you need, want and “should” be. Gratitude is about recognizing what you are starting with, what your power and tools are to move forward. I work with many people who feel worthless and hopeless with no future. They have tremendous difficulty seeing what they are blessed with, even the small things. One of the tricks with gratitude is to not belittle or demean the blessings. No, “yeah, but,” “so what,” “who cares,” “not really” or any other follow up comment that may totally erase the good thing. It’s still there!

A grateful heart will open you up to new wonderful feelings, ways of seeing the world and relationships. How do you get a grateful heart? How do you find the silver lining? Start with saying Thank You, for anything, and really meaning it.

TRY THIS

Gratitude journal: Get a notebook. Everyday, yes, every single one, write down 3 things you are grateful for. They should be different things that you have to think about. Write down why you are grateful for those things. Do this for at least one month. You can continue as long as you would like or just when you need a pick-me-up.

Thank you notes: Write a heart felt thank you note to one person in your life. I would suggest one a day, everyday for 2 weeks or once a week for a year! You can email it, mail it, message it, put it in their lunch box. Make sure they get it, even if it’s on their gravestone.

Practice Gratitude and being Thankful.

Pride and contentment

One of the hardest things to do is be proud of where you are TODAY while making goals for the future. One should always have a direction to go, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the road trip too.

I think it can be a trick of your own mind to be satisfied and content with your current state while making goals for the future. I can most liken it to school. You must take several classes in order to earn credit for the degree. You focus on the present classes, even the current assignment, while you are earning credits for the degree. You can be content, focused on the present, while making your way to your main goal. The trick is to not get bogged down in the work it takes to get there, be frustrated and upset about where you are at the moment.

Life can be this way too! Being grateful for what you have and where you are, while making forward progress goals for life. This concept incorporates some main ideas I have already discussed

 

Each of these ideas are what it takes to feel contentment about yourself and life while balancing future goals. Having goals keeps you moving in a positive direction, thwarts boredom and depression, though can cause anxiety if not balanced.

TRY THIS

In my family, and what I suggest to clients, is to create biannual goals. On or near New Year’s, since that is the “time” to make new goals, create a list of goals for yourself and family. You should include at least one goal for each area of your life. It can be as simple as “drink more water,” “meditate/pray daily,” or “family walks.” They should be simple, measurable and doable. A goal is something to reach for. Review these again in 6 months (4th of July) and see how you are doing. Have you accomplished it? Does it need to be revised? Make it work for you. I suggest also writing what you have accomplished, even if it wasn’t on the list, during that time. It counts! Be grateful for what you have done and examine what might be improved.

Grief – the unavoidable process

My grandfather passed away last week. It was a good thing. He was 100! Quite a feat in itself. Even better, he was really healthy up until this last year. He was on a steady physical decline for a few months. His mind was as sharp as ever! It was peaceful for him. We said good bye and wished him well.

I, on the other hand, am not feeling so peaceful. I usually help people through this process. I am now on the other side of unavoidable anguish.

Grief is the emotional process one goes through when there are changes in life. We have to grieve what we lose when we change. This can be simple, like moving from Elementary to Junior High. You still have your friends (usually). It is just an adjustment to more classes, teachers, lack of recess. It doesn’t really seem like grief, but it is. You miss things you are not experiencing anymore. The new things can consume you and make the process easier.  It could also be a major adjustment, like a family member dying, a new baby, or getting married. We grieve the loss of singledom or coupledom when our family grows.

When we lose something precious and do not have a replacement (which can not happen with a loved one dying), the grieving feels painful. It becomes a process of reconciliation. How does this hole, that once was a person, fit in my life now? How do I reconcile the loss of a grandfather who has always been there. I can not remember a time when he wasn’t part of my life. I don’t grieve for him. I grieve for me. I have to allow the sadness and anger to run through me.

People have different ways of grieving. They rely on God, family, or friends. What really needs to happen is permission. Give yourself permission to have ALL those feelings. Whatever comes with grief, allow it. Feel sadness and cry. Feel angry and yell or punch a pillow. Let it come. The only way to “get past” grief is to travel through it. There is no way to avoid the process. You will just get stuck there.  Write your feelings down, create a memory book or page, have a wake for your loss. See grief as the process, adjustment and reconciliation of the changes rather than the loss.

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.

What is optimism?

