Renew – Rejuvenate – Awaken!

Of all the phrases I use when working with others to empower them to bring their lives back into a place of greater balance, one of my all-time favorites is: “Renew your Energy … Rejuvenate your Body … Awaken to your Life!”  This affirmation is truly supportive of accepting issues one is experiencing, while still appealing to the stronger inner self, that more mindful being, to continue enhancing lifelong health and wellbeing. I remind my students and clients every time we meet: “Challenge yourself, but do not hurt yourself.” To explain this further, I believe that not only the physical being, but also our intellectual, emotional, energetic and spiritual dimensions of health and wellbeing must be addressed within each practice, so the connection of body-mind-spirit becomes complete.

By finding powerful ways to renew our energetic self, we become inspired to start working as if beginning anew. Reviving strength, heightening stamina, and reestablishing vitality through body-friendly practices supports safety and focuses on working with our “beginner’s mind”, enriching daily mindfulness. Renewing personal health and wellbeing, and “amping up” our energy takes time and patience. With sunny or rainy days, and with relentless determination, we can do it!  To begin is the victory…

The term “rejuvenate” offers an abundant sense of regenerating, restoring, and refurbishing. Breathing new life into each day with stress-relieving practices restores feelings of youthful vigor, allowing us to embrace joyful, purposeful lives.  By awakening to our lives through energy renewal and bodily rejuvenation, we are able to focus expressly on enhancing personal health and wellbeing across our lifespan, no matter our present circumstances. Essentially, we start where we are, and what happens … happens. Creating a personal path to greater balance and healthier daily practices empowers us to enrich our existing quality of life, motivating and stimulating us repeatedly on this journey of self-care.

Learning to confront and address life’s challenges begins with a willingness to search out and then to make use of quality resources. Take advantage of spring retreats, workshops and conferences that promote self-care and renewal. Embrace your inner spirit, awaken your innate mindful abilities by trying something that increases not only your activity level, but also revitalizes your intellectual self, nurturing greater positivity of your emotional, compassionate being. Working on self-renewal by awakening to our lives is a work-in-progress, a moment-by-moment journey.  We will falter along the way. We are uniquely human, creatures of habit; emotionally charged moments may bring us down temporarily. This is our nature. Yet, we can bounce back and begin anew to confront those challenging experiences with perseverance and determination. We have nothing to lose but our winter humdrum attitudes … let them go!

Ignite your spark and kindle yourself – body, mind, and and spirit! Rise and shine!

  • Dedicated to Tika, Buddy, AND Cindy Lou ~~ gone from our world, but never forgotten!


A Lesson from Cindy …

Cindy places her right paw gently on my left leg as I sit at my computer, working on this article. I rub her floppy black ears, observing the white feathering amidst her black muzzle of fur, more prominent each day. She gazes at me with a tenderhearted focus, and settles down, curling up near my feet and drifts off into predictable slumber. Last July, when we adopted this newest four-legged treasure, who would know she could bring such joy and serenity to our lives? Throughout each day, our 13-year old black lab epitomizes an essential aspect of health and wellbeing that can benefit us all, as we cross the threshold into 2018 ~ CONTENTMENT.

We live in a culture that much of the time finds ways to defeat our sense of true gratification, inundating us with ads and shows that bring out inadequacies we may feel, breeding a sense of gloominess and restlessness, a displeasure with our “state” in life, as opposed to lifting us up in ways that enhance our self-confidence.

On the contrary, contentment is a natural human characteristic, an emotional state that embodies both happiness and satisfaction through peaceful ease of mind. It is typically a milder, more convincing form of fulfillment that embodies serenity, comfort, reconciliation, and acknowledgement. Contentment provides the power to step into reality with unquestionable joy.

Definitively, contentment is a mental choice, one by which we can develop sufficient emotional maturity to be capable of purposefully committing to self-care as essential to optimal wellbeing, no matter life’s circumstances. Contentment actually can be nurtured by embracing life’s ups-and-downs, accepting each as a learning experience. My most challenging encounters have been my “best teachers” in the long run. It is our attitude, how we approach each experience, which allows us to embolden this natural human attribute, this “peace of mind”. Correspondingly, enhancing contentment fosters loving kindness, creativity, and hope ~ all admirable aspects of this special place of peace and quietude.

