Are you on a Hero's Journey? Do you have spiritual guides who protect or assist you daily? What exactly is a Shamanic Journey? These questions have crossed my mind in recent years and captured my curiosity.
This month I'm reading a new book entitled A Modern Shaman’s Field Manual: How to Awaken Your Power and Heal the Earth by my friend Jeff Nixa, an Urban Shaman. The book is a very practical "Path of the Heart" manual. It addresses some of my unanswered questions about the Hero's journey and how to explore the landscape of my heart.
This is a book I want to read slowly.
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.
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?
Life is unfair. There will be situations in your life that cause emotional or spiritual pain. Holding on to emotions such as anger or fear can lead to other health problems such as depression or heart problems. It can show up as jaw pain from clenching your teeth or neck pain from tension in your shoulders. When these emotions are not processed or released, you body responds by holding tension in your tissues and organ systems which can eventually lead to chronic illness.
Tapping is a technique to help shift us out of old unhealthy patterns and into new patterns. The tapping helps to imprint new muscle memory in our brain and body. There are various methods for tapping, but I like to use simple versions that are easy to remember and quick to use. Try using the methods below during a bathroom break or when you need to concentrate on a project.
Silence creates a still point in our day and can allow us to become aware of the constant “chatter” in our minds. Most people prefer silence when meditating. Silence also calms anxiety, lowers blood pressure and brings a sense of
well-being. Silence raises your awareness of the constant thoughts in your mind.
Take a few moments to savor the stillness you feel when you are silent.
Laughter and humor cause chemical changes in the body so you feel good. They improve your mental health, increase energy and decrease stress. Watch a funny movie, tell some jokes or just laugh out loud.
Smiling can also have positive benefits. Think happy thoughts and smile as often as you can. Simulating a smile by holding a pen or pencil clenched between your teeth for two minutes has also been shown to have positive effects on your body's chemistry.
Need a good laugh? I always enjoy videos from Soul Pancake, such as Kid President Laugh Party.
Your positive words and thoughts change your perception of life, influence your brain chemistry and impact your well-being in positive ways. Life's challenges can appear easier and you may feel more balanced when optimistic about life. As you nourish these thoughts, you positively impact your energy.
Daily affirmations are important in creating a positive outlook in life. They help create a new script to replace the negative self-tapes that play in your mind.
Words have power. Your subconscious mind listens to the thought you think. Train your brain to think positive thoughts by repeating affirmations frequently throughout the day. List your strengths, the positive attributes you wish to cultivate and your future potentials. Turn these into your affirmations. Even if you are afraid to believe these statements, keep repeating them daily and notice what happens.
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