Optimism: Tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the more favorable outcome. (dictionary.com)

Pessimism: the tendency to see, anticipate or emphasize only the bad or undesirable outcomes, results, condition, problems, etc. (dictionary.com)

You can probably identify if you are an optimist or a pessimist. What is the first thought that comes to mind when something bad, or even not so great, happens? Is it “Oh great! This will ruin my whole day. I am depressed.” or “Oh dear. That’s too bad. I’m glad it was not any worse.”

See the difference. One thought can lead to a sour mood and negative attitude and the other leans toward the silver lining with a positive outlook. Both attitudes will change your day. Like I say How you do Anything is How you do Everything.  If you tend to see things in a pessimist light, you will be anxious, worrisome and sometimes depressed. Things just never look good. Optimists usually see the brighter side, the upswing, the possible great things to come! They are generally more upbeat, excited, goal oriented and outgoing. 

Some people believe they are a “realist” which basically means “Hope for the best, expect the worst.”  Realists are pessimists with some hope. Hope that things will not always be terrible, but they still believe they will be terrible. A true realist can see things for what they are without prejudice or personal opinion. It’s harder to do that you think. Your personal world view is all about the perception of the event/situation which come from your self talk and your ongoing tapes derived from childhood and past events.

What makes an optimist?

In “Authentic Happiness” by Martin Seligman, he refers to pessimist thought as an automatic perception of a setback as “permanent, pervasive and personal: It’s going to last forever, it’s going to undermine everything and it’s all my fault.” Whereas an optimist may see the same setback as surmountable, particular to that problem, temporary and relative to others.  An optimist can see a situation for what it is, who it is relative to and how it can be improved.

The NUMBER ONE act of an optimist is to take the situation as one instance in time. It does not explode to global proportions. They dispute the negative, pervasive devastation a pessimist might assume.  “Wait, does this red light really mean I will be late to work, yelled at by my boss, have to stay late, possibly written up, loose an account….” Probably not. So, what does it mean? You can take a similar situation that has happened in the past to compare the current situation to. Disregard your emotional response, since it might have been exaggerated. What actually happened? When overwhelmed or anxious events, try disputing your own thoughts to replace with more realistic and positive ideas.

You can take an optimism test on Dr. Seligman’s website. There is more information on optimism and happiness. 

Stuck

I am a forward thinker. I am always looking for the next adventure, be it a sports event, family outing, vacation, or how to improve my practice, home or relationships. I need to be moving forward. I have been stuck before. It is the feeling of nothingness, blah, lethargy, ho-hum-itude that is slightly uncomfortable, like sitting in the same place for too long. Yeah, stuck. There are lots of ways to get stuck, in your job, relationship, financial situation, etc. I will be talking about your life. Well, I guess that actually includes everything else.

stuck-in-a-rut

A lot of people are what I call “survivors.” Survivors are people who merely tolerate life. They have whatever job they can get (if they have a job), put minimal effort into their surroundings, relationships or self. They are just wasting time until it’s over. There is little meaning in life. If you are reading this, you are not one of those people or would like to not be one of those people. You are looking to make a difference! How does that happen? How have I not been on vacation for 5 years, eaten at the same restaurants, same meals, same activities, same, same… You might be bored.

Getting unstuck

Getting unstuck can be tricky. You are in a rut in life, one you created. So, examine the situation. How is my life? Do I like my job, my relationships, my home, my friends, my hobbies? Literally list it all out. What is good and bad and just okay. What might make things better? Is there something I can do today, or plan, to make some changes? Do I need to shake up the routine, reorganize, plan some different activities, make new friends?

One of the most important questions you might ask would be “Am I in control of my life?” Many people take whatever life throws at them, letting it control them instead of them controlling it. Are you making choices that are yours or do you just roll with the punches? I  have an excellent example. A man who never finished high school. He took several construction and manual labor jobs and finally ended up with a home repair gig. He married the first girl he got pregnant, because she was pregnant. He went to work, came home, watched the kid, went to bed. He was miserable. Though, he pretty much has never been much else. He changes and makes decisions when it is forced upon him, like a pregnancy, job loss, etc. He never made a proactive decision. He is not in control.  He has no idea what might make him happy, because it just hasn’t happened yet. This is as stuck as you can get.

You might need some help figuring out how to get unstuck. I see a lot of people in my office complaining of feeling nothing. They think they might be depressed because they don’t sleep well, have little energy, are uninterested in doing things, have no motivation and generally unhappy. It might not be depression, you might just be stuck. Find someone to help you out. I have noticed a lot of self help books on the subject too.