The view from both sides of some practices

Chapman Dr, Corte Madera

Chapman Dr, Corte Madera

 

As I mentioned in the last post, my practices have been a little hit and miss lately as I wade through another round of unwinding and not sleeping.  The on and off of it is giving me a chance to observe the doing and not doing and the way I feel about both.

Some years ago I realized I often sabotaged my progress by not doing my practices.  I’d start one up or get back to an old friend and do it faithfully for a few days or a week or two and then I’d start “forgetting” (helped along by often feeling too crappy to do anything).  More and more days would pass between practices until I’d finally realize I couldn’t remember the last time I meditated or performed a round of chi gung.

Once it sank in I asked myself some deep questions about why I sabotaged myself.  Then I set up a “watcher” to help me keep track of consistency and give me a nudge so I could put myself back on track.  Ever since I’ve been much better.  Not that I don’t miss days and even occasionally several in a row, but I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping track and at pushing myself to get back to it if I’ve let it go

It’s rare now for an entire week to go by without at least one session of whatever practice or set of practices I’m doing and most weeks I manage at least three or four days.  The great weeks I get in six (I always allow for a day off as I feel even the good stuff needs a break).  But I still have spells when it’s less rather than more.

There’s a kind of push pull at work here.  At the moment it’s the chanting and some movement practices that feel so good they constantly pull me back on track.  But both things raise energy, open stuck places, and thereby set the stage for more unwinding.  Any time I practice 6-7 days a week during a week or two when I’m sleeping well and feeling good, the practices inevitably help to set off another round of unwinding.

While I want the unwinding to finish so you’d think I’d welcome each round, I’m pretty miserable when it goes crazy, especially from the lack of sleep it creates.  I’m regularly confronting the up and the down side of regular practice.  It works.  And in this case that’s both great and not so great…  I haven’t quite decided how many skips at this point arise from an unconscious dread of the down side…

A deep spiritual journey often has these up and down moments.  Sometimes the same practice contains elements of both the up and the down.  Sometimes a practice leads you into painful places or opens something that hurts for a while before it gets better.  I harp on this one a bit, but I run into so many people who don’t know this spiritual road curves into shadows and down into valleys of dark nights as well as giving you peace and balance and higher consciousness, an occasional reminder seems good 🙂

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Levels of opening

Three monks chanting in Lhasa, 1993

Three monks chanting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been over a month now that I’ve been regularly chanting.  First time in quite a while I’ve had a regular chanting or meditation practice.  I’ve done a bunch of those 21 day meditations in recent years and I’ve done a couple of 40 day practices, but it’s been years since such a practice has stuck.

A lot has changed in my body since the days when meditation was a daily practice.  In fact, some of the change is due to the movement practices I’ve done to balance energy and open flow instead of meditating.

One of the blessings of the long-term sorting out of my muscles and their steely impersonation of body armor has been that as they open, I experience many things about practices differently and learn nuances I’m not sure I’d have noted without the change.

Since my appointment with Hanna, the muscles have been unwinding and the usual sleep deprivation and headaches have ensued, which has led to missing days of chanting here and there and occasionally two in a row.  I’ve changed the chants since I first started, beginning each time with the lovingkindness chant and then singing the Gayatri Mantra and Om Shanti Om.

The Gayatri, among other important impacts, opens the heart.  Om Shanti Om is chanted for peace and I find it opens my heart.  The lovingkindness chant also brings me into a big heart space.  Chanting these every day helped immeasurably to calm my distress in the wake of the election.  At first, if I missed a day I went right back to feeling panicky, then as soon as I chanted again, calm returned.

After a couple of weeks the peace settled in and I could miss a day without any big change.  When sleep deprivation, headaches and missing days of chanting hit all at once, I noted that I could hold the peace through one missed day but a second tipped me back into unease and anxiety.  I’ve also been learning anxiety is often a side effect of sleep deprivation for me, not as intense as the “oh no that thing can’t be president” panic, but noticeable.  And it too is soothed away by chanting.

While I chant I feel so much more energy moving through me than I’ve ever felt from the same practices before.  Channels and pathways opened as the muscles released and in so many areas I can now feel energy flowing through.  I feel the power of the chanting more than ever.  I feel it changing me.

