Saturday, December 31, 2011
I'm not here to suggest that you try not to go overboard tonight. Why does anyone think that's good advice? One wonders. It's new year's eve, the final feast/boast/brawl/toast event of our secular year. Go ahead, have fun. Sleep well and wake up only when you feel like it tomorrow.
I'll have plenty to say in support of the inevitable detox that begins tomorrow, the secular day of atonement. But tonight? Live it up!!
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Here come the diets. Can you hear them thundering across the landscape, appearing over the horizon like a herd of angry cattle? In a few days people all over America are going to hunker down, get into some serious dieting in an effort to lose the few pounds gained over the holidays. It won't be pretty - it never is. That is because starting a diet during the coldest, darkest weeks of the year goes against everything the body believes is right. Dieting in January will trigger even more fiercely than normal the body's survival instinct, which means the body will hang on very tightly to every ounce. When it's cold, a couple of extra pounds will keep you warm. Trying to peel it away is absurd.
Look at it this way: The parties and feasts end on January 1. No one in her right mind wants that much sugar, rich food and alcohol after the holidays are said and done. Those who go with the flow will automatically be eating and drinking more sanely after the first. Are the heinous bouts of dieting truly necessary?
The New York Times published an article this week explaining why diets don't work. I'll post a link in the comments. What the article doesn't address is how hard dieting is on the body. Suddenly starving the body, compared to what it's used to, throws everything off kilter. It's very hard on your kidneys and liver. Perhaps the biggest impact of harsh dieting, losing and gaining weight all the time, is how destructive it is to heart muscle. Lose 100 pounds in a year and you'll be more likely to have a heart attack than if you sat on the couch eating cheeseburgers instead.
People all over the world, no matter what the local diet consists of, are differently shaped. In a world where I could command it, I would have people eat very high quality food - no junk food. I would have them move around every day and think in terms of well being rather than pounds. People's bodies would settle into a comfortable weight after which we could turn our attention to something more pressing, or at least more interesting.
If diets worked, do you really think anyone would still weigh more than they want to? C'mon. May you be at peace with your body. It's doing the best it can! Shalom.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
I've posted before about the importance of sleep so I won't go into a big rant about its benefits. I won't tell you how often the biggest problems my clients face revolve around the fact that they are chronically sleep-deprived, strung out, exhausted, hence barely able to put two and two together.
I won't speak to the importance of R.E.M. sleep, how it reduces anxiety, mends the after-effects of trauma, creates in the brain a way to solve problems. I won't even post links to scientific periodicals that regularly publish the results of studies showing that if you want a strong immune system, improved digestion, a healthy heart, fewer allergies, the ability to think critically and clearly, if you'd like to relax a little more, if you'd like to enjoy life more, well then, you're going to have to make sufficient sleep a priority.
All I really want to say here is that right now, between Christmas and New Year's Day, you have an excellent opportunity to start catching up. This week, sleep in. Go to bed early if you're tired. There's nothing else going on, why not?
Sweet dreams to all. Shalom.
In case you're in a mood to read more, click this. The link is to a post from last summer about sleep.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
As the holiday feast season draws to a close, many of us turn our minds to the year ahead. We begin to think seriously about what we wish to manifest, which leads, not always but often, to the practice of making new year's resolutions. There's nothing wrong with resolve to make positive changes but may I remind you that since Thanksgiving, you (if you're like most of us) have metabolized a whole lot more sugar than at any other time of the year. You have periodically gone overboard in terms of liquor, caffeine, rich food and behavior. Right about now, most of us realize, at least unconsciously, that the days of feasting, boasting, brawling and toasting are about to end. The prospect of detoxing from all that puts some us into a rather harsh state of mind.
I believe in the U.S., New Year's Day is our secular Yom Kippur - a day of atonement. It could also be seen as secular Ash Wednesday. Following the carnival of the holiday season, we start diets, exercise programs, we make solemn vows that we'll never eat-drink-party-shop-argue that much ever again.
