Key 12 – Honesty

Honesty is one of the most important qualities in a relationship. We must send each other accurate messages and receive accurate responses. “Getting to know one another” includes both good and bad feelings, frustrations, fears, problems—anything that is on our minds and hearts. By telling the truth in a friendship, we are building emotional stability—a foundation for a quality friendship.

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

― Henri J.M. Nouwen 

Thought to ponder:  In what areas is it difficult for you to be totally honest in your relationships?

 

Key 11 – Intention

One of the key ways I discern how my values are matching up with my actions is to take a close look at my intentions.  Why am I taking homemade cookies to the new neighbors?  What’s my true intention?  Do I want them to think I’m nice?  Do I want them eventually to feed our dog or shovel our snow when we are out of town?  Do I do it because my Mother always took cookies to the new neighbors?  When we can reflect and discern the true intention of what we are doing, we are learning a new layer of our heart and cultivating honesty and courage in the process.  Strong, lasting friendships need intention—a strong plan—to help nourish the relationship.   

Intention is not just about will but about our overall everyday vision, what we long for, what we believe is possible for us. If we want to know the spirit of our activities, the emotional tone of our efforts, we have to look at our intentions.

—Sharon Salzberg 

Thought to ponder: How can I be intentional in strengthening, fertilizing, and cultivating deeper friendships in my life?

 

Key 10 – Acceptance

One year I made it my intention to stop judging others.  Admittedly, it was more than a yearlong process—actually, I think it’s more of a lifelong project.  But the beauty that comes forth as we release judgment and reach out to accept others, just as they are, is a gorgeous kaleidoscope of love that opens up our awareness and brings compassion into the world.  What a gift—I accept you just as you are.  Will you please accept me, just as I am? 

When we judge people, we have no time to love them.

— Mother Teresa 

Thought to ponder: What might change if you accepted how you are in a particular situation?  If you were able to accept how your friend was in a particular situation?  If you really were okay with it?

 

Key 9 – Laugh Together

Laughing together is one of the greatest privileges of relationships.  To look at life through a lens of play, joy and a spirit of laughter is a healthy perspective—and just plain fun. I love the quote that says, “A joy shared is a joy doubled.  A sorrow shared is a sorrow cut in half.”  Isn’t it beautiful that as we laugh, there is a contagious spirit of fun and lightheartedness, a spirit that invariably draws people together?

To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—that is to have succeeded.

                                                          —Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Thought to ponder: If I were to choose to share joy and laughter with a friend this week, who would it be?

 

Key 8 – Self-Compassion

What does it look like if we can speak to ourselves as we speak to our friends?  What would it feel like if we were able to calm ourselves by repeating a mantra?  A phrase or blessing I often tell myself is, “May I be deeply and radiantly beautiful.”  The idea of radiating love and beauty both to myself and to others is a calming, empowering, and self-compassionate statement.  Actively loving myself as I would love others is a practice worth developing. 

We cannot change the world by a new plan, project or idea. We cannot even change other people by our convictions, stories, advice and proposals, but we can offer a space where people are encouraged to disarm themselves, lay aside their occupations and preoccupations and listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in their own center.                                                               

—Henri Nouwen 

Thought to ponder:  What act of self-compassion could strengthen me this week?

 

Key 7 – Courage

Why is it that reaching out for a bid for connection with others can take so much courage?  I recently attended a conference where I knew few people.  It takes courage to reach out to complete strangers.  One of the greatest gifts of the workshop was the connections that came from the intentional and courageous “reaching out” to others over the week.  Even in everyday life with familiar people, have we reached out to a co-worker, a neighbor, a family member, a friend?  We can simultaneously hold our hesitations and our intentions to reach out.  We can walk forward in courage with open hands and open hearts.

Our greatest glory is not in never failing — 
but in rising up every time we fall.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Thought to ponder:  If I could be “gifted” an extra dose of courage, what would it look like in my friendships?

 

Key 6 – Time

Friendships take time. Maybe it is the beginning of a friendship and we are spending time together in learning about one another and developing memories. Maybe if we’ve been friends for years, there is the effort, energy and time required to continue to connect and participate in one another’s lives in a meaningful way.  Time is one of the most precious commodities that we have, so to be intentional and cherish the time with friends is a practice that is enriching to the landscape of our lives.

