The last few years have been transformative for me in many ways. These years have been filled with many external changes, but the internal changes have been even larger and more comprehensive.
I've been reviewing the scope of these changes recently and considering the habits and practices that I've introduced and cultivated during this time that have been key contributors to creating, stabilizing, and supporting these changes. It's not an exaggeration to say that these things have changed my life!
I realize that every person is different and will have different needs and preferences, but these have worked wonders for me. Each of these is still a work in progress that I continue to live into more deeply as I go, but their interwoven nature allows each one to encourage and support the others—even as they all encourage and support me.
Becoming a morning person
I've been a night owl since my teen years despite many attempts to shift that with no success. I finally discovered a new alarm clock that has made all the difference for me. It gradually brightens the room for 30 minutes before the chime starts, so my body's natural wake-up systems are triggered.
I am now up at 5 am every morning, which gives me time to get things done before work that set the tone for my whole day. It helps that other practices in the list have given me more reasons to be excited about my life and my days than I have ever been, but that alarm clock has been worth every penny and more!
Writing daily morning pages
Morning pages are a practice that creativity expert Julia Cameron describes in her book The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. These are approximately 1,000 words of free writing done first thing in the morning to clear out the mind and prime the pump. I write mine by hand with pen and paper.
I've worked with these off and on over the years but have not been very good about doing them first thing in the morning in the past. Having finally made the shift to being a morning person, I now have time to get this done before work each day, and it's made a phenomenal difference!
This writing time gives me space to work through issues, develop new ideas, and listen to my creative nudges while my mind is still fresh. I can tell a difference on the days I miss out on this practice for any reason. I can't recommend these highly enough.
Honoring my intuition
This has meant cultivating practices that help me better tune into what my intuition is trying to tell me and then acting on those messages (even when my rational mind doesn't understand). The more I am willing to act on what I know, the more easily I am able to tune in. I've discovered that I know so much more about how to live my life than I ever imagined, and life flows so much more easily when I am paying attention to this inner source of wisdom.
Valuing my creativity
For many years, I thought I wasn't creative at all. Now I run a creative business. Who would have guessed it was possible? This practice has meant following my creative ideas, being willing to risk being (much) less than perfect when I start something new, and investing time and money in my creative ideas to help them grow and flourish. My creativity has expanded the more I invest in it, and my creative work, in turn, feeds and nourishes me in ways I never dreamed possible.
Changing my reference point
I used to make many decisions based on a comparison to others around me or on what the culture expected. I've increasingly changed my reference point to an internal one by learning what helps me function best and by making decisions based on the person I want to be.
This has included things like eating according to my body's needs (not the latest dietary advice), embracing my introverted nature and love of solitude (even in a culture that values extraversion), prioritizing getting enough sleep, spending more time in nature, and making (often counter-cultural) choices that help me be my best self.
Seeking the Divine
I've been intensely interested in spiritual things since I was a child, but I have always tried to make my beliefs and practices fit within an approved religious system (primarily the one I grew up with). Part of the transformational process for me has been shifting my priority from fitting into an approved religion to wholeheartedly seeking the Divine wherever I find Her/His presence.
This has meant crafting my own set of practices that make space for the Divine in my life. It includes my Friday evening candle lighting practice, contemplative prayer, and other practices that open me to the touch of the Divine.
Retiring old stories
I've had so many stories over the years that I've rehearsed to death—stories about who I am, what I am capable of, what has happened to me. Most of these stories were not serving me well (and some, in fact, where downright harmful). As I've been increasingly willing to retire these old stories, my world has expanded in so many ways.
Sometimes I have replaced old stories with new ones that serve me better. Sometimes I've just let go stories about the past and no longer engage in their continual rehearsal. This has opened up so much more space for transformation and shift!
Starting a business
Starting a business—even a part-time one on the side—has taught me so much about myself and what I'm capable of. I am constantly being challenged to learn new things and stretch myself in new ways, but I have never had so much fun working or been so energized about what I'm doing. That has made every risk and every challenge absolutely worthwhile. I wouldn't trade this for the world!
Letting go of "should"
I've learned to drop "should" from my vocabulary. Every time I hear myself say that I "should" do something, it's a signal for me to stop and re-frame. Either I am choosing to do something because I want the outcome that action will bring, or I choose not to do it. Living in choice has allowed me to drop those things that really didn't matter to me anyway, and this has eliminated so much baggage I didn't even know I was carrying.
Experimenting, experimenting, experimenting
I've written before about living life as a series of experiments, so I won't belabor the point here, but this experimental way of living has been a game-changer for me. It's opened up so much more space for me to try new things, including many of the habits on the list above. This one habit has made so many of the others possible! Without this one, I'd probably still be doing the same old things in the same old rut.
Acknowledging the importance of these practices has helped me re-commit to practicing them with intentionality and regularity. In their own way, every one of these practices—both internal and external—are my self-care. They have transformed me and continue to support the changes in me that I value.
What practices have you created in your life that support you? What practices have you been considering trying that might support you better? What would it take to try those?
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