Get Out of your Mind and Come to Your Senses

In May I attended a Wild Women Retreat Through the Eyes of The Horse, facilitated by Dragonfly Healing and Harmony Hills Natural Horse Facility. Every year I pick a retreat where I can rest, reflect and re-evaluate.

I need to identify where I am going, and if I am asking the right questions. And, most of all, I go to reset my nervous system. Our guides were Corinna Stevenson, Dragon Healing B, Ed. MATP- Ecopsychology, and Kari Bowser, B.A., Licensed Parelli Professional, two-star.

Over two and a half days, we were shown the “fox walk,” experienced clearing-the-mind meditation, and how to choose a sit spot, showing us that when you slow down your mind gets quieter.

Once quiet we were invited to ask and journal about the following questions…

  • What is my joy?
  • What is my love?
  • What is my fear?
  • What is my connection?
  • What do I crave?
  • What do I seek?
  • What does it mean to surrender?
  • How do I stand in my truth?
  • What is my medicine?
  • What does it mean to belong?
  • What is my confusion?
  • What is my next step?

Great questions, right? How often are we reacting to life instead of responding to the insights revealed in asking those questions?

Once we completed this reflection exercise, we came back to the circle for debriefing and sharing. The conversation around grief was very impactful.

“Grief sits on the pedestal of Beauty. You have grief because you care deeply about something. Beauty and grief are sisters,” says Corinna Stevenson. How wonderful to embrace grief—something we generally associate with misery and pain—in such an insightful way.

Next, Kari invited us to walk through the Harmony Hill’s herd without disturbing the herd’s energy… asking permission, stopping to check in with our own energy-reset to match the herd. How often we only have our own agenda. It is a true gift to connect with the big, beautiful creatures by asking, setting boundaries, and being curious.

Corinna shared “The School of Lost Boarders 4 Shield Model,” (http://schooloflostborders.org/content/four-shields-wholeness-excerpts-four-shields-initiatory-seasons-human-nature-lost-borders-pr) and shared the gifts of the Feminine, which are creation, cleansing, change, and unconditional love. The four gifts of the Masculine: student, teacher, provider, and protector.

Our parting gift, made by the facilitators, were bracelets created from hairs gifted from each horse, as reminders of the weekend, which exceeded my expectations. The clean food that was served gave us a mega-dose of vitality and sustenance, and the love and nurturing connections (people /horses) and environment were beautiful and meaningful.

One takeaway that I would like to pass on is The Sensory Nature Experience: it helps you to Get Out of Your Mind and Come to Your Senses. We use our senses to interface with the physical world, and our minds get so entangled that we are often regurgitating the same old thoughts and patterns, which keep us from living a whole life.

To begin find a perfect Sit Spot, find a place that is close, in nature, is safe and is alone. Begin by becoming present, breathe, and think about the exchange of oxygen from the plants and giving back the carbon dioxide.

Next see with the eyes of an owl, softening and expanding to your peripheral vision. What do you notice?

Now close your eyes and switch to hear with the ears of a deer. What do you hear with the right ear? And what do you hear with the left ear? What sounds are they? What direction are they coming from? Are you able to filter out some sounds and focus on others?

Opening your eyes, touch like a raccoon and feel objects around you and the earth. Ask permission for you to share space. Touch your body. What does it feel like? Are there any messages?

Next let your sense of smell and taste come forth. Open your mouth and take in a full breath of air. Smell the air. Does is smell fragrant, earthy, or something else?

After a short pause, shift your awareness to being “observed by nature, observed by the soul of the world,” as Corinna Stevenson says. Is it communicating with you? Does the wildlife nearby sense your presence? What is the history of the landscape? What does opening to this idea do to your awareness?

I chose to leave you with this condensed version of Corinna’s teaching: in no way is it given here with such sacredness and reverence as when she delivered it. This simple exercise truly does get you out of your mind and back to your senses.

 

What change would you make to bring you peace?

A week ago, I posted the question, “What’s the one change you could make that would give you more peace and calm?” I want to dive a little deeper so that you can understand the importance of this question.

