Count Your Blessings

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A quick comment: You will have noticed that I am only posting around once a month. This is to allow my time for the other things that I have become passionate about. I have been playing a lot more guitar over the past 18 months and in order to have a better balance in life and to keep from trying to force myself to write each week, I have decided to take a slower pace and post once a month. Please let me know if there are specific questions that you would like me to respond to in the future. Thank you.

Today, I would like to share something that I have been practicing very regularly and find very helpful for maintaining my sense of daily wellness. Some folks call this creating a gratitude list, or remaining grateful. This is common practice in the 12 Step Recovery community. I strongly associate wellness and recovery. I know that personal wellness promotion is essential to maintaining a long term recovery from any addiction or trauma.

There are so many ways to engage in a gratitude practice. The way that I have found myself working this delightful process is through my mindfulness practice. I take the opportunity when I do not have a specific task to focus on and place my awareness on the present moment. As I do this, I take deep breaths and open to the sensations that are in my body. Once I am grounded and centered and in this space, I can open my mind to appreciate all of the positive aspects of the moment. Sometimes I do this as I walk to my office in the morning. I find myself grounded in the appreciation I have for the daily work that I am allowed to do. I experience the opportunity to make a contribution to the various efforts that my division is advancing as one of the valuable blessing that I have in life.

I also experience the loving relationships in my life and find gratitude in the present state of the significant intimate connections that I am blessed to have. The opportunity to bring an optimistic view to my life and all that I am experiencing in the moment gives me a powerful sense of gratitude. If there are any events that I am experiencing in the moment that require extra effort to process, I relate to the challenges as opportunities to develop new coping skills, or at least to apply my current ones more effectively. Anytime there is conflict or something is not working according to plan, it is so important to consider my role in the conflict and to consider the likelihood that the plan may not be correct and could require modification.

For those of you who are thinking, “That’s easy for you to say”, I would recommend that you begin to use moments where you are not occupied by a task to create a space for grounding and centering. This can be the time it takes to walk down a flight of stairs or the time it takes to ride the elevator to your floor. If you have not developed the deep diaphragmatic breathing practice that is the foundation of many stress management techniques, I suggest you make the effort to do so. This breathing technique will be the basis for almost every wellness practice that you can use.

The practice of noticing the moments where you can use your breath and shift your attention to the appreciation of the blessings in your life will develop over time as long as you “practice”. Remember any new habit requires a great deal of effort to repeat the activity until it becomes second nature. None of us learned to walk in one day. Most of us learned to crawl first. Be kind and compassionate toward your effort to develop any new practice. Since time passes no matter what we do, it makes so much sense to engage in wellness promoting activities whenever we have moments where we do not need to be engaged in a specific task. If we use these moments in this way, it is amazing how much personal wellness will evolve as time passes.


Wellness is Peace

I have described a process of using the experience of acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude as a key to finding peace. This is wellness in a nutshell. Everything that we are can be attributed to our attitude and intention as they are grounded in this experience of peace. This is very much a holistic process and is very much an inside job for the individual. At the same time it is all about how the world aligns with the principles of the holistic paradigm.

It is very obvious that our world has a long way to go before it is aligned with holism. This is due to the nature of the world being a composite of the individuals that inhabit it. As the individuals progress toward this alignment as a larger and larger proportion of the world population, the more the entire world will become aligned with peace and wellness.

One challenge that I see we are faced with is in how we currently view “wellness”. I find it unfortunate that wellness has become a “product” that is sold on the healthcare market. This is not consistent with the “wellness” that I speak of in the above statements. Wellness is not about which diet is best, or which supplements are best, or which alternative health modality is best, or which spiritual practice is best.

Wellness is about transformation to become aligned with the holistic paradigm.

