A SACRED SPACE RITUAL FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

Laurey Simmons of The Colourful Dot Boutique, shares a sacred space ritual to open your heart this Valentine’s Day…

Beyond the chocolates and red roses, Valentines Day for me is a precious reminder to keep our hearts open. As psychotherapist and spiritual teacher John Welwood says, our heart’s true purpose is really: “to be an open channel through which great love flows into this world.”

One of my favorite ways of opening this channel is by spending time in my sacred space. A sacred space is simply one corner of our home environment where we keep beautiful objects that are special or sacred to us. The space can be as large or as small as you want. Even if you only have a small section of a shelf, this too can be a perfect place to make your sacred space.

Keeping a sacred space is a precious gift to our soul, a reminder of how we want to be in the world, a mirror reflecting back to us our Inner Beauty.

Read on for a sacred space ritual for an open heart…

1. First thing to do is to cleanse the energy of your space. One of my favorite ways to cleanse is by burning Frankincense resin. Dropping a few pieces of the resin onto a burning charcoal disc allows for the heavenly smoke to rise and fill the surrounding air. Breathing in this aroma, I find my mind-chatter settles, my body relaxes, and my energies become grounded.

2. With the theme of Love in mind, I’ll be adding a few drops of Rose Oil into my diffuser. The combination of Frankincense and Rose Oil smells seriously divine! Rose of course exudes love and beauty, both visually and through her perfect scent. Did you know that Rose essential Oil has been proven in studies to reduce anxiety and produce deep levels of relaxation?

3. Now for some visual beauty. Nothing opens my heart more than beautiful objects from Mother Nature, especially crystals. Three pink, heart-centered stones I’m working with a lot at the moment are Rose Quartz, the mother of Love stones; Mangano Calcite, which radiates the energies of the heart in a very gentle, nurturing, and soothing way; and Pink Morganite, also known as the Pink Emerald, and a wonderful tool to help cultivate qualities of the heart, like compassion. I also love to add fresh flowers to my sacred space—in this case, either fresh pink roses or a bowl of dried pink roses.

4. The next step is to connect to the energy of those who radiate an open heart or Unconditional Love. It could be a spiritual teacher, a historical or mythical figure, a friend or family member. At the moment, the chosen beings of light in my sacred space are Ram Dass, Maya Aneglou, Thich Nhat Hann, Joni Mitchell, and Heqet (the Ancient Egyptian goddess and symbol of new life). Ideally, print off some small images of these people so they can beam their light right back at you from the heart of your sacred space.

5. An open heart is only truly open if we can keep it so in challenging situations. With this in mind, I like to have an object in my sacred space that symbolizes this challenging situation or person. This practice is taken from one of my spiritual teachers, Ram Dass, who spoke about his own puja table and how he’d have pictures of his teachers there, Buddha, Hanuman, Maharajah, Mary, and how every morning he would greet them with love. This included a picture of one of his most difficult people, Caspar Weinberger, President Reagan’s Secretary of Defense. An alternative to a picture of a specific person is simply to include a broken or damaged object. I sometimes use a decaying leaf to, reminding me of those spaces in my heart that sometimes struggle to stay open, allowing feelings of compassion towards that situation or person that challenges us.

6. To finish this ritual, I love to place my hand on my heart and set a little intention: to keep the people who inspire me and the beauty, especially the beauty of imperfection, in my heart throughout the day, so I can be a more compassionate and loving person in the world. I also recommend placing your hand on your heart throughout the day, especially if you ever feel it closing up. This simple gesture can bring you directly back to that inner space of Beauty and Love.

Discover more about Laurey and her work at The Colourful Dot Boutique, an online sanctuary for Inner Beauty. Pre-order her new book, The Inner Beauty Bible: Mindful rituals to nourish your soul, today. 

TEMPLE OF VENUS: LEARNING TO BE LESS HARD ON MYSELF

In her latest Temple of Venus column, recovering over-achiever Elyssa Jakim asks: “How can I learn to be less hard on myself?”