Think about today. Did you wake up thinking about all the tasks you need to accomplish today? You have to get the laundry done, pay a few bills, get that project done at work, return phone calls and emails, check your kids’ homework… the list goes on and on. When do you get to be in the moment? When do you get to spend time focusing on joy? Or when do you have time to think about your goals and dreams?

Most of us live a very busy and reactive lifestyle. This keeps our sympathetic nervous system—also known as fight or flight—always on.  Research shows this causes disease in our bodies, including anxiety and high blood pressure. We constantly feel overwhelmed and stressed. Instead of being able to plan or set goals, or to sit back and enjoy the present, we’re continually reacting to immediate issues and forced into a survival mindset instead of a thriving mindset.

Wouldn’t it be great to consciously switch to our parasympathetic system—also known as rest and digest—for a sense of peace and calm? Wouldn’t you rather have a holistic sense of being?

I like to take time out of my busy life to slow down and get plugged back into my well being by sitting in a field with my horses. Few experiences give me that sense of peace and calm. This allows me to feel like I am living a life worth living.

What change would you make to bring you peace?

#chairchallenge

You Already Know Who You Are

(Guest post submitted by J. Maier)

Many people my age go abroad to get to know themselves and to find out who they are. When my gap-year started, I was pretty sure I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted. Another thing I knew was that I definitely didn’t want to be like that.

I thought I am self-confident but shy, I need a plan for everything, couldn’t let things go their own way and, like my friends always say, I’m a stone without feelings.

Well… after already four months of being away from home, I can be still a stone and I do still love having plans for everything, but I learned two big things.

The first one is that my plans might not work out, but there is a reason why and my situation will be a lot better if I don’t stick to them just because they were my plans. I throw them away and guess what – I got some great opportunities. In my case, I was supposed to be in Canada for almost a whole year with a two month break in Jamaica and Cuba. Now I will be in Canada three times, in Jamaica and Cuba for two months, in South Africa for a couple months, and a few days at home in Germany. I experienced so many different things I wasn’t expecting at all. Stuff like milking cows, flying with a cat, being a bridesmaid, travelling so much, getting to know such great people, having a massage and so on.

The massage brings me to another point. I think travelling helps people to be on their own, but looking for and maybe even after myself means other things for me as well. For example having a massage; 90 minutes time for yourself, not doing or thinking about anything. It gives you a break in your daily routine and makes you enjoying life a bit more and being aware of your own body.

What I’m actually trying to say is, in the beginning I said I am self-confident but shy. Well, now I know I am definitely self-confident but I know as well that I’m definitely not shy. Angela’s coaching gave me another view on myself. I discovered what I thought is shyness is actually just the way I am. I will talk only when I have to say something and this might be pretty rare. So I can sit in a group of people without saying anything for hours but that doesn’t mean I’m not brave enough to say something. I just don’t want to say anything.

If there exist four different types of people, I am Type 4. I’m not talking a lot, my movements are straight and I have strict ways of seeing the world. For people who don’t know me I seem to be arrogant and close-mouthed and not really welcoming, but that’s just how I look like. Not what I am. But accepted this now and guess what… I learned to accept who I am.

So don’t go travelling to find out who you are. You know it already, you just have to accept it and learn more about yourself. Angela gave me great advice how to listen to myself and how to be aware of my personality. And the most important thing is to feel good with it and being proud of it. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you should stop working on yourself. For example, as I said, I’m going backpacking in Jamaica and Cuba and I haven’t planned anything but the first hostel and the flights. That a huge step for me because it drives me crazy not to know what’s going on, but I’m sure I will grow with it and maybe I am a bit more relaxed later on. But even if this is not the case, I did something which is not my nature, and that’s already a big step forward. So feel free to go out of your comfort zone and grow. Because you can’t say, “I’m not able to do that,” unless you tried it.

So stop looking somewhere in the big world for something which is already in and around you.

 

The Benefits of Book Clubs

If you find yourself always searching for a new book from the same authors, the same section of the bookstore, or rereading your favorites off your shelf at home, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but you might be missing out on some amazing reads. Consider joining a book club as one of your 2017 New Year’s resolutions. Book clubs expose you to reading material you may not have read otherwise, which gives you the opportunity to expand your mind and experience new authors, new genres, and new ideas.