Between the chanting and the releases Hanna helped to achieve it’s been a time of realizations and movement forward.  After a long time of receiving “wait” messages, I’ve heard the time to wait is ending.

In the meantime I love the slow awakening of feeling and the subtle ways in which my practices change as I grow.  I’m ever more aware of how much tight muscles stop the flow and reduce how much I feel when I do yoga or meditate or chant or …  All the hard work…  so worth it!

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And the healing takes another leap

English: "Visualization of the Heart Chak...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I haven’t had any body work since the appointment last spring with Hanna and Larry, who powerfully lifted a big piece of ancestral cement from the stuff in my head.*  So it was a great treat to have my mother offer to pay for an appointment and to get a treatment with Hanna yesterday.

Bye Bye Wooden

animated-trees_edited

As always, a lot moved and many interesting things happened.  She spent a lot of time working on my head and at one point as she worked I sensed “ancestral”, something released and I had a crazy image of an animated tree (just like an animated tree “character” in Wizard101) flying up and out of my head.

After the appointment she mentioned working on an area with a lot of tension in my face and feeling it relax.  It wasn’t until I was driving away that I remembered how often I’ve applied “wooden” to the muscles in my face I’ve felt are an ancestral legacy and thought “wooden” about their expressions in photos or how my face feels.  Suddenly I got the animated flying tree as representing the staunchly tense ancestors and I knew that piece was released.

As always, the release has not led to the instant opening of all remaining knotted muscles, but a fair bit came out in the appointment and in the massive unwinding which started up a few hours later, I could tell it was working on a whole new level from where it was the day before.

Loving Them Anyway

After the floating tree, as she continued to work on my head, I was suddenly taken to another ancestral piece I recently mentioned about having slave owners in the family.  While chewing on this issue I’d already realized there’s a much more current piece to it, which has been kind of the ignored elephant in the room for me:  the bigotry of my mother’s mother and sister.

I adored my grandmother (the only grandparent I ever knew as my parents lost the other three as children) and most of the time nothing in our interactions brought up her racist viewpoint.  But it was there and, while I tried periodically to talk her into changing her mind, mostly I tried not to think about it as the confusion between my love for her and my dislike of her opinion seemed too confusing to resolve.

I’ve written occasionally about my aunt with whom I had a conflicted relationship on many levels so being mad at her for her narrow-minded views (she and her rich, Republican friends were the types who dissed pretty much every group other than rich WASP Presbyterians and Episcopalians…) was easier.  But still complicated.

They’re both long dead but I’ve carried the unresolved conflict all these years.  As bits and pieces of the story floated to mind while Hanna worked, I thought about that conflict and the degree to which it left an uneasy place inside.  Which led to contemplating loving someone but seeing a flaw that big and figuring out what to do about the contradiction.

And suddenly as Hanna worked, I knew it’s a gift the Universe gives us to present us with family members whom we love but who are bigots or alcoholics or unreliable, etc.  We love them and despise them but most of us can’t quite let go because of the love and family ties.  Really, it’s what a spiritual life is always calling us to do — love everyone unconditionally.

What an opportunity we’re offered in these conflicted relationships of love and hate all mixed up.   I don’t see loving as requiring that you hang around.  If someone is too toxic for you, you can love the divine spirit from afar.  But seeing the flaws and loving anyway is a great spiritual endeavor.  Once I could see the gift in that, I realized I don’t have to resolve the conflict, I just have to let the love win.

They were who they were and I loved them with confusion but they’re gone and I’m still here, not sharing their views.  [Not sure how my mom sidestepped her family’s view but she and my dad taught me to treat all people of all races, religions, etc. with equal dignity and thanks to their guidance and examples, that’s what stuck].  I felt a big sense of release as I understood the lesson of love and the gift these conflicts offer.

The Jagged and the Strong

In this unwinding process I’ve been regularly aware of a pattern moving from the sphenoid in my head to my feet, particularly on the left side.  Frequently something opens in my head and a while later some muscles open in my pelvis, knee, ankle or foot.

