I know the average person sees Valentine’s day as an opportunity to buy presents and eat yummy fancy foods and buy cards and things.  Those are pretty traditional Valentine’s Day activities.  However, I like to view Valentine’s day as more of a benchmark.  A time to sit and contemplate my thoughts and perceptions about the most important thing in the whole world:

Love.

Many gurus and teachers say that the best way to receive love is to first love yourself... embrace self-love.  I agree with that, and that all sounds great…but what does it really mean? 

The first step is figuring out what you need.  What you enjoy.  What brings you bliss.  …That is the easy part.

What comes next is the hard part.  …Actually doing it.

When you start to think about it, I know you will immediately encounter the big obstacle, the big question: “And where am I supposed to find the time for this bath/massage/chocolate eating/yoga session/date with myself?”

This is where you employ the secret technique.  And this requires some practice.

Learn how to say, “No.”

When you can say no, you can start to set expectations and boundaries with those around you.  Stop overcommitting.  Stop trying to be such a people-pleaser.  Stop putting YOU on the back-burner.

And this isn’t just about a one-time occurence of self-love and bliss.  This is about creating a sustainable pattern that you feel REALLY good about.  And modeling– being a good example– for your spouse, kids, family, and friends.

To help you with this process, which can at first feel selfish and guilt-inducing, I’ve included here a mantra to support you.

We begin practicing this love meditation on ourselves, contemplating:
May I be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear and anxiety.

After that, we can practice on others (he/she) contemplating:
May he/she be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.
May he/she be safe and free from injury.
May he/she be free from anger, afflictions, fear and anxiety.

After that we can practice including ourselves with others (we) contemplating:
May we be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.
May we be safe and free from injury.
May we be free from anger, afflictions, fear and anxiety.

-Inge Santoso

Do you find it difficult to say, “No”?  How will you practice this important skill?  Comment below with your thoughts!

Much love and Namasté!

Julie

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It’s so interesting to me how big the discrepancy is between how the media portrays Christmas (or any family holiday, for that matter) and the reality that most people experience.  The media paints a picture of togetherness, peace, companionship, and joyfulness.  Of miracles.

What’s the reality?

Unless you’re one of those special families who all get along perfectly, most of the time, Christmas reality looks like frustration, stress, anxiety, and emotional trauma.  A nightmare.

I totally relate to the second variety–for most of my life, family get togethers were hugely traumatic.  I loved the holidays in theory, but was annually disappointed by my real-life experience, for an array of reasons that aren’t particularly important.

What’s important is that it has all changed.

After almost losing my dad this year, the holidays took on a whole new tone.  The anxious nature of my typical expectations and the disappointment that usually ensued was no longer–this year, EVERYONE was so grateful JUST to be in each other’s company.  The simplicity of good food, supportive people, and a loving environment was more than enough.

In the end, expectations about what we think others could or should do JUST don’t matter.  Take a look at what is already in your world, and lovingly embrace it with a graceful smile.  We really all have more than we think.

Christmas this year was perfect.  I got to spend time with my dad, step-mom, and much of her family, and it felt so good to be all together.  The material gifts were nice…but the real gift to me was to see my dad laugh as others told stories, and to watch how the family all rallied together to help my step-mom create the best Christmas dinner yet.

Take it back to simplicity.  What is something you have been taking for granted that you can now lovingly embrace?  What will you do to shift?  Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Holidays and Namasté!

Julie

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Let’s talk about the BIGGEST question on all of our minds, especially during the holidays.  The question that keeps us up at night, the question that makes it impossible to wake up in the morning–the question that nobody really seems to actually ever know the answer to.  I’m going to say it RIGHT NOW whether you’re ready or not!:

How do I achieve perfect life balance?!

Realistically–how many times a day do you say this to yourself in one form or another?  Maybe it also sounds like, “I ran out of time so I can’t work out tonight like I planned.” or “Feeling a little depleted now–maybe I’ll have chips for dinner instead of making salmon.” or “I had to take my son to soccer and my daughter to her friend’s house and my husband’s shirts to the dry cleaners–so what is this thing you call ‘me time’?!”

