Tag Archive | Meditation

Calling All Angels

AngelPositiveThinkingGuardian

Just over three weeks ago, I had emergency surgery to remove a non-functioning gallbladder (another “perk” of Polychondritis, my main autoimmune disease. Yea!). My husband couldn’t help but announce repeatedly that this was now my 15th surgery in 7 years’ time(!).

The surgery went fairly well as did my initial recovery. After re-learning to walk post a 5 day epidural (I swear, I now know what Bambi feels like on those wobbly legs!), I was happily released.

After my 10 day hospital stay, I was only home for 3 days, when I suddenly developed a hot, sharp and stabbing pain in my abdomen. A same-day CT scan showed a very large small bowel obstruction and I was promptly sent to the ED, to await transfer to the inpatient unit.

This time, my stay was Hell.

It began with the placement of a nasal-gastric (NG) tube. I have always said this is the worst procedure I’ve ever undergone (and that’s saying a lot, considering all I’ve been through!). But this time was even worse. The main disease process of Polychondritis is the destruction of cartilage in my body, most prominently in my chest, ears, and nose. I already knew that the cartilage damage in my right nostril was so pronounced, it was effectively “closed for business.” And I clearly stated to the attending surgeon that only a pediatric sized tube would fit in my left nostril. Yet, she insisted in trying larger sizes first.

The doctor quickly learned that I knew my nose better than her, and had to use the smallest tube possible. Now, I don’t know a single person that feels “okay” about having an NG tube placed, so surgeons are used to complaints regarding this procedure. What they didn’t take into account was my personal history. The pain was beyond excruciating. The only way I can think of describing it is; it felt like someone had first taken a hammer to my nose, shattering the bones, and then commenced to insert (shove) a tube up my nostril, while asking me to drink water through a straw, drawing the tube down my throat and into my stomach.

This was the first time I felt “my light” go out. I felt like my Soul Beacon had been 1-blown-out-candle-michal-boubinsnuffed. I was drowning in pain and couldn’t tell the surface from the bottom.

My husband bore witness to this, and stated later that he saw the moment I let go. The moment my eyes went dull and blank. I would have done anything to make the pain stop. I was ready to trade my life for this relief.

Having these very deep visceral feelings scared the heck out of me. I started to question whether I had the strength to continue this battle being waged inside my body, with no foreseeable end. Slowly I began to fight again, to refuel my Soul Beacon from the exchange of light, love and energy with others. But I still felt dim; like my light could once again blow out with the slightest of breezes.

That breeze came a few days later when my body started to shut down. I had uncontrollable shakes, deep abdominal pain, unrelenting migraines, and spasms traveling from head to foot. I couldn’t focus on anything. There were none of my normal reprieves of drawing or writing, or reading, or even watching T.V. All I could do was lie there, writhing in agony.

I felt myself slipping away. It felt like I had one foot in this world and one in the realm beyond. One breathe from the universe, and I would blow away. Forever.

Without words, my family could tell. My husband and mother put up a barricade around me, keeping visitors away, while silently standing guard. They didn’t complain of hours spent entertaining themselves while I slipped in and out of consciousness.

And then one day, a dear friend of mine showed up unexpectedly for a visit. I whispered a request for Reiki. And while sending me healing energy, she also received messages in return:

angel of light 2She leaned close to me and told me that everything was going to turn out the way it was supposed to; that I could let go (and let God, so to speak). Then she passed on the most remarkable message: “As I have told you before, you are surrounded by angels, spirit guides and light beings that love and protect you. But this time, I felt something even deeper. There is one angel that has wrapped themselves around your entire body. They are protecting you and encasing you in love. They are only waiting for you to call on them for help and support. Use this angel. Ask for their guidance and protection.”

And with that, she left.

I was overwhelmed. If I let go, would that be letting go of this body, of this lifetime? Or would the act of letting go release the tension and stress I felt over having to “keep up the fight?” Could I truly trust in my angels and guides to take care of me, to lead me in whatever direction the Universe had planned for me?

