The weirdest thing happened not long ago. More than one person referred to me as “enlightened”, “or something like that”, a couple of whom wanted to get together to talk about life, transformation, and their journeys. Now, I would definitely NOT say I’m enlightened … though I think wisdom would say it’s good to hear and receive the compliment from these beautiful souls, honor their observations, and consider why they think and said it. Honestly, it seems to me being “enlightened” would be akin to “Fight Club” (remember that Brad Pitt and Ed Norton movie? Is it old enough to dub it “classic”?), wherein the first rule of enlightenment is: Don’t talk about enlightenment or think/say you’re enlightened. 🙂
I bring that up because in reflecting on why these friends said that and approached me, it occurred to me over the years I’ve acquired (and often modified) a good number of practices from others, which enliven me, fill my soul, and both help me become more loving, kind, peaceful, and joyful, and allow me to stay caring, positive, calm, and blissful in the face of negativity, fear, anger, and so on more often than I would otherwise. Whether you name it enlightenment, love, wisdom, peace, or bliss, I think it’s a team sport. Awesomeness is created and maintained together, and I’d say includes God. What I’m getting at, is the goodness I’ve received have been gifts from others, so I’d like to pay it forward by sharing some of my routines for centering with you … AND invite you to share your practices for getting grounded and loving with us in the comments section.
During yoga teacher training, my first yoga teacher, Meghan Currie, asked us to spend our first waking moments each morning setting an intention for the rest of the day. The initial moments of our days are generally innocent and peaceful, in that our thoughts aren’t cluttered and minds are still at rest. So, when we take a few minutes at the beginning of the morning to center, listen to Spirit, and set an intention for the day, it makes a HUGE difference.
Our days and lives are often busy and hurried, but setting aside a few minutes to breath fully and slowly, listen deeply, and decide what good thing you want to bring into the world today transforms our outlooks, actions, thinking, and days. While Meghan had us get up out of bed, take 15 minutes, and journal, after I returned home I modified this practice to fit my life. Before I get out of bed, I spend 2-15 minutes breathing deeply and centering my thoughts on a word or two in time with my breath. For years I would breathe “spread love”, “be love”, simply “love”, or something along those lines. This year, though, I received two new words to focus on: Kindness and care, so now I meditate on those before getting out of bed. (Note, I often do drift in and out of sleep during this time, and I think that’s okay!)
After I get up and do the necessary things 🙂 I get coffee and breakfast, and sit down in front of my computer. Here I combine some food for my soul in the form of my favorite spiritually minded bloggers and a Daily Meditation from Father Richard Rohr (SO GOOD!), with play in the ritual of reading about sports (#gohawks) and movies, with humor via a few of my favorite comic strips. All I’m saying here is in the morning I take time to enjoy food and drink I like for my belly, while partaking of positivity for my mind and spirit. A happy body and calm and joy-filled mind is a great way to start the day in my book.
Speaking of happy body, I also make a regular habit of working out as soon as possible after my coffee and breakfast routine each day. Most days feature some mixture of running and yoga for me, which is a bonus because both (ESPECIALLY yoga) have the added benefit of being meditative. Mindfulness practices, like yoga, give the incredible gifts of rewiring our brains for more love and changing our gene expressions toward greater health, youth, and vigor. Studies these days are practically SHOUTING that yoga, meditation, and other related practices, when practiced regularly (i.e. 3 times a week for 15-30 minutes), will literally make you happier, healthier, and lengthen your life.
This brings me to shower time … 🙂 I only mention that because it’s my daily chance to see all my tattoos. After bathing, my ritual is to go to the bathroom sink to put deodorant on and put lotion on my tattoos. Each of my tats has a story and symbolizes a truth I aspire to live into, thus on many days as I give my artwork some love, I also use the time as an opportunity to remind myself of a truth a tattoo stands for (or two).
