“Self-care” has become somewhat of a buzz word lately. So many people are talking about it, especially online. In most of the discussions, self-care is used to describe taking a bath, getting a massage, having some aromatherapy, and the like. It kind of comes off as prioritizing yourself, maybe to the point of being selfish. But let’s really unpack this, and understand what self-care really means.
This is my definition of self-care: Being responsible for your own happiness and well-being. We can’t “get” happiness from any outside source. That means we can’t buy it, and we can’t rely on anyone else to provide it for us, or give it to us. So, if we’re not happy or well, we can’t blame anyone or anything – the buck, so to speak, stops with ourselves. When we can understand that, then we can make more informed choices about what we do, and how we do it.
For example, let’s look at the three pillars of health in Ayurveda, and how this relates to self-care.
1) Food: Food is anything we “eat” through any of the senses. What do you put in your mouth, what do you smell, what do you touch, what do you watch, what are you listening to? If you’re stressed out, yet continue to watch violent television shows, or listen to argumentative talk shows on the car radio, you need to make different choices. If your digestion is poor, and you’re eating junk food late at night, you need to be doing something different. This is self-care – knowing how to take care of yourself body, mind, and spirit… and actually doing it. No one else can do it for you. You absolutely have control here – so we have to look at our habits, and stop being on auto-pilot.
2) Sleep: You’ve heard me talk about sleep for years as the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council. What could be easier than going to bed at a reasonable time? And yet, we don’t do it! We have every excuse to stay up later than we should. We’re on our screens way too late, we don’t invest in our sleep by making sure we have a new mattress and pillow. It’s like we see sleep as a chore, something more to fit into our busy day. Like a little kid, we don’t want to go to bed because we’re afraid we’ll be missing something! It’s time to change that mind-set and understand how important sleep is in every area of our lives. Self-care means being disciplined about your sleep schedule, and sleep hygiene so that sleep can actually work for you!
3) Activity: Activity is everything we do in our lives – work, exercise, relationships, our daily routine and habits. It’s not just what you’re doing, but also what you’re thinking about. Where is your attention focused? Self-care is also knowing our limits. Are you taking on too much? Are you being too active, is life too hectic? Or are you not active enough, is life too slow? There’s a beautiful “Goldilocks” amount of activity that’s unique to each of us, and “just right” for each one of us. Find yours and take care of yourself in this way. You might have to say no when you feel obligated or pressed to say yes, or say yes when you’re a bit uncomfortable jumping into something new. Tune into your intuition and do what is best for you.
The great playwright William Shakespeare is often quoted as having said: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Do you ever feel like life is just one big drama? We all have our parts to play, and our lines to say, and our days continue like a series of scripted scenes. Yet who is writing this script? Are we automatically reacting to the cues we are given, or are we indeed creating our lives, and our relationships, as we go along?
Ayurveda is the Science of Life. From this centuries old philosophy we can learn everything we need to know to help our relationships grow and flourish. Life is all about relationships. Because we are in this world, we have a relationship with everyone and everything else in this world. Our most important relationship is with ourselves. When we know who we are, when we understand our place in the world, then we see how we fit in, and how everyone else fits in as well. This wisdom shows us our interconnectedness, and how we really are here to help each other in so many ways.
The ayurvedic concept of doshas, or mind/body types, gives us insight into our inherent nature. Our dosha is like a fingerprint, individual to each one of us. And yet, one of the doshas is typically dominant in our personality and physiology. When we know our dosha, we are given some direction as to how to bring out our strengths and overcome our challenges.
Vata dosha is made up of air and space. People who are dominant in Vata generally appear to be long and lean. The skin in thin and dry, and you can often see the veins through the skin. The Vata person tends to have cold hands and feet. Vatas are quick thinkers; they are creative, flexible and spontaneous. They have sparkling personalities and enjoy trying new things. However, when they are out of balance, when too much Vata is present, then they become anxious. People might see them as “flaky” or “air headed” because they have a hard time remembering things. Vatas can be disorganized and easily distracted. In nature, you can see Vata in a hummingbird, flitting quickly from one thing to the next. The hummingbird exerts a lot of energy and gets worn out quickly.