Impish Elyssa aged five

Flashback: The blizzard of 1996. Greater New York metropolitan area. I am eight years old. I’ve spent several days frolicking in the snow with friends. When school resumes session, a fight breaks out on the school bus because I kept a girl’s rainbow shoelace that I’d borrowed for snow stomping. She tells me she knows I stole it. I yell and scream and insult her in self-defense (even though I’d had no intention of returning the lace—it was so beautiful!)

Later, I will feel terrible about this. Forever.

Skip to fifth grade. Every day of fifth grade. I replay all the things I have done wrong socially. The rainbow laces incident. That time I said the wrong thing to the boy I had a crush on. Or said the right thing to the boy my friend had a crush on. And I berate myself.

Repeating and repeating my wrongs in my mind. Every day.

To make amends, I grow up into a perfectionist. An intellectual, and a serious student. Someone who also takes up self-improvement projects a little too readily. Who always has a to do list that includes things like “have fun” or “breathe.”

But today I am a recovering over-achiever.

In fact, I am currently living in a college town…looking after babies for a living. Yes, I feel insecure about this as well; perhaps I have lost my intellect and let my critical thinking skills go. But here’s the thing: as fate would have it, I have stumbled upon the perfect teachers when it comes to the question I seem to have spent my whole life asking: How can I be less hard on myself?

Because in the room where I work, I am swaddled in literal softness of all kinds; soft rugs and pillows, soft baby hair and cheeks; warm hugs; the honey sweetness of baby laughter; the miracle of a sleeping baby in my arms.

And here’s what the babies have reminded me so far…

1. Trust your own innocence
I have noticed, unsurprisingly, that I am always pre-disposed to give the babies the benefit of the doubt. To see “the light of the child” as Maria Montessori puts it. Even when a fourteen-month old deliberately does something “wrong” or “bad,” I can see her full innocence and sweetness—the “wrong-doing” does not make her unworthy of love to me. And knowing myself as an essentially good person, why should I be unworthy of my own self-love when I make a mistake?

2. Be your own parent.
The biggest shift you can make in the direction of self-kindness, in my opinion, is one of self-talk. What if every time you notice yourself feeling anxious, hurt, or self-doubting, you take a big breath and imagine you are the nurturing parent of your self? What would you say to you? It would probably sound like: “It’s okay my darling. I love you and I see you. You’re doing so well. You’re working so hard. I think you’re wonderful.” In moments of self-criticism, a move toward self-compassion and self-softness is what the anxious heart truly needs. If you can remember to be gentle, sweet, and nurturing to yourself whenever you’re tempted to punish yourself, your whole inner landscape will shift.

3. Don’t take things personally.
Because most of the time, the mean things people say or “accuse” you of, aren’t really about you—they’re about them. Strive to shrug off criticism, and don’t hold yourself accountable for the feelings of others. When a baby is upset, I know that it’s not about me. It’s about that child expressing a need for something like hunger or nap or connection. It isn’t healthy for me to take up a baby’s emotions or sense of urgency if I’m helping him, it’s best if I remain calm. When facing tough interpersonal interactions, try to remain calm. I like to zoom out in this moment and remember that we’re all spiritual beings having a human experience. Tapped into this Universal truth, who really cares if someone didn’t like my skirt, or the way I handled a particular situation?

4. You’re exactly where you need to be.
Numinous tarot mistress Lindsay Mack often reminds me of this: “You are exactly where you need to be.” And these words are always a deep reminder straight to my heart space, which in turn relaxes my whole body. Nothing has gone wrong. There is no-one (especially not your self) to blame. In fact, here is an opportunity to accept. To find grace. Your situation isn’t your fault, it’s your opportunity. Your perfect situation for growth. It’s to show you what you’re supposed to be learning right now. Babies are always exactly where they are, in the present moment of being. We are born into raw presence, living one moment at a time. Isn’t that miraculous?

5. Laugh a lot more.
Laughter releases stress in the body. Period. If we can take the seriousness out of life, it frees up the part of us that takes things too seriously. It can also be empowering to laugh at life’s trials and tribulations, to see the humor in any situation. Yogananda tells us to find the company of those who make us laugh to release our worries. You can also watch or listen to things that are funny, or find a laughter yoga class (which NYC friends, Maha Rose Healing Center holds from time to time). Needless to say, baby giggles, cuddle puddles, and facial expressions always have me laughing.

