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Nature is a very rich source of Divine inspiration. This exercise is an opportunity to "read" God's creation by taking a leisurely walk outdoors. Lectio divina (Divine reading) of scripture is one way to communicate with God through prayer and meditation in order to gain new insights. You can adapt this method of sacred reading with any object found in nature.
What is your favorite way to release stress in your body, mind and spirit? Have your practices changed over time? Take the poll above and leave a comment below if you have a practice that is not listed above. If you have not tried some of these practices, consider giving one of them a try in the coming weeks and let us know what you think.
May you be well!
There are many ways we can tend our body's need for movement and exercise. I trick myself into exercising by doing movement activities that I enjoy. What is your favorite exercise activity? I'd love to hear your answers. Just click on your favorite way to exercise below:
While we're on the topic of movement and exercise, I've discovered that when I schedule a block of time on my calendar for a "walk" or "dance", then I'm more willing to make time for exercise. Can you block out a few times for your favorite movement activity or exercise this week?
May you be well!
Create a sacred space in your home to use for silence, contemplative prayer and meditation. This physical space will help to quiet your mind, connect with your life purpose and listen for inner wisdom and Divine inspiration when used regularly. Performing daily routines of prayer, meditation, yoga or other spiritual practices in this space allows you to quickly reach a deep state of expanded spiritual awareness. A consistent space dedicated to quieting the body, mind and spirit acts as a portal to the Divine. Your body, mind and spirit has muscle memory, so you recognize the special items and remember previous visits to this safe space, allowing you to quickly return to deep states of relaxation.
One reason people like to create sacred space is the feeling of hygge and well-being. Hygge is a concept of creating a cozy, warm, safe space where you experience a deep sense of well-being and connectedness to God and others. Creating a sacred space allows you to experience integration of body, mind and spirit through the physical, mental, emotional, relational and spiritual experiences in this space.
What special items create this feeling of sacred space or help you connect to the Divine? For some people, lighting a candle or viewing a religious icon helps the space feel sacred. For others, a photograph of a loved one or a special vacation spot evokes feelings of love and joy. Still others find that sacred connection on the yoga mat, watching birds outdoors or rocking in a favorite chair. Coloring, sketching or writing in a journal are great practices to create a special routines that feel sacred.
Take a moment and list the places, activities and things that create a sense of sacred space for you.
You can create a cozy, sacred space in your home for meditation, prayer or relaxation when you need to escape from the pressures of stress around you. Sometimes soaking in the bathtub with scented oils and candles can create that sense of sacred space. Sitting outdoors or watching the flames in the fireplace on a cold winter night can also be sacred space. The important thing is to take time to block out the ordinary activities of the day and savor quiet time in your own sacred space. You may occasionally invite special friends or a loved one to share that space with you.
You can create a portable altar space by placing special items in a basket to use in various rooms or outdoors if you are unable to have a dedicated space. Consider a colorful piece of fabric as an altar cloth, to transform an ordinary space into sacred space. Add a candle, sacred icon, journal/pen, photograph or other items that you consider special. If you wish to create a less formal space, tuck in a cozy blanket, slippers and your favorite mug for an on-the-go self care basket. Experiment with various spaces and activities to find several options that work for your lifestyle.
You might want to consider creating a sacred space at work. Try using an empty Altoids tin with a few special items inside for a mini-altar. A candle, sacred icon, photograph from a favorite vacation spot, pebble from the beach or other special items can be placed on a small cloth in front of you for a few moments, then discretely hidden when your break time is over.
How will you create a personal sacred space?
Do you spend a majority of the day standing on your feet or sitting in a chair? Do you take frequent stretch breaks to reduce the impact of stress on your body? Spending time in one position can contribute to health concerns such as low back pain or swollen ankles. It is important to change your position throughout the day to restore posture and eliminate additional stress on the body. Stretching, movement or power naps in the middle of your work day are a helpful stress relief strategies. Practicing yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong are also important practices that can improve your energy levels by releasing tension and stimulating internal body rhythms.
