As women, we are ruled by the cycles of the moon and the corresponding ebb and flow of the ocean’s tides. We are designed to be rhythmic, not regimented and linear.
Assignment #1: Design Your Day & Honor Your Innate Rhythms
Plan out your day with your own unique energy flow in mind. Establish a regular circadian rhythm and allow your body to relax into the regularity of routine. This is very beneficial for hormonal balance. Wake everyday at the same time and retire to bed at the same time, preferably around 10:00pm. Create an evening ritual to begin preparing the nervous system for sleep. Excess stress hormones are metabolized during sleep, so it is important to get to bed early enough to allow for 7 to 8 hours of sleep. I also recommend creating rituals around and setting regular times for any practice you are trying to make a regular habit. A regular routine will cement your commitment to the practices and allow your mind to ground and relax.
Ritualizing practices infuses them with intention. We’ve been conditioned, especially as women, to believe that sacrificing ourselves for work or productivity or our children and husbands or whatever it might be is somehow an honorable act of devotion. That taking time for ourselves is selfish or indulgent. But it’s only by creating the space for moments of me-time throughout the day, that we allow ourselves to show up brighter, more resourced, and truly generous and open-hearted with others.
When we engage in a ritual, there is intention and presence in the moment. The opposite of ritual is habitual. This is the default mode through which many of us live our lives. We spend our days on autopilot, just reacting with habitual behaviors that pull us out of our power and detract from our heart-light.
Assignment #2: The 3 Daily Rituals
Some prefer to do these rituals upon waking while others like to spread them out throughout the day. Let your intuition and innate flow of energy guide you.
Ritual One: 5-20 Minute Meditation
An untrained monkey mind keeps us from being truly present for the rich experience of living. We block the aliveness that is available to us in each moment and pull ourselves out of the present moment by comparing ourselves to others, judging ourselves and those around us, planning for the future, and finding fault in the way that things are.
And while all of this is going on in our minds, immense beauty, love, pleasure and joy pass us by in the present moment. The good news is that we can train the minds so that it no longer constantly creates fear, separation, dissatisfaction, and distraction. And thank goodness because these are almost constant, self-inflicted potent sources of stress that wreak havoc on our health and well being.
A mindfulness practice will, over time, shift the way we experience life. So begin each day with at least 5 minutes of mindful meditation.
Here are some of the numerous benefits of meditation:
- Meditation turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the mode for rest and relaxation and the state in which all healing takes place. Most of us launch ourselves into the go-go-go-do-do-do mode of the sympathetic nervous system from the moment our alarm goes off and we reach to check our phones in the wee hours of the morning. We abandon ourselves in a constant state of reaction, depriving ourselves of the richness of being. If you want to heal health issues, persistent habitual patterns and compulsions, or deleterious ways of thinking and perceiving, then it is so important to intentionally create this sense of calm and peace in your day so that healing can take place on the emotional, physical, and spiritual levels.
- Next, when we meditate, we connect into the energetic seat of the self, which is the heart. We create intimacy with our heart, allowing it to soften and open. From this connection we create more meaningful relationships and experiences with life.
- We turn our awareness back to the pure experience of being ourselves. If you have lost touch with the Truth of who you are because you are constantly seeking approval and external validation, meditation is a practice that will allow you to remember.
- Many times, when we are trying to change our eating or lifestyle habits, we find ourselves derailed by impulsive cravings and disembodied choices. In an instant of reactivity, we throw resolve and intention to the wind. In order to make empowered choices we need to slow down enough to realize that a choice exists in each moment. It’s only from a place of deep inner presence that you can learn what your body and soul actually need for healing to take place.
- Meditation teaches us the patience and skill of sitting with uncomfortable feelings, emotions, and impulses. Through a meditation practice we develop grace in the difficult moments by being and breathing without attaching to emotions or thoughts.
- We begin to start training that little monkey brain to stay focused and steadfast on the commitment and intention at hand. These days we’re so used to multitasking that our minds are no longer trained to focus and follow-through on one singular focus or intention. This has powerful ramifications for our work, our personal development, our creative pursuits, our relationships, and so much more.
1) It only takes 5 minutes. Take at least 5 minutes, each and every day to quiet the mind and drop into your heart. 5 Minutes of silent, compassionate, mindful meditation is better than 20 minutes of sitting in a distracted state of daydreaming. Give this time your complete presence and compassionate awareness. When your mind starts to wander, bring your attention back to the present moment. Choose to be here for the unfolding. Honor and acknowledge the brevity and preciousness of this moment with your presence. If you feel inspired to go longer, by all means, do so. 20 minutes is a recommended time if you are committed to deep transformation, but begin where it feels easy and light and work up to it.
2) Start by creating the container. Light a candle; use essential oils like rose, which opens up the heart space, or light some incense.
3) Everything you need is already within you. No need for fancy guided meditations. In fact, if your pattern is to abandon your heart space and dwell in your mind, I strongly recommend experimenting with silent rather than guided meditation. When we intentionally create the space to drop in without distractions and with loving awareness and curiosity, we create more intimacy and an easeful connection with ourselves.
