Make Time to Connect to Something Bigger than You

Unlike many other people’s experiences, the first time I felt a distinct spiritual connection to something bigger than myself, I wasn’t in a quiet moment of meditation and contemplation. I wasn’t in a place or state of mind for worship, nor was I having a life-threatening emergency or a near-death experience. To be honest, I wasn’t even searching for a spiritual experience.

I was at a crowded beach, making sand castles. 

It was a pretty usual occurrence for me to go to the beach with my family, growing up in Southern California. During these day trips, I spent most of my time in the water, playing and swimming in the waves. But on this particular trip, I opted for time on the shore, positioning myself right where the tide offered me a challenge: to create a sand castle before the incoming tide could destroy them. I made a game of it for hours, and some time amidst the laughter and amusement, I became aware of more than just the game. I became aware of how connected everything was in the little world of my game: the damp sand I manipulated… the sand crabs that lived in one scoop of that sand… the water that sustained those crabs and came, unbidden and regularly, to give them life—then retreated to a larger body of water… all of it was so intertwined. I realized it all for the first time and within moments I went from observing that connection to feeling I was a part of it. It was amazing. I felt warm and happy, and not remotely alone, even in the midst of my solitary game. It was a very important moment that made me aware of a spiritual aspect of life I hadn’t known before.

sandcastles

Part of being spiritual or living a spiritual life is feeling connected to something bigger than yourself, whether it’s to nature, a cause, a purpose or a deity. When we feel that interconnectedness, it gives our lives context and perspective, and it helps us feel like we’re a part of something. It’s the same kind of feeling you can get from connecting with others—that soulful, enriching experience that helps us feel less alone, and often adds purpose and meaning on a spiritual level.

This week, I invite you to make time to connect to something bigger than yourself. Try going for a walk in nature, having a quiet moment of reflection or meditation, participating in an activity to raise money or awareness for a cause, or to a religious service. Experience those warm feelings of connectedness that come from you spiritually enriching your life.

Ask for What You Need & Want

By far, the most useful class I took in college was titled “Communication and the Sexes.” The main point of the class was to teach students to communicate more effectively with the opposite sex by understanding that each sex views the role of communication differently.  I had more of what Oprah calls “ah-ha moments” and learned more that helped my life in that class than I did in hours upon hours of other classes. Not bad for a class I took because it was the only one that fit in my schedule, huh?

One of my ah-ha moments came when the professor said that men tend to view communication as a tool to solve problems or to compete with others, whereas women tend to view communication as a way to connect. That helped me understand why, when I tried to talk to many men–and women with masculine communication styles–about something that was bothering me, they would instantly launch into multiple tactics on how to fix it rather than sympathizing like my friends and family members with more feminine, sympathetic styles. Armed with this information, the next time I needed to vent to my father, I began the conversation by saying, “Dad, I don’t need you to fix this. I just need you to listen so I can get my feelings out and fix it myself.”

What a huge difference that statement made! Knowing what I needed up front helped my father give me exactly what I needed, and at the end of the conversation, I felt like I’d gotten exactly what I asked for—and exactly what I needed—out of that conversation.

I’ll be honest, though: there was a part of me that had a difficult time telling my father what I needed. I certainly don’t expect people to read my mind, but asking for what I need isn’t always easy.

 

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You can’t argue with results, though–when I asked for what I needed, I got it. And asking for what we need definitely increases our odds of getting it, no matter how tricky it can be to find the right words and tone to convey the request. You can and should ask for what you want and need out of life–from family members, friends, managers, coworkers, spouses and even from the universe, god, angels, etc.

Many years after college and that eye-opening conversation with my father, I decided to ask for what I wanted from the universe. It was 2012, and I’d been dabbling in doing psychic readings and Reiki for several years, mostly with friends and family members. That year, though, in the form of a New Year’s Resolution, I asked the universe to be able to stop dabbling and truly step into doing more psychic readings and energy work. I truly believe something Paulo Coelho wrote: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” But I also believe that you have to energetically set that in motion by stating it first.

Well, I had no idea how life-changing that request would be. Opportunities immediately opened for me to do readings and Reiki with people I’d never met before, and I enjoyed sharing my gifts with others more. About 8 months later, I got unexpectedly laid off from my corporate job, allowing me more time to step into those gifts. I asked for what I wanted and got it in many unexpected and amazing ways that, had I not asked, may have remained mysteries.