Judith Hanson Lasater PhD, author of Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times, incorporates supported yoga poses and breathing techniques to help the body experience deep rest and relaxation. These poses are like hitting the reboot button on your computer. The poses and breathing help your body shut down some of the "on alert" sympathetic nervous system responses (fight or flight) that can run continually in your body, even when you don't need them. When you rest, your body's parasympathetic nervous system response (rest and digest) is stimulated, causing your body to relax and be renewed.
One of the quickest ways to reboot your body in the middle of the day is to lie down for a few minutes with your legs elevated on a chair or a couch. This will help take pressure off your low back by tilting your hips and relaxing the back muscles that normally stabilize you hips when standing. (See image below.) Lie on your back with a small towel under your head for support. Place your feet and lower legs on a chair to protect your low back. Relax for 10 - 15 minutes, breathing deeply for a few breath cycles, then allowing your breath to return to a normal rhythm.
Elevating your legs in this position helps to decrease the swelling in your ankles. The body's circulation flows against gravity when pumping fluids back toward your body while standing, making it harder to eliminate the excess fluids which are often waste products from our muscles. When you are in a seated position, the combination of bent knees and the pressure of the chair against the back of your legs slows the process of pumping those waste products and excess fluids back into your body. When you elevate your feet above heart level, you allow the natural influence of gravity to help drain the excess fluids back into your body. Rotating your ankles or wiggling your toes can also help stimulate the draining of extra fluids.
Who do you turn to when things feel unbalanced in your life? Do you rely on your own intuition? Perhaps you spend time gathering information, learning self help techniques or consulting with a specialist. Another source of insight is to turn to a network of friends and family who know you well and can give you honest feedback. An exercise partner, a trusted friend, or family member can provide valuable insight, support and accountability on your wellness journey.
Inner reflection, thorough research and the reaction of others can help you make good choices that impact your health.
On Day 3 of this Be Well series, I discussed the importance of getting a good night's sleep. An important part of sleep is the position of your spine when lying in bed.
Support your spine and keep it straight while sleeping to decrease low back pain and avoid reinforcing poor postures. When sleeping on your back, use pillows under your knees to slightly tilt your pelvis and support your low back. Use a small pillow to support your neck's gentle curve without tilting your chin down. (see image below)
When you are side lying, use enough pillows to position your neck and hips in a straight alignment. You may need an additional pillow under your head to keep your neck in straight alignment with your spine. (See image below) You can use another pillow between your body and upper arm (not pictured) so that your shoulder is relaxed and the nerves that go down your arm are not pinched in the armpit area.
A firm mattress is best for your back, but may cause hip and shoulder pain when side-lying. To make the bed more comfortable when side lying, try using a one or two inch memory foam topper on your mattress. This will still give enough support for your back and will also relieve the pressure on your hips and shoulders.
Research shows that creativity can positively impact health and well-being. Creativity engages the right brain, accesses the unconscious self and increases awareness of your emotions and "inner landscape". The creative process is most important as a self care practice, not the finished project.
Art and other creative activities help to switch your body's stress response into rest and digest mode by stimulating the right brain. Occupational Therapists know that purposeful activities like artwork offer therapeutic benefits such as increased self awareness, higher self esteem and release of past trauma.
Many people feel they are not "artistic". Somewhere along the way, they received feedback that their artwork was not as good as another person's artwork. So they stopped doing art. Does that sound familiar to you? Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way encourages readers to believe we all have creative potential and not compare to others standards. The good news is that you are creative. You can spend time being creative for the pure benefit of the process, not just the final outcome. Some of the benefits you might notice are feeling calm, happy and relaxed when making art. You may gain insights about yourself and life situations.
Here are some creative ideas for you to consider:
Have fun exploring various mediums and forms of art. These art activities allow you to notice your "inner landscape", which is a metaphor for your emotional and spiritual status, then express it in healthy and tangible ways through the use of colors and symbols.
What creative activity would you like to pursue today?
DW Healing Arts
Balance Resource Cards
Mind Body Spirit