It can be said that most, if not all, of our experience, begins from our perception and the consistent thoughts that we think. These consistent thoughts, for better or for worse, affect all areas of our lives. Most of us can remember a time when we were feeling calm and at peace and something triggered a thought (whether we realized it or not) that immediately changed our mood. Before we knew what hit us, we felt sad, low, and hopeless. Often our environment has not changed, nothing dramatic or traumatic has happened, yet something has shifted and we no longer feel balanced and whole. It began with a thought. We identified with that thought and then became emotionally connected to that thought.
Don’t Believe Everything You Think
It has taken me over a decade of personal and spiritual development to realize that the phrase “change your thinking, change your life” doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be fully in control of your mind. Most of us aren’t able to monitor or control every thought in our heads and if you’ve ever tried, you know it’s quite exhausting of a task. So, I say, cut your brain some slack, it’s just doing its job.
Brains think and, at least in my experience, no matter how much meditation you do, it will still be doing its’ job and pretty darn well. Thoughts will always come and go, but the important piece to remember is you don’t have to believe everything you think. This may seem shocking to some and quite elementary to others, but when I realized this it made a huge difference in how I view my inner landscape. Once I realized that there are many factors that contribute to my thoughts and they are not necessarily what I believe, feel, or want to take action on, I felt truly liberated. So I shifted my personal growth work to focus on allowing my thoughts to be just what they are – thoughts. Soon my work became questioning my thoughts and discontinuing to identify or believe in everything I think.
Remember the Mind-Body Connection
There are a few things we can do when we are stuck in a mental rut. Most of us realize that our thoughts affect our actions, but did you know that our actions affect our thoughts? It is important to remember this mind-body connection, especially when it seems difficult to change our thought patterns. For example, it is less likely to think negative thoughts while you are using your body in a positive way: Try dancing around to some uplifting music and smiling in front of the mirror. Put yourself in an uplifting environment such as taking a walk in a park, practicing yoga, or working in your garden. Often you will find your thinking will shift with your body.
Be Your Own Best Friend
Challenging our thoughts and shifting our mindset is a warrior’s journey, yet not everyone is up for the task. For my fellow warrior’s out there, you will need to learn to be your own best friend. During times of change and growth, you may feel alone, and changing our thoughts may seem impossible. Ask yourself “what do I need right now to feel better?” When negative thoughts arise, talk to yourself as your best friend would talk to you. Often we talk to ourselves in ways that do not promote positivity and thus, inhibit growth. For example, if you have the thought “I will never get well,” you could think of what your best friend would say to you instead and respond by saying, “You are doing the best you can right now, each day you are making better choices for your life and your body. In time, you will see a difference.” There is no sense in lying to ourselves, so be honest, but be kind – just like a best friend would.
It is important to practice mindfulness and bring more awareness to what we are thinking on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean you have to track every thought but become aware of your most consistent or recurring thought patterns. Our subconscious minds will act on any thought as a command, whether the message is positive or negative. A practice I like to use to generate mindfulness is to sit in silent meditation for at least 5 minutes per day and imagine I am sitting by a small stream of water. There is a tree nearby that has leaves falling into the stream. Each thought I have is a leaf floating on the water. I notice the thought or leaf and I let it pass me by.
Find & Replace
Another practice I have used over the years is to carry a small notebook with me everywhere I go for a week and write down every thought that I have. This may seem daunting, but it is well worth the effort. It will be impossible to write down all of your thoughts, but write down as many as you can. As you write them down, question them: Do I truly believe this statement? Is it true? Only choose to own the statements that are absolutely true for you.
As you look at your list, cross out any negative or hurtful thoughts, and replace them with a positive version of that thought. For example a fearful thought about your work or job, such as “I don’t know what I’m doing, everyone is going to laugh at me,” could be replaced with something like “Each day I am learning and growing and improving. It is natural to feel uncertain at times, but I am doing my best.” Consistently replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts and affirmations will eventually become second nature and have an enormous effect on our whole being – mentally, spiritually, and physically.
The Domino Effect
When we make the effort to replace our negative thoughts often we begin experiencing positive emotions and have a brighter outlook for our lives. Positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to thoughts of a positive future. These thoughts affect not only your mind but increase your body’s ability to heal itself because it no longer has to fight the effects of stress from negative thinking. Positive thoughts become the domino effect of health and are often the beginning of our journey for a holistic, healthy life.
If you follow our blog, you are most likely someone who strives to grow and improve in many ways. As a wife, mother of four, homemaker, business owner, and natural health & living enthusiast, I’ve made my own personal development a high priority. Throughout my journey, I’ve felt all the ups and downs that life has to offer and I’ve learned that self-improvement is a journey that never ends, yet the successes, no matter how small, are worth it.
It’s an Inside Job
Based on my experience, personal growth and development start from the inside. Everything that goes on within ourselves is what really matters and taking responsibility for our physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health is the best approach we can use for sustainable balance. Life is all about what we are learning and how we are growing. I recommend a holistic approach to personal growth that involves taking a look at the whole human being and the surrounding environment.
A Holistic Perspective
If our goal is our own wholeness, then we must look at all areas of our lives in order to develop and grow holistically. This is why we offer ideas in different areas of life. Little by little all of these threads merge together into a healthy and balanced life.
