by guest blogger Elizabeth Murray, author of Living Life in Full Bloom: 120 Daily Practices to Deepen Your Passion, Creativity & Relationships
On St. Valentine's Day, we express our love to the special people in our lives. In my book Living Life in Full Bloom, you're invited to explore the pathways of "The Gardener" to cultivate intimacy with nature; "The Artist," to expand your creativity and imagination; "The Lover," to lead from your heart and commit to what you love; and "The Spirit-Weaver," to bring celebration, gratitude, and joyful spirit into each day.
To celebrate love, let's explore four key practices of The Lover:
#1: Live the way of love. Love is a way of being--a gift, but also a rigorous daily practice. Love is the compass to your destiny and your belonging. Love can help you ascend to great happiness and joy--and it can break your heart open. Love can be the light to guide you to experience a far greater capacity for love and deepen your connection and commitment to your soul purpose.
Love is the antidote to fear. Love has a great sense of humor, keeping you humble, curious, and in joy. Love of self is essential for keeping your self-value and care in balance. And love of other, whether person, animal, or place, is a catalyst: Your soul suddenly awakens. No longer in dormancy, your seeds begin to quicken, and love bursts into bloom.
Once in love, you will never go back. Your soul has come into flower. Love is the sunshine, rain, and soil that bring your heart into full bloom.
#2: Forgive to grow. One of the rigorous practices of love is to forgive. I think about forgiveness as like when I'm watering the garden and suddenly little or no water comes out because there's a kink in the hose. Forgiveness, to me, means taking the kinks out so there can be a clear flow in our lives.
When you refuse to forgive someone, the kink starts. It's usually small at first. You might get accustomed to low flow, or, worse, forget about watering altogether and just dry up. As with the hose, if you don't try to untangle the mess, the situation may never improve.
In my life, it has taken me years to forgive a few situations and people (even myself!). But once I do, I realize I am able to deeply water my own seeds and grow in new ways. And that's when the garden really comes into blossom. In the end, forgiveness of others allows your own life to flow better, letting grace, love, and joy stream more freely for you.
#3: Nurture loving-kindness. Research shows that acts of kindness not only benefit the person who receives the kindness, but also release endorphins responsible for feelings of contentment in the person offering the kindness. In fact, we are hardwired by nature to be kind! This reciprocal gift makes kindness a joy for everyone.
I like to think of giving kindness as gardening. You plant seeds when you're kind to yourself and others, then you water them with love. Each day, you nurture your garden with simple acts of kindness for yourself, for someone else, or for nature. Weed out any comparison or judgment of yourself or others, deliberatively shifting your thoughts and actions. Your garden of loving-kindness will bloom abundantly, and your seeds will spread. Extending yourself with acts of kindness brings you into blossom.
#4: Plant the seeds of love. Make yourself a Valentine. You might start with a red heart drawn on or cut out of paper on which to write a personal letter. Tell yourself what you love and admire about yourself--your unique skills, talents, and character qualities. Be specific and kind. Now sign it, decorate the envelope, and mail it to yourself. It will be a sweet surprise to receive and read.
You may be inspired to make some more for your loved ones, telling them what you love, appreciate, and admire about them. This is a way of planting seeds of love in our own hearts as well as in the hearts of others. We may never know how meaningful the seeds of love we plant in others are or when they will come into bloom.
Keep sowing your seeds, and enjoy all the blossoming!
Elizabeth Murray is an author, artist, and keynote speaker known for her award-winning book Monet"s Passion: Ideas, Inspiration & Insights from the Painter's Gardens, written when Murray quit her job as a professional gardener to work for free restoring Monet's gardens. In her spare time, she photographed and wrote about the gardens that inspired the artist's most loved impressionist works, and her photographs have accompanied the artist's paintings in 10 museum exhibitions, hundreds of calendars, and her books. Murray's newest book explores four inspirational archetypes--the Gardener, Artist, Lover, and Spirit-Weaver--to help you fulfill your heartfelt dreams, connect to what has meaning for you, and realize your full potential to reinvent your life and community. Find out more at www.elizabethmurray.com.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com