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.”

Navigating CFS and Fibromyalgia

Dhanwantari, Hindu god of medicine

As I inch ever closer to “completing” the journey to health, I’ve been thinking a lot about CFS, fibromyalgia, the differing worlds of allopathic and alternative medicine, and how my healing journey has operated on many levels. [btw I’m still working on the People Power series so stay tuned for more to come]

Neither ailment was ever officially diagnosed by a “western” doctor.  When I first started complaining of fatigue and pain, western medicine held steadfast in denying chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia existed.  They’d tell you it was in your mind and maybe you should see a shrink.  I knew something was wrong so I started seeking alternative therapies, beginning with acupuncture.

Many alternative practitioners felt I had fibromyalgia — some talked about the pattern of calcified fibers ALL over all my muscles; for them it was about how the muscles feel — but when allopathic medicine finally acknowledged its existence their list of symptoms didn’t match mine.  And as usual their treatment is a pharmaceutical sop to symptoms that in no way cures it. So anyone’s guess whether my muscle problems are or aren’t fibromyalgia.  I call it that because the practitioners who helped me did.

In hindsight I see it as a blessing that western medicine had no place for my problems because (1) I think the alternative medicine path has been a total, eye-opening gift and (2) the emphasis on healing rather than masking symptoms is a big part of my returning strength and energy.

From the purely physical standpoint, I think it’s important to understand the path to healing for these ailments looks very different for different people.  Several practitioners along the way noted that CFS and fibromyalgia– particularly CFS — are often a result of a catastrophic collection of system issues/failures which means the underlying causes are multiple and differ among sufferers.  And fibromyalgia can be one of the pieces leading to CFS. The path to wellness for one may do nothing for someone whose underlying issue is different.

For instance some practitioners were convinced about one particular diet — often vegan or vegetarian — and thought everyone had to be on that diet.  Diet, too, is an area in which different people need different ones.

I go on a fast downhill slide on any strict vegetarian diet (although I eat a fair number of vegetarian meals), with symptoms that start with my digestive system ceasing to function and move on to lowered blood pressure, extreme fatigue and anemia. My life-long problem with anemia only disappears if I eat red meat once a week or so.  At the same time I know people who are robustly healthy on a vegan diet.

What works for you can be complicated.  I’ve been sorting through things for years trying to figure out what seems to keep me healthiest and my diet continues to be a process of tweaking.

For me a huge turning point came at the end of my first Body Patterning appointment, when the therapist asked if I knew that muscles were squeezing every single organ and gland.  All the many years of treatments till then had dealt separately with the muscle issues and the CFS.  Acupuncturist after acupuncturist treated me in constant rotation for issues with all the glands and some of the organs.  Treatments would help for a while and then fade in effectiveness.

Acupuncture treatments for muscle and pain issues are not the same as the treatments of meridians for gland and organ issues.  Unfortunately acupuncture diagnosis doesn’t seem to have a way to distinguish between weakness in a meridian caused by muscles squeezing the associated gland or organ from weakness caused by a problem in the organ or gland itself.

Once I understood the muscles were my primary problem I focused my attention on opening/releasing the muscles, a plan which included some trades for body work (by this time I’d run out of funds for endless alternative treatments…).  I worked along by practicing yoga and with tapes of Robert Masters’ Psychophysical Method and eventually I re-worked the Masters stuff into sets I found more effective and combined the work with yoga postures to support the opening created by his triggers of release.

Initially I walked my spiritual and physical journeys as separate paths.  Eventually I came to see how mental, emotional, physical and spiritual issues all enter into any journey of healing.  I began exploring issues, digging through childhood memories and releasing old beliefs.  In more recent years i also started exploring ancestral patterns and how patterns in muscles can be passed from one generation to another to another.

When I started there wasn’t even the beginning of a guide to how to negotiate all this and as far as I can tell the information people with these diagnoses get still varies.  Western medicine deems them incurable.  Alternative medicine thinks they can be resolved but often fail to understand the complexity and that you probably have to use more than one healing modality and combine it with emotional and spiritual work.

The bottom line is these ailments (and some other immune system disorders) are still to some degree mysterious even to alternative practitioners and allopathic medicine knows even less.  Your path to healing is going to be a quest you must undertake and only you will be able to discern the impact of various suggestions and modalities and practices.

