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It’s a shame we can’t treat ourselves more like we would a lover. We take good care of them, we are concerned for their well being. But ourselves, we usually ignore, or demand we live up to inhuman standards of excellence. To help us all feel a little better about ourselves, to practice treating ourselves more like a beloved, I offer six sexy ways ~

1) Admire yourself. Check the mirror once in a while and pause to note something you like about yourself. Your hair might look good today. Or maybe you notice a shine in your eyes. Perhaps you’ve been losing (or gaining) weight and like the results. Just take a moment to compliment something nice about yourself. Smile and nod. Done.  Some people find this hard to do. They feel self-conscious about it. Just try it . . . no one’s looking. A little praise never hurt anyone.

2) Dress up. Just because it’s casual, doesn’t mean you have to be. Use accessories to make you feel a little more formal. Find and wear clothes that feel good when you have them on. Clothes do make “the man.” The right clothes can uplift your mood, boost your confidence, and make you feel better about yourself. A simple trick might be to chose a color you don’t usually wear. Even a small change can send yourself a message that you care how you look.

3) Take yourself out on a date. Seriously. It’s a really wonderful thing to do. Walk by yourself or go to a museum. Julia Cameron, Creativity Expert, thinks it’s crucial to a creative life, to refill your well. The key, really, is in planning it. Taking the time is treating yourself like someone special. Julia encourages weekly dates by yourself. This is, after all,  a date with you. No one else.

4) Get yourself a present. Especially if you’re feeling blue. We all need a pick-me-up. If someone you loved was unhappy, you might bring them flowers or chocolates. Why can’t you do that for yourself? Inviting yourself out on a date is a wonderful gift! This doesn’t have to be expensive or cost much money at all. I have a little stuffed koala bear that I must have bought as a present for a child many years ago. For whatever reason I never gave it and he was too cute to throw out. I decided he represents the child in me. He now sits on my desk as my gift to myself, reminding me to take more gentle care of myself. A recycled gift. We all need to feel special – as often as possible, really. Like you might say thanks to a helpful spouse or partner. Just a token to say, I appreciate you.

5) Forgive yourself. You are more likely to excuse mistakes in someone you love. See if you can do the same for yourself! The next time you slip up and commit a small infraction, immediately forgive yourself for it. Tell yourself that maybe you needed to do it, to learn never to do it again. You could say it was just a silly mistake or that maybe it was the right move after all, or because of it . . . The point is to make yourself feel better about it, instantly. Especially for the little things that don’t really matter. Forgiveness is very sexy. It’s release, it’s the easing up of holding fast to things. Instead of thinking it should have been this, but it was that. When you can quiet that down, aren’t you more sensual, more easy and languid? Pretty sexy stuff, forgiveness.

6) Celebrate your victories in style! So often we neglect to appreciate our own accomplishments as we would someone we love. In whatever way you can, the bigger the better, be sure to acknowledge your successes. Have a party. Go out dancing or to a show! Cook yourself something special or go out to eat at your favorite restaurant. Raise a glass of whatever you’re drinking. Make note of your successes in whatever way you can or see fit. (Indulge yourself once in a while as you would a loved one.) That more you do that, the more you water the victories of the future, paving the way for more. Saying, “Yeah, I like this. Could I maybe see you again?”

I woke up the other morning thinking these two thoughts.  For me, this is another one of those elegant, but unlikely combinations.

Many times when we think of Perseverance, images are conjured of gritted teeth and clinched fists.  Stiff backs of determination to pursue, no matter what the weather.

Grace, on the other hand, evokes the feeling of moving easily.  It has a reflective quality.  A deep down assurance of Purpose.  Grace makes one think of charm and balance.  It’s got forgiveness all over it.  Seems so gentile next to Perseverance.  But the truth is, Grace may move delicately, but it continues to move.

Grace, I believe, is also the stuff that Miracles are made of.  Grace from the light of God fills Miracles and makes them shine brightly. Grace keeps the dazzling light going.

