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caring for yourself with love, not shame

21-days-of-self-care

Today I am embarking on a 21-day cleanse.

I celebrate the current popularity of  cleanses because I know how powerful it is to take time away from our usual habits for deep, mindful attention to nourishment. As well, the ritual aspect of a period of limitation offers beautiful opportunities for self-reflection and connection to spirit.

On the other hand, the popular concept of a “cleanse” can refer to any number of practices which focus on deprivation and often end up being more self-punishing than self-loving. And I don’t really love the term “cleanse” itself. We should be starting from a place of deep self-care and a desire to maximize our enjoyment of life and our ability to nurture ourselves, not from a place of shame or a sense of fearfulness that we may “need cleansing.”

So while I am wholeheartedly in favour of a loving time-out to support our health and assess our habits, I’m less enthused about anything that might promote shame-induced deprivation. And let’s be honest, it can be a thin line.

It’s not so much about the book, diet, or program you choose to follow for your cleanse – it’s much more about your attitude towards yourself, your goals and intentions for the cleanse, and whether or not you have the ability to listen deeply to what your body and spirit really need. Simple self-reflection is the key to getting it right. Here are some questions for you and your journal if you are considering embarking on a cleanse:

  • What are my goals for this cleanse? Are they realistic and self-loving? I like goals that focus on positive feelings “I want to feel more bright and connected to nature,” or realistic, attainable and self-loving physical goals “I want to sleep more soundly.” I’m not so keen on goals that focus on soley on appearance “I want to be thinner,” or are unrealistic “I want to completely heal my chronic health condition.” If your goals fall into the latter category, can you think about translating them into positive feelings and attainable baby-steps? “I want to feel lighter on my feet,” “I want to be slightly less dependent on my asthma inhaler.” Honestly, a healthy cleanse will encourage weight loss, and will improve some chronic health problems, and that’s all good! Keep that on your radar! But putting your spirit and your positive emotions at the center of your endeavour will make everything gentler and more loving, I promise.
  • Is this the right cleanse for me, or am I trying to do too much, too fast? You know this one – start where you are. I already eat a mostly plant-based, mostly local, organic whole-food diet, so it’s not a huge stretch or me to try 80% raw vegan for three weeks. It would have been a huge stretch, and way too hard on my body and emotions, for me to try this back when I was a fast-food eating city-dweller. Be gentle with yourself!  Maybe all you need to do right now is replace your afternoon latte with a green juice. Keep it real and self-loving. Focus on the positive feelings.
  • Am I motivated more by love, or by shame? Whew, I know! This one can be hard to look at. The trouble with shame is that we bury it. We hide it from ourselves. This is where it can help so much to pay attention to how your feelings actually feel in your body. You know what love feels like – that softening around your heart,  that sense of spaciousness in your rib-cage, your shoulders relaxing and releasing as your lips curl into a smile. This is what loving decisions feel like! Sadly, you also know what shame feels like. That icky sinking feeling deep in your gut, the constriction of your chest, your eyes and chin dropping as your shoulders tense up. That is what shame-based decisions feel like. Listen to your wise body – she will let you know where your decisions are coming from. If you embark on an endeavour motivated by shame, you will find ways to sabotage yourself. You will feel deprived. Your health will not be enhanced. If you set out with love, your chance of success dramatically rises, and you are setting yourself up to feel happy and joyous about your actions. The positive feelings alone will have a good impact on your health!

Later in the week, I’ll be sharing more about my own goals for the next 21 days, and I’ll be checking in regularly here and daily on Instagram, if you’re interested in my progress! If you’d like to join me, consider committing to practice one positive healthy habit for the next 21 days, and let’ see where we can get! (Share it in the comments for accountability!)

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

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we need pleasure

SONY DSC Have you given much thought to your relationship with pleasure? Because it’s an important relationship.

My grandmother was a woman of great charm and elegance. She had an eye for beauty, and a way of moving through the world that was serene, and sometimes almost regal. She also had a lot of really strict rules about pleasure. All of these qualities left their marks on her daughters and grand-daughters.

The closets of her minimal, modern homes were always spacious and bright. They were orderly and smelled of fresh laundry and Estee Lauder products. Crisp clothes were hung neatly in categories, and the top shelf was filled with her shoes, all stored carefully in their original boxes.

There was something else on that high shelf though, and she would pull it down sometimes in the afternoon; it always seemed to be on a sunny day when she was in a good mood.

It was a small box of chocolate covered cherries.

I’m guessing she bought a new box every couple of months. Because these were a rare treat, and you never had more than one. And never two days in a row.

She would pull down the box and open it, offer me one and take one herself. She obviously took a great deal of pleasure in this little confection. Her approach to this pleasure was to keep it secret, dole it out carefully, not often, and in small amounts.

It was evident in other areas of her life as well, that she spent a good deal of energy policing her own and others pleasure. This was paradoxical, though, because she, like all the women in my family, like me, was a woman of Venusian qualities; a lover of beauty and sensuality, art, good food and drink, flowers, men, personal adornments, conversation, and love. In other words, a lover of pleasure.

Grandmother was in many ways my most important female role model and mentor as I grew, and I watched her carefully for clues about how to navigate the seemingly dangerous waters of sensuality and pleasure. (Because I got that message early: pleasure can be dangerous.)

Overall, it was confusing:

In the realm of consumables, chocolate covered cherries, wine, dessert, meat, and butter were clearly dangerous substances to be consumed in small amounts only. However, cocktails could be consumed with impunity, as long as a gentleman was mixing them for you.

In the realm of conversation, expressing your opinion was a pleasure limited to one-on-one exchanges with other women. If you wanted to flirt, or talk in a neutral, academic way about art and culture, well, those were pleasures you could indulge as much as you wanted in mixed company.