Making it even harder, at the worst stages, even something that’s helping may not produce an impact you can feel.  As long as you aren’t getting worse, sometimes you have to try something for a while on faith.  You have to get to know your own body and its nuances.

And you have to be willing to stand up for what you know to be truth.  I have literally quit several practitioners the day they argued with or refused to accept what I told them I knew about my own body, especially some of the diet nazis.  At the same time I’ve had to be prepared to listen to analyses that were hard to take, especially those with good intuitive skills who homed in on issues I hadn’t noticed.

It can be a balancing act.  But hard as it is, the journey to health is ultimately up to you and you need to be your own best advocate and as thoroughly aware of your body and how it reacts as you can become.

For me this journey of getting in touch after years of being numb, of learning what works for me, etc. has been enlightening and empowering.

 

Creating bridges with dialogue

Part of one of this week’s assignments in the Harmony and Co-Humanity class I’m taking was to watch this video.  Meghan grew up in a right wing church that basically operated as a hate group, and did a complete 180 turn.

Her story is moving and her advice on bridging divides with considered dialogue are worth watching.  Only 15 minutes:

Walking a different drummer/spiritual path in a secular world

A little over a week ago I started participating in an on line class called “Co-Human Harmony“.  The idea is to work on understanding and tools to help create bridges in a divisive society or situation.  I signed up because I think it’s so important right now and because I realize I even have a problem quite often about joining groups who are working for peace or justice (i.e. theoretically same view as mine) because I frame these issues so differently.

I’m loving the class but also struggling for the same reasons.  The quite valid point of the class is to learn tools for bridging divides where people are, which is generally not in a place of understanding or accepting non-duality.  And I’m realizing I’ve moved so far along the path of looking at everything from a spiritual/metaphysical viewpoint, I’m having trouble answering some of the course questions within a more “practical” framework.

I believe so thoroughly we’re all divine beings who are made of energy which is part of one unified field.  And I am so used to using tools like (1) moving into heart energy and shifting a room with it or (2) chanting lovingkindness for someone with whom I’m at odds or (3) doing a meditation that balances energy between me and another person before we actually interact, that I think in those terms for bridges and healing rifts.

The teacher has pointed out it’s fine to think in those terms (and has encouraged me to continue) but for these situations we’re addressing how to be in a room with, say, a Neo-Nazi, and find a way to connect as humans so we can talk.  And I’m guessing as we move from studying the theoretical framework to more practical applications it may become easier to just use and apply new concepts.  But right now I’m floundering in attempts to talk about my understanding of various passages, videos, etc. on which we’re asked to comment without talking about energy and chakras and stuff.

I’m really seeing how far down this spiritual path I’ve gotten.  I know, I know, seems goofy after this many years for this to be a new thought.  But I’ve wound up mostly hanging around with other spiritual seekers who’ve been at it for years and though I know intellectually that most people don’t think this way, I’m rarely confronted in person with how totally different the drumbeat to which I march really is.

Since most of the folks who regularly read and participate here lead deeply spiritual lives I’m very interested and curious to hear your thoughts and stories about participating as a spiritually-enmeshed person in secular affairs.  Comments are welcome but I’d be even more excited to see some of you write posts about living spiritually in a secular world.

BTW, I’ll still be continuing the People Power series but as I work through this class I’ll likely switch back and forth in topics.

People Power: The Rambling Intro :-)

I’ve been pretty excited lately about some epiphanies I’ve been having about the world and where we can choose to head, with ideas on many levels and many fronts/aspects of life on earth.  As has increasingly been happening in recent years, the aha arrived from some other dimension and without words.

An influx of images and feelings that translate only partially into words and thoughts, which leaves me both excited and frustrated as I try to figure out how to explain it.  It’s clear that multiple posts will be required.

We, the 98%, Have the Power

The entire things boils down most simply to that thought but there’s so much more.  It’s an evolution of a thought I’ve played with for years, that we vote at least as much — probably more — with our dollars as with our trips to the voting booth.  And that there’s power in how we choose to spend.

I’ve been tossing thoughts off on other social media for a bit now about how puzzling it is that the 2% seem to have a delusion that the well-being or lack thereof of the 98% doesn’t affect them.  Simultaneously my long-time thoughts about power elites and their control of the military industrial complex have landed on really comprehending how we’ve let global corporations take control of the world and its governments.

