It's November, and as I pondered what to write here, it came to me how grateful I am for the practice of gratefulness! A thanks-filled mind and heart have been an important part of my journey to live more gently with myself. Why? Because it takes so much energy to maintain the opposite.
When we're focused on what is going wrong in our lives—or how much we wish our lives were different—a great deal of energy is expended. Negativity, or living in lack, can be exhausting. Over the years, I've found there's a better way...
Today's blog post is an excerpt from the Introduction of my book, "Thank You" Is My Prayer. Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart. The words speak for themselves. I hope they touch your heart this November!
A spiritual practice is a unique opportunity to experience sacred time and space; to remove ourselves from the distractions and noise of a too busy world, and to remember our spiritual connection. Spiritual practices, properly cultivated, help us access all of the virtues of the Spirit: inner calm, joy, compassion, and gratitude.
Our inner landscape can shift dramatically when we have the diligence to root our spiritual practice in the cultivation of just one virtue of the Spirit. Focusing our intention and attention on just one thing allows us to deepen our understanding and experience of it. This deeper experience reveals previously hidden truths, even, a truer reality. Gratitude can be this one focal point, and, in Eckhart-like fashion, it can be enough. I know this from my own experience and from gathering up the success stories of similar seekers.
For many years, I was not particularly attuned to the generosity of the Divine One and the natural abundance available to us on a day-to-day basis. In fact, when I discovered gratitude as a spiritual practice, I was at a low point in my life. I was stressed, sick and overwhelmed. I had no clarity about how to reverse my situation. A friend suggested the daily gratitude practice espoused by Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book, Simple Abundance. I chortled at her premise that recording five things you were grateful for each day could transform your life. But I gave the practice a go. I was desperate for inner change.
I vividly recall the day I chose to begin the practice. I was lying in bed in the wee hours of the morning. Five things, I thought to myself. Just five. And this is what I came up with: Birds singing outside my window, the smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen, the sounds of my children’s laughter in the next room. Wait, I thought to myself, that’s only three. Despite earnest effort, a trio of “Gratitudes” was all I could come up with. Heaven knows why (after that failed beginning) I stuck with the practice, but I did. By week’s end, I was up to five Gratitudes, and I was feeling noticeably better.
What I realized was that by “looking for the good”, my way of perceiving the world was changed. Instead of focusing on what was wrong or missing in my life, I began to see with the eyes of my heart. And what I saw when I looked was a cornucopia of things that did not cost money or require effort. Things that helped me acknowledge the generosity of the Creator, particularly through nature. Things that were beautiful, timeless and true. Surprisingly, at the end of one month of gratitude practice, I felt truly happy again. Hallelujah! I believe the same can hold true for any of us.
With an ongoing practice of thankfulness (one that has now spanned twenty years), I’ve witnessed how gratitude gives rise to all of the virtues of the Spirit. A grateful heart is a joyous heart because there is nothing perceived as lacking. A grateful heart is a peaceful heart because we are satisfied with what is here, now, with life just as it is. A grateful heart is a loving heart because we are supremely aware of how fortunate we are to be givers and receivers of love, both human and Divine.
With intention, attention and practice over time, gratitude delivers us into the arms of Presence: a profound awareness that the Divine is always here, within us and around us, showering us with invitations to look more deeply and to see the inherent blessings in everything. Even when life is difficult, blessings are present.
Excerpted from "Thank You" Is My Prayer. Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart, available in our online store.
©2016, Janice L. Lundy. Heart to Heart Press
After eight weeks of in and out travel (and pretty much living out of a suitcase), I'm home and getting back into a routine that honors my contemplative nature and needs. And though I have plenty to catch up on, including caring for our house, my body, and my work life, this segment I wrote for Living Gently with Myself is the focus of my efforts as I "regroup." I hope you enjoy and find it helpful ... wherever you are.
When I wrote my first book Coming Home to Ourselves, I was living a completely unbalanced life, which I set out to correct. I created a system whereby I would spend an allotted amount of time each day on each part of my personal triad: body, mind, and spirit. I theorized that by doing so I would get my life back in balance. Much to my surprise, my theory, put into practice, worked. One year after I implemented it, I felt great and my health returned. My life did feel more balanced.
