Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
We all feel like quitting sometimes. Life gets us down, we have challenges, we struggle.
And we consider giving up.
While hiking the other day, I heard the sound of rushing water. All around me was the sound of a strong stream. It was tumbling over rocks and rushing with power. Yet no water was flowing past me. To my right and left was nothing but leaves and rocks and trees with no water to be found.
Had I found a phantom stream?
No, I realized in amazement that I was standing on top of an underground stream. Hidden beneath my feet, beneath the leaves and dirt and rocks, was a rapid, rushing stream. In all of my years hiking, I had never experienced anything like it.
Click to hear the phantom river:
We all feel like giving up sometimes. But the stream beneath my feet had a message for me:
When you feel like quitting...
When you feel like giving up...
Know that a hidden river lies within you. There is a rushing stream inside you. Perhaps you can't see it right now, but if you are still, quiet, and listen, you will hear it.
We don't always have proof of progress. We can't always see the stream. But a whole hidden river might be rushing under our feet. And the evidence of it will make itself known in cracks in the rocks and places where it briefly bursts forth.
Keep going. You have a whole river inside of you. Listen for the hidden river and be on the lookout for the cracks in the rocks showing the power that lies beneath. I believe in your power.
Blessings for your journey!
Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
Let’s face it: our lives are often a blur. We run from activity to activity, rush to work, rush home, rush the kids to soccer practice. We cook dinner, clean up, crash on the couch, and get up the next morning to do it all again.
How do we break out of this rat race and create stillness amidst the chaos? We cultivate small moments of mindfulness. Stillness does not need to be an extended break to help us recharge and reset. Here are three recommendations from my own life for creating stillness within your busy schedule:
1. Go for a walk.
Walking is an excellent way to take a time out from a hectic life. Because you can only go as fast as your legs can carry you, it’s a quick way to go slow. Julia Cameron in Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart, states that, in our culture, “We “run” ourselves ragged. Convinced that if we just do more and go faster we will succeed, we often lose the pulse of our own lives. We can find it again by walking.” As a simple, basic activity, walking can bring us back in touch with our divinity.
But when walking for stillness, it’s important to slow down, turn off the phone and devices, and bring mindfulness to the experience. Rather than sending a text or listening to music, lift your head, look around, and pay attention to your surroundings. This will allow you to take a break, clear your head, change your mindset, and rest, relax, and refresh. Even a quick walk around the block or in the office parking lot at lunch will provide a few minutes of mindfulness.
Every morning, the first thing I do is go for a walk. The sun is not yet up, most people are not yet up, and my only companion is the early morning stars. It’s a great way to start the day, and I often end up walking for an hour, during which I have creative thoughts, gain new perspectives, and enjoy peace and quiet before the thrum of day begins.
2. Have a cup of tea.
Each evening, I close out the day with a cup of tea. Like my quiet morning walk, it’s a way to create an intentional time for stillness and an opportunity to reflect on the day and give gratitude. Tea, especially herbal or decaf, is a soothing drink that will help you to unwind no matter when you drink it.
While I like to drink tea, you may want to enjoy some other beverage. I do, however, recommend herbal or a lightly caffeinated tea for creating a cozy experience. But the importance of this recommendation isn’t what you drink so much as how you drink it. Approach your drink with the intention to unwind and relax no matter when you enjoy it. Though I drink a cup each evening, I also sometimes make a cup in the afternoon with the purpose of taking a short break. It only takes a few minutes to drink a cup of tea, but a few minutes is all you need to create a few moments of respite.
Breathing is the #1 quickest way to create stillness and shift your frame of mind. Numerous spiritual teachers recognize the power of the breath to center us and create feelings of calm during our hectic lives. As Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book Making Space, “In our busy society, it’s a great fortune to be able to sit and breathe consciously from time to time.” Breathing provides numerous benefits (in addition to the obvious one of keeping you alive), and I personally begin each Reiki ceremony or card reading with three deep cleansing breaths to clear the energy, reset my mindset, and begin creating sacred space.
Taking a breath is our very first action, and the power of breathing never leaves us, though it’s something we do all of the time without thinking. But when we focus on our breath, we are instantly aware of the present moment. For an ever present way to create stillness in your busy life, bring your awareness to the in breath and the out breath.
Even doing this for one breath will bring you a moment of mindfulness, but breathing consciously a few times takes only a minute with no preparation, special place, or equipment necessary. Air is always around us, and it never ceases to amaze me that the one thing we need the most is with us in abundance in all moments: we have only to open ourselves up to it and draw it in. Do this with awareness, intention, and even gratitude, and you will create an immediate moment of stillness amid the craziness of life.
Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
We hear frequently that we need to “find stillness,” but stillness is not something that we need to search for like a hidden treasure. Rather, stillness is all around us, and rather than “find” it, we only need to slow down to allow it to catch up to us.
Stillness doesn’t need to take the form of formal meditation in which you sit cross-legged on the floor. Though this kind of stillness can be very effective in creating a deepening spirituality, it can also be very intimidating to those who have never done it. Stillness can take many forms, though: sitting quietly in a chair, watching trees swaying in the wind, lying in bed listening to the rain strike the window pane.
I often practice meditation in the traditional sense, meaning that I sit cross-legged on the floor, close my eyes, and slow my thoughts. But I also experience stillness in other ways and consider many of my activities, from dishwashing to weightlifting to rocking in my rocking chair, to be meditative. While these are not “meditation,” many activities can be meditative or mindful activity if you approach them as a purposeful pausing with awareness. The mindset that we bring to the moment is what’s most important.
For an experience of being still, I recommend sitting and do nothing. Don’t listen to music or watch TV or read a book or talk to your children. Go off by yourself, find a quiet place (for those with a busy household, this may be the bathroom). Though I recommend closing your eyes to help minimize distractions, you can keep them open at first if that makes you more comfortable. You can stare at the wall, watch the clock, or look at an object, if necessary. But spend that time in quiet contemplation. You can daydream, you can think about the things you need to do, you can think about the things you should be doing, but resist the urge to get up and do them. Just sit and be. Creating a purposeful space of reduced stimulation and activity is how we begin to cultivate stillness.
