Splash Into Calm: Thankgiving

Let’s look at the holiday where food is in the forefront—Thanksgiving. When we think about the Thanksgiving holiday there are a few aspects to be investigated: physical digestion, gratitude, and Native American culture. This excerpt from  Splash Into Calm sheds some light on the subject.


We already looked at mindful eating last week, so let’s broaden our scope and include another cause of digestion issues. The Wall Street Journal’s March, 2009 article in New Health Journal addressed the effects of stress on our digestion.

L. Edwards, director of the Behavioral Chronic Pain Management program at Duke University Medical Center, said: “Now, we recognize that what happens in the brain affects the body and what happens in the body affects the brain.” The article goes on to say:

The digestive tract has its own extensive system of nerve cells lining the esophagus, stomach and intestines—known as the gut brain—that are extremely sensitive to thoughts and emotions. That's what creates the feeling of butterflies in the stomach. When anxiety persists, it can set off heartburn, indigestion and irritable-bowel syndrome, in which the normal movement of the colon gets out of rhythm, traps painful gas and alternates between diarrhea and constipation.

This is not a pretty picture, but it is the truth. I realize that most of us acknowledge that stress has an effect, but it is greater than we imagine.  Stress produces tension in our internal organs, decreasing their oxygen supply. This directly influences our ability to take in nutrients from food. The more oxygen that is absorbed in our internal organs, the healthier they are. We definitely want to keep our internal organs happy!

All of the techniques and perspectives explored throughout Splash Into Calm help temper stress.  Slow, deep breathing creates movement in your diaphragm that massages your stomach and other organs, increasing oxygen flow and nutrient absorption as well as expediting the elimination of waste.

In addition, yoga practices are beneficial.  Specific yoga poses help with digestion, because they give internal organs a massage, which brings in more blood and oxygen.

 There is a simple yoga pose that helps relieve bloating and gas. It is fondly known as the Wind Relieving Pose. I would recommend waiting at least a half hour after a big meal before practicing this or any form of exercise. It can be done in bed or on the floor.

I will give simple instructions but if you are confused or uncomfortable, wait until you work with a skilled instructor.

  • Lie on your back with your legs together and your lower legs over a blanket or chair; or simply keep your knees bent with your feet side by side.
  • Bring both knees to your chest and bring hands over to the left knee, and replace your right leg back over the blanket or back to the floor. Keep it close to the midline of your body.
  • Leave your right leg where it is and support your left knee with your hands either near your kneecap, or behind the knee crease.
  • Do not pull it in, but relax as you hold it. Keep it pointed toward your left ear. Stay here for a minute or two. Repeat on the other side.


Thanksgiving is essentially about giving thanks (hence the name) but it seems to become a food-a-thon and stress inducer, and the icing on the cake (no pun intended) is the inevitable indigestion. Some families have a tradition of asking each person around the table to share what they are grateful for, which is a nice beginning, but does not go far enough.  Saying what you are thankful for and behaving with gratitude are two different things. This phrase applies: “Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.”  You have the freedom to choose how you view everything in everyone in your life. Gratitude will foster a happier, healthier state of mind. 

Native American Culture

In today’s world there is great concern for our environment and the neglect and disregard it receives. We can learn a lot from the deep respect for Mother Earth and for all of creation embodied in Native American culture.  The Native American term Wankan tanka means “the sacred” or "the divine" and when we ponder the message of Thanksgiving, it is one of gratitude for all that is, all that has been, and all that will be. This is a way of life, the heart and soul, and the spiritual essence of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  Let me know in the comments below how the practices and perspectives affected your holiday experience.  What is your focus during the holiday?

Posted in: Splash into Calm

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Mood Swing

The past few days I have woken up in a funky mood.  After trying to figure out the cause, I came up empty. Rather than going into “analysis-paralysis” I decided to stay with it and just notice how I felt. 

I went on with my day, beginning with a yoga practice followed by meditation.  When I finished my mood was a bit better but still felt kind of low.

