I recently returned from an amazing 7-day yoga retreat in Spain. What made it so amazing? The nurturing and intimate environment that Soulla and her friendly team at https://www.soulshineretreats.com/ created where everything was planned and done for us. From creative vegan meals prepared with love and served by an amazing chef, to the beautiful venue – a huge house overlooking the ocean with an infinity pool; to the candles by our bedsides that were lit each night; to the gifted alternative healers and the thoughtful team who anticipated and cared for our every need.
Soulshine Retreats, run by the experienced yogi Soulla, has about a 60 percent return rate. Out of the 14 people who participated in my retreat, 11 had been to at least one or more of Soulla’s previous retreats. Why do you think that is? Part of it is due to the beautiful spaces Soulla selects, the warm and caring team she has put together, her warm and soothing voice, the creative and thoughtful way she skilfully designs and delivers her daily program of yoga, meditation and workshops. The other reason I believe is that few of us in our busy lives take time out to nurture ourselves. We spend much of our time giving to others; to our families, friends, staff … . We also have packed schedules and spend much more time doing than being. These are several of the key attributes of High Achieving Women that I share in my book – https://pamela-thompson.com/books/.
There is strong evidence to show that if we don’t take the time to create space in our lives to receive and give to ourselves and take time to be, we are often unable over time to cope with the stress of everyday life and either burn out, go on stress leave or get diagnosed with cancer or an autoimmune disorder such as fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis.
I’m not suggesting that you head off to one of Soulla’s retreats every time you wish to treat yourself; although that would be awesome! I’m suggesting that you create a list of ways that make you feel special and nurtured and consciously incorporate these into your life on a regular basis. Some of mine are:
- Walking in nature in a nearby park or by the ocean close to where I live
- Having a bubble bath with a candle and dim lighting
- Listening to my favorite music
- Having a massage; ideally with the masseuse coming to my home
- Having a pedicure
- Going to live theatre
When I do the above, I feel more relaxed, rejuvenated, creative and in alignment with the mantra I am worthy. I deserve the best and accept the best now.
I’d love to hear from you what things you do to treat yourself and how you feel when you do them. I welcome your comments below.
In late May of this year, I made a public commitment in my blog – https://pamela-thompson.com/creating-space-the-how-and-why/, that I was intending to create more space in my life this summer. This is an update on the actions I’ve taken so far to create more space and what I’ve noticed as a result. I’m sharing these with the hope that you may glean something useful from my experience, and feel comfortable sharing yours.
The first thing I did was to really get clear on what I wanted to “do” this summer and what I wanted to “stop doing”. I realized that I did not want to attend a business conference in the US as I wasn’t ready to declare my business goals for the coming year. I cancelled my flight, hotel and ticket for the conference and then booked a vacation to visit family and friends in eastern Canada as that felt “right’.
I was on the Leadership Team of an entrepreneurial women’s group, spoke with the head and handed off my position to another woman with a supportive call. I then put my membership to that group on hold.
I am on a number of lists and began to unsubscribe from many. It felt SOoo good. For some time I’ve been thinking of doing this but felt I might “miss out” on something. Do you relate? I was surprised at how easy it was to hit the unsubscribe button. It feels so much better each day when I open up my emails and see that they have decreased considerably.
In general, I feel more relaxed. In fact, most of the time I have an incredible sense of inner peace and calm. On a recent visit back east, one of my friends who I hadn’t seen in over a year, commented that I was getting younger!
I have little structure in my life, other than meditating and doing a stretching routine every morning and yoga three times a week. I make a point of spending a lot of time in nature, either walking, kayaking or riding my bike. It feels like I awaken each day with a clean canvas on which I can choose to paint anything I wish. I feel liberated. It’s wonderful!
In the past when I’ve taken some time off, I usually am thinking about the next thing I’m going to do. In contrast, this time, I have no idea what my work will look like and I’m relaxed and fine with that. I trust that I will get clarity when the time is right.
Most of the time I feel present and playful. This enables me to have more focused conversations with my partner, other family members and friends. I’m having more fun and I feel more centered and grounded.