What are the best ways to cultivate contentment in our lives? Here are just a few ways to keep serenity in your life:

  • Practice body-friendly, stress-relieving yoga postures: movement is basic to nourishing the body-mind-spirit aspect, so a “flowing” class can really be uplifting;
  • Learn which breath practices calm body and mind, and which ignite the energetic spirit within: essentially, both are crucial, so understanding each is critical to life satisfaction;
  • Meditate daily, purposefully taking small breaks throughout your “busyness” to attune to your breath, asking yourself: “What is it I need right here, right now? Calming or energizing?” Listen to what your being is ‘saying’ … then act.

Cindy is nudging my arm ~ it’s now her turn for attention! She’s ready for a run in the chilly, winter air, eager to chase squirrels and rabbits. Life is good ~ it can be just right, if we let it be so. Cindy gives us a perfect lesson of living moment-to-moment, satisfied with whatever happens…

Let’s move into 2018, finding that contentment in our own lives, too!


“You Are a Light in the World!”

Life is just too short!

Recently, I attended the memorial service of a high school classmate, a friend of mine. Shortly before he passed away, he was an active, vibrant individual, full of life. Yet, like many of us are, he was vulnerable to age-related physical issues, his time on earth shortened due to an illness he could not overcome. He always emphasized that life is short, reiterating distinctly: “… so you better enjoy it while you can.”

None of us face exactly the same challenges. We are each an individual expression of our personal experiences. We “shine” in our own unique ways. Since each decade can bring new physical challenges, stayingIMG_2576 healthy becomes more complicated as we age. Basically, life happens. Focusing on personal health and wellbeing through self-care must become our priority. Attending to our own needs allows us to age more gracefully, and to be able to assist others more readily.

Ongoing evidence-based research demonstrates that awareness-enhancing practices in combination with relaxation techniques provide increased resilience, the strength we utilize to bounce back in the midst of stressful times. Such hardiness cannot make our problems go away, but cultivating resilience definitely generates ways to respond to adversity, to go with the flow, and subsequently thrive in the midst of traumatic and stressful life events. By developing skills in practices that allow increased understanding of what triggers heightened stress levels, we create our own “security guard”, harnessing and using our inner strength (often referred to as mindful awareness). We become more trusting of the process of life.

Besides working with any limitations to remain as healthy, active, and nutritionally balanced as possible, we must concentrate on mental, emotional and spiritual senses of wellbeing. Again, we are all individuals with unique lifespans and experiences. Letting situations that occur become our “teachers” establishes a direct path to “healing from the inside out”. When unpleasant or uncomfortable situations occur, we tend to exaggerate feelings, blowing the incidents out of proportion, developing in our mind, perhaps in words and actions, what potential consequences could result ~ “making mountains out of molehills”. Using sound, evidence-based mindful awareness-enhancing and relaxation practices helps us make more responsive, powerful choices. Employing an introspective approach enables learning the lesson at hand; balancing life in this way encourages a more proactive yet calmer approach to life. Roll with the punches, working through personal journeys. Inner work is not about avoiding or pushing away unpleasant challenges. Rather, take time to make needed changes slowly but surely, in a way that works for you.

There is an answer waiting deep within each of us to help deal with challenges in life. Pay attention to the good that life has to offer! Choose to grow older more comfortably with the understanding that you are the “perfect” age, right here, right now.

Life is just too short! Commit to a daily dose of inner work. Let your special unique self sparkle and shine ~ you are a light in the world!

Twilight’s Guidance


Twilight’s Guidance by Mary E. Araas, J.V.

(NOTE: Thank you, sister Mary for letting me share your incredible talent! tyq)

In twilight’s stillness
I watch the play
of distant stars.
The crescent moon
gently smiles
calling my emotions.
I feel your presence
in the luminescent eve
of the cosmos.
Divine love
is shared between
inner and outer worlds.

In the silent eve

I hear the chimes
of your beckoning song.
Gentle chords
of healing love
I welcome your presence.
Within tender shadows
you patiently await
my understanding.
Let me embrace
your loving guidance
in twilight’s beauty.

