Category Archives: self love

Spiritual Pampering 101: 5 Ways To Rejuvenate Your Spirit

Life can pull us in many directions.  If we are not mindful, we soon find ourselves overwhelmed with obligations, impatient with ourselves and others, short-tempered, nutritionally challenged, and burned out. It’s important to take a break from the stressors of life so that the body can detoxify and relax and the spirit can expand and grow. If we are to be our best, we need to take time out of our busy schedules for some “me time.”

“Me time” is Spirit time. It is in no way a selfish act.  In fact, spiritual pampering is sacred work.  It is an act of self-care and self-love, and it is vital to our emotional and physical health as it helps to keep us balanced and connected.

BREATHE.  Life is absolutely dependent upon the act of breathing, yet it is a gift that is often taken for granted. Deep breathing exercises can be done anywhere, at just about any time. Inhale all the way down to your stomach, hold it for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly. Repeat until you feel relaxed and relieved.

“MENDITATION.” Quiet meditation is a mental time-out to help us mend the mind and spirit. Guided visualizations are excellent mental escapes to help you focus your energies on more positive imagery. Picture yourself in a relaxing place like a palm tree lined beach, a desert oasis, or a forest path. You can also practice a moving meditation such as tai chi, qi gong, yoga, or simply walking, all of which will help you to connect with your inner resources.

YOUR BODY IS A TEMPLE. It houses your Divine Self. Your physical body is the vehicle that has been loaned to you for you to live out your life while tending to the spiritual energies within. Love and honor your body, exercise, and give it the proper nutrition, rest and respect it deserves. Let nothing in that will desecrate it.

DISCOVER OR REVISIT A HOBBY. Hobbies provide a nice diversion from stress and help you to stay in the moment which helps to reduce tension.

A CHANGE OF SCENERY. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to get away from your everyday surroundings. It doesn’t have to be an exotic, expensive vacation. Take a day, a weekend, or longer and spend it in nature or go on a spiritual retreat where you can focus on renewal. If you can’t get away, designate a sacred space in your home to which you can retreat, and “train” your other family members not to disturb you during your “me time.” Create a personal altar, luxuriate in your tub, and/or light scented candles. Allow your mind to drift in peace.

There are many ways to recharge your inner battery, and these pampering breaks will make you feel better about yourself and elevate your mood and vibrational level.

Coming Out Spiritually

When I was five years old, I looked my mother in the eye and said, “I’m never having children.”

“What?” she said as she cocked her head. “But you’re a girl, and girls are supposed to have babies.”

“I think it’s a big, fat lie,” I told her.

That memory is as vivid today as it was decades ago.

I may not have known what I wanted, but I “knew” that I didn’t want to have children. Something about it didn’t feel “right” within me. Sure, if it had happened, I would have embraced it, but it was not what I wanted from life.

For years, my mother hounded me to have children, and it got to a point where she told me I needed psychological help.

I laughed. It was the most absurd thing ever to come out of her mouth.

Because I didn’t fit into her construct of what a woman should do with her life, she tried to manipulate me into thinking that I had a problem. Nice try. She was angry because she wanted to be a grandmother, and in her mind I was denying her.

I never wanted the “traditional” life, not that there is anything “wrong” with that kind of life. I just know it’s not for me. And while others aren’t okay with it, I am.

Walking the spiritual path and living the authentic life, as I have stated in previous posts, is not for wimps. Coming out of the spiritual closet takes initiative and courage.

And as soon as you do, the Goliaths will show up to challenge you because you are not doing things “their” way; that is, you are not doing things in the ways that they think you should. This is because of the social programming they learned. As you live your authentic life, the Goliaths will fade harmoniously away, or they will use your example to begin transforming their lives. Some of those Goliaths will be in your own mind and may need deconstructing through the help of your support system, spiritual practices, and personal educational plan.

A former student and close friend of mine is now facing this dilemma. She said she “doesn’t want to feel awkward” because she’s “not dating” or because she doesn’t know what she wants. She ended by asking, “Is getting married and making kids supposed to be what I want?”