But their wealth and prosperity are entirely dependent on us, the 98%, buying their goods and services.  If we withdrew our monetary support of their enterprises and instead created local trade, manufacturing, service and community efforts to provide goods and services while electing more reps into government who have been backed only by “people funding”, their power would collapse.  And yes, we have to face possible disruption and reprisals could go along with that.

My concerted effort at finding positive news has also shown me the widespread expansion of an idea I noted 25+ years ago via ads in places like Yoga Journal and New Age magazine.  At that time I could see a small and growing alternative economy thriving along side the normal corporate robber baron economy.  And now I see small personal and local efforts around the world taking charge of creating change without government or with only local government impetus.  Key to where I see us moving.

I see this possibility operating in so many ways, the series of posts will more specifically explore individual aspects.

It’s All Been Leading Here

The personal thread in these insights that excites me is I can now see the long eclectic journey from studying political and economic systems in college through multiple studies and jobs to the more recent spiritual journey and its insights, everything has added up to this.

I hope you’ll bear with me as, for me, I feel a need to write out as much of the eclectic path as I can recall:

  1. Attending college at the height of the anti-Viet Nam protests got me interested in “the power elite” and that, combined with calls for revolution in the air, led me to put together my own “major” outside my declared one.  I studied political philosophy and science, the history of power, comparative economic and political systems obsessively.
  2. In graduate school I intended to hone in my power elite study, but funding wound up sidetracking me into a big study called “Reaction to Crime” and my journey through a huge literature survey on crime statistics led to many insights and realizations that continue to unfold.  Bottom line:  probability of being a victim of most crimes has not changed in at least 100 years but manipulation of how it’s reported and how the statistics are presented has created a FALSE perception that crime is getting worse and it’s now deep in the consciousness of our culture.  Not the only arena in which we have a shared view that’s been manipulated into being.
  3. Law School.  None fun (as a cousin used to say in childhood), but provided so many tools for understanding and insight, not the least of which was an incredibly demanding Constitutional Law professor.
  4. Becoming a lawyer on nuclear power plant cases helped me to understand many ins and outs of how regulated systems work as well as nuances about the many problems of nuclear power.
  5. Doing that lawyering for a government agency in Illinois I came to understand a lot about how power in government operates behind the scenes.
  6. My foray into the world of meditation, yoga and metaphysics while still practicing law led to a complete turnaround for me, including seeing how harmful law practice was for my well-being.
  7. Shortly after leaving the law I went through Nine Gates Mystery School in 1990.  A life-changing experience, it led me to embrace my spiritual journey much more deeply.  I also wound up studying with several of the teachers from the school, one of whom in particular led me deep within my psyche and helped me let go of SO many old beliefs.
  8. A part-time gig doing some editing and proofreading for a little (and crooked as it turned out) publishing company landed a right wing Christian book in my pile that was eye opening as to the level of lying and making things up ingrained in that thinking.  Yup way before The Rump evangelical preachers were already training their flocks to buy any crap they made up.
  9. Another part time gig at Institute of Noetic Sciences brought so many resources into my life and introduced me to a number of teachers whose work continues to influence me.  I also learned what it’s like to work for a place that genuinely likes and appreciates its employees.
  10. After moving to KY I wound up in a part time job for the local Unity church. It was supposed to be a little clerical gig after the church lost its ministers to lack of funding.  As the only person around, I wound up doing bits of everything from filling in for the pianist to playing a leadership role I would never have conceived of myself doing.  I was surprised to watch myself step up to a visible role with a fair amount of ease after a lifetime of trying to be invisible.  A great affirmation of how much change I’d accomplished and a huge shift in self-conception without which I doubt I’d have the hubris to be writing this..
  11. I wound up creating a new exercise program to help with my muscle issues and, in trying to share it with others, discovered many people don’t want to do their own self care.
  12. As I worked on creating a more positive outlook I began looking for positive news, a venture that accelerated exponentially after the 2016 election.  It has wound up helping me to see the whole world differently.  People everywhere are stepping up and changing things for the better and there’s a reason the mainstream press doesn’t highlight these stories.
  13. I’ve been able to use all my background in historical, political and sociological studies as well as my law degree and experience in working for government to read along in current events much more closely than I’d done in years.  All helps to read between the lines and see a lot about what’s going on, including many issues and beliefs buried so deep in our culture that even many highly aware people don’t seem to see how they’re locked into it.
  14. The long spiritual journey and lots of release and letting go practices are helping me immensely to stand back and evaluate issues from a different perspective.  Meditation and mindfulness, etc. also help me to see how much change we really need and to contemplate the potential upheaval with calm.  And I see a major spiritual component in both what is happening now and in creating change.

