Self Care

What is self care for you and how does self care unfold in your life right now?

In reflecting on this vast and important topic, I was reminded of the Buddhist practices of Maitri, a Sanskrit word meaning unconditional friendliness; and Metta, a Pali word meaning loving kindness.  Making friends with yourself.  What does having a gentle and kind attitude towards yourself feel like in your bodymind right now?  Then add unconditional:  what does this feel like?  No limits, no boundaries, nothing is left out, all is included.  How does this land and feel in your state of being? 

What does it actually look like to treat ourselves with unconditional friendliness on a day to day basis?  You’d think that this is a relatively simple practice to apply, but for most of us it is a struggle.  Negative self-talk and an ever-increasing business permeate our lives:  racing thoughts, judgements, social media craziness and a flood of information affects our ability to stay grounded.  Things are changing faster than our capacity to keep up with them.  These changes – technological, geophysical and social – are happening more quickly than our psyche’s ability to adapt, which puts a huge strain on our nervous systems, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and disorientated. 

Maitri can be seen as a form of self care.  Self care is a growing and necessary awareness in our culture right now.  We need this practice so much in our world at this time of challenge:  true friendliness with ourselves.

The Buddha said: “You can search throughout the entire Universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere.  You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire Universe deserve your love and affection.”

Any form of spiritual practice that includes somatic movement and meditation, and cultivates listening, self awareness and embodiment, are great forms of self care.  These practices of enquiry open the door to who we really are.  And what life is really like for us.  We realise we can’t pretend any more: we can’t be the person we think we are supposed to be or who we are expected to be by our families and society. 

We have become masters at turning away from the difficult and uncomfortable things about ourselves and about our life that we don’t want to look at, acknowledge and feel.  Embodiment practices unravel this habit.  The body doesn’t lie; if we are listening, it shows us what we need in any particular moment.  Then we are faced with a choice.  Do we reject this part of our self that we don’t like and judge, or de we cultivate Maitri and open our state of being to include and accept all of ourselves, warts and all?    

Maitri means not lying to ourselves, it means maintaining a sense of humour and a fundamental feeling of deep and true compassion toward ourselves.  Being honest means being able to say, “OK, I see this mean side and I’m still going to treat myself with kindness”.  Friendliness and care toward our self is not indulgent.  Applying the principle of Maitri is about maintaining a relationship with pain, difficulty, shame and guilt.  Happiness comes from within: learning to sit and be with discomfort, failure and embarrassment is how the seeds of true happiness are planted. 

Learning to be at home in our bodymind, accepting all parts of ourselves, the judgemental and unkind aspects, and bouncing back using the gentle practice of Maitri.  This taking care of our hearts and minds with the same diligence as we take care of our bodies, is a freeing and empowering way to live.

If you feel called to explore, experience and cultivate deeper aspects of self care, please join me at these upcoming events:

Self Care Workshop: 24th March 8:30am – 4:30pm

An invitation to join Monja, Wendy and a group of movement and meditation practitioners to discover, explore and experience what Self Care looks and feels like in ourselves and in our lives. We will be working with the somatic practices of Feldenkrais® – Awareness through Movement; and Somatic Meditation – Meditating with the Body.  Email wendy@wise-living.co.za for more information and to book.

Care of Self Retreat: 20th – 22nd April, Thirsty Falls Guest Farm, Magaliesburg

An invitation to slow down, rest and reconnect:  to open into deep receptivity and listen to how your body, heart and mind are feeling; and to honour what your being needs in each moment to replenish and revitalise.  An invitation to return home to embodiment, honesty, wholeness and aliveness.  Email wendy@wise-living.co.za for more information and to book.

When our inner attitude softens and changes, the world around us looks and feels different; creating a ripple effect of wellbeing into our families, communities and country. 

With love
Wendy
facilitating your somatic and psychological process from Open-Hearted Presence

Body Wisdom – feeling at home in your body

Awareness of our body and its wisdom is an empowering ability that we are all born with. However, as we grow into adulthood, we tend to lose connection with its messages. This innate ability becomes blocked by childhood conditioning, limiting beliefs and self-perceptions, and the residue of past traumas.

