April 5th, 2015
Sshhh, I’m about to talk about something that seems to be a secret, or maybe even something never to be discussed. We do it unconsciously, as we either taught ourselves or were taught as a young child how to do it, but never discussed again. For some we were shamed into hiding it or told not to do it anymore. Self-soothing.
It is through our senses we can find the comfort we need when we begin to feel disturbed, uncomfortable, out of sorts or stressed. Through touch, smell, sight, listening and taste we can find a sense of calming that soothes the “ruffled” sense of our inner peace. In the beginning of life we do it instinctually and through the nurturing of our parents. We feed through suckling, we are rocked or sung to, we feel softness, warmth, cuddling and we calm or are calmed into the sense of safety. It felt so good.
As we become bigger and more independent some of the soothing behaviors from our infancy are harder to do for our parents, so we have to find your own way to replicate them. You may have sucked your thumb, curled your hair, hummed, rocked, etc. These things we did to help feel calm, safe, nurtured. Pause for a moment and think about them. What did you do?
When school and socialization draws near an angst begins to surround our self-soothing, as it becomes something we are now discouraged to do, or in some cases taught to do for ourselves (yeah to those parents!) The harm for many though is when we are taught that it is no longer acceptable to soothe ourselves, and we start to closet our soothing methods, or let go of them completely. Bring back the self-soothing!
Let’s start with the breath and use the exhalation as a tool of soothing. Go ahead and sigh your next exhalation! Feel how it sheds the tension and calms the spirit. I know, I know you were told it was impolite, but what a pity that was. We live in a culture that is way over stressed, as we have denied ourselves the gifts of self-soothing. The natural pattern of breathing builds tension, and then releases it but all too often we hold onto our exhalations and bind them. Time is now, set it free.
It is when our nervous system starts to amp up into sympathetic responses like fight, flight or freeze that self-soothing methods can help us to find the calming responses of our parasympathetic nervous system. Slow, balanced, deep breathing patterns are just the beginning of ways to self soothe. Think in terms of your senses. Focus in that very moment on the sense of touch, smells, sight, sound or taste that is available to you.
- The soft feel of the fabric you are wearing
- The sound of nature through the birds or gentle wind in the trees
- The smell of a flower, flavorful cooking near by or the essence of your favorite lotion
- Look around what colors, shapes, images delight you
- Savor a healthy snack that nurtures you
What other ways do you self-soothe that you can bring into a conscious behavior? Just taking that step of unconscious (or closeted) behavior into conscious behavior empowers the action. The result is calmer, more confident, safe and secure. I say well done to that!
- Take a warm bath
- Get a massage
- Play with an animal
- Eat a healthy meal
- Drink through a straw (bring back the suckle)
- Light an essential candle
- Watch clouds roll by
- Drink in the night sky
- Feel the earth
- Smell the land
- Listen to music
- Sing or hum to yourself
What we do for ourselves in self-soothing is such a gift to everyone we encounter. A calm, centered, and peaceful you will feel good to most people. Let your self-soothing encourage others to find their way to soothing
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January 31st, 2015
I was driving to an appointment up the keys the other day and I joyfully noted the deep upwelling of gratitude I have for living on such a small piece of land in a spacious area of water and sky. As one driver in front of me slowed down and allowed someone to cross the street, I noticed how another driver gave him a thumbs-up, while no one seemed perturbed by that thoughtful action. No horns blared. No one was yelling or throwing obscene gestures. The time frame was in a place of generosity and kindness rather than the annoyed pace of “hurried.” I noted that this was not an unusual act but common and I was grateful!
I live on an island that is 2 by 4 miles, where the preferred mode of transportation for many is a bicycle or walking. The prevalent speed limit is 25 mph, with the fastest limit on our boulevard being 35 mph. If you are not used to driving here you stand out as you, flustered in your hurry, rush to get a few feet up the road faster while everyone else is calmly enjoying the view and the ease of island living. If you are not used to this pace you stand out.
It is a joy to slow down and bike or walk to an evening’s event in town. Conversations are extended in the extra time it takes to get there, and are often interrupted or even inspired by the beauty that is all around us as we see, smell and hear our environment embracing us. During the day it is the brilliance of the vegetation, the shades of light that dapple the colorful homes and the ever changing sky that catches my eye. At night the sense of smell dominates, as the ever-changing floral scents seem to sweeten in the evening air as I peddle or walk by. With the seasons shifts, the floral essence changes from mango to jasmine, stephanotis and gardenia to name a few of my favorites. With each sniff the mood changes, and feelings are stirred from deep within. Don’t forget to add a few minutes to your travel time as there is a good chance you may happen upon a friend, and will need to stop to say hi.
I am thankful for the opportunity to shed the teachings of a crowded place where time, space and nature is at a premium, and hurried or competition dominates in so many ways. I appreciate the teachings of a spacious place (even in its close living proximity) that continues to hold to a slow easy pace, inspiring those who live in it to embrace their community, to show kindness and engage with one another. May this “revolution” expand and remind others to slow down, look around and feel the connection.
