Category: stress management

Expanding the Heart

purple

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie” William Shakespeare

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” This quote from the children’s story, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, bears a universal truth. Love, connection to self and others, and a deeper understanding of life, creates peace and happiness. Last week, we looked at how life long learning benefits your body, mind, and spirit. Knowledge is like love; it springs from a sundry of sources and is obtained only when we are open to it. Schools and colleges provide fodder for your mind what about your heart; the seat of seeing the unseen, the understated, the unspoken. When you grow in wisdom, you learn how to see the world through the eyes of your heart center.

In modern society, you are encouraged to pursue an education and this is sound positive advice. There is a freedom in learning, but equally important is to not fall into spiritual complacency. When is the last time you let go of fear and danced into the day or stopped to admire the cloud formations? Perhaps you have everything you could possibly ask for and still find yourself disgruntled or hungry for more meaning and inspiration in your life.

Like the brain, our heart is an organ but it also literally and figuratively, transports the life force that courses through us. How do we learn to access and increase these subtle energies? First, by being mindful, present in each moment. Naturally this takes time and practice as well as learning ancient and contemporary philosophies that offer guidance and insights. There are thousands of books and websites that can help enlighten us.

Other ways to enhance your spirituality are to tune inward to the energetic fields within. Perhaps read about the chakras, the seven subtle energy centers that when working together create a sense of balance and harmony. Take an active role in raising your consciousness through meditation, positive affirmations, and healing therapies such as acupuncture, sound vibration, and Reiki. By educating our inner selves we begin to peel the layers of fear or negativity away. When we learn to empower our hearts we toss out the stories that keep us paralyzed and separate from our true self. The self that is not influenced by social expectations or age or status in life.

Learning how the lattice work of invisible energies influence your life, can raise your awareness and help you heal the heart. Trying cultivating a mindful attitude towards the inner selves that are at play within you. Respectfully acknowledge these varying energies and explore the many ways that offer healing. For example, if you feel chronically tired, perhaps the fatigue stems not from the physical but rather from a sense of spiritual depletion. Your heart feels heavy, maybe try taking quiet moments throughout the day to acknowledge your spirit, to let it feast on a positive mantra or reading.

Let go of the kinetic call of multi-tasking, look at how you can simplify your life to carve out more time for sitting in stillness or to pray or meditate, to literally reconnect with the energies/spirit within. To listen to the inner voices calling for more love and less anger. Look for the answers by going inward. Yoga is a wonderful practice that combines the healing of mind, body, spirit. There are hundreds of different styles to choose from. Or maybe read a book on energy medicine or the Tibetan healing through sound. Explore the different spiritual practices that may resonate with you.

Whatever route calls you home to your heart, follow it to find the bliss that comes from learning the language of love, which over and over again will guide you to a more fulfilling life.


Laura Baker is my guest Blogger: Through this blog she hopes to help others with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The Best Tips On Dealing With Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder affects about five percent of Americans, leaving them with a feeling of sadness during fall and winter months that won’t abate until the weather gets warm again. The symptoms can be intense; feelings of depression, an increased appetite (which can trigger a loss of self esteem), lowered energy, an inability to think clearly or focus, substance abuse, and a major change in sleep habits; yet many people are unaware of just how much people who live with SAD are affected, shrugging it off as “the blues” or something that can be easily overcome.

For most, it’s not the simple. If you suffer from SAD, it’s important to be familiar with some easy tips on how to cope with it during the hardest weeks of the year. Here’s how to get started.

Modify your home

Your home is where you go to feel safe, comfortable, and stress-free, so it’s important to make sure it works in your favor where Seasonal Affective Disorder is concerned. Paint the walls with bright colors, or decorate with colorful artwork. Use sheer curtains or light-filtering mini blinds to allow as much natural light to come in, especially in the most-used living spaces. On sunny days, try to get outside if possible and soak up the vitamin D.

Practice self-care

Taking good care of yourself is essential when a disorder makes life harder. Do something that makes you feel good, such as indulging in a pedicure or massage, as often as possible. Eat right–dark, leafy greens, nuts, fish, and berries are a great start–and get in daily exercise. It might help to get up a little earlier than normal to take advantage of all the daylight you can, since the days are shorter in colder months.

Get health-conscious

Making your health a priority is always important, but never more so than when you suffer from a disorder that can affect your sleeping and eating habits. Talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement and make sure you get adequate rest while still leaving several hours in the day to get things done. It’s tempting to go to bed early when it gets dark at six p.m., but that won’t lead to productivity. Build a DIY home gym so you can stay busy, or invest your time in a hobby such as woodworking or crafting.

