I don’t know about you, but I have been extra-careful lately about my consumption of breaking news, mainstream media content and so-called “popular” culture.
It all just feels too intensely painful. Too overwhelming.
I get it. We all live here together, crammed into one increasingly overcrowded space, and in that hot pot of often unwelcome (if temporarily socially distant) togetherness, we are sharing a whole lot of stuff none of us really wants.
The kind of things that are going viral right now – hate, discrimination, disease – make me think fondly of last month’s still-active quarantine orders. Sometimes COVID even seems nearly benign in comparison.
Anyway, I knew my self-imposed mass media (ahem) diet was starting to work when my neighbor shared a tidbit about a certain awful news item I had not yet heard anything about…and then expressed shock at my ignorance.
I gave myself a gold star.
Then I went inside to pat my precious 21-year-old cockatiel’s grey and white neck feathers so I could calm down from the awful news my neighbor had decided I needed to know, should have already known, anyway.
Maybe it is no accident I’ve been spending my newfound media-free time meditating, doing yoga, working on a new song, and populating my creator habitat over on Mammalz, where any and all breaking news is only and always about beings with feathers, shells, scales, fur or fins and the Homo sapiens who care so much about them.
Speaking of refuge, one of my favorite mentors is an intuitive author and teacher named Sonia Choquette. She has been sharing free livestreams on Instagram and I tune in whenever I see one.
In Sonia’s latest livestream, she hones in on the single most vital lesson we all need to remember right now.
It is….drum rollllllll…..to love ourselves.
What do you think?
It doesn’t sound very glamorous. Perhaps even a touch anti-climactic.
But it is deeply personal.
It is the most personal action any being can take on behalf of themselves and everyone else.
Sonia calls it “getting out of the bad neighborhood” – aka moving out of our heads and into our hearts. I can relate. My head has become a very bad neighborhood of late and a lot of that anger and pain and fear is directed right back at myself.
So I’ve been trying to escape but it isn’t always easy to elude my thoughts. They can be quite persistent.
Not smart enough. Not aware enough. Not kind enough. Not empathetic enough. Not compassionate enough. Not productive enough. Not focused enough. Not healthy enough. And on and on and on and on and on….if my mind doesn’t think it is getting enough airtime during the daylight hours, it has absolutely no problem waking me up in the middle of the night to continue airing its concerns.
Can you relate?
When I don’t like myself (let alone love myself) I am more disposed to not like or love anyone else either. I can’t, really – not until I can like and love myself more first. I have to find value in the person doing the loving, me, before I can give the gift of my love to others and see it as a gift, as something of worth and value.
So I love Sonia’s livestreams because she does spend some time acknowledging the issue and – most importantly – validating that it is “an issue,” not just “my issue.” As in – there are multiple individuals all over this planet that are struggling in very similar ways, trying to like and love themselves and also trying to like and love others. It is a reaction to be expected given the rapid-fire changes we are ricocheting through together all over the world.
But then she moves right along to solutions. Like, okay. Bad neighborhood. Check. Wanna get out. Check. Okay, then how???
This is what she suggests and I’ve tried several of these already and they have really, really helped!
I just thought I would share them here in case you are stuck in the bad neighborhood too and need a quick and reliable escape hatch to get back to self-love and love for others again.
1. Dance and sing!
As a songwriter (and a memorably uncoordinated dancer) I often prefer to work on writing a new song or singing along with a song I love rather than dancing.
But lately I have become more willing to dance, because dancing gets my body moving as well.
Dancing is detoxifying, forcing my sedentary (writer, after all) circulatory system to get moving and shuttling all that extra cortisol through and out, out, out.
Sonia explains how dancing and singing moves us right out of our minds and into our bodies and our hearts. It is fun, freeing, smile-worthy.
If you have kids or pets, they will love joining in and you will love it when they do.
2. Hug something (or someone who is non-viral and willing to be hugged).
Part of the whole COVID-19 thing that has been hardest on so many of us is the lack of hugs. I am single and I am the only Homo sapiens in my little flock of four.
The other three – one set of precious feathers and two perfect shells – are a little hard to hug, both because they don’t really grasp the concept and because they are about the size of a coffee cup – it’s like trying to hug your iPhone.
So when Sonia suggested hugging a pillow, I turned right to my huge round plush blue pillow and squashed it in the biggest bear hug. I felt better. It immediately puffed back out like nothing weird had just happened.
3. Smile for two minutes.
Sonia recommends holding a pen in your teeth because this automatically curves your facial muscles into a smile position (I am doing this while I type these words to you, by the way).
She said it takes about two minutes for the body to register that the face is smiling and have that filter down (and up) to the brain and body so everyone can take a load off already.
I’ve done this twice today already and both times I’ve felt much better.
You don’t have to use a pen, but it can be good if you are like me and get distracted easily and don’t notice immediately that you’ve stopped smiling before your two minutes is up.
4. Breathe in and then breathe out with an “ahhhh” sound.
Deep breathing is just one of those tools it is extra-easy to forget about. Which is a bummer, because it really works.
What I loved about Sonia’s latest livestream is when she talked bout how, when you breathe out with an audible “ahhhh” sound, it is like taking a slide down from your head to your heart.
Brilliant. And….it works.
She also mentioned that, if you need a little extra help getting some momentum going to slide down and away from your head, you can thump your heart/chest with your fist at the same time, saying “hah!”
This works very well too.
5. Talk about what you love.
For me, this is a slam-dunk way to feel better right now.
Maybe it is because my mind is so naturally over-active – if it is not thinking about something, talking about something, it thinks it is going to die.
So think-think-think and talk-talk-talk is going on all day and all night and it drives the rest of me crazy at times.
But I can give the mind instructions on what to think about – creative ideas for fun thoughts to think and ideas to ponder.
Thankfully, I share my daily life with three of the sweetest, cutest, most lovable and loving beings and they are who I love the most. Pearl, Malti and Bruce can instantly turn my grumpy frown upside down and light up my mind and heart and body with love.
If you have other ideas for how to get out of the “bad neighborhood” and into your heart, please feel warmly welcomed to share!
With great respect and love,