When we learn how to deepen our connection with our body, which is a powerful form of intuition, we access clarity and inner knowing quickly and easily in stressful situations. Tapping into our full body presence is how we awaken our creative potential; and how we cultivate greater ease and joy as we navigate our inner and outer worlds.

Listening to the spontaneous signals that our body sends throughout the day – gut feelings, tugs at our heart, tense neck and shoulders – sounds like a simple practice. As a species, we’ve been doing it for millennia. Early humans depended on this full `body wisdom in an instinctual way.

However, most of us are cut off from our body wisdom. We shut out physical and emotional sensations – all feeling – due to past traumas. Limiting beliefs about ourselves and our bodies colour our perceptions about what our body is trying to tell us. We are also distracted by our environment — the fast pace of life, our digital gadgets and the unsettling state of the world.

Our reactions to body sensations can be overly vigilant because our mind may be thinking that what is happening now is similar to a past traumatic event. This locks us out of the current moment and leaves us vulnerable because we can’t accurately sense what the rest of our body is telling us. Unfortunately, if we can’t feel present-moment sensations, we are relating through old patterns of fear, shame or doubt.

Learning how to feel and listen to the full range of body sensations nurtures our relationship with our self and with others. This deeper sense of connection flows over into our connection with all of Life — heightening our sense of belonging and growing a trust in our self and others. Listening more closely to what our body needs, physical and mental/emotional healing happens.

When we return home to feeling our body again and again, we access the nourishing flow of life force energy within and around us. We open more expansively to all of Life and our unique gifts flow through and from us into the world. Accessing our most valuable resource – our body – cultivates trust, presence and freedom.

How do you feel and sense your body right now? What is the relationship like that you have with your body? Can you hear your body wisdom?

If you feel called to deepen in your body wisdom, I offer 1-1 transpersonal somatic counselling sessions to explore past traumas, conditioned beliefs and present life challenges. It is a therapy that makes the connection between mind, body and the interconnectedness of Life. I work directly with your nervous system to facilitate a process of healing and awakening from personal and collective wounding. Email wendy@wise-living.co.za to book a session.

 

Remember to return home to your body, feeling it in the chair and on the ground, feeling any sensations and receiving its messages.

With love
Wendy
facilitating your somatic and psychological process from Open-Hearted Presence

Emotional Intelligence

To heal our emotional wounds and transform limiting self beliefs, we need to focus on getting in touch with the traumatised, rejected and unaccepted aspects of ourselves.  We do this by cultivating receptivity, sensitivity and presence towards ourselves.  The more we learn to love and accept ourselves – warts and all – the more peace, joy and aliveness we feel in our lives.

When we experience difficult feelings and emotions, such as hurt, rejection, anxiety, self doubt, anger, fear and depression, our automatic tendency is to avoid or to push these strong emotions away.  However, everything we reject or bury affects our physical and mental wellbeing: this process can leave us feeling stuck, limited and isolated; and unconsciously distorts many of the decisions we make in life.

Learning to receive, feel and listen in a way that says all experiences are welcome and sacred, we develop the capacity to be fully present with whatever arises, as well as becoming fully present with ourselves.  From this still place of open acceptance, we are able to experience directly and intimately the sensations and emotions in the body.  This allows our nervous system to relax and healing to happen – physically and psychologically.  Now we are able to listen to the messages and wisdom that rise from deep within the body.

In this way, we learn to relate to ourselves, others and life in an emotionally mature and grounded way.  By cultivating a sense of connection, authenticity, openness and compassion we grow our emotional intelligence.  This is an important daily practice, and one that needs awareness, courage and kindness.  It is an essential life skill needed at this time of our human and spiritual evolution.   

How do we digest Life?

We have less ability to digest food when our mind is improperly digesting life’s experiences!

