Straddling the science line

The enormous divide over science wrought by the advent of Covid has left me in an interesting spot. I’ve not seen an allopathic medical doctor in 30+ years and I totally credit an alternative health path with slowly but surely healing ailments that, when I began, Western medicine insisted did not exist.

However, I always felt that allopathic medicine knew what it was doing on certain things. I used to joke that if I’d been in an accident and clearly needed a cast and some stitches, I wouldn’t tell the ambulance to take me to my acupuncturist. And I also think Western medicine has been pretty good at figuring out vaccines, so I had no problem about getting a Covid vaccine as soon as I could and I jumped on the opportunity for a booster.

But the arguments have led to a lot of ugly remarks about alternative medicine and I’m really disturbed by the ignorance with which so many assume “science” has everything right and that if big studies haven’t proven something it means it’s wrong. Acupuncture and many herbal traditions, for example, have thousands of years of history and, as both have been increasingly studied both are being shown to be effective. Yet even such studies have made very small inroads into the arrogance of allopathic medicine practitioners about the superiority of what they do.

Early in the 20th century, the U.S. had a fairly large array of homeopathic, osteopathic, herbal, etc. schools and a lot of people went to such practitioners for health care rather than medical doctors. A seminal paper by Abraham Flexner (who’d been a teacher, not a doctor) in 1910 promoted biomedicine and wound up having such an influence that biomedicine dominated and the thriving alternatives withered away. The Flexner Report of 1910 and Its Impact on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Psychiatry in North America in the 20th Century

Perhaps my biggest issue with biomedicine is the lack of interest in actually curing people. The orientation is to finding drugs that will mask symptoms and without regard to possibly causing other ailments because of something in the drug. It ties people often to a lifetime of taking a drug– which means continually having to consult with the doctor to get renewals — and then having to take another drug to deal with the symptoms caused by the first drug, also endless because it masks instead of curing.

I will not be at all surprised if, somewhere down the road, an exposé shows collusion between the AMA and big Pharma on keeping patients tied to a lifetime of dependence on their “treatments” and continually adding on more problems created by side effects and drug interactions.

The approach of most alternative medicine modalities is to try to find the source of the problem and discover what combination of herbs, diet changes, exercise, etc. will get to the source and cure the problem. The process sometimes takes time — in my case, years — but leads to restoring optimum health. Suppression of Symptoms is Not a Cure of the Disease

I consider myself fortunate to have landed on the alternative path and I have allopathic medicine to thank for sending there. When I first started suffering extreme fatigue and pain in my muscles, the biomedicine community was quite sure that neither existed and told me to see a shrink. I knew something was wrong and had friends who were seeing acupuncturists, chiropractors, etc. so I got recommendations and set off down the path.

For me the whole story wound up being complicated by the eventual realization that all my muscles, including even the connective ones, were tightly wound around all my organs and glands. Initially none of the practitioners could see that, but their tests showed weaknesses in all the organs and glands and thus kept treating me on a rotating basis for those. Since they were, in fact, weak, all the herbs, needles, etc. gave me boosts that helped me move along but not the type of progress anyone thought I’d make. Once I focused on the muscles and getting the complicated patterns released, everything started improving.

I’ve spent years seeing brilliant practitioners of many alternative modalities and all have contributed progress to the long, slow process of restoring my health from being so exhausted I slept 16 hours a day and then was so weak I couldn’t stand up through a whole shower. Also moved from having every single muscle from head to toe wound up like a steel rod, intertwined with other muscles, muscle groups glued together, etc. to a life in which most of my muscles have been restored to normal and my energy is much greater. Because of this restoration of REAL health, I have enormous respect for alternative medicine.

On the other hand, I can point directly to failures of western medicine to SO many of the muscle issues that resulted from either having injuries to muscles or ligaments that weren’t even diagnosed to injuries for which they felt no need to do anything. I have enormous contempt for their lack of knowledge of musculature. and how much it impacts health. When biomedicine finally decided fibromyalgia existed they came up with a treatment that, as usual, masks symptoms without doing anything to cure. Had I been stuck in that model I would still be taking meds for pain while every muscle remained twisted instead of enjoying more flexibility and healthy movement that ever before.

