When life starts feeling hard…

When life starts feeling hard…

The past year has held many ups and downs in my personal life – as I’m sure many of you have experienced too.  I recently had a moment of clarity regarding what has worked very well for me during times of challenge.  It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time and it graciously came flowing out of my pen this morning.  I love a good free writing practice!  I am sharing this because when I practice viewing my life through this lens, it can keep me from sinking into a dark downward spiral and it may be helpful for someone else too. winter-320940_1280

When life feels hard and crushing (because in this human life, if we are honest, we can all feel that way sometimes) – practice noticing bits of joy and beauty – sparkles of love and connection.

Embrace those moments, no matter how small they seem.  This will help you ride the waves of hardship and keep you connection to the light alive.  Gather all of the goodness that is present in your life.  Don’t let it slip by you unnoticed.

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It is there – in a kind smile from a stranger – the loving brush of your hand over your own face in the morning – catching your favorite scent in the air – snuggling under a blanket with a warm cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate – listening and feeling listened to – holding someones hand.

Practice noticing these moments, even in the midst of hard and sad.  Do not be discouraged.  Everything gets easier with practice.

I wish you many moments of love, connection and joy this holiday season!

Martha

Why I am awesome (and you are too!)

Why I am awesome (and you are too!)

I recently tried a written exercise from the lovely Molly Mahar at Stratejoy to write in 250 words or less why I am awesome.  I highly recommend that everyone give this a try.  I can hear some of the critical thoughts popping up – Why spend time to do this?  It sounds simple or frivolous or narcissistic.  I would suggest that it is quite the opposite of those things.

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Being able to honestly think about and put into words what is awesome about myself was not simple.  It required some very real introspection and evaluation of who I am and what I value… and then checking in with whether I am actually living my values most of the time.  I have learned a lot from the experience already and I have a feeling I am just beginning to unpack a portion of the lessons available from this practice.  I will tell you more about all the goodness I have been learning shortly.

The idea that me recognizing my own awesomeness (or you recognizing yours) is narcissistic is just not true.  When people are deeply self-focused in ways that are not helpful to themselves or the larger community it is not out of an abundance of self love and recognition of awesomeness.  Most times it is a lack of true self love and acceptance.  It is an external seeking of validation that can only come from within.  When I am aware of how awesome I am, I feel it deep down inside every little cell like sunshine is radiating out of me.  It is easy to see that when I feel that good, it is much easier for me to notice and appreciate what is awesome about other people – and that when I feel like a pile of $h!t it is much harder to see anything good about myself, others or anything… because I’m stuck in my own $h!t wearing $h!t colored glasses.

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So why sit in $h!t when you can get on the train to Awesometown in 250 words or less?  That length was the original stipulation for the assigned submission I was writing for, though you could go shorter or longer if you like.  I will share my process with you to help get you started on your own list or essay on why you are awesome!  I began by sitting in a quiet space and breathing (if you do better with music, more power to you!  I’m a quiet or I get distracted kinda gal) to get centered.  On paper with a pen (I feel like this part of actually writing it out is important, especially at the beginning), I began to write words – single words and groups of words – that express why I am awesome.  I intentionally omitted words about roles (who I am in relation to family members, by chosen profession, etc) and went more with qualities.  I wanted to look more at who I am underneath all the roles.

After a while, I started to think about how I would like to hear from other people about why they think I am awesome in order to get an outside perspective… so I asked my friends on Facebook to tell me why they think I’m awesome.  The idea of hitting “post” to that particular question made me a bit nervous, I have to admit.  It felt bold, daring and vulnerable to ask for feedback on why I am awesome.  I intentionally made my own list first so that whatever responses I got would not color my self-perception too strongly.  I was really interested to see if any common themes emerged, or if what I think is awesome about myself would be the same types of things that others find awesome about me.  The feedback was so kind and overwhelming!

As I watched my friends generously compliment me and shower me with love it felt good.  Like really good!  It’s that thing where even when you know people like you it still always feels good to hear it?  I got that same feeling when I refined my own written reasons of why I’m awesome.  Whether in our relationship with self or others, no one likes to feel invisible and taken for granted.  I know I love myself and think I’m awesome – and it’s still productive and good to remind myself that I do love me and precisely why.

I decided before I posted my ask, that anyone who took the time out of their day to help me out with this question would get a short letter or post from me telling them why I think they are awesome.  Then another remarkable thing happened.  I began posting what I think is awesome about many of my friends and family members.  Immediately, other friends jumped right in and continued listing things that they find awesome about that person.  There was a beautiful outpouring of love for that person.  It happened so easily and without any direct prompting that I began wondering what makes us hold all of this love and admiration inside?   Why did it require someone taking a chance to express it and then recognizing all we have to say it all comes tumbling out?  What if I made it a practice to tell myself that I love me and why?  What if I made it a practice to tell people around me that I love them and why?

This experience of giving and receiving gratitude and love made me remember a tradition that I participated in (and still happens) at my high school, Villa Maria Academy.  My high school experience was not perfect or idyllic (as I imagine many people may be able to relate), and yet it was still beautiful and marked with gorgeous ritual and tradition like Mary’s Day.  Mary’s Day began with breakfast, a mass with a coronation of Mary, and after mass when you returned to your homeroom, receiving letters from your friends about how much they love you and why you are special to them.  Mary’s day took a lot of preparation.  We would begin writing letters, often weeks in advance, and stay up late to try to get as many as possible completed before that morning.  I’m sure there was a whole crew responsible for sorting and distributing all of those letters, although I never gave that much thought at the time.  If you were a part of that crew, thank you so very much!