I’d love to hear from those of you who’ve committed to creating more space in your life. What has the experience been like for you? How are things unfolding? I welcome your comments below. Feel free to share this with others who you think might benefit.
Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m on my yoga mat or spending time in nature by myself. How about you? What have you noticed when you create space in your life; e.g. when you sit still, stop doing and get out of your head and into your body? Feel free to add to the list below.
What happens when we create space?
- Calm and relaxed
- More Joy
- Connected to our “true” selves
- are open to new people and opportunities coming into our lives
- allow negative thoughts and emotions to surface and be released
- provide space for creative ideas to emerge
- experience improved health
- get clear on what is really important to us.
How can we create space? Here are a few ways I’ve found helpful.
- Spending time in nature
- Meditating daily
- Leaving my calendar “open”
- Doing yoga 3 times a week
- Journaling regularly
How can you start “Creating Space” in Your Life?
I – A good place to begin is by answering the following questions:
- What fills me up? and 2) What drains me?
Here are a few examples to get you started
What fills me up?
- Spending time in nature
- Regular Yoga practice
- Spending time with my grandbabies
What drains me?
- So many emails
- Feeling responsible for others
- A totally planned and structured life
- The “shoulds” in my life
- Old programming that says in order for me to be loved and valued I need to achieve and perform.
II – Review your two lists/ answers to what fills you up and what drains you. Commit to integrating two or more items from “what fills you up” into your life starting tomorrow and start to reduce and eliminate two or more items that “drain you”. Over time, continue adding and eliminating things from your lists and notice how you feel and what your days look like.
It is important to do this in your own time, listening to your body. Remember this is not a race or an opportunity to say to yourself “look at all the new things I’m doing”. Rather, it is to assist you in getting out of your head and into your body; to becoming more consciously aware of what you do, how you feel, and what things bring you joy.
I’m doing an experiment this summer and have committed to “creating more space in my life” and to noticing what my life looks and feels like when I do this. How about you? Does this idea intrigue you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and strategies you use to create space in your life. Feel free to comment below and to share this post with others.
My Mom was an amazing woman. Sadly she died too young at 62, after living with metastases from breast cancer from age 54. When she passed, I consciously looked at myself, and my life, and realized that I did not want to die young. I reflected on some of the ways I lived my life and decided to take better care of myself; instead of give, give, giving as my dear mother did, to start setting better boundaries. Gabor Mate in his book When the Body Says No cites powerful evidence regarding “cancer personalities”. He shares how many of his clients who die of cancer give to everyone else and tend to put themselves at the bottom of the list; and rarely if ever show anger.
My Mom was one of these people. She never had a negative word to say about anyone. She was the first one to be at someone’s home with a casserole when a friend or relative passed or got sick. She was creative; a poet and writer, and she did many crafts. She was warm, kind and thoughtful.
Thank you Mom for all I learned from you. You were so patient. You encouraged my creativity. You trusted me and let me find my way, even though I was quite adventurous and from a young age loved to climb on play structures and hang upside down on swing sets. You supported me when I backpacked Europe by myself even though I’m sure you had some concerns about it. Thanks for always being there! I appreciate when you advised me to start coming home earlier at night in my teens as Dad was getting upset. Thanks Mom for all the songs you taught me. Now with my own grandchildren, many of those songs “are coming back to me”. I love singing them to my four grandchildren under three. Who knew! … Thanks Mom for loving me unconditionally.
Mother’s Day is coming up soon. It’s an opportunity to tell your Mother how much you care about and value her. Whether she’s still alive or has already passed, I encourage you to write an open letter to your Mom.
I invite you to share your reflections and comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.
Often when we’re facing a life change; it could be a job loss, retirement, separation, a health challenge; we feel anxious. Our heart begins to race and we feel like we want to run away from the situation. It is difficult to focus and often times we want to go back to the way things were. We feel overwhelmed by all that lies ahead of us, and are uncertain about our future.
When this happens, what can you do to get out of this cycle of anxiety?