Because of our culture’s focus on a flurry of activity, it usually doesn’t take more than a few minutes for us to feel like we should be doing something more productive. There is always so much to do, and “busy” has not only become a status symbol in our culture, but it’s even now a rote answer to the “How are you?” question. Resist this cultural conditioning and these urges to get up and be productive, if only for a few more minutes. It is important to be able to set aside time for yourself, even a small amount of time, to just exist, to just be. If you push past the desire to get up and determine to stick with your stillness for a bit, then you’ve done well.
Watching the clock isn’t the point of stillness, but a good amount of time for stillness or a meditative practice is the magical twenty minutes. I am a proponent of twenty minute practices because, in my experience, it’s long enough to have to force yourself to be still and for you to feel uncomfortable with doing nothing for that long, but not long enough that you feel anxious or upset that you’ve done nothing the whole day. Like with other spiritual activities, such as walking or writing, it’s also a good amount of time to get settled, shake off your most recent thoughts, become absorbed in the experience, and end it with a different mindset from when you began.
I also personally find this amount of time to be my natural meditation “sweet spot” and, even though I’m not timing myself and am not focused on how long my meditation is, it frequently hovers around 20 minutes. As you expand your spiritual practice and feel more comfortable with stillness, as you feel less guilty about taking time wholly and completely for yourself to “accomplish” nothing, you may personally want to increase that length of time.
Or you may not, because creating stillness is adaptable to your needs, and even a few moments of focused stillness is a success, and success breeds success. Suze Yaloff Schwartz writes in Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers, “You’re not practicing to achieve anything; getting yourself to sit quietly and breathe at least once a day is the achievement.” As you continue to practice stillness, you will find this time to be less and less of an annoyance or a waste of time and more and more something that you look forward to, a refuge from the busyness of life, a special time completely for you, and even a necessity.
Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
I am a fervent journaler. I started journaling 20 years ago when I was a college senior nervous about what was next in my life. I felt compelled to write about those uncertainties in order to gain a better understanding of my experience and to help ease my fears. It worked. Writing my thoughts down on paper felt like talking through those fears with a friend. And it worked so well that I’ve been journaling ever since.
Journaling has numerous mental, emotional, and even spiritual benefits, and the research on those benefits is solid. Robert Maurer in One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way writes, “Research demonstrates that people who use a journal to chart their emotions receive many of the same physical and psychological benefits as those who talk to a doctor or minister or friend.” But even better than talking with a friend, when I started journaling as a college senior, I was able to say things I wouldn’t or couldn’t have said to a friend, which lead to thoughts and realizations I wouldn’t have had otherwise. In the ensuing years, I’ve explored many challenges and had many realizations in the pages of my journals that has led to a lot of spiritual growth. Here are my top tips on how to start journaling for spiritual growth and development that can help you to create your own journaling practice.
1. Write alone.
Solitude is an important component of deepening your spirituality and living a life of greater meaning because no one else can experience meaning for you. While others can and should and do facilitate our spiritual growth, we are ultimately the ones who assign and derive meaning from our experiences. When you write alone, you create an intentional space for self-exploration that is like a cocoon holding your transformation. As Sheila Bender writes in Keeping a Journal You Love, “Solitude implies one person and is about being alone, but not in dejection and desolation. Instead, solitude is a state of being that fosters contemplation about what is at the bottom of our minds and in our hearts.”
You can of course talk with someone else about what you write or show them if you want to, but the actual writing should be done alone. Not only does writing alone allow you to focus on yourself, but it also allows you to feel less inhibited: no one will be looking over your shoulder to make sure that your spelling and punctuation are correct. No one will be judging your word usage or penmanship.
2. Write about your feelings.
In writing alone, no one will be judging your thoughts, either. This is a main reason why solitude is so important to journaling for spiritual growth: it’s challenging to be in deep touch with our feelings when we aren’t alone. Bender notes that “we too often shy away from solitude because we’re not sure what we’ll find there,” which is why we frequently hesitate to be alone with our thoughts in such a visceral way as viewing them fixed in writing.
If expressing feelings in writing is new to you or feels daunting, it’s ok to begin by writing about the facts of your day in an “I did this” or “I went here” kind of way. This is a great method for starting if writing down thoughts and feelings is outside of your comfort zone, and you may need to use this kind of fact-based writing several times as a starting point, but ultimately this fact-based kind of writing is best used only so far as it serves as a diving board into the pool of your emotions, which it will almost always lead to.
When journaling for spiritual growth, it does not matter what you write; it matters that you write. Write about why you love your significant other or how angry you are at them. Write about the beautiful, sunny day or the gathering clouds. Write about your anxiety about your doctor’s appointment or the companionship of your pet. The possibilities are infinite, and whatever you feel compelled to write about is the right thing to write about.
As Bender writes in Keeping a Journal You Love, “Even if all you do is log in facts about mood changes or food intake, you are still taking the opportunity to sit alone contemplating something you have done or thought. More information about your thinking and feeling will arrive if you listen for it.” If you’re not yet ready to dive, that’s ok. Begin by sticking your feet in the water, even just one toe if you need to: you’ll slowly increase your comfort level and eventually be doing cannonballs into the deep end. These are the deep dives that will allow you to uncover thoughts, feelings, and observations that you might not have realized otherwise and allow you to grow and develop as a spiritual being.
2. Write by hand.
You can type journal entries, but I strongly advocate writing them out by hand. It’s a much more immediate, involved, intimate, and soul-searching way to write than by typing it out on a screen. More than punching keys on a keyboard, you are actively engaged in the act of writing, in the absorbing motion of forming letters with your hand and using fine motor skills. Practically every piece of writing is typed now, and the dying art of writing by hand puts us more closely in touch with what we’re writing. It requires more effort and therefore more thought.