Same as it ever was, yes? This year when New Year's Day rolls around, be gentle with yourself. The holiday season is taxing for nearly everyone. It is a sacred drama intrinsic to the way we human beings have always entered winter. Indeed.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I'm not in any way being cynical when i say that what's thought to be good or not good for you is another aspect of cultural lifestyle, like hairdos or fashion. For example, once upon a time it was thought that vigorous exercise was bad for women. I remember the booklet we received in fifth grade when we were taught about menstruation. Some of the tips in that booklet were quite hilarious, such as the advice not to take warm showers while bleeding. What ill effect could warm water have on a menstruating person? In fact it's one of the few things that helps ease cramps, other than meds of course. Who wrote that booklet, I wonder. Surely not a woman!
Do you remember how margarine was supposed to be a great substitute for butter until they figured out how bad trans-fat is for the heart and circulatory system? Oops. Butter was bad, but now it's good. During the 80s, the official food pyramid had at its base all kinds of carbs: pastas, rice, breads. Then it was discovered that refined grains metabolize within the body exactly like sugar. Now all those carbs are being blamed as the cause of the diabetes epidemic. Gluten, in particular, is the enemy of humankind at the moment.
Makes me wonder what is being touted now that, in a few years, will be revealed as being terrible for us. Can you imagine the headlines in 2021? "Quinoa is damaging to the kidneys," or "Coconut water is carcinogenic," or "Green tea causes birth defects."
Of course it's natural to hope that some food, a particular exercise routine or avoiding something or another, will keep us happy and healthy. We are still, in so many ways, seeking the Fountain of Youth. It's OK to hope, to keep trying. But I'm not holding my breath for a miraculous cure to anything and everything. We are complicated beings living in a complicated environment. I think it's kind of a miracle that anything ever works!
The clip below is from Woody Allen's film Sleeper. It was one of his terrible early attempts at moviemaking in which he wakes up 200 years in the future. There are some funny scenes, such as when he finds his old volkswagon and it starts right away. I also like this scene, when his doctors are discussing what he should eat now that he has awakened from his long sleep.
What's funny is that we're turning around again about chocolate, meat and dairy products. So - what's good for you? A little of everything you really enjoy eating and doing, but not too much, and not very much of everything you really do not enjoy eating or doing. Yes? I say yes.
Be well! Shalom.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
It's not just the bulgingly huge frontal cortex of our brains that brought our species so far along in terms of evolution. The opposable thumb plays an equally important role. If we couldn't build, make, create physically, we would still be living in caves, spouting all our fancy ideas to each other while sitting around a crudely made fire. Your hands are genuinely miraculous.
I love thinking about how our hands developed from very sensitive feet to the marvels they became once we got up on two legs, once we started using them for sophisticated tasks. Oh the wonders we have created. And ... oh god ... the messes we've made, all because we have curious brains and opposable thumbs.
No matter how many miraculous devices you have at your beck and call, continue to write every day by hand. Yes, by hand, on paper, with a pen or pencil or brush. Developing and refining the fine coordination needed to write in relatively straight lines, making relatively like-sized lines of text, creates all kinds of neural connections. You can thread a needle more easily, pluck out a rogue eyebrow hair, handle your contact lenses smoothly. Standing and sitting, as well as walking, are smoother. Eye-hand coordination is a natural partnership; it's no wonder the practice is so good for us.
I'll admit it's hard to make myself write by hand every day. It seems to take so long and my hand literally cramps after awhile. I try to keep in mind, when feeling impatient, that Middlemarch, for instance, was written by hand. Every word of it. Holy cow.
Get out a pen and write a page of text today. It really helps. Shalom.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
It definitely happens, not often but it is a biological fact. Sometimes, for reasons no one can hope to understand, a disease turns itself around, an ill person who was supposed to die, doesn't.
If you google "spontaneous healing" what you'll find, mostly, are outrageous claims from people who believe they know how to invoke a spontaneous healing. My, my. If people could heal by following Dr. Weil's diet and advice, or via a specific yoga pose, or through sincere faith in God or noetic science, do you really think anyone would still be sick? I'm always suspicious of anyone who says they have the answer, the prescription or the practice that will create spontaneous healing. That kind of claim is snake oil. Don't buy it! Dr. Weil, you're a good guy, but dude you've got a big blind spot, you do.
There aren't too many scholarly studies on the phenomenon, only little studies here and there about very specific injuries and ailments. Scientists prefer to go after something more concrete. It would be wonderful if medical researchers would study healthy people who do everything wrong - I'm talking about the people who smoke, overeat, drink too much alcohol and caffeine and are still fit as a fiddle. The findings from those studies would be very interesting. But they tend to study people who are sick, and draw their conclusions from the data around illness.
