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These Ladies Taught Me A Lot

These Ladies Taught Me A Lot

With Mother’s Day coming up soon, I look back to memories of growing up and the influence of all the females in my life. Many of whom are no longer here. 

There were aunts, teachers (mostly nuns), cousins and, of course, my mother and my grandmother. As the youngest grandchild of 7 with a Mom that worked, I spent a lot of time being taken care of by my grandmother, affectionately known as Babci (Babcia means grandmother in Polish). 

I looked up to my Babci and Mom and learned so much from them (that’s Babci, Mom & me in the photo). Today, I reflect on what’s important to me now, how I spend my time, what I have in my life, and see how that relates to what I witnessed as a child and teenager growing up around them. I’m so proud of the influence they had on me and how that has benefited my life. 

Three areas in particular stand out…

Gardening and nature to stay grounded

I love gardening, all things plants, flowers, and visiting Botanical Gardens when traveling too. In fact, I spent last weekend traveling to 2 large botanical gardens with friends and had a fabulous time! Sunburned, allergies in full effect from the spring pollen, tired and sore from 6+ hours of walking around each day plus 2.5 hours in the car to get there and back, but my heart is full and soul fulfilled. 

Babci had a wood shelf with 3 levels of snake plants on the back porch. If my memory serves, she probably had 15-20 plants in total. She’d take a coffee cup, the biggest one they had, and would sip the water into her mouth then blow it out over the plants to mist them – her mouth was the original plant mister. 

One day I saw her through the window, she was on the back porch crying. I was little and immediately thought something was wrong. Turns out she was grating horseradish root! Even though she was out on the porch in the fresh air, it still caused her to cry. Cross my heart it seemed way worse than when she chopped onions!

The importance of daily rituals and routines for personal and spiritual development

I love to visit churches and sacred sites when I travel to new places – there’s something so peaceful and reverent about them. 

Growing up I had a strong influence from both my Babci and Mom when it comes to spirituality, dedication, devotion, daily and weekly practices. They both prayed and attended church on a regular basis. 

When my grandmother couldn’t attend church anymore because she was no longer able to walk, I remember her caretaker would carry her into the kitchen, placing her in a chair. And on the kitchen table would be a stack of prayer cards and prayer books. 

Babci would spend hours everyday, meticulously going through each prayer card and prayer book pages, silently praying for everyone and everything. 

This was her daily practice, her morning routine and later in the day, her afternoon routine. 

There were many spirituality influences too, these one stand out the most in this moment: statues of Holy Mary on the dresser with a large rosary draped around her neck, holy pictures of angels, archangels, popes and saints on the wall and in picture frames propped up on the furniture, a last supper picture near the dining table with palms from Palm Sunday positioned behind it – which we’d replace every year with new palms. 

Strong work ethic supporting connection and purpose in life  

Babci was a cleaning lady at the local hospital. She didn’t speak English and would walk miles to get there and walk miles to return home. She was doing important work to keep the hospital clean.

Mom also worked in the medical field as an x-ray tech at a doctors office, while working at the hospital on weekends to get her foot in the door. Then she went full time at the hospital when the doctor retired. She was so smart… always planning, strategizing and putting in the work. 

Mom was always connecting with others and helping patients directly. And after the long work days, she would go to Babci’s to check in on her. And travel to see Dziadzi, my grandfather, in the nursing home in another town. Then finally home to us kids who were now junior high and high schoolers to take care of us. Grocery shopping happened in between all of that, and preparing meals for my Dad and us – or at least making sure the fridge was full. 

These amazing ladies not only taught me the grace of kindness and compassion, but also the importance of daily rituals and routines for personal and spiritual development.

While my personal practices today may look different than theirs, I’m so grateful for how they infused this dedication into my life.  From my journaling to my Reiki practices, and my meditation practice – when it’s that time of day, these memories often flood back.

Wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours.

Why Everyone Needs Meditation

Why Everyone Needs Meditation

Everyone needs meditation, and this recent example is why.

Something felt off. I overslept the past two days due to poor quality sleep (seasonal allergies + a muscle pull in my neck) and I missed my morning meditation. I figured I’d have to time to get it in later in the day, but that didn’t happen.

Now that I reflect back on it, I felt less clear headed and energetic throughout these days. Was it the poor sleep, or missing my meditation practice? Most likely a combination of the two.

So this morning, I was determined to get back into my daily routine. I know from experience that meditation is a game changer for people.