If, for whatever honest reason, though (a broken hand or nerve damage, for instance: sorry, bad handwriting doesn’t count…trust me, mine’s not so pretty), you need to type your journal, you’ll still derive benefit from it, so please feel free to type if you simply must. Just like it’s not so important what you write as it is that you write, it’s also not as important how you write.
4. Write without rules.
The how of the writing also includes rules. This kind of expressive writing isn’t concerned with spelling, grammar, punctuation, or any of those mechanics of writing. As Henriette Anne Klauser says in With Pen in Hand: The Healing Power of Writing, this isn’t the kind of writing “where perfect sentence A follows perfect sentence B, and you sit at a desk with a rigid-back chair, holding your hand at the correct angle.” It is, however, the kind of writing in which you write from an interior monologue that doesn’t hold back or stop to edit, spellcheck, or consult grammatical rules. The focus is not on writing correctly, so throw the rules of writing out the window. There is no worrying about capitalization, diagraming sentences, or where to put commas. The focus is on your thoughts and feelings and bringing them from your brain to the page.
The introspective writing of journaling is also not creative writing, as in a work of fiction or a poem or even a memoir, though of course you’re welcome to do any of that, too, if you like. My own journals are littered with thoughts, poems, and quotes, so you absolutely can do some creative writing in your journal as you get into the practice. But the daily poem I write or the interesting quotes I transcribe aren’t the essence of journaling for spiritual insights. Instead, the point is to think on the page in a stream of consciousness kind of way, the way in which you might have a one-sided conversation with a friend or a therapist.
5. Write consistently and for 20 minutes.
Ok, so this is two tips, but I combine them because they work well together. I am a big proponent of twenty minute spiritual exercises, and doing anything consistently will help you to get the most benefit from it. What I have found over the last nearly 20 years of journaling is that twenty minutes is a beneficial amount of time for this kind of writing. Like with going for a walk or meditating, it’s enough time to get absorbed in what you’re doing and benefit from the experience, to get some thoughts on the page and acquire clarity or a new perspective on a challenge, but it’s not so much time that to sit down and do it feels daunting.
I also advocate writing consistently, meaning daily or at least regularly, in order to consistently delve into your thoughts more deeply and to experience the most growth. Just like exercising regularly is going to provide more benefits than exercising once in a while, a consistent journaling practice will develop stronger spiritual muscles. The research agrees: Maurer writes, “Psychology research suggests that clients are supposed to write in their journals for at least fifteen to twenty minutes a day to receive its benefits.” If writing for 20 minutes every day feels like too much, the good news is that, like exercise, writing in a soul searching way only every once in a while will still benefit you when you do it.
The times in my life when I wasn’t journaling consistently were the times when I most needed the therapeutic and soul-searching benefits of journaling. At these times I was afraid to get too in touch with my feelings for what they might reveal, particularly regarding unhealthy love and work relationships. I inevitably felt better, though, once I returned to the page, and writing about and creating meaning out of my experiences helped me to heal and move on.
Though twenty minutes is a good length of time to aim for, there is no reason why you can’t start with ten, five, or even two minutes, so don’t watch the clock or count words. Quality is more important than quantity on your spiritual path, so it’s not about how much you write as it is what you get out of writing. It’s important to start where you’re comfortable, and journaling for spiritual growth can be a true challenge for many of us. Simply attempting it is a success, but if you stick with the practice, those two minutes will eventually increase to twenty, and perhaps many more, perhaps even to the point where, twenty years later, you are still learning, growing, and uncovering new depths in a fulfilling and meaningful spiritual journaling practice.
Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
Walking is well known for its physical, emotional, and mental benefits, but it provides important spiritual benefits, as well. For thousands of years, various cultures have used walking in ritual, shamanic practicing, spiritual journeying, and pilgrimages. It’s a well-worn path to spiritual awakening, and practically all spiritual traditions have used walking as a way to deepen connection to the divine. Walking is embedded in our bones, and we can turn it into a simple spiritual act that deepens our spirituality. Below are 5 tips for walking your way to deeper spirituality.
1. Go alone.
When done in solitude and silence, walking provides us with time for self-reflection and contemplation. It’s an opportunity for us to listen to the world around us and the voice within us and to heighten awareness of each. When walking with another, it’s much more challenging to be focused and aware. Walking partners will chat, have a different pace, want to take a different route, or want to stop or keep going when you might not want to. In short, walking with others doesn’t allow for the individualistic self-directed experience that can allow for the greatest spiritual benefits
2. Walk with awareness.
Walking alone allows you to bring more awareness to the walk itself and to have a greater sensory awareness of the moment. This is the most important aspect of walking as a spiritual practice. We want to bring our awareness to the walk, to the feel of our feet on the earth, the smells, temperature, wind, sounds that surround us. In this way, walking becomes a meditative practice.
It’s ok if your mind wanders away from the sights, sounds, and smells of your walk. You may start to think about problems you’re facing, challenging experiences, or uncertainties. The back and forth motion of walking, called bilateral movement, actually helps facilitate deep thinking and problem solving, so your mind very well may wander, and the chances are good that you’ll gain new perspectives and come up with solutions to challenges you’re facing. Breathe, take in your surroundings, and notice your feelings. Become aware of all aspects of the walk, including any walking that might be occurring in your mind.
The mindset you bring to your walk is much more important than where you walk. It does not matter if you walk in the city or the country, down alleyways, on a forest trail, or through a shopping district. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that “Every path, every street in the world is your walking meditation path.” Anywhere you walk can lead you to deeper spirituality.
Neither is the destination important because the goal is not to get somewhere. Rather, the objective is to be present in the moment and the experience. You can walk around your neighborhood, along city streets, through fields, or up a mountain. The location is not as important as your mindset.