The tattoo on my back is my artists’ take on Dave Matthews Band’s Fire Dancer (above on the top left), which reminds me to celebrate, dance, and have fun; life is a gift to be enjoyed, after all. Moving onto my shoulder, the words are lyrics from a Dave song: “Could I have been anyone other than me?” NO, and that’s FANTASTIC. Below that is a phoenix, because I’m a bit of a fantasy geek and also believe deaths and resurrections (big and small) are a regular pattern in life. Every time we stumble, lose, are rejected, fall, etc. on the other side of that “death” is a rebirth and new life in which we will rise from the ashes like an even more beautiful and amazing phoenix … when we choose it.
Below the phoenix are a trilogy of tattoos (you can see two just above and the third in the first pic) my artist did to represent divine union, the divine dance, and oneness. These remind me life is about connection, it’s a dance where we give and receive love to each other, just as Christians believe the Three Persons of God do both among one another and with us all. Bliss and enlightenment come in kindness and care for others. Beneath this is a Celtic cross on a red rock with 2 Hebrew words (meaning “peace/wholeness/everything as it should be” and “to fall/fall down in worship”). This tattoo marks how in a freak family hiking accident in 2008 I fell 30 feet off a cliff onto a boulder headfirst and should have died, but didn’t as I believe God and Love saved me.
The last two tattoos are on my right arm. The bottom one (above) calls me to this Great Truth: We are beloved. Period. As we are, we are wildly and deeply loved. And, we are called to BE LOVE to each other. The top tat (below) is modeled after a statue in front of the United Nations building: Swords to Plowshares. It sets my gaze on a future, a time when there will be no more war or violence and our weapons for destruction (be they physical or verbal) will be turned into tools that give life, and invites me to make that “future” NOW.
Another ritual that I used fastidiously for a season or two, but only sometimes now is praying the hours. I have a silent alarm on my iPhone for nine, noon, and three. These are reminders to stop, take a few mindful and deep breaths, and say a short prayer. It’s incredible what a calming and centering influence taking 15 seconds three times a day to do this has. Like WOW! While the prayer can be anything you’d like, I’ve mostly used the Jesus Prayer or some variation on it.
Likewise, something I used to do nearly daily, but maybe only once a week these days, is take our dog on a long walk through a local park. This park is on the water and there are frequently really beautiful views. Even though Biscuits (our dog) and I don’t take these walks that often now, the practice of taking time to appreciate nature has stuck with me. When we take time to mindfully consider the wonder and awe of creation, it floods our brains with peace and gladness.
Before dinner, my wife, Lisa, and I have a habit of saying a short prayer. When people we know are hurting or struggling we try and take time to ask for their thriving and flourishing. That said, we always center this prayer and regularly begin our dinner conversation with gratitude. The mystic, Meister Eckhart, said: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Regularly practicing gratitude is quite literally like taking drugs that activate the good vibes in our brains … only it’s free, legal, and has NO side effects. Along those lines, when my daughter stays with us on weekends, I tuck her in every night and we talk about what we’re thankful for, thus ending the day on a positive note!
I hope sharing some of what helps me grow and stay centered, loving, calm, and blissful has encouraged, inspired, and/or sparked some ideas for you! PLEASE share with us some of what works for you in the comments below. In the past journaling has been super helpful for me and we have all sorts of positive and inspiring decorations in the house that also help. Just the other day I was talking with a friend about how my Facebook page is FULL of joy, love, and positivity, NOT because I only share the good stuff, nor because I don’t have struggles, but because really and truly these practices have been a large part (behind an AMAZING tribe of family and friends) of what has made life filled with awesomeness for a couple of years or more. May your life be even richer with beauty, bliss, and love!
P.S. On Monday, January 22nd thousands of people around the world are going to practice some of what I describe together for 2 weeks. It’s called the Blissology Project and consists of 6 simple daily routines for increasing love and happiness. If that sounds interesting you can learn more here: https://gracenpeaceyoga.com/2018/01/19/the-blissology-project-an-invite-to-grow-happiness-spread-love-jan-22-feb-4/
Grace and peace,