Self care suggests we do something to take care of our own self. It suggests more “doing”. In looking at my own life, I recognize that it is when I do not know how I can possibly do more or manage something myself, that there is something else I do that makes all the difference in the world.
It is complete surrender. Surrender, in yoga philosophy, is called “Isvara Pranidhana”. This is the 5th niyama or observance on the path of yoga. We have all had the experience in life when we are at a loss of how to handle something, do not know what to do and feel inadequate to complete a task. Or moments when we feel such loss – ending a relationship, or losing a loved one to death – that we completely let go.
What happens in that moment? There have been moments like that for me. Looking back, it was when I was giving birth to my children, when I finally realized my first marriage was over, and when my brother died. I knew I could no longer contain the energy of these events within myself. I let go and surrendered my will. I surrendered my resistance. It felt like I would fall into an abyss and never stop falling. However, the experience of falling into an abyss did not last long. There was an almost immediate experience of being lifted. It is an experience of being comforted and hugged by such love and light that I could almost see a giant angel wrapping its wings around me.
These moments have anchored within me an understanding of what Isvara Pranidhana means to me. To me it means to surrender my will and actions within me to God. Yoga for me is a daily practice. The practice sustains me, gives me a tool that I can call upon at any moment. When I am in the constant practice of surrender to this higher will, my actions surprise me. I am able to accomplish things in my life that the smaller being, Karen, could not have accomplished all alone. I am grateful and I share it with you.
How much sleep do we need? Sometimes I seem to need 8 hours of sleep at night. Other nights, it seems that I begin sleepy, then only 5 or 6 hours later I feel wide awake. My meditation master says that we need sleep to escape the heaviness of our existence. Perhaps I need less when my heart and mind are light.
If we look at our need for rest in that way, perhaps we can free ourselves from the meaning we place on a “good nights’ sleep”. In our current modern culture, we use our bodies much less than we did a century ago. We do not have the intense labor we once did. We have running water, we can heat our homes with the push of a button on the thermostat and get light with the flick of a switch.
Our bodies are tuned into light too. When we have so much artificial light in the evening, we are less connected to the natural rhythms of nature. Some people have experimented with their sleep cycles by turning off the artificial lighting earlier in the evening. Turning off the television which is also stimulating can also calm us down to sleep better when it is dark.
The moon also has an effect on our sleep. When it is bright, we seem to need less sleep. When it is a new moon and dark, we sleep more soundly.
I believe that the upset around sleep is our beliefs about it. We worry about getting enough rest. We think we need more than our bodies actually do need. Sometimes we do not get enough rest. Rest and sleep are not the same. An active mind can keep us awake too. Who hasn’t woken up out of a sleep with a worry?
One of my students told me that after her and her husband retired, they had less need for sleep, so when they awoke at 3 or 4 am, they got up to play a game of cards together.
But what if you have a job and a family to take care of and this happens? I remember when my first two children were little and they woke up on the hour some nights. Sometimes, this would go on for several months. I found that I could refresh myself completely by taking 5 or 10 minute naps. A twenty minute nap can refresh you as much as one or two hours of night-time sleep.
Again the mind can interfere with this as much as anything. If you have a strong belief about anything, it will affect your body. If you are experiencing fatigue, try exploring your fatigue. Ask yourself what you believe about the fatigue. You will find that you can think of several reasons why you feel tired. Now take some energizing breaths. Breathing deeply through your nose, imagine that with the in-breath, you are revitalizing every cell of your body. Do this for a few minutes. Then stop and check in on your fatigue level again.
I began playing with this mind-body connection between mind and sleep/fatigue cycles. I know that there are people with human bodies just like mine that can feel vital and refreshed on much less sleep than I get. What is the difference between them and myself? Only you can answer this for yourself. It is worth the exploration. I believe that you will find that there are ways you can “trick” your mind to believe that you have had adequate rest. By stopping the struggle and resistance to your body’s natural sleep and awake cycle, you may find a peace and balance to sustain you through many sleepless nights.
Are you in your center? How do you know when you are or not? When your attention is pulled out to many daily tasks you are not in your center. When you start to fatigue, feel sore, or find you are sighing or breath-holding–you are not in your center.
Today, notice how many times this occurs. When it does occur (and it will, no matter how aware and masterful you are in life)… stop…take a breath in and out. Keep your attention fully on your breath and observe it going deeply into your lungs, expanding your belly and relaxing your whole body. You are now back in your center.
On the yoga mat, we practice this in every single asana. When teaching yoga, I have to practice this with even more awareness. I am not only teaching, but also demonstrating some poses and it is easy for me to forget to stay centered while demonstrating.