Make new friends, keep the old

One is silver, the other is gold.

Thought to ponder: Who is a silver friend for you?  Who is a gold friend? When is the last time you’ve shared a meaningful connection with your silver and gold friends?

 

Key 5 – Pain

Experiencing pain together can be a profoundly bonding experience.  Even something as simple as camping or traveling together can produce some uncomfortable moments than can serve as bonding experiences. More serious pain, the tragedies and the griefs we all encounter, can spark friendships and cement permanent bonds when we share that pain together. Often it’s in our deepest pain and grief that we recognize and appreciate the beauty of friendship. 

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

— Rumi 

Thought to ponder: Who is in pain, this very day, that I could reach out to and share their pain?

 

Key 4 – Shared Experiences

Spending time doing things together is such an essential component of healthy relationships.  At times, distance separates us from participating in the activities we enjoy together, but there are creative ways to create new experiences long-distance. Maybe it’s as simple as coordinating a Skype or FaceTime chat to experience an occasion together.  The little things, the everyday conversations, the meals shared, the trips together, the games played together, even the plans that fall apart…these are all moments of connecting and creating memories together. 

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.

—C. S. Lewis 

Thought to ponder: What is a dream of a shared experience with a particular friend? What can I do to make that dream become a reality?

 

Key 3 – Listening

Deep listening is such a gift we can give someone. The times when we can listen intently without distractions and without being preoccupied with what our response will be are deeply meaningful gifts that last far beyond the time of the conversation.  To fully listen and ask deeper questions opens up space in the heart for growth, empathy and understanding. It prepares the way for deeper, richer friendships and intimacy. 

Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.  

—David Augsburger

Thought to ponder:  What is a time you felt truly listened to? How did that experience make you feel?

 

 

Key 2 – Conversation and Curiosity

Sometimes in February when teaching a workshop I will use the little candy conversation hearts with words printed on them as an exercise: Out of the random hearts selected, we try to form a coherent sentence.  The experience often gives way to hilarious laughter.   

But the point of the exercise is much deeper: What is a meaningful conversation, and how can I help create one? How can I be curious about you and get to know you by asking questions?  We are often hesitant to ask others questions, but the reality is that most of us like to be known and heard. Caring friends converse in a caring way.

 A connection is the energy that exists between two people when we feel seen, heard, and valued; when we can give and receive without judgment and when we derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

 — Dr. Brené Brown

 Thought to ponder:  What was a significant conversation that I had with someone this week?  What makes that conversation notable? What makes it different from the casual conversations I’ve had recently?

 

Key 1 – Understanding intimacy

We desire connection.  Intimacy is defined as closeness—the kind of closeness that allows and encourages vulnerability.  One of my favorite family pictures is a shot taken from the back that depicts my Dad and his two brothers quietly gazing out onto the lake where our family cabin is located.  There was not a lot of conversation at the moment—but there is a palpable closeness, an intimacy, of brothers sharing parents, sharing history, sharing a lake cabin, sharing a quiet moment together, all of which was captured in the picture.  Words are not always necessary for intimacy.   

Friendship is the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words but pouring all right out just as they are chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful friendly hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of comfort, blow the rest away.   

—George Eliot

Thought to ponder — How can I move towards someone?  What would closeness look like in a current relationship?

 

Feliz Día de Amistad y Amor! 14 Keys to Unlocking The Door to Intimacy of Friendship

As I was contemplating writing a blog post on intimacy and Valentine’s Day and discussing the ideas with a friend, she told me of the Peruvian tradition of celebrating Feliz Día de Amistad y Amor (Happy Day of Friendship and Love) where the emphasis is as much on love in a friendship way as it is in a romantic way.  After hiking Machu Picchu Peru last fall with my husband and a team with Above and Beyond Cancer, we fell in love with Peru—the culture, the people, and our new friends Carlos and Aguido. Thus this February Calendar is inspired by the custom of Feliz Día de Amistad y Amor! Perhaps these keys to unlocking the door to the intimacy of friendship will open your heart to the possibility of listening more deeply to your own heart—to trust and honor that deep part within you that desires to know others and to be known.

