Weekend Healer - essential home programmes to refresh body, mind and spirit (Gaia)
The Weekend Healer offers seventeen weekend programmes to indulge in at home. Each programme will help you get the most out of the weekend with advice on making time for yourself and ways to give yourself a boost. Experience the positive effects of a range of natural therapies and techniques for restoring body, mind and spirit.
* Pamper yourself with beauty and healthy weekends
* Cleanse your body with a detox weekend
* Discover new and positive things about yourself - explore your subconscious
* Get away from it all with a home retreat
* Celebrate the seasons with your own weekend rituals
* Shift your routine, clear your life - discover a new you.
* Delve into shamanism, the Qabalah and expand your spiritual awareness.
THE WEEKEND HEALER INTRODUCTION
Weekends are special. They are oases of calm in a hectic world, offering “time out” from work and everyday routine. They are times when we can do what we please and be who we want to be. Or so they should be. Too often we waste our weekends in a flurry of chores, in endless shopping trips or by flopping and “vegging” out in front of the television. Don’t fall into the wasted weekend trap.
A weekend is just the perfect amount of time for a healing break: two whole days is time enough to make serious changes in your life; to set up a whole new pattern; to shift into an entire new way of living.
I hope my book, The Weekend Healer, has weekends for everybody. If you feel the need to give your body some attention you can spend a weekend making friends with your body (in the Awareness weekend) or gently detoxing your entire system. Lacking in energy? Try the Energizer weekend. Need some pampering? Go for the Beauty weekend.
In this section of the website, we’ll give you some tasters from each section..
If it’s your mind and emotions which need a workout, you could opt for one of the weekends in the Mind section – learning how to get in touch with your subconscious; or rethinking your life; or getting out of a rut. Everyone in a couple should try the Relationships Weekend at least once, if not regularly!
Our souls are often ignored in our busy lives and there are several weekends to redress the balance, teaching key concepts such as meditation, prayer, ritual and altar-making. If you’ve ever wondered about practices like shamanism or the Qabalah, there are also weekends to introduce the key elements of these systems and give you a taster.
The last section of the book gives ideas for celebrating the seasons. Our ancestors would have enjoyed a cycle of festivals and rituals to mark the changing year. Here you will find four weekends to tie in with the four major seasons of the year. They will help you attune to the shifting energy of the year and address the major issues each season brings.
One consideration: the dates given in this book apply to the Northern hemisphere (ie mid-winter falls in December, mid-summer in June). If you live in the Southern hemisphere, you will have to adapt the dates.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR WEEKEND HEALING
Once you have chosen your weekend, you need to make preparations. The shopping list at the beginning of each weekend gives a rough list of the main things you will need. But spend some time reading through the weekend beforehand and figuring out precisely what you will need to make that weekend special.
Try as far as possible to get everything you need in before the weekend. Not just any special “props” but also basics like food and drink.
Do inform your family and friends what you are doing – and explain that you won’t be able to rush off and do things in the usual way. If you’re sharing your house maybe you could ask if other people would be willing to help out by giving you peace and quiet when you need it; by clearing up their mess so you don’t have to do it; taking messages for you on the phone; leaving you the bathroom free for your evening bathing ritual – or whatever. If you live alone – or have planned your weekend so you will be alone (a great option) then you might consider putting the ansaphone on and a note on the door explaining you’re busy.
Not all the weekends call for absolute solitude (a lot of them are actually very sociable!) but some (particularly the spiritual ones) do require peace and quiet. You really should not be disturbed in the middle of a shamanic journeying or a Qabalistic pathworking for example – so when you are doing rituals like these do make it clear that you MUST NOT be disturbed for the duration of the ritual. Coming very swiftly out of a deep journeying ritual can be very disturbing to the psyche and could result in a rotten headache or a feeling of general dis-ease. If you ARE jolted out, ask for five minutes to “recollect” yourself and sit quietly, breathing deeply. Apologise to any inner world beings you may have been with and swiftly bring yourself through the returning steps of the ritual. Make sure you stamp your feet and are fully grounded.
The suggestions for each weekend are just that – suggestions. Don’t feel you have to follow them as a doctor’s prescription! If you really dislike art, for example, and the weekend suggests you get out your paints, you have two options: either you decide that you might discover something interesting by working through your distaste and just go for it, or you pick something similar from another weekend (maybe some movement, or dialoguing).
Everything in this book is inherently safe. I have tried all the exercises myself and a lot are ones I use regularly. However, they ARE powerful and many of them work very deeply, both on the body and the psyche. If you have any physical health problems, conditions or concerns I would firmly advise you check with your physician before doing any of the exercises in this book. You will be able to relax more fully knowing that you can’t be doing yourself any harm.