I chose the latter, to trust in this intuitive message my friend passed on. It took me a bit to even find the strength to ask for help. But eventually I did. And that’s when the miracles started to happen.

The nurses discovered that my sugars had dropped so low, I was partially going into diabetic shock. And after several bags of sugar water being pumped into me, I started to recover. Another nurse ordered me an air bed that softy pillowed my inflamed joints. And the doctors finally reinstated my medication regimen that treats my autoimmune conditions (stopped out of fear of effecting the recovery rate post-surgery), most significantly providing infusions of steroids. My body started responding in kind.

But, even more remarkably: I embraced my angel back. I called on the energies that swirled around me for support and protection. And I began to feel like I was wrapped in a quilt of love. A quilt that hugs my body, wherever I go.

I don’t think it matters what your particular religious or non-religious beliefs are. Words like “angels,” “spirit guides,” and even “God,” don’t need to be defined. They can mean something entirely different for each person. For me, they all come down to energy. I don’t believe that when we die, all of ourselves just disappear. We are made up of many charged particles. So our physical bodies may fail us and be sent back to the Earth (to be recycled and revived), but our energy, or our “soul,” stays active. For some, they may find comfort in the idea of Heaven. For me, I truly don’t know. But I do know that I have felt the energy of loved ones passed surround me at many moments in my life. They have sustained me, they have pushed me, and they have caught me when I’ve stumbled. But, most of all, they have saved me. They brought me back from the brink of death 7 years ago, when my colon first ruptured. And they brought me back this time, when my mind and body was too fatigued to continue the fight on its own.

And that’s the key: even when we feel alone, we are not. We don’t have to face life’s challenges all by ourselves. Each one of us has an army of angels, light beings, and spirit guides just waiting to be called upon.

All it takes is a little prayer or meditation. Picture yourself surrounded with light and love. Feel the energy of the universe travel from without to within and out again. We are not stagnant beings, each one of us has a River of Grace flowing with our life force within us. Some believe this river is fed by God, others Buddha or Allah, or a Higher Power. For me, it is not an entity I can name. I choose to call my source God. But my God is not an omnipotent being, it is a mass of swirling light and energy that flows around all of us. Most often, my God wears skin, as a messenger of hope.

Each day I pray to have my eyes, ears, heart and soul open to receiving the gifts and messages from God and the Universe. This way I don’t miss the miracles when they come my way.

Because of this practice, I was able to see God in the form of my friend’s words as she asked me to trust in and use my Guardian Angel.

And even a skeptic cannot argue with the outcome. Because here I am just one week later, at home and recovering, with the energy to share my story with you.

Will I be able to weather another wave of physical assault on my already ailing body? I don’t know. But, that’s the key; I don’t have to know. All I have to do is trust in the universe to provide for me, whatever comes my way. My goal is to spread this message of hope and faith to others, so that collectively, we have the energy to face life’s challenges.

What challenges are you facing today that you could call on your angels or guides to help you navigate? All it takes is closing your eyes, taking a couple of deep cleansing breaths, and then, just… asking.
What have you got to lose by trying?!

angel guardian 2

Fluent in the “Language of Pain”

Pain and wisdom

A recent article in U.S.A. Today discussed the “health care crisis” of chronic pain, stating that 40% of Americans now experience chronic pain… 40%!  Just think about that for a moment.  Thankfully, research institutes are also finally paying attention to this startling statistic and studying ways to treat this epidemic.

What stood out most to me in the article is the description of what happens to a being when they experience unrelenting pain.  We learn to become fluent in the Language of Pain.  It’s the old “practice makes perfect” adage. But in this case, it is completely unhelpful.

Our bodies and minds are wired to learn new habits and behaviors through repetition.  The article states:

“In a sense, chronic pain is not all that different from learning to play the piano or speak French.  The more the body ‘practices’ processing pain, the better it gets at it and the stronger the connections between nerves becomes.”