Vata types often have a difficult time traveling. Because there is so much movement, there becomes an excess of air and space, so Vata gets out of balance easily. This shows up as anxiety, nervousness, and even nausea. They might have a hard time getting to sleep, and become constipated. The best thing that Vatas can do to stay in balance is Abhyanga, a warm oil self-massage. Warm and oily is the opposite of cold and dry, so this is the perfect remedy. Abhyanga can be done in the morning, before a shower, or at nighttime, before bed. It’s also a good idea for Vatas to sip warm water with lemon throughout the day. Vatas need to eat warm, cooked foods, especially while traveling, because their digestion is sensitive.
Pitta dosha is made up of fire and water. Pitta dominant people have an average build, and are more athletic. Because fire is present, Pitta runs hot. Pittas have warm hands, and often have some reddish qualities to their skin or hair. They can have freckles, or can have grey hair or go bald at an early age. Pittas are highly intelligent. They make good business people because they are discerning and they have strong leadership skills. However, when too much Pitta is present, they come off as critical and bossy, and an excess of fire brings out anger and impatience. In nature, Pitta is represented in an eagle. The eagle soars, thinks, and plans. When it sees what it wants, it goes after it without hesitation, with determination and precision.
The hot months of summer are known as Pitta season. Because of the heat, Pitta is more likely to get out of balance. This can show up as anger, judgment, or irritability. We want to cool down the fire without extinguishing it. Cooling foods like cucumber and mint are very good during this time of year. It is also important to protect the skin from the sun, and to shade the eyes, as Pitta eyes are very sensitive to light.
Kapha dosha is made up of earth and water. Those with a dominance of kapha are bigger boned, and a bit heavier than average. The skin is clear and moist, and the hair is thick and lustrous. Kaphas also tend to have big eyes and full lips. They are beautiful! Kaphas are loving and loyal. They make wonderful teachers, doctors, and parents. Kaphas have an easy-going nature and are very patient. When Kapha is out of balance they can lack motivation. They can seem lazy, stubborn, and possessive. In nature, we can see Kapha in a swan, gracefully taking its time gliding across the water. The swan is relaxed and comfortable in its surroundings.
A Kapha imbalance can show up as weight gain, depression, or as allergies. To keep Kapha in check, exercise is vital. Kaphas need to exercise daily, to the point of sweating. They also need to be around people – socialization helps them to be happy, they are energized and stimulated when surrounded by good friends and engaged in lively conversation. When Kaphas feel the urge to sit on the couch and eat, they should really call up a friend and go for a walk.
We would never expect a hummingbird to behave like an eagle. And yet, with our loved ones, we often find ourselves asking another person to change – to do something that is contrary to his or her nature. Expecting a swan to suddenly get up and flit around the flowers is absurd – just as it is to want a Kapha person to get skinny and multi-task a dozen projects.
It takes all of the doshas to make the world function. We each have qualities that enhance our life here on earth. For example, in a business setting, it’s good to include each of the doshas on a team. The Vatas will brainstorm and come up with the big ideas. The Pittas will come up with a plan to manage the team so that the ideas can become a reality. And the Kaphas will shore up morale, and make sure that the project is seen through to its fruition. We can work with our strengths to create an environment that serves everyone and achieves the best possible outcomes for the company.
First, Ayurveda teaches us how to be the best that we can be by staying in balance. When we are in balance we think clearly and make the best decisions for ourselves. We are better in our relationships because we are confident in knowing who we are. In our personal relationships, Ayurveda can teach us to love and accept people as they are. We can strive to help them stay in balance, and to be their healthiest and happiest.
There is a natural order, and balance to the Universe. That is often why we choose the partners we choose. We help to balance each other out. A Pitta person can help a Vata person to be organized. A Vata person can help a Kapha person to lighten up and have more fun, just by being around. A Kapha person can help a Pitta person to remember what is most important in life. When we learn to love and accept our partners for who they are, to recognize their nature, then our relationships will thrive. Ayurveda shows us the beauty and benefits that happen naturally when we release any unrealistic expectations and learn to love “as is” with an open heart.
