8 easy activities that are good for the soul

Living with intention. Living joyfully. I try to connect with these ideals every day, though some days I’m more successful than others. The thing is, when I take the time to really nourish my inner self, I feel stronger, more balanced and, well, happier. So no matter how busy my schedule gets, I always try to make space for simple, soul-nourishing activities such as these:

1. Watch the sun rise. When was the last time you took the time to do this? (And I’m not talking about seeing the sun rise over the freeway while driving to the airport to catch an early-morning flight.) I mean, awakening in starlight, then setting your intention to wait, watch and really savor the beauty that is a new day beginning. This is not just a wonderful time to clear your mind and think, but also a special way to start your day.

2. Plant a vegetable (preferably one you love to eat). You don’t have to be a green thumb to try this one out, and you don’t have to plant an entire time-consuming or complicated garden. Just pick one veggie and give it a whirl. There is something almost meditative about working with the earth, digging and planting. The payoff—eating something fresh you grew yourself—nourishes both your body and soul.

3. Groom your animal. Brushing your dog, cat or horse feels good for them, but it’s good for us, too: It’s the kind of easy, repetitive work that lets our mind wander to a peaceful place. Strengthening your bond with your animal is another bonus. (They’ll shed less, too!)

4. Make your bed. When your bed is made first thing in the morning, your room looks better and more welcoming all day. Also, it starts your day off right by accomplishing this one small task. And at night, isn’t your state of mind in a more positive place when you can wind down in a tidy room? Try it tomorrow; it takes just two minutes.

5. Do a random act of kindness. There’s real power behind a random act of kindness. Even a small gesture of kindness can generate tiny ripple effects and help make this world a better place. Here’s an inspiring TEDx Talk on the subject. See what this woman learned when she dedicated herself to 38 acts of kindness for her 38th birthday:

6. Visit your local art museum. Most of us like to visit an art museum when we travel to a new city. It’s refreshing and almost meditative to wander and contemplate art—but most of us forget we can do this in our own city, as well. (I know, I know … it’s not The Louvre, but still.) We lead such busy lives we often neglect nurturing ourselves. But don’t think of visiting an art museum as a mere indulgence; studies have linked “artistic consumption” to improved health.

7. Channel your inner kid with a coloring book. Tapping into our creativity is very nourishing for the soul, but sometimes being creative can be exhausting. Enter the rise in popularity of coloring books for adults, which can now be found topping the best-seller lists. Like many of the activities listed here, coloring can be very meditative and relaxing (and fun!), and studies show art therapy such as coloring can also reduce stress. I like this one and this one.

8. Find your personal Zen. Maybe you love to exercise—for me it’s Pilates. Or maybe you love painting, writing, creating music, brewing an amazing cup of coffee or baking a batch of muffins. Find a place in your day to do whatever strikes you and that you love.

These are just a few ideas that are good for the soul—do you have any to add to the list?

6 easy ways to inspire more gratitude today

Forbes recently did an article on the seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude—among them, feeling healthier, a boost in self-esteem and sleeping better. I know for myself, I’ve tried to live more mindfully and cultivate more gratitude in my life ever since fighting breast cancer, twice. But because living mindfully and embracing gratitude into our everyday lives doesn’t always happen seamlessly, here are six tips that really work for me:

1. Set your intention—choose gratitude. Because we have good days and not-so-good days, gratitude must be a choice. Make a point daily to acknowledge all that you are grateful for. Focus on the things you do have and that are going right. There is always something, even if it’s small. When the hard times come (and they will), this important life skill can help you cope.

2. Watch this TED Talk on nature’s boundless beauty and the importance of being grateful every day. This wonderful lecture, featuring cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg’s beautiful images and wise words, is absolutely inspiring and riveting. I especially love this part, where the narrator says: “You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day; it’s the one day that is given to you, today. It’s given to you; it’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness.”

3. Remember and hold close your favorite heartful quotes on gratitude. Here are a few of mine:

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” –Karl Barth

“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” –Aesop

“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” –Epicurus

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” –Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden

4. Help animals. Volunteering at a rescue will always help to inspire gratitude. First, it redirects your focus from “me” toward a sentient being in need of love and care. Second, spending time with gentle creatures naturally just opens your heart, which will help you to see things in a more positive light. And third, helping an animal that is sick, neglected or homeless can remind you to feel grateful for the basics we often take for granted: food, shelter, our health.

5. Start a gratitude journal. Or, if you already have one, commit to writing in it regularly. Your gratitude journal then becomes a lifeline you can cling to again and again when you need to remember all the abundances in your life you may otherwise have forgotten.

6. Practice patience. Yes, it’s annoying that you’re running late and the woman in front of you in line at the market has 20 coupons and is writing a check (if only she could find her checkbook). Or perhaps it’s a person driving too slow in front of you. Identify your hot buttons and next time, instead of reacting impatiently (or steaming on the inside), be mindful. Breathe, step back and use those precious extra moments to see the big picture. Count your blessings and revel in the beautiful gift that is right now.