Yet, walking the beach one year later, realized I was not completely at ease within myself. I felt unsettled much of the time and was not sure why. That afternoon, as I lay on the beach, relaxing, soaking up some sun while my children were occupied elsewhere, I found myself drawn to read a new book I’d picked up featuring the poetry of the 12thcentury Persian poet, Rumi. Rumi was madly in love with God.
As I read, listening to the waves lap upon the shore, I felt internal waves of peace and love wash through me, carrying me into what I can only call a unitive experience, a genuine feeling of oneness. Of belonging. Of deep connection to the God of my understanding, which, ironically, was very limited at the time.
In that moment, an awareness whooshed in (dare I call it grace?) that I was still living “upside down.” I was working too hard at getting my life just right by focusing on balance; trying to do all the right things for myself—body, mind and spirit. I experienced a new knowing that life, ultimately, was not about balance at all, but about harmony.
Balance, by its very nature, is impossible. Nothing is ever in perfect balance. I often assure myself of this by visualizing a teeter totter. The plank on which we sit is never completely parallel to the ground, it’s always tipped a bit, one way or the other; more up than down, more down than up.
The words of Rumi I read were not about balance and getting our lives just right, but about spiritual living, heeding the voice of the soul. When we can listen in thus way, he said, the soul points us toward the One. We are divine creatures in human form and we are most happy when we are living in harmony with the Creator, the Beloved, as Rumi called it. I knew in my bones that what he said was true, because in that moment, lying in the sun on a hot August day, I came to realize I was supremely happy feeling connected to Source.
From that day forward, I shifted my daily focus to take care of my spiritual life first, and then my body-mind second. The “balancing act” approach to life suddenly felt like striving and was deeply unsatisfying. I experienced a shift when I addressed my spiritual connection first. Everything in life seemed to fall into place as a result of this. Prioritizing my relationship with the Sacred through various spiritual practices enabled me to feel harmonious within myself, and at ease with all aspects of my life. The same can be true for any of us.
Putting your spiritual life first is a game changer. In fact, when you do, you will realize there is no “game” at all, just a beautiful Flow and you are part of That.
Is your inner life a priority or does it play second fiddle to attending to all of the responsibilities of your daily life?
© 2018, Janice L. Lundy
Excerpted from Living Gently with Myself: A 30-Day Guidebook.
Heart to Heart Press
I believe in the power of practice. In order to be proficient at anything, you have to do it again and again. Whether it's learning to change a diaper, writing a grant or rock climbing, practice makes progress. Taking good care of yourself and modulating your emotions works the same way.
Emotions are running high for many of us these days. The world does not go gently. It takes dedication and practice to know how to keep yourself calm and steady in difficult circumstances. In my new book, Living Gently with Myself, I reveal one of my favorite practices for doing just this. I call it "Gentling Down."
I'd like to share the full selection from the book with you here, hoping that it will help you shift gears from stressed to serene when you need it most.
Lesson 23: "Gentling Down"
When we are unfocused, stressed, worried, or hurrying, we begin to feel off center, disconnected from what matters most—living gently with ourselves. It doesn’t take much for this to happen, the world and its pressures being what they are. The good news is that we always have the opportunity to “return” again and again. We are creatures of choice and we can turn ourselves in any direction we wish. It simply takes remembering to do so.
When we do remember, we can stop to take a sacred pause. A sacred pause begins by taking one, genuinely deep breath. A full inhale followed by a full exhale. Feel the effect of that. Fully feel the breath working its magic upon you.
When we are moving quickly or overcome with emotion, it is not always easy to immediately settle down, as much as we might like this to be the case. Instead, we might require some time and space to do so. When this happens to you, you can give yourself a few extra minutes to gentle down. Here is how gentling down works:
When you are driving a car, for example, at some point you may need to shift the car into neutral; to glide or coast to a stop. Gentling down works exactly like this. Imagine yourself grabbing hold of your inner gear shift and moving it into Neutral position. Continue imagining that your body vehicle is starting to slow down. With each inhale and exhale—breathing in, breathing out, ever so kindly—it rolls to a gentle halt. Feel this slowing down take place within you and ride its rhythm. Give yourself as much time as you need to slow way down.
When you have “stopped” inside yourself, give yourself an additional gift: rest there for a few more moments. Maybe minutes, if you have them to spare, and I hope you do. Continue to breathe by feeling yourself “being breathed,” which is a wonderful sensation because it invites you to let go of any pressure you might be feeling to breathe correctly. You can let go and allow your body’s system to do what it does best. You can also put a spiritual spin on this process and imagine that the Creator (Spirit, God, Love) is actually breathing through you to gentle you down, sustaining your life so you don’t have to do anything at all but accept the gift of breath.