Hanna wound up working down one of those patterns and commented later about how jagged it is.  She’s mentioned the jagged bit before.  This time she also mentioned that all around it are patterns that are strong and straight (I forgot to ask whether she meant energetic patterns or muscle patterns or both) and prepared to help as it works itself out.

Before we started she talked about my self care having been important in all this and when she talked about these strong patterns I realized all the years of yoga, all the work with creating and doing my movement work, receiving body work of many sorts and doing spiritual practices have built strong supports which are now integral to how I live and heal.  Picture me patting myself on the shoulder 🙂

Heart Chakra

One piece she mentioned at the end was a pattern at the base of heart chakra, pushing on my liver and moving up into the shoulder on the other side.  By that time I was a little dazed and I didn’t manage to ask questions.

Many practitioners over the years have referred to a stuck pattern at heart level, of “protecting heart” posture, etc.  There’s been a lot of work done and a lot of opening but I’ve been aware something is still left.  Not sure whether that’s part of what she was working on.

I also have a sense all the chants I’ve been doing which aim at heart chakra are moving stuff in there…

And it goes on

I dream of the day I report this is over — the post will be titled “UNWOUND!!!!”  But today is another one of those progress reports involving a nice leap forward but the process still unfolding…


*After pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the process of healing over the course of many years, I can’t afford it very often any more…

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What lies beneath?

3x-great-grandfather-gallaher

Whenever I find myself being deeply emotionally affected by some external circumstance like the election, I know the situation has to be touching on something in me.  Along with chanting for peace and lovingkindness I’ve been watching the ebb and flow of emotions while chanting and also observing the impact of the spewing going on on FB, wondering what my reactions are telling me.

Starting before the election, another major phase of unwinding in my face has been going on.  [The glued-together stuff at the root is finally separating enough I can pick out some specific muscles!]  Whenever muscles are opening there’s a fair chance some old issue, whether personal or ancestral or past life (or all of the above), is going to be released.

The way the Universe operates, I figure there’s a pretty good chance the issues from the election and whatever I’m moving through in the healing process are related.  As I’ve contemplated I’ve looked at a few things and come up with one surprise issue I’ll be exploring.

Several times the Gayatri Mantra has produced a big emotional reaction so I looked up a translation.  I know it’s used often for peace and that it opens the heart, but the specific meaning of the words doesn’t seem to stick with me.  I found a lovely translation and discussion on this site:

OM BUHR, BHUVA, SWAHA
OM TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
BHARGO DEVASYA DHEEMAHI
DHIYO YONAHA PRACHODAYAT”

We meditate on the glory of the Creator;
Who has created the Universe;
Who is worthy of Worship;
Who is the embodiment of Knowledge and Light;
Who is the remover of Sin and Ignorance;
May He open our hearts and enlighten our Intellect

While I don’t find anything there that raises a specific personal issue, I can see that the tone and purpose of the chant is a big contradiction to what’s going on in the U.S. right now.  I figure it’s hitting right in the place where fear is pulling me away from an open heart…

The big place where I’ve been very emotional involves the horrible things Trump has said about people of other races and religions, especially his commentary on Blacks.  Ridiculing the Black Lives Matter movement and talking about “go back to Africa” hurts my heart.  One evening as I explored inward about what might be evoking such a strong response, I suddenly saw my family tree in my mind’s eye.

You see my 3X great grandfather and his son, my 2X great grandfather (plus his many siblings) owned slaves.  When I first encountered a copy of a will from 1837 in my grandfather’s effects, I was so young I really didn’t know what the bequests that seemed to hand off people meant.  Nor did any of us know what relation the testator had to us.

As an adult I recalled seeing the will and realized somebody in my family had been a slaveholder.  I’ve grappled with guilt over it off and on ever since but ultimately I’ve had to realize I wasn’t there, I didn’t convince anyone to do it and I’m not responsible for what they did.  I’ve always aimed to treat every human I encounter with dignity regardless of race, creed or religion and I don’t quite know what to do about what my ancestors did 170-200+ years ago,

Eventually I did enough research to know the maker of the will was my 3X great grandfather.  I’ve stood on the property he owned in Tennessee and I’ve seen the graves of both him and his son.  What mixed feelings I have about them.