I’m not claiming to have some high level of expertise as I’m clearly more of a dabbler.  But I have a mind that both finds the heart of the matter readily and synthesizes information from multiple sources with ease and those often combine to help me see answers no one else is seeing.

I don’t have all the answers for how we get to where I see us going but I have a sense of the basics we need to address if we truly want to change the world.

I like my aging face

For some months now I’ve felt like I’ve been in some sort of hibernation/incubation mix, drawn to studying up on a bunch of current events issues and unsure what’s next.  Finally in the last couple of weeks a couple of epiphanies have arrived.  The first will take several posts so I’m writing up the second one to open.

Lately a number of articles and insights about aging have cropped up, during a spell when I’ve often enjoyed my graying hair in the mirror as well as appreciating my aging face.  They’ve had me contemplating myself as an aging woman.

Time Stopped

Aging has been an odd process for me.  Like many with a long-term ailment like chronic fatigue and/or fibromyalgia, in many ways my life froze at the point in my mid-thirties when normal life stopped.  For many years I had trouble conceiving of myself as having moved anywhere past that age.

At the same time, the process of moving toward wellness included lots and lots of bodywork and a faithful yoga practice combined with some other movement practices.  Once the process of aging caught up with me enough that I could no longer hold an illusion of being 34 🙂 I had transformed my body from stiff and pained and barely mobile to strong and lithe and flexible.

So I find myself at 66 with a body that feels younger than it did in my thirties and a face that clearly says “66” in a life that felt like a couple of decades went missing.

“Not Fair”

Clearly somewhere along the way I drifted from feeling 34 to seeing the aging reality in the mirror.  Having, in most conventional senses, lost 25 or so years, my initial reaction was, “Not fair!”

Alternating amongst angry and mournful and denying, I grappled with “losing” most of the middle of life and finding myself old and still struggling to get past all the health and emotional issues   Not fair!

Again, because my body was coming back to life and my muscles were serving me better than ever, denial became an easy refuge.  As long as I didn’t look in the mirror, I felt so much better it was hard to reconcile the “old” thing with the state of my physical being.

I never landed on anger or grief or denial for long and through it all I could manage to look at what I accomplished during those years and have a little re-think.

I Earned This Face

I can’t remember how many years ago I quit dying my hair (I’d gone prematurely white around my face in my early 30’s and, like so many, once I started, I kept going too long), but an appreciation of the gray look has been growing ever since.

Lately, as mentioned, I’ve been seeing a lot of photos and posts about amazing “older” women.  Soaking in the tub one recent day and pondering some of these “signs” I flashed to the image of my long graying hair when it’s down and my face with its wrinkles and the deep circles under my eyes that tell me my kidneys are still being squeezed by muscles and I’m not getting enough sleep.

Suddenly I felt love.  I earned this face.  When I look at the photos above I see a progression that may not be as visible to those who haven’t lived it, but to me is clear.

The toddler me is still open and bright; it’s a photo taken before I shut down.

By the time of the graduation photo taken at 17, my face is frozen and the muscle issues have already pulled my eyes back farther into my head than they should be.

The next photo, at 45-ish, was taken after I’d been doing spiritual work for 10 or so years, after going through the Fisher-Hoffman process work and I can see a little more openness, but, not having started work on the facial muscles, my eyes have pulled even farther back.

In the final photo — from last week — I see a face much more open.  My eyes have moved farther forward.  Not all the way yet, as final recalcitrant core muscles continue to work out of the web behind my eyes, but they’ve moved and appear more open again. Still in progress, but a visible confirmation of accomplishment.

I worked hard to move from the girl with the frozen face to the aging woman with masks removed and brighter eyes  I’ve faced into dark depths and wandered down entangled pathways from which I could not see a way forward.

To the outer world my life moved nowhere except from one U.S. state to another to another, but in my essence, at the core of my being, I have traversed a thousand miles of wilderness, facing down the lions and tigers and bears.

At 66 I stand on the brink of being the healthiest I have perhaps ever been.  I’ve jettisoned neuroses and useless beliefs and large pieces of what I thought was my personality.  I’m still not positive where the next phase will find me but I know I’m finally going to be living life as me and on my terms.

I earned this face.