Mind and body are not separate entities but are deeply interrelated. The mind can affect the wellbeing of the body, just as the condition of the body can affect the quality and state of mind. There is an intimate relationship between the brain and stomach which means that digestion responds to thoughts and emotions.

The healing tradition of Ayurveda teaches that health and wellbeing depend upon our ability to digest everything we receive from the environment. This includes food and drink, experiences and emotions as well as the sensory input through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin.

Agni is the Sanskrit term for “digestive fire”.  Agni breaks down food and experiences, assimilating what is useful and eliminating the rest.  When digestive ability is strong, healthy tissues are created, waste products are effectively eliminated and a subtle essence called ojas is produced. Ojas is experienced as our innermost vital essence and our enthusiasm for life. Ojas is the basis for clarity of perception, immunity, overall strength – physical, mental and spiritual, as well as the glow of our aura!

If agni is weakened through improper eating, lack of activity, turbulent emotional states or an unhealthy daily routine, digestion will become compromised. This produces toxins – ama – which are stored in the body and is the root cause of dis-ease.  Whether you are dealing with weight issues or uncomfortable symptoms such as IBS, bloating, gas, acid reflux or indigestion, the underlying root problem is weak agni, or poor digestion.

Ayurveda recommends a variety of practical tips to keep agni strong. By including these practices in your daily life, you can strengthen agni, improve nutrient absorption and food metabolism, treat uncomfortable digestive symptoms, digest life experiences and enhance your overall sense of vitality:

  • Meditate daily – regular practice helps restore balance to your body/mind, including the processes which control digestion. Meditation is also an effective way to manage stress.
  • Regular exercise – whether it is a little yoga every morning or a short daily walk, this aids digestion and controls sugar spikes.
  • Don’t overeat – when you overeat, your body cannot break down food properly. Your body will also produce more acid, causing reflux and indigestion which leads to gas, discomfort or bloating. Ayurveda recommends that you leave ¼ of your stomach empty to allow space for the digestive process.
  • Sip ginger tea throughout the day – ginger is known as a “universal remedy” due to its many medicinal properties. Ginger relaxes the smooth muscles of the intestine which relieves symptoms of gas and cramping and strengthens digestion.
  • Eat your largest meal at lunchtime – your body is most able to digest food at midday, when you are active and digestive fire is at its strongest. In the evening your body is slowing down and preparing for sleep. If you eat your biggest meal at dinner, when agni is weaker, you can feel heavy and bloated and have difficulty falling asleep.
  • Practice letting go of turbulent emotions – have you noticed how emotions effect your digestion? You may get heartburn or lose your appetite when you feel stressed or feel nauseous before a big presentation…

Unprocessed emotions can put a strain on the natural digestive process and lead to chronic digestive issues. By learning how to manage stress and release emotional turbulence, you help your digestive system work naturally and efficiently.  Look out for next month’s newsletter in which I talk about emotional intelligence.

Proper digestion, with a strong agni, plays a central role in your physical and emotional wellbeing.  By making wise choices that strengthen your digestive ability, you form the foundation for good health and vitality.

If any of this resonates with you and you’d like to learn how to meditate, need nutritional treatment or transpersonal counselling to help access and ‘digest’emotions, please contact me for more information and to book a session.

Returning to your Heart

A wise person once said, “Nature is held together by the energy of love.” I’ve always been fascinated by the innate wisdom of nature. Plants grow out of the mud up towards the light.

People grow in much the same way. If we deny the deep, dark places of the soul we dampen the fire that sustains our growth. But if we stay too long in those dark places we can become lost to our destiny, which is to evolve our heart to its fullest capacity.

Much of the time looking within may feel like we’re digging in the mud for lost, wounded fragments of ourselves. This is a necessary part of our healing, but is only half the story. The metaphor of the plant teaches that we cannot stay in the mud, our calling is also to reach for the light. Resolving past hurts gives us the confidence and energy to grow into the life of our Divine calling. This is the virtuous cycle of transpersonal growth. And the best way to sustain the cycle is by learning to re-inhabit our bodies and feel what we’re feeling.

