Compassion is not religious business, it is human business. It is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival.
As I focus on finding balance in my life this year, I'm trying to look beyond what's in my usual "toolbox." I decided to step out of my comfort zone a bit . . . and enter a (new age-y) world.
Last month, I spent a lot of time researching chakras -- what they are; how they get "blocked;" how to "un-block" them; how they work to establish balance.
Now. Before going any further . . . let's just establish my boundaries here. I tend to be a very pragmatic person, rooted in the here-and-now. I'm not a fan of fantasy. When it comes to religion, well . . . let's just say I have a healthy skepticism. And I'm pretty firmly stuck in "Western thinking."
Still. I'm open. I like to explore. And I definitely think there are "higher powers" out there. I believe in the power of positive thinking. I believe in abundance mentality. I practice yoga and meditation.
Why not balance my chakras?
I did a lot of research and reading about chakras. (And . . . there is a lot of kooky stuff out there. Just sayin.) I "filtered" my research to be very practical and Western-friendly. (I ended up buying and reading one book - Healing Chakras by Ilchi Lee. And while it was mystical enough to induce some eye-rolling on my part, it was also fairly straightforward with good explanations and suggestions.)
I created a Pinterest board (because of course I would).
And I purchased a set of chakra stones (Etsy).
Here's a bit of what I learned:
- First, suspend Western thinking and judgement!
- The concept of chakras has been around for thousands of years and across cultures.
- Chakras are 7 "energy centers" in the body. Each chakra is associated with a different set of bodily organs and systems. Energy flows through your body, through the chakras.
- These 7 chakras also represent particular parts of consciousness -- the mind/body connection.
- While the existence of chakras is not scientifically proven, most people have experienced them at some point in their lives. (For example, anxiety is often felt in the stomach, stress manifests itself as a headache, relationship problems can cause heartache, etc.)
Of course, there's a lot more to it, but that's enough to give you a general sense.
Things can get a little . . . weird . . . in reading/learning about chakras! But, for me, I really like the concept (in a practical sense), and I'm looking for ways to embrace the whole chakra thing in my own daily practice as I seek balance.
Chakra affirmations work particularly well with meditation practice -- furthering positive thinking and creating healing energy. Because there are 7 chakras . . . and 7 days of the week . . . I'm focusing on one chakra each day as part of my meditation practice. There are yoga poses associated with each of the chakras, so I make sure to include those poses in my yoga practice. This is a great way for me to keep my mind/body connection in mind every day.
I really like having the stones (each stone represents one of the chakras) as tangible symbols of my intent. And, speaking of symbols -- I even found some "chakra earrings" that I love wearing these days. (You can see them in this picture of me from last weekend.) (Looking so balanced, non?)
So. I stepped way out of my box and learned all about something new last month. I never dreamed I'd be blogging about balancing my chakras, but there you go.
(And, really, that's what it's all about!)
(In other words, finding balance in crazy times!)
Back in January, during the Women's March, I really enjoyed the signs. They were clever and funny and heartfelt.
I also recall my overwhelming realization that they covered . . . So. Many. Issues.
I remember just standing there, just kind of gobsmacked, that this wasn't just a march for women's issues. Or access to health care. Or clean water for Flint. Or saving Planned Parenthood. Or protecting LGBTQ rights. Or immigration and refugee issues. Or support for public education. Or doing something to slow down climate change. Or environmental protection. Or preserving first amendment rights.
I realized it was - suddenly - about ALL THE THINGS.
Because ALL THE THINGS were at risk.
All at once.
Those signs, for me, just brought that fact home.
I've explained here on the blog that after the shock of the election last November, I felt an overwhelming desire to . . . DO SOMETHING . . . in a way I never had in my life before. It was like - overnight - an activist was born! And since the inauguration in January, I have done things I never imagined I would do.
I started joining all the lists and sending all the postcards and making all the calls and reading all the news.
My approach was wearing my down. Because I don't like being on High Alert all the time. I've realized that I can't be an activist . . . for All The Things . . . All The Time . . . without sacrificing my internal peace.
Without losing my BALANCE.
I recently found this quote by Richard Rohr of The Center for Action & Contemplation:
"We need a contemplative mind in order to do compassionate action."
This gave me great pause . . . to stop and think and re-evaluate my chicken-with-her-head-cut-off approach.
Because a contemplative mind is not motivated by fear. Or urgency. Or my Facebook feed! Because, well, y'know. . . that just leads to stress, a feeling of impending doom, and RE-action. Not compassionate action.
A contemplative mind, rather, takes in the situation. Learns about the situation. And lines that up with personal values and goals. In short, a contemplative mind allows for (wait for it) . . . comtemplation!
Which is HARD.
Because ALL THE THINGS!
But necessary. Because we need to act from our best and most peaceful place.
I'm working hard to foster a contemplative space for myself (and - trust me - some days it's much easier to do this than others). For me, this means that every day, I try to:
- Meditate (inviting a peaceful heart)
- Move (working out some of my frustration)
- Get outside (changing my environment)
- Limit my news consumption (because overload)
By creating space to think, I'm better able to discover and discern just what kind of compassionate action to take. Because much as I might want to do All The Things, I simply cannot. I need to choose. I need to focus. I need to take aim at specific targets.
I'm finding that having a bit more balance - between my peaceful heart and my new activist mind-set - helps me feel better, speak from the heart, and act more effectively. By prioritizing my issues, I feel like I'll be able to DO SOMETHING in a way that keeps my values, my passions, my gifts, and my energies in better alignment.