So I invite you to try it. Ask for what you need in life today. However foreign or uncomfy it may be initially to do so, it’s also incredibly empowering. Plus, it opens doors for solutions, improves relationships, increases happiness and makes life far more interesting.

Make Time to Connect with Others

Making time to connecting to other people in our busy lives can help us deal better with stress, avoid burnout, and stay emotionally healthy. There have been many times that being with like-minded people, or good friends or family, have saved my sanity.

Such was the case recently, when I joined some amazing women for a get-together. I’d had a long week and almost opted out in order to just relax and unwind on my own, but I went anyway, telling myself it was important for me to make time to connect with other people. And I’m so glad I did! It was just what I needed: good company, good food, good music (and even a little dancing – how can you NOT dance when Abba is playing?), great conversation, and some silliness that left me laughing so hard my sides ached by the time I said goodnight. What a difference just a few hours of spending time with like-minded, fun people made! I felt not only relaxed but rejuvenated as well—way more than I would have vegging in front of the TV on my own.

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Connecting with others provides numerous benefits. Photo by Heaven Rentals. 


Beyond mental and emotional benefits, making time to connect with others is good for your spiritual well being, too. The essence of spirituality is connection—to people, to purpose, and more—so making time to connect with others in a genuine way helps to ground and center us, reminding us that we’re not alone and reminding us that we are loved, and that our lives have meaning and purpose. It helps lift us and give us perspective to get beyond the day-to-day stresses and move forward. And most of the time, it’s fun to boot!

I encourage you to make time to connect with others. You don’t have to do anything elaborate – keep it simple. Here are 5 easy ways you can try today:

1. Call, e-mail or text a friend.

2. Invite someone out to or over for a meal.

3. Play a board or card game together.

4. Connect on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.

5. Join a Meetup to connect to people with similar interests.

Whatever you choose to do, enjoy connecting with others and the relaxation, rejuvenation—and fun—it brings to you. Whether you enjoy a good conversation or a fun activity together, be present and enjoy that connection. Let it relax and rejuvenate you and add meaning to your life.

Simple Tip for Stress Reduction

Growing up in Southern California, I had the wonderful experience of swimming in the ocean often. I love swimming in the ocean.  Vast and unpredictable, the ocean is full of tides whose pull I feel even when I don’t fully comprehend them. As a kid, I especially loved swimming out just beyond where the waves crest and crash to the shore to enjoy the lull of the rocking motion of the tides. I’d enjoy that lull so much, I’d often find I’d drifted far away from my family’s home base on the beach. When that happened, I’d remember what my father taught me: Don’t exhaust yourself swimming against the current. Just follow the natural rhythm of the waves in and let them bring you back to shore.

Similarly, in the midst of a stressful day, the same trick for navigating my way back to shore helps me navigate my way from stress to a more grounded center. But instead of following the rhythm of the ocean, I follow the rhythm of my own breath. Even in the pull of the strongest tides of stress, putting your attention on the natural rhythm of your breath for a moment or two will help you “ride the wave of your own breath” as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, bringing you back to the shore of centeredness in your own body so you can think clearly and act from a place of calm.

I invite you to take a moment to place your attention on your breath today. Just for that moment, feel and be focused on the natural rhythm of your breath as well as the rise and fall of your chest. This simple meditation takes just a moment to do, and it can help calm you in the midst of the stormiest sea of stress in your life.

Use Your Imagination

imagination quote

Previously, I challenged you to accentuate the positive, with one of the ways to do that being describing what you’d like to see happen. But sometimes that’s a challenge if you haven’t done that before. And it all starts with your imagination.

Every invention began in someone’s imagination. Someone wondered “what if…?” and started the process of creating something no one had created before simply by imagining. We can do the same thing with our lives. What do you want? More energy? Balance? Time for yourself? Imagine it and give it energy. Even if you’re concerned that you’ll never get it or think the likelihood of getting it is low, try it and see how it goes.

“Instead of imagining the best [outcome], many people are in fear and imagine all the things that can go wrong.” – Rhonda Byrne

Thoughts have energy just like words. And your imagination is your thoughts with pizazz. Too often we use our imaginations to give life to our fears. But I’d like to give you three steps to using your imagination to give life to your dreams and creating a better life:

1. Picture it. When he was starting out as a comic, Jim Carrey shares in a 2014 commencement address that he made a practice of imagining himself being successful every day. That practice, along with his tenacity, set the energy for his realizing his dreams. That practice is not something that only Jim Carrey can do. Whatever you want, sit for five minutes and imagine what it would be like if you had it. What images do you see? What colors come up? What sounds do you hear? If blocks or challenges come up, set them aside and continue.