Every weekend (even the very physical body ones) will also work deeply on a psychological level. Don’t be surprised if the exercises bring up old or unexpected emotions or memories. Sometimes you might find some of the emotions unsettling or downright uncomfortable. For the most part, I believe we only bring to conscious awareness those issues with which we are ready to deal. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable, stop doing the exercise and spend some time breathing deeply to calm yourself before returning to the work. If you feel the emotion is simply too much, stop the exercise altogether and make yourself a cup of tea and do something very ordinary such as watching the television or listening to the radio. When you feel calm, you might want to talk your experience over with a friend. You might also consider finding a qualified therapist to work with. I firmly believe that if an unpleasant emotion emerges, it is asking for attention. But if the emotion is very painful, do work with a professional.
I do hope you find these weekends inspiring and exciting. I hope they bring you fresh insights and new ways of looking at yourself, the people you know and the world around you. Above all, I hope you enjoy them and find them good fun. Happy weekending!
WELCOME SUMMER WEEKEND
Summer is sun-time, fun-time, the exuberant outdoor season of holidays and relaxation, fun and play – or so it should be! If your summer so far has continued to be a slog and the living “isn’t easy” take this opportunity to celebrate the joy of summer. Traditionally this would be around the Summer Solstice (June 21st) but any summer weekend is a good enough excuse.
· paper and pens
· bright cloth for your altar, plus colourful candles and your choice of party gear, photographs etc.
· favourite childhood book and/or videos/toys
· picnic paraphernalia – your choice of food, drink, games, musical instruments etc.
As summer arrives you need to adapt your diet to deal with the hotter weather.
· your diet should revolve around lighter, cooler foods. This is one season of the year where you can generally eat cold food with impunity.
· Think about fresh salads with interesting dressings; fresh fish or chicken barbecued or pan-fried over an open fire. Vegetable kebabs and cous-cous.
· Make the most of summer fruits: eat them raw, chop them into salads, juice them into smoothies with live yogurt.
· Avoid salty and fatty foods – they will overload your system.
· Drink plenty of water. Keep alcohol to a minimum (it is heating to the body).
Make a list of your very favourite people. Call them all up and tell them you love them and want to see them – and how about a big picnic on Sunday? Just do it – then you can’t wimp out.
Spend the rest of the evening making your summer altar. This should be a joyous celebration of fun so think wild and unrestrained.
1. Choose a bright altar cloth – vivid pink (maybe sari fabric?) or red (the brighter the better) or something crazily patterned or a riot of colour.
2. Your candles can be every bright colour you like (but do include some red).
3. Add heaps of summer fruits and flowers – a profusion, a cornucopia of scents and colours. If you have access to the magical midsummer herbs of mugwort, vervain, St John’s Wort and thyme add these too.
4. Add pictures of all your favourite people – and people you admire that you don’t know who act as inspiration.
5. Put on some toys or cartoon figures – maybe party squeakers or balloons – anything that signifies life and joy to you.
6. Your altar probably won’t need any additional scents – but if it’s not fragrant enough burn some feelgood oils such as geranium or rose.
As you have your breakfast, make a list of all the things you used to love doing as a child and teenager. Get in touch with your sense of fun and promise yourself you will do at least a couple of them over this weekend. This could involve:
· rereading a favourite childhood book
· watching a video of your favourite childhood movie/s or TV show/s. Curl up on the sofa with a bottle of pop and a bag of sweets (just this once!).
· Play mermaids or Action Man in the bath.
· Get out a kite and go flying – or throw basketballs, or skip rope, or see if you can still play jacks, or marbles. Play a game of ping-pong; try charades.
· Find a funfair and try all the rides and all the sideshows. Have a toffee apple or some candyfloss.
· Track down a pool with slides and wave machines and frolic.
Some of these ideas could be brilliant fun for your picnic tomorrow. If you feel you’re just too strait-laced for these, take a child (or borrow a friend’s).
Summer is a good time to look at your self-esteem and how good it is – or isn’t! With high self esteem we can conquer the world, so it’s worth spending some time on this exercise.
AUDITING YOUR LIFE
Sit down with a large pad and mark each page with a different category: your appearance and body image; your personality; your work; your home life; your relationships; how you react socially and intellectually; and your sexuality. Then on one side of the page make a list of all your positive points, your virtues and strengths. On the other side list your negative points, your bad habits, vices and weaknesses.
· Which list is longest and in which areas are the negatives clustered? You may have good self-esteem in many areas but have one or two areas which need attention.
· Are your criticisms realistic or precise? Work through the list replacing words like "stupid" with something more accurate, for eg, "I sometimes lack information" or "I get flustered in social situations."
· Take particular notice of your good points, amplify them and feel good about these aspects of your life.
THE INNER CRITIC
Your inner critic is the interior voice that monitors your every move and either approves or disapproves. A part of our brain that has usually been programmed in the past, the critic often links you to early authority figures such as parents. Start to listen for the voice that tells you how stupid you are or what a failure you are or how ugly you are.
· Does it sound like anyone you know? Try to recognise the voice.
· Count the number of critical thoughts you have about yourself in a day and keep a thought diary for a while. At the end of the day, look at your list and work out the purpose behind each thought - was it goading you to do better or was it giving you an excuse for not doing as well as you might? Was it protecting you from something?
