Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Easy Centering For Stress Relief

"Centering rejoins our disordered parts" 
-George Leonard

Many modern influences contribute to people losing harmonious connection with all of who they are. Physical exhaustion, overworking, arguments with others, disengagement from nature, being frequently triggered into "fight-flight-freeze" mode by stressors, too much time spent on computers, relating to life's challenges mainly from the intellect and/or emotions -- all of these factors, and more, can drain and disjoint a person's energy. You can end up trying to meet the challenges of daily life feeling very foggy, tired, sped up, frightened by others or the world around you, easily triggered into feeling anger, anxiety, dizzy, or overwhelmed. Those qualities describe how a lack of centering may feel. 

In contrast, to be centered means to harness your full energy inside your own body so that it is balanced and radiating from a central core point, like the center of a star. You are less easily pulled off-track by other people's behaviors and moods, or by the media, or even by your own physical/emotional/mental issues. Moving through life while centered feels radically different -- you feel rooted, calm, strong, peaceful and safe. 

It is quite easy to learn how to center yourself and once learned, you can practice this anywhere, anytime. I like to practice centering daily as a self-care maintenance tool and it is often one of the first interventions I use if I feel stressed, out-of-sorts, or if I need to have a difficult conversation with someone. There are many centering techniques available -- I just googled "centering technique" and received 850,000 results! Below is one that has worked well for me and is adapted from techniques taught in the book "The Way of Aikido" by George Leonard

1) Locate your center, also called the hara. This is a point in the middle of your abdomen, about 1-2 inches below your navel. 

2) Shift your full awareness to that point. To help train yourself to bring your attention there, try gently tapping the point and snapping your fingers in front of it.
3) Practice breathing deeply and easily, in-and-out, from that point. Allow the rest of your body to remain relaxed.
4) Imagine that this center point is actually the very center of a star or the center of the universe. This universe radiates out, from that center point in your body, into infinity in all directions. (And, every person you meet has their own center of the universe that radiates into all directions from their own hara). Feel yourself as one with the center of the universe.

You can practice steps 1-4 in different positions, while walking, while talking with people, while working, anywhere! As with most wellness tools, the benefits accrue the more you practice. 

If you practice this technique or a different centering technique, I'd love to hear your experience.

"He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe"
-Marcus Aurelius

(photo by Marnie Burkman)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Humor and Motivation

What do humor and motivation have in common? Bringing lightness and laughter to life releases the tension of taking personal goals too seriously -- tension that can paradoxically restrict movement toward those goals. Humor also catalyzes new creative ideas, opening the door to unexpected solutions to a problem. Moses Ma in Psychology Today writes, "Recent research shows that people in a lighter mood experience more eureka! moments and greater inspiration" (click here to read more).

Another thing these have in common is they are the topics of two guest blog articles I have recently written for The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal Blog! Check out links to my articles below. And thank you to the Crazy Wisdom blog team for asking me to write.

Humoring Your Health 

Maybe that cookie would be helped by humor! The word “humor” originated as a term to describe various aspects of health that together affect one’s whole state of mind. It comes from... Continue Reading by Clicking HERE


Change in every moment is a given. It is empowering to set conscious intentions around what changes will support your growth, health, and long-term goals. However, knowing what you’d like to... Continue Reading by Clicking HERE

I hope you enjoy the articles and may the sunshine of summertime bring you renewed energy to laugh and be inspired! 

(both graphics are from the Crazy Wisdom blog posts)

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Easy Stress Relief Tool: DIY Art

Stress relief tools can be active or passive. With passive activities, your body is mostly still and you're absorbing stimulation and inspiration from another source -- such as watching a movie, reading a book, listening to music, gazing out a window at nature or browsing the internet.  With active activities, you are dynamically moving your body or using your body to create change in your environment. Examples of active relaxation include exercise, dancing, gardening, home redecorating, playing an instrument and cooking.  One that I recently enjoyed was a do-it-yourself art project in which I created a wall mural.

On the back side of an island in my kitchen is an old wooden wall that's been in need of inspiration for some time.  For months I've gazed at that wall and imagined a mural of an ocean wave. I started online research of mural decals but never got around to measuring and ordering. I felt bored looking at the wall and bored when I tried to find something pre-made to fill the space. Then I realized -- why not just paint it myself to try something new and enjoy creating one-of-a-kind art in the process, while infusing that area with my own inspired energy!

Here is my DIY wall mural project:

1) Clean the wall of dust and use painter's tape to tape off the border:

2) Prime the area with interior wall primer -- I used two coats:

3) Create mural-of-choice with acrylic paint (found at any arts and crafts store such as Michael's). For my ocean wave, first I painted the entire background a light sky-blue color. Then I created the basic wave form with turquoise and light green:
I kept tweaking it to highlight the wave and add new colors and dimensions:

4) When the mural felt complete, I let the acrylic paint completely dry then sealed it by applying 3 thin coats of nontoxic gloss varnish, letting each varnish coat dry between layers (I used Liquitex Gloss Varnish from Michael's). The varnish added a subtle shine and will protect the mural from dust, fading and water splashes (ironically, given that it is an "ocean wave"!):

I'm very happy with my finished mural and found the painting process to be soothing and re-balancing. I tended to work on it in the evenings before bedtime and it was a lovely, calming activity before sleep.

Ideas for other stress-relieving, DIY art projects are endless! There are really no "right or wrong" rules -- the creation of art is so personal and unique to each individual. It could literally be one line drawn on a piece of paper where doing that one thing moves and releases your energy.

What art projects could be inspiring to you? Are there other forms of active relaxation that you love?

(photos by Marnie Burkman)