By the way, when a mortally ill patient asks, "How long do I have, doc?" the only correct answer is: "No one knows." Of course that's not what most doctors say. They give an estimate based on statistics gathered about other people who have died from the same malady. In other words, they're guessing. They are trained to behave as if they aren't guessing. It's a set up not only for the patient, but for those who love the patient. It's even a set-up for the doctor. Very sad!
Death follows its own course. It is completely out of our hands. Even the smartest medical minds of all time have no clue. A kindness doctors could do for their patients would be to say something like, "You are gravely ill. We're going to do everything we can to help you heal (or keep you comfortable.)" This is also what doctors could say to the anxious families of their patients.
A better question than "how long do I have?" would be, "What can I do now to improve my condition or make myself feel better?" But when people are very ill, they don't think that way. I don't blame them.
No matter what's going on, may your heart be peaceful today. Shalom.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Have I mentioned here how much I dislike the way everything about being a human being can - and is - pathologized? Every year, the number of named disorders and syndromes grows exponentially, or so it seems. I wonder why everything must be made to sound like a terrible problem. Is the desire to name and label, to pigeon-hole, every discomfort part of the innate human desire for control? Do we think that by pathologizing everything, somehow we will get a grip?
Here's a link to a list of disorders. It goes on and on. Imagine my head shaking back and forth, my goodness. Is EVERY stuffy nose a "sinus disorder?" Well? The production of mucus is a natural body process - believe me, a little extra stuffiness here and there is NOT a disorder, it's the body's way of dealing with some kind of imbalance. Without mucus the inside of your nose would dry up quicker than a person who suffers from cocaine addiction disorder.
I just made that up, which was probably unnecessary. I'm sure there is some kind of official syndrome or disorder name for drug snorting.
I've struggled for years with the idea of attention deficit disorder. Yes, many people have fractured attention spans, many more now than before remote controlled TV with hundreds of stations, many more than before "multi-tasking" became a desirable trait, many more than before even science shows on TV featured a dance sound track under the narration. (So weird, I think.) Before we ate lots of sugar, before junk food, back in a time when people slept more, it was easier to think straight. It was! The truth is, in our society, technology and "lifestyle" provide everything necessary to fracture attention spans. It is not a disorder, it is a logical consequence of the way we live.
How about "antisocial personality disorder," "impulse control disorder," "alcohol induced mood disorder?" For heaven's sake. Wouldn't it be ok to just say so-and-so is a mean drunk? Does it have to be a disorder?
I guess once any kind of discomfort becomes an official disorder, drugs can be prescribed to address it. Maybe that's why we're so over the top in terms of trying to label every quirk of human character. Is that why? Or maybe the label helps people who aren't "normal" (whatever that means) feel there is a way they can become normal. You think?
Everyone is bi-polar, you know. Some are worse than others, and yes, when people don't sleep for weeks at a time or drop into suicidal depressions, of course they need some assistance. I'm not against seeking help, but there is a way in which that label makes it seem like having a variety of moods, up and down, is somehow abnormal. I assure you, it is not! Of course if you don't have any moods, that's a disorder, too! We just can't win at this game, hey?
Seasonal affective disorder is, if you ask me, normal. It makes sense to drop a little bit into depression during the darkest days of winter. Can you imagine feeling chipper and cheerful in the midst of the dreary month of January? That would be so weird. How about those who shut themselves indoors, bundle up in a blankie and read books at the height of summer? Is that, too, is a seasonal affective disorder?
We as a society are less accepting of the unique twists and turns of human character than we once were. I know the people who name these disorders are trying their hardest to help, but my goodness, it has gone too far, don't you think? I think so.
May you be quirky without hurting yourself or anyone else. Go ahead - be a character, yes? I say yes. Shalom.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Is laughter the best medicine? Well, it depends. If you have been suffering from pneumonia or bronchitis, laughter is just painful - though it does lift the spirit no matter what condition a person is in.
Big laughs of the guffaw variety are very healing in a general sense, because they squeeze and empty all the large lymph glands in the trunk of the body. A big sobbing cry will do the same thing, though is hardly as much fun.
Like cursing or screaming, a big laugh forcefully moves energy out of the body; it is a very cleansing activity. Laughing is a lot more fun than cursing or screaming, at least it is for me.
