Monday, February 28, 2011

Love & Relationships: Practices

“We are not here to fix, change, or belittle another person. We are here to support, forgive, and heal one another.” ~Marianne Williamson

As we wrap up this month's topic of Love & Relationships, try integrating one or more of these practices into your daily routine.

Lovingkindness Meditation

This is one of my favorite types of meditation. I honestly believe it is impossible to perform this practice and not connect with the divine love within and around yourself. There are several teachings about how to practice Lovingkindess Meditation and as always I recommend that you use the practice that feels most relevant for you. Here is one example or visit here to listen to a guided version.

Here is what works beautifully for me:

1. Begin by tapping into a feeling of pure Lovingkindness. The best description I've heard is from my friend Kim David. She describes it as the feeling you get while holding a baby or a puppy :-)

2. Send this feeling of Lovingkindness to yourself and repeat the following mantra three times (aloud or silently): May I be happy, May I be healthy, May I be free from suffering.

3. Now envision someone you love dearly, send him/her the feeling of pure Lovingkindness and repeat the same mantra three times: May she be happy, May she be healthy, May she be free from suffering.

4. Next bring to mind a neutral person. This might be the person who served you your coffee this morning, your mail person, or a random person you passed on the street. You guessed it! Send him/her that beautiful feeling of pure Lovingkindness and repeat the above mantra three times.

5. Now comes the hard part (for most of us). Bring to mind someone you are having difficulty with or have negative feelings toward. Send him or her the feeling of Lovingkindness and repeat the above mantra three times. It can be very challenging to send good vibes to someone you dislike. Sometimes imagining the person as s/he was as an infant or even picturing her/him as at a far distance helps. Take your time and see if you can truly tap into some kindness for this person. I've found this really helps with feeling the connection we have with all beings everywhere. Which leads us to the last step...

6. Now bring to mind all the beings in your immediate environment (house, office, etc) and begin to expand your awareness to all beings in your city/town, then all beings in your state, and all the states in your country, and all the countries in the world until you imagine yourself sending Lovingkindness out to all beings everywhere! Repeat the mantra May they be happy, May they be healthy, May they be free from suffering three times.

7. Breathe deep and let the good feelings (or not) just wash over you. Let go of any judgment or expectations about this practice. Consciously offer your practice up to some higher good or purpose. I often like to end with lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu (may all beings everywhere be happy and free and may my words, thoughts, and actions in some way contribute to that happiness and freedom for all).

Active Listening

Try some single tasking in your relationships! When you are talking with people give them your full attention. That means no checking email while you are on the phone with your mother and no continuing to read the paper while your child is asking you a question. Look people in the eye while having a conversation in person and take the time to set aside other activities while on the phone. With text messaging and Facebook and email we have so little actual person-to-person communication these days, make it count! People definitely pick up on the difference when you sincerely tune into what they are saying.

Smile at Strangers

This might sound silly, but smile and make eye contact with everyone you come into contact with for one whole day. I have been thinking a lot about this recently and with my increased awareness I was surprised to find how often I simply don't show this common courtesy to people. Some examples from my own life include the person serving me my coffee from the drive thru, the teller at the bank, and people I pass on the street. Often times I find myself checking my cellphone or digging through my purse or something else when I'm interacting with people in these everyday situations. Smiling and making eye contact is validating; it lets people know you appreciate them. In turn this impacts how they treat the next person in line, etc. Imagine what the impact might be if we all took the time to smile and make eye contact with another!

How has your journey with Love & Relationships evolved through this month? Please share your thoughts and experiences in this comments section!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Love & Relationships: Journal Prompts

"The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself" ~ Carrie Bradshaw, Sex in the City

A few journal prompts to guide us as we continue our exploration of Love & Relationships...

To help you as you ponder your relationship with yourself:

What does self-love mean to me? How do I nurture myself?

What promises have I made to myself? Have I broken those promises or followed through on them? How did I feel afterwards?

All love starts with self-love. Practicing self-care and nurturing your relationship with yourself will ultimately lead to more satisfying relationships with others.

To consider as you contemplate your relationships with others:

List your top 5 relationships (people you spend the most time with). Reflect on each relationship. How do you feel after you have spent time with this person? Is this a healthy relationship that supports your spirit? If not, what is keeping you in the relationship?

Is there a relationship missing from your life? Describe what you would like to bring into your life in great detail. This will help you get clear on what kind of person/people you are looking to connect with and it also sends your desires out to the Universe. Writing, thinking, and/or speaking intentionally about our innermost dreams is a powerful practice.

One of the most powerful choices we can make is who we spend our time with. Remember you are in control of who you surround yourself with. Choose wisely!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

February's Living Wellness Theme: Love & Relationships

I know some people who adore Valentine's Day and some who abhor it with the same passion! Personally I don't have strong feelings one way or another about it, but as I was contemplating February's theme it felt right to go with Love and Relationships. This month we will explore our love for ourselves and others through activities, journal prompts, practices, and juicy resources! (I promise you this will have none of the how-to-find-a-partner-so-your-life-will-be-complete flavor that seems to be so rampant in our culture.)

We will begin our exploration of this month's topic with a few Activities.

Send a Thank You Note

Take a few moments to consider someone who has had a positive impact on your life either recently or in the past. Pen a note to this special person thanking her for her kindness. Choose a beautiful card and take a few quiet moments to write about how she made a difference in your life. Imagine how your fifth grade teacher will feel when she opens a letter from you explaining how she inspired you to follow your dreams or what a difference it will make in your brother's day when he opens a note from you thanking him for always being there. I promise you will feel good too!

Schedule a Date

Schedule a date with someone important in your life. This might be your partner, best friend, sister, mother, son or daughter, grandparent, or yourself! It is vital that we make time for the relationships in our lives. Once the date is set, mark it in pen in your planner or datebook and treat it like an important business meeting. That means no canceling! This is especially important if you choose to schedule a date with yourself.

Leave a note in the comments and share your experience with these activities. I'll be back next week with a post on Journal Prompts related to this month's theme!