Meditation is really the best thing we can do for our overall health – and all it takes is our commitment to actually do it. Seriously – you don’t need any special gear, or any special place, or any special time to do it. We just have to make the slightest bit of effort to sit still and be quiet. But yet – even though we know how great it is for us, somehow we find every excuse not to do it. What’s that about? Here’s hoping this list of just some of the amazing benefits will motivate us to carve out just a few minutes of time in our otherwise busy day to embrace the bliss of this beautiful practice. This is the best habit you could ever adopt!
– Meditation is a great antidote for stress. With our hectic schedules our nervous system runs high on adrenaline. Meditation gives us a time to pause and just chill. Meditation lowers levels of cortisol, the hormone that makes us feel stressed. With reduced cortisol we feel less anxious, less depressed and generally more calm.
– Meditation puts a smile on your face. When you meditate, serotonin is produced in your nerve cells. You feel a little more content, a little more centered, a little more comfortable in your own skin. And this good mood shows – you look better, too!
– Meditation helps with focus and concentration. With a calm mind you can handle tasks with aplomb. You can pay attention, and be more aware of what you are doing so you can do it well. This also helps to improve your memory, you remember what you did!
– Meditation is good for the body. Studies show that it lowers blood pressure, and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It can even boost your immunity, so you can stave off illnesses more easily.
– Meditation helps you to be more patient, and more present. When in a long line at the store, or stuck in traffic, you can approach the situation with a sense of “this too shall pass.”
– Meditation helps you to release negative emotions more quickly. Instead of hanging on to anger or upset, you can process the feelings and let them go more easily.
– Meditation helps you to manage pain. With less anxiety, you can tolerate pain better. You learn how to breathe through the pain with meditation so you feel it less acutely. Meditation teaches us to self-sooth.
– Meditators have an easier time falling asleep, and often sleep more soundly than most.
– Meditation can improve relationships. It’s easier to communicate when you are calm and can think clearly. It also teaches us to look at our thought patterns so when emotions arise we can identify and deal with them.
– Meditation helps us to connect with who we really are. That space of silence is where all the wisdom is, and we can download it where we give ourselves the opportunities to do so.
– Meditation is good for the brain. Research shows it can slow the aging process and even reverse brain aging.
– Meditation can rev up your metabolism. We feel better so we have more energy and move more. All this helps with weight loss, too.
– Meditation helps you to forgive and let go of past issues with people. You feel more peaceful and can see the bigger picture. It allows you to feel more empathy. It allows you to let in gratitude.
According to Ayurveda, a balanced diet contains all six tastes at every meal. This can be challenging given our western influences. There’s a simple solution! Herb and spice blends called “Churna” that are specially formulated for the seasons. Fall/Winter when it is cold and dry is Vata season. Summer is Pitta season, and Spring is Kapha season. You can use these blends while cooking, or take the shaker with you to sprinkle on your food when you eat out. You can add the churnas to sauces, soups, vegetable or rice dishes, even just sprinkle it on salads, popcorn or snacks. Very convenient, and really delicious. You can make your own at home in the kitchen.
The Vata blend is calming, and includes cardamom, ginger, and other spices. The Pitta blend is cooling, and includes cumin, coriander and fennel along with other spices. The Kapha blend is invigorating, with turmeric, mustard, black pepper and more.
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon asafetida (hing powder)
¼ teaspoon salt (I prefer Himalayan salt, it is unprocessed)
1 tablespoon raw sugar
In a dry skillet, roast the cumin and coriander seeds until nutty.
Transfer to a spice grinder and add cardamom and fennel seeds; process to a fine powder.
Put the ground spices in a bowl with the ground ginger, asafetida, and salt and mix all together.
Transfer into a shaker bottle to use whenever you’d like.
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves (chopped), or dried mint leaves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1. In a dry skillet, roast the coriander and cumin seeds until nutty.