It was moving to see the piece of land my 3X great grandfather purchased around 1800.  It’s hard to describe how it felt to stand not only at his grave but also my 3X great grandmother and another set of 3X great grandparents whose daughter, my 2X great grandmother, married my 2X great grandfather.

They’re my family.  They moved from Scotland to Ireland when England offered property and then a few generations later my 4X great grandfather moved to Pennsylvania.  Eastern Tennessee came next, then a little west to Knoxville.  Eventually branches of this family were involved in every major surge to the west in American history.  Part of me is proud that these poor farmers had the courage to keep picking up and moving forward to seek a better life.

Part of me wants to travel back in time so I can hop up and down in fury and demand what on earth they were thinking???  How could they be so cruel?  I wind up in this ambivalent space between loving them because they’re my family (and much of the courage and conviction I carry I know I owe to them) and despising them because they lacked humanity.

A piece, then, involves my ambivalence.  But I also have a deep sense I’m feeling something that has to do with those ancestors and how they felt or now feel about slavery and their part in it.  I’ll be doing some exploring in meditation and ceremony about the ancestral piece and possibly it’s time for a check-in with Hanna for some of her excellent healing.

How about you — if you’re feeling strong emotions around the election of Trump, have you found any of those feelings arise from personal issues? Are you aware of the source of these deep reactions to xenophobia, bigotry, discrimination, misogyny, etc.?

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Heart on my forehead

Linda over at litebeing chronicles issued a challenge this months to write a post “celebrating your unique essence and energy.”  I’m not sure whether this post expresses my uniqueness, but it certainly wanders down the bizarre trail my life has been following for some years and I kind of think this thing on my forehead may turn out to be more central to who I am than I can now imagine.

The last couple of months the unwinding process in my head has been both challenging and exciting.  The piece I’ve been particularly interested in involves the muscles in my forehead.

Over the last couple of months the muscles around my third eye have increasingly bulged out as a result of all the untwisting and movement in the muscles behind my eyes. Somewhere along the way I noticed the shape they are assuming looks more and more like a heart.  I’m not much on taking selfies and I had quite a time getting shots of my own forehead in the right light for it to show up.  Hope you can see what I’m seeing.

UPDATE 11/12/16:  I also have no talent for (or interest in) art programs like Paint, but I kept fiddling around and more or less managed to draw around the bulges to make it easier to see, so I’ve added the photo with drawing.

Over the course of lots of posts I’ve told the story of a shaman telling me there was a big wound in my maternal line and I needed to go back seven generations to find the source. Using meditation to reach back, I found an ancestor witch burned at the stake and a distressed daughter who shut down the “sight” that had been our lineage–for all succeeding generations.

I’ve been through several stages and types of healing, from using long distance Reiki to send healing back in time, to creating a ceremony for a group to heal ancestral issues, and then creating a private ceremony to heal this issue, to having major sessions with healers to address the many ways this issue tied up the muscles in my head.

Throughout, the notion that I’m from a line of Seers meandered vaguely through my consciousness.  The more the muscles unwound, the more I noticed a good portion of the twisted up stuff involved a stranglehold on my third eye and I could see how well that situation served the ancestral “curse” of shutting down the sight for all who came after.

I’m fascinated to see this heart around my third eye as the muscles which created a squeeze blocking the area are slowly unwinding.  Although I can make guesses as to what this means, no big insight has struck.  Fun to follow its progress though…

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Joy… hmmm… what is it?

Another action shot from Christmas Day up Moel...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about joy and fun.  And whether I feel them much… or ever…  I realize sometimes I’m not even sure what joy is or how to have fun any more.  Or maybe I’ve changed so much my definitions have just changed.

I do have this one precious memory of a joy-filled moment I relive when I want to move into a joyful place.  And that’s one of the nice things about any emotion:  you can choose to go there or move out of there or to change to a different one any time you want.

This particular moment was in Marin.  My friends had asked me to house sit through two sessions of their workshops and the couple of weeks in between — seven whole weeks in my favorite place, taking care of the kitties I’d helped raise, in the place where I’d had my little apartment.

Early in the trip I went for my favorite walk on a glorious day.  After crossing through the county park that abuts the house, I came out on a little country road that curves around the hill; for a while shortly after you exit the park you’re walking under trees on a section with no houses.