Holistic healing can take time and it requires commitment, yet small, consistent steps will prove big results. To begin a holistic journey of personal growth, spend time going within by walking in nature, journaling or meditating (and no, you don’t have to sit in lotus position) to look at all areas of your life. Notice any areas that feel stuck or bring up emotion or tension. If necessary, engage a trusted coach, therapist, or mentor to guide you toward areas that need improvement. You may work to improve only one area of your life at a time, to prevent overwhelm, but keep a holistic perspective and set your end state goal to look at the big picture and heal all areas over time.
It’s Up to You, but You Are Not Alone
You are responsible for your journey and only you can know what you need to grow, learn, and evolve. Trusted friends and coaches can provide different perspectives, but it is up to us to take time to process the information we receive and apply it to our situation appropriately. Remember that you have resources at your fingertips at all times and there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Vulnerability is strength, but in the end personal growth is up to you.
We are our bodies and our bodies are continually communicating to us. For women, and the communities we are a part of, menstruation is, or can be, a source of power and deep wisdom. The challenge, if we choose to accept it, in our process of creating holistic health and balance in our lives, is to take time out to listen during this time each month. Priceless pieces of information about our physiological and emotional well being are shared with us if we tune in and become aware.
My own journey toward holistic balance has involved a process of owning my femininity and healing a deep wound about what it means to be female. I was a late bloomer and did not begin menstruating until I was 17. I was deeply ashamed of this as it seemed that all the girls had already “become a woman” and I felt left out. I have memories of “pretending” I was having my period so as to be accepted by my peers.
Once I did begin to menstruate, I spent much time and effort trying to hide my menstruation out of shame that I would not be accepted or would be viewed as weak or “high maintenance” by friends, lovers or my coworkers at my corporate job. As I write this I find it ironic that when I was not bleeding I tried to pretend I was and when I was bleeding I tried to pretend I was not. We just can win with ourselves sometimes!
A New Way To Be
Now I am on a new path, and with the help of reading books like Her Blood Is Gold, by Lara Owen, I’m teaching myself a new way to be. I no longer pretend that I am “just one of the guys” or try to hide my menstruation. I have realized that I need space and quiet time during my moon time, as I refer to it. I do not apologize for my need for space during this time and I have made intentional, and some times uncomfortable, choices that have led to my being surrounded by friends, family, and a lifestyle that supports this. My moon time has become a sacred time for me to reflect on the previous month and prepare for the upcoming month. I take time to rest and nurture myself during this time, even as painful as it often is, and I use this monthly wisdom and learning to nurture my life and the lives of those around me.
One of my favorite meditations to do during the most painful times, is to visualize that I am connected (be that physically, emotionally, spiritually or mentally) to all of the women who have bled before me, all the women who are bleeding with me now, and all the women who will bleed in the future. This is a powerful thought and visualization that gives me strength and empowers me to use the gift of menstruation to go deep within myself and connect with the wisdom of others.
You see, the thing is, if we really believe that we must look at our lives from a holistic perspective in order to foster health and wholeness, which I do, then we have to look at all parts of our experience as a feeling, sensing beings. As women, when our bodies ache before or during menstruation, it may be trying to tell us that it is tired of being told to go away. It’s tired of being put last, it’s ready to have a bigger voice in our life. There may be a message there if we slow down and listen. In my experience, the more I try to pretend I am “just one of the guys” or hide that I need to nurture myself during my moon time, the more it requires my undivided attention.
Symptoms Wake Us Up
As Lara Owen states in her book, “Symptoms wake us up…They are messages from the body. If you have a healthy lifestyle, a good diet, and enough sleep and you still have menstrual symptoms, you have to go deeper and ask yourself what your body is trying to tell you.” I invite you to listen and use what you learn to nourish your body and your spirit. I am on the journey with you.
Most of us who experience anxiety and panic on a regular basis want to get rid of it, cure ourselves of it, or, at least, deny it and pretend it is not there. We imagine a life where we never feel anxious and it seems perfect and problem-free. If only we could find the perfect drug or supplement, the best technique or therapist, then we would be “fixed.” Then we would be content. I get that feeling and spent a good part of the past 15 years practically killing myself to accomplish this goal.
What we need to realize is by thinking this way, we often set ourselves up for failure. I would like to offer a different approach, a different way of thinking: What if we accept and embrace our anxiety and panic and decide to thrive anxiously?
We could decide to thrive with our anxiety and panic, not despite it.
Stick with me here. I realize this seems ridiculous- who would choose to partner with their anxiety? Yet I see this as one of the greatest acts of self-care and self-love that one can make. Recently, while meditating, I was struck with the idea that anxiety and panic, at some level, maybe a part of my experience for the rest of my life and I may have been looking at this “disorder” all these years from the wrong perspective. I was overwhelmed with the idea that my panic attacks and general anxiety have been my teacher and, at times, my guide. How many times have I felt anxiety or panic come on for no reason and then later realized that the situation I was in was not healthy for me?
Here is what I know from my experience: our bodies are continually sending us signals as to what we need in the moment if only we can allow ourselves to listen. If we tune in to our bodies, we will often find that they are more in tune with our surroundings, our situations, and our needs than our minds are. If you are like me, you have had to learn this the difficult way, through years of unnecessary struggle.
If you are having panic attacks every time you spend time with a certain person, listen to it. Maybe that relationship is not in your (or their) best interest. If you feel intense anxiety going to work each day, maybe your body is giving you permission to find new work. Maybe not, but take the time to listen. Journal. Meditate. Sit in silence with your thoughts and feelings. Self-inquiry can be difficult but can prevent a lot of heartache down the road.
I invite you to give this perspective a try. It may not be for you, but what do you have to lose? So, what is your anxiety teaching you today?