Spend time with animals

This might seem like an odd way to ward off depression, but animals have actually been proven to significantly benefit our mental health. The unconditional love we get from our pets is especially beneficial. If you have a pet, make a point to spend some extra time playing or cuddling with them when your SAD kicks into high gear. If you don’t have a pet, find other ways to get some quality time with a four-legged friend. For example, you might become a pet sitter or offer to take a friend’s pooch to the dog park.

Get creative

Even if you’ve never felt particularly creative, it’s a good idea to mine those feelings of sadness for a spark of something else. Write in a journal, paint, sing, or play a musical instrument. Think of what makes you the happiest and give it a try; you never know what might come out. In fact, most types of art expression are a very valid form of expression and are used to help individuals with PTSD, disabilities, and depression all the time.

If none of those sounds appealing, try keeping a journal. Writing down your feelings and thoughts every day can be helpful and will allow you to vent.

20101231_0662


Return to Love Again & Again

DSCN4710

The Beatles popularized the phrase, “All you need is love” and to some this may sound trite or over simplified, but it is based literally on ancient philosophical truths. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, Darkness cannot drive out darknessonly light can do thatHate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Do you ever feel overwhelmed navigating through a world that sometimes feels hollow and made of steel emotionally? How do you cultivate love when confronted with bigotry and misogyny or any other misguided negative attitude? Returning to the essence of love within you will stave off the blues and keep your heart healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

How do we define love? There are a plethora of loves; love of country, love of an activity, love for yourself or a friend, love of family, love between two partners. In other words, what type of love are we talking about here? Philosophical love, love that transcends the limitations of our inner and outer worlds. Love that acknowledges others and never acquiesces to hatred. My grandmother used to say, “Never say never.” And she was right, there are travesties that are so appalling, it is easy for the seed of hate to flourish. Yet, even then, if you are consumed with hatred, like a small grass fire gone awry, the consequences are devastating.

The Greeks, who defined six different kinds of love, called this universal love Agape. Eventually Agape was translated in Latin to caritas, which became the origin of the word charity. In the Theravada Buddhist tradition this is called mettā or “universal loving kindness” All spiritual traditions and practices address this type of love. How do you apply this kind of love to your everyday life without feeling fake or put on? Like most things, it takes conscious practice and willingness to journey inward. You don’t need to conform to any one particular spirituality, in fact, I urge you to explore: “It is proper for you to doubt .. do not go upon report .. do not go upon tradition..do not go upon hearsay.” (Buddha, Kalama Sutra).   In other words, it’s essential to survey and study that which resonates with you. There is a banquet of philosophies on love to choose from. Find quotes that speak to your heart, keep them close to you when you need a little bolster.

Practical ways to develop a loving heart is to learn about yourself and others. The more we know and love ourselves the easier it is to open a closed fist and to reach out. For example, if I am in a grumpy mood one day and someone does a kind deed, opens a door for me, this will soften my edge. This act of loving kindness then has a ripple effect spreading out into the world. One person, you, us, can make a difference. We all have the capacity to allow love to grow our empathy for others. We may be unable to reach everyone, but like that old Chinese proverb says, “you climb a mountain one step at a time.” It has been physiologically proven that putting on a smile, when you’re feeling unhappy, changes the chemistry of your blood; all of the stress hormones drop. One simple practice can change a negative into a positive and that positive fosters love.

You may never know the impact your love and generosity has on the world. I once heard a tale about a Holy man who lived in a very small village. He asked God why he couldn’t be moved to bigger more prominent place where his work could touch thousands more than this small community he was stuck in as the spiritual leader. But alas, the man carried on his good deeds for years and eventually died, never having been relocated from his village. When he met the Sustainer he asked why this was? Then, he was shown all of the people he inadvertently helped and how they went on to help others and so on. This story stuck with me. It reflects that part of us that wants to be recognized and rewarded. It reminds me that an act of love, kindness or generosity by definition expects no reward. The act is the reward.

Stories such as those remind us over and over that the power of love can impact our world. Love guides us during duress; it is a road map that can lead us to safe shores when we feel lost or confused. That we do have a choice and that our chosen weapon to dissolve hatred is loving kindness.