When we all came back from the Mary’s Day mass to our homeroom, there were piles of letters on everyone’s desk to read while we ate breakfast (and generally had a love-fest with all the people in our homeroom).  These letters were from friends, acquaintances, faculty and staff.  It was an opportunity to really share with people what you love and appreciate about them – and to receive that love from the people around you.  As a learning experience about connection, gratitude and how to both give and receive love – it was both fascinating and fabulous.

I invite you to try out whatever part of this reflection feels meaningful and accessible to you right now.  If you are game for some self-reflection about why you are awesome, please dive in!  I would love to hear about what you come up with.  Feel free to post words, phrases or your whole dang experience in the comments… be brave!  I double dog dare you to brag on yourself!

If exploring your awesomeness brings up resistance or negative self-talk, please let yourself feel the feelings, detach from those stories and then actually look at them… perhaps also look at where they come from and what feeds them.  Also, as with any thought, question if they are true.  If you aren’t familiar with The Work of Byron Katie, this can be a great place to start examining identification with thoughts and limiting beliefs.  In the event that everything isn’t all sparkles and unicorns right away that doesn’t mean that the exercise isn’t “working for you” or isn’t worthwhile.  It can be very helpful to identify ways that you are blocking yourself from owning how amazing you are – and then finding ways to shift those patterns.

The other half of this invitation is that after you have started with yourself (always start with you – you can’t serve from an empty cup, always put your own oxygen mask on first, yada yada yada – you get the picture), take this expression of love and gratitude to other people in your life.  When was the last time you wrote a love letter to your partner/parent/child/sibling/friend?  When was the last time you told the people you work with that you appreciate them and why you think they are fabulous?  The next time you think warmly about someone in your life, let them know.  Even better, let them know in specific detail about all of the ways they are amazing and how grateful you are to know them.  If we all engaged in these practices of giving and receiving love and gratitude more often, how would our lives and our world be different?

As always, please let me know if you give this experiment a try and how it goes in the comments.  I am excited to hear about how you are awesome and to see your bravery and radical self-love.

Love,

Martha

 

 

 

How to be Your Own Valentine, Every Day

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 How to be Your Own Valentine, Every Day

Since it’s February now, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on one of my favorite holidays.  Valentine’s Day is a holiday that many people feel strongly about for a multitude of reasons.  Here is the reason why Valentine’s Day is important to me and why I try to be my own valentine every day.

Valentine’s Day is a day devoted to reminding us all about LOVE in our life.  Before anyone gets too excited about it being a Hallmark holiday, an excuse to spend lots of money or a silly redundant waste of time because we should show people that we love them every day, let me clarify.  Should we show people that we love them?  Probably.  I am reluctant to use the “should” word here (or ever), because as Admiral Ackbar says in Star Wars, “it’s a trap”.  I do think that we would all feel much better if choosing to show love to those around us was a daily intention and practice.  I also think we would all feel much better if we allowed ourselves to rest in the embrace of our own love.

Valentine’s Day is like every other holiday.  You can celebrate it in whatever fashion you choose that fits your own life, budget and values.  You can choose to not celebrate at all.  You don’t have to buy anything if you don’t want to.  You can BUY ALL THE THINGS if you want to.  You can focus your awareness and celebration on romantic love, self love, familial love, the love between friends or that fact that we are all love incarnate.

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If you do choose to celebrate, here are some simple ways that you can show love to yourself on Valentine’s Day or any day…

 

Take a relaxing and romantic bath!

Light some candles, add some bath salts and botanicals or essential oils.  Get the water temperature just right.  Turn on any music or soothing sounds that feel good.  Relax and enjoy!

 

Body work/Energy work!

Touch can be sensual (as in a sensory experience), sexual or both and there are healthy and appropriate times for both in a person’s life.  This is something you can do for yourself (as in self foot massage), do with a partner, or invest in hiring a professional body worker to do for you.  Touch is so therapeutic, whether it is intentional loving self touch or touch from another.  Think about what is already in your self-care toolbox as well as considering different modalities that you may not have tried before.  Some of my favorites include massage, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and healing touch.

 

Feed yourself!

Prepare an excellent delicious and healthy meal for yourself or take yourself out for a meal!  Nourish your body through your food choices.

 

Move your body with love!

Find an activity that lights you up inside.  You will know what it is for you.  More important than what the movement looks like on the outside is how it feels to you on the inside and why you are doing it.  This may be dance, martial arts, yoga, Pilates, running, lifting heavy things… really anything that makes you feel alive and connected to your own brilliant physical presence.  Experience the joy that comes from moving your body with love in ways that feel good to you!

 

Take yourself on a date!

Is there a movie you want to see?  An art class you want to take?  A beautiful hike you want to enjoy?  Do it!  You don’t have to wait around for anyone else to start living the life you have imagined.  As an added side benefit, you may also meet interesting people who share your interests and passions by being bold enough to follow your own.

Share the love!

If you are looking to spread love to others and feel love in return, a suggestion would be to visit a nursing care facility and visit with some of the residents.  This is a great way to feel connected to others and to share your love as a gift!

 

Do you have any favorite ways that you like to show yourself love?  Share your ideas and helpful tips in the comment section below.

 

Take care and much love,

Martha