Besides giving yourself exposure to new books, adding a community aspect to an otherwise solitary activity allows you to learn about others’ experiences and how they look at the world because of those experiences. Maybe you cheered Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester on throughout the novel, but another person had an interesting reason not to. Or maybe you absolutely hate a book that someone absolutely loves. Listening to others’ differing viewpoints gives you a chance to think critically, strengthen or reconsider your viewpoint, and it’s just kind of fun! Regularly getting together with a great group of people talking about books can be a blast—add some food and wine and let yourself have fun and laugh together.

My last book club selection was The 5 Languages of Love by Dr. Gary Chapman. I would highly recommend it; it could save your relationships or make the good ones even better. Dr. Chapman tells us that everyone has a “love tank” and many people have empty love tanks because they don’t know how to express how they feel about each other in ways that the other person understands. This is because everyone has a preferred Love Language, and you need to figure out what yours is, and what others’ are, in order to effectively communicate how you care for and love each other. Dr. Chapman says that love is a choice; find your partner’s love language style, then choose to show love to your partner in that way. I now use this book as a guide to all my other relationships and clients. Our next book is Pussy: A Reclamation by Regena Thomashauer.

So, how do you join a book club? Here are a few ideas:

  • Start your own by inviting friends, relatives, neighbors, or co-workers.
  • Ask around! I bet at least a couple people you know are in a book club.
  • Check out your local library’s website and see if they have any book clubs available to join.
  • Try MeetUp.com and search for book clubs in your area.
  • Take a look at Goodreads.com and find an online book club!

Are you already involved in a book club? Share your experiences in the comments section of this post!

Don’t Neglect Your Feminine Energy

 

We live in a society that thinks work is far better than leisure. You aren’t praised for going on vacation, you’re praised for all the overtime you put in. You get the evil eye if you take a long lunch, and a pat on the back if you work through lunch. You’re not admired for taking time for yourself, you’re admired for juggling a million things going on in your life. “How does she do it all?” “Wow, she really has her stuff together!”

It’s quite sad, if you think about it. And, unfortunately, not only does it make our existence less enjoyable; it actually impacts our health and our relationships.

Dr. Sara Gottfied’s research shows when women stay too much in their masculine, it wreaks havoc with our hormones. Staying in the masculine means more competition, more ambition, more systems and procedures, and more stress. And when we’re stressed, cortisol, a steroid hormone in our bodies, is released. Gottfied believes that the “new crack” is cortisol. If we’re constantly stressed and too much cortisol is being released, it has negative, and often serious, consequences to our health.

Learning how to engage both the masculine and feminine is what ends up making us whole. You need both of these energies as your power sources. They are necessary tools for shaping your life.

balanceWhen women have too much masculine energy, we get overwhelmed and burn out. Feminine energy is needed for balance. Whereas masculine energy is all about competition, ambition, and systems, feminine energy allows us to see the bigger picture, is collaborative, and chooses things based on feelings.

And it goes both ways—too much feminine energy and you might be saying, “I’m confused, and not able to get things done.”

It doesn’t always have to be a 50/50 split, either. When you’re at work or need to get things done, you might be 70 to 80% in your masculinity and 20 to 30% in your femininity. Everyone’s ratio is a bit different, but when you come home, you need to be able to flip it for your wellbeing, for your health, and for your relationships.

Women are becoming more masculine in their energy, and in order for men to connect with women, they are becoming more feminine. We are losing that polarity. We are just existing as friends and wondering where that spark went. You need that polarity to want a roll in the hay!

We are trying to be too much, which is masculine and becoming less juicy. Without time to reflect and self-care, which is feminine energy, leisure researcher Ben Hunnicutt says, “We starve the capacity we have to love.” When we are too much in our masculine, we over-give and we are overwhelmed. Wear and tear happens in our bodies. There is a cost.

You can give up this cloak of struggle by turning up your feminine energy and by giving yourself permission to experience pleasure, comfort, and peace.

Like I said earlier, we live in a world that celebrates you for how hard you work, how busy you are, and how much multi-tasking you are capable of. Not surprisingly, it’s a world that celebrates masculine energy over feminine energy. Pleasure is a lot like Cinderella. She never gets the proper invitation to the party. And just like the stepsisters, everyone feels a little funny hanging out with her.