 


Connect Within

sunset

The unfolding of a new year gives us a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with ourselves, that part within we perhaps call spirit or essence. As we take stock of our physical health, it is equally as valuable to get a psyche check-up, to quietly enter that realm of your being that is unique authentic, unspoiled. You may ask the questions: Where am I on my journey? Does the direction I am moving in match my intention? You may also contemplate your life’s purpose, which may be many folds. To realize yourself more fully takes courage and reflection.

Once you take the time to travel inward, stay for a bit. Clear away all of the stresses and influences that don’t really represent your true feelings or passions. How can you simplify? What practices can you begin that will move you closer to the vision of your best self?

Science tells us it takes twenty-one days to create a habit. What positive habit do you want to implement into your life? For example, maybe you want to stop reaching for your phone or device first thing in the morning. You would prefer to start your day reading reflective material to set an encouraging tone for you day. Place the materiel you want to read where your phone would have been, do this for 21 days and reap the rewards. Connecting within will help you realize these missing bits of your life that can have a profoundly positive impact.

Begin to listen to your inner voices, those aspects of you that may feel neglected. The artist, the writer, the reader, the contemplative. Modern society has most of us conditioned to keep moving, we are sold the idea that stopping for an inner break costs too much time and money. Saadi of Shiraz one of the major Persian poets and influential literary men of the medieval period wrote: 

Things that come easy don’t last long

In China it took forty years to make a porcelain bowl,

while a hundred a day pour out of a kiln in Baghdad.

Which is worth more?

A chick fresh out of the egg pecks its own food,

while an infant remains helpless for many years.

The first never raises its gaze from the ground,

while the second can find stars and galaxies within.

In other words, exploring your values in your inner life takes time; there is no app to click or short cut, which is why we often call life a journey. By checking in, you see how your navigation is going. Have you gotten off course or has your desired destination changed, altered with the wisdom of time? Similar to a marriage or relationship with a partner, to keep it healthy you need to hear one another. It is the same with the self.

How then do you go about connecting within? How do we practice presence from that heart space all of us have? One simple suggestion is to carve out time for stillness. Rather than pile more on your daily to do list, take something off and replace it with meditation. If you are allergic to the word meditation, you can talk a walk, without your headphones. Or if you live in the city, walk with quiet lulling thoughtful music that beckons your inner thoughts. Listen a little less to news. A fifteen-minute reflection can refuel your commitment to living a life that you yearn for rather than feeling as though your destiny is in the hands of others. Read reflective books and let the works marinate into your psyche. We often over expose ourselves to harsh corrosive stimuli, how about swapping that out for books, podcasts or CD’s that support our inner growth?

As 2017 evolves, give yourself the gift of time. Time for inner perspective to hug that person waving from the vista of your true self and enjoy the delightful discoveries that shape your life’s happiness and purpose.

 


The Magic of Music

There are times in life when challenges on our time and resources exceed our ability to satisfy them. This affects our moods and feelings and often we do not realize that we have a choice over what we feel. We know that our thoughts are the wellspring of both. However, there is another way to change our moods and feelings. Music. Music has the power to restore your body, mind, and spirit. It is mystical, spiritual and has extraordinary effects on the brain.

You don’t have to go to music therapy to reap the benefits of music. Author and composer, Elena Mannes, found that “scientists have discovered that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function.”   Think about when you hear a particular song or score that takes you back in time or generates a strong emotion. When you feel deprived of time to reflect or need a haven to slip away to, turn on the tunes and rekindle the magic of music.

Music works on the autonomic nervous system – the part of the nervous system that regulates blood pressure, heartbeat and brain function. When you listen to soothing sounds, there is a physical reaction, your blood pressure drops and your heart rate slows. Music also influences the limbic system, the center that controls emotions. When you play slow rhythmic music, your muscles release tension, you breathe easier and your mind relaxes; a no side effect prescription for creating a sense of calm.

There are a plethora of benefits music provides; scientists found that when people listen to slow musical beats their brain waves mimic that of a person meditating. Using music as a therapy for quieting the mind also works on children. As parents, you may feel exasperated at times by the barrage of stimuli your children endure. Try playing soft soothing tunes to your child when they are doing their homework or are acting out. You may find playing this type of music with your child also helps both of you focus. With the calming effect of music, your mind can zone in on completing a task, without getting frustrated or anxious.

When your energy is depleted and you need a boost or if you are feeling overcome from the doldrums of daily living, try playing music. Music is multifaceted, in that it also has the power to ease depression and to elevate your mood. It increases the release of dopamine in the brain (the feel good hormone) that produces a sense of happiness and well-being. Researchers have found that the genre of music that you listen to does matter. Classical and meditative songs were the most beneficial; heavy metal and techno music can actually make depression worse. Only twenty minutes of listening can uplift your mood and help give you a new, lighter perspective on life.