Ever since I ran into the great divide provided by Dr. Flexner, I have wished we could find a way to return to the broader array of healing choices that used to be the norm. In the meantime I straddle the line, willing to have a vaccine or be treated for trauma by western medicine and looking to alternative medicine for actually being healthy.

A Week of Chanting

The first week of January turned into a week of chanting and chanting for me, not entirely by design, but a delightful accumulation of events. I signed up for “Ecstatic Chant” a six-day workshop featuring Deva Premal & Miten, Jai Uttal and Krishna Das, not having noted that Deva and Miten were also doing the second annual New Year’s week daily 108 round Gayatri and not assuming Krishna Das would also do his regular Thursday satsang. But all were happening and I really worked at keeping up.

Managed to do every day of the 108 round Gayatri, which I find incredibly powerful. This time it also became more of an exercise in mindfulness than usual, which I’ll discuss more below. Also got to tune in for the satsang. The workshop I fit in around the other things (plus, you know, I have a life) as best I could — still have some to watch so very grateful they’re giving us a month to see the videos.

I’m not sure I have adequate words to describe how it felt by the end of the week to spend that many hours a day chanting and/or listening to chant. Extraordinary. Uplifting. Pulsating. All are true and yet don’t quite say how amazing it was. Really loved it!

The first day of the Gayatri there were either transmission problems or my YouTube was acting up — they often have trouble with signals in Costa Rica and YouTube has been screwing up for me a LOT — but the Gayatri was stopping and starting, stopping and starting. I was using my mala beads but I kept singing on into dead spaces and then picking up again with them when the stream re-started. Soon I was struggling to decide where I was on the beads and realizing the struggle was moving me out of connection with the mantra.

Thus the chant became a challenge for staying mindful. Only at the end did I laugh as I realized I could have just put the beads down… Meanwhile I considered the challenge well met when I wound up in the right place with the beads while keeping attention on the mantra. Afterwards I realized the starting and stopping and beads distraction had kept me from feeling thrown by the super fast guitar playing that goes on in sections of the 108 round version.

The next day the transmission was fine and when the –to-me– frantic guitar playing started my heart started pounding and my stomach tightened up as usual. Then I remember how the distractions the day before had kept me from reacting and concentrated on the lyrics to move me into the chant and out of noticing. Good reminder that I can mindfully make choices about how to react and what to notice, etc.

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop sessions viewed so far and Krishna Das’ Thursday evening satsangs are always good. I will say as far as the workshop, not much was done kirtan style and many chants were new to me so while I loved every minute, listening was not as spiritually expansive for me as it is to chant the Gayatri with the Global Gayatri Sangha — often thousands of us at a time from around the world.

The overall experience of spending hours and hours in one week chanting was divine. In a future post I’ll talk about how my slow, tentative launch onto a path of chanting is contributing to the “sparkles” I discussed in the last post.

All the Sparkle

Increasingly over the last couple of years I’ve noticed the world looking more sparkly. Literally looking around and seeing things shining, sparkling everywhere.

It started from the very practical purchase of a new dishwasher. a couple of years ago. It took some months but eventually it managed to clear off all the collected lime on glasses and silverware and I started noticing how shiny they looked. But it’s kept going from there.

The last couple of years have seen a lot of movement for me on emotional and health issues, including some big shifts in outlook. A really psychic friend of mine commented recently when I talked about all that’s been opening up in the muscles in my face and how it has been changing my world that she pictured me literally getting rid of anchors all around me that had been holding me stuck in place for years. Perfect fit for how it’s been feeling and my long-time sense the tight muscles have been instrumental in “stuckness”.

This sense of being more free on many levels and finally moving forward is so powerful. And I feel like a good deal of the sparkle I see around flows from that.

A huge amount of the tightness in my facial muscles has been centered around keeping my optic nerve squeezed tight, which causes near-sightedness according to my late, amazing vision therapist, Dr. Sirota. As the muscles finally loosen, I periodically notice increments of seeing more clearly; the clear field moving outward an inch or two at a time. The opening lately leaves me feeling that the changing vision also contributes to seeing all those sparkles.

