Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Ritual to Let Go of the Past

Creating Rituals, Ritual to Let Go, Ritual to Heal, Healing Ritual, Healing Ritual Hawaii
Sometimes, letting go of an old hurt or problem takes more than an act of will. You consciously make an effort to forget about it, you talk to friends and counselors, you write about it, you pray and meditate—and still, the issue nags you like a mosquito that just won’t quit. If you’ve been down this road and still suffer from your hurt or issue, you might want to try a special ceremony to purge the problem from your life for good.

This is a ritual for marking the death of your problem; for burying it:

1. Enlist a support team to share in the ritual with you
. Even if you want to keep the problem a secret, this step is important. Knowing that there are people who are for you, who “have your back,” is key. Also, when you perform the ritual with a circle of people, you create amplified energy toward eradicating the issue. Even one other person will be a help, but if you can gather a circle of five to seven, that will be best.

2. Create a space for the ritual. A beautiful place outdoors is best. The space should inspire you with a feeling of peace and safety. Mark the spot with objects that represent the life you want to move toward—and with objects that inspire you with a feeling of sanctity. Flowers, crystals, photographs, and so on work well.

3. Gather your support circle together. Write down the problem and describe it in detail. Then, if possible for you, describe the problem aloud to your circle. This can be difficult if you feel shame about the issue, but again, this step can be of enormous help. One way to ease the difficulty can be to invite others to participate by also sharing and then purging their issues, so that it becomes a group purging ritual. Invite those in your circle to offer their support and good wishes, both aloud and inwardly, to help you become free of the problem.

4. Light a match to your paper, and watch your problem burn. Please make sure that you have a dish or plate of some sort to burn upon, and create a safe place to do this—you can, for instance, have a metal barrel to toss burning papers into.

5. When the problem has burned, bury the ashes.

6. Offer an affirmation aloud, such as “I am now free of my problem of _______. I do not need it any longer. I am now free to go on to the next steps in my life. I am grateful for the help I have received in saying goodbye to this problem. May I be of help to others who need to let go of the issues that bind them.”

If you wish, you can mark the end of the ceremony with music, or burning of sage, or a shared meal.

I sincerely hope that this ceremony helps you move beyond whatever holds you back. Please let me know how it works for you, and please share if you have any suggestions for making it even more powerful or effective.

Many Blessings,
Hiyaguha, The Life-Change Coach

Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen offers life coaching by Skype or phone and in-person Hawaii counseling. Click HERE to go to her website.

Thank you for visiting the Radical Love blog!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cool Ways to Meet New People

Feeling isolated? Spending too much time on the computer and not enough time face-to-face with actual humans? Or just moved to a new place where you know nobody? Stop moping! There are lots of ways to break out of loneliness—but you need to take that first step. Here are some great methods for quickly connecting with likeminded souls:

1. Go to This site allows you to join groups in your area around common interests, or to start a group of your own.For instance, where I live in Santa Fe, the Meetup site lists regular meetings around reading, writing, poker, French, politics, philosophy, knitting, movie-going, meditation, mothering, technology, and so on. Just click on the group that interests you, sign up, and then show up for the meeting. Membership is usually free.

2. Check in your area. Click on “Community” and then “Groups” or “Activities.” A recent search in my city yielded book groups, women’s groups, personal growth groups, and many other interesting possibilities.

3. Invite your neighbors to some event at your home—even if they haven’t reached out to you. Try a barbecue, a high tea, or even a video viewing.

4. Join…a church, a club, a political group, a class, a volunteer organization. Check your Chamber of Commerce for lists of existing organizations or educational opportunities.

Once you find interesting people, do NOT wait for them to extend a hand to you—it may never happen, even if they like you a lot. Instead, take a deep breath and make some overture to get together. Invite the potential friend to meet you for coffee, or to go for a long walk with your dogs, or to come over for dinner. If that doesn’t work out, move down your list to the next person.

It’s up to YOU to find the amazing and wonderful people in your vicinity—they’re out there, but you’ll probably have to break out of your shell a bit to connect to them. For some this process comes naturally, but for others, it's a huge stretch. I promise you that it's worth the effort.

Do you have other avenues for meeting people offline? Please share your suggestions with the rest of us.

Many Blessings,
The Life Change Coach

Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen offers life coaching by Skype or phone and in-person Hawaii counseling. Click HERE to go to her website.

Thank you for visiting the Radical Love blog!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Accessing Your Inner Guidance

listening to inner guidance, inner guidance
Let's face it: most of us would like to wake up one morning to find a note from God on the night table telling us exactly what we should be doing. This is especially true when things go wrong, when we have a difficult choice to make. We want answers, clarity. And since that note from God doesn't show up even after we implore the heavens, we turn to anyone with an opinion--psychics, therapists, clergy, spouses and so on --seeking advice, seeking answers.