I recommend it to all my clients and I’ve seen the phenomenal results that come from meditating regularly.

Personally, after two days of missing my meditation, it felt like coming home this morning. No racing thoughts, but instead peace of mind, tranquility, stillness, clarity – all the things that put a smile on my face during and after my practice.

I was floating afterwards and in a high energy, happy mood. So much so that my 14 year old dog picked up on it. This dog who now sleeps about 90% of the time, grabbed his toy and started chasing me around the house, poking me with his toy to get me to chase him back.

Our pets know energy better than we do, and he certainly was picking up on my high energy and was loving it.

Benefits of Meditation

Meditation has been around for thousands of years and has numerous benefits. It triggers your body’s relaxation response to reduce stress and anxiety, lengthens your attention span, and is highly beneficial to your emotional wellbeing and for people struggling with addictive behaviors.

Meditation also increases self-awareness and emotional intelligence, two very important traits for professionals and leaders to help with relationships in the workplace and at home.

I was encouraged to start a meditation practice by numerous experts during a health crisis years ago. The root cause of my illness was eventually determined to be work-related stress.

I only wish I took that advice to meditate regularly sooner, I may not have suffered as long. If you experience a lot of stress or have unresolved health related issues, read more about the impact of stress and why you should care here.

A simple practice of a few minutes of meditating per day or in particular situation (before or after) can bring you a sense of calm during stress or help center and ground you when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

I know meditation on a regular basis works, I personally don’t need scientific proof to experience something and realize the benefits directly.

However, if scientific confirmation helps others become more open to the concept of meditation and gets them to start practicing it, then by all means, keep the research going.

There are plenty of scientific studies reporting that meditation helps relieve anxiety and depression, improve focus and attention, increase concentration, and improve overall psychological well-being.

Meditation has also been shown to produce favorable changes in the brain. In this Forbes article, 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain, several studies are cited showing how meditation preserves the aging brain, reduces activity in the “Me Center” or “monkey mind”, changes key areas of the brain that support learning and memory, improves concentration and attention, and reduces anxiety.

Are you convinced yet that everyone needs to meditate?

Take Purposeful Action: Start a Daily Practice

If you’re not mediating now, start a daily practice. If you don’t think you have time for it, start off with a 1 – 5 minute practice first thing in the morning.

Keep it simple. Find a space where you won’t be disturbed and sit comfortably.

Set a timer: I like the Insight Timer app available for iOS and Android.

Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing. It may help to count your breaths (inhale: 1, 2, 3, 4, exhale: 1, 2, 3, 4).

As thoughts arise, observe them without judging, and let them go.

Try smiling to support a feeling of inner calm and joy. It gets easier with continued practice and when you start seeing the benefits.

After some regular practice and when you feel ready, slowly increase the time you meditate. If you start with 5 minutes per day, increase it to 6 or 7 minutes after a couple of weeks. You’ll know when you’re ready.

Some additional tips: play soft music to help you get in a relaxed mood, write down how you feel before and after, and if you keep a journal write directly after meditation. You may be pleasantly surprised by the content.

Lastly, if you feel fidgety or tense while meditating remind yourself that it’s a normal part of the process and a great reason to continue. Over time you’ll find that getting into a relaxed state comes easily and quickly.

Next thing you know, you’ll be buying a “heavily meditated” t-shirt to wear proudly in public.

Take Purposeful Action (For Current Meditators): Try Something New

If you already have a daily meditation practice, I’m sure you see its value and don’t need me to tell you to continue it.

I do want to encourage you to change it up or enhance your daily practice by adding different types of meditation every so often, like once a month or once every few weeks.

You can try a guided meditation on YouTube or one of the meditation apps, a mindfulness meditation, a group meditation experience, or a walking meditation.

Here’s one to try this weekend. Take a walk in a wooded area or other peaceful place out in nature for a walking meditation.

While walking, get centered and grounded by paying attention to your feet as they move, the strength in your legs, and the air easily flowing into and out of your lungs.

Then, bring your focus to all the beautiful things that surround you. Notice the birds, butterflies, and other wild life. Pay attention to the trees, the wind moving the leaves, and the warmth of the sun on your skin.

Be present with the whole experience. Needless to say but I’ll say it anyway, no listening to music, books or podcasts during this walking meditation, and put your phone on do not disturb mode if it’s with you.