Cultural music is another way to reconnect with the world around you. Often it matters little that you may not understand the words. The tempo and lure of the emotions behind a song can set you soaring. It stimulates the imagination and contributes to creativity. For children, this can be a wonderful lesson of the universal language of music or a reminder of their own unique heritage.

There are wonderful new ways to discover music now. Pandora, Spotify, even YouTube all offer free listening and you can select a genre that suits your needs. Perhaps this is the day you re-discover your love of music. Play a favorite song and sing along or let go; dance in the living room and revel in music’s beautiful ability to connect us to others and ourselves.music 2


Moving Forward

traintracks

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.” Albert Einstein.

For most of us, the onset of a new year brings a renewed sense of starting over, clearing the slate, recommitting to change. You may revel in the accomplishments of the bygone year while lamenting over losses or achievements left unfulfilled. Perhaps you are experiencing a lingering weariness from the holidays and getting back on track seems a bit arduous. How do we find that balance of relishing what has passed while keeping the faith for what is yet to come? In other words, how can we refuel our ability to move forward?

Take an honest look at all the challenges you have faced thus far and give yourself an enormous pat on the back. We do this for others with ease, but when it comes to acknowledging our own successes, the list is often skimpy. Recall the days you were tired but cared for your family despite the fatigue or the extra efforts you made for a friend or a colleague. Remember your new habit of drinking more water or eating less sugar or breathing before reacting. Success is the sum of all the small steps you take along the way. Honor yourself for the courage it took to overcome life’s hurdles. When we remind ourselves of our unique victories, no matter how large or small, we renew our conviction to infinite potential and possibility.

Evaluate your definition of what constitutes being a successful person. Are integrity and kindness factored in? Moving forward sometimes means taking some time to examine your values and goals. Do you yearn for more meditative time or a less hectic lifestyle? Then moving forward may mean subtracting; and taking out the tedious nonessentials that keep you from achieving that goal. As the saying goes, less is more. Substituting the urge to acquire more things for the desire to simplify or de-clutter may free up time for creative endeavors. Perhaps moving forward means loosening the reins of controlling a loved one. The side effect is more time to be present in your own life to be free from judgements and expectations that don’t belong to you.

Believe that change can happen. Human beings are dynamic, our cells are continually rejuvenating themselves. If you took a MRI of your body today and another in a few months, they would look different. A close friend of mine has a favored quote “the one thing we can rely on is change.” It happens whether we want it or not. Choose to be an active participant in the kind of change that shapes your life in the way you envision it.

Moving forward means developing patience and steadfastness. When you read about a writer celebrating their award winning novel or a teacher being rewarded for their contributions, what lies under the surface is the years of plodding ahead with no reward in sight. There is no such thing as an overnight sensation, despite what the tabloids may have us believe. Every stride towards being a whole individual is a step towards creating a meaningful life.

Remember, it is never too late to hop on the train and travel to your next destination. No matter your age or circumstance, you have the innate ability to change, to move forward. Each day we are given a new opportunity to start again. And although you may have setbacks, perhaps they are simply necessary rest stops to peer back over the terrain you’ve crossed until that next whistle blows and onward you go.


Self-Care

Winter for many is a time when colds and flus become a menace in our lives. If this is true for you then finding ways to stay conscious of what your body is telling you is paramount. Notice things like if you feel more tired than usual, or a tiny tickle in your throat, as such observations and treating them can be the difference between having a cold and it developing into flu.

Many of us are taught not to trust our bodies. If you listen, your body will tell you when it is time to slow down. Often we wait until someone of authority such as a doctor or our mother tells us to rest or to take a preventative homeopathic remedy, rather than thinking of it ourselves. By listening to our bodies and trusting in them we begin to take better care of ourselves. By being more aware of our bodies we may prevent or lessen the impact of the colds and flus we encounter during the winter season or any season.