And getting advice is good--except that in collecting everybody else's opinion, you may forget to consult the most important source of wisdom and insight and knowledge--yourself. I truly believe that each of us holds the ultimate wisdom for ourselves. We just need to learn how to access that wisdom and be fearless when answers come.

Here are a few techniques that might help you to discern your own inner voice:

1. Notice when your heart lights up. Look around your room and when you see something that you love, pay attention to all the sensations that thing elicits in you. Mentally describe how that object makes you feel, giving words to the sensations and writing your words down. Now look around for something that turns you off and do the same thing. Try repeating this in a room full of people, noting how your body reacts to people who draw you and people who repulse you. Use your reactions as a blueprint for creating your psychic radar device, letting it guide you to those things that light you up and away from those that make you uncomfortable whenever you need to make a decision, large or small.

2. Pay attention to your solar plexus. When you can't tell how you feel about something, put your hand over your solar plexus and quickly ask yourself, "Do I like/want this thing?" See if you get a hint of a "uh huh" or a "no."

3. Clear your mind and invoke. Pray, meditate, listen to music, walk in nature--do whatever helps you to clear your mind and go to that calm place within yourself. Once you reach that state, take out a notebook and try not to think. Just pose your question and start writing. Some of you may feel that the Divine guides your hand; for others, it will clearly feel like your own inner wisdom writes through you. It doesn't matter--the results will probably astound you. This method really works!

Once you get some hints that shed light on your dilemma, it makes sense to also draw on the wisdom of others. That's the time to assemble your support team for validation and to deepen your insights. But, of course, if the above methods don't work--don't wait. Reach out! Sometimes we do need others to lead us back to ourselves.

Many blessings,

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Finding Your Perfect Spot

perfect location, great towns, locational astrology
You wouldn’t release a Polar Bear in Hawaii nor a parrot in Helsinki; you wouldn’t raise a kangaroo in Newark nor a hippo in Queens. I truly believe that, like the animals, most of us have a best spot on the globe, a place that resonates for us, and while some can manage to adjust to any environment, others really are “geographic sensitives.” We need to find our place.

Many years ago, I moved from New England to Washington, D.C. From the very start, I felt like I had landed on Mars. I missed everything about New England—the stone walls, the colonial architecture, the curving roads, the evergreen foliage. I simply couldn’t relate to Washington’s neat streets laid out in a grid, nor to all the traffic. And yet, a dear friend of mine thrives in Washington. She has little use for the undeveloped outposts I’ve lived and loved.

The price of living in the wrong place can be high. For me, Washington brought on near catatonia. I just didn’t feel like myself. In fact, I got very ill. Moving away from that city worked an instant cure—and I know many people who have had similar experiences.

If YOU don’t feel joy when you look out your window, if you sometimes wonder if other places might bring out better aspects of yourself—you might want to check out where you “belong,” according to the experts.

How can you find your best spot? Here are a few resources that might help: This wonderful site asks a slew of detailed questions to help you discover where in the US you’ll find compatible climate, geographical features, culture, and people. Plus, it has loads of information about living in the various destinations.

Locational Astrology. If you believe in astrology, take it to the next level with a geographical astrology reading. You’ll learn what energies will rule for you in various locations, what your “best spots” are, and what places to avoid. I recommend Moses Sinegar of Astrology of the Soul.

100 Best Art Towns in America. If you’re an artistic type or just love artsy people, this book offers a great resource.

Enjoy the quest, and if you know of any other resources for finding interesting places to land, please share them here. I’ll talk about how to survive the “wrong” spot in a future blog.

Blessings,Hiyaguha, The Life-Change Coach

Monday, March 10, 2008

Self-Love Ritual #3: Create a Personal Refuge

When my dog gets frightened, she runs to her bed and huddles there. Animals naturally seek refuge when stressed, and perhaps we can take a lesson from their wisdom.

Remember playing "tag" as a kid--and having "home base" as a designated safe place? Without home base, the game would have been too stressful. Likewise, when the adult game of life gets too tense and difficult, it helps to have a home base--a protected sanctuary where nobody can disturb you, where you can take a breather away from the bills, the emails, the phone calls, the problems and conflicts. And this home base--this refuge--can be your own safe place to retreat to whenever problems assail you -- a place for regeneration, self-nurturing, protection.

How to Create Your Own Refuge

1. SET YOUR INTENT. Your refuge is your place. It should not be shared with anyone else. So first, if you share your home with others, you must give yourself permission to have a special place just for you--just for your own comfort and nurturing. As you design your refuge, remind yourself that you are creating this space for your own growth and care.

