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

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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