Gentling down is a supremely self-compassionate thing to do. Self-compassion, as you will recall, involves catching yourself in a moment of suffering, and then doing “the kindest thing.” When you have gentled down and are breathing normally once again, you may notice that your clarity returns, bubbling up like water from a refreshing spring. And with this clarity, you will know what to do next, whether it is to put your feet up and relax more deeply, or to make that phone call you’ve been putting off; to step out into your garden to smell the roses or get started making dinner.
When there is so much that life demands of us, gentling down is a very good tool to use to come back to center—no matter where you are or what you are doing. Gentling down may take a bit of practice but, if you’re like me, you’ll soon discover that this technique of literally “shifting gears” is oh, so helpful. And healing.
Excerpted from Living Gently with Myself: A 30-Day Guidebook
©2018, Janice L. Lundy
Living Gently is here.
Purchase your copy today.
Living Gently and kindly with yourself is absolutely possible whether you are the CEO of a corporation or a stay-at-home mother; a college student or a retiree; a “regular” person who is doing the best she can to live in harmony with herself and others but, perhaps, struggling along the way.
"If the breathing is at all unsettled, life is not your own."
"Heaven and Earth," c. Ming dynasty work Anthology on the Cultivation of Realization by unknown author, translated by Thomas Cleary in Taoist Meditation
On any given day, how do you truly feel? Do you feel calm and centered, or do you feel as if you've taken a seat on the carousel of life, whirling 'round and 'round, at its mercy?
I'm recalling a time when I climbed aboard the Tilt-A-Whirl at our local fair with my youngest daughter—against my better judgment. You see, I do not like carnival rides. The motion actually makes me very ill. But she begged me to ride with her and I reluctantly agreed. We climbed aboard, and as the whirling began, I thought to myself, "This isn't so bad. I think I can handle it." Within seconds though, the operator shifted gears and dramatically increased the speed and rotation factor. Sheer terror came over me, that out-of-control feeling knowing I was at the mercy of this man (who had a profoundly menacing look on his face), and there was no way I could get off the ride to regain my equilibrium. The whirling seemed to go on forever. I nearly cried with relief when it stopped, wobbled my way to a nearby restroom, where I collapsed on the floor and emptied the contents of my stomach into the commode. I lay there for what seemed like forever trying to regain my footing. I felt dizzy and nauseous for the rest of the day and upset with myself because of the poor choice I'd made.
Of course, my over-the-top carnival ride isn't a perfect metaphor for what can happen to us in daily life, but it is similar. Many of us are familiar with that spinning, out-of-control feeling as we move through our days; a loss of equanimity from the pace or "too-muchness" of life.
The only "remedy" I know for this is to come back to "center" as quickly as we can with the healing power of our own breath. I think of breath as our sacred touchpoint, the fulcrum of the human teeter-totter of life. It calms and stabilizes us like no other force or practice. It is simply miraculous! We carry our breath with us and can access it any time: "Portable Peace." And, as you know so well, the challenge is remembering to use it when you need it.
But did you also know that breath can bring you back to center in a variety of ways? Conscious breathing is not just for stabilizing, but for deep calm, and also for raising our energy level when we are feeling sluggish or worn out. Yogis of the past and present document the differences for us. Breathing one way, we get super relaxed, in another way we attain equanimity. And in yet another way, we can raise our energy to very high levels of strength and endurance.
I love this thought, offered by an unknown yogi. "When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace." If we are to live more gently with ourselves, it is vital that we own our breath, claim its power to do whatever our body/mind needs in the moment—whether it be rest, balance, or energy—so we can continue to serve ourselves and others well. The beautiful breath that moves through your being is a gift of the greatest measure. I invite you to learn to harness it for your own good.
Vigilance, faithfulness, to one’s practice is important on the spiritual path. As Joan Gattuso reminds us, “Without spiritual discipline we are never going to wake up or advance on our journey through this life.” It’s true, if we are not alert, our spiritual practice can become shoddy and prone to excuses. Spiritual laziness is a real danger. It is good to be watchful for these tendencies.