I stepped into that private space, so happy to be walking there and with nearly seven weeks left to revel in being there and I started jumping around in circles with my hands in the air.  That I can identify as joy.

The thing is, the way I used to run to clubs to hear music, go to parties, hang out with crowds and noise, etc.  now seems more like a pantomime of fun.  I love music, so there was some joy in hearing great bands.  But the rest was fodder for a restless and unhappy spirit and I’m quite sure a lot of the time I mistook over-excitement and over-stimulation for joy.  Also defined fun by some perception of what was “cool” among my peers.

When I look around these days, I see huge numbers of people who are pursuing the same — to me — illusory forms of joy and fun.  In fact these forms seem really amped up now.  Restaurants are bigger and noisier than any I remember, crowds at music events are bigger and louder.  Sporting venues hold more people, turn the sound up louder.  I have to use sound reducing earplugs to halfway tolerate a movie theater.  And I find all of it energy depleting, enervating, and somewhat depressing.

Thirty years plus in on meditating, yoga, practices, releasing, soul searching, etc. many of my moments of deepest satisfaction are very quiet.  Gazing at a sunset, a deep conversation over dinner with a couple of close friends, feeding people something I’ve cooked and watching their faces light up…  None of that puts me in quite the same space I held on the day I danced around in the middle of a Corte Madera mountain road.  So are such moments joy?

I was very interested to read Louise’s recent post at Dare Boldly and note her thoughts about sunsets and walks in the park and being with friends as joy-bringing activities.  It’s bringing me a whole new perspective on what joy maybe really is.

Those activities for me bring serenity, a sense of balance, a warm feeling in my heart.  I love to be in that kind of space but I can’t decide whether it’s joy I’m feeling or something softer yet deeply satisfying.

I find myself wondering if I’m still being seduced by some culturally implanted idea that joy should equate with something exciting.  Does it have to be as big as the moment of happiness so intense it had me jumping around in the street?   [btw, hard to express how unlike me that was and how much it says for the absolute joy I felt in the moment]

I’m just contemplating, not in a place where I have any sense of an answer.  And maybe joy and it’s bigness or smallness is in the eye of the beholder.  Or maybe it has big moments and small moments…  I imagine I’ll be revisiting this question for some time to come.

For me one of the joys 🙂 and drawbacks of the spiritual journey is becoming someone new.  Of looking at an emotional tone differently and trying to decide where the current version of me stands…  seeing how much my view/feeling has changed compared to various points in the past. Most of the time being new is great and sometimes not so easy…

Breaking patterns, changing tapes…

A friend of mine recently asked me to suggest some practices or therapies that help to break patterns.  As soon as I gave it some serious thought I realized my answer is complex and I’ve been letting it percolate ever since.  Ultimately it seemed like some good info to organize into a post…

There have been a few distinct phases to my long spiritual and healing  journey.  The one most relevant to this question began in the early “aughts”.  I’d been “on the path” since 1985, when I began with some quite New Age material, including a lot of stuff about affirmations.  I soon thought of myself as having become a positive person.

I moved on to go through Nine Gates Mystery School, study Huna, add various practices to my regular yoga routine and complete the Fisher Hoffman Process.  Still thinking I’d become all positive …

Somewhere in the realm of 2006 a friend gently recommended The Secret after listening to me bitch for a couple of hours about substitute teaching.  For the first time I totally got how much negative thinking ran in my brain all the time.  It finally sank in that half an hour a day of affirming and visualizing can’t possibly overcome 23-1/2 hours of negative tapes running.

Later What the Bleep helped me understand how those tapes create neural nets and begin to deprive your peptide receptors of the ability to accept anything positive or good for you.   Once I began seeing these things I started working away at how to bust through it, change neural nets, heal peptide receptors, and, most importantly, CHANGE MY MIND.

Tending to throw multiple possible solutions at these kinds of issues, I pursued several paths.  In hindsight I can see I addressed it on several levels, physical, mental, and energetic.  Over the years I’ve found it helps to heal more than one level.  Some think healing one automatically spills over into healing them all but I have not found that to be true for me.  I find it works better to heal on various levels and they start working together.