What are the keys to unlocking the door to intimacy of friendship?  What is a deep relationship?  How do we get there?  How do we handle hurt and betrayal?  Why do relationships seem so hard sometimes?  Why do we feel alone?  What is it about this incredible desire for connection?  How do we begin the conversation?  How do we trust?  What relationship is calling us to go deeper? What do I need to let go of to have space to invest in relationship?  Why does it take so much courage?  What does self-compassion have to do with relationships?  What is intimacy in friendship? The “locked doors” before us can seem endless, but every lock has a key. Let’s look at some.

Key 1 – Understanding intimacy 

We desire connection.  Intimacy is defined as closeness—the kind of closeness that allows and encourages vulnerability.  One of my favorite family pictures is a shot taken from the back that depicts my Dad and his two brothers quietly gazing out onto the lake where our family cabin is located.  There was not a lot of conversation at the moment—but there is a palpable closeness, an intimacy, of brothers sharing parents, sharing history, sharing a lake cabin, sharing a quiet moment together, all of which was captured in the picture.  Words are not always necessary for intimacy. 

 

Friendship is the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words but pouring all right out just as they are chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful friendly hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of comfort, blow the rest away.   – George Eliot

 

Thought to ponder – How can I move towards someone?  What would closeness look like in a current relationship?

Key 2 – Conversation and Curiosity

Sometimes in February when teaching a workshop I will use the little candy conversation hearts with words printed on them as an exercise: Out of the random hearts selected, we try to form a coherent sentence.  The experience often gives way to hilarious laughter. 

But the point of the exercise is much deeper: What is a meaningful conversation, and how can I help create one? How can I be curious about you and get to know you by asking questions?  We are often hesitant to ask others questions, but the reality is that most of us like to be known and heard. Caring friends converse in a caring way. 

 A connection is the energy that exists between two people when we feel seen, heard, and valued; when we can give and receive without judgment and when we derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

  - Dr. Brené Brown

Thought to ponder:  What was a significant conversation that I had with someone this week?  What makes that conversation notable? What makes it different from the casual conversations I’ve had recently?

Key 3 – Listening

Deep listening is such a gift we can give someone. The times when we can listen intently without distractions and without being preoccupied with what our response will be are deeply meaningful gifts that last far beyond the time of the conversation.  To fully listen and ask deeper questions opens up space in the heart for growth, empathy and understanding. It prepares the way for deeper, richer friendships and intimacy. 

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”  - David Augsburger

Thought to ponder:  What is a time you felt truly listened to? How did that experience make you feel?

Key 4 – Shared Experiences

Spending time doing things together is such an essential component of healthy relationships.  At times, distance separates us from participating in the activities we enjoy together, but there are creative ways to create new experiences long-distance. Maybe it’s as simple as coordinating a Skype or FaceTime chat to experience an occasion together.  The little things, the everyday conversations, the meals shared, the trips together, the games played together, even the plans that fall apart…these are all moments of connecting and creating memories together. 

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.

-C. S. Lewis 

Thought to ponder: What is a dream of a shared experience with a particular friend? What can I do to make that dream become a reality?

Key 5 – Pain

Experiencing pain together can be a profoundly bonding experience.  Even something as simple as camping or traveling together can produce some uncomfortable moments than can serve as bonding experiences. More serious pain, the tragedies and the griefs we all encounter, can spark friendships and cement permanent bonds when we share that pain together. Often it’s in our deepest pain and grief that we recognize and appreciate the beauty of friendship.

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

 – Rumi

Thought to ponder: Who is in pain, this very day, that I could reach out to and share their pain?

Key 6 – Time

Friendships take time. Maybe it is the beginning of a friendship and we are spending time together in learning about one another and developing memories. Maybe if we’ve been friends for years, there is the effort, energy and time required to continue to connect and participate in one another’s lives in a meaningful way.  Time is one of the most precious commodities that we have, so to be intentional and cherish the time with friends is a practice that is enriching to the landscape of our lives. 

Make new friends, keep the old

One is silver, the other is gold.

Thought to ponder: Who is a silver friend for you?  Who is a gold friend? When is the last time you’ve shared a meaningful connection with your silver and gold friends?

Key 7 – Courage

Why is it that reaching out for a bid for connection with others can take so much courage?  I recently attended a conference where I knew few people.  It takes courage to reach out to complete strangers.  One of the greatest gifts of the workshop was the connections that came from the intentional and courageous “reaching out” to others over the week.  Even in everyday life with familiar people, have we reached out to a co-worker, a neighbor, a family member, a friend?  We can simultaneously hold our hesitations and our intentions to reach out.  We can walk forward in courage with open hands and open hearts.