2. LOCATION. If possible, choose a permanent location in your home for your refuge. It can be as grand as an entire room, or as modest as a carboard box covered with beautiful cloth in a corner. I once knew a man who lived in such a tiny apartment that his only option was to open his oven door and put a cloth over it whenever he needed refuge. Outdoor refuges also can work well.

3. OBJECTS TO CREATE THE REFUGE. Decorate your refuge with any objects that uplift, inspire, and comfort you. Possibilities include candles, fresh flowers, crystals, favorite rocks or seashells, photographs of people who fill you with joy or inspiration, photos of yourself at your best, reminders of things you're proud of, objects from nature or pictures that inspire you, a favorite blanket, a cozy pillow, aphorisms you love, music that relaxes you, paints, keyboards, drums, and so on.

4. INAUGURATING YOUR REFUGE. It's nice to have a special ceremony to initiate your refuge. Design your own inauguration, drawing from whatever traditions resonate for you. Some people like to burn sage or incense, which does set a tone of sanctity. You can write out your intent and read it, or scatter rose petals or recite chants of blessing--whatever cements in your consciousness the idea that you're creating a sacred space for yourself.

5. USING YOUR REFUGE. Use your refuge to contemplate, to journal, to wrap yourself in cozy warmth until you feel better--as a place to retreat to anytime you need to feel safe, centered, and nurtured.

I welcome photos of your refuges to inspire other readers, as well as your ideas on how to create a wonderful sacred space for self-care.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dealing With Emotional Winter

Several people have emailed me recently asking about how to deal with feeling no motivation, no passion in their lives. This made me think about the "emotional winter" we naturally go through after experiencing loss or change. Just like trees that lose their leaves when the air turns chilly, we humans tend to go into a state of shut-down when our "life weather" changes, particularly when we lose things that we loved or things that defined our world. We too "lose our leaves" so that we aren't recognizable to ourselves; our world seems as bleak and desolate as snow on the plains in February.

And we don't like winter, most of us, so we try to push for spring--we try not to feel so blue and bleak and everyone tells us to snap out of it because they don't like winter either. But the problem is, you can't force spring to come. Just as trees need to be barren for a while in order to renew themselves, we too need to allow ourselves to be dormant through the cold, dark season. We need to care for ourselves, give ourselves time to recover to make room for the new.

Here are some observations taken from nature about how to winter, adapted from the wise and wonderful book, The Seasons of Change, by Carol McLelland.

1. Animals hibernate. Winter is a time when the organism needs to take shelter, to find protection, to renew itself and rebuild resources. During your winter, you just might need to hibernate--to take time to be alone, to contemplate what you really want in life, to review what drains you, and who drains you…and who you can actually be yourself with. Keeping a journal is good during winter, as is giving yourself permission to say “No” to events or people who take it out of you.

2. Animals build dens. They create safe places, places to huddle against the forces of cold. You might try to create a safe haven in your home--a retreat space that feels cozy and safe; a place that’s just yours, where you can contemplate and renew. It can be a corner of a room, a closet, or a place outdoors. Put objects there that make you feel safe, happy, inspired. Spend time in your retreat den every day, journaling, contemplating, resting, taking refuge.

3. Plants lose foliage. They don’t try to cling to their leaves and flowers…in winter they must let go so that the new can grow. And yet, even when absolutely stripped of apparent life, the plants simply are dormant--not dead. Buds are there, waiting for the time when they’ll find support again to blossom. Likewise, you might need to let go of old habits, old routines, old things, old relationships. You might need to shed some things to make way for the new.

In other words, emotional winter is a time when you need to let go, protect and nurture yourself, and be patient. If you give yourself the space to reflect, renew, and rest that you need, you'll find to your own surprise that you have seeds of new inspiration to plant when spring comes--as it will.

Email me if you would like to take a "Seasons of Change" quiz, free, to find out what emotional season you are in now.

All best wishes to you,
The Life Change Coach

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Surprising Facts About Longevity

Have you ever noticed that in spite of the media blitz urging you to eat veggies and pump weights, some of the most health-conscious people you know seem to keel over at an early age, while others who eat junk and live fast keep on kicking up until their 90s? Perhaps it's because when it comes to longevity, psychology matters at least as much as biology. Consider the results of these four surprising studies looking at what controls longevity:

1. Attitudes about aging are more important than diet or exercise in extending your life. A study out of Yale University in 2002 followed 650 people, and found that those who had a positive outlook about their own aging outlived those with negative views by 7.5 years, on average, regardless of pre-existing health problems, lifestyle factors, socioeconomic status, or gender. In fact, the study found that attitude was the single most important factor in predicting longevity, after controlling for age. Another study in Norway found that the most optimistic subjects were 77 percent less likely to die of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular cause than the most pessimistic subjects, regardless of weight, pre-existing cardiovascular issues, smoking, and so on.