· Start getting angry with your inner critic and silently shout at it every times it starts to attack. "Shut up!" often works or simply recognise where the thought comes from - "this is just a lie my father told me".
Make a list of your achievements in life - from learning to ride a bike or swimming a width to having a baby or getting a new job. Write down half a dozen achievements and think back to how they made you feel. How exactly did you feel the day you passed your driving test? When you got the letter saying you'd got the job? When they put your baby in your arms? Learn to recreate the feeling on demand and whenever you start to feel hopeless or useless bring back that feeling of achievement.
Summer is the time to get in touch with both our body and emotions – and to look at how the two are entwined.
Spend some time this evening getting in touch with your body – many of us are completely out of touch. Do the movement and art exercise on page ??? Try some dancing (see Spring weekend).
Do you have any particular aches and pains or problems with your body? Physical symptoms in your body may be early warnings - of something going wrong with our psychological wellbeing. Of course, there may be a simple physiological explanation - but it’s worth pondering a deeper meaning. The following table offers suggestions to some common complaints. If yours isn’t here, ask yourself what it might mean…your intuition may well have the answer.
WHAT IT MEANS
WHAT TO DO
suppression of feelings; afraid to break the rules; feel you don’t deserve what you want
What frightens you? Can you work out what you want but feel you don’t deserve? Think about it and talk about it.
low back pain
you’re overburdened; overwhelmed; overly responsible
Allow some fun back into your life. Delegate your responsibilities. Take Elm Bach flower remedy.
someone is treating you unfairly; you’re feeling irritable or upset by someone (or by your own behaviour)
Who or what is a “pain in the neck” for you? Write a letter to that person - you don’t have to send it. Have massage or osteopathy for short-term relief.
you are frightened of what others will think. You are caught between what you want and what you think others require of you.
Acknowledge your fear - and your desires. Be candid about your concerns - explain why you blush (ie you’re nervous of public speaking; you always blush when you meet new people).
anger, resentment, disappointment
What makes you angry? Who makes you angry? Can you express your feelings - if not with words, then by writing a letter or painting a picture - or hitting a cushion.
you’re not saying what you feel or think.
Try to express your feelings. Singing or chanting can help - or try screaming or groaning. Consider assertiveness training - or take up a martial art.
Give the whole day over to a wonderful wild picnic for all your favourite people. Choose a good spot – it might be by the sea, or on the shore of a lake; or by a river bank (having water nearby is a great idea if that’s possible.)
Make your preparations. Everyone can join in (it’s more fun that way). Choose all the kind of picnic party food you loved as a child (plus a little fragrant punch or the odd bottle of chilled white wine!). So think about little sandwiches and pies, and jellies – or you might decide to have a huge outdoor cookout – maybe a vast paella bubbling over a cookfire or fragrant Moroccan kebabs sizzling on a grill.
Pack plenty of sun cream and big hats (you might have a “theme” for your picnic such as Southern belles and gentlemen or Edwardian seaside; or Woodstock revisited or Teddy Bears picnic etc). Children love dressing up and adults often do too!
You might want some to add some props for games – balls, bats, nets (but also allow space for imagination). Also add in musical instruments (if you play them).
Once you’ve made your preparations allow your picnic to run itself. Just let people enjoy themselves and relax. Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect – the perfection comes from the mix of the right people! Be prepared for some conflicts – summer is a time of heightened emotion and at pagan ceremonies it’s traditional to have mock battles and fights at this time of year. Maybe work in some physical competitive games (competition isn’t always bad!) such as tug-of-war or split people into teams and send them on a treasure hunt (perhaps having to find a natural object for every letter of the alphabet). Take it in turns to look after children so you all get a rest.
If you haven’t had a fire through the day think about one as evening draws in. Make sure it’s safe and that you aren’t disturbing the environment (you can dig out a pit and save the turves for replacing – or build on a beach). Obviously if you live in an area where forest fires are a danger, skip this part.
Sit around the fire as the evening draws in and take it in turns to tell stories or sing songs. Let children (and adults) show off – summer is a good time for that. Remind each other why you like each other – talk about happy memories and shared times. Remember people who can’t be with you.
Sometimes you just need to get away from it all, to go within and re-connect with your essential self. But there’s no need to spend loads of money or travel hundreds of miles to a special retreat - just turn your own home into a weekend sanctuary. There is no rigid prescription for a retreat weekend - the following are just some suggestions. Listen to your inner voice and follow your intuition - you won’t go far wrong.
· candles, your favourite essential oils, incense
· inspirational books and music (if desired)
· comfortable clothes
· paper, paints, journal, pen
· food - see box
Wind down and make your preparations:
· arrange to be by yourself - or agree with your family to allow you uninterrupted peace - and seclusion.
· warn friends and family that you won’t be available for calls or visits. Put a “do not disturb” message on your ansaphone - and your door!
· make sure you have everything you need for the weekend - so you don’t need to disturb your tranquillity.