2. Feel it. Now that you’ve pictured it, what feelings come up during your imaginings? Did you feel peaceful? Happy? Strong? Pay attention to the feelings that come up and hold onto them. The sights you picture are important, but feelings can energize those thoughts in a way that pictures alone cannot do.

“It’s not what you know, but how you feel about what you know, that motivates you.” – Unknown

3. Create it. Now that you’ve imagined it, set out to create it. Keep in mind the pictures you imagined and keep the feelings you imagined in your heart. Then plan small, realistic steps you can take to make it happen, keeping focused on what you imagined. It may not be everything you imagined—in fact, the outcome could surprise you because it could turn out to be even more than what you imagined. But you will have created something that shortly before had only been in your mind. And your life will be enriched because of it.

What can you imagine today to make your life more what you want it to be? Try it and see.


“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau

Be Kind to Yourself

One of the best things about women is how supportive we can be. Whether it’s with family, coworkers, friends, or even perfect strangers sometimes, people come to us with challenges, and we offer words of comfort or encouragement to help them through. We offer this support freely with kindness and love, and people take it in, giving themselves a break and seeing options they didn’t before because of it.

Ironically enough, we don’t tend to offer the same kind of support to ourselves. In fact, we tend to be much harder on ourselves than we ever would be on others. Why is that? Why don’t we give ourselves at least the same support that we give others?

I first noticed this phenomenon personally when I went through my divorce. I said things silently to myself on a daily basis that I wouldn’t ever dream of saying to others once. It was pretty normal throughout the day for me to silently and repeatedly say things like “You’re such a failure” and “No one will ever love you again”. If I’d said those things out loud, I may have understood quickly how destructive they were at a time when I needed support more than anything else. But because they were in my head, they stayed quietly powerful, perpetuating the abuse I’d suffered in the marriage and undermining my healing. When I finally realized those were the thoughts running through my head, I worked to change them into more loving messages, and it made a huge difference in my recovery.

You don’t have to be going through a huge life change or challenge to change your inner thoughts into more supportive messages. Today, I encourage you to be kind to yourself. Pay attention to your inner talk, and stop yourself when your messages are beating you up. Switch gears and talk to yourself as though you were talking to your best friend, and you’ll see the messages naturally become more positive. See what a difference it makes in your day.

speak kind words to yourself like you to do everyone else

Be Grateful for Everything

216-gratitude-melody-beattie-picture-quotesYears ago, I married a man I loved. I thought we’d live happily ever after, but instead, I found myself entangled in an emotionally abusive union that was destructive and painful. I somehow found the courage to leave and end the marriage, but in its wake I found myself heartbroken, devastated, and depressed.

As I struggled to recover, a dear friend gave me The Simple Abundance Journal and suggested I take up its challenge to write down 5 things I was grateful for each day.  A companion to the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, the purpose behind the journal is to cultivate a grateful heart and find joy in the little things. I wasn’t finding joy in much at the time, so I figured it was worth a try. Honestly, I was so sad then that I struggled at first to find 5 things to be grateful for each day, and many of those early entries said things like “got through another day” and “cried less than yesterday”. But as I continued to heal, I continued the practice of writing down 5 things each day, and eventually it became easier to fill in those listings. And even though  it was a long road to recovery from that experience, that practice of daily gratitude helped me see light where it often felt like there was none.

I’m sure if you’d asked me in those days if I was grateful for that marriage, I would have stared at you blankly or maybe even thought you were crazy for asking. But now, I can honestly say I am grateful for that marriage. It wasn’t what I expected or planned, and it was a painful experience on many levels. But it taught me strength and faith I didn’t know that I had, and I learned a depth of love and support from family and friends I hadn’t experienced previously. Because of it, I have empathy for women who have found themselves in similar relationships, and I developed a sort of radar for people who have abusive tendencies so I can stay as far away as possible and not find myself in that kind of a relationship again. I may not have chosen that experience had I known then what I know now, but I’m truly grateful for what I learned from it all.

Be grateful for everything. Even the sad and terrible things that happen bring lessons and gifts with them, and gratitude is often the key to opening the door to them. It’s easy to be grateful for the good and happy things that happen to us, but gratitude is often needed most in times of pain and darkness. This week, try what I did and note 5 things each day you’re grateful for, and see if that practice helps you. I have a feeling it will.