Supposed to? There’s that programming again.

She is absolutely torn because she is looking outward for answers instead of inward.

Such questions are the starting points of the journey to the authentic self. We start feeling our “right” in the middle of all the “wrong.” What we once thought of as gospel becomes garbage. It no longer works, it no longer fits, it no longer defines.

The spiritual path to your authentic life requires an open mind, free from the distractions brought on by social programming. This means deprogramming yourself and letting go of others’ ideas of how you should live your life. Society doesn’t dictate who you are, though it thinks it should. You dictate who you are.

Choosing to step out on your own path takes testicular fortitude. It takes asking the deeper, sometimes harder questions of yourself. It takes facing yourself in the face of others.

Being spiritual means breaking with convention. Call it “breaking bad” because that is how some will perceive you when you veer away from the “establishment.” Sticking with convention may have its advantages for those who need it, but thinking — and living — outside of the box is more expansive and creative.

Coming out spiritually is an act of self-love. It gives you the freedom to grow, to create, to expand, and to express yourself uniquely and authentically.  No longer will you feel held back or stifled by the expectations of others. There is no reason to hide behind the door of fear any longer. Your light wants to shine. Let it.

Everything that happens on the spiritual path becomes a learning, or relearning, experience. As you unlearn the social programming thrust upon you in your formative years and reinforced for many years thereafter, your true vision begins to return. You will be able to “see” again through a holistic lens.

Spirtwork:

Stand in front of a mirror. This is an exercise in learning to love the person you see, even if you don’t like everything about yourself. This is not about perfection, and perfection is certainly not necessary for love.

If you find it hard to love yourself, you’ll need to examine what thoughts and feelings stand in the way of loving yourself. Most of the time, if not all, you’ll find it going back to your personal or social programming.

As you stand in front of the mirror, start with one part of yourself that you do not view as “perfect” and say “I love my _______________.” Every day, return to the mirror to view this part of your body and repeat, “I love my _______________.” If there is another part of your body that you view as “imperfect,” repeat that you love that area as well. Repeat for at least 3 – 5 minutes. Do this every day for 30 days. Examine your reflection and your parts through eyes of love instead of the disgust you were programmed with, as you repeat your love for yourself. Make this a daily meditation.

A variation of this exercise is to start with one part of yourself that you love, and say “I love my __________.” Each day add another part of you that you love. If you start with your eyes, say “I love my eyes.” The next day add “I love my eyes and my toes.” On the third day add “I love my eyes, my toes, and my hair.” And so on.  Do for 30 days.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction of 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.

Knowing Who You Are Determines What You Want

“I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want,” says Mark Twain.
Mr. Twain, thank you. You’ve expressed my sentiments exactly.

How does a person not know what s/he wants?

To know what you want means to know who you are, first and foremost. If you don’t know who you are, how can you possibly know what you want?

When we don’t know who we are or what we want, we slip into depression and anxiety. And since we don’t know who we are or what we want, we find ourselves being influenced by other people’s goals and desires and then in our struggle to work toward those goals that we think others want for us, our misery magnifies as our self-esteem plummets because we know deep inside that their goals and desires are not what we want for ourselves.

So, how do you find out who you are and how do you discover what you want?

By making a conscious effort to listen to yourself. This means going within yourself and taking a self-inventory to find out what kinds of things you like doing. This is where you will discover your gifts and talents. These gifts and talents are the spiritual pointers of the direction you are to take in life, regardless of what society or others may tell you.

When I first started college, I majored in chemical engineering, not because it was what I wanted but because that was expected of me. I thought I had no choice since my father was paying for my education. But halfway through the semester, I began suffering debilitating migraines that landed me in the hospital at times. I grew more miserable with each passing day. I knew I had to do something or the stress was going to kill me.

So, I quit.

I enrolled in another school. I started taking classes that interested me. I worked three different jobs to pay my way.  And though it was challenging, I was happy because I was doing what I wanted to do, not what I was expected to do. The migraines stopped.