It speaks of a term, us chronically ill are all too familiar with, “allodynia.”   Allodynia is when pain sensations are so out of proportion with the reality that even the slightest breeze on the skin, gentlest of hugs, or softest touch of a feather, can feel like scalding water, the burn of a blowtorch, or thousands of needles stinging the skin all at once.  This can be a very frustrating condition to explain to “non-sufferers.”  How do you tell someone, “I’m sorry, but your hug hurts me,” without hurting their feelings?!

Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting 6 months or more.  It can be triggered by illness, but also by post-surgical pain that doesn’t go away, injury (even after it is technically “healed”), aggressive medical treatments (especially those for cancer), and chronic conditions such as arthritis, back pain and headaches.

Chronic pain effects 100 million Americans and costs between $560-635 billion dollars per year, yet doctors only receive 9 hours on average of pain education during their entire medical school education!

One of the sacriest facts is that it causes permanent damage to the body.  Chronic pain can literally shrink the brain.  It can reduce gray matter as much as 20 years of aging does!! (according to research at Northwestern University)

The biggest enigma of the pain puzzle for me, is the incongruity of my own personal pain responses.  I actually have an extremely high tolerance for pain when it comes to injury, injections, and other invasive procedures.  And then there’s the flip side… my body can be triggered by God knows what (I always equate it to having a switched flipped). When this happens, I am writhing in pain, the touch of the lightest sheet on my body can trigger what feels like an attack on my body… my nervous system is on fire.  I would sell my soul to the devil to make it stop!

Hence the pain conundrum!

And also the reason why scientists state that suicide rates are twice as high in people with chronic pain.  Chronic pain is highly unpredictable and volatile.  And, currently, extremely mistreated and misunderstood.

Although, they are starting to discover that there are several non-invasive, non-drug treatment options for “quieting the pain.”  I have found many of these helpful (when I remember to employ them!) and I would be interested to hear what techniques others use to treat this painful condition.

  1. Exercise:  This can be the hardest to start because when we are in the midst of pain, our minds tell us to be still; we are terrified that if we move, it will only get worse.  But this is the exact opposite from the truth. The USA Today article states, “Exercise is as close as there is to a magic bullet for pain.” Hazzah!  I think of it as re-training the nerves, muscles and brain (just as it has been conditioned to feel pain at every turn).  I started riding my exercise bike daily 2 months back and it has changed my life.  Now when I am having a particularly bad flare of pain, my body actually “tells” me to get on my bike and move. And it works! Truly. NOTE: It may be helpful to begin a exercise program in a warm pool.
  2. Acupuncture: Once dismissed as little more than a “placebo effect,” newer studies in (objective) mice show that acupuncture stimulates adenosine, a powerful pain reliever made naturally in the body.  And studies in humans are showing that after acupuncture, there are powerful changes that occur in the nerve pathways, running from the brain to the rest of the body (an important way the nervous system can control pain). Has anyone had success with this?
  3. Massage: I swear by this! I see my massage therapist every 2-3 weeks and she has changed my body’s response to painful stimuli. My recommendation would be to find someone trained in therapeutic/medical massage that will work long term with you; make sure it is someone you can clearly communicate with. When I first started, my therapist could only “rock” parts of my body until I got used to touch. Now, even when my body is “on-fire,” it responds positively to her touch; she quiets the hyper-active nerves. There is no one else I would trust to touch me.
  4. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Meditation and Bio-Feedback:  All treatments that use the mind to quiet the body.  I use guided meditations daily and can now almost “leave my physical body” when it is in pain (not always, but often). I know people who have had success with formal bio-feedback training and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping Therapy).

There are other treatment options, not scientifically proven, but people have found comfort with:

  1. Chiropractic Care
  2. Magnet Therapy
  3. Reiki
  4. Heat Therapy
  5. Hydrotherapy
  6. Electrical Stimulation (TENS units)
  7. Ultrasound
  8. And what I like to call: “Distraction Therapy:” engaging the mind in another activity (something simple and repetitive like knitting, coloring, zentangles, bead stringing, crosswords or puzzle books, music, silly kitten videos!, etc.), until the pain becomes distanced from your physical body. This works wonders for me!

