The Link Between Solstice and Self-Care

IMG_0418We are about to encounter that moment when the sun appears to stand still in the sky – the solstice.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the days will continue to incrementally lengthen until June 21st when the sun will appear to stand still for a moment before reversing direction (from the point of view of us here on earth).

This reversal in direction leads to the days becoming incrementally shorter over the next 6 months until the winter solstice occurs.

The link between solstice and self-care.

As the solstice approaches, I’ve found myself thinking about how this cycle relates to the practice of Sacred Self-Care (or to any path that leads to growth, healing, and transformation).

First, let’s take a look at what happens at this time of year.

In general, as the days lengthen, they also become gradually warmer. Then, solstice occurs and the days gradually become shorter.

As the days shorten and the hours of sunlight decrease, it would be reasonable to expect the days would become gradually cooler as well.

However, that is not what happens. Instead, they become warmer and warmer for the next two to three months. Two to three MONTHS! It takes nearly a quarter of a year, essentially until the equinox, for the results of the solstice (the sun reversing direction) to become fully apparent and for the days to once again become reliably cooler.

How does this delay in the effect of the sun’s reversal relate to our self-care practices?

When we are on a path of deep self-care, we can expect moments of profound insight that lead (eventually) to growth, healing, and transformation.

The moment of insight can be likened to the day of solstice.

A pattern has fundamentally shifted. Nothing will ever be the same again. There is a complete (internal) shift from one state of being to another.

However, just as the days following the summer solstice continue to become hotter even though they are now shorter, the very pattern you experienced deep insight into is likely to become even more intense and more challenging prior to you experiencing tangible results in your external world.

This delay can lead to extreme doubt regarding whether that moment of insight or shift actually occurred.

It can lead to a desire to give up, to questioning the point of your self-care practice, to thinking it doesn’t work, it will never work, and you might as well give up and eat pizza and mindlessly watch tv and browse fb all day (or whatever your thing might be).

The importance of continuing your practice of deep self-care.

It is in these moments of doubt and uncertainty, of increasing intensity of the very pattern/habit that you thought was ready to transform and heal, that it is MOST important to continue sinking into your practice of Sacred Self-Care.

Now, in addition to continuing to use all your skills to meet the increasing intensity of the original pattern, you also have the added challenge of meeting all the doubt and uncertainty (and perhaps frustration, resentment, and anger as well) that are arising.

It isn’t easy; and yet, it is the way through.

You received the insight. Now the real work begins.

As Brené Brown so eloquently states ‘the insight is not the transformation.’

Once you receive the insight, the next step is to apply what you learned over and over and over until, at long last, the effects begin to make themselves known… until the healing, growth, and transformation you seek does truly and fully arrive into both your internal AND your external world…

…until you find a new balance (arrive at the equinox of your cycle of transformation) within yourself and your world.

Then, the cycle is reset as a new pattern arises to be transformed.

Then, as you continue your practice of deep self-care, another pattern that is ready to be transformed will present itself and, just like the path of the earth around the sun, you will eventually experience another moment of solstice, of deep and profound insight.

This insight will again be followed by increasing intensity until it is also integrated into the very core of your being, until the equinox once again brings a new balance of personality.

This cycle repeats…over and over and over.

Just as the earth continues to cycle the sun, you will continue to experience (initiated, supported, and sustained by your sacred self-care practice):

  1. an insight (solstice) ->
  2. an exacerbation of the pattern seeking healing combined with the work of integrating the insight fully into your life ->
  3. a new balance and greater wholeness of being (equinox) ->
  4. a new pattern arising into your consciousness seeking transformation ->
  5. another moment of insight/shift/healing (solstice) ->
  6. and on and on and on…

In times of increased turmoil, it is helpful to remember that the equinox does always follow the solstice.

The important thing to remember as we approach solstice and the following intensifying heat of summer is that the equinox does come. A new balance is eventually restored.

While it may seem that the endless days of summer or of increased turmoil will never end, they will.

There will come a day when your insight will be fully integrated into your life, when you will experience a greater sense of ease, wholeness, and balance within and without.