I learned some valuable lessons, and hopefully you will find these helpful in figuring out who you are and what you want:

1.  It’s your life, not anyone else’s. You have to live with yourself. If you make choices based on other people’s goals and desires, you put yourself in serious jeopardy. Realize that you have needs and wants and that they are important to your self-expression.

2.  Listen to your body. You may not know what you want intellectually, but your body will know, and it will react physically when you are not in alignment with something. Practice self-care and self-love. Do things that make you feel good. Your thoughts will become less erratic and you will feel a lot calmer so that you can face any challenges.

3. Let go of expectations. This is key. What other people expect of you does not matter. What matters is that you live in harmony with who you are.  You are here to live your dreams, not someone else’s. When I learned that I didn’t have to live up to someone else’s expectations, I was freed.

4.  You do not have to justify your worth. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking, “If I do this, then I am worthy of that.” Such conditional thinking is destructive because it presumes that there is some kind of hierarchy of people’s worth. You are who you are and you want what you want; there is no need to defend that to anyone.

5.  Try different things to figure out what you enjoy. Take classes that interest you. This will provide you with greater insight into what you really enjoy. Plus you will have some fun along the way.

6.  Don’t try to fit in. Instead be yourself. Sometimes it seems that belonging to a certain group is the most important thing. I have found that I am unique without being connected to a certain group, and the few close friends that I have love me for my unique qualities, not for my “role” within a group.

7.  See life as full of opportunities to grow and expand. I could have easily looked at myself as a failure for not pursing chemical engineering as a career, but taking those classes showed me what I didn’t like. Knowing what I didn’t like helped (and pushed) me to discover what I did like.

What tips can you offer to help others figure out who they are and discover what they want?

The Body Beatitudes

Ever stop to think how amazing our bodies are?

Deepak Chopra points out that “skin replaces itself once a month, the stomach lining every five days, the liver every six weeks, and the skeleton every three months.”

The body is constantly renewing itself.

Photo Courtesy Google Images

It sheds the old to make way for the new.

Struggling with a negative body image does not allow us to give our bodies the gratitude it deserves.

Polluting it with unhealthy substances over time breaks down the body’s performance.

Neglecting its needs is self-abuse, not self-love.

Let us reject the negative images of the body and bless it, for as we bless our bodies, they will bless us in return.

Let us honor our bodies for the temples that they are.

In the words of poetess Robin Morgan:

Blessed be my brain
     that I may conceive of my own power.
Blessed be my breast
     that I may give sustenance to those I love.
Blessed be my womb
     that I may bend so as not to break.
Blessed be my feet
     that I may walk in the path of my highest will.

How do you honor and bless your body? Your comments are always welcome.

(Excerpt from “The Network of the Imaginary Mother” from Upstairs in the Garden:  Poems Selected and New, 1968-88 by Robin Morgan).

Learning Self-Love

This morning I spoke with a young woman (I’ll call her J) who is not happy with her body image. She said, “I’ve always wanted to be the type of person who could wear a bikini at a pool or beach and I know that will never happen.”

I run into this time and time again with young women who *believe* that they are supposed to look like runway models, movie stars, and glamour queens. And when they don’t, they resort to extreme dieting and exercise; worse yet, they develop eating disorders and other physical ailments. Such self-abuse takes its toll on the body, mind, and spirit.

I admit when I was a teen I often compared myself to other girls and to women in magazines.  Their images seduced me into wanting to look like them. I can recall times I’ve stood in front of my mirror, chanting the mantra that most teenage girls of my time were chanting, I must…I must…I must increase my bust, while trying to get my elbows to touch behind my back each time.

And then one day a bolt of realization hit me. I didn’t have to have big breasts. I liked mine just the way they were. I didn’t want to be a copy of someone else; I wanted to be an original. And no one would do a better job of being me than me.

So, I embraced myself, B-cups and all.

We incarnate into this world naked, innocent, pure, and beautiful. Unfortunately, we buy into lies perpetuated by the media and advertising, and we begin to think that we are not good enough.  We start living by standards set by others rather than by our own. And when we fail to live up to those standards, we are crushed, devastated, and defeated. We call ourselves failures in comparison to others.  We *believe* the lies as truth that we are less than perfect. How incredibly sad.