Wherever it comes from, I must say, I LOVE looking around the world and seeing sparkles!!!

Towel Day

Wow the last two years have impacted blogging for me; not planned just some combo of Covid , caring for my Mom since she broke her hip and coping with my dad’s estate have added so much to my schedule I’ve not managed to reorganize. At the same time, I’ve continued a process I began a while before Covid hit of trying to get back to keeping more of life on a schedule. Coping with health issues for years pretty much threw schedules and normalcy out the window; even things like cleaning and laundry were hit or miss for years.

A couple of years ago I splurged and purchased new towels to replace the old sorry ones I’d had for years. At the same time I decided I wanted to have a schedule for changing out dirty for clean. So Saturday became “towel day”. Every Saturday, fresh towels. It’s also sort of laundry day though laundry often happens more on whatever day a load is “enough”; the change is all of it gets done in the course of a week. So Saturdays, clean towels and some sort of clean laundry.

Towel day has been happening for a couple of years now and today as I shifted out last week’s for the clean ones, I realized how hugely satisfying it is to have a schedule.

Over the same couple of years, some house cleaning projects, dish washing and dishwasher schedule have also been moving into new patterns of regularity. and I’ve been happy to feel those happening too.

It’s funny for me because in many ways I’ve always been a person who fights schedules and rigid lists of what needs to happen when. But after years of chronic fatigue and muscle issues throwing life into chaos where everything became hit or miss, it’s SUCH a comfort to restore some order. I also love that the fact that I can is a reflection of how much better I’m doing.

I also love that my consciousness of gratitude leaves me feeling so happy about nice, still fluffy new-ish towels, always clean and knowing when I last put clean ones out. Small things that mean so much.

Teetering: “Righteous Anger” and Compassion

As mentioned off and on for a while, I’m struggling with anger over so man things that are going on. Periodically I realize I’m back screaming at certain “leaders” every time their faces appear, grinding my teeth as I scan social media and follow links to read more, and, a couple of weeks ago when a station I was watching moved from old shows to airing some kind of evangelical church service, I found myself angrily making up words to the hymn they started with and singing: “My Jesus hates you, and we kill, kill, kill…”

Being self-aware enough to see this is DEFINITELY in conflict with my beliefs about holding a space of love, peace and compassion, I keep circling back to questioning the source of the anger and how to shift it. And one puzzle I constantly come back to, is how to be “righteously” angry and yet hold that space.

Many spiritual leaders and writers feel there is such a thing as righteous anger and that, when great wrongs are being committed, we must all feel that anger and do something toward righting the wrong. None seem to address how such anger impacts the energy of the web nor do they seem to offer much advice about how to feel that angry and still find the love and compassion with which to “do something” but do it with nonviolence.

I have long been unconvinced that “righteous” anger is any different, energetically speaking, than any other. It worries me when I react with anger because I can feel how it takes hold and shoves the loving, peaceful aspect of me out of function. And since I believe the energy space each of us holds adds up to the totality of energy that is All That Is, every time one of us is angry instead of loving, our energetic contribution to the web is the energy of anger.

Most of the spiritual leaders who say it’s fine to be outraged over injustice, etc. but to be nonviolent in what you do about it, seem remarkably silent on the question of how to move from the angry place of the one to the compassionate place of the other. I’d guess the majority of people aren’t well equipped to transition on a dime from place to the other.

I see 3 main arenas we as individuals can work on to help us in recognizing the wrongs that need to be righted but stay compassionate and develop non violent solutions:

  1. Ferreting out repressed anger (or other deeply held negative emotions). I’ve noted the above video before and I really like how deeply it works on transforming anger but there are many other methods, including “process” work like Fischer-Hoffman, the Diamond Heart approach, transpersonal psychology, etc. Just find the mode that works for you.
  2. Being able to stay present in the moment is really important. If you can’t even stay conscious enough to realize anger has grabbed you and it’s time to shift away, how you can move into non violent responses? I include more than just sitting vipassana; chanting (sung or spoken), movement practices like yoga or qi gong, and some guided meditations like yoga nidra are all ways that people of different temperaments can tune into the present.
  3. Long ago I read some spiritual leader saying the key to coping with emotions and events coming at you is to allow them to pass through you without affecting.  One of many teachings that’s easier said than done. I think it takes a lot of practice and dedication to reach a place where you don’t even have to think about staying in the space of lovingkindness and compassion and calm.