Giggling and even chuckling are polite forms of laughter, rather too demure to be physically healing, but every kind of laugh, from a titter to a roar, cheers the heart and raises the spirit.
The next time you feel laughter rising, bubbling, expanding within your body and soul, don't hold back. Those of us who laugh are so much the better for it!
Thursday, December 15, 2011
"We should feel excited about the problems we confront & our ability to deal with them," said Robert Anton Wilson. "Solving problems is one of the highest and most sensual of all our brain functions."
How do you work through problems? Have you ever wondered? Of course you think about them. Do you make lists of pros and cons or read books or seek the help of analytical thinkers? Sure you do! The rational function can sort many a personal quagmire.
In what other ways do you problem solve? If you take long walks as a way to move through the options for addressing whatever challenges you face, you're not the first person nor will you be the last. John Adams used to take ten or fifteen mile walks during which he contemplated the issues at hand in the early U.S. How astonishing to think of him out there walking, in 18th century shoes and white tights, without paved roads or sidewalks. He was tough!
Another common approach is to sleep on it. The people who study these things are now accepting how helpful it is to put an issue on the back burner for awhile, let the unconcious work on it. This is a link to a BBC article about the problem solving benefits of sleep - well - actually what they're referring to is dreaming as a problem solving method.
Answers to puzzles also come to people when they relax, such as in a hot shower or the bathtub. It's interesting to think about; hot water dissolves confusion ... sometimes!
When people get sick, they often try to figure out why. Illness is, to we curious, problem-solving homo sapiens, a puzzle that needs to be worked out. Pain, too, is often perceived as a problem to be solved and therefore vanquished. I don't know anyone who would say pain is an exciting problem to solve, but it is insistent.
Another of my many scientifically unsubstantiated theories revolves around the idea that illness and/or pain may be, in and of themselves, problem solving techniques. A hangover is the result of drinking too much, but it is also the body's way of solving the problem of too much alcohol in the system. A cold solves the problem of accumulated environmental toxins.
I think of cysts and benign tumors as pearls, i.e. the body's way of wrapping itself around irritants both physical and emotional. Oysters solve the problem of irritants the same way, with far more beautiful results. The discomfort that accompanies cysts and tumors points to something worth contemplating. Don't ask me what that something is! It depends on the individual and location of the growth. When clients have tumors surgically removed, I recommend they put everything they don't need any longer (metaphorically) into the growth. When it is removed, so is the problem or situation or way of thinking that has passed its expiration date. It doesn't always work, but is certainly worth a try.
Perhaps it's ridiculous for me to believe people work through problems by way of physical ailments. Still, the idea resonates strongly. Right now I'm suffering from a very minor cold which I've characterized as my way of cleansing 2011 from my system. It was a good year, hence the cold is mild. I wish to begin 2012 with a clean slate. It's a harmless belief, why not?
May you work your way through every challenge you face! So may it be. Shalom.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
It's an interesting term, "under the weather." What it means to me is a situation in which I'm not ill, but not well either. Being under the weather is a kind of limbo, a pause in which the body is grappling with something or another for which the outcome is not yet clear. Sometimes it means I'm coming down with something, a cold or the flu, but am not yet symptomatic except for a distinct sense that my energy is sinking below what I consider "normal." Other times it means my body is working harder than usual to maintain homeostasis because I haven't had enough rest or exercise, or because of a change in the weather, hence the term is apt.
For some people, an under the weather day signals the need to push harder, drink more coffee. Others simply ignore the lackluster mood that accompanies a vague sense of feeling off; they behave as if they feel fine in spite of bags under their eyes or chalky skin, dull hair and eyes.
Both of these approaches are quite disrespectful, if you ask me. What I like to do when I'm under the weather is take it easy. I might not get into bed, but I won't push myself. I eat simply, avoid alcohol and coffee, that sort of thing. Instead of an epic walk, I stroll. I want to stretch my legs, get my blood moving, no more but no less either. I also avoid loud music, loud people, traffic and other unsettling situations. This behavior is an act of kindness I do for myself.
Usually it only takes a day to rise above the malaise at which point I am fully able to take on the sturm und drang of life on planet Earth.
This approach reflects plain old common sense, yes? I say yes. The next time you're under the weather, take it easy for a day, will you please? The world will carry on until you feel better, I promise! May you be well. Shalom.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Here is a link to a fascinating story from this week's New Yorker about what they call "the placebo effect."