3. Walk in nature if you can.
Although you can walk anywhere to deepen your spirituality, walking in nature often creates a deeper spiritual experience. Nature is a spiritual booster, and walking in a natural area, preferably quiet and somewhat removed from the bustle of life, will help you to derive even more benefit from your walk. Nature calms and focuses us. It is quiet, unhurried, and operates on its own time, and when we walk in nature, its rhythms can slow us down, quiet us, and help us to turn inward.
Walking in nature also means that we can experience all of the spiritual benefits of being in nature as well as those of walking. However, I have personally experienced numerous deeply soul satisfying walks around the neighborhood, so if a natural area, such as a large garden or park, the woods, or plains, is hard to come by for you, then any safe area outside will suffice.
4. Leave electronics behind.
As long as you are outside, it does not matter where you go, but rather how you go. Turn off your phone, leave behind the music, and be absorbed in the walk itself. Talking on your phone, listening to music, or playing games while walking don’t count because they distract from your surroundings and the act of the walk. It’s difficult to be alone with your thoughts while playing Pokemon Go, and it’s impossible to be connected to your surroundings when your attention is split. Because phones, music, games, and any other form of distraction will distract from the experience, definitely leave them behind or silence them.
5. Walk for at least 20 minutes.
In addition to walking outside, alone, and without distraction, I advocate a walk of at least twenty minutes because it’s a solid amount of time to be engaged in an activity and derive benefit from it. Watching the clock to make sure that you hit your twenty minutes defeats one of the main purposes for the walk, which is to disconnect from our time obsessed, busy lives. I suggest twenty minutes, though, because it’s a good chunk of time to work with: enough to feel results, but not so much that it feels like wasted time or distracts you because you should be doing “productive” things. Twenty minutes is enough time to slough off thoughts and feelings, change your mindset or mood, and be absorbed in what you’re doing.
Though twenty minutes is a great length to shoot for, you may very well want to keep walking. Sometimes the point at which you thought you would or should stop isn’t where you want to stop, after all. I myself have gone on a few walks around the neighborhood where I returned home, wasn’t ready to stop walking, and took another lap around the block. If you feel like you want to do more, by all means, please do.
Because of pain or impatience, you may personally find that twenty minutes is too long at first, and that’s ok. Literally take a few steps, and if that’s all you can do, do a few more the next time until you can build up to twenty minutes. We must all start from where we are, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t reach twenty minutes at first.
Wherever you start from and wherever you go, walking is an excellent spiritual exercise. No matter where or for how long you walk, it can help you to access deeper levels of awareness. Follow these five tips to walk for spiritual exercise.
This article is also a video:
Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
Nearly every Sunday evening for the past 18 years, I drop everything at 8:00 and listen to a Celtic music radio show while drinking tea and writing in my journal. This is a special time that I look forward to each week, and even though for the past several years I listen to the show as a podcast and can therefore listen anytime I want, I have stuck to my Sunday evening time slot because I have established it as a sacred time. I ritualized the experience by having a prescribed set of actions at a customary time, and I elevated that day and time. For me, Sunday evening is a special time that is different from ordinary time, and I watch the clock and know where I will be at 8:00.
This simple Sunday evening ritual is a spiritual experience for me and holds deeper meaning than just listening to some music and drinking tea. It provides a time that I set aside especially to connect with myself, reflect, focus, enjoy my favorite music, brew a cup of tea, and treat myself to intentional time alone. In addition to this small weekly practice, I also frequently perform more elaborate rituals for myself, like my signature Distant Reiki Healing Ceremony on full moons or my unique Seven Card Cosmic Revelation reading on New Year’s Eve.
Rituals like these are an excellent way to infuse our lives with more awareness, meaning, connection, reverence, and ceremony. Below are three tips for creating rituals to deepen your spirituality.
1. Start small.
Rituals need not be elaborate, as the most effective rituals can be simple and take only a few minutes to perform. The word “ritual” might conjure up images of churches and priests, incense filled temples, or witches and black cats (which are all great for rituals, as long as no harm is done to the cat), but a ritual can be as simple as my Sunday evening experience.
A ritual is really just a set of actions that we perform in a meaningful way. The key to ritual is the “meaningful” component that provides a temporary shift from normal time to sacred time. Rituals mark change and signify a special and elevated moment outside of ordinary time that allows us to connect with the moment, so that even short and simple rituals are a way toward a more spiritual experience and a life of deeper meaning.
Start with a small and simple ritual that does not involve a lot of planning, materials, or time.
You can start creating rituals by transforming a daily act that you typically perform thoughtlessly by simply bringing awareness and intention to the act. Perhaps instead of mindlessly dashing into the car, coffee in hand, rushing off to work, you could slow down, say a few prayers over your car, bless yourself, bless the car, even bless the coffee, and perform the act with solemnity. Perhaps when you wash your hands you can focus on the feel of the water, the foaming of the soap, the thanks and praise for that moment that can include a prayer, an affirmation, even a bow of gratitude to the faucet. It might seem silly, but these are things that can help us to focus spiritually when we pause and reflect.
Rituals can include any action and type of experience, as long as they help us to become more present and focused on the experience. Like with most things in life, it’s not so important what you do, but rather how you do it. What you do should be meaningful for you, but that of course varies from person to person, so any activity that you bring a sense of reverence and ceremony to can be a ritual.
Rituals need not be long, elaborate, or involve much effort, and once you conduct a few smaller rituals, you will have a sense of what resonates with you and can build up to longer and more elaborate rituals.
2. Go it alone.
Rituals are a great way to create a sense of community and shared purpose with a group of like-minded individuals who also approach the ritual with awareness, meaning, and connection. They can help us to bond with one another, feel part of a larger whole, and can be powerful and spiritually enhancing. However, when you are getting started with creating rituals for yourself, I recommend starting alone. You will be able to more fully focus your attention, minimize distraction, and be more fully in touch with your feelings so you can better connect with yourself. This will allow you to feel comfortable practicing rituals by yourself and to find enrichment in spiritual solitude. Performing your ritual alone will also allow you to do so without judgment, awkwardness, or self-consciousness. No one else will see or need to know of your “silliness” when you bow to the sink.