2. Having a network of good friends increases lifespan significantly; family doesn't. The Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging looked at 1500 people aged 70 or older, and found that those with an extensive circle of friends outlived those with the fewest friends by 22 percent. Having family around did not increase lifespan.

3. Continued schooling prolongs life. A 1999 study from Columbia University determined that ongoing education increases lifespan even more than having good medical care. Another study found that "each additional year of schooling for men in the U.S. is associated with an 8 percent reduction in mortality."

4. Finding meaning after loss is high on the longevity list. I heard years ago that the most significant factor in life extension--even more important than diet or exercise--is the ability to find meaning after losing loved ones. This becomes increasingly important with each passing year as we age, because inevitably, our friends and dear ones will start dying.

I'm not advising you to start gorging on chips and cupcakes--diet and exercise certainly do matter in life extension. But if you want to have a long, healthy, happy life--wheatgrass and aerobics alone won't do it. You need to cultivate friends, keep on learning, engage in activities that truly interest you, and find the gold in the process of getting older--and there is much to celebrate in the aging process. If you feel that you're stuck--that you just can't adjust your attitude or find the magic anymore or get yourself moving--consider getting some life coaching.

Best wishes,

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What's Your Crowd Tolerance?

Do you hate when the beach fills up, when your favorite store is mobbed, when the restaurant has no breathing room between tables? Do you turn anxious or ugly when the crowd closes in on you, when you get jostled?

I remember reading, years ago, that the poet Walt Whitman loved being in crowds, squished so that he could enjoy the press of flesh around him. In “The Body Electric,” he says, “To be surrounded by beautiful curious breathing laughing flesh is enough.” He talks of the “bath of multitudes,” of “the turbulent musical chorus of the boisterous crowds of New York City.”

I loved Whitman’s writing, and his attitude deeply affected me. It amazed me. After all, he was a poet—one of the sensitive types. I had always attributed my dislike of crowds to my poetic nature, but how could I justify sneering at the multitudes if the big bearded poetic genius exulted in them? Thanks to Whitman, I tried an attitude adjustment. I tried loving being among throngs of people. Amazingly, I discovered that I could change my outlook; I could enjoy "the press of flesh" all around me.

Can you really learn to love being in a crowd? To paraphrase one of our presidential hopefuls, “Yes You Can!” You simply need to make a conscious effort to change your mind-set.

Here are a few attitude-adjustment techniques:

Reframe. Instead of resenting the encroachment upon “your space,” concentrate on letting love flow directly from your heart outwards into the crowd, touching each individual.

Open up. Instead of shutting yourself down, open your heart and feel that everyone who passes you is divine.

Revel in the pulse of life. Feel the excitement of energy buzzing all around you. Breathe it into yourself.

May we smile at each other in a crowd in the future,


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Radical Laughter

A few days ago, I watched a video called The Laughing Club of India. The film tells the story of an Indian doctor named Madan Kararia, who was researching the health benefits of laughter when he decided to start a club to help people laugh. Every morning, he would gather a group together in a public place to laugh for 40 minutes. His club quickly became enormously popular and the idea spread; now there are over 5,000 laughter clubs in 50 countries. The meetings start with fake laughing, without much to actually laugh about, but soon the laughter becomes real—because laughter truly is infectious.

According to, people across the globe are laughing a lot less than they used to. “Just a few generations ago happy healthy humans spent 20 minutes a day or more in laughter. Now adult daily laugh time is down to 5 minutes or less in many countries,” says the site. This is unfortunate, because numerous studies show that laughing boosts the immune system, improves circulation, decreases blood pressure and heals many ailments. And amazingly, it does these things even if the laughter is faked!

By laughing, we can restore balance, get back in touch with the flow of life, and regain hope. Laughing expands the heart, lends perspective, helps us connect with others--and it does these things while healing the body. Watch these video clips (clip #2) to see that you don't need a good sense of humor and you don't even need anything to laugh about to reap these benefits.

Many blessings,

Thursday, February 21, 2008

How to Completely Forgive Your Parents (and everyone else)

If you think your parents did a wonderful job of rearing you, if you think they helped you to have a strong sense of self and that they avoided doing things that made you grow into a fearful, neurotic or insecure adult; if you would be delighted to be just like your mother and your father--you are a lucky person indeed.

Most of us believe that our parents messed us up, that they gave us problems--even if we love them dearly. At some level, we still hold them responsible for our vulnerabilities, although we tell ourselves that we've forgiven them. This sure applies to you if you wince whenever someone says, "You're just like your mother (or father)."

