08/14/14 8:24pm

Receive the Gifts of Presence

fd140814giftpresenceReceive the Gifts of Presence
by Starcat

BlackLion told me that it was my turn to write about presence. “Presents? I love presents!” was my reply.

August and September are big-time birthday months in our family, and I guess I was getting a touch of celebration fever. Yet August is also a time to focus on presence – it’s our Feline Dreamers theme for this month.

Presence does bring many gifts to those who practice it. To receive them, simply focus on the moment you’re in. Do it several times each day, until it starts to become natural. You might want to remind yourself – post-it notes or phone alerts, or however it is you remember the important things. Being present is important! Here are some of the gifts it can bring.

Gratitude. When you reside in this moment, you know that all is well. You recognize the people, places, and things that surround you, and often you’ll feel a wave of gratitude for them. Right now, as I write this, I’m thankful for my comfortable home, the lovely trees and blue skies I see outside my window, a fresh summer breeze, and sweet Percy cat, who is keeping me company. I’m thankful for silence in which to write, and the ideas that flow through my mind. Stop reading for a moment and look around you. What are you thankful for right now?

Relaxation. Sinking into the present moment allows you to relax and just be. Tension flows from your body as your muscles relax. You’re not worried about what else you have to do, or upset about what has or hasn’t happened in the past. You’re just here. Now. You’re safe. Your body will notice your mental letting go, and you might release a sigh, or reach upward for a big stretch. Ahhh…

Inspiration. By looking around you at what is going on right now, you see the beauty of our lovely world with new eyes. Being present for and open to the flow of life can be incredibly inspiring. While gazing at the sunset, you might have an idea for a poem or story. When you let go of your worries, often your subconscious mind will be freed up to design a solution to a problem. The amazing ideas that pop up might surprise you. What a gift!

Peace. Along with the physical relaxation of “living in the now” comes peace of mind. When you surrender to the moment, you aren’t focused on your expectations about what should and shouldn’t happen. You accept whatever arises. This is peace.

Affection. When you expand your practice of presence to include your interactions with others, your heart will open. When you focus on a loved one, really listening to them, or simply being in quiet companionship, you’ll notice your love and affection for them increasing. Accepting them as they are right now allows you to see all the delightful things that you enjoy about being with them. Share your affection, and chances are they’ll return it.

Empowerment. Once you’ve been practicing presence for a while, you’ll begin to see how it can change your life for the better. Ironically, when we let go of our expectations and let life flow, we are carried along more quickly to where we wanted to be. You’ll feel empowered to really go for your dreams. Rather than fretting about failure or wallowing in uncertainty, you’ll joyfully move toward your big goals, enjoying each of the steps along the way.

Confidence. A presence practice will bring you more confidence that everything really is okay. We humans spend a lot of time worrying needlessly. When you’re living in the now, there’s no space for worry. You’ll see that you are an integral part of the whole Universe. You’ll feel loved and nurtured. This will give you confidence that even when life is difficult, you’ll be all right.

Start practicing presence today, and you’ll soon find these joyful presents unfolding in your experience!

08/4/14 10:09pm

Why Be Present?

WP_20140614_001Why Be Present?
by BlackLion

When you focus on worries of the future or concerns of the past, you are forgetting about a very important aspect of your life experience – right now. Now is your point of power. Now is where you get to decide what will be your next focus. Now is the essential life force of living.

So how do you stay focused on the now? Right now you are breathing. And you do so all the days of your life, every moment, every day. Focusing on your breath is a constant reminder that life transpires in this critical moment. The transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide, the mix of outside and inside, all happens while you breathe.

You can take an intentional breath and be present. You could simply observe how your chest moves up and down, that feeling in your nostrils as the air comes in and goes out. This is presence. Become familiar with this feeling of presence. What do you sense during this moment? Perhaps you’ll notice that you are hearing more than you had before. Are you seeing the world in a new light? What does the wind smell like?

Now that you are more familiar with the present moment, you get to decide what your focus will be. This is “the zone” that athletes and artists alike fall into when they become hyperaware. Every movement, thought, sense, and idea comes from this connection to your creative now. Inspiration comes when you are attuned to your everything – mind, body, and spirit as one.

To be present is to be truly alive. When you are living rather than the walking dead, you make a difference in the world in profound ways. You’re more aware of yourself, others, and your connection with them. You can be more conscious of others’ emotions while staying aligned with your own power source.

What truly matters to you? The Now allows you to become focused on the most important aspects of your life. Practice is essential to a fulfilling present moment, so return to this state as often as possible by setting up reminders and refocusing on your breathing when you notice that your mind wanders. May you have a joyful now, and many more to come!

07/31/14 8:35am

14 Simple Ways to Infuse Your Every Day with Joy

fd140716faesunset314 Simple Ways to Infuse Your Every Day with Joy
by Starcat

I bet you wish you had more joy in your life. It’s easy to stay in your mind and think about problems, letting the day pass without noticing the beauty around you. Whether you’re struggling with stress, depression, or grief, or if you’re just stuck in a rut, here are some easy ways to bring yourself some extra sparkle.

1. Wake up ten minutes earlier than usual and just lie in bed, peacefully contemplating your day. I hear you, I don’t normally associate getting up earlier with joyfulness, either. But starting your day without rushing sets a much more happy tone. Let your slow start stick with you.

2. Eat breakfast outdoors. Listen to the birds singing, feel the fresh air on your face, notice the color of the sky. Don’t eat breakfast? Try it at lunchtime, then.

3. Keep an eye out for synchronicity, kindness, and faeries. Let your imagination wander from time to time throughout your day. Expect the unexpected.