(Balance, my friends! Turns out it's all about balance.)
"It's not possible to save the world by trying to save it. You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer before you can make it a better place. Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift - your true self - is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs."
--- Bill Plotkin in Soulcraft
Quiet your mind.
Discern your priorities.
Take compassionate action using your own gifts.
Find your balance.
It's the best we can do.
If you've been reading along here for a while, you know that I am a regular participant in Ali Edwards' One Little Word project. I really like having a "word" to focus on each year, and I find it adds value to my personal development.
Ali, who also happens to be a storytelling-scrapbooker extraordinaire, provides monthly "thought-prompts" to help participants connect with their word through the year. She also demonstrates some very creative and inventive techniques for creating a journal/scrapbook to document the process.
In my early years with OLW, I went along with the scrapbooking prompts, and created my yearly journals. But after my first couple of words, I realized that . . . those cookie-cutter scrapbooks just weren't for me! Ali totally encourages participants to do their own thing with regard to the OLW project. She provides a lovely framework for participants, but she also celebrates those of us who totally go off the grid.
What do I do? Well. I'm a life-long journaler -- and after a few years of kicking around various ways to document my One Little Word, I've stumbled on to this . . .
I create a "collection" of . . . well, things . . . that help me connect with my word for the year. I usually begin with Ali's prompts and challenges, but my own word-exploration usually takes me in other directions, too. Through the year, I end up finding poems and quotes and photos and journal entries and cards and drawings (etc.).
I need to create a journal that will contain my "collection."
Every year (so far) I've done something a little bit different. This year, for example, I started with a couple of pieces of decorated cardboard, a hole-punch, and a couple of binder rings.
Those binder rings? Really handy! They allow flexibility -- and plenty of room for inspiration.
My journal has heavy-duty dividers inside (even though I'm not quite sure what I'm "dividing" yet). This month, I used Ali's prompt about creating vision boards to "decorate" the dividers in my journal.
What I love best about my OLW journal this year is the flexibility. I can add anything I want; anything that inspires me to connect with my word - BALANCE.
It's like . . . I'm the curator of my own private collection!
" Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you."
--- Anne Lamott
I had one of those weekends with lots of plans. You know. To get things done around the house. To catch up. To make things right.
I kind of went . . . off the script.
I focused on comfort.
Hopefully, I'll work again this morning. (When I plug myself back in!)
A couple of years ago, I added meditation to my daily morning ritual. I discovered that meditation was a powerful tool for me; that it helped me feel centered and prepared to meet the day.
But then . . . last year . . . lots of my regular habits and rituals started to unravel. Including my budding meditation practice. (Like I've mentioned before . . . I lost my balance last year.)
I decided to use last month's One Little Word challenge (to develop a new habit or activity) as an opportunity to put meditation back into my daily morning ritual; to get myself back in balance.
With a few exceptions, my focus on daily meditation was a great success, and the practice is now rooted in my morning ritual.
I've discovered a few things along the way.
- If I let the morning get away without meditation, it's much harder for me to find a way to fold it into my day later. (Those days I missed? It's because my morning was crazier than normal that day.)
- It helps to have a designated place for meditation -- and a signal to let Tom know I'm meditating and not to disturb me. (I close the door - and then Tom remembers that I'm meditating.)
- I really like having a candle burning . . . even though I tend to close my eyes during meditation.
- Soft, gentle music playing in the background helps me stay focused.
- No distractions allowed. No phone. No Tom. No dogs.
But wait a minute.
While Tom understands that a closed door means Do Not Disturb . . . the dogs? Not so much. They sit on the other side of the closed door and try to get in. Loudly. Distractingly. (And sort of pathetically.)
After several days of trying to keep them out, I decided to give in and let them come in with me for daily meditation.
We begin the ritual with some petting and tail-wagging. Maybe a dog-kiss or two. And then we all settle into our places. JoJo usually to my right, and Jenny right behind me.
Turns out my daily meditation practice is enhanced with dogs. And I think this is really okay. Because, for me, interacting with my dogs is a great way to get into a more mindful state of being.
And I think they like it, too!
Have a great weekend!
Each year, at the beginning of Ali Edwards' One Little Word project, we explore our "word" . . . kind of inside-out. I always appreciate this exercise. It helps me connect with my word in multiples ways -- and it helps me think through my intentions for the year.
One of my favorite thought-exercises is coming up with a list of what we want to do . . . More or Less . . . during the coming year. Here's my list:
More -- Reflection/Less -- Reaction
More -- Kindness/Less -- Indifference
More -- Saying NO/Less -- Obligation
More -- Risk-taking/Less -- Perfection
More -- Connection/Less -- Complaining
More -- Engagement/Less -- Apologizing
More -- Self-care/Less -- Sacrifice
More -- Simple/Less -- Fussy
More -- Going For It/Less -- Excuses
More -- Strength/Less -- Taking the Easy Way Out
More -- Mindfulness/Less -- Worry
More -- Action/Less -- Sitting on the Sidelines
More -- Doing/Less -- Scrambling
More -- Learning/Less -- Assuming
More -- Water/Less -- Sugar
Give it a try! This kind of list is fun to put together . . . AND . . . it really sets the stage for how you want to live the rest of the year.
(By the way, that drawing is one of my own. Colored pencil. Rocks on my meditation table.)