Simple Ways to Spread Love -S.O. not required

This time of year has always been special to me- whether I was a twitter-pated teen, a lonely “Single-Awareness-Day” celebrator, or deeply in love, Valentine’s Day has always called to me.  In the years of early adulthood, it finally occurred to me that it need not be a time to mourn the freedom of being single or be a day of pressure for men.  I realized, that like childhood when I spent hours creating the most beautiful box and valentines to take to school, it can be a celebration of creativity and sharing kind feelings for anyone in your life (self-included).  So whether you are 15 or 55, single or partnered, here are some ideas to get your creativity going to enjoy a day of love.

 

Bake and Share Cookies      cookies

Have you been meaning to meet your neighbors and haven’t found the right ice-breaker?  Or maybe you have a couple of kids you know would love to be reminded how sweet they are.  Give a plate of treats to someone and just let them know you are thinking of them or want to be their friend.

 

Write a Note of Appreciation

When was the last time you emailed your sister just to tell how awesome she is?  Have you recently told your dad how you appreciate something special he did with you growing up?  Take 5 minutes to send a card, email, or even hand-written letter to someone who has touched your life.

dogwalkingWalk Your Dog

This may sound like an odd one.  However, speaking from experience, for those of us pooch-loving pet owners who sometimes get so busy that by mid-week that we short-change our furry friends with extra short outdoor visits, especially in the middle of winter, this can be great.  Give your pet an extra-long walk to show him or her some love, while gifting yourself with some exercise, fresh air, and if you get out while the sun is still up, a healthy dose of immune-boosting Vitamin D.  

Take Someone a Meal or a Cup of Tea

Do you know anyone who is sick, has a new baby, or is going through a really stressful time at work?  Make an extra portion, grab an extra coffee when you order one, or hand the homeless person on the corner a $5 gift card to a nearby cafe.  

Heart Attack Someone (the paper kind)

paper_heart_attackI remember going out with friends on a few occasions to cut out paper hearts, then tape them all over someone’s door with little notes of how the person was appreciated and loved. Years later, while leaving for work one day, I saw a beautiful display of hearts attached to skewers that sprawled the lawn of my apartment complex.  I was shocked and touched when I curiously went to see who they were for and found my name written on one of the hearts.  Trust me, this one is both fun to create and touching to receive.

There are so many ways to experience and express love.  It may, but doesn’t necessarily need to be romantic.  Just showing love for humanity can be simple AND make someone’s day.  So go ahead and fill someone’s heart with joy -you may notice that a certain “someone” will end up including you!

 

108 Ways to Feel Grateful

 

Fat, frozen snowflakes falling on my tongue, the crisp, cold smell in the night air, snowmen and sleds, these were many of my childhood cues to know: winter is here!  While these signs of the season undoubtedly still excite me, I have come to appreciate the joy of celebrating each season with its commencement of solstice  and equinox.  This past autumn I was introduced to the idea of 108 Sun Salutations to welcome in the season.  I loved the physical challenge and mind-quieting nature of this moving meditation.  So last night, less than a week since my husband and I started moving into our new home (we’re still in the process), I began a new tradition of hosting a 108 Sun Salutation Winter Solstice Soiree.  

suryanamaskar

My hope is that we’ll honor each season’s  passing/inception with this yoga tradition of honoring the sacred count of 108, but last night I gained a whole new appreciation for how and why.

How do you count 108?

My first experience with this count was a solo project at home: breath, move and count.  I lost track of how many I had done several times and rather than potentially cut myself short, I always played it safe by doing another 1-2.  I saluted the sun for nearly 3 hours, moving slowly, growing sore, and fumbling to find modifications that didn’t hurt.

Before we began last night, some friends who had gathered to join me were discussing and reading about why we do 108 specifically.  My personal favorite reason for this is that the distance from the sun  to earth is 108 times the sun’s diameter.  Nancy, the math-savvy (an engineer) of the group, had several counting ideas.  “There are 26 letters in the english alphabet,” she pointed out, “so you can count by going through the alphabet 4 times, then just add four.”  She also suggested thinking of something you’re grateful for with each salute.  I decided to combine her two ideas for my practice.   

WOW!  What a vastly improved experience!  

A Little History on the Appeal

japamalaI have japa mala  (that rosary-like strand of beads hindus and yogis often don) hanging over my rearview mirror in my car.  A friend gifted them to me after visiting India just following his yoga teacher training a couple of summers ago.  I love the smell of the sandalwood beads, the idea of having a piece of the other side of the world (physically and culturally) in my mode of transportation, but mostly they hang in front of me as a reminder to feel gratitude.  When I’m anxious about rush hour traffic or whatever event I’m headed to, or I find a grey cloud of negative thoughts looming overhead, I grab the japa mala and think of something I’m grateful for with each bead my index finger and thumb roll over.  Sometimes I get through the whole strand, often just a portion, but regardless,

the exercise sets my intention and thoughts in a positive and calm place.

Last night I took that 108 gratitude count into my sun salutation.  It took a bit longer than just rubbing the beads (maybe 20 minutes with the beads, just over an hour for the salutations), but I found myself smiling, even laughing in my heart at times as I thought of different points that brighten my life.  The first time I ever tried this meditation was exhausting: physically and mentally.  It was really tough to stay focused and get all the way through.  This time, it flowed smoothly and sweetly.  