Copyright 2016, Mary E. Araas-Wright, J.V.

Immune System Self-Care ~ Naturally!!

The Highest Time of Living!

IMG_1775“Don’t talk to me of solemn days

In autumn’s time of splendor,

Because the sun shows fewer rays,

And these grow slant and slender.

Why, it’s the climax of the year,

The highest time of living!

Till naturally its bursting cheer

Just melts into thanksgiving.” (From “Merry Autumn”, by PL Dunbar)

As I slip out into early dawn with our doggies, Tika and Buddy, for our morning walk, I feel a crisp breeze brush against my cheek. I smile, giggling to myself: “Nature is stirring things up!” Off we trek to fields where deer and rabbits play, anticipating the sun’s warming glow. I am reminded of PL Dunbar’s poem “Merry Autumn”. He invites us to embrace this stunning season of phenomenal colors, picturesque greenery transforming into glorious oranges, reds, and yellows, “the highest time of living”. Natural mulch is created as leaves fall to earth. Bees, bats, bears, and other creatures search for quiet, hidden places to hibernate, intent on rejuvenation.

Teaching practical ways to prepare for such challenging changes is one of my greatest passions. Moving from summer into autumn, we should enhance immune function. Our immune system is comprised of a network of specialized cells, tissues, proteins and organs that work to protect us from infection and disease, keeping us healthy throughout colder months. It attacks illness-causing organisms through the immune response, shielding us from destructive substances, strengthening our overall health and wellbeing.

A recent weekend workshop we hosted focused specifically on “tuning up” our immune system. Valuable “take-homes” included slowing life down, following a structured routine, and making necessary changes in three crucial areas: 1) dietary behaviors; 2) sleep habits; and 3) overall stress management. Nutritionally, adding oil and heat to our bodies is essential. Pouring extra virgin olive oil over steamed veggies as well as massaging ourselves with organic skin treatment oils reduces body dryness, inside and out. Internal warming stimulates a “bursting cheer” of energy! Try eating yummy autumn foods: baked sweet potatoes, cranberry chutney, crisp apple pie. Homemade hot cereals, topped with nuts, fresh or steamed fruits, and a dobble of locally made honey is a terrific plan. Creating soups, simmering assorted fresh veggies in organic broth, then adding flavorful spices and nourishing meats of choice is a delightful option. Join body-friendly yoga classes that focus on flow and seasonal breath work, empowering your mind, energizing your body, and nurturing your spirit. Embracing gentle movement in autumn is a powerful reinforcement for your whole being. Learn to meditate … cherish contemplative moments, the chance to be alone with yourself, cultivating your exquisite breath. Relax early in the evening, encouraging peace-filled slumber.

Burst cheerfully into October, utilizing some of these practical tips to jumpstart your immune function. Every little bit counts! An immediate effect that you may notice is an increasing ability to calmly confront stressors, those things that “push your buttons”; then you can expedite stress relief! Try slowing down a little by bolstering your immune function now!

Then, truly enjoy “autumn’s time of splendor”!

Building Resilience Can Transform Your Life!

yoga2Years of working with students and clients, and personal life experiences have helped me discover the undeniable significance of absorbing life’s challenges, adapting, managing, and persevering in the midst of adversity. This skill, called resilience, is the capacity for maintaining strength during stressful life events. It helps us recover and spring back. We can face difficult experiences, drawing on our strengths, relationships, and communities, thus gaining greater confidence in our ability to rise above obstacles.

Fundamentally, resilience is an inherent process of life, not a trait; it can be learned and enhanced by nearly anyone. The common misconception that resilient individuals experience no negative thoughts or emotions is just not true! Resilience cannot make our problems disappear; rather, it provides ways to look past them. We are human, experiencing “ups and downs”! Greater flexibility and growing confidence help transform our tribulations into enriching contributions to a more satisfying life.