Our greatest glory is not in never failing –

but in rising up every time we fall.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thought to ponder:  If I could be “gifted” an extra dose of courage, what would it look like in my friendships?

Key 8 – Self-Compassion

What does it look like if we can speak to ourselves as we speak to our friends?  What would it feel like if we were able to calm ourselves by repeating a mantra?  A phrase or blessing I often tell myself is, “May I be deeply and radiantly beautiful.”  The idea of radiating love and beauty both to myself and to others is a calming, empowering, and self-compassionate statement.  Actively loving myself as I would love others is a practice worth developing.

We cannot change the world by a new plan, project or idea. We cannot even change other people by our convictions, stories, advice and proposals, but we can offer a space where people are encouraged to disarm themselves, lay aside their occupations and preoccupations and listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in their own center.                                                                 

-Henri Nouwen

Thought to ponder:  What act of self-compassion could strengthen me this week?

Key 9 – Laugh Together

Laughing together is one of the greatest privileges of relationships.  To look at life through a lens of play, joy and a spirit of laughter is a healthy perspective—and just plain fun. I love the quote that says, “A joy shared is a joy doubled.  A sorrow shared is a sorrow cut in half.”  Isn’t it beautiful that as we laugh, there is a contagious spirit of fun and lightheartedness, a spirit that invariably draws people together?

To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—that is to have succeeded.

                                                            -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Thought to ponder: If I were to choose to share joy and laughter with a friend this week, who would it be?

Key 10 – Acceptance

One year I made it my intention to stop judging others.  Admittedly, it was more than a yearlong process—actually, I think it’s more of a lifelong project.  But the beauty that comes forth as we release judgment and reach out to accept others, just as they are, is a gorgeous kaleidoscope of love that opens up our awareness and brings compassion into the world.  What a gift—I accept you just as you are.  Will you please accept me, just as I am?

When we judge people, we have no time to love them.

      Mother Teresa

Thought to ponder: What might change if you accepted how you are in a particular situation?  If you were able to accept how your friend was in a particular situation?  If you really were okay with it?

Key 11 – Intention

One of the key ways I discern how my values are matching up with my actions is to take a close look at my intentions.  Why am I taking homemade cookies to the new neighbors?  What’s my true intention?  Do I want them to think I’m nice?  Do I want them eventually to feed our dog or shovel our snow when we are out of town?  Do I do it because my Mother always took cookies to the new neighbors?  When we can reflect and discern the true intention of what we are doing, we are learning a new layer of our heart and cultivating honesty and courage in the process.  Strong, lasting friendships need intention—a strong plan—to help nourish the relationship.   

Intention is not just about will but about our overall everyday vision, what we long for, what we believe is possible for us. If we want to know the spirit of our activities, the emotional tone of our efforts, we have to look at our intentions.

- Sharon Salzberg

Thought to ponder: How can I be intentional in strengthening, fertilizing, and cultivating deeper friendships in my life?

Key 12 – Honesty

Honesty is one of the most important qualities in a relationship. We must send each other accurate messages and receive accurate responses. “Getting to know one another” includes both good and bad feelings, frustrations, fears, problems—anything that is on our minds and hearts. By telling the truth in a friendship, we are building emotional stability—a foundation for a quality friendship.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Thought to ponder:  In what areas is it difficult for you to be totally honest in your relationships?

Key 13 – Empathy

In teaching workshops, I often teach Theresa Wiseman’s four defining attributes of empathy: 1) to be able to see the world as others see it 2) to be nonjudgmental 3) to understand another person’s feelings and 4) to communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings.  Empathy is an incredibly powerful aspect of any relationship. It allows us to perceive another’s wound and to reach out and touch the place in someone’s heart that needs tender attention.

Not so much to be loved as to love,

not so much to be consoled as to console,

 not so much to be understood as to understand.

 St. Francis Prayer

Thought to ponder:  How can I “see” and understand others in a fresh and deepening way?

Key 14 – Presence – being there – being together for one another

There is no greater gift than being fully present with one another.  We are often tempted to multi-task—make a phone call, jot down a quick list, concern ourselves with our response to their conversation. Being intentional about being present in the moment is a practice that takes consistent effort.  Our minds quickly wander even amidst conversations with others.  The value of the gift of presence is priceless.