***

So, how does all this baby talk connect to the goddess Venus? In the mythology of Venus, we are always asked to consider her birth—that moment she arrives on the shore, born of the sea, resplendent. It’s funny to me that Venus was not born as a baby, but as a total babe. She was born and exists as the fullest expression of her being. She exudes self-confidence, which comes from true self-kindness. She is not a goddess who typically represents nurturing or mothering such as Mother Mary or Quan Yin.

But, in her luminosity, she is a wonderful teacher of self-compassion. She helps us to find the wild and free and sensual within ourselves. Being with babies and with Venus teaches us that we can always begin again. We can always infuse our lives with freshness, sweetness, and softness. We can always rebirth ourselves to be more loving. See the sweet little babe in you, and know that you are always worthy of love and even rainbow shoelaces. Protect her and hold her like you would a treasured gem. Come back to the Venus in you, and know you are glorious. That should make it easier to be less hard on yourself.

Need more Venus inspiration? Check out Elyssa’s last Temple of Venus column on healing our money issues.

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: CHATS WITH GURU JAGAT, AND THANK TM FOR THAT

Also the week of 5am wake-up calls (thank TM), a cosmic soup diet, and a message from Mother Mary…

Aries Arise sweatshirt: standard issue book-writing attire

:: MONDAY ::
Skype time with the one and only Guru Jagat, kundalini queen of the Ra Ma Institute in Venice. We were talking all things yoga for some research for MY BOOK (have I mentioned I’m writing a book? Only 2 more chapters to go *wipes sweat from brow*), and her parting piece of advice for anybody getting serious with their spiritual practice is to set your alarm for before sunrise (“any time from 3-5am is great”) to do some kind of meditation. Well…as the cosmos would have it, I’ve been waking at 5am on the dot (no alarm needed) for the past few days. I’m blaming the TM.

:: TUESDAY ::
So I’ve been eating a lot of soup – because basically the Universe said so. As in, a few days ago I overheard 4 different conversations where people were talking about soup and how great it is (seriously – like in the yoga studio, on the subway, in the street), the same day I saw some thing about this book called THE SOUP CLEANSE. Had to be a sign, right? So I had soup that night and it just felt so GOOD! And so nourishing, and so and right for my nutrition needs right now. And so not fancy, I’m getting mine from Amy’s Organic. The Universe delivers her guidance in mysterious ways.

:: WEDNESDAY ::
Got my first Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards! Yep, more book research, and also because I had a mini Goddess reading with lovely Erica Wiederlight of We The Light last week and the cards that came out were SO inspiring I was like, yes I’ll have more of you in my life thanks. Funny thing is, Mother Mary keeps coming up – which is weird for me since I don’t connect with the myth of Christianity on any level. But I do like her message – “Expect a Miracle.” As as for the immaculate conception…well it does feel like I’m currently birthing a #bookbaby (did I mention I’m writing a book?)

Scenes from my desk

:: THURSDAY ::
Got the first peek at samples of the sweatshirt line we’re launching on the site next month! So so good, I literally can’t wait to get share them. Even better than my Aries Arise “Don’t Be Square” shirt (see main pic), which has become my standard book-writing attire (did I mention…?) Also, something strange. I’ve always been majorly selfie-averse (upcoming 40th birthday etc), but for some reason I had no qualms whatsever posting this “make-up free” pic today. It honestly feels like something has shifted in the way I see myself this past week. Again, I think I’ll blame / thank the TM.

:: FRIDAY ::
So this is the year I’m really, fully, embracing sobriety. Not in a total abstinence sense, more of a “this feels like the healthiest choice for me and actually it appears to be making me really happy” kind of way (p.s. I’m also working on a really exciting project to further this conversation – watch this space!) And so today I’m on my way to the left coast for…a sober Las Vegas weekend! I used to have this thing about certain destinations (Vegas, Ibiza) being off-limits if I wasn’t drinking, but how lame is that? I’m excited to see what the bright lights look like through the lens of absolute clarity. Oh and ALSO it means I’ll finally get to visit Vegenation – the downtown Vegas vegan joint I’m totally obsessed with on Instagram… #sobervegas!

