Schedule shifting midstream

My schedule shift efforts are slowly moving along and some changes seem to be holding, so I’ve been feeling pleased with the decision to shift.  The muscles in my eyes haven’t been quite so wild.  There’s often some disruption a couple of nights a week but none of the long endless nights of yanking muscles; without that change none of the rest would be happening.

Today I hit one of the goals in the shift.  Lots of friends from the old Unity church here joined a spiritual center called Ahava a few years after Unity closed.  I’ve been attending random afternoon or evening events off and on and volunteering with their God’s Pantry group but  their weekly 10:30 service has been way out of reach for my insane sleep schedule.

When I started shifting the schedule I realized attending the Sunday service — which I’d given up on doing — would become possible.  Today was finally the day I was both awake early enough and rested enough to conceive of getting up, dressed and out.

As soon as I walked in the door I was greeted warmly by Betty, one of the women very involved in the old Unity.  Then Patty, whom I’ve known through the God’s Pantry work hugged me and invited me to sit with her.  A beautiful service, greeting more old friends….  Loved it and it really gave the gargantuan effort of shifting every aspect of my schedule more meaning and purpose.

Other good news to report from shifting is I’ve been having more energy.  Some of that is because the DEEP stuff behind my eye that’s currently unwinding is freeing up a lot of energy. I also suspect in looking at the Chinese medicine clock that I’m now giving some crucial organs a rest during the best hours which then helps the energy.

For the first six weeks or more I got up earlier then was so dazed the rest of my plan for breakfast, exercise, shower and meditation before noon fell apart while I just sat in a fog but in the last couple of weeks, with energy picking up, I’m getting more things done every day– nowhere close to the kind of busy days my more energetic friends accomplish, but for me, significantly more.  And I’m finally growing less stupefied in the morning so am hoping to get the whole morning plan happening soon instead of just a couple parts of it.   When I finish shifting to the intended schedule, should be even easier.

Another great bonus has been running errands between 1:00 and 2:45 — in between lunch rush and schools getting out.  Turns out there’s a whole lovely time when traffic is light, parking is easy and stores are quiet!  I’m now addicted to getting things done in this peaceful time frame.  Given my night vision issues, this is going to be SO helpful when darkness starts arriving at 5:30.

Another view from my spot

Speaking of light, I’m totally enjoying having more hours of light and, again, will be so much happier in winter that I’ll be experiencing a fair portion of the hours of sunshine.  Being up and around so much more of the day has led to more time enjoying light and air while writing on our sun porch which always picks my spirits up.

It all feels like coming alive again after such a long journey of healing.  More about that in another post!

Getting Older and Birthdays

I turned 67 today.  Of course birthdays have long since not been an occasion for the giddy excitement of childhood but I continue to enjoy having some amount of celebration.  At this age, with no siblings, husband or children and parents in their 90’s, it’s been slowly sinking in for the last few years that before too long no one will be around on that day.

I don’t dwell on it much, but until now, when I’ve thought of it, I’ve felt sorry for myself.  While it WILL be sad just not to have my parents and their pleasure in the fact I was born, I finally have re-defined something about birthday.

Right now my mother and I live together so she greets me with something she’s ordered and a “happy birthday” to start the day and my father calls somewhere after that, having sent a card with a check ahead of time.  So I’m increasingly contemplating the birthday when they aren’t here and how I want to spend the day.

They’re both getting ever more frail and I’m doing my best to see to it that both are okay though I can’t get to my dad very often at all.  Most of the time I’m just worried about them, so birthday and Christmas are the only two times I confront the frailty and what’s ahead and feel uneasy about life without them around.

A couple of times in the past when I lived far from either parent, I put together a small party, specifying no presents, but had a general impression people felt dragged into celebrating and I’m not really into parties so that’s not something I’d do again.