· try to clear your space of clutter - see the Re-arranging Weekend (page ??) for tips.
PREPARE YOUR SANCTUARY
Choose one room in which you will spend most of your indoor time. Make sure it is comfortable and relaxing. You may want to do the following:
· Clean your space - using natural cleansers. Adding a few drops of essential oils can make your room smell delicious and will also affect your mood.
· Take out everything distracting - you don’t want to surround yourself with things that remind you of everyday life. If possible remove the television, radio, computer, work files.
· Make your space comfortable. Have plenty of cushions and a rug for floorwork. Maybe a yoga mat or a meditation stool. A comfortable chair.
· Think about whether you want silence or would like some well-chosen music. Have the necessary tapes or CDs to hand.
· Pick out a few inspirational books - see further reading for some ideas.
· Candles provide soft light and introduce the element of fire. Pick your favourite aromatherapy oils to burn or choose incense you like. Surround yourself by images and objects which inspire you.
Eat a light, nourishing, soothing supper. See the box for ideas. Make your mealtimes mindful: say a form of grace in thanks for your food. Be aware of each mouthful of food. It is usually a good idea to eat in silence, concentrating on your food - don’t distract yourself with a book or music.
CHOOSE YOUR PURPOSE
After supper, sit down in your sanctuary and mull over what you want from this weekend. Affirm to yourself that this is time for YOU - that it is a sacred time, devoted to your inner wellbeing. You may wish to light a candle and quietly focus on your intention.
· what do I most need in my life right now?
· what does retreating mean to me?
· what do I fear about going on retreat?
· what do I most hope for on this retreat?
· what questions should I ask myself on this retreat?
BOX: FOOD FOR RETREATS
When you’re on retreat you need food which is comforting and nourishing - but above all balanced (not too soporific but not too stimulating). The easiest way to do this is to follow macrobiotic guidelines. In simple terms this involves choosing your foods from this list:
· whole grains
· beans and pulses
· vegetables and fruits, including seaweeds such as dulse, wakame etc
· seeds and nuts
· tofu, tempeh and miso
Make your choices simple (you don’t want to spend ages in preparation and cooking). These are good choices:
· rice and steamed vegetables
· salads with added nuts and seeds if it’s warm
· vegetable stews and casseroles if it’s cold
· fruit salads and fruit and vegetable juices
There is no fixed routine for this weekend. You must do as your spirit guides you. However you might find these guidelines helpful:
· Although many people see fasting as synonymous with retreating, it’s a good idea to eat three healthy meals a day (see box) - modern retreats are not hair-shirts and if you’re hungry it’s tough to concentrate on anything other than food.
· Early to bed, early to rise is a good maxim to follow on retreat.
· You may wish to incorporate some meditation or quiet contemplation into your day.
· Likewise, this is a good opportunity to practice breathing, yoga, chi kung or tai chi (dip into other weekends for exercises and routines).
· If you have issues you want to explore you may find using painting useful (see the following page) - but equally you might investigate writing, chanting or dance.
· Make a note of any random thoughts, images, dreams you have in your journal.
· Try to spend at least some time out in nature - either quietly walking, meditating, practicing yoga or just sitting and observing.
· Don’t be too busy!
PAINTING YOUR INNER SELF
Painting, drawing and sculpting are all ideal partners in the retreat process. Don’t come with any expectations and let go the concept that you have to paint “properly” or draw well. Art can free the unconscious mind quite dramatically and many people have found startling answers to problems with these techniques.
You will need somewhere you can be messy if need be. If necessary cover an entire wall with an old sheet and put another on the floor. You can work on a table or pin your paper to a piece of chipboard on the wall. Choose large sheets of paper - newspaper is fine. And pick your choice of art material - poster paints are a good choice for beginners.
1. Spend a few moments centering yourself and breathing deeply. You may wish to lie down and practice full abdominal breathing (page ??).
2. Now look at the paper and paints and brushes. Which brush draws you? Which color calls to you? Pick up your brush and make marks on the paper.
3. An image may come to mind - so represent it in whichever way you like. Or you may just splash color around. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to “go right” - rest assured, it is just fine, whatever you have done.
4. If you find you are really stuck try one of these tips: paint with your non-dominant hand; close your eyes and paint; put on some music and follow the rhythm of the sounds.
5. Allow your feelings free rein. You may find you want to use your hands and fingers instead of a brush. You might want to scratch or tear the paper. You may simply paint one color - or one tiny image.
6. If you feel emotions coming up, give them permission and allow them space. You may feel like crying, or shouting, or beating the wall (or a cushion).
7. When you feel you have finished, take a break and leave your painting for a while. You might break for a cup of herbal tea, or a meal, or a walk in the garden.
8. Come back and look at your image. What does it say to you? You may want to write down any thoughts and responses in your journal. If your painting had a name, what would it be? If it had a message for you, what would it be?
BOX - MAKING A MANDALA OF YOUR LIFE
· Draw or paint a large circle. In the middle you might like to put a photograph of yourself.