What if we use Grace with Perseverance?  When we add them together, we have far more powerful fuel.  With Grace by our side, we can keep going with ease, we can flow along willingly and with agility.  And a song in our hearts.

Julia Cameron’s book, “Finding Water” gives us a powerful but softer way to look at Perseverance.  She shows us that it can be a very spiritual tool in living our lives well and doing what we choose to do. With these two features working hand-in-hand, we can keep moving with ease and willingness.

It is, officially, NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month.  Though I think this is a noble endeavor, I haven’t yet been able to wrap my mind around the practicality of writing an entire novel in a month.  Being a strong believer in rewriting, I’m not sure I could do it.  However, I see the value in that even if one comes out with a hastily tossed together first draft, it’s a whole lot better than none.  Having something in the works can provide ample motivation to keep going.

But, alas, though I have a novel, it has taken me far more than a month to write it.  Started in the early 2000’s and put on a shelf somewhere mid-way through the decade, to make room for more practical writing assignments.  I’ve resuscitated it over the last year or so and making slow, but steady progress, through the monthly meetings with my blessed critique group. Giving much of my time to non-fiction writing these days, it’s not always easy to find time for fiction.  This constant attention keeps it in my life.

This is why I’ve set up my own National Novel Month (NANOMO)  exercise.  I’ve fashioned it to fit into my schedule and style.  My process is simple: Every day I must do something on the book.  It doesn’t matter how much. Some days I work on organizing the scattered papers. Another I might write a whole chapter.  I could take notes on what is to come or read a few pages of notes.  It’s okay if some days all I can do is think about it for a few minutes.  It doesn’t matter what I do or how much time I spend.  It’s about giving attention to it each and every day.

The point of this, as Julia Cameron says in Finding Water is, “it does add up.”  I plan for as much of the long Thanksgiving weekend as I can to work on it.  Last year, when I did this, I was raring to go by the end of the month!  My small efforts every day had built into a head of steam.  I dug in and got a whole lot done!

It’s a good lesson in perseverance.  Whatever you pay attention to adds up.  You can use this for all kinds of things like making money, improving your look, or getting into college.

I honor the Novel this month by choosing to give it my time every single day.

I am of the belief that Faith is some powerful juju. Along with trust, it’s one of those things we come equipped with.  It requires no tools to have faith.  No money, no help.  Just a choice.

Julia Cameron says we can practice trusting. But Faith, for some reason, feels easier to me.  Trust seems like something you must actively do.  Stand up and trust.  But faith feels like something I can rest into.

This faith business is active in many areas of life. Certainly in religious circles. But also around money.  In most deals and interactions there must be a certain amount of faith. “Money is a substance which faith attracts.”  In God we trust.  Full faith and credit . . .

We have faith the sun will rise and most of the time that our bank is solvent.  We have faith that we will get paid for the work we do.  That the computer will boot up and all our files will be there. Our favorite shows will air as scheduled.

But Trust can be limiting if we are expecting a particular thing.  What if we have faith, we just know that someone will act in some kind of negative way?  Our expectations pave the way for that behavior.

In “Friendship with God,” there was a question raised about how to trust more.  God said that if you fully trust, you no longer need to.  A Master has no expectations, no need for anything to happen in a particular way. She simply accepts whatever is happening.  God said, “If you have faith that all your needs will be met, then, technically, you have no needs at all.”  And therefore, don’t need to trust.

There is a feeling associated with this statement.  I’ve not really been able to put my finger on it.

Julia Cameron described it like this, “. . . an appreciation for the work itself, the sheer joy and self respect to be found in doing it.”  She has used words like “dignity” to explain it or another phrase, “. . . about keeping our side of the bargain.”  It’s hard to really capture it in words.

For me it feels full.  On solid ground.  Going beyond or expanding on the concept of self respect.  It’s a centeredness, a wholeness.

Something about getting some writing done makes me feel like I have integrity from doing what I said I’d do. Maybe it’s a result of sharing my skills and talents. What I’m supposed to be doing on this Earth.