Once you get into the habit of the daily drudgery, anything other than this typical routine of yours will sound absolutely alien!

So let’s start from the top.  What even IS life balance?  This is my interpretation:  Balance is the delicate dance of giving and receiving.

Think about how and where this can apply to your life.  Is your give/receive barometer out of whack?  Do you give more than you receive?  Do you receive more than you give?  Perhaps it’s inconsistent in different life areas?  Perhaps it’s totally consistent in each life area?

More likely than not, you give more than you receive.  And here is my simple suggestion for today to make a life-changing difference for you:

Cancel one obligation on your calendar this week.

Just one.  Start small.  And use THAT time to do something wonderful for yourself.  Take a bath.  Sit in meditation.  Journal about your amazing accomplishments of this past year.  Take the time to cook a REALLY delicious healthy meal.  Get a massage.

A friend of mine told me I needed to practice receiving more, and he’s totally right, hence the inspiration for this post.  So how about we take this journey together?  I’ve been spending every evening at the rehabilitation hospital taking care of my father who is recovering from a severe stroke, and today, in light of this important message, I spent the morning with him instead of the evening to be able to go to a beautiful yoga class with my friends and to support one of our other friends who is teaching the class.  I literally haven’t seen my friends in over a month since I stepped into the role of caretaker, and this is an important choice on my behalf that I know EVERYONE (not just me!) will benefit from.

And how about YOU?  Where can you rearrange your schedule to make room for love and joy?  Let me know YOUR action plan in the comments below!

Have a beautiful day and Namasté!

Julie

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I recently wrote about the importance and power of believing in miracles.  The last decade represents a true spiritual awakening in my life and an openness to positive belief systems–but never before had it been tested the way it was tested this past week.  I had no space for uncertainty.  Simply put, developing a positive belief mindset was no longer just about me–it was about helping to save my father’s life. 
And it worked.

A miracle came through.  Three days ago my father– a young, athletic, and overall unlikely stroke patient– finally popped his eyes open– after over a week of being in and out of consciousness due to a hemmorhage in the right parietal lobe and motor cortex of his brain.  As of today he was fully awake and able to freely move his right side.
This whole experience with my dad and watching how he and his wife of three years–my amazing angel of a step-mom– interact, has given rise to an observation within me that I have never before thought about: the risks of love.

To fully love someone is to open your heart in a way that says, “No matter WHAT happens, we are in this together.”  This applies to romantic love, familial love, and the love that is shared between friends.

This also applies to the love of a business owner for their budding new entrepreneurial baby.

Or the love of a competitive athlete for their sport.

Or the love of an amateur trying a new, long-desired hobby.

Opening your heart to things outside of your personal control–people, businesses, competitions–is risky.

So why bother?  Why step into that kind of uncertainty?

We take risks because they are worth it.  My dad can’t speak yet (I have faith that he will be able to very soon!) but can communicate with a thumbs up and thumbs down.  I said to him, “You are so lucky to have her, aren’t you?” I said as I gestured to my step-mom.  He responded with a VERY enthusiastic thumbs up.  She gazed at him, in his half-paralyzed state, connected to tubes and wires and lines, and said with a loving smile, “I am so lucky to have him!!”

I risked a rewarding and successful career in academia to pursue an even more rewarding and even more successful career as a mentor, teacher, and coach.  Sacrificing employer benefits, association with a prominent institution, and the recognition brought by peer-reviewed publication, I risked it all–amidst a sea of uncertainty– to pursue a more heart-centered path that fulfills me by helping people directly and profoundly, not to mention that has ultimately filled my bank account much more prominently than my academic career ever did.

And what about you?

Is there an area of your life in which you wish you could take a risk, stepping out of your comfort zone, but your uncertainty is holding you back?  Can you resolve, even for just one day, to imagine how it would feel to take the plunge?  To love more?  To try more?  To BE more?

I would love to hear your feedback and comments.  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Have a beautiful day, many blessings to all, and Namasté.

Julie

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