2. Transfer to a spice grinder and add the cardamom and fennel seeds; process to a fine powder.
3. Put the spices in a bowl with the turmeric, mint, ground ginger and sugar and mix all together.
4. Transfer into a shaker bottle to use whenever you’d like.
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground clove
½ teaspoon black pepper
1. In a dry skillet, roast the coriander and cumin seeds until nutty.
2. Transfer to a spice grinder and add the genugreek seeds; process to a fine powder.
3. Put the spices in a bowl with the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, clove and black pepper and mix all together.
4. Transfer into a shaker bottle to use whenever you’d like.
Also good for a sore throat, speakers who talk a lot.
A tongue scraper can also help to prevent bad breath. This is in common use in Ayurveda, usually in stainless steel, but also available in sterling silver or copper.
Eat the parsley garnish after a meal to get rid of bad breath, too.
Embarrassing Problem: Gas
Fennel seeds –
You often see a bowl of these in Indian restaurants and wondered what they were for. Just chew up about a teaspoon full after a big meal. Easy to carry in your purse.
Embarrassing Problem: Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are inflamed veins around the rectum, often caused by the weight of pregnancy, or from constipation, or from heavy lifting.
Mix 1 Tablespoon dry cumin with a bit of water to make a paste. Apply to the affected area, and leave on for 15-20 minutes and then rinse off. Twice a day. This works because cumin is high in potassium, which helps bring down blood pressure, so it helps relieve the inflammation.
Embarrassing Problem: Overactive Bladder
Ayurveda says that an overactive bladder is caused by too much Vata dosha in the pelvic region. A bladder infection and constipation can aggravate the vata dosha and cause an overactive bladder. Obesity can also cause an overactive bladder. Follow lifestyle changes for constipation. Also, add some dates into your diet, and drink tender coconut water.
Embarrassing Problem: Constipation
There are three parts to digestion, each equally important: digestion, assimilation, and elimination. When we are not eliminating the waste products of our food effectively, we are constipated. Those toxins need to be eliminated from the body for us to feel our best. Constipation can lead to many other issues, including skin breakouts, menstrual cramps, fatigue, depression and more.
Triphala is an ayurvedic remedy for constipation. It is made of three fruits, and is considered a valuable herbal preparation. It helps the body to gently release toxins.
Lifestyle changes for constipation:
-Largest meal at lunchtime, when digestion is strongest.
-Sip warm water with lemon throughout the day. Vata tea is also very healing.
-Avoid eating leftovers and foods that contain preservatives. Your body has to work harder to eliminate these impurities from the liver and cells.
-Avoid cold drinks, as these reduce digestive power.
-Get to bed by 10 pm, s your body can rest during its natural purification cycle, from 10 pm to 2 am.
-Pay attention to the food you are eating – don’t watch TV, read or work while eating.
-Eat lots of leafy greens, stick to a high-fiber diet of fresh fruits, veggies and grains.
Embarrassing Problem: Foot Odor
Smelly feet can result from perspiration, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Synthetic shoes and socka increase the problem by not letting your feet breathe. What to do?
-FOOT BATH: In 1 quart of hot water (about 100-110 degrees F), add 1 teaspoon Epsom salt or sea salt. Make a small pouch of herbs, include the ones you like from lavender, sage, rosemary and add this pouch to the water. Soak your feet for approximately 20 minutes. Gently rub the herbs on your feet.
-Dry feet thoroughly.
-Mix 1 part cornstarch with 3 parts Herbalized Clay and 3-4 drops of peppermint essential oil. Add cool water to make a paste and apply the paste to the feet for 20-30 minutes. Wash off with warm water and dry thoroughly.
Follow this procedure daily until the problem disappears, then continue once or twice a week preventively.
Embarrassing Problem: Hair Loss
Hair loss is seen as an excess of Pitta dosha, too much fire. Do Pitta balancing things like:
-Drink 1/3 cup of aloe vera juice with pinch of cumin 3 x/day for 3 months to cool the system.
-Drink fresh juices like carrot and spinach to stimulate hair growth.
-Eat a spoonful of white sesame seeds every morning. This is a good source of both magnesium and calcium.
-Avoid coffee (any caffeine), alcohol, smoking, and red meat – all of which aggravate Pitta dosha.