4. Dive into a major task for a chunk of time; set a timer if it helps you stay focused. Savor the feeling of accomplishment when you finish or make significant progress.

5. Call or message a friend, just to say hello. Tell her something you really love and appreciate about her. Appreciating someone else will give you a fuzzy happy feeling.

6. Take a brisk walk. Look around and notice the beauty of the world. Smile at passers-by.

7. Find one image or picture of something that would be a self-nurturing treat for you: a massage, a road trip, a visit to your favorite thrift shop, coffee with a friend you don’t see often, or whatever feels good. Post the image somewhere you’ll see it regularly, and resolve to make it happen.

8. Eat fresh food. Stop at the farmer’s market or harvest some veggies from your garden. Enjoy the bursts of fresh flavor in blueberries, cucumbers, or carrots.

9. Play a card or board game, or start a jigsaw puzzle. Only play something that sounds really fun.

10. Watch or read something that makes you laugh out loud. Lately I’ve been cracking up over Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels (great summer reading) and the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (hilarious improv comedy)

11. Make a list of 10 things you’re grateful for today. Use your imagination to come up with very specific things you appreciate about your day.

12. Write a sweet little love note for your beloved or a family member. Slip it in their lunchbox or on their desk or dashboard.

13. Take a soothing shower before bed. Rub some lotion on your skin. Give your body some extra care.

14. Play soothing music, like perhaps Native American flutes or classical piano, as you drift off to sleep. Set an intention to have another joy-infused day tomorrow.

07/28/14 10:00pm

Joy as an Every Day Choice

WP_20140630_001Joy as an Every Day Choice
by BlackLion

I know that folks won’t always heed the advice of following their calling and creating a life that is worth living. Sure, we all have reasons not to follow our instincts and create. Work, kids, sleep… we all have things we prefer to do when inspiration hasn’t been calling.

Yet when it does, we are transformed into creative genii, scampering with yarn, needle, drum, voice, or hoe to fulfill our ingenious desires. When we are truly focused on our calling, joy is as easy as our next moment. When we create, we are allowing our spiritual acumen to shine forth onto the mundane of our normal lives.

When we forgo our routine and step into our passionate creativity, we become these amazing beings of enlightened ability. We become these nymphs of joy and spreaders of love. Transformation of raw materials: ink, paper, and seed; becomes these amazing mosaics of our imagination. When you choose to focus on your most creative spark, you become the purveyor of wondrous things.

Why not choose to focus more on what brings you a better feeling thought, than one that brings you down? Are you noble in sacrifice of your own desire, or are you an equal among all who seek to better themselves in every fashion that is most compelling?

It’s okay to spend time being contemplative, focusing on your spiritual connection. When you are fully yourself, whatever you bring to the table for your next encounters will surely be beneficial to all involved. Taking your circumstances and intentions into consideration is an essential tool for intentional transformation.

07/23/14 8:40am

To Increase Your Joy, Do What You Love

Starcat and BlackLion strawsTo Increase Your Joy, Do What You Love
by Starcat

One of the best ways to ramp up your joy is to do what you love. Period. End of story.

If you’re like me, you probably already have a whole bunch of reasons popping up in your mind why you can’t possibly do that. The ego loves to doubt and second-guess.

But life is too short for excuses. There’s no real reason why you shouldn’t do the things you love, despite your circumstances. You’ve read the inspiring stories of how people born into extremely harsh conditions – homelessness, lack of limbs, severe physical abuse – have overcome these tough challenges and lived their dreams. If they can do it, so can you!

Sure, it will take practice, dedication, and perseverance. But doing what you love is so packed full of rewards, ones that are received in the moment. The bliss that arises when you’re doing something meaningful and fun to you will make all the challenges worthwhile.

OK, so, you’re in? Great! Now let’s address a few of the most common reasons why you’re not already doing those things that call to you.

No time. You’re busy. Seriously. Between work, care-giving (kids, partner, parents, pets), housework, errands, volunteering in the community, when is there time to do something just for you? The main answer to this is that you’ll be much more productive and able to give of your best self when you devote time to doing what you love. As for the logistics? Give up something else to create time for your passions. Watch less TV, skip reading the news, take a break from Facebook, ask for help with the housework. You can create just one hour a week for doing what you love, and that’s a great start.

Lack of resources. What if the thing you love doing costs money? Like, say, horseback riding, or making pottery. Or perhaps your job takes up most of your energy, and you need it to pay the bills. Years ago I read a book called Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow by Marsha Sinetar. The book’s title phrase really stuck with me, and while creating an entire career from your passions can be more complex than we have space for here, the concept holds. Chances are there is something you can do that generates the resources you need to pursue your passions. You could volunteer to groom horses and muck out stables in return for riding lessons. Sell a few of your homemade vases to friends and family, then use the money to buy more supplies. Use your imagination! As for your day job eating up your time and energy, refer to the previous paragraph. There’s sure to be something in your schedule that can shift just a bit.

Fear of failure. Modern society has trained us to be afraid of failure. We don’t want to look bad in front of other people, so we play small and stay safe. But failure is a part of learning! Think about babies when they learn to walk. If they fell a couple times, then just gave up, we’d all still be crawling around on our hands and knees. When we fail, we learn lessons that we can apply on our next attempt. Let go of that fear of failing and go for it!

Not sure what you love to do. This is the best possible objection. It means you get to enjoy playing around and discovering fun new things! Make a list of everything you think you might enjoy but haven’t tried yet. Knitting, salsa dancing, playing the trombone, building a tree house, running a marathon, writing a novel about werewolves, whatever sounds like fun. Now start trying some of them! If you like being prepared, do your research first. Or just leap in and see what happens. Have fun!