“to work magic is to weave the unseen forces into form; to soar beyond sight; to explore the unchartered dream realm of the hidden reality.” ~starhawk
the weather has chilled, hibernation begins to sound pretty darn desirable, leaves are falling, and the impending holidays are in sight. as one avid listmaker to another (i sleep with post-its and pens by the bed… you never know when something will come to you!), i don’t know what i would do without categorizing life into various to-dos, lists and sections. i presume that that is why last month’s worked so well for numerous yogis. we live in our head. now, let me help you translate this productivity into your bodies through my top 10 list for self-nurturing in november:
1. set boundaries. ok, so i had to begin this list with an area that i continue to remind myself to focus. do you ever have that feeling in your body of tightness when you’ve said “yes” and should have said “no?” this seems to be a common theme surrounding holiday expectations. we all have limits, and the challenge of compromising one’s current beliefs or desires to make another happy is worth exploring. for example, do you always go home for thanksgiving when you’d really rather sleep in, cook a pot pie, and watch the macy’s thanksgiving day parade with your kitty? well, maybe this year can be different. notice how many of your actions are based on “shoulds” rather than your own voice. life is full of compromises but if you constantly comprise yourself, you’re not living in your body.
2. when in doubt, draw a hot bubble bath. yes, i truly do feel that calgon can take me away (although i now rely on lush bath bombs). every night this time of the year, you’ll find me drawing a bath to warm my cold bones, and just let go into a tub of tranquility. growing up in the christian faith, baptism was a way to cleanse transgressions and be “reborn.” i believe i do this nightly, on a totally different level, not out of sin but out of desire to surrender, self-nurture, and escape e-mail, cell phones and life for 30 minutes. indulge in this full body state of mindfulness magic.
3. cultivate an attitude of gratitude. considering this season of giving thanks, how could i leave this out? don’t you find that this time of year brings on a bit of “woe is me?” i certainly do, however, it is hard to stay there long if you spend time honoring others for their contributions to your life - a letter to a high school teacher, an e-mail to an old friend, volunteer time at a local soup kitchen. throughout this month, think of one new thing daily that helps instill within you an attitude of gratitude, and write it in your journal.
4. sleep in. i think this and journal writing are two of the best forms of free therapy. if you’re an avid planner, put “sleep in until 11” on your list and then you can mark it off when you decide to get out of bed.
5. touch. when taking yoga classes, my fave part is getting assisted by the teacher (ok, and pigeon pose!). the power of touch is soooo powerful. massage, reflexology, yoga classes at tranquil space, talking to a dear friend that “talks” with her hands, reconnecting with old friends, hugging aunt helga over turkey, or caressing a tired friend’s head, are all ways to experience the magic of touch.
6. pay attention to sensations. recognize how approaching a challenging conversation feels in your body, notice if talking to someone leaves your heart center feeling closed, pay attention to what waiting in lines does to your pulse. it’s amazing how easily affected we are by all the stimuli around us. breathing helps but so does noticing if you continually have negative reactions to someone or something. chances are that it may be time to make changes.
7. be less reactionary. during this weekend’s classes on yoga and buddhism, the teacher mentioned that meditation was about creating space between the stimuli and the reaction. ah ha, so if i learn to sit still, i’ll become less reactionary? well, my question to him was what to do with the energy after stimuli before reaction because that stuff is powerful! do you notice that after a not-so-lovely e-mail, the initial reaction is the write back an equally not-so-lovely response? well, i’ve found that sitting on it (visualize a meditation cushion) makes a world of difference. taking the action out, sitting with the sensation, and reacting from a place of mindfulness will allow you to be more in control, especially when dealing with aunt helga over the holidays – “now tell me again why you’re not married?”
8. begin your holiday shopping now. need i say more? taking care of holiday cards, gifts, party planning, and outfits now saves you tons of stress later. and, you’ll get better options, less crowds, better prices (day after thanksgiving sales), and can easily show online without paying more for shipping.
9. practice yoga daily. of course i had to insert this one. even one sun salutation here is gonna make your world more serene. you can do it subtly during meetings, waiting in lines, at the office, and while running around town. for ideas, listen here.
10. release expectations. one of my biggest sources of disappointment in life is due to expectations. if i could only let go of these and be less tit for tat. ahhh. while i continue to work on this (and presume i’m not totally alone in this department), i encourage you to congratulate, give, honor, and support others simply because you want to. expecting a “thank you,” “congrats,” or otherwise in return, only serves to disappoint and discourage. just because i had to write thank yous the day i received a gift growing up, doesn’t mean everyone else did.