-Scalp massage with coconut oil is great to help stimulate hair growth.
Here is a list of DIY Natural Cleaning products for just about any job in your home! Follow the recipe and you’ll be amazed by how great your own natural products smell, and how great they WORK! Once you try them you’ll never go back. Saves lots of money, and helps the planet!
Most of these ingredients can be found at your local grocery store. You can make them easily right in the spray bottle. Be sure to label the bottles when you’re done so that you can tell them apart.
½ cup white vinegar
10 drops essential oil (tea tree, lavender, or lemon)
2 Tablespoons baking soda
Water to fill up a 12 ounce spray bottle
Combine vinegar, essential oils, and a small amount of water in a clean, 12-ounce spray bottle. Add baking soda, then fill bottle to the top with water. Shake gently to mix ingredients.
1 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
15 drops of lavender essential oil
Combine vinegar and water in spray bottle, then add salt and essential oil. Shake to mix ingredients. Spray on carpets and shake in between sprays. When carpet is dry, vacuum all the areas sprayed.
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup white vinegar
30 drops essential oil (lemon or orange)
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to mix. Spray directly on wooden surface and wipe down with a clean, dry cloth. Shake before use.
Mirror and Glass Cleaner
¼ cup rubbing alcohol
¼ cup white vinegar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups warm water
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake to mix. Spray on glass surface, wipe down with a microfiber cloth. Shake well before use.
1 cup vinegar
½ teaspoon tea tree essential oil
½ cup baking soda
Mix vinegar and essential oil in a spray bottle. Spray on toilet bowl, base, seat, and lid. Add baking soda around bowl, scrub with a toilet brush. When all clean use paper towels to wipe down all areas sprayed with the solution.
“The Four Friends” is an ancient fable that the Buddha repeated to teach the value of respect for one another. The lesson we can learn from this is that when there is harmony, there is also happiness.
Long, long ago, there was a pheasant would eat fruit, and then spit out the seeds. A small sapling grew from one of those seeds. That sapling then grew into a small tree that bore fruits, and the pheasant happily ate them.
Then, as the tree grew bigger, since the pheasant had difficulty flying, he could no longer reach the fruit.
A rabbit arrived, and said to the pheasant: “Neither of us can reach the fruit. Let me lift you so you can pluck the fruits, and we can share them.” The pheasant agreed, and the two enjoyed the fruits of the tree.
As the tree grew bigger, the fruit became out of their reach.
A monkey came by and agreed to help the rabbit and the pheasant. The monkey lifted the rabbit, and the rabbit lifted the pheasant, and the three all shared the fruits.
But then, the tree grew even bigger still.
Finally, an elephant arrived on the scene, and joined in to help the other three. The elephant lifted the monkey, the monkey lifted the rabbit, and the rabbit lifted the pheasant. Now, however high the tree grew, they could always reach the fruits!
These four friends became good examples to others in the forest. The bird taught other birds to be good. The elephant taught those with fangs to help others, and the rabbit taught the creatures with paws to do their part, and the monkey taught those with fur to do good for others. Eventually, the small group influenced even human beings by their example of cooperation, despite differences in size, strength or even species. By working together, the four friends learned the value of unity, integrity, friendship, generosity, and selflessness for the greater good.
The Four Friends, or Thumpa Punshi, is a familiar theme in paintings, curtains, thangkas and walls in Buddhist temples and homes. It is thought that wherever this picture is displayed harmony will increase. The picture acts as a reminder of how we should stay together and help each other. We all have various strengths and challenges, and yet we can complement one another to accomplish those things that we cannot achieve alone.
The Four Friends. I got this picture from allposters.com – I have a canvas print hanging in my home!
“Respect should be freely given to all simply because all have Buddha-nature, because all can become Buddhas.” – Stonepeace
Travel by train is a great way to see the country with your family this summer. Super easy and comfortable – and also affordable!
Check out this news from AMTRAK!
