Radiant Practice #4: The Artist’s Date

One of the most inspiring things I took away from reading Julie Cameron’s game changer “The Artist’s Way” was the concept of the artist’s date. As part of each week’s assignment, we were told to take ourselves out on a date. It didn’t have to be fancy or expensive, just a time once a week to go on an interesting or inspired outing.
At first, the dreaded “shoulds” came up. “I should be working right now, instead of taking myself out” or “I should hurry up and get this date over with since the house is so messy” or a bunch of other negative self-talk. The idea of taking myself out on a date seemed silly, extravagant even. Especially since we are struggling with money, spending even a small amount of it on just myself seemed selfish.
But I took on the challenge whole-heartedly. I began taking myself on outings. I would scour the internet to find free or cheap events, discounted museum days, outdoor places I had never been to and just about anything out of the normal routine of my work/school day. I penciled them into my planner as if they were important meetings and I stood by the commitment (even if it meant leaving my “real” date buddy home!) As I began to take these dates more seriously, I began to take my self-care more seriously as well.
I realized that I didn’t spend much time just listening to my intuition, body, desires and heart. During the dates, if I wanted to stop by a store and spend an hour just perusing the goods, I did so, without worrying about the time constraints I would have felt had I not been solo. If I felt an intuitive pull to walk down a certain street I would follow, not having to advise someone else about the new plan. If I desired to eat a doughnut while watching a really silly movie at the theater, I enjoyed it, without feeling embarrassed or defensive about how I sometimes like to spend my down time.
The process of the artist’s date allowed me to respect time by myself, to understand what I need on a regular basis and to begin to provide for those needs, in a fun, creative and inspiring way.
Previous artist’s dates have included:
fun magazine reading and a chai out in a rose garden
practicing walking meditation in a sacred labyrinth
taking a peaceful nap among the trees, soaking in the sun on a comfy blanket
I have been practicing this ritual for about a year, although there have been windows of time where I have either been too busy/stressed/sad to go on one or where I completely forgot. And even throughout this difficult time we have had since we moved here, the artist’s dates have been my comfort, my joy and my creative leap into a little piece of the unknown.
What do you think about the artist’s date? Do you take yourself out and if so, what kinds of things do you do?

Radiant Practice #3: Get Great Sleep!

This practice comes from a lesson learned just a few weeks ago. I had been out at a fascinating workshop for school on Theta healing (which I hope to learn more about and give you an update later) and got home pretty late. By the time I got back, it was at least 10:30 (which, on a school or work night is pretty darn late to us!) and my husband was waiting for the clothes to be finished in the dryer. Since we hadn’t seen each other all day, we wanted to catch up and chat. Once it was finally time to go to bed, I remembered that we needed to change the sheets.

Full disclosure: I kinda have a thing about changing the sheets. Although we only switch them once a week, if a week and a day passes and those same ol’ dirty things are still on the bed, I go into freakout mode.

Of course, midnight isn’t the best time to put my foot down about this kind of thing, but I cannot be logical when it comes to our sleeping quarters. On top of it all, we don’t ever stay up that late anymore (save the strange occasional night where I go all out, stay up until the wee hours of the morning and then promise myself to never do it again). We don’t function when we are sleep deprived. And so the seemingly small task of changing the sheets turned into a silly and overdrawn argument. My partner and I hardly ever fight, so even a stupid little spat like this one threw me for a loop. I had a hard time falling asleep and woke up cranky, exhausted and feeling bad about the way the midnight sheet change went down.

So folks, the moral of the story is: GET GREAT SLEEP! Forget good sleep, get amazing, incredible, mind-blowing and life-changing slumber. Out of all the things you can do for your body, it is truly is one of the most important.

Ayurveda has three pillars of health. The second pillar (food comes first, of course) is nidra, or sleep. Sleep plays a crucial role in processing and assimilating not only physical substances (such as food, drink, medicines, etc.) but emotional and mental stuff as well (thoughts, feelings, memories, trauma, and so on.) When we sleep, our bodies are able to devote all of their attention to regeneration and repair, allowing us to wake up feeling better and stronger than when our heads hit the pillow the night before.
The problem is, you need A LOT of sleep. In Ayurveda we say that “there is no antidote for not enough sleep”. You can’t take a pill or do some exercise to make up for only getting five hours and honestly, if you aren’t giving your body the time to rebuild itself, all the spirulina in the world can’t save you.