Factors enhancing resilience include supportive relationships, an uplifting outlook, and the ability to create realistic plans and carry them out. A few tips for building resilience are as follows:

  • Make connections, accepting support from those who care and will listen to you;
  • Help others in their time of need; a compassionate act of kindness may bring many blessing your way ~ and it makes you feel good!
  • Avoid considering crises as insurmountable; reframe your life, changing how you interpret and respond to such events;
  • Accept that change is a part of living, adapting to unalterable situations and focusing on managing those you can modify;
  • Navigate toward your goals: Ask yourself: “What can I accomplish today to help me move toward my objectives?”
  • Take decisive actions to manage problems rather than trying to “wish” them away;
  • Look for opportunities for self-discovery: Oftentimes, experiencing hardship allows strengthening of body, mind and spirit, increasing feelings of self-worth, resulting in heightened appreciation for life;
  • Nurture a positive view of yourself, maintaining a hopeful outlook and confidence in your capabilities; trust your instincts rather than worrying about your fears;
  • Keep things in perspective, viewing the “big picture”, avoiding blowing situations out of proportion; just ask yourself: “Will this really matter in five years?”
  • Take care of yourself! Self-compassion and loving-kindness go a long way; attend to your needs and feelings, engaging in activities you find relaxing.
  • Exercise your body, mind, and spirit through movement as well as quiet, contemplative times ~ every single day! (

IMG_1058Why should we build resilience? Ultimately, when we are resilient, we embrace our body as a whole, reducing stress and renewing our spirit. Our thinking becomes clearer, our balance and flexibility soar! We can minimize reactivity to stressors and recover more quickly, secure in the understanding that using specific skills will carry us through challenging situations. The key is identifying ways that work best for you. Developing resilience is a personal journey.
Consider the tips above and begin to transform your life ~ adapting … navigating … managing … and persevering!



LAUGHTER!! … It’s Good for You!

We all enjoy a good, hearty laugh!

Guess what? As it turns out, laughter on a regular basis is really good for us, too! It is considered one of the most natural ways we can treat ourselves to a greater level of happiness. Adding a little humor to each day can improve our lives – body, mind and soul – encouraging optimal health and wellbeing by creating better balance and enhancing a sense of calmness. Laughter is an important element of emotional health, and part of what is referred to as our “psychosocial dimension of wellness”, essential for healing and quality of life.

Psychosocially healthy people possess a zest for life, are internally healthy and thrive intellectually. Such individuals enrich the lives of others; overall, they are energetic, resilient, focused and open-minded. They feel good about themselves, so they are comfortable around others and meet daily demands with a hopeful outlook. Cherishing experiences that bring a smile to the day, they adapt to change easily and maintain sensitivity toward others. The components of psychosocial health are emotional (feeling), social (relating), mental (thinking) and spiritual (being). They are essential aspects of our wellbeing, especially when dealing with stress. Each of us experience occasional “dips”, downturns during our lives, yet those who utilize sound coping skills are capable of giving and receiving affection and love, working continuously to employ strengths to improve weaknesses. Let’s look at a few of the physical benefits of laughing:

  • Enhances “aerobic activity”, increasing breathing and heart rate, blood pressure and circulation
  • Increases oxygen delivered to cells throughout our body
  • Clears mucus from the lungs
  • Strengthens our heart muscle (20 seconds of laughter = 3 minutes of rowing!)
  • Boosts immune cells and immune-related hormones, decreases stress hormones
  • Breaks pain/spasm cycles through muscular relaxation
  • Decreases inflammation, assisting with sleep

What a phenomenal list ~~ But wait, there’s more! The psychological benefits of laughter are significant, too. Stress relief actually lasts long after laughing, bolstering “stress immunity”. A new perspective can emerge, altering our perception of discomfort and distress, and enabling greater resilience and stress management abilities.

Laughter is contagious and the mere anticipation of a good chuckle makes us feel terrific! A big smile from someone nearby can catch our eye, with the likelihood of laughter, which stimulates one-on-one bonding. Research even tells us that, overall, women prefer a man with a sense of humor; men prefer women who laugh at their wit. Clearly, a daily dose of laughter is valuable, so exercise your skills today:

  • Make a pledge to laugh out loud every day
  • Set aside time to call someone who adds fun to your life at least once a week
  • Start a humor collection (jokes, clippings, cartoons, cards, mugs, books, videos)
  • Watch funny movies
  • Do something silly each day

As one of the most natural and beneficial gifts we can give ourselves, laughter is the perfect Rx to include in our daily diet. Go ahead … let it be the self-induced prescription that spices up your life.