Self-care is a lifestyle; it incorporates daily habits to ensure that you are taking time for yourself in the best possible ways – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Some ideas on how to enrich your practice of self-care on a daily basis:

  • Every morning set your alarm early to allow for 10-20 minutes of meditation.
  • Following your meditation do a quick body scan. This will allow you to hear what your body has to say.
  • Mindfulness will help you slow down and notice the details around you and within you. Once you are more aware, you might notice that tickle in your throat before it becomes a cough. For example: Every time you touch your phone, think about that phone. What color is it, what is the shape, how does it feel against your hand? Doing this will help you be in the moment every time you touch your phone. Eventually this will begin to occur naturally with other things or events as well.
  • Unplug! Sleep better and leave your devices outside of the bedroom at night.
  • Exercise in whatever way appeals to you. Walk, dance, swim, yoga, the gym. Do something, even if it’s for 10 minutes in your living room. Exercise increases blood flow.
  • Make small changes to create a healthy diet. Establish a routine for meals. Drink more water.
  • Take power naps. 10 to 20 minutes once or twice a day.
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine in the evening and plan for 7-8 hours of sleep. Your body will tell you how many hours you need, listen to it.

               catcleaning“Make yourself a priority in your life. Afterall, it’s your life.” Akiroq Brost


Making & Keeping Resolutions

As we round the corner to 2017, you may be formulating a list of resolutions, changes you want to implement for your life in the New Year. In January, gyms and yoga studios are stampeded with new clients eager to forge a healthier lifestyle and by February the throngs subside. What is it that stops you from keeping promises to yourself? Are there tools that can help you swap out a bad habit for a more life affirming one? The answer is a resounding yes! Let’s take a look at a few ideas that may help you stay on course to keeping resolutions.

Abraham Lincoln was once quoted as saying; “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”  In other words, don’t be deterred by the road bumps. When the excitement of creating the resolutions fades and you have to face the day-to-day commitment, think about the idea of succeeding rather than the tasks. Each small step towards achieving your goals is a leap in the fulfillment of your personal promises to yourself.

Examine areas in your life you want to change. Are you unhappy in a relationship, are you harboring resentments for choosing the path you are on? Clearly identify what it is in your life that you want to change. Explore with yourself if it is spiritual, emotional, or physical as the more specific you are the easier it is to follow through. Imagine a person presenting a business plan to you without explaining how to get from point A to B to C: their message will be muddled and unclear. Specificity allows us to better create steps that will carry us closer to our success. If being a writer is your goal, important first steps are defining what kind of writing fiction or non-fiction and whom your target audience will be. The more you hone in on the particulars, the easier it is achieve your goal.

Remember the Chinese proverb that to climb a mountain you take one step at a time. Set reasonable resolutions that you can reinforce with positive incremental achievements. Create measurable ways to reward yourself for the small goals you attain along the way. Think back to all of the accomplishments in your life, most of them happened over time. Be patient with yourself and keep moving along in the desired direction. Before you know it, you’ll be at the top of the mountain relishing your successes!snowflake57th_edited-2-1 

Try to keep your resolution list limited in order to ensure success. Many times in our quest for positive change we pile unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Set realistic timelines for yourself. For example if one of your resolutions is to find a new job, you may start by establishing a set date to complete or revise your resume. The next step may be to increase your contacts by joining affiliations or groups that have a common interest.

Often when one year ends and another begins, we reflect back on the positives as well as the challenges. All of these experiences leave us better prepared to move forward. The New Year symbolically lets us wipe the slate clean and begin anew with verve and renewed hope. These simple suggestions give you concrete ways to make and keep those 2017 resolutions. May the New Year bring you joy and happiness!
 

 

 

 


On Being Single during the Holidays

20101231_0744

The holidays, while they may bring joy, also bring certain people who we do not see much other times of the year. Those relatives, acquaintances and sometimes friends who ask the inevitable question, “Why isn’t a nice girl like you married?” – or some variant of that inquiry.

You are good with yourself and you know it. You like yourself, you like your independence. But sometimes deep inside you may wonder the same thing. Every Holiday Season is another marker of the passage of time. “Will it ever happen?” you ask yourself. Innocent questions by often loving and well meaning relatives make us wonder the same thing. “Why am I alone?” and with that question comes doubts. “Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I will never meet the right person.” The most important thing is to keep this thought from running rampant in your head.

The fact is you may not find the “right” person, at this moment in time. The “right” person may be in your life now, but you have to see him through a different lens, perhaps you can become more open to meeting people who may not look on the outside the way you had envisioned them. Perhaps, like my friend Lori, you will meet your soul mate when you are 47 after completing your PhD and working for years at a successful career.

Or, you could be a Florence Nightingale, Jane Austen, Coco Chanel, Clara Barton, Mary Cassatt, Luisa May Alcott, DNA Pioneer Rosalind Franklin, or Queen Latifah … to name just a few strong, talented women who have made their mark on the world living as independent, fulfilled, single women.