· Divide the circle into segments; one for each role in your life. So you could have “software developer”, “mother”, “partner”, “cook”, “lover”, “exerciser”, “gardener” etc. How much time do you give each role - make it clear by how large each segment is.
· Now put an image for each role. You may want to cut out images from magazines - or paint pictures, symbols or just colours.
· Look at your mandala - how does it make you feel?
· You may now wish to paint a mandala of the way you would LIKE your life to be. How much time and energy would you give to each role? Are there other roles you’d like to explore?
SEEKING THE SACRED
Traditionally retreats were religious in purpose. However you feel about mainstream religion, it is worth bringing a sense of the sacred to your retreat. How you do this is up to you but you might consider the following:
BUILD AN ALTAR: An altar is simply a place to focus your intentions and open yourself to the possibility of the divine. It can take many forms and should incorporate items which have meaning for you. For example:
· items which symbolise the elements: a bowl of water (you may wish to add flowers or petals); a candle (for fire); incense or aromatherapy burner (for air); crystals, a bowl of salt or pebbles (for earth).
· images, statues, pictures which have meaning for you - these could be religious (perhaps a figure of Buddha, the Cross, a Star of David, the Goddess, Shiva etc.) or secular.
· items from the natural world which resonate - stones from a stream, a pebble or shell, leaves, flowers, pieces of wood.
· pictures of people dear to you; or images of yourself doing activities you enjoy. Or something which symbolises your goals and aspirations.
You can use your altar as a place of prayer - or find another spot which suits you. There are many ways to pray - you may feel comfortable with traditional prayers, chants or blessings particular to your (present or childhood) faith. But equally you can take a more freeform approach.
· If there were a deity, what would you want to ask him/her?
· What is there in your life for which you are thankful? What gifts have you been given? Offer up your gratitude for life’s blessings.
· What is there in life which troubles you? Ask for guidance, help, support and comfort.
· You don’t need to sit still, or kneel to pray. Try going on a “prayer walk”. Pick somewhere safe and preferably beautiful, where you can walk slowly. Keep your pace measured and rhythmic. Notice the world around you - pay attention to the beauty in nature. As you walk, you may want to pray for people you know; or mull over concerns or anxieties with the divine.
THE BREAK-THE-ROUTINE WEEKEND
Sometimes you look at your life and realise you are stuck in a rut. You’ve been following the same routine day in, day out – and are feeling jaded and bored. It’s time to jolt yourself into a whole new lifestyle. Obviously you can’t change your entire life in a weekend, but you can make a good start. At the very least this weekend will challenge your perceptions and shift your consciousness into a new pattern.
· green candle
· pine or lemon aromatherapy oil and burner
· pen and paper, crayons or paints
· a selection of completely different foods and drinks from usual
· Walnut Bach flower remedy
Tonight you’re going to be doing a fair amount of writing and thinking so choose a meal that is easy to prepare. Which of the following would you never normally eat? Fish and chips; takeaway Indian or Chinese; a humus sandwich; miso soup; tofu stirfry? Choose the one which you have never (or rarely) eaten before.
THINKING ABOUT ROUTINE
1. Light a green candle (to symbolise fresh beginnings) and maybe burn some pine or lemon aromatherapy oil.
2. Spend some time writing down how you spend your life now. What is your daily routine? Be specific: do you always get up in the same way? What do you eat for breakfast? How do you get to work etc?
3. Do you do specific things on specific days? Do you take your holidays at the same time or go to the same place? How much routine is there in your life?
4. How does this make you feel? Do you feel comforted by routine or stifled by it? Sometimes it’s hard to tell until you try making a shift. This weekend you are doing to do things completely differently, as often as possible. It may sound contrived but just try it: sometimes even a small or silly shift can produce a completely different perspective and open up new opportunities. So play with this.
5. Next to every entry on your paper, write down something opposite or totally different. Ie: buy a croissant on the way to work for breakfast: make a home breakfast of fresh fruit salad and muesli. OR: Drive to work/shops/school: take the bus/train/cycle
6. Go through the day in this way and resolve to shift absolutely everything you can this weekend.
Before you even get up, shift your usual morning regime. If you’re usually up at the crack of dawn, try lying in bed for a while, just thinking or with a book. How does it feel to relax like this? If you are a habitual lie-in-bed, set your alarm for dawn and get up with the birds.
STRETCHING THE WOOD ELEMENT
According to Chinese philosophy, the body contains five elements. The Wood element relates to creativity and expression and if Wood is balanced in your body you will be far more flexible and creative, confident and decisive. Help bring Wood into balance with these simple shiatsu and stretching exercises.
1. Sit on the floor with your legs spread wide apart. Reach down to your left foot, looking at your right foot, feeling the full stretch down your side and legs. Repeat on the other side.
2. Stand up with your feet apart. Let your arms swing loosely from side to side for a few minutes. Feel the air on your arms. Be as loose and relaxed as possible.