Until your personal equinox arrives, you have your practice of deep self-care to help you meet every moment that comes along with equanimity, with grace, with support, and perhaps even with gratitude and celebration.

For your consideration:

Have you experienced this Cycle of Transformation as I describe it? If so, what does linking this cycle to the natural rhythms of the earth and sun evoke in you?

Where do you currently find yourself on your personal cycle of transformation?

Your comments and thoughts are always welcome.

My love to you, this week leading up to summer solstice 2015.

What is Sacred Self-Care?

I was recently honored to be interviewed by Jen Hofmann of Inspired Home Office.

Today I am sharing with you a brief (edited) excerpt from that interview in which we talk about what makes self-care sacred.

Enjoy!

Why Sacred Self-Care?

Jennifer: You bring a very different approach to self-care. I really like your approach because you aren’t just focusing on ‘ok, I’m going to take a long hot bath, or go for a walk, or give myself permission to write in my journal.’ For you, it is partly about the doing but … You call it Sacred Self-Care

Larisa: I call it Sacred Self-Care because it is about being deeply present in the moment and in your body. When you are really centered in the moment, every action, every thought (I think I’m quoting Thích Nhất Hạnh here), becomes sacred.

My intention for self-care.

That is really the goal of self-care for me.

For us to be, eventually, so connected to ourselves, and so present in our bodies, and in the moment, that every action, every word that we speak, is sacred.

Everything that I teach around self-care are skills and tools to help aid that shift into the present moment and into our bodies in a safe way.

What keeps us from being fully present.

Most of the time we aren’t really in our bodies; we aren’t really in the present moment.

And there are usually really good reasons for that. So, this is a process that needs to happen slowly, that needs to happen gently… because just kind of slamming ourselves into our bodies and into the present moment can be very dramatic and scary.

A lot of things that we were avoiding can, all of a sudden, just be there, in our face. That can be very overwhelming.

Jennifer: Wow. That’s such a great point… That being present in this moment might bombard a person, or might overwhelm a person with all the stuff they’ve been… that all the non-self-care stuff might be preventing us from seeing or being present with.

Larisa: All those small voices we’ve been avoiding listening to or avoiding hearing…

Chronic pain as an example of avoiding being present in our bodies.

Let’s put it on a little simpler level of say, chronic pain.

If anyone here has (or is having) an experience of chronic pain in their body, why would they want to be in their body? That’s where the pain is. That’s where it hurts.

And so, physical pain in and of itself can be a really good reason for not being fully present in our bodies. If we become fully present in our bodies, there is all that pain there that we have to face in full.

The importance of self-care skills.

If we don’t have the resources or the skills to help us meet that pain in a way that isn’t further traumatizing (to use a rather dramatic word) it can be really difficult and overwhelming.

Jennifer: That makes total sense.

What I’m taking from this is that even the things that we do that make us numb out are kind of, in a way, self care.

Larisa: Absolutely. Absolutely! It is a form of self-care, often, to numb out or to avoid feeling something (whether physical or emotional pain).

How everything we do is some form of self-care.

Everything that we do, I think, is actually some form of self-care.

We just get more and more skillful over time at doing self-care in a way that actually leads to healing, and that leads to transformation, and that leads to growth.

Jennifer: Wow. I’m seeing my obsession over facebook in a totally new light. When I’m on it just messing around I’m like ‘This is not nourishing me at all but it is giving me something and I don’t have to necessarily be judgmental about that because it is a kind of self-care even though I can be more skillful with it, with my self-care choices.”

Larisa: Yes. And, you know, anything… even things that we think of as being really beneficial like, for instance, exercise or eating healthfully, can be also be taken to the extreme where they are no longer really truly self-care… where they are just ways of distracting ourselves from or avoiding other things.

Bringing the sacred into self-care.

For me, Sacred Self-Care is more a matter of where you are internally as you are doing it (your self-care thing) vs actually what you are doing.

Jennifer: And that brings it back to being present in the moment.

Larisa: Exactly. Exactly.