There’s a deep satisfaction in it.  From head to toe. Like a cool, refreshing drink of clear water.  Or after a particularly satisfying, tasty and right-sized meal.  Not too full or left still hungry.  It’s got something to do with completion.

It’s not like anything else I can compare it to.  Perhaps after love-making, except there is no grogginess associated with it.  I feel sharper, more capable.  I’ve gotten some writing done, now what?

I guess I’ll go get some more writing done . . .

It’s hard to hear what you’re thinking.  Most of us run around with a million thoughts (or so it seems).  Things I need at the grocery, what time to be somewhere, the gas in the car, how my shoes feel, what he really thinks, that’s a good song . . .  Not to mention dealing with whatever is in front of you and what comes next.

There are a lot of thoughts going on under all the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life.  It’s difficult to know what they all are.  But these thoughts are important. They color everything we do, whether or not we’re aware of them. I sometimes see it as a running commentary: “Oh, that worked out well.  That didn’t play out the way I thought. I wonder if I can do this.” The really scary thoughts, though, are buried down deeper, under all this chatter. Things like I’m no good or people don’t really like me.

Of course, they are not true. Certainly there’s something good in me and there are people who do like me. But these thoughts have been around a long time.  And their roots run deep. The thing is that once they’re revealed, once you face them and really hear them, they lose a lot of the sting.  You can see them for what they are.

One really good way to get at these thoughts is to write.  I call it journalling, but you may call it Morning Pages, like Julia Cameron (or Writing Practice as Natalie Goldberg deems it.) Writing longhand, 3 pages of whatever is going on in your head.  Julia suggests the morning because it’s a good idea to get all that out before you start your day. But also because it tends to be quiet and there is less activity in your brain.

It does take time.  Sometimes you need more than 3 pages. And you need, most of all, to feel safe doing this.  Know that this is for your eyes only.  No one else need read it.  You must have a certain amount of trust to pursue the mining.

It’s about allowing yourself to be completely honest. To be able to say things like, “I’m not sure I really like him.”  Or “Doing that really makes me feel good!”  Perhaps, “I didn’t handle that well.  She pisses me off and I reacted too fast.  Maybe next time I’ll try to think first before I speak.”  You might also try to explore why you felt the way you dind when someone reacted to you.  The more you can partake in this monologue, the deeper you can go, the more you will learn about yourself.

Talking to someone else, especially a credentialed person, definitely helps.  But most of us don’t feel compelled to seek that kind of help.  This is free and doesn’t entail a lot of effort on your part. I believe that thinking doesn’t work because you can think yourself into circles. Writing is the key.  Nothing beats seeing it for yourself, on paper.

Some of those floating thoughts in my mind tell me that I have so many things I need to take care of.  When I take the time to write them down, I often find it’s really more like 2 or 3 things.  The others being easy, part of one of the two or something I can do tomorrow.  Saying it out loud can be powerful, but nothing gives more clarity than the written word.

You have little chance of changing a situation and zero chance of changing others, but you can change yourself.  And deep knowledge of yourself is how you do it.  Writing is the key to unlock your secrets.  It there anything more valuable than understanding yourself?

Some days are better than others, that’s true.  But on those days when something in me is screaming, “I doan wanna,” I gotta wonder.

Is this something I need to listen to?  Or is it just the child in me exercising her rebellious nature?  Okay, maybe I’m weary and need to rest. This thing I’m asking myself might just be one too many.

But, that’s not how it is, I say, “I can do this.  I want to do this!”  Wouldn’t it be cool if I could get out my Willingness bottle and spray it on?  As soon as it seeps in, I would be fully willing to do it.  (Even if there were some boundaries, I’d be willing to make my way over them.)

Let’s say I’m tired.  The perfume of willingness would allow me to do some, anyway.  Try it for 10 or 15 minutes.  If it still isn’t flowing, take some notes and schedule another time.  But I would feel better if I did something . . . anything.