3. Lie on your back. Have someone rotate the joints of your shoulders and hips. They should lift your leg or arm and support the shoulder or hip with the other hand. The movement should be gentle and smooth. If the joint sticks, gently pull the limb and hold the stretch for a few moments. It should feel good, not painful - don’t go beyond what feels comfortable.
4. Further stimulate Wood by taking up yoga - or by carrying out a full programme of stretching every day. Try the Sun and Moon Salutes on pages ??? and ????
Now go outside, to your garden, or park or a wild place nearby. You’re looking for a stone, one that “speaks to you”. You’ll know it when you find it. Pick up the stone (or sit by it if it’s a huge boulder!) and sit quietly with it. Feel it (with your fingers and hands, against your face); smell it; look at it (really notice everything about it); taste it. Build up as much knowledge as you can about this stone. Now imagine you actually ARE that stone. What would it be like to be a stone? Feel how stone energy would be. Don’t race this exercise – stone energy is not a swift thing, it takes time and patience.
When you feel this is complete, either put your stone back or take it with you for future meetings.
Now repeat this exercise with a piece of wood. What is the difference?
If you have time, you can continue, sensing the energy of an animal. How would it feel to be a rabbit, a dog, a horse, a squirrel?
These exercises expand your awareness and open you to different kinds of energy. Few of us have the ability to shift energy patterns yet it can be very useful. If you are facing an interminable wait stone energy is very helpful (what are a few hours or even millennia to a stone?).
Go out to a nearby town. If you usually drive, take the bus. If you usually take the train, book a taxi. Go somewhere completely different for lunch: if you always grab a sandwich in a café, treat yourself to a proper meal in a smart restaurant – or vice versa. If you usually eat alone, arrange to meet a friend. If you never eat alone, make a point of it! Don’t pick your usual favourite on the menu – try something completely different.
Now make a point of going into at least three shops you would never normally visit. Keep an open mind.
How do you usually spend your evenings? Tonight do something you would never usually do: maybe try a classical concert (or a rock gig); going salsa dancing or for a walk in the moonlight. Stay in and pamper yourself with a beauty evening (see Beauty weekend for ideas); turn off the television (or, if you never watch it, turn it on!) Whatever you do, make sure it is different.
If you come back in time, try this exercise. Take out a large sheet of paper and make a list of 100 things you would like to do in your life. They don’t need to be practical or sensible and they can range from the small and humdrum (get a haircut, buy some incense) to the medium range (visit a health-farm, learn to read the tarot, go to French evening classes) to really wild scenarios (start your own business; travel round the world; have cosmetic surgery; move to another country).
What kind of spiritual life do you have? Do you have any spiritual practice? This morning think about expanding your spiritual perspective. Do you go to regular worship? Think about visiting another place of worship, either of your own or a different faith. Or stay at home and spend some time in meditation and quiet prayer.
If you have no faith and no spiritual practice, think about your relationship to the divine. If you have a longstanding dislike of church or synagogue or mosque, maybe now is the time to re-evaluate. If there is a service this morning, why not go? If not, maybe just visit to get a feel for the place.
We can get in ruts with people just as easily as with activities. This afternoon we’re going to look at a technique which helps you transform difficult relationships. Think of someone who you find really difficult and with whom you have a bad relationship.
1. Sit or lie down and spend a few minutes breathing calmly and deeply.
2. Now sit up and write down the reasons for your argument. You can pour out all your resentment and any feelings of anger.
3. Now set up two chairs. Sit in one and imagine the other person is sitting in the other chair. Tell them exactly why you find them so difficult.
4. Now swap chairs and imagine you are the other person. Why do they find you difficult or unreasonable? Allow yourself to slip into their shoes and express their grievances.
5. Swap chairs like this for as long as it takes to understand both sides of the question. Try to accept that there are two sides to every disagreement. People are just different!
6. Now burn the piece of paper containing your grievances.
7. Send unconditional love to the person. However difficult you may find this, persist as it is deeply transformative.
Use this technique any time you find yourself at implacable odds with someone. It can be enlightening to see the world from someone else’s perspective.
This evening look back at your list of the 100 things (or, if you didn’t have time yesterday do it tonight). Decide that you will do at least one in this coming week. Underline the ones you would really love to do. Make a time frame: commit to doing some in the next year. For longterm goals, work out things you could do towards that goal – ie put aside £10 a week towards that round-the-world trip; find out how to retrain in your ideal career; spend an hour a day (or a week) writing your novel.
Finish your evening with these simple exercises from Educational Kinesiology. They help to re-tune the brain and teach you to start seeing the world in a different way.
BELLY BREATHING: This improves the supply of oxygen to the entire body. It relaxes the central nervous system while increasing your energy levels. It can help improve both reading and speaking abilities.
1. Place your hands on your abdomen. Exhale through your mouth in short little puffs, as if you are keeping a feather in the air, until your lungs feel empty.