Laughing is good for you … JUST DO IT!



Breathing is normally completely void of will: seldom conscious of it, we enter life with our first breath and end with a final exhalation. Defined as the process that moves air in and out of our lungs, breathing can be explained as a basic delivery system, exchanging carbon dioxide molecules from inside our bodies for oxygen molecules from our environment. Flowing like a mountain stream, it connects moment-to-moment experiences and quietly renewing our energy. We all find it paramount to optimal health and wellbeing, especially individuals who struggle with chronic respiratory challenges (e.g., asthma, bronchitis, emphysema). Enhancing breath capacity is should be an integral part of daily life. READY – SET – GO with the FLOW!


An essential and equal partner of the breath, our heart begins working even before we are born! As the hardest working muscle in our body, it generates a rhythmic, contractile beat, pumping blood throughout vessels of our circulatory system, and teaming up with the breath to provide life-enriching oxygen and nutrients, as well as to remove metabolic wastes (i.e., surplus or toxic substances). The heart not only functions as a physical force. Most appropriately, the dictionary also defines ‘heart’ as the “center of total personality, especially with reference to intuition, feeling, or emotion” … as … “spirit, courage, or enthusiasm” … finally, as … “the innermost or central part of anything”! (Reference: READY – SET – GO with the FLOW!


This element of our being includes cognitive faculties that provide intellectual ability to reason, think, feel, will, perceive, remember, desire, imagine and make sound judgments. Its physical “home” is our brain, which consists of soft, convoluted matter, housed within the cranium. It can serve us well as controller and coordinator of thoughts, words, and actions when we choose to listen.

Increasing awareness and understanding of the inner voices of our mind, our life-giving breath, and the rhythmic beat of our heart can decrease everyday stress by helping us relax tense muscles, cope with pain, deal with anger, attend to relationships ~ day-by-day, moment-by-moment. No matter the challenges or circumstances we face, consistently tapping into these personal “friends” through empowering practices will allow them to become more familiar and effective.

Try this simple hands-on practice that utilizes the powers of breath, heart and mind:

  • Tune into your breathing during the day: consciously observe your breath with a sense of keen interest, as if for the first time; feel your breath in your belly; observe it rising and falling;
  • Develop increasing awareness of your thoughts and feelings at these moments, just consciously observing them, but not judging either yourself or them;
  • Take time to notice any changes in the way you feel about yourself and life. Take mental notes.
  • Wait awhile ~ Check in again … and yet later, again!





   GO with the FLOW! 


Making Life’s Balancing Act Work for YOU!**

Creating and maintaining balance in our lives …

…seems difficult, impossible at times, due to today’s fast-moving, technological world interfaced with daily challenges. Stress from changes in our “routine” stems from our perception and appraisal of the situation and specific reaction. When some “stressor” disrupts our sense of equilibrium, we receive an inner call for help. Our body’s built-in system immediately jumps into action, resulting at least in increased heart rate and blood pressure. If this acute reaction persists, becoming repetitive – day after day, week after week – the “stress reaction” ultimately develops into chronic ailments: high blood pressure, arrhythmias, sleep disorder, headaches, backaches, and pervasive anxiety. Effects can be devastating emotionally, psychologically, physically, and even professionally. What we ALL know is that stress is not going away. It is a natural part of our human experience. Without gaining a deeper sense of the full context of life experiences, we can be taken down by chronic stress, perceived threats and change. Developing focused problem-solving strategies fosters quicker recovery of mental equilibrium and physical homeostasis. Internal stability can be well maintained when new options are used that bring calmness and balance of mind, body and energy. Attention to carefully perceiving and intentionally working realistically to alleviate each situation that is “stressing us out” makes perfect sense.