On the other hand, we can also place too much pressure on ourself to get our practice exactly right. Unconsciously we may strive to become the perfect pray-er, meditator, devotee, or disciple. Our practice can actually become a source of pressure and angst because we have burdened it and ourself with unhealthy “shoulds” and expectations. We live in a culture that focuses on human perfection, and sometimes, mistakenly, we link the quality and frequency of our practice to some sort of divine reward system.
Wisdom resides in walking a middle path. We keep our eyes on the goal of practice (self-realization, God-realization), yet at the same time, we treat ourself kindly and gently. Spiritual progress is not about achievement but about accessing more gentle places within us. Quiet places where we can hear our own compassionate voice saying, “Rest”; where we hear a divine voice whisper, “Welcome home.” “Progress not perfection,” is a wise mantra to keep.
You can learn more about and read excerpts from this transformative spiritual formation book here. Available in our online store.
If you were raised in the Christian tradition, you are familiar with Lent. And depending on your family of origin, perhaps you honored Lent in a particular way.
The German mystic, Meister Eckhart, wrote,
“If the only prayer you ever offer is
‘Thank you,’ that will suffice.”
So often our prayers are supplications.
We ask Spirit for things, people, opportunities.
Our needs naturally bring us to the act of prayer.
Yet, prayers of gratitude, of thankfulness, are important acts
that deepen the connection between ourselves and Spirit.
To offer a heartfelt, “Thank you, God!”
delivers us to the realm of unseen abundance.
We view life as blessed and fruitful instead of scarce;
we begin to live from a place of fullness in our lives.
We are and have enough.
From "Thank You" Is My Prayer: Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart
I enjoy the holidays and the fond memories they bring to mind. I am one of those women who likes to be organized for the holidays, well prepared before they arrive. In years past, I’d have a goal for myself to have the gift shopping done by Thanksgiving. This way I could enjoy the month of December; play with my kids, bake, gather with friends, and savor the sights, sounds and smells of the season— without succumbing to the hustle and bustle of it all.
And yet, there is a whisper inside of me that cautions me not to place so much attention on finding the perfect holiday gift for everyone. Most recently, I find myself thinking, instead, about intangible, “boxless” presents we could exchange with one another. Considering, what things mean the most to us? What would we like to receive from someone else? I know what I’d like to receive from the loved ones in my life. I’d like to be given the gift of their time. In my view, there is no better gift than being able to spend time with the people I love.
Moving through life at the pace we are, it's our free time that becomes a precious commodity. Might it be possible this year to ditch the "To-Do" List and create a “To Be” list for ourselves—a roster of all the ways we can be with the important people in our lives—giving the holiday gift of our presence instead?
What might be on your “To Be” list? Perhaps a leisurely walk with someone who needs a listening ear; reading a book with a grandchild; reliving old memories perusing photo albums with an aging parent or grandparent; a phone call to a childhood friend (or someone with whom you’ve lost touch). These are the things that mean the most: the gifts of listening, caring, and presence. They are things that cannot be wrapped in pretty paper and placed under the Christmas tree. They are entities of enduring value. They are also memories in the making, gifts that will last and last.
Time moves quickly. Life is short. When all is said and done and we look back upon our lives, what we’ll remember most are the people with whom we spent our days and nights. We will recall the warm hugs of friends, children, and grandchildren; hearty conversations at the dinner table; the late nights we shared comforting one another through the ups and downs of life.
It’s interesting isn’t it, the similarity in these two words: “presents” and “presence”? Which would you prefer to receive? If gift giving is at the top of your priority list, my hope for you this holiday season is that you will dig deeper than your pocketbook and creatively design some quality time--the gift of presence—for the important people in your life. And that you will receive some in return, as well.
©2016, Janice L. Lundy
Savor the Days with Me
The "Season of Light" is upon us. Are you feeling busy and overwhelmed? Stop, breath, take 5 minutes with me each day to enjoy a period of ritual and prayerfulness "bearing the Light."
12 days with 12 short, candle-lighting rituals with meaningful prayers for keeping "what matters most" front and center. Begin today and rededicate yourself to cultivating presence in this holiest of seasons.
Another selection from my book, "Thank You" Is My Prayer: Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart.
It is difficult to see the good in any tragic situation.
© 2016, Janice L. Lundy
Excerpted from "Thank You" Is My Prayer: Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart
Thankfulness Is the Fruit of Spiritual Growth ...