My workshop Returning to Your Heart (Saturday, 26 November 2016) is an invitation to begin living from the truth and wisdom ever-present in the body. All that we’ve repressed, as well as all the blissful states of freedom – in fact everything we’ve ever experienced – is found in the body. The only way to heal our wounds is to fully open to the feelings and sensations in our bodies. Working with embodied feeling resolves unconscious patterns of repression and acting out.

“When we actually open and listen, then an entirely different relationship to life comes into being. Life continues to unfold as before, but because there is no one resisting it and no one turning away from it, there is no suffering, only the experience of openness, freedom, and joy – the experience of full embodiment.” (Reggie Ray, Touching Enlightenment)

Returning to your Heart workshop: 26th November 2-5pm, Alchemy Esoteric Wellness Centre, Linden

Experience the alchemy of allowing yourself to feel your feelings – especially painful ones – and its liberating effect not only on yourself, but on your parents and ancestors. By returning home, inside your body, you are able to release these contractions and help resolve the karmic cycle.

Drawing on the wisdom traditions of yoga and Buddhism, I use mindful movement, breathing, focused intention, stillness and facilitation.  This workshop is an opportunity to explore these sacred practices as a way of returning to your Heart.  Join me in discovering the hidden realms that lie within.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers
within yourself that you have built against it.”   Rumi

Feeling and Being

Sometimes people come to spirituality because they feel unhappy, or desperate. The danger is that spirituality becomes psychological avoidance as opposed to truth-seeking.

To me unhappiness is a nagging discomfort and background feeling of anxiety accompanied by the thoughts: ‘I’m not enough, this isn’t enough, they aren’t enough’, that is enough to make me feel relaxed and content with myself and with Life.  If you’re someone born into a functional and loving family then chances are your self-esteem is good.  Life may be challenging, and you can fall back on the self-belief that ‘I am enough to be successful and happy, despite the challenges.’

However, many of us were born into a family where the emotional environment was characterized by a nagging sense that something is wrong.  That doesn’t mean there weren’t moments of intimacy, fun and laughter – but the default setting was a vague feeling of unease.  If that describes you, then you’ll need to be especially vigilant against spiritual bypassing – seeking higher spiritual states to escape emotional pain.

Release comes from honestly and gently acknowledging what we are feeling. Underneath the depression, anxiety and self-judgment is the simplicity of feeling and being. Even uncomfortable emotions, not explained away, suppressed or interfered with, are preferable to the complex thoughts and emotional games that tend to overlay feeling. It’s great when we connect with our True self through heightened spiritual states. But, profound insight is also available to us when we let go and sink into the realm of pure feeling; when we let go and sink into feeling our bodies from the inside.

Take a few moments and experience this now – breathe out and let your body release fully into the support of the chair.  Continue to feel the release of each out-breath bringing more and more attention into your body.  Notice how your body is feeling.  Rest here for a few minutes, simply feeling and being.

Discovering your Awakened Feminine

I’ve recently returned from a week-long retreat, Meeting in Truth, led by Isaac Shapiro and Meike Schuett (www.isaacshapiro.org). The retreat was deeply nourishing and very transformational. An area of healing for me has been with regards to the dance of my inner masculine and feminine aspects. I’m noticing a softening of my inner masculine, which is allowing me to deepen into the receptive, embodied qualities of my awakening feminine: I’m experiencing this as less doing and more being.

Our modern world emphasises mind-made forms at the expense of the Formless. Success is determined by the shiny things we own and what they cost. Billboards and television commercials tell us what’s beautiful and what’s not. Many of us bemoan this addiction to surface, which is a product of consumerist living. We long for depth and meaning, for the wide open spaces of an interior world.

In a world that equates form with beauty, we yearn for the wild beauty of the awakened feminine. If we are fortunate we discover a practice that helps us plumb our own depths, and dance in the deeper land of our being. And if we are even more fortunate we join a community of fellow seekers with whom we share our depth and find refuge from the onslaught of surface.