How I Structured My Gratitude Flow

My first two rounds I simply allowed concepts or ideas beginning with each letter of the alphabet to come: Appreciation, Balance, Compassion, etc.  

abcblocks

With each breath, I thought of ways I’m grateful for how that word has taken meaning in my life.  Thoughts like: “I’m grateful for the ability to feel appreciation.  To be appreciated and hear and learn that others appreciate me.  I’m grateful people can express appreciation to each other, and for the joy that fills our hearts when we allow the sense of appreciation to permeate through us…..”

My third round became body-focused, from feeling gratitude my dad was able to get a new hip and his surgery went well (for H), to mustaches (for M) and how I love to laugh and enjoy all the whimsical and funny ways they can be shaped.

For the fourth and final round I decided to name people who have impacted my life for good.  Old college friends I haven’t spoken to in years, teachers, family members, dear friends, the wonderful people flowing in the room with me, all were in my heart and hopefully getting little spirit hugs from me as I pondered how they have helped shape my life with their light.

gratefulpiglet Sometimes even thinking of the next idea in time was a little tricky, but something always came.   I felt such a sense of peace, joy, and calm as I honored this universe,  the guiding life force of season all around, and ideas, experiences, and people who edify the world around them.

If ever you feel so inclined for a truly cleansing and uplifting meditation, I invite you, with gratitude, to salute the sun.

Perhaps you will join me in Spring!

Namaste

Manifesting Your Magnificence

Brightly shining rays  

Masked by “should be’s” and “to-do’s”  

What will you peel off?

eclipse1

Do you realize how great you are?  How awesome your talents, passions, quirks and curiosities are that make you you?  For a long time, I didn’t.  I pined for compliments but struggled to actually let them in.  It wasn’t for a lack of love from others.  It’s just hard to feel love from outside  when you don’t accept yourself.  As I’ve worked towards appreciating and accepting who I am, it has helped to consider what traits I particularly value in myself and others, and letting those shine.

American yogi, Baron Baptiste, poses the question:

“What do you want to manifest?”

As I began to contemplate and journal about this, I pondered what manifest means.  How often is the term used as “how others perceive someone”?  Yet, consider for a moment, how manifesting something isn’t just acknowledged, but how it actually impacts people.

Looking at the sun, one might say it manifests light.  My perception is that I see light.  Yet my skin feels warmth.  Plants receive nourishment.  Your emotions can actually be lifted to a more cheerful state and alert/wakefulness is more prone to align with light than darkness.  These are just a few ways the sun’s light impacts us.  So…

 How could you make a difference in the world through what you emit?

Think of Gandhi, a human with true purpose and sense of self.  Can anyone know all the details of responsibilities he held, relationships he maintained, words he spoke?  Yet, consider how many people know what his sense of purpose was.  He was a bold human rights activist.  His life centered around bringing awareness to others that people with brown skin should be treated with the same liberties and respect as people with lighter colored pigmentation.  He manifested human dignity, progress through pacifism and equal rights.  These ideas were not just people’s perception of him.  These were the rays he spread, brightening the world so that others felt his passion and joined in the movement.  Change came to India, the British Empire and the world because one person, to start out, was willing to recognize and unabashedly share his passion.

gandhi

There was only one Gandhi.  I certainly don’t aim to replicate who he was and all he accomplished.  You and I can, however, decide what we want to manifest.  Day by day, with focus, we can hone in on how to shine with a sense of purpose.   We can peel away distractions, responsibilities we put on ourselves that aren’t really necessary, biases or prejudices, fears, habits and even addictions that prevent us from remembering, expressing and being what we truly want to be about.

So far, I’ve narrowed down that I want to manifest love.  I surmise that this yearning to share love is strong due to years of depression, self-loathing and a sense of inadequacy.  I know all too well what a lack of love feels like. I know many of us can relate by being in or having been through that lonely place.  So I want to give and facilitate for all people a sense of self-love, acceptance, and openness to feel the love of others.     That is what I wish to spread on the earth.

What do you want to share?

Taking or Giving: the earth?

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors,

We borrow it from our children.

-Native American Proverb

Image result for world in hands

Asteya is the Sanskrit term for “non-stealing”.  I was recently invited to consider this concept.  Initially my reflection was concise: I don’t steal, that’s pretty basic.  But with more consideration and reading about world events, I started to ponder the the proverb about borrowing the earth from our children.  The question arose:

Am I borrowing or stealing the earth from future generations?

How we treat the planet today impacts what is left in 5 years and 5 millennia.  This planet has an amazing way of healing itself and on top of that, ecological change is inevitable.  A volcanic eruption will cause far more harm to the air than all the driving you could possibly do in one lifetime.  And yet, does that dismiss the part you and I play, however small, in caring for the earth and its inhabitants?

We all have a different role to play in the grand scheme.  Each person makes a difference; at least to a few people, plants, perhaps even animals, you make a difference in the lives of those around you, as well as those  influenced by the people and creatures you impact.

How do you feel inclined to impact the planet?

Have you appreciated the crisp smell of the cooling air?  

Do you conserve energy by turning out lights when you leave a room?  

Will you grow herbs, flowers or a tree to clean the air and brighten the day of someone who passes your home on a grueling commute each day?

We aren’t all meant to be global activists to the extent of Vandana Shiva, but by listening to your inner truth –you may think of this as “following your gut reaction”– can bring out a little better version of yourself and help shape a world that is a bit more welcoming than you first found it.  

Will you remove a bit of its beauty or offer a brighter planet to those yet to come?