We really can choose the way we perceive our lives, and our perception changes the way the world around us reacts to us. Many people are unhappily married – many have wonderful relationships, just as there are many folks who are happily single and others unhappily single. One thing we can control is choosing to be happy, regardless of our relationship status.

Being single during the holidays, you join the majority of the population of the United States. In 2014, 50.2% of the population 16 and older were single as compared with 37.4% in 1976. You are not alone!

How can you shake those single holiday blues?

  • Say yes to every invitation! Even if you stay for 30 minutes, get moving and get out. You never know whom you will meet. It could be a guy, it could be a new best friend, a lead on a cool apartment or job for the New Year.
  • Whether serving meals at a shelter or collecting used coats among friends and coworkers for the needy, or helping your next-door neighbor shovel his walk, you can make a difference. Look around, you will see opportunities large and small. Do something … even if it’s just sharing a smile.
  • Contact old friends or reach out to someone new. Sharing a cup of coffee or glass of wine is a great way to feel socially connected. 20101231_0744

Whether the questions about your relationship status from that friend or relative is “well meaning” or not, if you don’t want to share, switch the topic of conversation back to them. Everyone likes to talk about themselves … now is the time to capitalize on that!


Creating a Sanctuary

p1020810

During the stress of election time, have you found yourself overwhelmed or burned out by the onslaught of newsflashes? The chronic barrage of updates and social media stories can leave you feeling frustrated, sad, or helpless. Do you ever fantasize about escaping to a simpler less hectic way of life? One way to cope and tune out is to create a sanctuary where you can retreat and restore your sense of balance and inner harmony.

What is a sacred space? A sanctuary is a sacred space; it is a uniquely personal place that you carve out to reconnect with stillness. A place that rejuvenates your nervous system and allows you to calm and center your energy. This can be a physical place or an imaginary space that with practice, you can access anywhere.
If you have room to establish a small area dedicated for meditation or quiet time, try decorating it with relaxing photos of your favorite spots: perhaps pictures of nature; oceans, forests, sunsets, or hiking areas with waterfalls that you can place around you. Fill your sanctuary with objects that encourage you to travel within. If room is an issue, make it portable; set the serenity stage then dismantle it when you’re done. Taking the time to carve out a sanctuary sends strong permission signals allowing your body and mind to honor quiet time.

Light candles, play soft soothing music and if need be, set a timer; even fifteen minutes can make an enormous difference. A sanctuary supports your efforts to drop inward to quiet the outside chatter, relieve stress and to approach life with a clearer, calmer mindset. Imagine if you never recharged your phone or computer? Creating a sacred space reboots your nervous system and disempowers fear and anxiety.
The idea of opening up and closing down is like the very beating of our heart; the chambers open and close, both are necessary to sustain life.

Rumi, the famous 13th century Persian Poet, noted.

Just look at your hand
closing the fist always proceeds opening it.
A hand that is always opened or closed,
is a crippled hand.
So your heart also contracts and expands,
just like a bird needs to close and open
it’s wings to fly.

Shutting out the world allows you to open to your inner self. It takes you back to the you, unaffected or categorized by titles. There in the quiet chambers of your being you are free uninhibited by age, illness, or the past.

Although multitasking is rewarded these days, it has detrimental effects on our ability to focus. Taking time to cultivate a sanctuary can boost your mental and physical well-being. If there simply is no room to create a physical space, then create one in your mind’s eye. Get comfy on the bed or sofa or throw pillows on the floor and close your eyes. Begin to imagine a place where you feel calm, secure, in harmony with nature; a sandy beach with a slight breeze, the warm sun on your back. Or in the mountains surrounded by autumn leaves and a babbling brook. Wherever your place is, close your eyes and create the sensory details, the smells and sounds; perhaps play nature sounds on your computer or phone. YouTube has a plethora of these kinds of soothing symphonies from the ocean to a crackling campfire.

Once you’ve created a place in your mind’s eye, focus on your breathing. Slow your inhales and exhales to the count of five, this is guaranteed to induce relaxation. If you have set a timer, release any lingering concerns about time. Stay in your sacred space as long as you need and let tension and stress dissolve. In time and with practice, this inner haven can offer you solace whenever or wherever you need to drop in for a visit.
As the days grow shorter and the animals prepare for hibernation, we too can slow down, settle in, and relish in the safety of your sacred sanctuary.