I will attempt to make this statement as clear as I possibly can using words, which is always a challenge. I have written extensively on holistic wellness in my blog and will not reiterate the content in this piece. What I want to clarify is that the “holistic” model is not just a label that is applied to something. Holistic is purely a matter of understanding and incorporating the notion that every facet of existence is intimately interconnected and interdependent. Every choice that I make has an impact on the entire universe in one way or another through this interconnectedness. This is the true nature of holistic existence.

When I live life within this framework, I become very aware of my impact on everything. I am responsible for the reality that I experience personally, and also the reality that every other being is experiencing. This awareness leads to a reckoning. If I am responsible for the nature of reality through this interconnectedness, how can I choose to live with intention for the most positive outcome? Why would the intention to have a positive outcome be important to me? If the universal reality is composed of the contribution of all the composite parts, why should I want my contribution to promote peace and wellness?

Every positive change that we have experienced in our world has generally resulted from the composite action of a large enough group of people. And the same can be said for every not so positive change. The universal change is produced by the composite, and the composite is produced through the contribution of each individual member. As a member of any composite, I have the ability to choose the change I would like to promote. This is the main goal of wellness promotion. It is the promotion of positive transformation of the world that we live in. This is my choice. What is yours?


Wellness Is The Journey

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I have noticed that the term “wellness” continues to be associated with so many externally validated states. When wellness is defined by the presence or absence of disease it is no longer consistent with the holistic paradigm. When wellness is something that is measured or obtained through changes in behavior, it ceases to be an experience and becomes a “product”. Though I do think that having goals for wellness makes sense in a symbolic or metaphoric way, it is really necessary to “realize” wellness as an experience in every waking moment.

Much of the mindfulness practice movement in the West can be utilized to promote wellness, as long as the practice is not incongruent with the underlying nature of the meditation experience. When mindfulness becomes a clinical tool for treating any number of maladies, it ceases to be “mindfulness” as it was born to the world and becomes something that resembles the original. The resemblance ends when the experience is detached from the spiritual nature of our humanity.

Not that this clinical tool is without merit, it is just important to be aware of the difference between mindfulness as it exists in its full context. This is also a true statement when we consider the term “wellness”. As long as we are aware of the full context, within the holistic paradigm, where wellness is appropriately framed, we can develop a full wellness promotion experience in our daily living. Whenever mindfulness or wellness is removed from the full context that is appropriate to their natural experience, we end up with something artificial and less useful.

I speak of this contrast between the holistic and spiritual aspects of both wellness and mindfulness from a personal frame of reference. This is my opinion based on my years of practice. It is a commentary on how I believe many of the ways that both mindfulness and wellness have been integrated into the Western approach to living. Whenever any practice that would be beneficial to the enhancement of our daily experience is packaged and sold, we end up with a product that has lost much of the value that existed in its original state.

I suggest that anyone with a desire to experience either mindfulness or wellness, or any other healing tradition that has been inserted into our current healthcare delivery system, you would do well to spend time studying the history and theory that is the foundation of the practice. Not that it is useless to simply go out and seek treatment from a practitioner, like an acupuncturist for example. Paying someone for their years of study and ability to provide treatment is part of the exchange of energy between practitioner and patient or client.

I think it is much more beneficial to have some knowledge of the system of thought that the treatment is founded on. You can join the practitioner in the healing process if you have this knowledge. You can also realize that the healing is something that happens within you. It does not come from the outside in the way that we usually think. Though the treatment is helping with balancing our energy system, it is our inner state that is being transformed through this balancing. This is where the power of placebo as a treatment effect is realized. Our conscious or unconscious intention plays a large role in our healing process.

As we realize how much our inner awareness and consciousness plays a role in the healing process, we can grow the acceptance of our wellness perspective. What I mean to say here is that we experience wellness as a state of being in the present moment, regardless of our current health status. If I have a pulled muscle in my back I have not ceased to be “well”, I simply have a muscle that I need to give special attention to and allow the healing to happen. Whenever we consider ourselves “unwell” as a result of any “undesirable” condition, we have lost the concept of wellness altogether. Wellness is not a destination. We do not get to wellness from a place of un-wellness. We simply need to realize wellness is a state of being where we appreciate the connection we have with the universe and everything that flows from this experience is another step along the journey. Wellness is the journey.