Where you perform your ritual isn’t as important as how you perform it, and you do not need a big stage or beautiful backdrop. A private space where you can be alone and turn inward without distraction is the key. This might mean anywhere from the woods to your bedroom closet, but if your ritual becomes a repeated ritual, it’s best to use the same place each time in order to foster a greater sense of connection to the ritual and a more powerful experience.
Though I could perform my Sunday evening ritual anywhere I have my phone, I like to listen at home and in a space where I do most of my journaling and self-reflection because, no matter where I’ve lived, that space is always a little more special than other places in my home. I also like to conduct my Reiki, card readings, and coaching at home beside my altar, especially because these spaces become more ingrained with the ritual, and the ritual and the space both become more powerful the more we practice the ritual in one particular spot. The most important element of the space, though, is that it’s a private one where you can be alone.
Your spirituality ultimately rests with you and you alone, and so, while including others in your rituals can sometimes enhance the experience, it’s vital to conduct rituals alone at times, too. Self-reflection is an important component of deepening your spirituality, and conducting rituals alone will often allow for greater levels of self-reflection and introspection because of fewer distractions, whether physically, emotionally, or energetically.
3. Choose a transitional time.
Large scale life transitions, such as graduations, weddings, divorces, births, deaths, career changes, and relocations are powerful times, and these are excellent times for conducting rituals in order to mark beginnings and endings, honor who we were, where we are, and who we are becoming.
But we don’t have to wait for major life changes to conduct rituals. We are always in transition and experience numerous transitions on a yearly, monthly, and daily basis, and these are also great times to create and conduct rituals. When you wake up, arrive home from work, or go to bed are examples of transitional times during the day when you may want to incorporate ritual. Rituals signal change and can therefore help us to transition even in small ways, such as a desire to shift from work to home mode.
Rituals also empower us, so you may consider a time during your day when you tend to feel the most stressed or disconnected to perform your ritual. Because rituals provide us with the space to alter our mindset, reconnect, or at least provide an opportunity to temporarily relieve stress, they can help to improve your mood during trying times, even daily stressors. As a deliberate elevation of your actions, it serves as a break from the everyday and therefore an opportunity to hit pause on life’s play button.
Because rituals empower us and signal change to the brain, we can also use them when we want to create change. If you want to move on from a break up, acquire a new skill, attract something into your life, improve your health, or make any other kind of change, rituals allow for the space to focus, set an intention, and create a new beginning for ourselves. For instance, I once had a client ask me to conduct a Distant Reiki Healing Ceremony for abundance. He was ready to attract abundance and transition into a more abundant life, and I was honored to conduct my Distant Reiki Healing Ceremony ritual to help him usher in that change.
Ritual is a powerful way to deepen our spirituality with greater awareness, meaning, and connection. It helps us to focus, change our mindset, set an intention, and move forward with a greater level of readiness. By following these three suggestions, you can get started creating your own rituals for a richer life.
Ready to move on, create a change, or overcome a challenge? Click here for immediate access to a free sample of my Distant Reiki Healing Ceremony to support you through your life changes, challenges, and transitions. Incorporate this relaxing, meditative ceremony with healing, coaching, and encouragement into your own ritual. Thank you, and best wishes for your journey.
This article is also a video:
Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
In my How to Survive Life Changes article, I shared my three most important tips for surviving your life changes and transitions. In this follow up article, I give you three more tips with a focus on how to thrive, rather than merely survive your life change, no matter what life change you’re experiencing. At the end of the article, I also include a link to a sample of my Distant Reiki Healing Ceremony to help you through your life changes to transitions in preparation for the newness that awaits.
1. Draw on your previous life change experiences.
As I mentioned in How to Survive Life Changes, change is a normal part of life, so no matter what life change you are experiencing, remember that you have already had numerous life change experiences. For instance, if you are a senior graduating from college, the chances are pretty good that you've already graduated from high school and have had that experience of stepping into the unknown and wondering what comes next.
During your current or next life change, I encourage you to remember and draw upon the strengths from your previous life experiences and to look to the evidence that shows that you have already made it through life changes and transitions. Give yourself credit for having overcome and moved through those experiences. Look back on your previous experiences and allow them to show you proof that you've done something like this before and you absolutely can do it again. Focus on your past strengths, the positives that resulted from the experiences, and how they have shaped you, how you have grown from them, and who you are now because of them.
2. Take control of your life changes.
When our life changes, our habits change. Our habits are really what comprise our days and structure and order our lives, so when you have a life change, even a small one, it's going to throw off your habits. For instance, if your child is entering a new school with a different start time, that change will effect your whole morning and the routine you currently have in place, which means it can effect the habit of when you get up, the habit of what you eat, the habit of how your family interacts while getting ready, and the habit of what time you get out the door. It can even effect the habits of the night before. And this is just a small life change. Larger life changes have even greater impacts on our habits.
One of the tricks to managing life change is to recognize that your habits are going to change and to take control and steer them in the ways that that you want them to go. For example, when you end a relationship, you are no longer seeing and spending time with that person, so all of the habits you had tied to that person, like spending specific times together, going to certain restaurants, watching Netflix on the couch, are gone. Whether you want them or not, these habits are no longer a part of your life and you now have additional time that was previously spent with your partner.
Rather than just allowing the time to be absorbed in whatever way, shape, or form that it will be absorbed, it's important to claim that time with the purposeful things you want to do with that time. For instance, after an unhealthy relationship, we may decide we really want to adopt some healthy habits. This was my personal approach after an unhealthy relationship, and I made a commitment to improving all of my relationships.
Focus your attention with intention on who you want to be during your life change and who you want to be after it. Consider the person you want to transition into, the habits you want to adopt, and the steps you will take.