Please share your pain coping techniques, so that we can all benefit from the shared experience of this “painful” condition (pun intended!).

If you are interested in reading the full article, follow this link:

Chronic Pain: A Health Care Crisis

Also, here is a link to the American Chronic Pain Association:

ACPA

Practicing Being Myself

Today’s quote on my Zen calendar: “The purpose of our practice is to just be yourself.” (Shunryu Suzuki).

Another gentle reminder that we do not need to practice, practice, practice… to make (ourselves) perfect.  Our perfection already lies within in.  It is our job to discover it and bring it out into the light.

Imagine if each one of us stopped trying to be someone else; or some different version of ourselves; and just practiced being our best selves.  The traits we each possess create the unique tapestry of the fabric of life.

But when we ignore these inborn traits, just lying in wait, we turn our backs on our birthrights. We walk around as masked versions of ourselves.  Sometimes to the point where we even forget who we truly are inside.

So what if we changed our daily practice?

To one of centering the mind and the body, searching along our inner labyrinths to find our centers, the core of our beings.  And what if we looked among the muck and mud that only we can see (all our defaults; the things we so, so wish we could change… if we just tried hard enough), and found the tight bud of the lotus flower, hiding in the deep, dark crevice of our soul?

The lotus: one of the most beautiful flowers in the world, whose delicate appearance belies its inner strength. For it can grow in the harshest, and ugliest of environments. Because it believes in its true nature: it knows that it is a flower and its only job is to open its bloom wide to the sun and seas of adoring faces.

You are the flower.  Find your roots. Pick up that fragile, withering bud deep inside of you and sing to it.  Bathe it in light and love. Coax it open.

Do not try to make it contain certain qualities that you find appealing.  Discover the natural treasure trove of characteristics that lies hidden within, and start to honor, respect and celebrate them one by one.

Do this meditation daily until you start to feel your whole self open like that shy bloom.

Practice it every day.

Practice being yourself… your whole self.

And nothing more.

A more specified application:

Perhaps you are struggling with a daily practice of self-improvement.  You want to become a writer, an instrument player, a mother, a student, a yogi, etc…  This daily practice of “being yourself” does not mean that you cannot choose to learn a new skill or talent.

But try and apply the same principles from above to this practice as well.

I have found that when I stop trying so hard to be the “perfect” artist or “perfect” wife, I leave the door open for my true self to walk through.  I stop defining what “perfect” means, or looks like, or sounds like, and I just practice at being myself while engaging in each activity.

I am already that musician, that artist, that teacher, that student.  I just need to focus my mind on using that skill each day, and let the rest of it open naturally like the budding learner within.

Ever heard the term, “She’s such a natural at…”

I believe this is what “being a natural” means.  It means not forcing yourself to be any one thing or another.  Perhaps you won’t be a concert-hall worthy musician.  But, at the same time, perhaps you excel at engineering new and innovative ways to implement an idea. We all have different strengths and talents.

We can all practice at any activity we want.

Just practice at being yourself at that activity and watch the garden of your soul bloom. Some flowers will grow taller and stronger than others, and that’s okay. You won’t know until you practice at just being yourself and then seeing what naturally grows and develops.

Try and stop defining how your perfect self looks like (and all the talents this perfect being has) and start nurturing the in-born talents you uniquely possess.

The world would be a mighty boring place if we all excelled at the same things!

Going Just Beyond…

above and beyond

A friend shared an alternative approach to creating New Year’s Resolutions. For the last three years, she has chosen a word that defines what direction she wants to head in the upcoming year.  Instead of listing “specifics” she meditates and visualizes her hopes, wishes and dreams and then categorizes them under an umbrella term; used as her motivational mantra throughout the year. For this year she was vacillating between love and courage, thinking about using both. Then through conversations with others, she realized the recurring word that kept popping up was “connection.” And as she said, “I have found that the word I settle on, most often finds me, not the other way around.”