I thought about a recent article I read about at 93 year old giving tips on living a longer, happier life.  She uses curiosity, optimism, humor and a cheerful greeting.  Her attitude inspired me to make a few simple decisions:

  • Let go of analyzing the situation.
  • Open up to enjoying my day-it is all I have.
  • Notice the simple things–I focused on the foliage with curiosity.
  • Smile, even though I did not really feel happy at that moment.
  • Choose to be grateful for my life.

Let me know in the comments below how make a shift in attitude.  What do you do when your mood needs a boost?

Posted in: Technique of the Week

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Celebrate Memorial Day

Memorial Day, for many it is an opportunity to enjoy in a long weekend. Retailers use it for an occasion for sales.  It marks the onset of summer and we take time to play and socialize.  I am one who likes any chance to relax, enjoy myself and cannot resist a bargain.

Yet, Memorial Day did not begin with this intention.  It was originally known as Decoration Day and it began an occasion to honor Union soldiers who had died during the Civil War. After World War I, it was extended to include all men and women. 

For many of us war and loss are part of reality. We raise the flag and visit our loved ones at the cemetery.  I have been traveling lately and when I get off the plane I see the USO greeting these young soldiers and the surrounding travelers clapping and thanking those who serve.  I feel an upwelling of gratitude and awe at the courage it takes to serve our country.

On Monday, take a few moments and reflect on the cost of war.  This is not a political statement but a human experience of love, gratitude and inner peace.

Let me know in the comments below about your Memorial Day thoughts.

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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Find Gratitude in 4 Steps

There are times when our lives are overwhelming and things are not going as planned.  It is during this time that gratitude helps to soften what seems never ending.

The challenge is finding gratitude in the midst of frustration, fear and uncertainty.

We forget that we have had uplifting experiences in the past, no matter how minor.  The sweet, small events we have had are often overshadowed by the negative.

You do not have to feel grateful to be grateful.  It can be a decision and it will help make a shift in your attitude.  

Try this simple practice:

  1. Close your eyes or have a soft gaze.
  2. Bring to mind some experience that you had in the past that you enjoyed, no matter how small.
  3. Stay focused on that experience, while taking a few breaths.
  4. With each slow, deep inhale and exhalation, say the words Thank You.

Let me know in the comments below if this helped reset your attitude.  Were you able to take a few moments to try this?  If not, what do you think happened?

Posted in: Technique of the Week

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Create Your Own Reality

I was having a conversation with an elder and he told me that he was often thinking about past events that impacted his life.  He told me few stories and they were all about wrongs that he felt were done to him. 

This man has had a wonderful long life with so many gifts, yet his focus is on the negative events.

I asked him:  If it was painful when it happened years back, why would you want to continue to re- live the experience over and over again.  It wasn’t fun the first time!

We all have experienced unpleasant situations and often we focus on and remember them more than the pleasant ones.   Our negative experiences stem from either something that was done to us, something that we did, or something that we had no control over.   We perpetuate whatever feelings we had and bring them into the present day. 

Our reality is created by our mind.

 If we would focus on the uplifting and happy events, we would live with more gratitude.This would bubble over into our relationships and experiences, helping us to stay present in the moment, fully participating in our daily life.   We could live with my peace, ease and joy. 

It's our choice.

What do you want your focus to be today?  Let me know in the comments below.

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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5 Steps to an Attitude of Gratitude

"I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I have found myself, my work and my God" – Helen Keller

Helen Keller had unimaginable obstacles to overcome in her life, and her attitude is inspiring.

Gratitude for the challenges in life is difficult for many of us to understand. We tend to look at the things that have been painful having a negative impact on us.  Everything we experience in life impacts who we become and our day to day living.

Many of the most inspiring people in our lives had to endure major hurdles.  

Try this:

  1. Take a moment and think about something that was difficult for you to overcome.
  2. Notice the event without imposing any judgments or emotional charge.  Simply look at it as an observer.
  3. Now with the same observation, look at how you live your life now.
  4. Find one thing about yourself that might not have emerged if the early event did not happen.
  5. Take a few breaths, focusing on that awareness.

When you  do this exploration invite your mind to remain in the moment, and you can gain some insight into the positive gifts you received and how it shaped your perceptions, activities, spiritual path, and relationships.

Let me know in the comments below what you discovered.  If you could not think of anything, let me know what got in the way.

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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