So how much sleep is enough sleep? It depends but Ayurvedically, vata people need the most sleep, pittas need a moderate amount and kapha folks need the least. Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration what kind of imbalance a person might be going through, the season, the cycle of their life, etc. It is safe to say that eight hours of sleep a night is a great target for everyone. An Ayurvedic sleep schedule would be a bedtime of no later than 10pm and waking up at least at 6am. If you can’t get to sleep by ten, please please please get to bed before midnight! Multiple studies have been done proving that the actual quality of sleep after midnight is significantly lower than sleep before then. One of the most beneficial practices you can get into the hang out is picking a bedtime and sticking with it. Ayurveda is all about consistency, so establishing a routine for when and how you will be resting will pacify vata (which almost everyone had too much of these days) and allow your body to recharge its batteries.

[adorable lino-cut print from Katie Muth]

Radiant Practice #2: Daily Outdoor Time

I consider this daily practice one of the most important ways to restore health and happiness. Being outside in nature does so much for your spirits and your body. When you develop a regular practice of spending time outside, you become more aware. Of the birds chirping, of the wind rustling, of the warmth of the sun shining upon your face. This awareness boosts our vitality, our presence in this world and actually changes the chemical balance of our bodies! When we spend time in mindful awareness, especially outdoors in a natural environment, our neurotransmitter levels shift, flooding our systems with serotonin (“the happy hormone”) and reducing our levels of cortisol (“the stress hormone”). This balances our GABA levels, allowing for more restful sleep and a stronger immune system.

On a more emotional level, getting outside (especially when you are down) can help tremendously with issues and problems you may have in your life. I know from personal experience, when I am feeling really depressed I don’t want to go outside. But those are the times that you should definitely be out and about! Taking a walk to my neighborhood park or by the surrounding area of redwoods by my old house (boy, was I lucky in Berkeley!) did wonders. When you participate in nature, you begin to remember our part in this Universe and suddenly, your problems don’t seem so soul-crushing anymore. It gives the great gift of perspective and when done on a regular basis, can restore your outlook on life in many important ways.

What about if you live in a city? Well, for me (now living in downtown San Francisco), finding just one spot that I can go to is all I need. I retreat to my (tiny) back yard and sit on a wicker chair. I close my eyes, bask in the loving energy that the sun radiates down to us and practice deep breathing. Being aware of all that is around me and of my place in the macrocosm of the Universe, I am able to process my emotions, feelings and experiences in a healthy and healing way.

So try it out. It may just be a walk around your block while you notice little flowers by the curb. Or it may be to sit in your favorite park, or the garden of your local house of worship. Even practicing this exercise while waiting on a busy street for the bus can be extremely beneficial, as the incredible gift of our planet is always and forever surrounding us with love and care.


[incredible photo of Oregon from Bliss Blog ]

Radiant Practice #1: Daily Heart Time

Hello there dear friends! Hope your week has been lovely. Things have been good around here and this time, the cleanse seems to be flying by (which I think is a good sign, since the first 21-day detox I did a few years ago seemed to last forever!)

I wanted to introduce you to a new series round here called “radiant practices”. I am delving further into ritual, routine and lifestyle in both my studies as well as my personal life and thought I would start sharing some practices with you that can make you feel more radiant inside and out!

Radiant Practice #1: Daily Heart Time

We are all so busy with our lives, there doesn’t ever seem to be enough time to get it all done. I know that the first thing that usually suffers is our own time for growth, rest and relaxation. Throughout my very busy last few years, I have realized just how important it is to make that time a priority. Everyday. No excuses, no procrastinations, just scheduling it in as if it were a super important meeting.

So why is this kind of time so important? We spend so much of our day doing other people’s work. Giving our energy to others, working for someone else, listening to the problems of our friends or partners, etc. And while being of service is important, we can’t do our best out in the world (let alone sustain that energy in the long-term) if we don’t put ourselves first sometimes.

Especially since we are all so busy and stressed, it is essential to do something that makes your heart happy. Of course, this will look different for everyone. Someone might use this time to go on an aggressive bike ride while another might use it to nap with their kitty. The point is, find something that truly makes your heart happy and go for it! It doesn’t have to be a huge deal, but make sure you are consistent and schedule it in pen, not pencil!

Personally, this cleanse has heightened my intuition big time. It has been a really amazing experience, just being able to hear the voices and guidance from myself even more than usual and I am trying to make the most of that. Last night, I had a powerful sense of urgency surge through me and I knew what I needed to make my heart-happy practice: read A Course in Miracles. It has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time and although I have been wanting to read it, now I know the time has come. So until I am done, my heart-happy practice will be 30 minutes of reading ACIM everyday. It doesn’t matter if I am stressed, busy or burnt out. Giving myself the time to do something spiritually fulfilling refuels my inner self and allows me to be more present and productive out in the world.

So I ask you, dear readers: what will your heart-happy practice be?

[medicine image from The Wastetime Post]