By focusing on this one small, yet enticingly expansive word, she will walk through the coming 365 days deepening her connections with herself and with others, while staying in tune with the connectivity we can all experience, when we dip into the well of our shared roots.

Just a few days after this conversation, I happened upon an article in our local paper, “My Life, My Words; Three Little Words Have an Impact.”*  In it, Kristine Bruneau writes, “Since 2012, I’ve chosen three words to inspire and guide me along the path of achieving my goals.  At the end of the year, I reflect on how well these words have helped shape my efforts.” Her three words for the coming year are “restore, integrate and teach.” For the year just past, they were “amplify, connect and share.”  They are a trio of interconnected words, which seem to act as stepping stones to growth.  The first, a verb, “takes action”; the second exemplifies how she will integrate the first tenet into her own life; and the third, how she will spread this to the world beyond herself.

Whether one word or several, both approaches are positive and action oriented.  When focused on the solution rather than the problem, you automatically walk in a positive, forward moving direction.

By setting a word, or words of intent, you are practicing the Law of Attraction. 

For the last couple days, I have opened up my mind to receiving a word that describes what I want to attract in the coming year.  I meditated and prayed, and allowed the first word that came into my mind to sit and stew for a while.  It was an unexpected word.  Some may even say an odd word choice.  But the more I let my mind tinker with this idea, the more I realized it encompassed all my hopes, goals and dreams.

My word for 2014? — “BEYOND

I want to reach just beyond my comfort zone into the unknown realm where growth occurs.  I want to re-discover my hidden talents; I want to experience life as it is, and then take it just one step further.  I want to reach beyond myself to help others and the world.

Thinking beyond is going to help me “feel my fear, and do it anyway.”  When I am about to embark on a new or different endeavor, and my fear (of failure, of the unknown, etc.) tries to stop me, I am going to pause, breathe and reach just beyond that fear into the landscape of trust. I am going to take my life just one step further.

I am going to remember this one-word phrase (hmm… oxymoron?!) whenever I am faced with a daily decision, choice or activity; I am going to pause and ask myself, “what would going just beyond look like?” 

The same goes for facing disappointment. Instead of focusing on “why life didn’t turn out the way I had imagined,” I am going to look for the hidden land of opportunity that lies just beyond the field of disappointment.

This word will help define the direction in which I want to head; but I am not concerned with defining what that will look like, what that will feel like, or how I will exactly get there.  That part I’m leaving up to God and the Universe.

And I can’t wait to see what happens!

Some questions you may want to ask yourself when choosing your own Word (or words) Of The Year:

  • In what area of my life do I want to grow?
  • What do I want to learn more about myself?
  • How do I want to more deeply connect with my community? Family? Friends?
  • What am I afraid of?
  • What have I wanted to try that I haven’t yet?
  • Where do I see myself in one year’s time? (in my personal relationships, in my financial stability, in my career, in my state of wellness?)

Then take a deep breath, close your eyes, relax your body, and exhale. What is the first word that comes to mind? Hold onto it, follow it, see where it takes you… and then come back here every once in a while to share your experiences with this annual exercise!

SOURCE: * Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, ROCarts, Section 2C

Indecisiveness is the Killer of Inspiration

intuition3

Indecisiveness is the killer of inspiration. At times, I can be so clear with my intent that I do not question the “why?”  And at others still, I will find myself waffling and waffling to the point where I am no longer clear about anything: what I like or want to do or how I am going to do it.  I have forgotten the skills I have nurtured.

When I am debating between two paths in front of me, I concentrate on my center and listen to the intuitive voice within. Some call this the “voice of God” while others feel more comfortable defining it as the “voice of their soul.”  Either way, it does not steer me wrong.  I have consciously practiced decisiveness over the last couple years and have found great success and satisfaction in this approach.