Making Contact

I believe

The greatest gift

I can conceive of having

from anyone

is

to be seen by them,

heard by them,

to be understood

and

touched by them.

The greatest gift

I can give

is

to see, hear, understand

and to touch

another person.

When this is done

I feel

Contact has been made.

-Virginia Satir 

Thought to ponder:  How can I be present in a new way with a friend?  What do I need to set aside so that I can focus on this friendship at this very moment?

 

Is Happy New Year Happy for You?

Navigating Post Holiday Blues with
Stop Breathe Believe to a More Intentional Way of Being — Questions for Reflection

What are you feeling today?  As we are driving home from our holiday vacation with our family, I am contemplating getting back to the “real world” tomorrow.  What feelings do the end of the holiday season stir up for you?

In looking at our new year through a holistic perspective, what do things look like for you emotionally, relationally, spiritually, financially, physically, intellectually, organizationally?

Emotionally there can be such a wide range of feelings that are stirred up during the holidays.  Maybe you are grateful for a time of deep connection with family and friends, or maybe you are drained from being a quiet person in a rowdy, loud, game-playing, crazy-fun kind of family, or maybe you live alone and are dreading going back to a quiet home and struggling with a sense of impending loneliness, or maybe you are sad that everyone seemed pre-occupied with their own world and didn’t give family time priority, or maybe you’ve focused on the holiday preparation and orchestration so much that you are relieved it’s all over and looking forward to the quiet of the winter season, or maybe you’re sad that your family didn’t get together this year.  Regardless of where you are emotionally today, it is healthy to be aware of what you are feeling and give some time and attention to those emotions.  The beauty of being mindful to our feelings is a depth of understanding that can guide us into the new year of living life abundantly.  Giving attention to both the highs and the lows of the season is a gift that can last all year long.  Stop.  Breathe.  Believe that whatever you are feeling, your feelings are important and valid. 

Relationally we may be grateful for deep, satisfying, healthy relationships—or we may be starving for some connection with others.  Often the holidays are a time that magnifies our realization of the emptiness or disappointment within various relational dynamics.   Possibly we are made aware of the consequences of our busy lifestyle that has drained some quality from our friendships—one leaky, busy day at a time as we review the year and look forward to a new year.  How do we want to choose to be intentional with our friendships and relationships in this new year?  Stop.  Breathe.  Believe in the value and “worth the struggle” of connection with others.

Spiritually we may be peace-filled with times of significant joyful worship and time with God through the holiday season…or we may be recognizing there is something missing.  What is all of this about Christmas and Hanukkah being a spiritual holiday when it seems so commercialized?  Were we able to allow time with God or did the “business of Christmas” or the “busyness of Christmas” take over?  What is our intention for the life of our spirit in the new days, weeks, months, and year?  I ask that question because we can become big dreamers in looking ahead with our dreams and desires…but what will we do today?  How can I honor the spiritual interior landscape within me this next year? Stop.  Breathe.  Believe in the beauty of the mystery of spiritual depth within each of us.

Financially we may be startled into reality as we reluctantly open the credit card bill and see the effects of great advertising and the pressure to buy the perfect gift. Maybe we’re wishing we’d stuck with last year’s goal of creating a holiday budget before we went shopping, and experiencing the regret of getting caught in the moment of buying and buying and buying.  At what point do we slow down?  When is enough?  Often clients in my counseling office share frustration with the financial costs of the Norman Rockwell portrait of the perfect holiday gift giving and entertaining expenses.  How can I as an individual or we as a couple reflect and become more intentional in how to keep our values aligned with our actions during this frantic financial frenzy?  The principle of small steps to a secure financial portfolio is an integral part of any successful financial plan.  Planning may be the key, as it is often said, “We do not plan to fail, we simply fail to plan.”  Financial health takes time, energy, planning and intention.  Stop.  Breathe.  Believe in small steps to get us where we want to be…and sometimes, small steps in getting us out of where we do not want to be.