There are many ways to work on holding that space.  One factor is how you “feed” yourself in your life.  Are you doing practices like metta or singing chats or meditating (whatever form) regularly? Are you reading books like Tara Brach’s 

Ripples from John Prine

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Upon hearing news of John Prine on a respirator with Covid-19, I was surprised at how much it affected me. I don’t think I ever saw him play and I never owned one of his records. As the days went by and I read comments from people I know who knew him and read accounts of his life, heard clips of songs I could surprisingly sing along with, I realized his early days in the Chicago music scene touched a lot of places around me.

The more I looked around, the more I became immersed in memories of the fabulous music scene in Chicago at the time I attended Northwestern University, Amazingrace Coffeehouse, friends who were involved at Amazingrace, musicians with whom I became acquainted just by going so often to hear them play…  And even though I didn’t cross paths with him, there he was in lots of places. Partial list of concerts at Grace over the years: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/0/d/1jdo4ecZXxPpf3JSIGaBdwVudT_UtMUFnpxIS-zeJHOw/pub?output=html

It turns out he was considered part of a “big three” in the folk scene emanating from the Old Town School of Folk Music.  The other two were Steve Goodman and Bonnie Koloc and I saw both of them dozens of times, both at Amazingrace and various other clubs around Chicago. Prine played Grace often enough I gather they were all friends with him. I saw enough people there only once that it’s possible I saw him and just don’t remember as I know there are quite a few of those — at this stage with few exceptions I mainly remember the ones I went back to see many times.

The group that founded Amazingrace came together at NU the year before I arrived, part of anti-war/Kent State protests. The year I hit campus, the group got permission to use an area of the (then) student union, Scott Hall, to bring in music acts and serve food. I think that was where I first saw Steve Goodman and fell in love with his music. [Great piece in Rolling Stone last summer on Goodman: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-album-reviews/looking-back-on-john-prine-buddy-steve-goodman-860284/ ]

Before long the venue moved to a quanset hut on campus.  The “Gracers” as we called them, were familiar to many of us on campus, both as activist leaders and front of house figures at the coffee house.  In those days, self-effacing, shy, and utterly lacking in self-confidence/worth, etc. I watched from afar but it never occurred to me I could be part of their –to me–lofty group.

However I wound up being friends with several people who were involved though not part of the central group. Out of those friendships I met some of the other Gracers, dated Steve Goodman’s road manager briefly, met John Burns (that’s him riding around with Prine in top video and playing some of the best guitar you’ll ever hear), who for some years played in Prine’s band… Amongst all those were enough Prine connections that I heard his music often (hence the familiarity with his songs), some stories on occasion, and now, in the midst of his illness and death, I saw lots of pained posts/commentary from people who knew and loved him who are devastated by the loss.

I never stopped listening to Koloc and Goodman, but something about this odyssey through so many faces from those days sent me journeying through those times.  I found Koloc playing with Steve Eisen (sax) and Howard Levy (harmonica) in the band (two more Chicago musicians I’d seen so many times with many bands) Jethro Burns (John’s father) playing with Goodman. (below Burns and Goodman performing one of my faves):

The music scene is so entwined with my NU memories… My time at NU always felt golden and for years nothing else measured up.  Then I realized the comparisons must stop and as I forged ahead on my spiritual journey I let go while still holding a sacred space in my heart for the friends, political awakening, musical journeys, etc.

In hindsight I can see how much more I could have done and been had I been as calm, outgoing, and confident then as I am now.  I don’t care much for regret, but if there’s anything that grabs me now and then, it’s sadness that my own inhibitions meant much more standing on the sidelines than I’d have liked.