Smile Yoga

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I would like to share one of my current personal wellness practices with you. I call this practice “Smile Yoga”.

I have learned about Laughter Yoga over the past few years and found that the concept is very valuable. The benefit of laughter is evidenced through the personal experience. It just plain feels good. If I was practicing Laughter Yoga as I walk down the street, I might find myself the object of a good amount of speculation by those around me. Worst case is that I would be approached by a well intentioned law officer. Since I do not want to create a nuisance, nor do I want to be the object of too much attention out there in the public realm, I have come up with a more subdued form of the same concept. Smile Yoga!

I actually noticed that I have been doing this without thinking about it for quite a long time. I just recently decided to consider the practice as a form of yoga. As I walk along in my daily routine, I generally have a smile on my face. I brighten my smile when anyone passes me and responds with a smile. I also brighten my smile when I am witness to the beauty that surrounds me, either in the form of a natural vista, or the view of the humanity that surrounds me. When I am in touch with my gratitude and the realization of how blessed I am, my smile reaches maximum amplitude.

The good feeling that goes with smiling is very subtle when it is at a low level. It is much more prominent in response to another smiling face, or in appreciation of the beauty of the world we are blessed to live in. The aspect of the practice that allows me to connect with the subtle level of the vibration that is generated by keeping a smile on my face is the yoga experience for me. It is easy to feel uplifted when responding to the external stimulus of any positive interaction. It is more complex to experience the positive vibration that results from the simple act of smiling just for the sake of smiling.

As I always emphasize, it is important to engage in the slow, deep breathing that promotes the relaxation response in all of us. With a calm and peaceful frame of mind, I form a smile and experience the way that my entire being shifts into a more positive vibration. By using this practice in every moment that I am able, as I walk from office to car park, as I drive in traffic from home to office, as I stand in line at the grocery store, and so on; I find that my experience of every moment is shifted toward a more positive vibration. And that just plain feels good.

Go ahead and give it a try. Let me know what kind of experience you have when you engage in this wellness practice. I look forward to hearing your comments.


I Am At Peace

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I just came in from the garden. I was pruning a Hawaiian jasmine called Pikake. I have to keep it in the house through the winter months. It is finally warm enough to put back out on the patio. I try to root the cuttings to create more plants. I have two that may be rooted from last year. Last Thursday I spend the afternoon planting baby vegetables in containers: Eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and Thai Basil. Every spring it is the same. There is such peace and tranquility in the garden. If you have not had the pleasure of puttering around in the garden, I highly recommend it.

Caring for living things is a very healing process. It is good for both the recipient and the giver. The garden is just one place that we have the opportunity to care for other living things. I remember when I used to teach preschool. Even though there were times when the classroom was very loud and hectic, I always appreciated how wonderful it was to make a contribution to the healthy development of the young children.

Whether it is caring for plants, animals, or other humans; I would say that having the experience of caring as part of your lifestyle will produce wonderful healing outcomes. It is such a transformative process to be able to see the growth in the beings that we are caring for. I would even say that caring for someone at the end of their life can be a growth experience for both the recipient and the caregiver.

Care giving is a form of dedication. It can be seen as a very spiritual practice. I have always promoted the idea that any spiritual practice will elevate a person’s wellness experience. There is a stress reduction aspect of care giving that can be discovered. Even when working with someone who is dying. No matter how challenging the process, no matter how intense or hectic, there is still an underlying experience of dedication and devotion. Taking the time to become quiet and witness the personal growth that is occurring as a result of any form of care giving will result in a calm and serene state as you allow your breath to slow and you shift your perspective into the gratitude for all the blessings that come with the opportunity to give.

If you have any perspective on how care giving is important to your wellness practice, please take a moment to comment.