Here you will find many great ideas and tools for building peace and as a result happiness in your life.  As you face life's inevitable challenges you can look here for small things that will make a big difference. 

Tuesday
May222012

Tug. Pull. Stretch. Let Go...

 

My husband and I were enjoying lunch with our daughter recently when she started contorting her facial muscles in various movements that were quite entertaining to witness. We laughed a bit as she described her co workers witnessing the same thing in between customers at the busy coffee shop she works at in Boeing. She said that she was working on relaxing her facial muscles that were tight and she felt strongly were contributing to her recent headaches. She followed that up by saying she couldn't wait to get home and pull on her hair. And even though we once again all laughed at the visual image of her "hair pulling" the concept is actually sound.

These methods of gentle pulling and tugging at the head and facial muscles as a means of relaxation, tension release and stress relief can be highly effective. It also includes gently tugging on your ear lobes, raising your eyebrows and/or stretching them gently and opening your mouth as wide as you can, holding it there and then closing it. Each of these helps release the fascia and muscles beneath it. Fascia forms directly under the skin and serves as a strong layer of connective tissue between the skin and muscles underneath it. As I studied the effects of Fascia release and later Ayurveda in massage school I came to understand the importance of this simple and gentle pulling in relaxation of both the mind and the muscle.

The fascial system covers the entire body and is interconnected in a manner similar to a web. When one area of the web is loosened it affects the entire web. As gentle traction is applied to the restricted fascia it will result in heat and increased blood flow in the area. This allows the body's inherent ability for self correction to return, thus eliminating pain and restoring the optimum performance of the body. There is an "unwinding" that occurs as the facia is gently stretched and then released. So picture if you will a rope tightly twisted up on itself. As you examine the rope trying to decide how best to loosen and straighten it back out so that it is useful once again you can see that gently pulling and stretching, slowly unraveling the kinks will give you best results.

I was teaching a class a couple of years ago on this subject when a woman in the group who was from the Philippines spoke up. She told us that as a child if they were naughty her mother would take them aside and rather than give them a spanking she would massage their heads. This would release the negative energy they were carrying and relieve the tension that had built up. Once again a bit of laughter came from those of us in the room imagining a gentle head massage rather than a gentle spanking or the oh-so-effective "time out" for our own naughty children.

I began massage school when my youngest had just turned four and my oldest was just entering high school. That could be a whole "pursuing peace" story in itself... But for the sake of this post try to imagine my household lineup for massage practice. There was no way that I could give each of them (six as you may recall) full body massages even on a weekly basis. Thus began the practice of head, shoulder and foot massage before bed. I could easily address the needs of one or two of them each day both physically and emotionally by spending ten or fifteen minutes with these simple and highly effective massage techniques. Quiet in the beginning and often a bit uncomfortable as the fascia and muscles let go - it didn't take long for relaxation to set in and conversation about whatever their day held for them to give us quality bonding time in a simple setting. With that personal experience in my memory I could relate to my Philippine friend and her mother's head massages. It actually made perfect sense to me.

We are all going to experience stress. There are times in our life when it is going to seem like all we are capable of is treading water as the weight of our life circumstances threatens to pull us under. This is unavoidable. I have the greatest admiration for the daughter we shared a moment with this week. Barely 20 years old she is a single mother with a soon to be three year old. She works the 4:00 a.m. shift at a coffee shop in order to get off and still have time to spend with her beautiful daughter. She is in bed early foregoing many of the social activities of someone her age. She carries her responsibilities and worries with such grace. I know there are days when Peace seems out of her reach, when sleep is only a concept she vaguely remembers, and when the daily grind of life has left her spirit bruised. It is then that she always amazes me...just when the worried mom that I am is sure she can't possibly keep her head above water any longer - she starts swimming. Moving forward and finding Peace through simple means. Like laughing with her parents over lunch while doing a great work towards a peaceful evening - hair pulling.

The ideas you will find here are simple. They may not always be easy to implement but it isn't because they are difficult to do. It is a fact that people are often more willing to attempt something that requires much more effort and expense to solve a problem than something that is easily within their reach, ability, and budget. Give this one a try. I will outline some of the steps below. You can do them for yourself or have someone else try it while you close you eyes and relax.

Hair Pulling

Separate your fingers. Run them through your hair from the forehead back, when you have a handful of hair close your fingers and squeeze. Repeat starting in an inch or two back from where you began each time.

Take a hold of a fairly good sized chuck of hair at the base of the hair. Gently pull outward. Repeat all over the scalp. Twisting can be very beneficial as well but usually requires that the scalp already be somewhat loose.

Massage your head as you would if you were washing your hair.

Ear Tug

Gently pinch the ear lobe between your thumb and index finger. Pull the ear lobe in a down and out direction towards the same side shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and release. Repeat.