In the comments below, share the one benefit you want most from your daily meditation practice? Or, if you already meditate regularly, what’s the best benefit you’ve gotten from it? Please share to encourage others.

 

 

Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

Want to Consistently Feel Better and Have Less Stress? Do These Two Things

Want to Consistently Feel Better and Have Less Stress? Do These Two Things

It’s a common theme these days: stress. Not the good type of stress that gets us excited or motivated to take action, but the chronic debilitating stress that leads to all types of problems, especially if the signs of this stress are ignored or not dealt with constructively, and it’s allowed to continue for days, weeks, months, or even years.

There’s only so much a body can take, and that chronic stress can lead to all types of medical conditions and even serious diseases, or to mental and emotional issues like strained relationships or even depression.

It can lead to people using unhealthy coping mechanisms like smoking, overdrinking (alcohol), overeating, watching too much TV, etc., a temporary relief that only makes the problem worse.

Our bodies and minds have a way of warning us, and we have to become more in tune and aware in order to take positive action to prevent serious injury or harm.

As an example, in the past I had a few years of severe back pain that I’m convinced was entirely due to being overstressed. It started off slow, a twinge every now and then, and some achiness on occasion. One day, my back “went out”, it went into a spasm – I collapsed to the ground to try to alleviate the pain and lay there motionless praying it would stop.

I went to numerous chiropractors and even a back surgeon who told me I’d never get better (I was 26 years old at the time). This continued for a few years with one or two spasms per year and no real resolution.

For those who haven’t experienced a back spasm, picture your lower back like a tight elastic band getting tighter and tighter, and hurting, and then that elastic band being cut and unable to hold you up in a standing position anymore. It would terrify me because I knew inevitably what would happen next and felt powerless to stop it. The spasm would make me drop to the ground and lay there for hours, motionless, for hours or sometimes a day or two, until I could move without screaming in pain.

I’m not sure what was worse, the take-your-breath-away pain, or the fear of that pain knowing that any slight movement could trigger it. After the first couple of spasms, I was provided some pretty strong meds to take for the spasm and pain, which would make me sleep. It seemed to shorten the healing time it took to get on my feet again, but didn’t address the underlying cause.

The last time my back went out (spasm), I was at a party. I was uncomfortable and my back was tight that day, but not any more than usual. I was just standing around the kitchen table, and felt my back muscle stretching and then pop, spasm. I couldn’t move.

The pain was excruciating, and kept getting worse, to the point that I had to drop to my knees and lay on the floor until and an ambulance came, and I was taken to the ER, given a powerful pain killer that took most of the pain away, allowing me to walk out of there and eventually get home.

So what changed – how come my back hasn’t gone out again in the past 20 years? Well, I started paying attention to what my body was telling me instead of ignoring it.

If I overused my back one day and could feel some slight tightness occurring, I would take a positive action to address it before it got worse. For me, I would put arnica gel on it and take it easy for the rest of the day, get a good night’s sleep, and take it easy the next day.

So I wouldn’t end up in the ER again, I used the power of a morning ritual to ensure I was tuning in to how my body felt, every day. And that’s one of the two things I recommend to my clients to be able to reduce their stress and feel better on a consistent basis. Here’s more detail on that:

Commit to a morning ritual.
There are so many benefits to having a morning ritual. Just the self-discipline to wake up early and plan for it helps you mentally and provides confidence and a sense of pride when you stick to it.

The ritual itself helps you focus on what’s important, manage stress, and is the best way to start your day.

Morning rituals can include one or a few of the following: meditation, prayer, journaling, self-Reiki/energy work, listening to a guided meditation or to uplifting music, visualization, reading from the bible or some other inspiration book, stretching in bed and thinking of 3 things you’re grateful for, going for a walk outside and noticing birds singing, the wind, the warmth of sun, the clouds, etc.

Some people do focused breathing, power breathing, yoga, or some other exercise or physical activity. Drinking a cup of warm water with lemon or with Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar in it could be part of your ritual.

You can get more ideas for your morning ritual by reading this article: 6 Morning Rituals of Steve Jobs, Tony Robbins, Oprah, and Other Successful Leaders or by watching Tony Robbins’ morning ritual on YouTube.

Remember, a morning ritual only works if you do it. In creating your morning ritual, find something that you enjoy doing and that you find effective. Evaluate it after a month or two to ensure it’s providing the results you want. Do you feel more productive? Calmer? More focused? If not, make an adjustment and keep at it.