Amazingrace has a FB page and as I read the many posts from those “on a pedestal” folks, I’m sorry I didn’t get to know them.  As I read every article my bereft friends posted about Prine, he seemed like an amazing guy and I’d have enjoyed being in the circle who knew him. 

The clubs and the musicians and the joy in the clubs, talking to band members, etc. circles around my love of music, which, at the time, had been a lifelong ambition.  Watching the ones whose music touched my soul, I kept trying to see what in them let them get up there and put out music from the depths.  Wondering what in me couldn’t quite do it.

[Koloc with Steve Eisen and Howard Levy in the band]:

The music dreams died when my one later band attempt went sideways and I found peace with just being a fan who sings in the shower. I’m grateful for the changes I can see, the many ways in which I’m more content, more happy with who I am than in those days.  But boy those were some magic times.  I’m sorry it was John Prine’s death that sparked this wander down memory lane, but there were a lot of lovely stops. Thanks JP! RIP

Tools for holding peace

I mentioned a while back that I’ve been struggling with the division and anger and finding myself angry much more often.  I keep hauling myself back to a place of equanimity and then suddenly there I am, screaming f**k you at a McConnell ad (if you live elsewhere, try to imagine being inundated with an ad in which he pretends the help for regular people in the stimulus package was spearheaded entirely by him…) or screaming and throwing things at the sight of the pumpkinhead.

I always know if I’m that angry, something in me is being triggered.  I also am figuring out I’m just enough of an empath that the huge amount of anger in the air affects me strongly as well. So I’ve been looking inward and working on clearing those things in me which contribute.  Two of Steve Nobel’s recent meditations have been really helping me bring some deep personal, ancestral and collective anger buried in me to the surface and also to release a lot of fear– especially that which others’ fear is engendering.

The one time I managed to get an appointment with Hanna for my hip issues, she began talking about this “Transforming Anger” meditation while working on one of the patterns and I understood she was feeling suppressed anger there. One of the times I did the meditation some of the stuck stuff in there released and, though it didn’t heal it all, it’s never been as bad since.

I’ve been alternating that one with another for releasing fear. Wasn’t sure I needed it at first, but I know there’s a lot of fear in the air right now, so thought I’d try it and realized there’s still some old fear from family stuff and some ancestral fear deep in there. Also that the energy of huge amounts of fear running through our society about the virus, the economy, etc. has permeated some layers of my being even though I don’t consciously share them.

I’ve had a very strong “hit” more than once that it’s really important for me right now to do each of these once or twice a week.  Along with a feeling this healing isn’t just for myself.

And for helping to raise my vibration and hold the space of love, I play this affirmation recording as I go to sleep both for naps and at night:

Soon I plan to add my old fave lovingkindness/Gayatri mantra chanting practice.

How about all of you?  What are you doing to hold the space of peace and compassion?  If you have a great meditation or other practice that’s on line, please throw in a link so others can try your faves.

 

The virus and the rabbit hole

As Mom moved toward the end of her stay in rehab and my hip/psoas issues were hitting a zenith, we started hearing about the coronavirus.  Things were revving up when we got home. But we’d been sent off with Mom having barely moved from diaper changes to being able to get to the bathroom with assistance and no home help coming for days, so I felt too overwhelmed by dealing with the transition to full time caregiver to do more than note it as a rising issue.

Before long, though, I was discovering that with Mom in the house I should be going out as little as possible — some say not at all but I have yet to figure out how to get everything done for her without leaving the house.  As much as possible I get curbside pickup or delivery, mostly curbside pickup, but for a couple of places I have to go in.

Otherwise I’m staying home. I gather this is a huge lifestyle change for many people but, having dealt with health issues for a long time, I’m used to staying home a lot, so I feel like life has prepared me for this moment very well.  Not to mention being an only child means I’ve spent tons of alone time since early childhood…

Not feeling huge fear except for my Dad, alone in Florida and not taking this too seriously.  One silver lining to all the time spent in hospitals, etc. is I had Mom and I taking Aireborne every day to ward off the many things that float around those places so we were more immune boosted than normal.  And I’ve had us keep taking some along with elderberry and preventive doses of ganmaoling. Sent some of all those things to Dad and he’s actually taking stuff! I don’t go quite as far as some about wiping everything down or quarantining the mail, but I’m careful and Mom is not going out at all.