If you want to be healthier, ask yourself what that looks and feels like to you and write those down. Once you determine the kind of person you want to be and the way you want to feel, you can then get specific about the ways you want to fill your time and those new habits you want to adopt that align with your new vision of yourself. You may decide that you’re going to do ten jumping jacks every morning as soon as you get out of bed (Well, maybe go to the bathroom first.). Your ten jumping jacks routine is a healthy habit and a small change that you can incorporate into your life. Knowing that when your life changes, your habits change means that you can adopt some directed habits that you want to have in your life.
I do want to offer one caveat with incorporating new habits into your life during life changes, and that’s not to try to make too many changes in your habits all at once. You will experience a change of habits during a life change whether you want to or not, so I’m advocating guiding those changes and making habit changes with intention: create the changes, rather than allowing them to happen to you. However, it’s important not to cram every new free minute with new habits. Not only will you feel overwhelmed, potentially increase any feelings of anxiety, and have a harder time sticking to all of your new changes, but you may also be using it as a coping mechanism to avoid feeling the uncomfortable feelings associated with life changes. It’s important to feel all of your feelings, not avoid them, and not judge them or yourself for having them.
3. Focus on what you’re gaining rather than on what you’re losing.
During any life change, there are things we lose and things we gain. Rather than focusing on what you are losing, I encourage you to focus on what you’re gaining. If you’ve just ended a relationship, you can bemoan losing someone to cuddle with on the couch while you watch Netflix or you can relish having Friday nights free to finally read that good book you’ve been wanting to get to. If you’ve recently lost a job, perhaps you now have more time to spend with your children.
Life changes themselves are neutral. It’s the ways in which we think about them that make them good or bad. It's the feelings and emotions we assign to the change and put into them that determine whether they are positive or negative.
I won’t argue that the death of a loved one is very challenging and sad and difficult, and I’m sorry for your loss if you’ve recently lost a loved one. The death of loved ones is often the most challenging kind of life change we will ever experience. But perhaps your loved one suffered with an illness or you were caring for them or putting a lot of your mental or emotional energy into care and concern for them. You can now breathe a sigh of relief that they are no longer suffering, that the emotional and mental energy you put into care and concern for them can now be freed up for other things, and that you can now care for yourself. These are all positives within the negative experience. While these are challenging and difficult times, we can attempt to see the positives in them.
Gratitude is the quickest way to focus on the positive. I am a huge proponent of gratitude and believe it is the foundation to deepening our spirituality. For three ways to deepen your gratitude now, please see my article Three Concrete Ways to Begin Your Gratitude Practice Now. Focusing on gratitude during your life change will allow you to put the emphasis on what you’re gaining rather than on what you’re losing and help you to thrive during your life change.
This practice does not serve to diminish our grief or negative feelings, nor is it meant to ignore them. As I’ve mentioned, I encourage you to acknowledge and feel all of your feelings. During such times, the negatives can seem so much more overwhelming than the positives, but, as we know from previous life changes, these negative feelings will decrease over time. We can choose to acknowledge that there are positives within the negative, even if we can’t yet recognize them.
4. Learn and grow from your life changes.
Life changes are experiences that we can grow and learn from. Whatever life changes you have experienced, they are growth points along your life journey. I encourage you to reflect on what your previous life changes have taught you, how you grew from them, and who you became afterward.
By considering how we’ve learned and grown from previous life changes, we can be better prepared to consider the larger picture of any life changes we are or will experience. We will also be better prepared to ask ourselves what we want to get out of life change experiences and how we want to learn and grow. Like directing our habits, this allows us to direct the ways we learn and grow from a life change. Ask yourself how you want to change and develop not only your habits, but also the larger ways you want to grow and learn from your life change experience as a human being.
Many years ago, I was in an abusive relationship, and one of the ways I learned and grew from that experience was to learn compassion for what people in abusive relationships might experience. Although leaving that relationship was a challenge, it was a wonderful gift to have increased compassion and understanding for others having a similar experience. I now know that people in abusive relationships need love and support and not judgment.
At the time, learning that lesson wasn’t something that I was consciously focusing on, and I needed to get out of crisis mode and have time to reflect on the experience to realize the gifts within it. Recognizing how we learn and grow from a life change often comes later, but if we can acknowledge during a life change that we’re going to learn larger things from it and will create greater meaning from it, then we can be more purposeful and intentional during our life change. In this way, we will be bringing greater awareness to our experiences and who we want to be during them, creating a greater connection to them, and even deriving more meaning from them. Whether you are currently experiencing a life change right now or not, you are going to experience more life changes, and reflecting in these ways will allow you to not only survive them, but to also thrive during them.
Like you, I’ve been through numerous life changes of all kinds, and I’ve had the great honor of encouraging hundreds of people through their life changes. These are a few ways I recommend to help you thrive during your life change. Many of these tips are contained in my Weathering Life Changes video on the Standing Stones Healing YouTube channel. I also welcome you to check out my free sample Distant Reiki Healing Ceremony to support you with healing, coaching, and encouragement to make most of your life changes, challenges, and transitions with purpose, intention, and readiness for the newness that awaits. Thank you, and best wishes for your journey.
Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
Change is a natural part of life. We are always experiencing major and minor life changes and always transitioning from who we are to who we are becoming. Life changes can be large or small, come in all shapes and sizes, and can range from the death of a loved one to the end of a relationship to a change in your schedule or implementing new health habits. Sometimes these changes can create a variety of feelings, including being overwhelmed, anxious, sad, or even excited and happy. Whatever the life change, below are my top three tips for dealing with it.
1. Recognize that life change is normal.
We all experience life changes, and change is a normal part of life. In fact, the life change or transition that you are currently experiencing is not your first, and it won’t be your last. Life change happens again and again, and we are nearly always in a state of flux from one self to the next. Have you lost a job? Ended a relationship? Experienced the loss of a loved one? These are challenging experiences, but know that they are common to the human experience. Life change transcends time and place, and all of us have experienced life changes numerous times in our lives.