Physically we may be stuffed!  Stuffed full of cookies, wonderful home cooking, catered office party fare, fast food grabbed on the road. And maybe this stuffed feeling is exacerbated by living in a part of the country where the season of the holidays is also the season of extreme cold, which interrupts your normal plans of being active outdoors.  This is the time when many of us want to do something different in the new year regarding our physical fitness. New year, new resolutions – there is no secret this is the time of year of full exercise classes and internet searches for the latest trend in diets and cleanses to get us “back on track”.   What would be the “fit bit” to get you started off to a healthier week, month or year?  I love the concept of the fit bit.  The consistency of a “bit” of “fit” is the key to healthy living.  Movement is important.  How can we be encouraged to increase our movement?  Stop.  Breathe.  Believe in the power of a healthy start—we can always begin again.  One of my favorite new beginning statements is, “From this day forward I will….”

Intellectually, where do we want to be this time next year?  What do we want to learn more about?  How can we stimulate our brain in a new way?  I am excited to be going to a week-long workshop this month to delve into a topic that holds great curiosity for me.  Could it be that we could take small steps to challenge ourselves intellectually?  What would that look like for you?  Learning a new method of cooking?  Completing a Sudoku puzzle regularly?  Taking a course online or at a community college?  Exploring the library for a book in an area we know nothing about?  The opportunities are endless—but how do we get there?  Again, small steps in accomplishing a goal are the answer.  Goals that are realistic and measurable are most likely to be accomplished. How can I challenge and fill my mind with the adventure of learning?  Stop.  Breathe.  Believe that our minds are capable of expanding.

Organizationally our lives can easily slip into a conundrum— one stack at a time, one drawer at a time, one closet at a time. 

How is it that we organize our drawers, our closets, our desk, our computer, our time? The name “January” is derived from Janus, the god of gates and doorways, the god of beginnings and transitions, depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions, one forward and one back. As you step through the gateway into this fresh and shiny new year, keep a note of what makes you happy, and endeavor to seek out more of it in the months ahead.   Stop.  Breathe.  Believe in small steps—small steps of choosing how we will utilize our time and resources.

As we reflect on our patterns and ways of the last year and look ahead and contemplate the year to come, it can feel overwhelming to want to make multiple changes and create a more authentic lifestyle versus the hustle for worthiness that we can so easily get caught in. I come back to the small step principle.  Choose an area you would like to make changes in and be intentional in taking those small steps, one at a time, to reach your goal.

One practice that can be helpful in looking at designing your year to be the year you desire is Stop Breathe Believe, a simple process I created to facilitate the journey into mindful, wholehearted living. 

We all long to live wholeheartedly—with authenticity and joy, in a way that honors our true selves and brings our gifts into being.  But often, unhealthy thinking can get in the way.  Stop Breathe Believe helps us stop the stream of thoughts flowing through our minds and become aware of one thought that needs replacing, breathe our way to a state of calm openness, and then believe a compassionate truth statement.

You are invited to reflect on how you too can revolutionize your reactions and responses in relationship to yourself and to others. One step, one breath, one intention at a time.

Stop Breathe Believe can help you become healthier in your thinking, more intentional in your thoughts and behaviors, more aware of your feelings, and thus more mindful of the beauty of the present moment.  For 2015, let’s start becoming the wholehearted, joyful people we’re meant to be.

 

Stop Breathe Believe Gathering at West Des Moines Barnes & Noble RESCHEDULED

The Stop Breathe Believe event has been rescheduled due to the unexpected death of Roger’s mother, Wanda Jones.  Your understanding, love and prayers are much appreciated. Dianne and Roger will be back from Texas and excited to see you on Thursday, December 18th from 6:00 - 8:00 pm, Barnes and Noble, 4550 University Avenue, West Des Moines, Iowa.

DIY - Birch Tree Advent Calendar of Self Care

The emphasis of the Advent Calendar of Self-Care is to de-stress and create mindful moments during this holiday season. If a DIY project serves that goal for you then dive in, if not, smile, thank yourself for knowing what you need and check out a different post.

Here is the Birch Tree Calendar that I made for our home, it was a fun endeavor and pretty straightforward to make. Some of the materials can be switched out for whatever you have available. Let your creativity lead the way. Here's what I did...