Perhaps I could whip up an infusion of Willingness. Paulette Terrels’ 30 second break might help:
1.  Stop what I’m doing and relax my shoulders.
2. Take two easy, cleansing breaths.
3.  Do the Thich Nhat Hanh chant 3 times –
“Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I smile, dwelling in this present moment I know it is a wonderful moment.”
On the first breath, I think about how happy I am that I can do this simple tactic.
On the second breath, I put on a big smile so I can feel it.
On the third breath I think of something that makes me feel really good so I can smile deeply. Refreshed and renewed, and I hope, more willing to take on what’s in front of me.

This spray-on Will would also help to reveal the fun. With the softer vision of willingness, the fun can shine through!

Another tactic might be to use momentum energy.  Keep it going to fuel the fires and keep the home fires burning. If used correctly, the spray could become irrelevant.

Julia Cameron says, though, that you are better motivated by inspiration and excitement, rather than will. Still it couldn’t hurt to dab a bit behind your ears when you need a little boost.

I don’t believe in writer’s block as an ailment, in and of itself.  It doesn’t just belong to writers for one thing.  Nor does it have anything to do with writing, particularly.  It is merely a symptom of something much bigger and more pervasive than just being “blocked” from writing.

I do, however, subscribe to Julia Cameron’s take that the well is dry.  It is possible, when you’ve worked too hard, are under a lot of stress, or just completed a large project, to feel empty. This is a much more positive and workable image.  Instead of having to “break through” or smash a block, you simply and elegantly refill the well.  Sounds like a lot more fun, too.

Some ways to “fill the well” are to get out in nature and observe it, lightly and respectfully.  You can take special care of yourself at this time.  Lie in a hot bath, get a soothing massage, or eat some fresh fruit.  I always like to hear live music to stir things up.  But any kind of “Artist’s Date” as Julia calls them, will do.  Wander through a museum and see how you feel afterwards.  I used to visit antiques stores or thrift shops looking at all the objects.  Julia insists that for artists of any stripe, this is a mandatory, planned and executed, weekly event to keep the well filled.

If I cannot make a full-fledged Artist’s Date, I sometimes try colorful catalogs.  Anything that gets your senses going will bring a swell into your well.

In my writing corner, I am an advocate of showing up at the desk.  Nothing breeds writing like writing, I always say.  Sometimes I use Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Practice – 10 minutes of uncensored writing on a specific topic. Free writing is similarly designed to loosen muscles, open hearts and allow the well to refill.

For me, at times, within a busy schedule, it’s enough just to give myself the gift of a block of time. By allowing myself permission to have quiet time to write, I can sometimes fill the well to overflowing in a short time.

Some use drugs or stimulants to get them going.  I’m of the mind that most such triggers take more than they give and in the end leave you feeling even more depleted.   A light, healthy meal can offer more long-lasting rejuvenation.

It may be best to stay away from things which zap your energy and time, like the Internet, a heavy, fat-laden meal, or people who bring you down.

What’s most important here, I think, is to reframe Writer’s Block into something you have more control over.  Something you can manage.  I wish you all full wells!

I’ve been asked to write a piece for an e-Newsletter called Follow Your Bliss.  The November issue is going to be about Courage.  So I thought I’d dive in and  explore it a bit.

Courage is an interesting trait.  It’s one of those qualities we come equipped with if we choose to engage it.  Much like imagination or forgiveness.

Many times we are courageous without knowing it. Like young people who can do things older folks wouldn’t.  Maybe too much knowledge and well honed images of what could happen scare some people. I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter books on CD.  Harry does brave things without thinking, “Gee, aren’t I courageous!” He just does what seems to be best to do in the moment.

Perhaps there’s a factor of trust in Courage.  If you trust everything will be okay, you’re more likely to go where others dare not.  There is a point beyond trust even where Courage becomes superfluous.  We might call it Faith.  In that place you have a deep sense that you are protected.  You just know what you’re doing is Right (or you don’t even think about whether or not it’s right or wrong) and that’s enough.