Two other very simple places to hold the ear and pull are the index finger just inside the ear and the thumb behind the ear, and the index finger and thumb holding the top of the ear. Pull up and out. Hold for 30 seconds and release. Repeat.

 

 

 

Thursday
Mar152012

Breathing...A Peaceful Rant?

 

 

I have been wondering...what do people think about a person who dedicates time and effort into a website titled Pursuing Peace?  Do they think "She must exude Peace on a daily basis"... "She must have the perfect peace full life" ... "Peace...what?...I must have clicked on the wrong link..."  or maybe they know me and they're thinking something more like this "Who does she think she kidding?"..."Really?"..."Isn't she the one with six kids?"  Well, someone who does know me asked the other day "Where's the rant?" I laughed and responded "Yeah right. A Peaceful Rant." 

Hmmm...why not?

It is true that I do love a good rant.  Generally about something that I seem to see so clearly that obviously everyone else is missing.  Like, for instance, the fact that life is NOT easy.  Or, that challenges DO make us stronger and refine our lives if we allow the process.  Or, that miserable people - though they deny this fact - are often most comfortable MISERABLE.  And it is also true- as every good ranter can affirm - I feel better after I have vented my frustrations with the world.

But not for long.

The process of venting - catharsis - does make you feel great, but it accomplishes little else.  In fact it can actually reenforce your desire to feel good through venting never addressing the issue causing your frustration in the first place which would negate the need to vent all together.

So what is a "Peaceful" blogger to do? Let's consider another meaning of the word Vent.  "To rise to the surface of the water to breathe" 

Breathe. 

I have to admit as a massage therapist no one knows any better than I do the therapeutic benefits that come with a deep breath.  I have felt unyielding muscles "let go" through conscious, deep breathing. So many people hold their breath, without realizing it, throughout the day.  Are you one of them?  Think about it...it may surprise you. I have literally had to teach people how to breathe again.  When instructed to take a deep breath many simply fill their lungs, lifting their chest and shoulders in a brief inhale and exhale motion. Now, while this type of breathing may sustain life, it's not the type of breathing that lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, strengthens the immune system, and simply put - makes you feel better.

I also know from personal experience that a well place sigh - deeply felt - does carry with it a glimpse of the peace that at the moment may be evading me.  Quite honestly, even the thought of Whales venting brings with it a sense of peace for me.  I am from the Pacific Northwest and as such have seen that quiet, peaceful, beauty first hand.  Off the shores of Kauai a few years ago my family was awe struck at the majesty of a pod of whales venting so near us we could almost touch them from the Zodiak we were in.  Imagine that whales deep breath...taking in enough air to fill his lungs to capacity - holding it with ease while he travels - and then that exhale...definately one with some umph behind it.

That's the kind of breathing I'm talking about here.  Deep...slow... and with intent.

Just like the whale, a breath that's going to sustain through the deep waters of the day and get you where you need to go. 

Here is a simple breathing exercise to get you started:

  • Breathe in slowly, counting to eight (maybe you only make it to five or six in the beginning).
  • Hold on to the brief pause before the exhale for just a moment longer than usual.
  • Exhale slowly, consciously letting go of whatever frustration your holding on to.
  • Pause again, for just a moment, before you continue with the task at hand.

Variations in this can and should include closing your eyes if possible.  A good stretch.  A "walk about" outdoors if you can, but hey - even around the office can do wonders.  If your sitting in your car try cracking the window just a bit to get some fresh air...even if a raindrop or two sneaks in.  At night before you sleep  do this breathing several times while lying on your back and slowly pumping your feet... toes towards the ceiling then forward towards the distant wall.  With each breath let go of the day and settle into a good nights sleep.

Finding peace can be difficult if your not getting enough air.  So often we stay underwater, feeling overwhelmed by the currents pull.  All we really need is a good vent...rising to the surface of the water to breathe.

 

 

Tuesday
Mar062012

"Like" Life

I "Like" life.  Click on the little icon and you suddenly will like whatever your doing.  Wow.  Simple enough. 

Wouldn't that be amazing? 

"Liking Life" is not as simple as the click of a mouse, but it also isn't as complicated as we tend to make it.  And as far as I'm concerned the time to start enjoying life is immediately.   To do that you must start right where you're at, because wherever you're going to go it is from there that you must begin.  The most difficult part of this strategy is acknowledging that you actually can choose to like whatever you do.

I woke up one morning, several years into my "happy homemaker" phase, when I turned the page on my favorite calendar to find the caption "To be happy don't do whatever you like...like whatever you do!"   The picture depicted a woman vacuuming and dusting with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face.  Fitting for me as Manger of the Duce Domicile.  At that point in my life I was a 24/7 homemaker with six kids to "make" a home for on a daily basis.  Keeping the house in order each day was a lot of work, mostly unappreciated and entirely unrelenting. 