At some point in the journey toward wholeness, we need to forgive our parents completely for the mistakes they made and the hurts they caused us. Otherwise, we can never fully grow up: we're still like children victimized by the big people. And because, like children, we have underlying resentment of our parents, we can't be wise in rearing our own kids. We relate to our own children in reaction to our parents. For instance, if your mother was too critical and controlling, you might react by praising your child nonstop and setting no limits--but then your child develops an unrealistic sense of self and feels undirected, and so she grows up resenting you for being spineless. She reacts by imposing strict limits on her own kids, who resent her for it, and so they over-indulge their kids. In this way, family devils get passed on down the line. The pattern may take a different form in your family, but unless you're one of the lucky few, you can bet that some of your attitudes and life-challenges have roots that originated generations ago.

At some point, the pattern has to stop--and why not have it stop with you? To forgive your parents completely is the first step. Then, you need to also forgive all the people who shaped your parents, and then the people who shaped your grandparents and so on. Whatever problems or issues or neuroses your parents passed onto you were no doubt passed on to them. If you could trace the geneology of your issues you would probably find that whatever problems you're grappling with today started 20 or 30 or 40 generations ago, passed from parent to child down the line.

Here's a link to some wonderful, powerful prayers for forgiving all of your ancestors. The language is a bit religious for some people, and if that bothers you, stick with "The Gift of Life Prayer 1." But if you don't mind the references to a Creator, scroll down until you come to "Prayer IV--The Prayer Of Generational Forgiveness." Just give it a try and feel the weight lifting from your chest. I hope you find that in forgiving your lineage all the way to its ancient origins, you experience a great release and a heightened sense of freedom.

Many blessings,

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Radical Self-Love Ritual #2

The Tea Ceremony--For One
For this ritual, you'll need candles, loose tea, a fussy china teacup, classical music, a little wrapped present that you buy or make for yourself, and delicious scones, which you'll bake (recipe below).

1. First, prepare yourself by taking a bath, adding 10 drops of an essential oil with relaxing properties, such as lavendar or bergamont. Then dress yourself in something loose, flowing, and elegant--something that makes you feel wonderful.

2. Prepare your room by lighting at least a few candles and putting inspiring classical music on the CD-player. I suggest Beethoven's 7th Symphony, or anything by Bach or Mozart--but if you have a favorite, use it. You can probably find the music at your public library. Oh, and remember to disconnect all telephones.

3. Now it's time to make the scones. Here's an authentic, delicious recipe I got from an innkeeper in County Cork, Ireland:

6.5 cups of self-rising flour
6 oz. butter
3 eggs
1/4 cup of ultrafine sugar
2 cups milk
some raisins (or currants)

*Rub the butter into the flour. Add the raisins and sugar.
*Make a hole in the center. Add the beaten egg and milk to make a soft dough.
*Turn onto a floured board and knead lightly.
* Shape into a round roll about one inch thick and cut into scones.
* Brush with egg wash and bake in a hot oven 15 to 25 minutes (done when top is light gold).

I also add chocolate chips and pecans to my scones, and you can experiment with your favorite ingredients, too.

4. While the scones bake, get out your fussy china. If you like jam, fill a little cup with it and make some butter balls or pats. Choose your tea, fill the infuser and put the cup with all the condiments on a serving tray. Also place your little wrapped present on the tray.

5. By now, your home should be filled with the intoxicating aroma of baked scones, the inspiring sounds of the music, and the soothing glow of the candlelight. Prepare your scone, pour hot water into your lovely teacup, take the tray over to your most comfortable sitting place, and breathe.

6. Spend at least a minute mentally giving gratitude for being able to have this ceremony and for whatever blessings you have in your life. Unwrap your present and gift it to yourself.

7. Enjoy the tea and scone--but force yourself to go slowly. Really let the flavors make themselves known to you. Taste the tea--really taste it. Describe it to yourself. Do the same with the scone. Instead of consuming the scone in two minutes, make it last for 20.

8. When you're done, leave the dishes for at least three hours to give yourself time to assimilate the experience, and absolutely avoid your "to do" list. You might now go out for a walk in nature, or write in your journal, or paint, or do some creative project. Allow yourself to bask in the peaceful energy you've created for as long as possible.

Many blessings,
Hiyaguha, the Life Change Coach

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Courage to Forgive

radical forgiveness, courage to forgive, forgiveness hawaii, forgiveness coach
I sometimes think that forgiving is one of the bravest things we humans can do. What incredible strength of heart it takes to let go of an injury suffered because of another's behavior. And yet, as you know, if you don't forgive, you just keep suffering. The injury festers inside of you, keeping you feeling like a victim--angry, betrayed, righteous. When you feel victimized, the emotions you experience make you feel ugly inside and weak, and they can even make you sick physically.