Courage keeps you a safe distance from fear.  A timid person is always afraid of something. Courageous ones lower that number significantly.

“Fear is the little mind killer,” we were taught in Dune.  It’s true.  Nothing shoots down more dreams and great deeds than fear. We might define Courage as the absence of fear.

“Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty,” Merriam Webster says. The origin of the word is Heart.  I like that.  We might say a person with courage has heart.

Perseverance is an important quality. Julia Cameron wrote a book called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance.” What good is anything you do if you give up at the first sign of struggle or fear?

Some may need to wield more courage than others.  But perhaps the more you use it, the less you need it.

I’m going to look for places in my life where I’m courageous without even knowing it. And when I start to feel scared or frustrated, I will engage my courage muscle and see what happens.

What we’ve been taught (and in some cases ingrained) is that we need to always be doing for others.  Be selfless.  That a good person is one who doesn’t think of herself, but is always thinking of others, first.

They’ve got it all wrong.  Or backwards, anyway. Like the much-used airplane story. (Not the one which reminds us that it takes many adjustments to keep an airplane heading to its destination.)  The rule that says, if you are on an airplane with a child and the oxygen masks drop, put on your mask first and then tend to the child.

You are good to no one if you can’t breathe.  If you’re burned out, you can’t encourage others.  If your needs are not met, your ability to help others is compromised. Julia Cameron says, “Treating yourself like a precious object will make you strong.”

SARK believes in Self Support and Self Care.  Good self care, I’d say, entails listening to what you need and doing what you can to make it all right or make it better.  Look at resistance and fear straight on and rather than ignore them, think about what you need and how you can clear the way.  Taking a few minutes ahead of time to see what’s going on, can save you a lot of struggle down the road.

SARK talks of how easy it is to create imbalances, to upset the yin yang balance. But,  “The goal is not to attain ‘perfect’ balance because we are all splendidly imperfect. Rather we can become increasingly aware of the ways that we can bring more balance into our lives in new ways that feel really, really delightful.”  It’s hard to get it right all the time, but we can use tools to bring us back the other way when we fall too far off kilter. “I’d been taught,” SARK says, “to work hard and delight was a possible side effect, not a well-chosen value.”  I think that well-chosen value can come out when you make sure your needs are met.

It’s important to start by acknowledging all the ways you are currently taking good care of yourself.  What supports you.  SARK suggests coming up with a “. . . special quirky boogie balance dial, or perhaps a scale which tracks all your systems of self support and alerts you to when one system is out of balance.”

I’ve come up with a MDR (Minimum Daily Requirements) list.  For me, it includes things like writing, meditating, doing Tai Chi, getting in movement, posting and sending.  I have boxes for each day that I can quickly check off to see if I’m doing the things that support me.  It also lets me know things like I haven’t meditated in three days.

Some powerful questions, along these lines, that SARK poses: What role does joy play in your life?  What is your definition of success?  What can you do to increase your feelings of success?  I believe these are questions that need to be answered by each of us.  Just taking a few moments to ponder them can help you make strong self care choices.

The more you can fill your own well, the more water you have for nourishing your life, your plans, your loved ones, every one.

Curiosity is a great tool to use.  Constantly ask, are there better ways I can take good care of myself?  Explore new ways and avenues.

For physical self care, I want to listen more to my body for what it needs: food, rest, movement, etc.

For my emotional self care, I’m going to practice receiving.  My new thing is: The more I can take in, the more overflow I will have for others.

For my mental self care, I’m listening again, this time to others: books, talks, broadcasts, whoever is speaking, and stay open for easy and fun ways to learn.

For my spiritual self care, I want to tighten up my reminder system – the notes I leave for myself and my daily affirmations.  Are they saying what I want them to say? Update where necessary.

In the end, I think the best thing we can each do for ourselves is to take it all a little easier, breathe a little deeper and slower, touch a little lighter.

As always, check out SARK’s web site!

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