So if you have ended a relationship, for example, you may be thinking, “Phew, I’m so glad that’s over” or “That was terrible and I never want to have to go through that again” or “I’m done and I don’t have to worry about anything like that ever again.” But the truth is that you may very well experience the end of a relationship again in your life. At the very least, I can guarantee that you are going to have additional life changes, so recognizing that life changes and transitions are a normal part of life is the first step to weathering them. Acknowledge that your life change or transition is a part of life that life changes, even similar ones, can and will happen again.
2. Acknowledge that your feelings are normal.
In addition to normalizing the experience of life changes and transitions, it’s important to normalize the feelings associated with them. During a life change, you may feel any number of emotions: you may feel sadness, you may feel anxiety, you may have trouble sleeping, you may have trouble eating, or perhaps you’re even experiencing excitement or anticipation. You can be feeling any or all kinds of feelings, including both positive and negative, to varying amounts at different times. One moment you might be feeling excited, and the next moment you might feel anxious. Even positive life changes that we initiate and are excited about can instigate a range of emotions. Any and all feelings, positive or negative, that you are feeling are normal to feel during a life change or transition.
Please note, though, that if you are experiencing undue levels of depression or anxiety, I encourage you to seek professional mental health counseling. Coaching during life changes is beneficial for many, especially those who want support in initiating life changes and taking positive action, but whose overall mental and emotional wellbeing is not severely impacted. If you are experiencing severe mental and emotional anguish, then I do recommend seeking a licensed mental health counselor to help you work through some of the deeper and more challenging emotions. For instance, I once ended a challenging abusive relationship that left me emotionally spent and recognized right away that I needed professional mental and emotional support to not go back to the relationship. I met with a mental health counselor for a few months to help me work through the experience emotionally and avoid returning to the relationship. A coach, even a good one well versed in life changes like me, was not the best fit for that immediate, dire emotional health need.
Aside from extreme feelings of depression or anxiety, know that your sadness, mild anxiety, trouble sleeping or eating are normal during a life change. Of course we know that sadness over the loss of a relationship is going to be normal. Sadness is of course a normal part of grief, but we don't necessarily recognize that during a life change we may be feeling some anger even when it's a positive life change. You may find yourself thinking, “Gosh I don't know why I’m feeling so angry. What's wrong with me? I've just accepted this new job and I'm very excited about moving to a new location and a new home. Why am I feeling so angry?”
But it's a normal part of the life change process to be feeling a range of emotions during any kind of life change, so recognize and acknowledge that these feelings are normal and know that they are most likely temporary and are going to pass. Recognize the normalcy of these feelings and don’t beat yourself up for those feelings. I once had a client who was upset with herself for still being sad over the end of a recent relationship. I had conducted a Distant Reiki Healing Ceremony to help her move on, and she was upset that she was still missing her ex-partner. When I asked how long it had been, she said three weeks. It is completely normal and expected to still be sad over the end of a relationship three weeks later, so make sure not to beat yourself up if three weeks after a relationship has ended you are still feeling some sadness. I made sure to confirm to her that there is nothing wrong with her and to know that these feelings may continue to linger, and that is normal, too. This leads to my third tip.
3. Be gentle with yourself.
I want to encourage you to be gentle with yourself during life changes and transitions. Even if they are positive life changes, when we are feeling these ranges of emotions, it can be easy for us to be hard on ourselves. We think we should be feeling a certain way, wonder why we’re not feeling one way or another, and think, “What’s wrong with me?” But it's important for you to be kind to yourself at these times, even during the smallest life changes.
We have a tendency to think of life change as being large, like moving to a new country or a loved one passing away or changing careers. But life changes can be small things, and even these small things in our lives can present us with challenges and make us feel as though we are adrift in the sea of life. Because they disrupt our lives, even the smallest life changes can have effects on all of our life experiences, including sleeping, eating, and emotional well-being. When we have a small change in one part of our life, it makes waves in and has ripple effects upon other parts of our lives. While we can have a change in one area of our life, it can effect other areas of our lives, too. Be aware of and acknowledge that ripple effect and be understanding of yourself during your life change and with any experiences and feelings that you might experience.
Like you, I’ve been through numerous life changes, and I’ve had the great honor of encouraging hundreds of people through their life changes. These are the three most basic and important ways I recommend to begin navigating your life change. Many of these tips are contained in my Weathering Life Changes video on the Standing Stones Healing YouTube channel.
Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
It might be surprising, but scrubbing your house can be a soul scrubbing experience. When done with intention, cleaning can be a meditative and ritualistic act that fills us with awareness, meaning, and connection and deepens our spirituality.
Cleaning something means we are caring for it, and caring for something expresses gratitude for it. As Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat state in Spiritual Literacy, “Our usual attitude toward things, especially seemingly inconsequential ones, is to ignore or causally discard them. A more spiritual approach is to practice gratitude and love toward them.”
Cleaning something expresses gratitude for it, and gratitude is the quickest way to not only deepen our spirituality, but to also improve our mood. We also take better care of possessions that we are grateful for, so expressing thanks for your possessions by cleaning them will help you to take better care of them.
When you clean, it doesn’t matter what you do so much as how you do it, which is true for most things in life. It doesn’t matter if you wash dishes, vacuum the floor, dust the shelves, or clean out the garage. What does matter, though, is the way in which you approach the task. Approaching your cleaning in a focused, meditative way with gratitude and awareness will turn your house cleaning into a soul cleaning.
If you approach the task with boredom, frustration, or fatigue, that’s what you’ll get back from it. You get out of things what you put into them, so if you approach cleaning in these ways, this is what you’ll get. However, if you approach it with a sense of awareness, meaning, gratitude, praise, and even reverence for the object being cleaned, then this is what you’ll likewise experience.
One of my favorite cleaning tasks is washing dishes. I find something very meditative in the warm water, the foam and smell of the soap, and the motion of scrubbing. I even treat myself to special dish soap that enhances my experience. I feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction seeing the flecks of food removed from the plate and rinsing off the suds. I sometimes use dish washing as an opportunity to give thanks for water and my dishes, and I am certainly more grateful for my dishes and cooking implements when I mindfully care for them. I am also, by extension, showing gratitude for the food that my dishes held.