What does “this voice” sound like, you may be wondering?  For me, and many others I have contemplated this topic with, it is always the first answer I hear.  My soul, through the grace of God and the Universe, knows the right step to take.  It’s my over rationalizing, over-thinking, fearful mind that muddles the thought.  Upon practice, you will discover that there is always a clear voice that speaks from within.  But you have to be open to hearing it, and then, even more importantly, open to receiving it.

Fast forward to today, and I find myself falling back on old, unproductive habits.  I hear that voice and quickly think right over it… to the point where the original intention is lost and I am left a confused mess.  For example, I am contemplating taking another art course.  I just completed my first “formal” art course since freshman year in college (!) and want to capitalize on the confidence and skills it gave me, by continuing to move forward.  I was strongly encouraged to continue my pursuit and that I could take a number of intermediate/advanced classes that would provide me with the tools to refine my style.

Not knowing what the best next class would be, I brought in a sample portfolio of my works to get the advice of the instructor. But if I want to be completely honest with myself, I did not want the “responsibility” of choosing the next class; for fear that it would not be an accurate fit.  Where does this fear come from? A lot of it is financial.  These classes cost upwards of $265! I would be eligible for a scholarship; but only my first class would be a fully covered, after that, it would be partial scholarships.  And, as us chronically ill know all too well, time and energy are precious commodities! I don’t want to “waste” them on the wrong course.  Argh! The pressure!!

There are many typical fear based reactions that can keep us from trusting our one, true intuitive voice.  I think we can all identify with financial insecurity throwing a monkey wrench into our confident, decisive selves.  We can fear making the “wrong” choice and either not enjoying what we chose, or, even worse, “missing out” on the other, better option.  We can be stifled by fear of failure or of trying something new and outside of our comfort zones.  Often, we are afraid of change; even if the present situation is not ideal (and even harmful to our mind, bodies or spirit), it is the comfortable.  And we like comfortable, the known.  We can be paralyzed by thoughts of what others will think of our choice, or by comparing ourselves.   We can be afraid of failure.  We can be afraid of wasting time, money, energy. . .

And then I hear my friend’s voice saying… “YOU MUST FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY.”

Many of us have “trust issues,” and asking ourselves to trust our inner voice can feel like a huge gamble.  I know from experience that it does feel uncomfortable at first; because it is not the way we have typically done things in the past.  But whenever a decision is made based on faith rather than fear, you are always going in the direction intended. 

It does not mean that every choice you make from a place of faith and trust turns out like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!  There are times where I have listened to my intuitive voice and have faced challenges, pain, loss, and hurt because of the choice I made. But, in the end, I have always discovered there was a greater reason why I had to go through that experience.

So, I need to get quiet; because right now I am so twisted into knots over the simple choice of what class to take, that I have lost my intuitive, creative self.  And this waffling has poured over into all areas of my life, to the point where I feel stuck in a mire of indecisiveness… constantly questioning myself about what choice is the right one and then feeling fearful afterwards that I made the wrong choice.  I am in over-thinking mode.  I am a computer about to overheat and shut down.

So these are the steps I am going to take right now…

  1. Turn off all external stimuli
  2. Quiet my mind and my body through some deep, cleansing breaths
  3. Say a prayer of intention:  “Please let my mind, heart and soul be open to receiving the messages you have to give.  May I not question my one, true intent.  May I trust in the messages I receive and may I have the faith to face my fears and insecurities.  May I embrace all the opportunities that come my way.”
  4. Then I will repeat a series of cleansing breaths and clear my mind.
  5. I will pose the question to the answer I currently seek.
  6. And then I will just listen.
  7. I will let the first thought that enters my mind grow in shape and size.
  8. If other thoughts start to intrude, I will observe, describe and let them go (for example; “I am feeling fear about making the wrong choice and wasting my scholarship money.”)
  9. I will put my hand over my heart and remind myself that I am loved and cared for.intuition1