Taco time at Vegenation

TEMPLE OF VENUS: HOW TO WORK WITH GODDESS VENUS

Sexual healing, and access to your abundance mindset. Elyssa Jakim introduces a new monthly column devoted to the Goddess Venus…

Portrait: Keith Barraclough

In the summer of 2015, the Numinous and I teamed up to create an interactive art installation and event space called the Temple of Venus. As an altar to the goddess Venus the installation served as a healing space: the events at the Temple were a way to address our questions and questings regarding love, sexuality, beauty, money and everything else Venus touches. So why did we choose Venus? Who is she? How might the goddess inspire and impact your life? How are you already an embodiment of Venus? All questions I want to answer with this column!

Six months after creating the temple, Venus has not stopped working with and guiding me. And so this is a space for me to share some Venetian wisdom each month, to help get our juicy, abundant, sexual, prosperous selves truly flowing.

Venus is the Roman goddess of love, beauty, sexuality, abundance, desire, fertility, and finances. She is known as Aphrodite in Greek mythology. Astrologically, the planet Venus (don’t you love when your goddess is also a planet?) rules relationships. So, for example, if you’re born with Venus in Scorpio, your way of being with and relating to people is imbued with the energy of a fiercely loyal and passionate Scorpio.

Artist: Katerina Alivizatou

Goddess Venus teaches us to be accepting of all facets of our womanhood and sexuality. In fact, one of the qualities that separate Venus from the Aphrodite myth, is that Venus was also the goddess of prostitutes. She allows for sexuality to be fluid, to exist in a space without judgment. In her brilliant book, Ecstasy is Necessary: A Practical Guide, celebrated tantra teacher Barbara Carrellas offers the reader a “sexual permission slip” or a series of permissive statements about how one can choose to regard sex.

A particularly strong one is: “I give myself permission to talk about sex as a safe, sane, and consensual act that brings health and pleasure to the world.” Venus celebrates this perspective. I find Venus to be a powerful goddess for sexual healing because she shows us that sex is beautiful. She shows us that sex is a gift of pleasure from the Divine, and she helps us tap into that pleasure.

When preparing for a ceremony in the temple with Lyndsey Harrington and Kat Hunt of Moon Church, we decided to invoke the goddess Venus and tune into her energy in order to decide how to best serve her with our ritual. We were flooded with her essence: it felt orgasmic and ecstatic, yummy and beautiful. She told us that she loved milk, honey, pearls, gold, kisses, and roses. And Kat said that she felt it showed that as well as the goddess Venus, the other Greek and Roman gods and goddesses are waiting for us connect with them.

This message was eye-opening to me. I realized that in much of my goddess worship and ceremony, I had never thought of the Greek and Roman goddesses as vital, present, divine forces waiting to help us. I’d worked with the Divine Mother Mary and Kwan Yin before but never with a Greco-Roman goddess directly. What I’ve since learned is that Venus is so ready to bestow her love and magic and beauty upon those who are willing to invoke her with an open heart. And that she can help you tap into your sexual and goddess essence and your sense of worthiness in such deep ways.

In fact, Venus is a symbol of the divine feminine (and remember we use the Venus symbol “♀” to mean “female”). Venus was born of the water, and water is a sublimely gorgeous metaphor for the female principal. Water receives, it takes in. It is abundance, it is creation, it is sensitive, it is psychic, it is adaptable. As women, as birthers, we are able to tap into the deep waters of creation and imagination.

Water is our element, and the goddess Venus reminds us to claim all of its gifts. In working with her directly, we learn how to be better receivers, better lovers, and better mothers to ourselves and others. And the planet Venus has a twin flame: it is the planet Earth. May this column honor the waters of Earth and the fires of our twin planet to create cosmic balance and upliftment for all.

Up next month: A Venus-inspired meditation for calling in your soulmate.