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January 3rd, 2015
You crack open your eyes, you stretch and turn, then feel for this first moment of conscious awakening. How do I feel this morning? Take a breath and simply notice.
What is your morning habit? Take a moment and reflect on it. Are your first waking moments full of rote motion and doing? Do you hang for a moment in the ripeness of awakening just pausing to feel your state of being? Is the first day of a new year the only time you take stock, pause and become aware?
It is a lovely practice to take the first few moments in the act of awakening to take stock. Did your sleep refresh you or leave you feeling a tad weary? Are you waking up with some residue of your dreams that you wish to carry forward into your day, or shake off and liberate yourself from? What directives of your next action are going to be unnoticed and drive you during the day, or can you take this fresh moment to self direct from your personal awareness?
Many of us do this while crossing over from the past year into the new year, but why not every morning? We let go of the old. We commit to something new or rekindled. Between 12/31 and 1/1 we seem inspired to use the space between those dates to take action, declare, and find the courage to LET GO of the old. The heaviness of doing it once a year can be overwhelming. That’s a whole lot of renewal.
Well here’s to taking the first moments of each morning to reflect, feel and adjust. Little by little you turn your boat, gently in a new direction. Small tiny steps of renewal, rather than trying to turn a giant ship in one huge swooping effort, is so much easier and often more successful.
Here’s to this NEW DAY! I raise my heart to your renewal and healing, to your awakening and refreshing. Happy New Year!
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December 6th, 2014
By Céline Peccatte and Nancy J Curran
When many think about starting a meditation practice, often there is a feeling of great uncertainty. Where do I begin? That is the question for the beginner meditator and for the instructor when answering that question.
The simple answer is to begin by meditating. We know both the truth in this, and the pitfalls.
Without some form of support or guidance we can often find ourselves frustrated, confused, and in a pool of self-judgment. One of the collective misconceptions about meditation is that it helps one to stop thinking. This is an impossible task even for a seasoned practitioner. Because of it, one quickly concludes: “ I am not good at meditating!, I can’t stop thinking!” Wondering why we are doing this, in a state of judgment and defeat, we give up!
Yes, like many things that are new when you begin a meditation practice you will find the joy of conquering and discovery, at the same time you will be faced with roadblocks that will test you, and ask you to grow and change. In the beginning it is so very supportive to have resources that will help you along the way. A meditation teacher, or meditation mentor, being part of a group, taking a class, reading about other’s journeys along the way are all great ways to help you when you are faced with some element of the practice that becomes difficult.
For some finding a group to meditate with is helpful, especially if there is some guidance or discussion within the time spent together. Meditation is a deep practice that brings you to sit with yourself, observe and practice non-judgment. In doing that you will sometimes feel quite isolated, alone and separated. When practicing with a group there is a space created that helps the beginner to feel part of something, and supports you along the way when things may get trying.
In the beginning having support also helps to identify the benefits that you are receiving from the practice. Let’s be honest here, most people don’t continue to do something if they do not perceive a benefit. At first you may just feel more relaxed after the session, then you might start to feel the sense of calmness pervading throughout your day. Other benefits include a calmer sense of emotions even when there are stressors, clarity of mind, physical well being and an uplifting sense of personal power that enables you to meet life in all its spectrum, as it is. The benefits are not goals to reach; they might just happen as secondary effects some days and more than likely a delightful breakthrough over time.
If you feel really at a loss, start by talking to others who meditate, asking them about their experiences. Find out how they began or if they recommend any thing to consider as you begin your practice. Consider taking a workshop that will help you to understand the different ways to meditate, which will help you identify what may be a jumping off point for you. You will also want to learn about some of the roadblocks along the path of meditation, and then what tools to use to help diminish them. If you are someone who likes to read about your interests, try Meditation for Dummies by Stephan Bodian.
Again we go back to the simple answer, just meditate. Even for just 5 minutes, sit with yourself or lie down and be aware of your breath. Free of judgment, you become aware. You let go. You struggle. You are amused. You create, and let go again. Eventually, you will find your way to come sit, meditate, observe the mind and in the end no matter what transpired you offered yourself a moment of kind attention. Meditation can be as simple as that. Welcome to meditation!
Want to learn more? Céline will be teaching a Meditation Workshop on March 7, 2015
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November 1st, 2014
I love those moments when I truly discover “perfection” in my practice.
Yesterday I found it as we completed class, looked up to see a rainbow in the sky. Today I found it when I paused with my breath and felt my body and mind align. I felt the celebration that accompanied the moment.
For me it never seems to be about accomplishing a pose, nor does it have to do with achieving something. I have come to understand that perfection is related to the natural occurrences that simply happen and are accompanied by a sense of inner gratitude. Alignment of “this” with “that” tempered by joy, appreciation and/or love seems to express the essence of perfection for me.
How do you find perfection in your practice?
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