Buy One Sleeping Accommodation Bring a Companion Free
Limited-time summer sale offers the perfect opportunity to Get Carried Away on Amtrak
WASHINGTON – The experience of traveling on Amtrak with someone special has never been better. Now when one person purchases a roomette or bedroom, a friend or loved can join them for free. Ideal for two, Amtrak sleeping accommodations offer meals that are included in the price of a ticket on most routes, comfortable seating by day, and at night, chairs that convert into a comfortable bed. Available exclusively on Amtrak.com between June 4-10, 2019, the sale is valid for travel from August 1, 2019 through March 31, 2020.
“We believe that the journey is part of the adventure. Recognizing the need to get more out of every moment, we wanted to offer our customers a truly unique way to experience the country this summer,” said Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson. “With our sleeper sale, customers can share the experience while taking in some of the best views and sightseeing opportunities the United States has to offer.”
Special prices available during the sale offer fares as low as:
Roomettes and bedrooms are complete with bed linens, pillows, temperature controls, lights, bed-side storage nooks, electrical outlets, huge double-decker windows, and a fold-down table. A dedicated train attendant will book meal reservations, make and take down the beds, assist with luggage, notify customers when their stop is close and share great stories of life on the rails.
All prices will be automatically discounted from the standard fare price. Customers must use discount code V540 or the link provided on the promo code; prices are as shown and can’t be combined with other discount codes.
There are no blackout dates. This offer is valid for one free companion rail fare traveling in the same roomette, bedroom or family room with the purchase of one regular full adult fare. The free companion and full fare passengers must travel together in the same room and reserve in the same reservation. This offer is valid for sale between June 4 and June 10, 2019 and is valid for travel between August 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020. The sale is not valid on the Auto Train. The companion traveling with the customer must stay in the same bedroom or roomette. Other terms and conditions apply.
Amtrak offers a more comfortable and convenient travel experience with free Wi-Fi on most trains, plenty of leg room and no middle seat. With our state and commuter partners, we move people, the economy and the nation forward, carrying more than 30 million Amtrak customers for each of the past seven years. Amtrak operates more than 300 trains daily, connecting more than 500 destinations in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces, and reaches 400 additional destinations via connecting bus routes. Book travel, check train status, access your eTicket and more through an Amtrak app. Learn more at Amtrak.com.
What’s keeping you up at night? Chances are it is worry. Let’s face it, in our hectic lives there’s always something to worry about, even if it’s the state of the world. Worry can contribute to insomnia, or trouble falling asleep. Worry can also cause what is called “maintenance insomnia” or difficulty in staying asleep. This is when we wake us up in the middle of the night, and then have a problem getting back to sleep.
Why does worry affect our sleep so much? During the day we might have all the same worries – but we’re engaged in other activities that take the mind elsewhere. At night, when it is quiet and the mind isn’t distracted, all those same worries come to the forefront of the mind, and we can’t seem to quiet them. It is important to give ourselves that “wind down” time to help settle the mind before hitting the sheets. Read, meditate, listen to soft music, or take a warm bath. And of course, make sure your mattress is supportive and comfortable as this is the key to having a cozy bed to climb into.
Worrying is nothing new. It happens to everyone, all over the world. Generations ago, the indigenous people of Guatemala created “Worry Dolls” as a remedy for their stress. These are tiny dolls, hand-crafted with fabrics from Mayan costumes twisted and tied around little pieces of wood and wire. It is all held in place with colorful yarn, which makes up the doll’s head, hair, feet and hands. At just two inches high, the dollars are small enough to tuck under a pillow. The tradition is that when worrying keeps you awake, you tell your worries to the doll, who then does the worrying for you so that you can sleep peacefully through the night.
This is the traditional story of how the worry dolls came about, and it is a wonderful way to introduce worry dolls to children to help them get to sleep.
The Worry Dolls
In the hills of Guatemala there lived an old man, his daughter, Flora, and Flora’s two children Maria and Diego. Their home was a small hut made out of mud and wood. The grandfather was a farmer, as many of his ancestors were, and as he taught his own family to be. One year there was a terrible drought. Without enough rain the crops could not grow well, and they had very little food.