It is not a luxury. It is a necessity. The women who take my boot camp send a pleasure-a-day to the group every day for two weeks. They look actually radiant when they come back—after even one week! They start looking forward to and anticipating things that will be exciting.

So what would you do for pleasure? Where do you find ease? What gives you comfort? Do not be roped into what our society deems praise-worthy. Take care of yourself, tap into your feminine energy, and start living a healthy and enjoyable life!

Top 4 Reads for 2016 (So far!)

Allow yourself to benefit from the wisdom and experience of others. Take some time for yourself, have a cup of tea, grab a cozy blanket, open one of these four fantastic books, and learn how to grow, heal, and love yourself. Expand your limitations and possibilities.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
By Elizabeth Gilbert

From Amazon: Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,   embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion,  Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

Pretty Happy: Healthy Ways to Love Your Body
By Kate Hudson

From Amazon: In almost every interview she gives, Kate Hudson is asked the same questions: What do you eat? How do you stay so fit? What workout do you do? What’s your secret? Well, the secret is that the sound bites the media loves so much don’t tell the story, and the steps you need to take to have a healthy, vibrant and happy life can’t be captured in a short interview. The key to living well, and healthy, is to plug into what your body needs, understanding that one size does not fit all, all the time, and being truly honest with yourself about your goals and desires.

The Urban Monk: Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hacks to Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness, and Peace
By Pedram Shojai

From Amazon: We all struggle to discover satisfaction and contentment in the modern world and yet the more technology we use, the more things seem to get worse. What are we all missing? What will it take for us to find our centers? Pedram Shojai shares how the calmness of Zen masters is attainable in today’s fast-paced world, and with practice, you too can stop time, refuel, and focus on the things that really matter.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
By Bessel van der Kolk, MD

From Amazon: Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In  The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists,  The Body Keeps the Score  exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.

 

Managing Your Energy Vs. Self-Care

You’ve probably heard about self-care. Self-care is an important aspect of life. It’s when you purposefully take the time to nurture yourself, whether it’s meditating, getting a massage, resting, working at your passion or hobby, or just getting your hair done. When you take time for yourself, it replenishes your energy, makes you happy and content, and helps you grow.

But it also triggers feelings of anxiety and guilt for some women. As women, we’re seen as the nurturers. We put others’ needs first. We bend over backwards to help our loved ones and neglect ourselves. We sacrifice. We ask ourselves, “How can I take time to do a yoga class when I’ve got piles of laundry, an unfinished project at work, a kid that needs homework help, and a million emails and phone calls to respond to?” This always-put-others-first lesson has been ingrained in us for generations. So the concept of prioritizing self-care is often met with hesitation and resistance.

But, still – it’s important. How can we change our mindset so that we make it a priority to take care of ourselves?

I suggest we reframe the concept of self-care into the concept of managing your energy. I believe managing your energy is the key to living the life you desire. And, the concept of managing your energy versus self-care will probably get better support from you and everyone else in your life.

You only have so much energy. And, you want to use that energy to do the things you feel are important, like helping your child with homework or doing a great job at work. When you run out of energy, you’re doing yourself and others a disservice. You’re not giving it your all; you can’t.

To get more energy, to replenish energy, so that you can give 100% when you need to, you need to instill positive, replenishing habits.

95% of our lives are run by habits. Sometimes bad ones. That’s when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, and your pre-frontal cortex or your rational and analytical mind shuts down and goes to your subconscious default habits, like reaching for the bag of cookies, or cigarettes, or alcohol, in an attempt to soothe yourself. These habits do not replenish your energy; they deplete it.

Why not guard your energy and replenish it and make deliberate, high-quality choices? Get more sleep, eat foods that are full of life force, laugh and share with friends. Move your body. It is designed to move. Give yourself permission to chill. Take that class you’ve wanted to take for a long time. Go for a hike by yourself.

These types of habits can fill your energy tank back up so that you can be truly present and energized for your job, for your kids, for your partner, and for anything else important to you. Your energy is the most serious thing about you, and you are responsible for managing your energy so that you can bring it to every situation that needs it.