Tag Archives: Helpful Practices

Staying Present

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Peaceful beach sceneA few years ago, I became highly “accident prone.” I broke three toes in three separate incidents, one of which necessitated a fairly involved surgery with a lengthy recovery time.  I repeatedly bumped into things and hit my head on at least ten different occasions.  After one of my head bumps led to an emergency room visit and a CAT scan, I decided I needed to look more closely at what was going on with all of my accidents.

Not Paying Attention

I came to the conclusion that a large part of the problem had to do with not paying attention to what I was doing.  My mind was always on what I had to do next, not on what I was doing in the moment. I frequently rushed around and felt frantic about getting everything done in a timely fashion.  I was always running late to appointments and often drove too fast and somewhat recklessly trying to reach my destination on time.  Needless to say, I was not living my life in a relaxed fashion!

A Simple but Significant Decision

A little over a year ago, I decided to allow myself more time to get things done and to be more mindful about my actions. This one simple decision made a significant impact on my life.  Not only did I stop bumping my head, arms, and toes every few days, I also found myself feeling much more calm and peaceful.  I began paying more attention to what I was doing in each moment instead of living for the future, whether it be two minutes or two years later.  Without really intending to start being present as a spiritual practice, I experienced strong benefits in that realm.  I started to become more of the person I wanted to be – happy, peaceful, calm, and joyous.

Spiritual Practices

I have read that even washing the dishes can be a spiritual practice.  At first I scoffed at such a suggestion, but I now know the veracity of that claim.  When one is fully present to whatever action he or she is taking, a stronger connection to divine energy is experienced. As someone who has tried and failed to meditate in the traditional sense over the years, I learned that there are many forms of meditation. Some are more sedentary and include the lotus position and mantras, while others are more active and involve being completely focused upon whatever actions one is taking. The latter works better for me, at least for now.

I remember attending a retreat which included an activity called walking the labyrinth.” This exercise is a type of “walking meditation in which one walks through a maze-like circuitous path to the center of a labyrinth and back out again.  There is only one way in and one way out, so there are no decisions to be made along the way.  If desired, one can set an intention or ask a question before entering the labyrinth, but neither of these actions is necessary.

The activity of walking the labyrinth quiets the mind in a way similar to traditional meditation. I enjoyed this activity very much and have since learned that there are labyrinths all over the world.  According to the Labyrinth Society, there are six labyrinths within ten miles of where I live!  Perhaps a regular visit to a local labyrinth should be an integral part of my effort to experience “the power of now” (by the way, I highly recommend Eckhart Tolle’s wonderful book by that title!).

Slipping Back Into Old Habits…

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were gearing up to go on a trip for several days.  Unfortunately, I did not allow myself enough time to get ready to leave and found myself frantically rushing about and still far behind our planned schedule. It is no big surprise that I hit my head, forgot to pack a critical item (underwear, believe it or not!), and ended up in a foul mood.  I had gone to bed late and wanted extra sleep in the morning, so I didn’t allow myself the additional preparation time which would have rendered the entire morning far less stressful.  I was thinking a step or two ahead instead of focusing on what I was doing in the present moment.

Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head hard, I was able to purchase underwear once I reached my destination, and felt much calmer and in better spirits shortly after we were on our way.  But I did learn a valuable lesson from my negative experience.  I need to honor my commitment to give myself more time than I need to get things done and to be fully present to whatever I am doing in any given moment.

Louise Hay’s Insights

I also decided to take a look at what Louise Hay has to say about accidents and being “accident prone.”  Like everything else in life, Louise believes that we create accidents as a result of our negative thought patterns. She also states that accidents are expressions of anger and indicate built-up frustrations resulting from not feeling the freedom to speak up for one’s self.

Accidents can be related to rebellion against authority or anger toward ourselves. The accident is a way to punish ourselves and to receive sympathy and attention from others.  The area of our bodies in which we experience pain from the accident can give us a clue as to which area of our lives we feel guilty about (see Chapter 15 of “You Can Heal Your Life” for “The List” of physical problems and probable causes).