2. Now inhale deeply through your nose, filling yourself like a balloon beneath your hand. (By arching your back slightly you can take in even more air.)
3. Then slowly and fully exhale through your mouth.
4. Repeat this inhalation and exhalation, establishing a natural rhythm, during the course of three or more breaths.
BRAIN BUTTONS: This stimulates the carotid arteries which supply freshly oxygenated blood to the brain. They help re-establish directional messages from parts of the body to the brain, improving reading, writing, speaking and the ability to follow directions.
1. Rest one hand over your navel.
2. With the thumb and fingers of the other hand, feel for the two hollow areas under the collarbone, about one inch out from the centre of the chest. Rub these areas vigorously for 30 seconds to one minutes, as you look from left to right.
BODY AWARENESS WEEKEND
Are you good friends with your body? Or are you indifferent acquaintances or, even worse, sworn enemies? Few of us are really in touch with our bodies and the consequences can range from niggling aches and pains to chronic disease. This weekend will help you redefine your relationship with your body.
· your choice of healthy eating foods (see box)
· 6 litres mineral water
· Walnut Bach flower remedy
· lemon, geranium, lavender and Roman chamomile essential oils
· sweet almond oil
Tonight you’re going to start focusing on your body, becoming more aware. Start with a refreshing shower ritual.
1. Put a couple of drops of lemon oil (which is refreshing and promotes self-awareness) on a bath-mitt or loofah.
2. As you wash each part of your body, focus and bring awareness to that part.
3. Affirm to yourself that, this weekend, you will treat your body with kindness..
Eat your usual kind of supper but become aware of what you are eating and drinking.
· How does it taste? How does it feel in your mouth?
· How do you feel as you eat?
· How do you feel after your meal? Ten minutes later?
· Does your body like this kind of diet? Does it give you the right combination of energy and peace? Do you sleep well afterwards?
· Just become aware of how your body enjoys (or doesn’t!) the food you feed it.
HEALTHY EATING BOX
Diet affects every part of you – body, mind and emotions. So it’s worth eating well. The following are very general guidelines. This weekend, try to make sure every thing you eat is providing the best possible nutrition.
· food should be as natural as possible - organic, grown locally and in its natural season.
· eat loads of fresh fruit and vegetables: at least five portions a day.
· stock up on complex carbodydrates - brown rice, oats and other whole or unrefined grains; wholemeal pasta and bread, potatoes.
· add a good source of protein: pulses, nuts, lean white meat, fish (particularly oily fish), soy bean products.
· spice up your food with herbs and spices which have wonderful healing benefits. How about growing your own in tubs or window boxes?
· drink at least 3 pints (2 litres) of fresh mineral water each day.
· cut down on alcohol. Wean yourself off caffeine (in coffee, tea, sodas) - try herbal teas instead.
· cut down on the following: salt, sugar and artificial sweeteners. “Junk” food, ready meals and fast food. Smoked meats and sausages are full of additives; red meat, full-fat dairy produce and fried foods .
Affirm to yourself as you lie in bed that this weekend your aim is to become more aware of your body; to learn to listen to its needs and to be kinder and gentler with it. Take three drops of the Bach Flower Remedy Walnut in a glass of mineral water - Walnut helps us to make changes and to break with your old unhealthy, unhelpful habits.
Try this exercise immediately upon rising. It helps you become aware of your body, more conscious of how it feels. It is worth spending at least twenty minutes on this exercise - it sounds simple but can provide you with essential knowledge.
1. Wearing no clothes, or loose-fitting nightwear, lie on the floor on your back.
2. Become aware of your body as it is right now. Feel the floor underneath you - notice where your body touches it and where it doesn’t.
3. Place your attention in your feet. How do your toes feel? Your heels? Are your feet hot or cold? Light or heavy? Is there any difference between the two feet?
4. Work up your legs, asking the same questions of your ankles, your calves, your knees, thighs, hips. Move onto your buttocks, belly, abdomen, chest and shoulders.
5. Concentrate on your back. How does your spine feel? Do you notice any difference between the lower, middle and upper regions of your spine? How is your neck? Continue down your arms, wrists, hands.
6. Finally move to your face and head. Are you holding tension in your jaw? Is there a difference between one side of the face and the other? One eye and the other? Your ears? How does your scalp feel? Your hair?
TALK TO YOUR BODY
We usually never think of asking our bodies what they need or want. This morning sit down quietly and dialogue with your body: ask it
· what it needs right now - water; food (what food?); a good stretch; exercise; rest; sleep?
· what it would like to do this morning?
· what changes it would like you to make in general: change of diet; more, less or different exercise; stress relief; more rest etc..
· follow its demands as wholeheartedly as possible. Make a plan of how you could adapt your lifestyle to help your body with what it needs.
If you find this difficult imagine what your body MIGHT say, were it to know? Just play with the idea - you may be surprised at what emerges.