Want to know more?

We are currently in the pre-release launch of the Sacred Self-Care e-course. Here is a preview of the bonus self-care articles you receive when you join the pre-release list.

  • What to do When You Find Yourself Resisting Self-Care.
  • Do What Works + a behind the scenes peek into why this course will be arriving in February vs January. Hint: I’m 9+ months pregnant; also, we unexpectedly moved this month. Transitions!
  • The Science of Self-Care – how to truly know whether the thing you are doing supports and nourishes you.

You can still sign-up here to receive the 3 bonus self-care articles, a pre-order discount, and an invitation to a live Sacred Self-Care call (this Friday!).

Perhaps I’ll see you there. :)

Updated: the Sacred Self-Care home-study is now available. You can access it here!

Comment Magic:

What came to mind for you when you first heard the term Sacred Self-Care? How do you bring more sacredness into your self-care activities?

The Conflict Between Winter and Modern Life

We’ve just exited what is, for many of us in the northern hemisphere, the busiest, most hectic, and stressful time of the year – the holiday season.

Even before the holidays were over, however, I noticed article after article and blog post after blog post heralding the new year through asking ‘what is your plan for your life, your business, etc for 2015?’.

That or, ‘It’s time to set your intentions or determine your ‘word’ for this new year.’

In short, we jump straight out of the busy-ness of the holidays and straight into goal-setting, resolution making, and visioning for the new year.

Not only that, we are expected to immediately begin acting on these goals, intentions, resolutions, and visions.

While these things of themselves are positive and beneficial, let’s take a step back and consider a larger perspective.

IMG_20141206_152925440Here is the northern hemisphere, it is winter.

Winter is a time for withdrawing, for hibernating, for restoration, and for nourishing oneself in preparation for the upcoming seasons of planting, growing, and harvesting.

It is a time to retreat, replenish, and become renewed… to gather strength for the remainder of the year.

And, to receive your vision for the new year as well.

That’s right! Now IS the time to be setting intentions and to be visioning what you would like to see come into being over the course of this new year.

However, with the dark nights of winter still upon us, now is not necessarily the time to be acting on your vision or intention…

I see this deep, mostly unacknowledged, conflict playing out at this time of year.

The conflict begins just before Thanksgiving and continues intensifying through the remainder of the holidays and into the new year.

The conflict I want to acknowledge today is between the season itself and what we are expected to do or experience during this time.

Beginning with the equinox in September, the days begin to shorten and the natural world begins to enter into a time of stillness, of reflection, of hibernation, of dormancy.

The mid-point of this time of dormancy is the winter solstice on December 21st and then, slowly, slowly, the days begin to lengthen and the earth begins to warm.

Meanwhile, just as the natural world begins to wind down, humans enter the increasingly stressful and busy time of the holidays.

Basically, our actions are in direct opposition to the rhythms of the natural world – the rhythms that our bodies are still attuned to on a deep, again mostly unacknowledged, level.

This creates a underlying tension (or internal conflict) that permeates this time of year.

Now, here we are, the holidays behind us, jumping straight back into the ‘normal’ busy-ness of life PLUS setting new intentions that we are immediately attempting to bring to fruition.

When do we allow ourselves time for rest?

When do we allow ourselves to tune into and align with the rhythms of the natural world?

When do we slow down enough to remember that our bodies are also of the natural world and follow these rhythms as well?

When do we allow ourselves to retreat, to hibernate, to replenish, and to become renewed?

For you, for now, I don’t have any answers.

I’m bringing these thoughts and questions to you… for you to ponder in your own time and in your own way.

Perhaps you find yourself feeling extra depleted right now. Perhaps you find yourself resisting jumping right back into work. Perhaps you are wondering why you are just not up for setting intentions or making resolutions or even finding a word for the year in this moment.

I’m here to say ‘that is fine.’ YOU are fine.

In fact, what you are experiencing is not just normal, it is healthy.

It is your body and your spirit saying:

“I need to rest. I need to go into my cave and retreat for a while.