As for the bodily pleasures: swimming, sex, sports, etc., were all completely okay, as long as you did not visibly express anything other than mild ladylike enthusiasm during their performance. Massage, giving or receiving, was highly suspect, as was dancing.

I tell you all this not to be amusing, or cathartic, or to disrespect my Grandmother, to whom I owe so much. I share this in the hopes of bringing to light this idea, that we all have a lot of personal rules about pleasure. And they are worth examining. Because they are not necessarily serving us.

I suspect that a great deal of our personal suffering – anxiety, addictions, disordered eating, sexual issues, body issues, intrusive guilt feelings, even depression – can be traced back to a distorted relationship with pleasure.

Pleasure is an evolutionary force. It’s a natural and beautiful thing. And it’s also powerful. Not good, not bad, but powerful.

giorgione-venus-asleep

Like all powerful things, pleasure is best handled with skill, not fear, not guilt, not ignorance.

But do we learn this? Do we learn how to skilfully manage our relationship with pleasure? No, I think most of us learn about pleasure in the same way that I did – as children, watching the adults around us mismanage their own relationships with pleasure.

We all need to give and receive pleasure. We need to learn to freely receive pleasure from others and from the world around us, without fear, guilt, or the mismanagement that can lead to abuse. And the question is, can we trust ourselves to handle this potent force?

Yes, I think we can.

And the first step is really getting to know our pleasure-selves. What brings us deep pleasure? What pleasures do we allow ourselves, and what do we deny? What are our rules about pleasure, and where did we learn them?

Food for thought, and perhaps for journaling and sharing. If you’d like, share here in the comments. This is part one of a little series I’m writing on pleasure, so I will be back later in the week with some deliciously specific ideas for increasing, and freely enjoying, your pleasure.

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

 

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have you set your goals for july?

july-goals-collage

It’s that time again – time to create your monthly vision board and goals.

This ritual has become a valued moment of self-reflection for me each month, and the collages, which I create directly in my planner, become touchstones for how I want to feel throughout the month. I check in with the image almost every day, and it helps me to stay focused on my most important goals, and to keep my mood positive and my actions aligned with my greater vision for my life. If you’d like to learn more about my process and how to make a goals collage yourself, read this post. If you’d like to see my monthly goals collages over the years, go here.

So welcome to July! How do you want to feel this month? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to learn?

As always, I am seeking balance. Life is a challenging dance. As we move and stretch we must find equilibrium in new ways, and strengthen new muscles. I recently returned to my Kundalini yoga practice  after nearly six months away. This practice is a place for me to face and overcome my fears, and also a place for me to find deep connection and joy. I am so grateful for it! Practicing again has reminded me of the importance of having regular meditation, study, and mindfulness practice. Why do I always forget this?? As I drifted off to sleep last night on the final night of June, I promised myself I would renew my commitment to mindfulness in July. Is there a commitment to self-care that you need to renew this month?

So balance is one of my themes for the month. Pleasure is the other. Summers on the island are so short – this year I want to remember to surrender to the sunshine and warm ocean more often, to allow myself to relax and enjoy without the constant internal pressure to do more, with which I seem to be afflicted. So, more afternoons on the beach. More walks in the forest, more paddling in the kayak. What pleasures can you give yourself this month?

Please feel free to share your month’s intentions in the comments! I always love to hear from you.

Wishing you a happy and blessed July!

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

 

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a gift for you

9-keys-poster

Happy Monday! I have a little treat for you. It’s a free printable poster with my Nine Keys to an Artful Life, which I hand-lettered on a sweet pink watercolour background. I hope you enjoy it!

This freebie is a gift for anyone who subscribes to my monthly newsletter, Artful Living. Go here to sign up and download your poster!

{If you’re already a subscriber, you’ll be getting a link to download the poster soon, so check your in-box!} nine-keys-poster 1

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

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new moon in cancer – outpourings

new moon in cancer

{Each month, nature in her wisdom and beauty offers us an opportunity, a clean slate, a shining outward and visible sign of the grace we are always given to move beyond our own shadow and start again. In the night sky, the dark Moon begins to clear the Earth’s shadow and reveals a tiny sliver of the freshest silver. The New Moon.}

This Friday’s New Moon in Cancer asks us “where is your flow blocked?” Look around. Do you see evidence of creative, romantic, or emotional blockage anywhere in your life? Any problems with flow, literally, emotionally, or symbolically? For me, the pressure switch on my well pump just gave out, which stopped the flow of water into the house. So no water. Because something’s wrong with the thingy that controls the flow from the deep well. Yeah. That gives me something to ponder. Where is your world speaking to you in the language of symbols?

We’re deep in the waters of the sacred feminine here, and if we use these energies wisely, there’s powerful potential for emotional renewal.

So respect your feelings, go with the flow, and take some time for stream-of-consciousness self-reflection. Take a swim, visit the spa, or soak in a sea salt bath. Nurture yourself deeply, and cry if you need to. Cocoon yourself at home. Enjoy intimate pleasures and surrender to love. Allow your emotions to flow freely.

If you’re up to taking action in the world, now is a great time to envision, promote, and invite. Is there a project that is dear to your heart and tied to your feelings? Now is the time to send it out into the world, like an offering cast upon the waters. And speaking of that, what a great time this moon would be for a ritual water offering!

Relax, breathe, and float through this moon’s energy.

New Moon Blessings and Love,

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

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Leslie G - Bronwyn, this is wonderful! Thank you so much for letting your full life spill over into the outer world. Thank you to Katarina for opening the door for me into this place of wisdom and joy. Peace and light to the women of the world.

Bronwyn - Thank you so much Leslie, it’s wonderful to see you here! xo