AFTERNOON: Have some bodywork. Many of us suffer from touch deprivation - our bodies are simply not stroked, rubbed, massaged and touched enough. This afternoon try to make time for a professional session - check out your local health centre or Yellow Pages for ideas. All forms of bodywork help you get in touch with your body - and can often release old hurts and memories too. Here are some options:
· aromatherapy: a gentle massage with therapeutic oils.
· shiatsu: Japanese energy treatment, using acupressure and stretching. Great if you’re self-conscious as you leave your clothes on.
· Thai massage: “lazy man’s yoga” - deep stretching (again you keep your clothes on).
· tuina: Chinese therapeutic massage - strong bodywork and manipulation.
Practice the art of good breathing - it puts you in touch with your body and is an invaluable tool for good health.
1. Lie down on the floor and make yourself comfortable. Bring your feet close in to your buttocks and allow the feet to fall apart, bringing the soles of the feet together, hands resting gently on your abdomen. (Note: this may feel uncomfortable and, if so, you can put cushions under your knees.) This posture stretches the lower abdomen which enhances the breathing process.
2. Breathe in with a slow smooth inhalation through your nostrils, feeling your abdomen expand and contract. Your fingers will part as your abdomen expands.
3. Exhale slowly and steadily through your nostrils, noticing your abdomen flatten and that your fingers are once again touching.
4. Pause for a second or two and then repeat this inhalation and exhalation, becoming conscious of the movement of the breath down through your chest and abdomen. Breathe naturally at your own pace in this way for around five minutes or as long as you feel comfortable.
5. If you feel comfortable with this you can extend the breath so it comes up from the abdomen into the chest as you inhale. This provides a longer, deeper breath.
6. Finally, bring your knees together and gently stretch out the legs. Allow yourself to relax comfortably on the ground for a few minutes (you may feel more comfortable with a cushion under your lower back or your neck.)
BATH AND MASSAGE
Finish your day with a long, luxurious bath (add a couple of drops each of lavender and roman chamomile oils to relax and foster acceptance). Massage yourself afterwards with a blend of four drops each of the above oils in four teaspoons (15-20ml) of sweet almond oil. Pay attention to each part of your body, spending more time on the parts which are sore or stressed.
You don’t need perfect technique - just a willingness to touch and connect with your body.
Today we go deeper into body awareness. Affirm to yourself that this is an enjoyable and satisfying process. If you have any doubts or problems, don’t dismiss them: spend time quietly thinking the issues through. You may find it useful to write down your thoughts and irritations.
Repeat the body awareness routine as you did on Saturday. Now check what your body wants to do today. It might ask to:
· walk - don’t march, be aware of how you are walking; what you are seeing, hearing, feeling around you.
· sit under a tree and muse, or meditate, or read or dream.
· exercise - maybe a bike ride, or a swim, or a session at the gym or an aerobics class. If you don’t exercise, spend time thinking what form of exercise you might enjoy.
· enjoy another massage - maybe a different one. Or you could find a friend and trade massages.
· play games: which sports did you enjoy at school? Maybe it’s time to join another netball team or play football, or baseball. Play hide-and-seek with the kids.
· practice yoga or pilates, or chi kung, or tai chi. If these forms of mind-body exercise are new to you, find a local class and investigate.
· look into new ways of cooking and eating: maybe buy a book on low-fat cooking; vegetarian eating; macrobiotics; or food combining; or ayurvedic eating? Your local health centre might hold healthy cookery classes.
· see a natural healthcare practitioner: your body might be crying out for a dose of homeopathy, acupuncture, herbalism, nutritional therapy; ayurveda; reflexology, naturopathy. Browse the internet or your local book store for books on different therapies. Which appeals most?
This afternoon, try movement and art to become aware of your body. Make sure you will not be disturbed – you might want to draw the curtains! Don’t be afraid to do whatever you feel the urge to do – this isn’t about “proper” dancing or “good” art – it’s about learning more of your body.
1. Take off your shoes and socks and start walking around the room, becoming aware of how your body relates to it. Notice how your feet feel on the floor. Notice how your arms might want to stretch out.
2. Stop for a moment and balance firmly on both feet. Feel your body relax into your pelvis. Feel your pelvis as a bowl which supports your body. Bring your awareness here and feel how it wants to move.
3. Feel how your body wants to move. Don’t just move for the sake of it but really listen to what your body wants. It might feel like throwing itself around the room; it might want to sway gently; it might want to curl up in a ball.
4. If you do stop moving, remain aware that this might just be a pause. Be open to the idea of movement and await your body’s orders. Allow it to do whatever it wants.
5. When you feel that your body has expressed itself as fully as it is able at this juncture, take out a sheet of paper and crayons (or paints) and let your hands inscribe how your body feels or what message it is giving. Your drawing doesn’t have to be representative – it might just be marks or colours.
6. Sit back and look at what you have produced. What does it say to you? You might want to write down any thoughts which come to mind.
Follow the bath and massage routine you did last night. As you bathe think about what you have learned about your body over the weekend. Which of its needs will you try to address in everyday life? Affirm that you will be kinder to your body from now on.