So if anger just makes you keep re-experiencing the original injury, why would you hold onto it? Because unconsciously, many of us have twisted ideas such as, "If I stay angry, he won't do it again." "If I stay angry, I'll have some power over him." "If I don't forgive him, he'll suffer like I'm suffering." But in reality, your anger can never protect you from hurt. It can't control another's behavior. It can't help you in any way. It only eats away at your joy and beauty.

I say it's brave to forgive because in spite of the futility of staying angry, forgiving might feel like letting go of a life-raft; you might fear that forgiving releases the perpetrator to hurt you again. Plus, anger gives you a screen behind which you can hide the searing pain you feel. The energy of anger is so very consuming, so very distracting, that it forces sadness and grief to take a back seat. Once you forgive, you're left with an avalanche of hurt that you have to manage, and facing that is so very frightening. So often when I coach people around a betrayal or hurt, they say they want to be free of anger, and yet they cling to it, terrified of what the anger masks.

But facing that fear, stripping away the anger, and forgiving the person who hurt you is the only way to recover your own wholeness, your integrity, your center. When you forgive, the message you give yourself is, "I'm stronger than the pain, than the anger, than the humilation I've experienced. I'm too precious to waste my life fretting and steaming. I'm a beautiful fountain of love inside, not a steaming cauldron of rage. And even though you may now feel profound, unmoderated grief and pain, you also feel the beauty and purity of your own heart, and you finally begin to know that you'll heal.

Many blessings,
Hiyaguha, the Life-Change Coach

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love is the Essence

In deference to Valentine's Day, here's an interesting quote to ponder:
Give, give, and give if you want to really survive
." -- Sri Chinmoy

This quote implies that if you don't stretch beyond what you think you're capable of giving, your life will be frustrating and empty; you'll die spiritually. It means that if you give more than you thought possible, if you discover the strength of your own heart, you 'll be able to endure whatever difficulty assaults you.

What do you think? Can you give too much? And what should be the balance between giving to others and caring for yourself? Can giving ever be harmful?

Blessings and Happy Valentine's,
Hiyaguha, the
Life Change Coach

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Catastrophic Thinking: A Dog Story

A few days ago, we took my 10-year-old standard poodle, Ariel, out for a day of fun. First, we stopped at the market and bought her a bag of liver treats, and then we went on a six mile, off-leash hike. About an hour into it, Ariel started hiccupping constantly, licking her lips, gagging. As we walked, the gagging didn’t stop, and in fact, continued to get worse, although Ariel's energy seemed fine. At first I figured she just had a hair-ball caught in her throat, then I thought she had indigestion, but as her condition progressed, I became alarmed.

We finished the hike, went home and the hiccupping/gagging continued. It was Sunday, so I put off calling the vet and instead did internet research on her symptoms, figuring I’d get her to the vet on Monday. It could be worms, I discovered. Further research revealed it could be bloat, a potentially deadly condition, or … rabies. According to the rabies symptom list—the lip licking and the gagging were indicators. She ate her dinner just fine, seemed happy and had none of the other symptoms, but even so, the worry bug bit me and I couldn’t sleep all night.

The next morning Ariel was wagging her tail, wanting breakfast—but she still gagged intermittently. I called the vet, made an appointment, and kept my anxious eyes on her. I looked for a treat to give to her, but couldn't find the bag of liver treats. I searched the house and the car and couldn’t find it. And then, as I loaded Ariel into the backseat, I saw some scraps of plastic packaging with chew marks in them on the floor of the car.

Then I realized that Ariel had eaten the entire bag of liver treats when we weren’t looking, including the plastic bag they came in. Her hiccups were caused by her joyful and secret food fest, plain and simple—not by any of the awful conditions I feared.

So often it happens that we have a symptom, or someone we love develops a bump or a cough, and we spin off into catastrophe-land. Ironically, right after Ariel’s escapade, a friend of mine called experiencing pressure in her eyes, worried that she had a brain tumor. It turned out later that she simply had sinus problems.

I got to thinking about how we adults so often go into tailspins at the first sign of trouble, whereas kids don’t do that. Kids don’t know yet what they have to worry about, so when they get sick, they take their illness at face value, without worrying about terminal disease. They don’t worry about ruining their reputation because they’ve done something stupid, nor about ending up on the streets after botching an opportunity. Only we big people think in such catastrophic terms.

What I learned is that it’s as easy to imagine your dog having a treat fiesta so lavish that she ends up with hiccups, as it is to fear that she’s ill with a dread disease. Thinking catastrophically accomplishes nothing and wastes precious life energy that could be put to far better use.