PHYSICAL

The physical healing path for me has been ongoing now for thirty+ years and sometimes I have to look back to realize aspects of it tied in to more than just sorting out my muscles.  During this time I began getting Bodypatterning* treatments and also played around with Robert Masters’ Psychophysical Method combined with yoga until I created the work I’m now calling Flowing Body, Flowing Life.

The Bodypatterning and the Flowing Body work both help to bust up patterns held in muscles — which often means they both help you to release emotional issues held in those same patterns.  Some of the changes created by this intense period of releasing muscle patterns had a profound impact on changing what was happening with my thoughts.  Everyone I worked with who combined getting Bodypattening with doing my movement work created big releases and shifts.

CranioSacral work also created big pattern shifts and was responsible for setting off the unwinding process in my head.  I’ve gone back occasionally for more of that work.  Synchronistically, I met Kreig, the Bodypatterning fellow, through the school/massage center founded by the CranioSacral therapist–Judy– I saw so when Judy moved away I was able to move into the new modality which finally busted up many long-held patterns .

Yoga, if practiced mindfully and with attention to how it’s feeling, can also be a vehicle for release.  People tend to pull out of postures as soon as they start to tap into a pattern with attached emotions.  If you consciously note the desire to pull out but keep holding the posture, you will often come to a release.

These are just the techniques that worked best for me.  If you have a therapy or a movement practice that breaks up patterns for you, I’d say choose the one that already works for you.

MENTAL

For me, getting old tapes to stop playing has been a long process and one I wouldn’t call easy.  A variety of things can bring change.  Some big changes arrived during and upon completion of the Fisher Hoffman Process work, which involved a lengthy examination of parents’ beliefs and admonitions, seeing how you’ve incorporated all of them and a LOT of release work.  Really helped change some habits of thinking.

I’ve found affirmations quite helpful, but only when I changed the way I worked with them.  Once I saw the ongoing negative patterns in my thinking I set up a “watcher” to try to stay mindful of when I ran the tapes and which ones showed up most often.

I then developed affirmations which were basically positive turnarounds of the negative tapes.  Every time I caught myself re-running a negative tape, I would stop and repeat the turnaround statement several times.

It helped a lot in two major ways: (1) staying conscious of the patterns seemed to decrease their frequency and (2) the regular repetition of the turnarounds helped to create new, more positive, patterns.  And I think new neural nets…

I’ve long believed subliminal recordings can reach the unconscious and influence change.  I bought a selection of Dick Sutphen’s affirmation recordings and began playing them often; sometimes on a repeating loop all night long.  Then I put together a long list of them on Spotify and have been playing it very softly all day most days.  It’s slow and subtle but over time it has led to far more positive thought patterns.

ENERGETIC

Having learned a lot of practices like Flying Crane Chi Gung and the Eight Key Breaths, I knew how much can shift when energy is stronger and/or more balanced and/or flowing more freely.  Considering the benefits of various practices, I chose the Flying Crane, Key Breaths and the Five Tibetan Rites and began to practice 1-3 of them daily.  I wrote about it long ago here, with more explanations of the practices.

As noted in a recent post, I find changing energy lets you bypass the mind and create a shift without mental interference.  I just chose three practices I particularly love because they seemed to fit some specific goals I had at the time — many other practices that work with energy could give you similar benefits.

These practices, done while also receiving Bodypatterning, clearly enhanced the therapy as well as helping to move my energy into new and healthier patterns.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’ve also done a lot of work on ancestral patterns and visited a couple of healers who also helped in that arena.  Some of those posts:

I do NOT consider any of the information in this post to be any kind of definitive list.  I don’t believe in definitive lists.  I believe that whatever you believe will work, will work.  The specifics here are just to give you an idea of the kinds of practices I used.  Can’t say I’ve finished the process but enormous transformation has taken place since I began this pattern breaking process.  Anyone can do it.

* Developed by a fellow here in Lexington, it’s the most amazing body work I’ve had — and I’ve experienced at least a dozen varieties.  He now has a school, called Full Circle Massage School, so I’m in hopes practitioners will be fanning across the country and the globe, making it possible to get treatments wherever you are.