I have a wonderful new offering for you. A collection of my original (and most requested) prayers, blessings, affirmations and reflective essays on how to keep gratitude in our heart, even in difficult times. Gratitude is a potent spiritual practice and one that can transform us and our lives from the inside out if we allow it to.
Learn more and read excerpts here.
"Ask and it shall be given to you."
Many spiritual traditions teach this belief about prayer.
It illustrates how we believe that a Higher Power
is ever present and receptive to our needs and desires.
The power of prayer is in the asking.
In petitioning Spirit (or Love or the Universe or the All) for assistance,
we open ourselves to greater goodness, to flow.
In surrendering control and admitting we need sacred support
to guide us, heal us, sustain us,
we expand our own capabilities to let go
and receive the gifts of the spirit.
© 2016, Janice L. Lundy
Excerpted from "Thank You" Is My Prayer: Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart
The Season of Thankfulness Is Upon Us ...
... and I have a wonderful new offering for you. A collection of my original (and most requested) prayers, blessings, affirmations and reflective essays on how to keep gratitude in our heart, even in difficult times. Gratitude is a potent spiritual practice and one that can transform us and our lives fro the inside out if we allow it to.
Learn more and read excerpts here.
Pre-orders thru Nov. 9 receive a 25% discount.
Self-compassion is not just about being nice to yourself. It's so much more than that.
Often we confuse self-compassion with pampering or indulging ourselves—like getting a massage or eating that extra cookie because we "deserve it," or taking a bubble bath.
While those activities are nice and they feel good (they relax the body-mind, decreasing cortisol while amping up oxytocin), they are only the bandaid for the hurt that lies beneath.
When I began my inner journey, I didn't know what self-compassion was. I thought it was "self-nurturing" or "self-care." I did a lot of that in my early years because my body-mind required it for stability. I'd done some real damage to myself because of harboring too much stress. I required gentle activities to heal. I received my first massage, got a facial, went on retreat, took naps and gave myself treats. What I didn't give myself was a break.
Meaning, beneath all of the stress and overwhelm (to which I applied band-aids) were stories I kept telling myself about who I was and how I was supposed to be. Lots of stories! Pampering and self-indulgence worked to relax me but they didn't release the stories that kept me stuck in what I thought I needed to do to be a worthy human being; to be loved; to be successful.
Self-compassion came onto my radar screen years later when I realized that many of my life choices had been based on what people told me when I was a child, role modeling, and old patterns I'd developed to stay "safe." Not until I was ready to take a good, long loving look at these was I able to begin to free myself of things like perfectionism, over-achieving, self-doubt, self-criticism, co-dependency and diminishing my own needs in difficult times, just to name a few. Many of us hold these stories deep within us. In fact, I believe most of us do!
Indulging myself, which provided temporary comfort and healing, did not get to the heart of the matter.
Good self-care could be thought of as "Self-Compassion 101." It addresses the basics and meets our immediate needs. And it's an excellent place to start! On a deeper level, though, there is a story to be uncovered: the story of why we don't care well for ourselves, or don't give ourselves permission to do so in the first place.
Self-compassion requires profound self-awareness and willingness to grow. It also demands absolute honesty and transparency. The path of self-compassion is a bold path. It requires courage and perseverance. It invites us to explore what keeps us in suffering (and sometimes self-neglect), deep into the truth of who we are in our essence. Self-compassion allows us to live more authentically with ourselves in good, loving, kind ways.
So while I do enjoy the occasional indulgence (especially taking long baths and eating chocolate chip cookies), what I really love is feeling at peace within myself, confident that I know how to, thoroughly and honestly, tend well to my whole self (body, mind, heart and soul).
Self-compassion helps me know that I am doing the best I can in any given moment to meet life head-on with courage and grace.
Dive into self-compassion—lovingly and gently!
Put yourself on the path of self-compassion with this directed retreat--a gentle "day in," learning to care for your whole self in nurturing ways. And to unravel a story or two!
"The Kindest Thing" self-paced, at-home retreat is a soulful exploration and experience of "Self-Compassion 101."
Through videos, audios, and self-nourishing activities, Jan will personally guide you through your retreat so you feel the transformational power of your own loving-kindness.
Learn more and download your retreat today!
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we are meant to live.
Purchase Your Copy Today
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.