Life at home was not as I had imagined it would be sitting in traffic commuting.  I knew that I had what it would take to go back to a "real" job - if that was where I wanted to be.  Yet, hadn't I just spent the last thirteen years working towards this very goal?  I was living the dream now...right?  How could I have lost that I -love -what- I'm -doing- feeling so soon?  There was so much that I loved about where I was at and I had worked so hard to get there.  I had to find a way to like what I was doing -  the work of my every day.  Like was not a word I would have used to describe the time I spent working at keeping house.  Considering how much of my time was spent doing just that...I knew I needed to incorporate the caption on my calendar that day into my life.

I went to work on the "like whatever you do" concept.  For me that meant music in the house while I worked.  In particular it became a part of my kitchen where we still spend most of our together time each day.  Next...investment in fabric softener and no more cold, wrinkled piles of clothes to fold.  As crazy as it sounds I still today love to fold clothes soft and warm out of the dryer.  I simply no longer allowed the next load to be washed until the last one was folded "warm".  Some days that meant more than one re-warming.  Now that may seem ridiculous to some of you - but for me it also meant enjoying the folding...and that was my goal.   A candle or two burning with my favorite fragrance, an invitation to friends to come visit and enjoy our home (our friends and the kids friends), and the investment in a new vacuum (with the right tool any job can be done easier) - and I was well on my way to liking what I was doing each day.

I knew that I had come full circle when my nephew proclaimed to his mother after making a mess at my house..."Don't worry mom, Aunt Brenda likes cleaning."

That is only one example of many opportunities I have had to take what I must do and make it something I enjoy - even if I don't feel that way when I begin the work.  This doesn't just apply to physical labor.  I have often had to apply the concept in my relationships as well.  Lets be honest... "like" may not always describe the time spent with co-workers, children, a spouse, or family members.  Life is full of peaks and valleys.  All of us find ourselves experiencing things we didn't ask for, things that are placed upon us.  By choosing to enjoy life  -  in spite of it - we regain our power to act rather than be acted upon.  You may be surprised to find that the changes you initiate to "like what your doing" will most often be small and subtle.  Be creative. Keep it simple. 

Share you ideas here.  How have you come to "like" what your doing? 

Tuesday
Jan032012

What's in a word?

STRENGTH. BREATHE. FAITH. COURAGE. SINCERITY. HOPE. FAMILY. TRUTH. PEACE. FORWARD. PATIENCE.  Those are just a few of my more recent "personal words".  I am a firm believer in the power words have in our lives.  They impact us on a daily basis irregardless of our acknowledgement of them.  We process them, make decisions based upon them, subconsciously accept or reject them, file them away in our dreams, recall them, communicate our wants and needs with them, we are judged by them and we make our own judgements based upon them. 

I have many books with good words on the shelves of my home.  I love reading and discussing what I have read with others.  I would never discount those words, they have been powerful resources in my life.  Yet, most of them remain unread by my children or visitors to my home.  There are other words in my home - on my walls, on my refrigerator,  on a piece of jewelry -  that are often seen and shared with those very same people.  I was surprised not too long ago when a friend of mine introduced me as "a woman who loves words".  I'm not sure why I was surprised by that description, it certainly is a fact, I just hadn't considered it being that integral a part of who I was.  As I thought about this over the next several days I realized there were others who knew this about me as well.  They may not have ever stated it in such a matter of fact way, but they let me know when they handed me a favorite quote of their own scribbled on a post-it note or sent me words framed as a gift for Christmas. One thing I was sure of was that I had never had a conversation with any of them about "words" -  I decided that perhaps they too had experienced the power of words and were familiar with this "secret" peacemaker. 

It only takes a split second for the mind to register the words it comes across any given moment.  As a result, I am careful to make sure that the words I place around me reflect not necessarily where I am at as much as where I want to be.  There is a definite peace that comes through acknowledging our desired destination through the words we surround ourselves with.  And, unbeknownst to them, we recruit those who come in contact with us (and our words) in the effort. In my home those words come in many forms.  I have posted some of the more recent ones here.  Some change each week or month and others, those I want continually in front of me and my family, may stay for years.

If we are going to surround ourselves with powerful words, it's important to remember this applies to the spoken word as well.  We should hear good words the majority of the time from the people we surround ourselves with.  These people need not be perfect.  None of us are. However, they should be headed in the right direction most days.  This includes the lyrics, television, radio, and social media we expose ourselves to.  It is not too far a stretch to say that there are those of us whose "word input" may come more from those sources on a daily basis than from family, friends, or co-workers.  In fact, if you are having a particularly bad day, consciously stop and evaluate the words you have been processing, either of your own making or the making of others around you - you will be amazed to discover that the majority, if not all of them, are negative.  Simply changing the "conversation" created in your head by those words will dramatically change the course of the rest of your day.