The second thing I suggest to clients are Epsom salt and baking soda baths/soaks.

It could be a relaxing and healing foot soak or a full body bath. Aim for 1 – 3 times per week for best results.

Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, and it is common for people to be deficient in magnesium these days. Since your skin is the body’s largest organ, the body can absorb this important mineral while you’re soaking in it which can be easier on the body than ingesting it.

Magnesium regulates over 300 enzymes in the body and not only draws out toxins, but has numerous health benefits including: eases stress, improves sleep and concentration, makes insulin more effective, helps muscles and nerves function properly, improves oxygen use, and reduces inflammation to relieve pain and muscle cramps.

Because the magnesium in Epsom salts soothes away soreness and assists in the removal of lactic acid from muscle tissue, taking a bath or soak after a hard workout or after a massage is helpful in faster recovery.

And baking soda should be added because it acts as an emulsifier and is great in calming itchy skin or other skin conditions. It is especially useful in neutralizing the chemicals in typical unfiltered bath water.

Taking this kind of a soak boosts our health and well-being, and also strengthens our immune system and can prevent disease. Some people call it a detox bath or soak and sweat out a lot of toxins. Stay well hydrated by drinking relaxing herbal tea or iced water before, during and after your soak. If you have any serious health conditions, check with your doctor before trying this.

When making a foot soak I use 1 handful of Epsom salt to ½ handful baking soda in a small plastic container that my feet fit in perfectly. I soak for 20 minutes or longer – until the hot water starts to get cold. Then I rinse my feet off, moisturize them and get into bed. Easy peasy.

For a detox bath, I fill the tub with hot water, add about 2 cups Epsom salts, 1 cup baking soda, a few drops of essential oil like lavender (optional), get in and soak for 20 minutes or longer. You want as much of your body underwater as you can. My tub isn’t very deep, so I take a small hand towel that I keep wet with hot bath water and cover up any parts sticking out of the water. I close my eyes, do some breathing exercises or meditation, and relax.

When I’m done soaking I’ll shower off quickly, apply some natural argan oil moisturizer (or coconut oil or other natural moisturizer), and climb in to bed for a relaxing night’s sleep. Don’t be surprised if you feel deeply relaxed and extremely calm, the magnesium helps to increase serotonin levels. It sure to be one of the best night’s sleep you’ve had in a while.

Leave a comment to share your experience with morning rituals or detox baths, or to just let me know if you found this info helpful.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Power of Guided Meditation

The Power of Guided Meditation

I’m sure you’ve heard about mediation and how beneficial it is. It’s defined by Merriam-Webster as engaging in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.

People who meditate on a regular basis report all types of physical and emotional benefits like less stress, less anxiety, less pain, better sleep, better concentration and lower blood pressure.

I recommend meditation and visualization to my coaching clients. Both approaches are researched and proven to have lasting benefits for better health, improved wellbeing, increased joy, and more success and fulfillment.

Visualization can be thought of as a mental rehearsal and has been used by professional athletes, Olympic athletes, business leaders, therapists, actors and others with great success. Basically, your subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what you’re imagining, especially true if your visualization is vivid, and you’re really feeling the emotions and energy of that experience.

And if you practice visualizing a certain event with a positive outcome, when it comes time to actually perform you’ll feel like you’ve already ‘been there, done that’ – leading to great results. For example, say you get nervous public speaking and you have a presentation coming up where you’ll be speaking to 25 people.

You want to be successful and really get your message across so that your audience understands it clearly and benefits from it. Visualization daily or twice a day leading up to the event can help. You can visualize this upcoming event as if it’s real, see the audience, see their expressions, feel the energy of the room, feel your emotions before, during and after – and picture yourself killing it (in a good way) and how that feels. Hearing the applause at the end, people coming up to you afterwards energized and wanting to thank you. The more vivid and feeling it as really happening – the better the results.

So, what is guided meditation, and why is it so powerful?

Guided meditation combines mediation with visualization to bring about positive personal changes. During a guided meditation you achieve that deep state of relaxation and what you’re guided to visualize is very vivid and realistic.

Benefits are immediate and you’ll feel better on all levels: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Guided meditations can be tailored to achieve specific outcomes depending on what your needs are. I used guided meditation frequently with coaching clients, with great results. I highly recommend you experience it for yourself.

“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha

 

Photo by Brian Mann on Unsplash