A Wake-Up Call

Whether you believe Louise Hay’s explanations for accidents or decide that they signify the need to be more careful and present, accidents can represent a “wake-up call” for you to make changes in your life.  Either way, the message is to look within and examine your thoughts and behaviors more thoroughly.  It is never a good idea to just go through the motions of life in a virtual fog.

All too often, people numb themselves out through addictive behaviors, “busyness” and projection of their feelings and motivations onto others. While I have definitely done all of these things in the past and sometimes slip into such maladaptive tendencies from time to time, I choose to be fully present to my thoughts, my motivations, and my life. There is beauty and richness to be had in all of life’s experiences!

I need neither future nor past, but to learn to take today not too fast.” ~Jeb Dickerson

Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace.” ~Author Unknown

The Practice of Gratitude

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hand grasping star imageI want to briefly interrupt my discussion of Louise Hay’s Key Principles in order to share a personal practice that has made a big difference in my life.  I will return to the Key Principles in my next post…

I’ve often heard that the biggest key to happiness is gratitude, and I don’t doubt that.  When we are present to all that is wonderful in our lives, it’s difficult to feel depressed and despondent.  As  I look back on my life, I can see that even in my most difficult times, I still had a lot to be grateful for in my life.  I just had to look in the right place!  It’s all about focus and attitude, I’ve learned.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

To help me to stay aware of the many blessings in my life, I started to keep a Gratitude Journal a few years ago.  I confess that I haven’t always been consistent with this practice, but when I’ve maintained my Gratitude Journal, it’s helped me to be more positive and upbeat.  Here’s how it works…

On a daily or almost daily basis, I list three things in my life for which I am grateful. These can be big things or small things; there are no rules for what can be on the list.  I’ve found that it’s easy to think of the larger things, such as my wonderful husband, my cozy home, my cats, my vision, and my hearing.  The smaller things can be trickier to remember, yet those things also have a powerful impact in my life.  Here are some examples of some of the “small things” I’ve listed in my Gratitude Journal in recent entries:

  • I had an enjoyable walk with Mike along the water this evening.
  • The sun was out today after many, many rainy days in a row!
  • My kitties were curled up in the box on my desk all afternoon while I worked.
  • Our coffee grinder and coffee machine allow me to have delicious coffee every morning.
  • Class yesterday was both interesting and useful.

Add “Success” Entries to Your Journal

Since I have a tendency to be down on myself at times, I added a second component to my Gratitude Journal.  I also list three successes which I’ve achieved since my last journal entry.  As with the gratitude entries, it’s easy to remember our big wins, such as getting a job or a new client, completing a difficult project, or having a “crucial conversation” with a loved one.   But as we all know, such triumphs are not usually an everyday occurrence.  Yet we all have many small wins each and every day.  Noticing these wins can help us to become more present to the greatness which exists in each and every one of us.

In all honesty, I have to admit that sometimes I have to wrack my brain to come up with three successes for my Gratitude / Success Journal.   It is at these times that I really need to reflect upon what I have done well in the various areas of my life.  As with the gratitude entries, my success entries are often the “small things.”  Here are some recent examples of successes which I have recorded in my journal:

  • I got up and moving earlier this morning – was done exercising and getting ready by 10 am (I’m not a “morning person” – LOL)
  • I found a pair of jeans which fit well and are long enough for me!
  • I’ve been keeping me email in-box cleaned out and I’m not spending too much time on email.
  • I’m doing better at letting go of “should” and allowing myself to enjoy life (this is a BIG success!)
  • I ran errands and went to the gym yesterday despite not feeling like leaving the house.

How the Journal Helps…

My Gratitude/Success Journal helps me to be more present to all of the wonderful things in my life and to count my blessings instead of my problems.  It also helps me to be more aware of what I do well and to see how my small triumphs contribute to my life satisfaction and overall success.  Keeping this journal on a regular basis has led to my becoming a more positive person.

There is an additional use for my journal… When I am feeling particularly low on a given day, I look back at my journal entries for a reminder of my large and small blessings, as well as the ways in which I’ve succeeded in the various areas of my life.  This often provides the boost that I need to get out of victim mode and get back on track to being grateful and positive.

Stay tuned for two more posts about Louise Hay’s key principles.  Then we’ll move “full speed ahead” into the exercises in “You Can Heal Your Life.”  The Healing Project is ON!