So far one of the main things, since I love really good food, has been seeing to it some sort of treat or special meal is on hand.  But looking deeper into the meaning of birthdays — and not wanting to try to fill empty spaces with food 🙂 — and whether they need celebrating and what would be meaningful for me I’m starting to envision future birthdays spent in contemplation, drawing tarot cards, possibly a spa or massage visit, and meditating on spirit and purpose and why I’m here and whether I’m living my purpose.  Really sounds more like me than a lot of the usual birthday stuff.

Something about creating my own vision for a different kind of day that doesn’t require presents and cakes and someone who says “Happy Birthday” as soon as I get up calmed the anxiety about that future that isn’t here.  And right now I feel so blessed to have parents who’ve made it to 94 and still celebrate as they can with me.

Circling back to Yoga Nidra

Long ago I wrote about a year of yoga nidra practice and my ongoing love of it.  At the time I began, the lingering effects of chronic fatigue still left me exhausted a good deal of the time and the “sleep” impact intrigued me.

The practice indeed helped remarkably with the constant fatigue and after the year I moved to spending more time on energy-building practices like Flying Crane Chi-Gung, the Eight Key Breaths and the Five Tibetan Rites.  I still slipped yoga nidra in here and there but it became ever more sporadic.

As I struggle with the big shifts I’ve been trying to make, added to years of sleep deprivation due to my muscles, fatigue is more of a problem again and it finally occurred to me to circle back to yoga nidra.  In the time since I first began I’ve fallen in love with the short version on my preferred recording, Swami Janakananda’s Experience Yoga Nidra[On other recordings I’ve tried the long version isn’t as complete as this one and the short version is completely different]

I’ve hit the point in the shift where I’m finally getting up close to the time I’m aiming for, but then wandering around in a fog for hours as I’ve never had enough sleep (and I gather my internal clock hasn’t adjusted…).  So later in the morning I’ve been frequently doing one of the two versions of yoga nidra and it’s definitely helping by restoring some rest as advertised.

Yoga nidra is a deep relaxation practice and the claims regarding sleep equivalence vary widely.  Initially I was told that the long, 45 minute version equaled 6 hours of sleep, or 2 hours per 15 minutes.  Since then I’ve seen it estimated at more like 1 hour per 15 minutes and I’d say that corresponds more to my experience.  And there are other claimed variations from less to more.  At this point I usually say the long one equals 3 hours and the short, 20 minute, version nets around an hour.

I also love the practice (1) because there are a LOT of fast-moving instructions and if you want to experience all of it you really have to stay mindfully with it.  I’d say the year I spent practicing daily did more to help my mindfulness capacity than any mindfulness meditation I ever did and (2) because as your energy follows the flow you experience your whole body, shifting emotional states, chakras, connecting with nature and more, I feel a greater sense of detachment from my ordinary self than anything else has provided me.

I also like it because my low back has issues with sitting meditation practices and for yoga nidra you’re SUPPOSED to be lying down.  Yea!

In 30+ years of learning, doing and often discarding practices, I’d say this one ranks as one of my total faves.  There are some others I cycle in and out of, like the energy practices named above.  And yoga, of course, has remained a constant since I took my first class starting in July, 1986.

If you have any issues with being sleep deprived and/or fatigued, I highly recommend this.  Or if you need help with relaxation.  Or mindfulness.  What can I say, it’s an amazing practice! And I’m so happy to have cycled back to it.

Growing Pains?

In my last post, I was feeling a little down about my struggles with making a huge schedule change.  I’m happy to report I was soon back on track but I have to tell ya, shifting your entire schedule by several hours is harder than it sounds.

Right now I’ve landed in a place where I’m routinely somewhere in between the schedule I’m aiming for and the schedule I used to have.  I’m counting that as progress and an accomplishment.  But this in between place also has some issues.

Way back when school and then working outside the home forced a schedule on me, I routinely had to get up anywhere from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. in order to get ready and accomplish whatever commute required.  I’ve always been a night owl, so pretty much every night I was awake till midnight or one, slept till the alarm dragged me up and headed off.