4) Make this practice your own. Sit silently. Pull the crown of your head towards the sky and feel your sit bones anchoring into the earth, growing deep roots. Let yourself be breathed and practice feeling sensation without story. You might find this peace by sitting silently in nature. Perhaps, you prefer to silently repeat a mantra. Inhale “love”, exhale “trust”. Or repeat a time honored, highly charged mantra like “so hum” or “Om Namah Shivaya”. Or just pay attention to your breath, inhaling and exhaling into the heartspace. You can also begin your practice by asking a question or a blessing of whatever higher power your believe in, and then drop into stillness listening to whatever Truth and Wisdom comes. Whatever you choose, honor that intention for the duration of your meditation session.
5) Strip away the dogma and drop the push and force. Not ready to sit on a meditation cushion with your eyes closed? Totally cool! Pour yourself a warm cup of tea or lemon water and take a seat outside in the cool morning breeze. Let yourself drop into your body, your heart, and gratitude for the present moment. Nourish yourself with the breath. When thoughts pop up in your mind, just label them, “planning,” “thinking,” “itching,” release them like fluffy clouds passing, and return to the seat of awareness.
6) Begin with the Breath. If all of these options just leave you feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed in inaction. Start simple. Begin with the breath. Inhale for a slow count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, and repeat. This is called circular breathing. Keep your count slow and gentle and continue for 4 minutes. You will feel so relaxed after just a short amount of time. Build up when it feels easeful and natural.
Now I know, I know, you might be tempted to read this without actually putting it into practice. To stay trapped on that little hamster wheel of ideas without action and implementation. I know the resistance you may be feeling. I know it well. After all, how can something so simple be so powerful? It’s easy to be seduced by complex, scientific and cutting-edge and in the process we often overlook the power of 5 minutes of presence.
This resistance comes up with almost every woman I work with. They want the fix, the perfect diet, the magical potion in a supplement bottle, the perfect morning ritual. And meditation is often the very last thing they are willing to try, feeling the desperation of hitting rock bottom. Because this practice, unlike following a diet or exercising more or reading this book and following that plan, actually requires us to surrender when we are addicted to a compulsion to struggle and control. But to awaken to our fullest potential, we need to learn to be with ourselves in silence and with gentle, loving awareness. Without building this muscle, we continue to live in reaction to fleeting impulses and compulsions- overworking, overeating, binge drinking, drugs, numbing out to TV and the internet, struggling, resisting, judging – rather than acting from the pulse of aliveness. So make some time to nourish the innermost part of yourself, where love, truth, and knowing reside.
Here is one of my favorite meditations to get you started:
Inhale. Feel the spaciousness and expansion. Exhale. Relax fully and feel an effortless experience of grounding. Begin to bring awareness to the heart’s center. Bring golden light and loving sweetness into the heart with every inhale and with every exhale feel the illumination emanating outwards. Release anything else with an open mouthed sigh. Feel the love and light begin to bathe every cell of your being. Sense the magnitude of your inner radiance. Allow the light and sweetness to spread to the space around you, as you feel the glow extend on all sides of your physical body, encompassing and holding you like a soft cloud of light and love.
Ritual Two: Journaling and Conscious Lifestyle Design (sip on hot lemon water with sea salt if desired)
I heard Byron Katie once quoting the phrase, "An unquestioned mind is not worth living." This journaling practice is our opportunity to slow down and create the space to question our thoughts in order to choose something more empowering.
What am I feeling right now?
What thoughts am I thinking that are leading to these feelings?
Is this really true?
How do I want to feel?
What thought can I choose instead to use as a mantra today that is more empowering?
What am I grateful for today? (Take it one step further and send a handwritten note to someone you are grateful for today!)
What 3 things can I do to make today amazing?
Ritual Three: Movement
Spend at least 20 minutes moving your body today. I recommend fitting in some movement before noon to wake your body up and get the life force flowin'! If it's easier, just work in 10 minute blocks of movement between focused work periods.
Movement increases Prana, or life force energy, and unblocks energy channels in the body so that energy can flow freely in order to generate an experience of vitality, power, and joy. Feel into the areas where you feel stuck or constricted and bring breath, life, and movement to those areas. Movement also allows emotions and stress to move through the body in a healthy and unimpeded way. Shamanic thought regards energy channels, or meridians in the body, as rivers of light. Daily movement also reduces body fat, builds muscle and bone, improves mental and emotional functioning, regulates the appetite, stimulates the immune response, and produces dopamine and serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitters that decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.
Movement is a powerful reminder of how quickly we can transform our internal experience. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel right now? What movement will shift my body state so that I feel that way?”
Go for an hour-long walk in nature or practice yoga if you need to re-center, ground, and rejuvenate, or if your energy is low. Or take thirty minutes and cruise on your bike, go for a run in the park or shake your booty to increase creativity, feel invigorated and playful. Want to feel connected to your inner strength and motivation? Head to the park or backyard and pump out 15 minutes of high-energy intervals like lunges, sprints, squats, jumps, abdominals, tricep dips, and pushups followed by a 5-minute stretch. Commit to any kind of movement that feels nourishing, enjoyable, and rejuvenating. Choose the form of movement that honors your needs and make it work for you. The more you can bring your movement outdoors and get your daily dosage of sunshine, nature, and fresh air, the better.