If you are having trouble with a yoga pose, the one thing that will help more than anything is to notice your breath. If you can be in a pose and breathe like you just did (when you read the second paragraph), you will find that the pose is good for you. If you are struggling in a pose, you are likely not centered or breathing with ease. Find a way to stop the struggle. Perhaps you could have your legs a little bit closer, don’t go as deep. Make little adjustments in the alignment of your body. Aligning knees with hips, being careful to notice all of your joints aligning with each other…this can keep the flow of energy (the nervous system) clear and you will find you are breathing with ease.
This yoga self-care has a common theme. First know yourself, then honor yourself. Move from your own inner connection and you are powerful.
Look around you at your home or work environment. Where do you spend most of your time? What is your favorite place to relax in? Look at this space either in your mind’s eye or if you are there, look around the room and the objects in it. What are your thoughts?
I am sitting on the couch right now. It is comfortable. Looking around, I see several things out of place. I tend to place things in little organized piles. Preparing to teach a weekend course, I have a few more piles than usual strewn about.
I get up and move things around so that it looks more orderly. A new level of order and now, once again, I see more out of place. When I focus on what is out of place, I see many things. I then relax because you can get rather anal about this putting things in order business. Have you ever done this and become exhausted from the continuous movement and effort?
So I re-focus and look at the energy of the situation. What is really out of place that would set things in balance? Only 2 things. I get up, put them where they are supposed to go, and even the items I have placed temporarily in the space are in harmony with their surroundings. Interesting experiment.
I observe that now I can think more clearly. There are not so many muddled thoughts going on in my head. You know the ones right? OMG I gotta do this . . . . and this. . . . and this. . . . Now I am simply being a calm at the center of a whirlwind of creation.
So try this right now in your environment or move to a room you want to try this in:
1. Sit down, focus on your breath.
2. What do you feel in your body?
3. Look around you now at your environment. Ask yourself “what looks out of place right now?”
4. Get up and move some things around or put them away or throw them away. Right now. Don’t think about it, just do what you feel there is to do in this moment.
5. Sit down and breath, center yourself.
6. Look around you again. Is the room in harmony yet? If not, first look at all the things you think need to be done. Then ask yourself, of these things, what really needs doing? Do those 1 or 2 things, sit down again and feel the new harmony of your space.
Home is a shelter from storms – all sorts of storms. ~William J. Bennett
Every house where love abides
And friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home sweet home
For there the heart can rest.
~Henry Van Dyke
What surrounds us and is within us is our environment. What we eat, where we sleep and spend our time. You may have noticed as you take more time to care for yourself during this Self Care Challenge, that you are attracted to a healthier diet and are distracted by disharmony around you.
Looking at food today, spend a moment now to center your attention on your breath. Take a deep inhale and exhale. Look within your own body. Ask yourself: what food does my body need to feel great right now? Ask yourself: what are the distractions that weigh me down in my environment?
Two of my readers yesterday shared information about food. One sent me a blog with recipe and food ideas. Another sent me information about a cooking class. Look around to see what you are attracted to in this area. Pay attention to this. It is your inner environment asking for sustenance.
When I prepare food, I am mindful of my thoughts and emotions while I am preparing it. That is also something that will go into the food I eat. I focus my thoughts on love and nourishment. This provides a more vital diet. When purchasing foods, my husband and I both are aware of the energy the food has. If we are attracted to a food, we buy it. I am usually pulled to the produce in a coop much more strongly than in a grocery store. Sometimes when I touch a package of something, I hear a little voice say “nah” or “yes!”.
Check out this blog and have fun today exploring your food environment. Tomorrow I will blog about the surrounding environment – in the home or workplace.
I am weary of doing. I wake up and think of the to do list.
I close my eyes and hear “stop grasping”.
Sounds familiar, I think. I love to play with my intuition. It tells me little juicy clues that lead me on a little treasure hunt.
This morning’s treasure is a blog called Explorations by Chas. R. Martin. He writes a blog about Buddhism to simplify it into Western terms. The Four Great Truths (or Four Noble Truths) include
We suffer in life, we get frustrated and suffer more when we try to resist or change it, the only way to stop the suffering is to stop grasping or trying to change it and there are skills we can learn to stop grasping, thus end our suffering and the suffering around us.
What does this have to do with what my intuition is telling me? This is our exploration for today. Today look at what is bothering you or what you think you should do that is causing you tension. Notice the tension within you when you think of that. Shift your attention to allowing it to be without trying to resist, push away or change it.
If I have a deadline and I am feeling pressure (or am experiencing fear that this will never go away), I shift my attention to the time after the deadline and feel how I will feel then. It is magical. Another way to describe what I am doing is I am shifting my “being” now.
Stop grasping today. Give it a rest! Take a deep breath in, exhale fully, and smile.
In yoga, I often feel like I am becoming more childlike. My body is more relaxed, I giggle more than I used to. I laugh at farting. I will be a grandma this year.