Best wishes,

Monday, February 11, 2008

Radical Self-Love Ritual #1

Have a Bathtub Event
When blue, many of us naturally want to immerse ourselves in water. In fact, research shows that bathing can heal a host of ailments--from depression to arthritis to cancer. And so, the next time you feel "out of sorts," try taking a ritual bath to turn things around. Follow these steps:

First, take yourself out to the health food store or the bath shop and splurge on some essential oils that have antidepressant properties. Try bergamont, neroli, chamomile, geranium or rose. You can also make a bath salt blend.

Here's a recipe for "Uplifting Bath Salts" from Eden Foods:

1/2 cup Sea Salt
8 drops pure essential lavender oil
4 drops pure essential rosemary oil
4 drops pure essential geranium oil
6 drops pure essential lemon oil

Bring your essential oil or bath salts into the bathroom, along with inspiring, soothing music or a guided meditation CD. Of course, be sure to keep electric plugs away from the water. Start the music or meditation tape even before you run the bath.

Decorate the bathroom with fresh roses or other flowers that you love, perhaps a crystal, and any other objects that inspire you. Bring in a few candles and light them. Also bring in a soft, cozy robe to wear when you finish. Unplug all telephones.

Arrange top-quality chocolate or another special "treat" item within reach of the tub. Make sure that your treat is something that will leave you feeling wonderful--not sluggish or hyper.

Draw the bath, adding the essential oil or the bath salts and some petals from your flowers.

Immerse yourself, refilling the warm water as you wish. Let the music flow through you, enjoy the candlelight, make a ritual of eating the chocolate or treat.

When done, drain the water and turn on the shower. A recent study found that if you want to beat depression, a cold shower just might do the trick. And so, after you let the warm water run over you for a few minutes, gradually turn it to cold. Alternate between hot and cold at least three times, ending with cold, as the icy water will jolt the last remnants of the blues out of you.

Wrap yourself in the robe and move into a new, more positive space.

Best wishes,

Hiyaguha, The Life Change Coach

Friday, February 8, 2008

Valentine's Day Reality-Test

Valentine’s Day: The romance, the chocolates, the candlelight--The loneliness and disappointment! Last night, I went to a meeting of colleagues and at the end, the organizer asked, “Do you all have plans for Valentine's Day… because our next meeting is set for February 14. Should we reschedule?"

I looked around the room and saw panic flicker across the faces assembled. Then the panic gave way to a ghostly resignation. Most members admitted that they had nothing to do on Valentine's, and so they planned to attend the meeting. I could almost hear unhappy thoughts travel from one person to the next--I never have Valentine’s plans; She's so lucky--she's still married; I wish I had someone in my life...

In truth, a whole lot of people spend Valentine’s Day feeling the pinch of isolation, without a partner, without romance, without a date.

Here are some statistics:

  • Twenty-seven percent of all adults live alone
  • 51 percent of adults are unmarried
  • 13.7 million people are widowed
  • Ten percent of adults are divorced (and alone)

Of the 49 percent Americans who are married, many are miserable. In fact, a study of 2000 adults just completed last month revealed that 59 percent of women would leave their husbands if they could afford to, and almost as many men would dump their wives if they had the guts. Sixty percent of all men report having had affairs, and 40 percent of women.

As the data shows, most people aren’t blissfully partnered. And even those who have decent relationships don’t necessarily do romance well. Let’s face it: most people are pretty lame when it comes to sweeping the beloved off the feet. Only a very, very few actually get it—actually succeed in being wildly romantic. How many great partners do stupid things on Valentine’s Day, or just do the typical flowers and chocolate thing because they don’t have the romance gene and can't think of what else to do?

So back to Valentine’s Day… it’s a huge setup! I admit that I personally love the day because I’m a chocolate fiend and a Libra with a score of planets ruled by Venus—I can’t help being romantic--and I’m lucky enough to have a Libra mate. But, I do think that collectively, we would be better served if Valentine’s Day included more of us.

In a country where so many of us live alone or live lonely, we need a holiday celebrating our own wonder—a “Cherish Your Own Self” day. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be depressing. We can make it a special time to love and care for ourselves, to pamper ourselves with treats and flowers, to remember how lucky we are to be alive and to be the unique and wonderful beings that we are. So don't pretend Valentine's doesn't exist come Thursday--write yourself a love poem, take a long bath, get yourself a present, and make a real effort to appreciate yourself like never before --no kidding!
Best Wishes,
Hiyaguha, The Life-Change Coach

Friday, January 25, 2008

Power-Napping is an Oxymoron

A few days ago, a dear friend sent me a video clip showing Bill Clinton nodding off during a Martin Luther King Day awards ceremony in New York. The accompanying article mentioned that Bill liked to grab a nap in the middle of the day because it invigorated him.