As Thich Nhat Hahn says, “while washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes,” and so approaching cleaning as a spiritual experience is meant to be an absorbing experience. Like my dish washing experience, a spiritual cleaning task is best performed as a sensory, meditative task that you allow yourself to focus on and be present with. You want to approach the experience with awareness of the moment, the task, and the object, create a connection to the object, and find meaning in caring for and appreciating the object.
The best way to turn cleaning into a spiritual ritual is to start small: choose just one thing and clean it thoroughly. You can polish a pair of shoes, scrub your toilet, or clean out a drawer. Starting small with any task, life change, or new habit is always best to accomplish early successes that you can build upon, but cleaning has big spiritual implications. It can help you to deepen gratitude, show care for our possessions, get us into a focused and meditative state, and calm our minds. So what needs cleaning in your life?
Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
Nature as an element of spirituality is ageless and global, and across all cultures and during all times, nature has been a focal point of spirituality. But in our modern society, we increasingly spend our time indoors in self-imposed cages without even opening a window. We too frequently lock ourselves away from enjoying the gifts of nature. Indeed, we ignore it, fear it, and disrespect it without fully acknowledging its necessity to our existence.
A home is a shelter from the elements, but often serves in our culture to shut us off from such spiritually stimulating things as wind, rain, grass, and sky. In our climate-controlled, electrically-driven, and electronically-laden spaces, we too often shut our doors, shut our windows, and shut ourselves off from nature, from the source of life, and therefore from ourselves.
Adding to the disconnection is that it can be a true challenge for the majority of the population, particularly those living in large cities without personal transportation, to escape to a place where you can’t see or even hear cars rushing by. But retreating into large natural spaces is not the only way we can access nature. Here are three tips for the urbanite for connecting with nature and connecting with your soul:
1. Recognize your connectedness to nature.
Reconnecting with nature begins with recognizing our connectedness to it, both physically and spiritually. We are never really separate from nature, since we are of and from the earth: nature is always within us. In her book How to Find God in Everything, Amoda Maa Jeevan writes, “From the stars in the sky to the soil beneath our feet and from the air that we breathe to the blood in our veins, we are all made up of the same stuff. [ . . . ] We are related to every animal, tree, plant, river and stone that has ever existed. Our spiritual roots are deeply embedded in the Earth.”
Let’s pause for a moment and let that sink in: “we are related to every animal, tree, plant, river and stone that has ever existed.” What an absolute miracle! You have come from a big bang, and everything was nothing but a dot at the beginning. If we all have the same one source, then, even from a scientific standpoint, we truly are related to all things.
And whether we realize it or not, nature is an inseparable part of our existence and therefore a spiritual source. Indeed, how can our spiritual roots not be deeply embedded in the Earth when our very life depends upon natural processes? Being aware of our dependence on nature is vital to reconnecting with it. This can be a greater challenge for city-dwellers, who seem to have less nature surrounding them, but tip number two will help.
2. Embrace the nature that surrounds you.
Though we may live in urban or even suburban areas that don’t contain what we typically think of as “nature,” or stretches of natural space, nature surrounds us, and we can grow more aware of our inherent connection to it. So even if our natural encounters are limited, we can embrace the nature that surrounds us. As Joseph Cornell writes in Listening to Nature, “it isn’t where we are that’s important—rather, it’s how deeply we are able to see and experience, no matter where we are.”
If nature is all around us, then it doesn’t matter where we are, but rather whether or not we pay attention to it. By turning our awareness to nature, we will find it all around us. Pay attention to the smallest pieces of nature in your midst. Open a window to feel the breeze or hear bird song. Appreciate the tree across the street. Walk down to the city park or visit a botanical garden. You can even check out a cemetery. As creepy as it might sound, the chances are good that there will be grass and maybe even a tree or two.
Having an awareness of the nature that surrounds us, even in the smallest ways, and a deeper appreciation of our connection to nature can result in a deepening of our spirituality and greater spiritual awareness.
3. Cultivate nature.
Nature is everywhere, and where we cannot find it, we can cultivate it, from planting curbside wildflowers to a balcony garden to our own little houseplant. As Jim PathFinder Ewing says in Finding Sanctuary in Nature, “Although the stereotype of nature is a wilderness scene, wherever we might be, whether in a rural area or the most populated city, nature is all around, as well as within, us.” We may believe that nature is only found in vast landscapes of uninhabited space, but it’s also found “in backyards, vacant city lots, and even garden rooms or potted plants in homes or office interiors.”
You can begin to appreciate nature from the confines of your home by welcoming nature into your own space. Start with getting a plant, whether bought, borrowed, or pulled from the garbage. (Yes, I have done this.) Caring for houseplants allows us to bring nature into our homes. Something as simple as an herb on a windowsill gives us the opportunity to connect with, appreciate, and care for nature.
From there, you may be inspired to create a balcony garden or place planters in your parking lot or turn a small patch of dirt into a tiny garden. You may even be inspired to create a community garden in a lot full of weeds. As we know from weeds in sidewalk cracks, plants can grow in the smallest of spaces. Get inspired to harness this power of nature in creative ways.
No matter how you tap into nature in the city, a deeper connection to nature is a deeper connection to your soul. All religious traditions across the globe, from Ireland to Tibet to the American plains to the Amazon, have linked spirituality and nature. As spiritual author Thomas Moore says, “nature feeds the spiritual life as nothing else can.”
This feeding of the soul is best experienced in wide natural areas, where there are few cars, no electronic services, little human-generated noise, and the rhythms of the earth dominate. Such natural areas are not accessible to everyone, though, and even urbanites can take steps to reconnect with nature. The more we flex our awareness and appreciation muscles for nature, the more we’ll notice the nature that surrounds us on a daily basis, the more we’ll connect with it, and the more we’ll connect with ourselves.