If words are truly going to impact peace in your life you are going to need to be willing to give a good word.  Not only does this strengthen and uplift those around us - we gain personal peace knowing we have honestly given power to someone else simply through our good words. This piece of the good word challenge is more difficult.  Because it requires conscious effort on your part.  It also will bring the most dramatic results for the very same reason.  I'm not telling you to run around passing out "good words" willy nilly (...don't we all know someone who annoys us by doing exactly that?) They are not sincere and as a result they really are not "good" words.

When I began to really work on giving good words to those around me I decided to take the "safe" route and try people that I didn't really know but came in contact with several times a week.  The clerk at my local 7-11 and the clerks at my local grocery store were the beginning.  That year I gained great compassion for those who come to our country to work hard and find success, I also came to appreciate my citizenship and rights that I have often taken for granted.  I also came to admire people that were living through the challenges of losing their wife just before retirement was come, working full-time while their husband was waiting for (and later receiving) a liver transplant, and yet another trying to make ends meet as a single mom with two daughters during a tough economy working at a gas station.  She recently told me that her oldest daughter would be going to college on a full scholarship and that she was ready to go back to college herself.  I left cheering for her and her family. 

I only know the first names of these individuals and yet my two minute conversations with them a couple of times a week over the course of several years now has impacted my life and perspective in ways no others could have. Had I simply paid for the service each of them rendered and left without a word, all of those people would have still been there-- I just wouldn't have had the blessing of having them impact my life.  I know this is not an easy thing for many to do.  Do it in spite of that fact.  Start with step one below and then quickly give step two a try...all in one week.  

Step 1.     Start by simply finding a quote that moves you or a word that when you hear it gives you strength and/or focus  (trust your instinct - you probably already know the word you need) then simply put it someplace you will see it.  Add to it or change it up each day or week or month...whatever works for you. This is easy.  Don't complicate it. 

Step 2.      Finally, share a good word.  Say "Have a good day" or "How's your day?" to the clerk at your local gas station or grocery store.  "Thank you" to the person who let you pass through the door first.  "Nice job" to the spouse or child who did an expected daily chore.  This step is more difficult for many in the beginning because it really does need to be a sincere (albeit simple) good word.  It is an effort well worth it though.  Do it for selfish reasons in the beginning if you must justify the effort.  Because simply making the effort puts you in a position to better find peace in the chaotic world around you.  You will be consciously searching for things to acknowledge (gratitude in action) - and they will miraculously appear all around you.  I can promise this. 

Given some time and practice these simple steps will become second nature.  You will come to love good words as they enrich your daily life and bring you peace.  You will find beauty in them as they adorn your personal space.  Be fearless (a great word by the way).  Let us know how you do.  Share your good words here.  Comment on your successful (and less than successful) attempts at conversation. Because this forum really is all about the words...

Tuesday
Nov292011

Take your shoes off...

Is this photo what you imagine taking off your shoes should be like?  Well...think again.  As good as it feels to slip our toes into warm sand on a far off tropical beach, it isn't the only place that the benefits of setting your feet free can be felt.  The truth is that taking your shoes off most any place is good for the soul. 

I have always been a shoes off kind of person.  I know I am not in the majority.  I began to consider my feelings about how taking our shoes off related to our personalities and stress levels shortly after I got married.  They say that opposites attract and in this area my husband and I definitely were of opposing views.  He never took his shoes off except to shower and slip into bed. I, on the other hand, took off my shoes whenever the opportunity presented itself.  At my desk while working, in the car as a passenger, immediately upon walking in the front door of my home.  I actually carry a pair of socks to slip on when I take off my shoes to teach or speak if I'm feeling the need to be a bit more relaxed and connected to those I'm trying to reach.  

I persisted in my encouragement of shoe removal with my husband over the years.  I was certain that was one simple thing he could do to feel less stressed and positive on a daily basis.  He was certain I was ridiculously simple minded. I had no "proof" -  there were no internet searches back then ... I just knew it.   I believed that somehow taking our shoes off was connected to much more than just comfort.  I knew that the simple act of taking off our shoes had the ability to relieve stress on a substantial level.  It allowed for greater relaxation over short periods of time throughout the day.  Going shoeless provided a "grounding" opportunity when focus and communication was essential.   Years latter I began to research reflexology at the local library and soon found myself enrolled in massage therapy school.

There is plenty of research available on line for your review these days if you need it.  I understand that just because the concept of removing your shoes is a simple one that it isn't always an easy one to adopt.  I would suggest that you give it a try.   Here a little, there a little.  Invest in some new socks if need be.  As for my husband?  We took a short flight to visit my mother two weeks ago.  As the pilot announced the planes decent to our destination, I noticed that my husband was quietly slipping his shoes back on.