I realize that before I took up a regular yoga practice, many years ago, I was always tense, upset, unhappy and not getting along with someone “out there”. Mostly I was sick or tired or both.
Now, I think that acting like an adult isn’t all it’s cut out to be. In large family gatherings, you can usually find me closer to the kids than the adults. At the studio I have to watch what I say sometimes – like when I am feeling really childlike – and focus on my breathing and simply open my heart to what is needed “over there” for those who have come to visit. Sometimes I let loose and giggle, laugh and bring them along with me. So there you are. Today, be silly, be more childlike.
I like to research a little for my daily writings and today I can across a beautiful Christian website. I do not follow any one religion – I love them all (unless they preach hate). I remembered from my own childhood a bible verse about being like a child. This is another word press site: Reflection on Being Like a Child
I leave you with quote I found this morning on Inspiration Peak:
You can understand and relate to most people better if you look at them – no matter how old or impressive they may be – as if they are children. For most of us never really grow up or mature all that much – we simply grow taller. O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales.
By now your week is already moving ahead at full steam. Monday can seem overwhelming at times with the week ahead already full of the to-do list.
When I think about my week ahead, I wonder how will I accomplish everything I am supposed to accomplish this week? I bring my attention back to the present moment. My cat sits by my side with nothing to do but look at me. I look out my window at the snow falling gently. I breathe.
I remind myself that I am not alone. Here is a poem for you from Inspiration Peak
“I used to sit on the banks with a raft and watch the water roll lazily by. One day I pushed my raft into the shallows of the water and found the water moved swifter than I thought. My raft was actually a boat. Then, after some time, I rowed my little boat into deeper water. There were great storms, mighty winds, tremendous waves, and sometimes I felt so alone. But I have noticed my little rowboat is now a mighty ship manned by my friends and loved ones; and beautiful calm seas, warm sunny days, and nights filled with comfortable dreams always double after a storm. Now, I could never go back and sit on the bank. In fact, I search for deeper water. Such is life when lived.”
B. D. Gulledge
Do you sometimes experience being tired around certain people. Does your energy seem to be drained after talking with someone? Do you sometimes feel angry and wonder where that came from – searching for a reason? Or sometimes experience a pain in the gut – seemingly out of nowhere?
Most people are not aware of the energy exchange between people and are also not aware of their own energy either. It has been so long since I learned this chakra meditation, that it is a part of how I operate in life without even thinking of it.
Thinking back to when I first learned it, I remember how difficult it was to practice at first. Then after practicing it for a few months, then years, I learned more and more about my chakras and other’s by paying attention.
I want to first say that it is not proper to “look” at other people’s chakras without their permission. It is invasive. How do you get permission? You ask either verbally or in your mind. Permission is given when you see in your mind’s eye a blue light or a green light or hear in your mind “yes”. It could also come as a subtle feeling of “it’s okay”.
Okay, you may be thinking “this is weird”. Yes – it is not something you hear people talking about as an everyday thing. I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and on the edge of vast fields of corn, I never ever heard the word chakra. Funny coincidence though: one of the first yoga teachers in America was in Lincoln, Nebraska! (see the book “The Great Oom, The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America”, by Robert Love)
The chakra meditation is beneficial because you can begin to discern your own energy centers. There are seven major chakras (energy centers) in your body and you can find out more about these energy centers by googling “chakras”. A good site is: Chakra Energy.com
Sitting quietly, take your attention to your first chakra, and in your mind’s eye imagine you can see it and observe what it looks like. What is it doing? What color is it? How energetic is it? Move on to each chakra and again observe each one. You could open your eyes and take notes if you like, or simply trust that with practice, you will be able to learn more each time and remember.
Doing this practice regularly, you can begin to notice when you are with other people how these others affect you. You may also notice that sometimes you are not with other people and something is effecting your mood. You can check in anytime with your chakras and the more you practice it, the more it will become like second nature to you.
The self-care part of this exercise is to notice also when you have a depleted, or low-energy chakra and simply focus your attention on it – you can ask for more energy to go there or for you to learn more about it. I ask for whatever is needed for my highest good. I am not interested in shortcuts (unless I am really busy in my life at the moment).
You may find that some people are taking energy from you. The important thing is to not blame them or pull it away with a “no” or fight or even to continue giving it away. You could simply ask what is it this person really needs? I believe that each person has the power to find what they need within themselves. As do you. In my role as yoga teacher and reiki master, I notice when people are trying to get something from me and gently guide them back to themselves. Find your power within. What would it be like of all beings were aware of this ? What would it be like to have a planet of people with balanced, healthy and vital chakras? What are you waiting for ? It must begin with me. By maintaining my healthy, vital, balanced being, the world around me shifts in that direction. That is all I need to do.