I wrote a couple of posts in September about our contemporary belief in pills: Pills and Pills and Soapbox.
Naturally I'm tickled to see the New Yorker publish an article about the phenomenon.
In most cases, the larger the pill, the stronger the placebo effect. Two pills are better than one, and brand-name pills trump generics. Capsules are generally more effective than pills. There is even evidence to suggest that the color of medicine influences the way one responds to it: colored pills are more likely to relieve pain than white pills; blue pills help people sleep better than red pills; and green capsules are the best bet when it comes to anxiety medication.
I always love it when science finds its way back to mystery, a word that describes the essence of every kind of healing. We healers do what we can, but no healer can deny that our best efforts work sometimes but not at other times. No one knows why, and I am dubious that our current religion - science - will provide the answers we seek since healing itself is impossible to quantify. Its essence goes way beyond method, delivery and consistency. Healing is a wild force of nature, like magnetism perhaps. It can not be controlled!
The New Yorker article is actually more of a profile of Ted Kaptchuk than an exhaustive study of the placebo effect. Uncle Ted is a fascinating person who, other than the fact that he's blind to his faith in science, is a top notch thinker and investigator. He wrote the definitive texts for beginning students of Chinese medicine (in the United States) but then gave up practicing Chinese medicine twenty years ago because he couldn't force the discipline to fit within the pristine standards of science. I think if he persists in trying to cram the art and mystery of healing into the rational, cold-hearted confines of science, he is doomed to a whole lot of frustration and confusion. For instance he thinks placebos could be used medically, prescribed, I mean. Insurance companies making money from snake oil? Holy cow I hope not! But I salute him for trying to understand, rationally, the elaborate mystery of healing. You go, Uncle Ted!
All healing modalities feel like they're working when we believe they will. But even a pure faith will not cure everything. We are impossibly complicated, marvelous, mysterious beings as are our illnesses, dis-eases and recoveries from these conditions.
Life is never boring, hey? Shalom.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
I always feel a little sad when I hear people talk about their bodies as if the physical is only a shell meant to carry the soul for a little while. Just as sad is the idea that the body functions as a stick or a vehicle on which the all-important head can ride around. Every practice that mortifies the flesh seems absurd to me.
Many people expect their bodies to do their duty, as it were, without question, perfectly. These people become very annoyed when they're sick or in pain, as if the shell and/or stick has betrayed the contract between mind/body. When, I ask you, did the body sign on to perform at 110% no matter what? The mind is such a bully!
I'm talking about the people who are eternally sleep deprived, who eat non-food (processed and/or junk), don't exercise or exercise way too much, refuse to drink water, etc. I feel sad when I think of these people who are unwilling to provide even the basics for good health, yet expect to feel great nevertheless.
Some of us are downright mean when it comes to the body. We're supposed to weigh a certain amount. A few extra pounds is a travesty! A failure! A DISASTER! Weighing the wrong amount (whatever that is, depending on the individual) generates, in many people, incredibly destructive self loathing. Similarly some folks panic as they begin to age. The tortures aging people put themselves through, to "stay young" (not possible, hey?) It's alarming. For heaven's sake!
The body is a temple, a throne in which the soul resides for awhile. The body is the spaceship that makes possible the journey of life. The body is also, in and of itself, an ongoing miracle. The more I learn about anatomy, physiology, kinetics, the immune system, hormones, digestion, circulation, respiration, the shenanigans of the nervous system and how all these different aspects of a living body somehow work together to get us from point A to point B - no matter how poorly we treat ourselves - the more I am in awe and amazement. Don't even get me started about what generates the systemic cooperation, the arrangement of genes in the DNA helix inside EVERY CELL IN YOUR BODY!! It's a magic code inherited from your ancestors, with markers that signal the switching on and off of certain signals. Wow. At the very least we owe our bodies some respect, yes? I say yes.
Today while looking in the mirror, check out and appreciate what's RIGHT about your body, will you? There's more there, going FOR you, than against you, I promise. Shalom!
Monday, December 5, 2011
The greatest medical minds of all time have tried to figure out how to induce the healing moment. It's normal to want to help others who are suffering, it's a good thing. Hence, we cajole, plead, lecture - even threaten - our near and dear ones when we see them stuck in a pattern of dis-ease. We make the appointments for them, even though it's plain that their hearts are not in the process. If they see the people we think they should, it usually doesn't click, because it isn't time yet, they have not yet experienced the healing moment.