Lots of coffee all day long helped me to pretend I had energy.  Weekends contained many extra hours of sleep, trying to catch up.  While many things contributed to chronic fatigue for me, I’m quite sure many years of sleep deprivation is one of the threads.  Once I no longer worked on somebody else’s hours, my pretty natural schedule was more or less 1 a.m. to 9 a.m.  But when a combination of kundalini, prana bursts and wild muscle activity started interfering regularly with sleep over some years that schedule slowly morphed to being awake often until 4 a.m. or 5 (and sometimes beyond) and sleeping until 12 or later.

I’ve hated that for many reasons, especially in winter and even more this past winter when night vision problems kept me from driving after dark.  But as long as the muscles mostly ruled my schedule and kept me utterly exhausted I didn’t feel up to trying to wrestle the schedule back.

Now that I’m back feeling quite a bit better and with restored determination, the old 1-9 a.m. seemed attractive and that’s my aim.  Oy, though, trying to shift that much while also changing liquid schedule to stop drinking anything several hours before bed has been far more huge than I imagined.  And yes, the muscles in my faces haven’t finished with me; some nights are impossible…

When I can get to the 1-9, many things have a natural spot and I can see how the schedule will work well, but this in between moment makes it so awkward!  While I long to complete the shift to the new dream schedule, right now I just try to take a breath and appreciate how much I’ve accomplished so far.

I love having extra hours of daylight.  I love being ready to head out for errands earlier.  I love having time to take a nap (so far it’s been easier to get up earlier than to make myself sleep earlier) and still have hours of light left to enjoy.

Just thought I’d let you know I’m done whining… for now 🙂

Hello Coyote

That ol’ trickster coyote showed up within a couple of days of my Determined Again post.  In the last 10 days or so muscle yanking left me with about 3 hours of sleep 5 times and another night a sudden 2 a.m. allergy attack deprived me of some more hours.

For the most part I’ve been pleased that, in spite of the disruption and sleeping later than the plan in order to sleep at all, I’ve still managed to drag up earlier than I had been.  It’s left the whole plan about early rising and re-doing the whole schedule of meals and drinking various things still constantly shifting instead of settling into the routine for which I long.

And today after 3 hours again and a number of things that went sideways, I finally threw up my hands on trying to force the new schedule.  It’s past 11:30 p.m. and I just finished by daily cup of turmeric ginger tea and am still sipping water, the final touch on a day of watching my new schedule go down the drain.

I knew when I started this shift it would be challenging given the muscle unwinding process has still not finished, but the muscles gave me a break in the first couple of weeks of the venture and I felt cautiously optimistic about succeeding sooner than I’d assumed.

Through much of the week I managed to remind myself I was still being earlier and managing a number of items on the shift to earlier list — if not as early as desired or even at consistent times, at least everything was in fact earlier.

I know with some sleep I’ll be in a better frame and one day of sideways won’t change the general trend,, but right now feeling a little down and very tired of coping with all this…

Determined again

In my younger days, determination was a fairly central feature of my personality.  I remember a long ago boyfriend telling me it was amazing how I would just decide I wanted to know how to do something and go about learning it.

The long journey through health problems eroded that determination and during these recent years when my muscles pretty much took control I seemed to lose that “now I’m gonna do this” spirit as to everything but healing.

There are ways in which the sidetrack into a life operating in some aspects out of my control was a good and necessary thing as I’d always been too in control.  I’ve learned a lot about letting go over years of having muscles operating on their own volition and on their own time schedule.  But sometimes it felt a bit like I wasn’t me any more; while in many ways that was a needed too, it also felt left me feeling lost.

Over the last couple of years as more energy and stamina have returned, I’ve been slowly picking up threads on getting things done.  And recently I’ve moved forward in a firm decision that muscles or no, it’s time to get some control over my schedule again.

With a caveat about surrendering to the muscles when they decide to do their thing, I started shifting my crazy sleep schedule.  Around the same time I also realized drinking too much liquid late at night interfered with staying asleep for long enough stretches, so I also started working on a hugely shifted schedule of when I drink what.  And then saw the sleep and drinking schedules impact one another a lot and the two wind up impacting just about everything.  So many things to shift!