Don’t worry. It won’t be for long. And when I return I will be nourished, replenished, and strengthened.

Plus, I will return with the gift of a vision that is perfectly aligned with your needs for this new year… a vision you will have the energy and the strength to bring to fruition in the appropriate time… because you allowed me (yourself) this time of rest, integration, rejuvenation, and nourishment.”

My questions for you, today, are:

  • What helps you remember to align with the rhythms of the natural world?
  • What does the concept of retreat or hibernation (if only for an hour or a day) spark in you?
  • What can you release in your day-to-day life to make space for a bit more quiet, more reflection, more rest?

I’m sending you nourishment and replenishment on this, the second week of 2015.

5 Useful Self-Care Tips to Help you Thrive this Holiday Season

Ah. The holidays. That time of year when it is so easy to become completely caught up in the in-your-face drama and busy-ness of the season.

When we are so caught up in the pressures and obligations (or even the joys/delights) of the holidays, self-care is often the thing that is forgotten or pushed to the side.

Taking a moment to remember that self-care is what allows you to be the best possible parent/sibling/co-worker… can go a long way to helping your self-care practices return to the forefront of your life.

To that end, here are 5 self-care tips to help you not just survive, but perhaps even thrive, this holiday season.

1) Get out – spend time in nature (even if, especially if, you think you don’t have the time for it).

Dress for the weather (comfort first!), go for a walk, tune into your senses, practice your Owl Eyes, and allow yourself to discover the natural beauty and wonder of this time of year.

Bonus tip: cultivate gratitude and connection to the natural world through reading the Thanksgiving Address while you are out.

2) Read this article and do the exercise it contains.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and as if there is simply too much to do (some of which you may even be resisting), the exercise in this article will help. I promise!

3) Commit to 15-30 minutes a day of You-Time…

Don’t know what to do during your time? Do some free-writing (write whatever pops into your head for 2-5 minutes – a timer is helpful) using the following questions as prompts:

  • What would I really love to experience right now?
  • What sounds/feels extra nourishing and supportive in this moment?
  • What do I need now?

Then, give yourself the gift of something you uncover through your writing on a (fingers crossed!) daily basis throughout the remainder of the holidays.

4) Use Stephen Covey’s 4 Quadrants for Time Management.

I’ve recently been reintroduced to this method and am finding it a very useful visual tool to help me determine my priorities throughout the day.

It seems I’ve been spending a lot of time doing things that feel urgent but that aren’t really that important when I might actually benefit a lot more from doing the things that are important but not currently urgent.

And yes, this approach can most definitely be applied to all things holiday related!

5) Carry a small object with you that reminds you of the qualities you wish to have infused into the remainder of your holidays.

For instance, during the holidays a couple of years ago, I carried a small rock in my pocket to remind me that I was enough.

Every time I felt it in my pocket, I was reminded of what that rock symbolized and was able to consciously sink more into the present moment and out of the sense of overwhelm and stress I had been experiencing. It was a powerful experience for me.

Bonus tip: on solstice night (Dec 21) do a releasing ritual.

While this ritual can take many forms, a simple and powerful thing to do is to write out everything you wish to release on strips of paper and then ceremonially burn them, allowing the fire to purify, cleanse, and release all that you are ready and willing – including any holiday stress or overwhelm you may be experiencing!

Then, the following morning, in the light of the returning sun, symbolically breath what you would like to receive into your life throughout the new year into a natural object (perhaps a pine cone or twig or a seed) and ceremonially plant it in your garden or under a favorite tree or even simply in a potted plant in your home.

Finally, above all else, know that you are not alone this holiday season.

There are many, many, many of us who find this time of year stressful, isolating (even if surrounded by family/friends), and overwhelming.

Sink into your self-care practices, reach out if you need support, and keep in mind that the holidays don’t last forever. With solstice will come the return of the sun, the days will gradually begin to lengthen, and we will have the opportunity to begin anew in the new year.

For now, today, I’m sending you the ability to know what you need as you need it (and to be able to ask for it or give it to yourself) this holiday season.

much love,
larisa

The Thanksgiving Address – Greeting the Natural World

Today, as I sit here typing, my heart is elsewhere.