No one can be talked into the miracle of the healing moment.
Sometimes the person who is suffering can be talked into going to the doctor who can, depending on what's happening, treat the physical side of the equation. Allopathic medicine does not address the spiritual and emotional components of illness. Symptoms may be alleviated, but the source of the suffering will continue to smolder, unless the person suffering experiences the healing moment.
Modern medical science can not replace the mystery of the healing moment.
Some people turn to a higher power. They pray for a change, a shift, they pray so hard, so sincerely! It's very hard to judge if or how prayer works, or even what it means to say prayer works. What does that mean, anyway? I pray every day. Sometimes I ask for specific things including healing for those I love who are suffering, but my experience of prayer isn't incantation. For me it is the way in which I develop my relationship with God. I might ask God to please help so and so who is struggling, but I'm not specific about how that help might look. Do my prayers "work"? You tell me.
The healing moment does not arrive specifically as a response to prayers.
Timing is everything when it comes to the healing moment. How much suffering is "enough?" I think we work through things, many things, in this human form. I believe illness, injury, pain and suffering can be redemptive in visible and invisible ways. Some suffering feels (to me) like the fulfillment of a karmic contract. Sometimes it seems that the suffering person has taken on a bit of the family soul that needs healing and/or releasing. Family issues get passed down from one generation to the next. Eventually, like a hot potato, a family issue lodges itself at last in the tissues or organs of a particular individual who must then physically defeat the energy form. Other times people feel "stuck," unmoving and unchanging. Sometimes suffering seems to be more about intertia than anything else.
Illness and suffering has its own lifespan, just like everything else. Towards the end of that arc, something happens in people, something is uncorked, or plugged in, a corner is turned. Something happens! The healing moment is a fulcrum, a benchmark in the life story of disease. Its timing can not be altered, it happens when it's supposed to, not a second before.
The point is, no matter what the suffering is about, there's no way to rush through it, no way to induce or invoke the healing moment. Every illness has its own mythology that must unfold in its own way and own time. You can not induce the healing moment! You can not push the river. Lord knows, I've tried.
I try to remember the above every time the urge to harangue one of my clients rises up in me. I know suffering is a part of every life, which is one of the many reasons people come to see me in the first place, but I don't have to like it. I don't like it.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
I've written many times, on my other blog, about the mystery of what I call the healing moment. I even published an article in the local newspaper a few years ago on the subject.
I could go on and on about it, but briefly: what I'm talking about is the day, the minute, the second, when a suffering person decides, on every level, he or she has had enough. The healing moment is the day you give notice at a job that's toxic, make the decision to leave an unhealthy relationship, or - the other way around - the healing moment is the day you propose marriage to the person you love, it's the moment when you are finally strong and clear enough to make the commitment. When the healing moment arrives, you realize no one can "save" you except yourself. It's the day you make that phone call you've been thinking about forever, to a therapist or healer. Your hand picks up the phone, and dials. You make the appointment. This is the healing moment.
Physically it looks like a high fever breaking, waking up after being unconscious due to an injury or illness, that sort of thing. In AA culture, they call it "bottoming out."
People spend years suffering, in chronic physical, emotional, spiritual pain. During the time of suffering, making a change in order to resolve the problem, alleviate the pain, seems impossible. In the thick of it, those suffering believe themselves to be too weak, powerless, or hopeless to change their situations. But when the healing moment arrives, suddenly these same people kick it into gear. They seek the help they need to heal, just like that. Snap! Once the healing moment has arrived, nothing - not anything - can stop them from rising up out of the swampy problems they've been immersed in.
I'm not saying that whatever the problem was can be solved in one day, or one moment. Once the healing moment has passed, the work begins. The healing moment unhinges much of the old pattern of suffering, which leads inevitably to a degree of chaos. Healing is a very dynamic process - it ain't for sissies! However in spite of the rigors of healing, it's miraculous to witness as well as experience. The healing moment means taking the reins, the steering wheel, taking charge, assuming responsibility. It brings courage and determination to the person who has experienced it. During the process of healing, people continue to suffer, at least for awhile, sometimes for a long while, but they are addressing the situation rather than being continually sucked into the vortex of the problem.