So I’m setting an alarm for 3 hours earlier than when I’d been getting up and setting an alarm to signal when it’s time to turn all devices off and move to bed. Not actually getting up when the alarm goes off, but I’m up quite a lot earlier than before.  And working my way through the times many things need to happen through the day.

I know to most people these are small things, easily controlled, but for me, after years of being totally out of step with “normal” hours because of my muscles and fatigue, it has felt SO good to take charge and push for a big change.  Helps the muscles are somewhat cooperating. A couple of nights a week are lost which throws me off schedule, but I’ve even been managing to be earlier on those days.  And I can see the muscles and healing had to reach at least this stage of doneness for me to have the oomph to do this.

It’s clear it will be a while before I get everything moved to my ideal schedule but just operating on the determination to be earlier in everything and managing to accomplish a degree of it feels major.

It feels like me again.  A better, calmer, kinder me.  But me.  Maybe me 2.0?  Or maybe after all the transitions, me 10.1???

Getting Bigger

Many years back my insightful acupuncturist, Raymond Himmel (still practicing in Mill Valley, CA for anyone near enough) commented, “You know it’s okay for you to be big,” as he popped another needle in.  Me holding back my bigness in one way or another has come up often over many years on this journey and among my various spiritual teachers and alternative health practitioners, he was not alone in perceiving and pointing out that issue.

Over the years I’ve done lots of work around the ideas of making myself small and fear of being big, from digging around in the issue to release work to efforts at changing my negative thought patterns, particularly those I see as keeping me small.  For me it’s one of those major, pervasive issues with tendrils, and I imagine I will be circling back to it for the rest of at least this lifetime.

Years ago I understood the tight muscles all over my body created a defensive system almost like having body armor under the skin.  More recently, as the final throes of unwinding in my face move through, I’ve been also understanding the same tightness as part of being small.

In my early yoga training, my teacher talked to us quite a bit about how we can see many things about our personalities and our ways of being in how we feel about postures, and in our relationship with the difficulty or easiness of various postures.  I, for instance, did forward bend stretches with ease from the beginning.  An indicator of introversion or inwardness.

Back bends, on the other hand, were a strain.  Initially I could barely lift an inch off the floor into a cobra pose  An indicator of being afraid to be open and exposed in the world.  I didn’t exactly mind doing them but they were hard for me.  Since I knew being more open in the world was an issue, I concertedly kept working at back bends.

My ability to move farther into postures like cobra improved in a complementary fashion with my becoming more outward in the world.  Those are just a couple of examples, but it’s a lesson I’ve always carried and reflected upon periodically.  So as my head has finally opened up significantly the import of the squeezed up muscles became a subject of contemplation.

Increasingly I’ve understood that the super tight squeezing in all the muscles in my head and face (I’ve described it as feeling like a vice grip that could squeeze to the max from every direction) served to keep me small.  And as the muscles have opened up– and opened more of my body as the patterns in my head connected into and held up patterns all the way down — the feeling of being bigger has grown.

A few weeks ago while following along to one of Steve Nobel’s great meditations I suddenly opened into a sense of a big space in me while receiving a message that it’s time to be big, to let myself be all I came here to be.  For most of this journey I’ve  had visions occasionally of me in a much bigger, more out there life and, while excited, my main reaction has always been that it’s too grandiose, too much for “little ol’ me” to imagine I could be and do all that.  Without the opening in my muscles, I don’t think I could feel the bigness as I now do.

For the first time I felt this really big, impactful life truly is the one I came here to live.  I’ve been naming some well known teachers and saying I feel like I belong on the same stages they’re on.  This isn’t a sudden complete transformation.  Any given day (or even time of day) you could find me feeling anxious about stepping out like that or tearing up because it seems like too much.

But the rest of the time I’m mulling it and taking it in and telling myself, as Raymond so long ago told me, “It’s okay to be big.”