I couldn't watch the video. It seemed mean-spirited to eavesdrop as the poor, exhausted guy struggled against sleep, especially knowing that I've dozed off myself at some inauspicious times and places. But I did get to thinking about the whole concept of the "power nap," an idea so popular that it has its own entry in Wikipedia and over 179,000 Google references.

It struck me that there's something screwy in the idea that we can't let a nap be about sleeping--plain and simple--without the word "power" being attached to it. It seems emblematic of our Type A culture that even catching up on zzz's needs to be rationalized as a way to forge ahead. We can't just let ourselves rest, no matter how tired we feel. Instead, we find a way to turn rest into a tool for working even harder later on.

And so I'd like to propose that we embrace "unpower" napping--or napping that has no purpose whatsoever other than to let us snooze when tired so that we can live in harmony with our natural rhythms. In those countries that still have mid-day siestas, nobody bothers to worry about how much power the nap generates. Rather, the nap becomes part of a life lived with grace, balance, and self-love, a life where there's time for both work and true rest. That's what I wish for all of you.

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Treating Yourself With Love When You're Sick

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When your beloved car goes into the shop, you probably don't blame it for being a defective piece of machinery. You figure even good cars break down after a while--it's inevitable--and so you do the necessary repairs and still love the vehicle. Likewise, when your friend's car breaks down, you feel sympathy for her, but you don't immediately blame her for automobile negligence.

And yet, when that same friend gets sick, some of us immediately get to thinking about what she did wrong to invite the illness. Did she have a "negative attitude"that allowed disease to attack? Did she eat with abandon? Did she forget to do cleanses, or to take immune boosters, or to do tai chi?

When you think this way, your message to your friend becomes one of blame. Your intention might be good--to help your friend figure out the underlying causes so she can figure out an action plan to get well, but the message is more like, "You did something wrong (you poor thing), therefore you're sick." No matter your intent, the impact is not one of healing.
Even worse, we tend to run ourselves through the same type of interrogation, looking for the ways in which we slipped that led to our illness. It's bad enough that we're sick, but then on top of that, we beat on ourselves for being vulnerable. We feel a kind of shame in being ill, as if the illness itself indicates that we've done something wrong. And because we feel that shame, we try to hurry up and get well, pushing the pace beyond our body's natural healing rhythm.

Here's an alternative message to give to yourself when ill: "All bodies break down. All bodies need rest. This body needs rest right now. This is a wonderful body. I love this body and will take care of it, give it rest right now, and never blame it for needing maintenance. Instead, I will love and love it and thank it for telling me when it needs rest and care."

Now, the next time a friend gets sick, try giving this same message to your friend, and really try to see your friend's body as a wonderful machine, instead of a repository for wrong thinking and wrong eating. I suspect you'll help your friend to heal a lot faster.

Best Wishes, Hiyaguha, The Life Change Coach

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lessons Learned from the Flu

Here it is flu season, and for the first time in years, I've caught the darned thing. Like most people, I hate to be sick, and so my first impulse at any sign of disease is to ignore it, which of course, doesn't work. This time, I'm choosing to pay attention. Here's what I'm learning from the flu:

1. Ignoring illness is like ignoring a child: the more you try to pretend it doesn't exist, the more aggressive it will become. Keep working right through your fever, and the fever will go sky high. Stick to your routine, and you soon won't be able to. Instead, whenever you get sick, treat your illness as you would a needy child, giving it love, attention, and pampering--or else!

2. If you can't take time out in your life to heal, then your life probably needs some healing. If you really have that much pressure, if taking days off creates problems--it's time to rethink your life.

3. When you have only the tiniest bit of energy because of high fever and malaise, notice what things you feel relieved to bypass. Those are the things you probably need to drop or change in your life. Are you relieved that you're too sick to call a certain person? Relieved that you don't have to do certain chores, or go to work? Pay attention!

4. Listen to the rhythm of the disease. Don't tell your illness how long it can last so that it conforms to your schedule. Illness is here to tell you that your schedule needs changing, so that you can rest. Let the illness play out in it's own time--although you can certainly introduce healthful routines to cut short it's visit.

5. Befriend the illness--don't fight against it like it's the enemy. Make sure to ask it what it wants to tell you. Your illness really does have a message for you. It might be: eat better, or rest more, or give up your friendship with Alvin, or find a new job. If like me, you get the flu, ask yourself--what is really congesting me, inside?

Hopefully, you'll stay healthy all season, but if you don't, I hope this helps you find the blessings hidden even in the flu.

Best wishes, Hiyaguha, The Life Change Coach