The whole family would wake up with the sun and tend to the fields in the hope that the rain would come. Then Maria and Diego would go to school for the day. At night, Flora would make tortillas for dinner with what corn they had, and then weave colorful cloth to sell at the market. Grandfather would tell the children stories before tucking them into their hammocks at bedtime. One of the children’s favorite stores was about a magical doll that could grant wishes.
One night a robber snuck in and stole all of Flora’s cloth, everything she had worked so hard to make over many months. She cried that she had nothing to sell at the market and didn’t know how the family would get the money they needed.
The next day Flora came down with a fever, and Maria knew that she had to do something to help. She got an idea. She went through her mother’s weaving basket and found scraps of fabric in odd colors and shapes. She brought the basket outside, and told her brother to collect small twigs for her. With the scraps of cloth and the twigs Diego and Maria got to work. They worked late into the night, and kept their project a secret. When they ran out of cloth they saw that they had made dozens of tiny dolls in tiny clothes. Maria hoped that these dolls would be magical like the one in her Grandfather’s story.
That night Maria lined up a few of the dolls and spoke to them of her worries: “My little friends, we need your help. My family is in trouble. The fields are dry, my mother is sick, and we have no food or money. Please help us. Good night.” She placed the dolls lovingly under her pillow and lay down to sleep. Maria slept well that night, confident that the dolls would somehow help her.
In the morning, Maria and Diego packed up all the dolls and walked a very long way to the market. The family was so poor that the children didn’t even have sandals, they had to walk barefoot. When they finally got to the market they found that it was crowded with people. They had never sold at the market before, and she had never seen anyone else sell tiny dolls there, but she was determined that her plan would work. The two finally found a good spot near a shoe seller.
Maria and Diego laid the dolls on the sidewalk. The shoe seller saw them and wondered by anyone would want such tiny dolls. Marie explained that there was magic in the dolls. The shoe seller just laughed and said that the magic in his shoes doesn’t help them to sell. Marie was firm and said: “We shall see.”
It was a long day, and no one had bought any of the dolls. The children we getting sad, and worried. As Maria was packing up the dolls to go home, a man in fine clothes and a large hat came by and asked what they were selling. Diego piped up: “These little dolls.”
“Magic dolls!” Maria corrected her brother.
The man looked impressed. “Well, I could use a little magic. I’ll take all of them!”
Maria and Diego excitedly wrapped up the dolls for the man, who then handed them a stack of money, without asking the price. Maria thanked him and the man was gone before Maria could say anything more. She counted the money and found that there was enough for the family to live on for a year.
The two bought some food at the market and then excitedly headed for home to tell their mother and grandfather the news.
“We sold the dolls we made!” Diego exclaimed.
“Magic dolls!” Maria emphasized, and she told them the whole story.
“This doesn’t sound like any magic,” Flora said to her children, “It sounds like you worked hard and it paid off.”
“Ah,” the grandfather chimed in, “but you are feeling much better, Flora, how do you explain that?”
“And look! It’s raining!” Diego jumped up and pointed to the fields. Sure enough, it was raining and the fields were getting the water they needed. The drought was over.
That night as Maria got ready for bed, she noticed something in her pocket. She reached in to find a pouch that contained the same dolls she had slept with under her pillow the night before. She was surprised because she was sure she sold all of the dolls to the man. Inside the pouch was a little note that read: “Tell these dolls your secret wishes. Tell them your problems. Tell them your dreams. And when you awake, you may find the magic within you to make your dreams come true.”
“You are feeling sleepy… verrry sleepy…” Those are the words that we think of when we imagine being hypnotized. You may have seen a stage show where a hypnosis performer gets people from the audience into a trance, and then gets them to act silly. But could hypnosis really be used to help us sleep better? For many, the answer is a resounding yes!
I studied hypnotherapy and got my certification years ago. I’ve found that this is an effective tool to use in many areas of our lives.
Hypnotherapy has been used to treat various ailments since the 18th century, although hypnosis itself dates way back to prehistoric days. Hypnosis isn’t magic, or brainwashing, it is actually a heightened state of concentration. There are many times we’ve been in a state of hypnosis and not even been aware of it – for example, when we are engrossed in a really good movie, or super focused on solving a problem. That’s when the rest of the world somehow goes away. We might be called for dinner and not even be aware of it. That’s how hypnosis works.