What are you grateful for today?

3 tips for finding more peace in your day

Have you ever noticed your days, weeks and even months sometimes slip away without you even noticing? That’s a sign you’re moving too fast—and possibly losing sight of your sense of inner peace. To live more mindfully, reclaim your days as your own, and find more peace each and every day, try these tips:

1. Set your alarm 20 minutes earlier. It’s amazing how a change so small can accomplish so much. When you’re not rushing to get out the door, you can take a few extra minutes for yourself. Read a few pages of the book at your bedside, sip your coffee, meditate, or snuggle with your cat. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just as long as you’re taking a few peaceful moments for yourself. Starting each day with a few minutes of quiet time will help you tackle the rest of what’s ahead.

2. If necessary, schedule some downtime. Many of us with chaotic, hectic lives forget to plan quality time for ourselves and our friends and families. Yet that’s exactly what we need every week to feel rejuvenated and peaceful within ourselves again. Also, having something fun to look forward to with those that you love (human or animal) has this surprise benefit: Studies show that merely anticipating a vacation or weekend away actually boosts happiness. You don’t have to take a vacation, though, to feel the positive effects of downtime. Those that find it difficult to take time to relax and unplug actually need it the most, so try setting aside a few hours in the weekend to relax and have some fun. Your busy weeks will feel more peaceful knowing you have that to look forward to.

3. Practice gratitude. It’s so easy to constantly compare yourself to others. They have it easier, the better house, more money and on and on. But learning to be grateful for what you do have (while remembering we all have struggles—even those who seem to have it so “easy” on the outside) can help you to put it all in perspective and bring more peace to your day. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”—and I certainly believe this to be true.

What are your tips for finding peace in your day?

Expand your state of mind to help your animal

“Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.”  ~Sri Chinmoy

In my business, I help guide animal lovers all over the world to peace and wellness. Through the meditative techniques of animal Reiki, my students learn how to connect with their animal in profound ways. But sometimes our own humanness can get in the way of helping our animal. Let me explain.

When we are offering Reiki to our animals, sometimes we can sense certain things in our hands or emotional feelings/intuitive information. It’s very easy to find ourselves in a place of judgement and interpretation. However, the best way to help our animals is to let go of these impressions and open our minds to healing possibility.

In Japanese these impressions are called Hibiki—which means an echo. Thus, when we sense something from our animal, it is not a true experience, but rather our impression of the animal’s true experience. This is a natural occurrence when we share Reiki, because Reiki cultivates heart-to-heart connections. In this connected space, we often sense many things, but we must remember our impressions are always filtered through our own perceptions.

When we experience these impressions while we are offering Reiki, we have two choices:

1. We can focus on the impressions themselves and interpret them. Or,

2. We can thank the animal for sharing with us (thus focusing on gratitude) and then let the impressions go.

The first choice will involve us focusing on things like “this or that is wrong” or “this is what needs to be fixed” and “this or that needs to be healed.” Inadvertently, we end up focusing on the negatives of the situation. By doing so, our mental state becomes very narrowed and small. Animals feel this. I sometimes call this our “pointy” state of mind because we are unwittingly poking the animals with our negative thoughts. We can see this in their uncomfortable behavior with us, or they may say no to connecting with us.

Focusing on what’s wrong can also give rise to pity. Pity can sneak into our minds when we are working with, for example, shelter animals who have come from a bad situation. They can feel this pity inside of us and it can also cause them to not want to connect with us.

The second choice creates a spacious mental attitude of gratitude. We can acknowledge and thank the animals for sharing with us, and then let the impressions go like clouds floating by in the sky. We want animals to feel our positivity, our openness, our light and our gentle way of being. Choosing this open and expansive state of mind will help attract animals (rather than repel them).

Letting go of judgments is also a way to see your animal as the empowered perfect being that he or she is, even in that difficult moment. In this way we are focusing on the positive. Think back on a difficult time in your life and remember how wonderful it felt for someone to hold positivity for you!

When we offer Reiki to animals, it’s most important to stay in a place of openness and love in your heart and mind. Remember that all things are possible. The following quote is a great reminder when we feel discouraged:

“You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.” ~Shannon L. Alder

10 simple ways to help animals this Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! What are your plans for tomorrow? I would like to remember the animals this Earth Day, so that inspired me to put together this list of 10 simple things we can do tomorrow (and year-round!) to help our planet’s animals. Read on for my ideas, in addition to a special Earth Day Meditation:

1. Volunteer at your favorite animal shelter. Spending an afternoon with animals in need is a wonderful way to give back and boost your spirits at the same time.

2. Take your horse on a trail ride through the forest. Your horse will love the extra attention, and meanwhile you can take this quiet time to enjoy the beauty of the trees and nature around you.

HOLD YOUR HORSES!

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