To be in balance within the complexity of our day-to-day routine is to be “in synch”. Thus, we convey a sense of equanimity, projecting serenity, calmness, and composure, even in the midst of unsettling circumstances. To be balanced in life means that we feel relatively calm, clear-headed, and motivated – overall sensibly grounded. Dimensions to consider for bringing our lives into greater balance include two basic classifications: internal (core elements: mind, heart, health, wellbeing) and external (outer elements: family, work, social activities, fun). At times, we are pulled to focusing on one dimension more than the other, throwing our life balancing abilities out of whack! When this happens, realigning this balancing act we call “life” truly becomes critical to our health and wellbeing. How can we accomplish this task?

Take some time to examine lifelong foundations that promote the ability to handle whatever life brings. To overcome habitual stress, reflect on personal values, starting by setting just a few goals, then plan some goal-achieving tasks. Reflect, prepare, and – little by little, moment by moment – build upon coping strategies, such as these:

  • Pleasurable joys (giving/receiving hugs, laughing, warm baths, listening to music);
  • Physical nourishment (physical activity, rest and relaxation, a variety of foods);
  • Social connections (cultivate random acts of kindness, volunteering, spending quality time with family, pets and friends);
  • Emotional welfare (nurture an uplifting attitude, respond to stressful situations with others in honest, fair and direct ways);
  • Spiritual harmony (connect with nature daily, take time to meditate/to pray)

Make this life balancing act work for you as the unique – yes!! – one-of-a-kind spiritual being that you are ….

Moving forward, try some of these strategies –

– Create your own –


– AND ENJOY FULLY this thing we call the “human experience”!


(**This is my recent Sheridan Press “HEALTH WATCH” article, in case you missed seeing it … I am elated to be invited to write for them again!)


In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich”


Over my many years of studies, I have been blessed with learning experiences through the wisdom of many incredible mentors, professors, and friends and family who have touched my life. I continue to benefit so much by the work of Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading expert on the psychology of gratitude that I just must share more about him with all of you. Dr. Emmons contends that promoting a national state of gratitude would definitely change our world as much, if not more than, anything else our government, education and business leaders could possibly recommend ~ I AGREE!!

I met Dr. Emmons when he gave a lively presentation, “What Good is Gratitude: The Memory of the Heart and the Science of Well-Being”, at the same conference in Sedona, AZ., at which I was presenting my dissertation research and hands-on work I do in stress management through mindful awareness and relaxation practices ~~ I did just fine, AND he was a HIT!

He started his presentation with this quote about gratitude and its benefits: You feel a deep sense of peace and internal balance  – you are at harmony with yourself, with others and with your larger environment. You experience increased buoyancy, vitality and flow. Your senses are enlivened – every aspect of your perceptual experience seems richer, more textured. Surprisingly, you feel invigorated at times when you would usually have felt tired and drained. Things that usually would have irked you just dont get to you as much. Your body feels regenerated – your mind, at last, clear… At least for a period of time, decisions become obvious as priorities clarify and inner conflict dissolves. Intuitive insight suddenly provides convenient solutions to problems that had previously consumed weeks of restless thought. Your creativity flows freely. In this state of inner harmony and deep fulfillment, you experience a sense of greater connectedness – to other people, to a larger whole, perhaps to God, or to a higher aspect of yourself.”  (from his book, entitled “THANKS! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier”)

SO, what is the BEST Rx for enhancing our “gratitude scale”? ~~ How can we open our hearts more widely to others?

Let’s look at some of the practices we can experiment with, on our ‘road’ to opening our hearts, our minds, and using our energy to live more fully in daily life:

1) Make a vow to practice gratitude in quiet ways … doing little things, random acts of kindness, and then just keeping them in our own hearts and souls.

2) Keep a gratitude journal. Then add to this journal daily, weekly, monthly (whatever works in your schedule, but DO keep a schedule!)

3) As a monthly practice, make a personal list of 50 things you are grateful for, with no repetition.

4) Watch language use in daily life ~ watch what you say and the tone in which you say it.

5) Communicate thanksgiving in letters, emails, telephone conversations (verbal AND texting) and other forms of communication.


Every morning: Record 5 things you are looking forward to during your day that you know are going to take place;

Every evening: Record 5 unexpected things that you were grateful that happened this day (that you did not know would happen!);

At the end of the week: Notice how you feel …

7) Check out this wonderful video ~ I keep it bookmarked and go back to it often…!!