Here are some proven strategies:
- Take slow deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, keeping your mouth open and releasing sound when you exhale. Repeat this about five times and notice how you feel. This exercise releases oxytocin, the hormone that relaxes and calms us. When you have taken a few slow, deep, conscious breaths, you should begin to feel more relaxed.
- Do body scanning on awakening and/or before going to sleep. Lie in bed and scan your body slowly from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. While doing this notice any tension or pain. If you do, breathe into that area and set the intention to release the tension or pain.
- Spend regular time in nature. Find a special place you feel connected to. For me there is a place on the rocks by the ocean close to where I live. When I go there and lie on the rocks, I feel so grounded, relaxed and protected. Did you know that the Japanese have done longitudinal studies to show that when we walk among trees it reduces our heart rate, reduces our blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells our bodies produce?
- Do mindfulness walking meditations starting with three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes each time. When you do this, instead of going for a walk and thinking about all that has happened or all you have to do, instead focus on your senses. Notice the wind on your face, the smell of the salt sea air, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the sound of the birds, the beautiful vistas that surround you. When thoughts come into your head, which they inevitably will do, imagine they are clouds and let them float by or imagine putting them in a bubble and seeing them float away, and refocus on your senses.
- Repeat to yourself several times each day, “I am safe, it’s only change. “ (a favourite of mine from Louise Hay) Post this affirmation where you will see it, e.g. on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door.
- Move your body. Put on some music you enjoy and dance around your kitchen or wherever. Feel the music and let it flow through you.
- Tap into and express your creative side. Do something creative that you enjoy. Perhaps it’s painting, drawing, playing the piano, gardening. It could be something you did as a child that you no longer do or something you’ve always wanted to try. When you tap into and express your creative side, you feel like a child at play, lighter and filled with wonder. This opens you up to exploring the positive side of the change you are experiencing, and to the belief that change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities.
I’d love to hear from you some strategies you’ve found helpful to reduce the anxiety associated with change. Feel free to post your comments below and to share this article with others.
I just returned from three relaxing and fun weeks vacation in Mexico. We spent two of those weeks in a magical fishing village, which made me reflect on and appreciate the power of place.
Have you ever visited a place and felt like you were “home”? Whenever I enter this pueblo, any stress I have instantly drops away. I feel relaxed, playful, open to possibility, “in the flow”. There is also a special sense of community in this town where locals and foreigners live peacefully together.
Some years ago, a woman from California started a children’s art and music festival that is still held every year in March. Over time, though her hard work and dedication, she gathered human and material resources and now the festival has grown to include a bricks and mortar community center with a library, computer room, recycling depot, coffee shop and a small retail space. It is a place that offers courses for girls and boys, women and men on everything from entrepreneurship, to environmental education, to sustainable development, The center has a truly welcoming atmosphere and is aptly called Entre Amigos (among friends). People who visit from largely Canada and the US often volunteer time to contribute to projects and help with fundraising.
A sponsorship program has been developed whereby Canadians and Americans (many of whom live there 6 months a year) sponsor promising local Mexican high school students to attend college and university.
Last year we attended a fundraiser for the local hospital where many talented local children performed music, dancing, gymnastics … . It was an animated community event. Every year there is a well-organized music festival in the local plaza (square) with amazing performers from around Mexico and a few from other countries.
What keeps my partner and I coming back to this magical place? It’s a combination of the welcoming and supportive atmosphere, the natural beauty, the strong sense of community and the positive bonds and caring evident among the locals and those who visit for periods of time. It’s also a community where I feel I can contribute and make some sort of positive difference. Plus I get to speak Spanish, and for some reason I have a natural affinity for Latin culture.
I have also experienced the power of place closer to home. When I’m feeling stressed and want to ground and unwind, there is a place by the ocean about 10 minutes from our home that I walk to. When I lay on the rocks and feel the sun on my body, any tension drops away and is absorbed by the rocks. I feel so grateful to live so close to this place of natural beauty.
Have you experienced the power of place? I’d love to hear your experiences and see descriptions of your magical places. Feel free to share those below and to forward this post to others. I also encourage you if you haven’t already, to find a place close to where you live that you can go to relax, reconnect and let your stress melt away.