I've said enough today. I'll write tomorrow about invoking the healing moment. I've thought about it a lot.
Today may you turn a corner, may you align yourself with health and well being, may you take on all your beautiful human power. So may it be. Shalom.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Many people worry about very old age because they believe old age involves a lot more aches and pains than earlier in life. My uber-great osteopath/homeopath in San Francisco said, "When you get old, you feel every old injury. They all come back."
Yeah. It isn't an appetizing idea, I agree. But, it isn't just old people who hurt. Infants endure a lot of suffering, too. In particular kicking the digestive system into gear takes many months, sometimes even longer. Babies' stomachs hurt much of the time. They catch every cold, run frighteningly high fevers - surely they must suffer terribly from the pain of all those sore throats, headaches, earaches, stomach aches, etc. I've wondered if they also suffer from growing pains while in utero. They grow so fast in those first 9 months! Wouldn't that hurt? Growing pains are a well-documented part of pre-puberty, as well. That's why fifth and sixth graders can not sit still.
Life on earth is painful at every stage. It's sobering to contemplate. Pema Chodron and many other Buddhists practice a meditation technique in which they breathe in suffering, breathe out relief. It's not magic, it's more like a wish or prayer sent out with every exhale. It's a beautiful, strenuous practice. Given how much physical pain is part of the bargain of life, I'm grateful to all who practice tonglen. Very grateful! Thank you.
Of course life on earth is also beautiful, interesting, funny, unpredictable and complicated, and there are many pleasures included in this existence. So many!
L'chaim, y'all. Shalom.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
"Soldiers march, warriors dance." - great teacher Kila Choudbury
Warriors and healers are made of the same stuff. As a person who is pathologically afraid of any type of physical violence, it's hard to accept, but I know it's true.
My great teachers of shi'atsu told us that the same points we use to heal are used by martial artists to render the opponent incapable of fighting. Holding, pressing or needling a point is healing, but if you give it a serious jab, it can be extremely harmful. Isn't this the way of so many things? Everything is poison and medicine, depending on the situation and dosage.
It's up to the practitioner to decide how much is enough but not too much. Both healers and warriors must regularly decide how far to go. During a massage, sometimes we therapists find a particularly congested area of muscle. (Some people would call this a "knot" but in truth your muscles do not tie themselves in knots - when they're engaged and congested, they are stiffer to the touch than relaxed muscles, but they are NOT in knots. It doesn't help to think about it that way.) When we come across a place that is engaged, it's hard to resist the urge to release it fully. We push, squeeze, apply friction. Sometimes all of the above does little good. Sometimes we want to grab a meat tenderizer and just start beating on our clients. Well. I never do - but the image is appealing.
One of my great teachers said, "You don't have to fix everything in one session." Thank goodness for my great teachers. And anyway, due to the interconnectnedness of fascia, sometimes working on someone's knee will release a hip flexor, for instance. Beating a dead horse (as it were) serves only to bring more energy to an already spasmed muscle. Just like a warrior, it's my responsibility as a healer to know when to move on.
Many aspects of healing mimic warfare. The immune system is all about warding off invaders, it is a powerful army perfectly suited to protect our bodies. What I'm thinking about this morning is how, in allopathic medicine, we're so fixated on killing invading organisms that we systematically destroy the natural immune systems of those who are ill. We kill our own armies, with chemotherapy and antibiotics and in so many other ways. It's a scorched earth policy. These drugs are one-eyed soldiers. Allegedly they're marching against a particular enemy, but there's no wisdom, no discerning warriorship in chemo or antibiotics. They exist outside the ecosystem of the individual. They lay waste to the landscape of the body, they pillage and plunder, killing everything, both harmful and beneficial. It takes a long time to recover afterwards.
Societally we are developing many more auto-immune disorders than we used to. Even aside from allopathic drugs, we're systematically (it sometimes seems) trying to defeat the human immune system. I wonder about that, I really do. Some guy recently was completely cured of leukemia when his immune system came to the rescue (because of some stem cell experiment) and killed the cancer - forever. He is completely cured. The immune system can save us! Seems clear as a bell to me.
There are many days when I wish sincerely my society would focus more on the healing edge of the spectrum than continually sending tougher and tougher one-eyed soldiers in to do the work. I really do!
May your day be peaceful. Shalom.