After talking at length with J, it’s obvious that she is caught in this destructive trap. She’s afraid of being seen as a failure. At her core lies shame that she learned from someone or something. It has such a grip on her that it has paralyzed her from making the changes she needs to make in order to blossom into her authentic self.  Her self-neglect and self-abuse have out-trumped the ability to love herself as the gift that she is.

It would be easy to tell J to just go love herself, but the issue is that she doesn’t know how.  It’s going to take some training and a lot of inner as well as outer work on her part, and only if she truly wants to make the changes.

What can J (or anyone for that matter) do to love herself more?  I’ve compiled a list of things that she (and you!) can start doing.  Of course, these don’t have to be done all at once, but the sooner the better.

1.  Start dating yourself. Take yourself out to dinner, to a movie, or to a museum. The point is to spend some quality time alone with yourself. Get to know who you are. Learn to get comfortable with yourself. It might feel a bit awkward in the beginning.  You may feel self-conscious, or feel that people are looking at you and judging you because you are out alone. But this discomfort will dissipate and you’ll soon realize how important it is to do things for yourself.

2.  Notice your self-talk. Your self-dialogue is key! Negative self-talk shames you into imprisoning your authentic self.  It is destructive to your growth.  Instead, practice positive self-talk through affirmations and I AM statements. Start paying yourself compliments. Say them in front of a mirror. Write them down. Post them where you will always see them. Read them and re-read them. Speak kindly to yourself always. Forgive yourself for past negative thinking.

3.  Do what you love. When you find things that you love to do and you spend time doing them, you will experience love, joy, and happiness, and then will you connect with your authentic self.

4.  Learn to say no to others’ requests. And don’t feel guilty about it. If you don’t feel like doing something, you have the right not to do it. If you feel you have to please someone else and make others happy, then you are doing so out of obligation and not out of love. You run the risk of over-extending yourself. Saying no takes some practice; you want to do it respectfully. You can’t please everyone and you are not responsible for everybody else’s needs.

5.  Practice self-care on all levels. Take care of yourself physically by exercising and eating healthy foods.  Take care of yourself spiritually through meditation, prayer, or contemplation. Take care of yourself emotionally by listening to uplifting music, putting your creative skills to use, and being kind to others.  Kindness is the kernel of love.

6.  Avoid the comparison trap! You are a unique individual.  There will never be anyone quite like you.  This is important to remember.  When you start comparing yourself to others it chips away at self-esteem and confidence, making you depressed, envious, or jealous.  Instead, focus on your own strengths and gifts that you can offer to the world.

7.  Practice gratitude. Be happy with what you have. Be truly thankful for everything in your life…friends, family, a home, a job, etc. Gratitude keeps your heart open to love. The more you are grateful for what you have in your life, the more you attract.

8. Examine the kinds of activities in which you are involved.  What kinds of TV shows, music, art and music do you indulge?  Ask yourself if these things are adding to your growth or detracting from it. With what kinds of people do you associate? Do these people foster your growth or not? If these things and people only add stress to your life, then it’s time find activities and people that feed your soul and not your ego.

9.  Celebrate your accomplishments. Don’t define yourself by what you’ve done or haven’t done. Instead, celebrate the steps you have taken to better yourself. Small accomplishments lead to bigger ones. Your progress is very important, but it may take some time. Be patient as you allow your authentic self to emerge. Every time you feel good about something you do, it’s one more reminder to love who you are.

10. Stand up for your beliefs. You are who you are.  You like what you like.  You believe what you believe. You have nothing to prove to anyone.  Don’t give other people’s opinions and criticisms power over you. Your self-worth is not conditional on other people.

Self-love is at the very core of well-being. If we are to experience joy and self-empowerment, if we are to create and enjoy the kind of life that we want, self-love must live at our core.  You can’t enjoy happiness if you are not at peace with yourself.

As always your comments are welcome.  Please share your ideas to help others on the journey to the authentic self.