When we seek beauty in form we project our own beauty onto the person we desire, the car we drive, the home we dream about it. Lurking below these projections, this desire for beauty, is something sacred. Both women and men long to access their sacred beauty, but are restrained by a materialistic culture that worships at the altar of science and rationalism.

I am inspired to meet people from the ground of the formless. I invite your awakened feminine out of the cave and into the open. I long to see your beauty shine, your voice sing out and your body dance to the wild rhythms of Nature.  Please contact me to book a session. 

Loving Awareness in the New Year

The beginning of any cycle is a powerful and tender time. Imagine a new blade of grass pushing its way through the dry earth or a newborn baby sleeping on its mother’s lap. Each is so strong and also fragile.

The New Year period is an important one, not because there is any inherent accuracy to the calendars we use, but rather because it reminds us of the cyclical nature of life.  Things arise, take form and then dissolve only to be reborn at the beginning of a new cycle.  Whether we consider these cycles to be that of birth and death, of day and night or of the movement of our breath, wherever we cast our awareness in nature, we see cycles.  Cycles can exist as a simple repetitive pattern where there is no transformation: a returning of the old without any renewal. 

What allows this cycle of your life, this New Year, to be not just a replay of the limiting patterns of the past?  What allows your next breath, to be a breath of renewal?  Just for a moment, let go of goal setting and planning.  Instead focus on how you meet this moment in a way that touches it with Loving Awareness.

As you shine the light of Loving Awareness on thought, the constricting patterns of thought dissolve, as you shine the light of Loving Awareness on emotional patterns, these knots untangle themselves and release life enhancing energy.  When memories are touched by Loving Awareness, they are seen to be the meaningful stepping stones that have brought you to this breath, to this moment. Whatever arises, acknowledge it, infuse it and release it with Loving Awareness.

By recognising that you are not your personal history or cultural conditioning, but rather that you are Loving Awareness, you are able to let go of the past and meet all that arises in this moment with Presence. 

Turn towards this new cycle with an open mind and an undefended heart and shine the light of Loving Awareness through this moment to touch the future and heal the past.

What does it feel like to enter this year, this moment, with Loving Awareness?

Smile, Breathe, Go Slowly

This mindfulness mantra from Thich Naht Hahn is powerful in its simplicity.  Try it now and notice how it affects the state of your awareness in the body, heart and mind! 

There is so much expectation at this time of year to experience the ‘Joy’ of the festive season.  This expectation creates tension and disconnection.  Practicing this mindfulness mantra daily, brings us back to what we are actually feeling – in our bodies and hearts.  From this place of honesty we access self-compassion and self-care. And the mantra brings us back to the precious present moment.

Taking time to acknowledge what we feel grateful for is another way of returning to our heart’s innate state of openness and ease.  It is easy to feel gratitude for the positive, expansive experiences and a little harder to be thankful for the challenges.  Every situation offers a gift and a teaching, by realising the lesson, we can shift how we engage with ourselves and Life.  

Dedicate time during the holidays to breathe in gratitude for all you have experienced, learned and released this year.

 “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
Thornton Wilder

 

Returning Home to NOW

Are you aware of what you are bringing to the world at the moment?  What feeling do you imprint on Mother Earth with each step you take?  Are you tired, stressed, rushing to fit in extra commitments before the end of the year?  Are you adding to the feeling of chaos? 

I invite you NOW to pause.  Sigh the breath out through your open mouth and allow the next in-breathe to happen slowly through your nose.  Repeat this practice three times.  Then notice what changes you feel in your body and mind. 

During periods of high stress and busyness it becomes even more important to make time every day to re-centre back into your still point and into this moment.

Again, sigh out through your mouth, and breathe in slowly through your nose. 

It is only in the precious present moment that we access the innate state of wisdom, flow, abundance, love and freedom.  The simplest way of doing this is to become consciously aware of your breath.  The breath links body, mind and Spirit.  A great way to start on the path of Awareness, is by noticing the breath.  It is only through the astounding power of Awareness that we transform every facet of our lives and flow through Life’s challenges with ease and grace.