Creative Medicine for Pain Relief

One of my Colorful Manadalas

One of my Colorful Manadalas

I have discovered that some of the best medicine for pain relief is creativity!  There are so many benefits to engaging in Creative Therapy.  For me, the number one benefit is: distraction.  My mind becomes immersed in the activity at hand and before I know it I am no longer focused solely on my pain. It’s like the physical pain has transferred from my body to the page.  This technique is also extremely helpful in combating emotional and mental pain.  It can help one express the deep, painful feelings that can overwhelm without an outlet for release.  It can help one move towards healing.  Creative Therapy can help reduce stress, anxiety and tension.  I also find this approach deeply meditative; it can lead me into almost a trance state where my calm spirit is separated from my hurting body.  The pain becomes a distant entity.  It allows me to literally take a break from my pain. 

And the best thing is that you can do Creativity Therapy on your own or with a group, for no or little money, and at any time in almost any place (don’t know if I’d try it in the elevator, but you never know!).  If you are more comfortable learning techniques from someone else, there are certified Art Therapists and many cities offer Creative Wellness Centers with classes and open sessions.   Another option is to find a group of like-minded people on Meetup.com or to look into classes available at local churches, community centers or adult-ed classes at local high schools.

But, I want to take a time to explore all the options for doing Creative Therapy in your home.  Don’t get stuck up by saying, “but, I’m not an artist!”  This isn’t about creating “sellable art,” this is about free expression through creative outlets.  There is something for everyone and no one ever has to see your creation if you don’t want them to!  Here are some ideas to get you started…

  • Coloring Books!!… I find these extremely soothing.  My favorite are Mandala coloring books from Dover (found for <$5 on Amazon, etc.).  Mandalas have been used for centuries as meditation tools.  After mine are colored, I keep them to stare into when I am feeling stressed or in pain (sample above).

    "Sacred Place"  Collage

    “Sacred Place”
    Collage

  • Collaging… rip up pictures in old magazines and glue them onto a larger sheet of craft paper.  I love to collage “vision boards” ofthings I hope to achieve in my future, of things that make me happy (sunsets, babies, waterfalls) or of placesI’d like to visit.  You can make “word boards,” random collages, or collages that form a larger picture (like my “Sacred Place” ex.)
  • Knitting or crocheting… there are even weaving circles (at craft stores) for beginners that create a finished scarf!
  • Cross-Stitch or Latch Hook… with so many ready-made designs to choose from.
  • My Tasty Gluten Free Fruit Tart

    My Tasty Gluten Free Fruit Tart

    Cooking or Baking… yes, this is a creative activity, too!  Make something just for the heck of it.  I find this option very Zen; I spend thoughtful, purposeful time creating a visually appealing dish only to have it devoured soon after. Talk about a lesson on impermanence!

  • Gardening… create a pretty combo pot for your deck, porch or sunny window.
  • “Scratch-Off Books”… you can find these at the craft store; there are images hidden beneath black that you scratch away with the provided tool to uncover scenes beneath.
  • Zen-Tangles!… an awesome, new take on doodling.  Look for books online or in the library to get you started. Once you pick up a few different patterns, all you need is a sharpie and a notepad to create interesting, engaging, repetitive pieces anywhere.
  • Card Making… make cards with any of the techniques above and then spend a little time writing a personal note to a friend, loved one, or even yourself!
  • Photography… a great way to get you out in nature and become mindful about your surroundings.
  • Simple Beading… string a pattern of beads on elastic or “memory wire” to create a meditation mala/bracelet (say a mantra for each bead as you “travel” around your wrist).
  • FiMo… PlayDough for adults!  Roll and shape into abstract or formed designs and then bake them.
  • Decoupage… buy a cheapy cardboard trinket box at the craft store and use ModPodge to paste on collage pictures. Coat with an extra layer of ModPodge to seal.
  • Origami… I love trying to reach my life long goal of a “1000 Cranes for Peace”

PHEW!!!! Now pick just one and indulge your creative self today!  Then let me know how it felt and if you have any other ideas to share!