Materials Needed: 

- 3 birch limbs (can be bought at nursery/landscape store (Earl May in Des Moines, IA)
- Container
- Sand (to hold limbs secure)
- Greenery for base (nursery/landscape/craft store)
- 25 small take out boxes (purchased at craft store Michaels)
- Fabric/burlap tags (purchased at craft store Michaels)
- Ribbon
- Bulletin board tacks (purchased at craft/office store)
- Dark chocolate (as desired)
- Written content for Advent Calendar of Self-Care cut up by day

Decide location of advent calendar (will be difficult to move once sand is in place)

Place birch limbs in container

Fill container with sand

Place greenery around base

Write numbers (1-25) on the tags 

Fill each box with the corresponding day's written content and attach the corresponding tag

Oh….and add dark chocolate as needed :)

Hang boxes on limbs with tacks

Open one box a day, sit back, de-stress and take care of yourself

 

Advent Calendar of Self-Care

Advent Calendar of Self-Care 

Gentle Reminders to Be Still~Rest~Cherish the Moment

As we approach the holidays, join us in slowing down, taking a few minutes per day, and de-stressing by taking care of your heart in a new way this holiday season. We will be posting a Mindfulness Moment each day in December leading up to the 25th to help you be still~rest~cherish the moment.

The idea of the Advent Calendar of Self Care is to prepare your heart by taking one minute on Dec. 1st, two minutes on Dec. 2nd, three minutes on Dec. 3rd, etc. to embrace the practice of self care throughout the month. Below you will find some suggestions of how to spend some mindful minutes each day which you can adapt to make this calendar your own. I often set a timer so I can enjoy the minutes vs. thinking about the time.

One fabulous way to use this calendar is to “do" none of these suggestions and just pause for the number of designated minutes per day and focus on your breath—being still and focusing on our breath is self care deluxe. One note to remember: if you forget or miss a day, compassionately forgive yourself and start fresh with the next day, this exercise is for de-stressing & self-care not for adding stress, obligation or judgment. For an added bonus that I have found extra enjoyable, add one piece of dark chocolate for each day!

Download the PDF or follow along here on the blog. If you're interested in creating your own tangible version of this Advent Calendar of Self-Care, check out our DIY HERE

December 1 : One Minute – Enjoy the taste of a Peppermint Candy

December 2 : Two Minutes – Touch something from the holidays and pay attention to how it feels – a velvet stocking, a shiny jingle bell, a pine cone 

December 3 : Three Minutes – Listen to a Favorite Holiday Song

December 4 : Four Minutes –  Admire someone’s holiday decorations

December 5 : Five Minutes – Savor the taste of a holiday snack

December 6 :  Six Minutes – Sit for six  minutes

December 7 : Seven Minutes – Think about favorite holiday memories 

December 8 : Eight Minutes – Hum or whistle a few holiday tunes

December 9 : Nine Minutes – Cherish a few moments from the week

December 10 : Ten Minutes – Sip and savor a holiday-flavored tea

December 11 : Eleven Minutes – Light a candle and observe the flame – reflect on a sorrow or hurt of the holidays – give time and attention to that space of hurt in your heart

December 12 : Twelve Minutes – Send an email to a friend requesting a time to connect after the holidays

December 13 : Thirteen Minutes – Recall favorite holiday memories

December 14 : Fourteen Minutes – Listen to the music of The Nutcracker or favorite holiday production/movie

December 15 : Fifteen Minutes – Read a Favorite Holiday Children’s Story

December 16 : Sixteen Minutes – Reflect on the spiritual heart of the holidays for you

December 17 : Seventeen Minutes – Dream of a big wish for holidays to come

December 18 : Eighteen Minutes – Make a cup of hot chocolate and pay attention to the flavor and warmth as you sip– add marshmallows if desired

December 19 : Nineteen Minutes – Prop you feet up and thank your feet for nineteen “steps” they have taken today that were meaningful – say thank you to your body 

December 20 : Twenty Minutes – Enjoy a Bubble Bath or Extra Long Shower

December 21 : Twenty One Minutes – Put your hand on your heart and think of experiences you are grateful for that happen during the holidays

December 22 : Twenty Two Minutes – Reflect on traditions you have enjoyed or currently enjoy

December 23 : Twenty Three Minutes – Draw a simple Christmas Tree or Holiday scene and decorate by doodling with various markers/colors

December 24 : Twenty Four Minutes – Build a fire and pay attention to the warmth

December 25 : Twenty Five Minutes – Take a Walk with family or friends or alone to appreciate and Celebrate the moment of the Beauty of Nature

Download a free PDF of this Advent Calendar of Self-Care HERE