It is walking (silently) with a group of 100+ people along the banks of the Sandy River in Oxbow Park.

I hear the leaves rustling underfoot, the sound of the waters of the river swirling over and around rocks just off to my left, the lilting song of a Pacific wren to my right. I see the frosty exhale of my breath mimicking the mist rising from the trees across the river, feel the coolness of the air and the occasional drop of rain falling from a tree limb above me.

There is a feeling of profound sacredness that seems to gather and deepen with each step along the path winding beside the river.

Eventually, we arrive at our destination, a clearing alongside the river. We stop, and gather into a circle 5+ people deep. We wait.

My friend, Dan, steps into the center of the circle where a fire ring has been prepared, where a teepee of sticks is waiting.

The teepee is ringed with ferns, cedar boughs, cones and other offerings from the forest gathered by participants as they walked.

Dan kneels down and unrolls the cloth bundle he is holding.

Within it, dry and warm, is a bow drill and tinder bundle.

In silence, he sets to work, drawing the bow back and forth, back and forth, until smoke begins to rise from beneath the spindle.

With slow, careful movements, he collects the live coal that has been created and places it within the dry tinder bundle. He begins to blow, first carefully, gently, and then with more force as the tinder begins to catch.

More and more smoke pours from the bundle and then, in one miraculous moment, the entire bundle bursts into flame!

Again, with great care, Dan crouches and places the now flaming bundle of tinder into the pyramid of sticks, once again blowing, at first gently and then with more force, until the sticks as well catch fire. He gradually adds more and more (larger and larger) sticks until the fire is burning bright, crackling and sparkling… alive.

He stands and as he does voices begin to ring out from around the circle, one at a time, giving greetings to the natural world.

I feel chills running up and down my spine, my heart opens and I want to kneel and weep with the beauty of it all.

Yet, I remain standing, feet firmly on Mother Earth, and receive these words, the words of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, The Words Before All Else.

This address was given to us by Chief Jake Swamp and modified for the general public by John Stokes of the Tracking Project.

The Thanksgiving Address, Greetings to the Natural World, Words Before All Else

The People.

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People.

Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother.

We are thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It give us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Waters.

We give thanks to all the Waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms – waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.

Now our minds are one.

The Fish.

We turn our minds to all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Plants.

Now we turn towards the vast field of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.

Now our minds are one.

The Food Plants.

With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting and our thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Medicine Herbs.

Now we turn to all the Medicine Herbs of the world. From the beginning, they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.

Now our minds are one.

The Animals.

We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.

Now our minds are one.

The Trees.

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many peoples of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and Thank the Tree life.

Now our minds are one.

The Birds.

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. EAch day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds – from the smallest to the largest – we send our joyful greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Four Winds.

We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help to bring the change of seasons. From teh four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

Now our minds are one.

The Thunderers.

Now we turn to the west where our Grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers.

Now our minds are one.

The Sun.

We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.

Now our minds are one.

Grandmother Moon.

We put our minds together and give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the nighttime sky. She is the leader of women all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.

Now our minds are one.

The Stars.

We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send greetings and thanks to all the Stars.

Now our minds are one.

The Enlightened Teachers.

We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to these caring Teachers.

Now our minds are one.

The Creator.

Now we turn our thoughts to the Creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.

Now our minds are one.

Closing Words.

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have names, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

And now our minds are one.

Driving home, I feel enlivened, uplifted, and deeply connected to the natural world around me.

Everything is somehow a bit clearer, a bit crisper, the edges more defined. And yet, there is this underlying sense of peace, joy, and unity that is rather indescribable.

Today, in lieu of being at Oxbow myself for this yearly gathering, I offer this experience and these words to you.

May gratitude fill your heart this holiday season. May you remember and give thanks not just for home, family, and food, but also for all the beauty and gifts of the natural world.

May the words of this address sink deeply into your heart and into your life.

May our minds truly be united as one.