february is past it’s half way mark and it’s time to complete the light a heart fire challenges. whether you’ve participated daily, sporadically, or not at all, i invite you to stretch yourself and your capacity for love of self and other each day for the rest of the month. each challenge is intended to be undertaken in ten minutes with little to no preparation. if you can, however, increase your engagement to 15 minutes, you’ll get even more out of each activity. if you’d like to post about your experience, consider adding the #lightaheartfire tag to your post.
day 16: give your body a break. find a quiet place where you can either stretch or simply lie down and rest. begin by taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth and see if you can let go of significant amounts of tension from your body. if stretching, lengthen each movement for maximal release. if resting, try tensing each muscle group from the feet up toward the head in 3 second intervals, followed by focusing your attention on the warmth and “heavy” feeling that results after tensing. from a place of relaxation, thank your body for it’s work in carrying you through each day.
day 17: affirm yourself today. take two of your ten minutes to identify several traits or abilities that you value in yourself. these might be things like your intellect, your relational predisposition, or your skill in a particular area. try to keep your insights “right sized,” neither inflating them nor engaging in false humility. once you have identified several things that you appreciate/value about yourself, work them into affirmations which are simple statements of validation. for instance, if you value your ability to extend hospitality, an affirmation might be: “i am a person who welcomes people boldly.” write these down and say them to yourself. now take two to five minutes identifying a trait or ability you’d like to grow more deeply into. form this insight into an affirmation, write it down. for example, if you’d like to grow in your ability to be more organized you might create the affirmation: “i am becoming a person who is more organized.” repeat this affirmation to yourself several times and commit to using it in the coming days.
day 18: affirm someone else today. identify a person in your life who could benefit from some affirmation. using the skills you applied yesterday, identify traits and/or abilities that you see and value in that person. take a few minutes to write these down. use positive statements that affirm these insights. for example, “i see you as a generous person” or “i recognize a strong tendency toward graciousness in you” or “you are kind.” once you have several statements prepared, share them with the person either in writing or voice to voice.
day 19: give yourself a gift today. find a way to lavish generosity on yourself. think past the automatic “go to’s” such as food or time or money expenditures. those are fine if they are not your typical ways of gifting yourself. if they are, however, try to find other, creative, ways to give yourself a gift. give yourself time to read a pleasure book, apply a richly scented lotion, take a ten minute nap or stare into space. if food is the gift, eat it mindfully, noticing fully how it tastes and smells. if purchasing something, have it gift wrapped or, at the minimum, receive it from yourself as you would a gift from someone who is expressing care and love toward you.
day 20: find someone or something to extend active care toward today. be creative in your thinking. this may be a plant that you have neglected which could use repotting, treatment of the soil, or pruning. it could be an animal at your local shelter or pet store that could use 10 minutes of your petting and care. perhaps it is your neighbor whose driveway you might shovel or sweep or an aunt who would be tickled by a phone call or letter in her mailbox. whatever you choose, pay attention to how it feels to be active with your loving kindness.
day 21: be silly for 10 minutes today. engage an activity that makes you smile or laugh. preferable, engage something that is not screen based. yes, youtube is hilarious, but there are other, more embodied forms of fun to be had. blow bubbles with bubble gum. play hop scotch. turn up your favorite dance music and dance til you sweat. write a goofy note to someone and leave it on their desk or doorstep and doorbell ditch. paint your nails a whacky color. eat dessert as a meal. have a stare off with a friend or play “if you love me honey, won’t you please please smile.” try, as much as you can, to be fully present to fun and light heartedness as you spend this time and energy.
day 22: give someone a valuable coupon whose redemption will stretch you. we all have people in our lives who “put up with” our proclivities. these are the people that we live, work, or volunteer with. they are our neighbors, our faith communities, our co workers, our roommates, or our families. identify someone who you can give a valuable coupon to, make one, and deliver it either digitally, through the mail, or vocally. some examples might be: “i will wash the dishes in the office sink,” “i will cover call for you for a day,” “i will let you win the argument,” “i will honor your choice of movie/restaurant/free time activity,” “i will forego my desire to be ‘right’,” “i won’t complain when you suggest i attend a meeting i don’t want to attend,” or more. determine to respond lovingly when the coupon is redeemed.
day 23: give your mind a break. find a quiet place to spend ten minutes in quiet, restful alertness. set your timer for ten minutes. take a few deep breaths, noticing how the air feels entering and leaving your body. it may help to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. try to let your attention stay with the simple act of breathing. when thoughts enter, see if you can let them float by, watching them as they go and then drawing your attention back to your breath. if they are important, they will return. don’t stress if most of your time is spent watching the thoughts float by. instead, be glad if you can draw your attention back to a sense of calm a time or two. if you’d like to explore this more, the mindfulness meditations found here can be very helpful.
day 24: extend loving kindness to someone who you radically disagree with. as on day 12, identify a person that you can find very little common ground with. this might be a person that you know in your day to day life or one that you may never meet personally. once you have identified this person, spend ten full minutes wishing them well. if you are a God person, pray for them. if not, expend energy meditating on goodness and kindness toward them. find qualities of their humanity that you can honor even if it is difficult and send them loving thoughts and wishes in your mind. notice what it feels like to be generous with well wishes even when the recipient is someone who is difficult for you to appreciate or respect.
day 25: love yourself richly. on a piece of paper write the words things i love about myself. spend ten minutes identifying qualities about your self that you appreciate and value. don’t keep track of things that you do, instead focusing on finding the words that express who you are. your mind will likely easily identify actions that you take or roles that you fill. try to move past these to ways that you are. for example, do not write down “i am an amazing accountant” but do write down “i am thorough and careful about details.” do not write down “i take good care of people” but do write down “i am caring.” try to focus on who you are, not what you do. sit back and try to take in a real love for who you are apart from the actions and roles you take on.
day 26: thank someone who you consider a loving person. take time today to write a note of gratitude to someone who you find to express love well. this can be a person that you know or a person that you admire but haven’t met. use creative means to get this communique to the person. beyond just thanking this person for their example, express your care and deep good wishes for them as well.
day 27: attend to your physical heart today. do something that gets it beating. don’t over do but don’t play it too safe either. walk just a few steps faster or farther. jump rope until you feel your heart beat. if you have a stethoscope, listen to your heart or feel it in your pulse. consider, with intention, the miracle that is your physical body with all of its integrated systems. think of the way in which your blood flows and your heart pumps it. use the awareness of your physical heart as a jumping off point for gratitude toward your body for being the conduit for all of your efforts toward giving and receiving love.
day 28: express care, love, or (at a minimum) tolerance for a part of yourself that you dislike or wish were different. we often try to beat ourselves and/or our bodies into submission. we wish that things about ourselves were different so we either ignore or punish them. today, identify something about yourself that you don’t particularly like or welcome. it might be a body part, a habit, a personality trait, or an emotional or cognitive state. work to understand it’s place in your life and invite it into open communication with you. try to care for it. if it hurts you, ask it what it needs to quiet down or to diminish. be gentle with your self today.
day 29: do an examen. on a piece of paper make two columns. title one column “things that gave me energy/expanded my heart” and the other “things that depleted energy/diminished my heart.” take a couple of minutes to look over your february calendar, recording activities or incidents in each column. with a few minutes remaining, look over these lists, identifying themes and patterns. determine how you might plan the coming months in such a way as to advance the expanding of your heart. make some notes about how to do this and place them where you will bump up against them in the coming months.