Hypnosis is often performed by a certified hypnotherapist who guides a person into a trance-like state where suggestions can then be given to the subconscious mind to help that person improve a golf game, increase their confidence levels, decrease anxiety, overcome a fear, or attain other goals such as getting a restful night’s sleep. But we don’t necessarily need a hypnotherapist to achieve these results. We can use self-hypnosis, a technique very similar to guided meditation.
When we have trouble getting to sleep, it’s likely that we are having trouble relaxing for one reason or another. We may be stressed, worried, or feeling anxious. Self-hypnosis is one way that we can help fix the relaxation response that triggers sleep. Hypnosis helps us to refocus our thoughts by focusing instead on certain words, music, or a soothing voice. In this way we basically retrain the brain to once again relax when it is time to sleep. We provide the mind and body all it needs to calmly drift off into a pleasant sleep state.
The benefit, of course, is that when we awaken from a great night’s sleep we feel more energetic and focused. So, we are naturally more productive and motivated!
There are many self-hypnosis apps and recordings available and you can try some to see what works for you. Some of these programs use “binaural beats” as a background “white noise” kind of sound. Before sleep the brain must achieve the delta frequency. Binaural beats, a combination of sound frequencies, are used as a tool to help sync the brainwaves to that delta frequency.
Autogenic training, also called Autogenic therapy, is one form of self-hypnosis. This relaxation technique was developed by Johannes Schulz, a German psychiatrist, in 1932. With Autogenics, through a series of sessions, we gradually learn to relax the limbs, heart space and breath. The idea is to induce a feeling of warmth throughout most of the body, and a feeling of coolness in the forehead. It is a way for us to influence our own autonomic nervous system to counterbalance the effects of stress. The Autogenics technique creates a physiological response, preparing us for sleep.
To practice Autogenics follow these guidelines:
– Practice alone, in quiet, or with soft background music or environmental sounds.
– Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and no shoes.
– Practice before meals so that the digestive process doesn’t interfere with the relaxation process.
– Take your time, do not rush.
– Sit comfortably in a chair, or lie down.
– If you are practicing at bedtime, make sure your room is conducive for sleep, and that your mattress is comfortable and supportive.
– Now follow these six steps:
1) Warm -up: Begin slow, deep breathing. Inhale for one beat, exhale for two. With each breath, increase the duration of the inhales and exhales, always doubling the length of time for the exhales. Breath to six counts in, and twelve counts out. Then reverse the process all the way back down to one count in and two counts out.
2) Heavy and Warm – Heaviness and warmth represent muscular relaxation. Visualize and actually feel your limbs becoming heavy. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My arms and legs are” and on the exhale: “heavy and warm.” Repeat two more times.
3) A Calm Heart – Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My heartbeat and breathing are” and on the exhale: “calm and steady.” Repeat two more times.
4) A Warm Stomach – this helps you to add a central warmth and peace to your body. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My stomach is” and on the exhale: “soft and warm.” Repeat two more times.
5) A Cool Forehead – This helps you provide a calm, stabilizing coolness to the forehead. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My forehead is” and on the exhale: “cool.” Repeat two more times.
6) Completion. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “I feel” and on the exhale: “supremely calm.” Repeat two more times.
It is important to memorize this “script” so that you don’t have to spend energy trying to remember the words. Many people find it beneficial to record their own voice with the prompts, and this may be a good way to start. The repetition of the words helps to get the body and mind into a calm, relaxed state, which in turns promotes peaceful sleep.
When you are first learning Autogenics, practice this routine three times throughout the day. Before breakfast, before lunchtime, and then right before bedtime so that it helps you to fall asleep. Give it some time to see the best results. Most people notice a big, positive shift in their sleep patterns after a few weeks of practicing Autogenics.
Important note: Never listen to any hypnosis recording or try to use self-hypnosis while you are driving or operating heavy machinery. Also, hypnosis is not recommended for those with epilepsy or for those with any kind of psychosis. Always follow the advice of your health professional.
Here is a sleep hypnosis recording I made just for you!