Here’s another blogger’s take on Creativity and Emotional Expression : http://myfibrotasticlife.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/the-importance-of-outlets-to-express-emotions/

Cultivate a Garden of Hope

where-flowers-bloom-so-does-hope-beth-buelowWe each possess a ripe environment in which to cultivate our own Garden of Hope; but is up to you to ensure that the soil of your soul is fertile ground for your garden to grow successfully.  Like “acceptance,” “hope” doesn’t just happen. You don’t wake up one day and announce, “I am Hopeful!” It is a daily practice; it takes time. And just like a garden, it needs to be nurtured, fed and cherished.

Life and its circumstances can clog our garden with weeds and debris. All it takes is one solid shake of a tree, rattling our core foundation, to scatter leaves to all corners, disguising the Garden of Hope that lies beneath. In times like these, it is wise to call on external support to clean up your garden, to lift up your spirit. Hope isn’t a solitary pursuit.  Hope is meant to be shared and to be received.

So how do you cultivate this Garden of Hope?  It starts with just one seed, sowing your mind with little daily reminders of Hope.  Overtime, these individual experiences start to reseed the soil, creating clusters of Hopeful memories.  Hope becomes exponential.  The more you practice Hope, the more Hope grows.  And the best fertilizer to help your Hope blossom is a generous dose of Gratitude.

Hope and Gratitude go hand in hand.  Anytime you are feeling overwhelmed, clogged with the weeds of Doubt, Worry, Fear, Anger, and Apathy, think of just one thing that you are grateful for that day. Most often that one thought leads to another thought, and then another… until you picking poppies rather than stinging nettle!

Here are additional ideas for incorporating gratitude into your daily practice:

  • Write an “A-Z Gratitude list” with one grateful reminder to match each letter (ex: A=Asha, my cat; B=Babies, like my awesome nephew; C=Colorful sunsets; D=Dave, my always supportive hubby; E=Enjoying a book in the hammock; etc.)
  • Write a Retro-Gratitude List, travel forward 10 years from now and then look back at your life today and all the things you felt blessed to have had in 2013.  Many times we miss moments of gratitude and grace in our daily living. Remind yourself of all the unexpected gifts you received, friendships formed, risks taken, challenges met, times spent with loved ones, etc. Start with the basics: “I lived in this amazing apartment/house I loved at (location).”
  • Make a list of all the ways “God showed him/herself in your life today.” As you experience moments of grace, gifts of support and friendship, opportunities for hope or growth, or periods of peace, jot them down. Or it may be more symbolic, “signs” that God is working in your life.
  • Create a Gratitude Grab-Jar: As you experience feelings of gratitude, write them down on a small piece of paper and stick them in a jar.  Then you’ll have reminders to pull out during times you are feeling less than grateful!
  • List all the things you can do in your life (regardless of physical, mental, financial or time constraints) that bring you a grateful heart. For me it’s: listening to music, meditating, taking a short walk, sitting in my backyard, petting my cat, reading a book just for pure entertainment purposes, enjoying a dark piece of chocolate. This is another list to resource during times of sadness or stress.
  • Think of all the people in your life you are grateful for; make your own catalog of angels.   List both people in your present circle but also those who are no longer in your life.  For me, some of my biggest supporters and champions have passed away, but I know their spirits still watch over and protect me.  Other people were in my life for short periods but the impact they made is ever-lasting (like a caring nurse).
  • Start a “3 Good Things” daily list: at the end of each day write down “the three things you are grateful for” or “three good things that happened to you that day.”

These exercises will help you cultivate a Hopeful Heart; something you’ll carry inside of you always, like a soothing secret.  Once you have created your own flourishing Garden of Hope, you can then visit it anytime to pick a bouquet of flowers. And, when doesn’t a handful of fresh, bright flowers make any situation seem brighter?!

“Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in your soul

And sings the tune, without words

And never stops — at all.”

(Emily Dickinson)