The hardest part is watching our already-dwindling investment account go down and wondering how we survive on the other side.  Otherwise the adjustment to this new normal after adjusting to a life of daily hospital/SNF visits and then adjusting to be the only caregiver 24/7 just seems like part of the ongoing fall down the rabbit hole. Head over heels, down and down, dizzy and disoriented, heading for a new world.

In the meantime, I’m looking at the commentary on what an opportunity this is to decide to change the world and throw off the beliefs about wealth and striving and what drives economies to start anew from a different set.  Now is the chance to work on “people power”, for which I advocated in my recent series. Let’s dream and plan a new world. And I’m excited about that.

Oy the hip

Psoas

As mentioned in the last post, long-standing hip issues arose in the midst of the trauma and drama of my mother’s broken hip.  Several people noted the irony of my hip at the same time as hers and wondered if it was some kind of sympathy– while I think there was some connection, it’s the other hip and I’d been having some issues with this old pattern for quite a while before she fell. I’m giving a bit of extra detail because these kinds of muscle issues are far more common than Western medicine acknowledges and many people aren’t aware of the ways these things get started or are exacerbated.

Going way back, I was born with a twist in my left leg.  Over the many years of body work on my deeply ingrained muscle issues, we figured out the origin point for many of the problems all the way up and down was that twist.  Then at 25 I was in a car accident that injured the ankle on that side and, undiscovered by brilliant allopathic medicine, a ligament was torn away.

The injury exaggerated the twist and the instability caused by the lack of properly attached ligament led to my left hip constantly going completely out of joint and lots of extra pressure on the now-even-more-pulled-out-of-alignment knee.  As a result I walked with a limp and many days it was so painful to sit I squeezed up the muscles on that side.  There are more details but that’s the gist of why I have a deep pattern in there which keeps recurring even though body work has largely released it. (and for the story of my leg straightening out see here)

Something in how I sit and sleep at home had been causing some issues but the exercises I do for my hips have kept it at bay.  Until I wound up sitting in one ergonomically-poor chair after another for hours a day in one hospital or rehab room after another.  Suddenly my low back had problems and my hip was more “out” than it’s been since the original issue. On top of that some releases in my muscles snapped a chunk of my psoas and groin muscles too far open too fast on the same side.  Because of the proximity the two began impacting one another.

Many days I could barely walk from the pain.  I looked into the “meaning” of hip issues and found both (1) moving forward too quickly — which seemed to perfectly describe the fast track of opening/releasing my muscles have been on and (2) mother issues — which made me LAUGH!  So okay, metaphysical reasons.  But ow, after a while you just want the pain to go away and screw the “lessons”.  I got this one though: barely able to move=enforced slowing down.

Realizing I’d started the issue by not exploring enough about how I was sitting and lying.  I’ve had to change the configuration of my odd “nest on the floor” style of seating because of the hip numerous times, so another change was quickly called for.

It also sank in that as my muscles have been sorted out, my many-years habit of sleeping in weird pretzel positions to accommodate the aches and pains had been segueing into sleeping more normally, including sleeping on my side for the first time, maybe ever.  I knew about the advice to put a pillow between your knees but initially I just moved onto my side in my sleep so… not conscious enough to grab a pillow. But I bought one of the pillows designed for that purpose and am working on staying aware enough to use it when I’m on my side.

In the meantime I’ve been trying to use the yoga and Robert Masters’ triggers that have kept me going all these years.  However, the pulled psoas doesn’t like moving and pretty much everything I do for my hips moves it.  So it’s been an interesting challenge to find balance in how and when to do what in order to keep releasing the hip pattern while not setting off the psoas.

Everything has been better since Mom came home and I no longer have to sit in the chairs for a few hours a day.  But both patterns keep flaring and the extra demands on me for helping Mom and rearranging and cleaning house (our twice monthly cleaners can’t come –social distancing for Mom) make both worse, so it’s been an interesting time.

Because of the long journey through muscle issues, I’m much more hypersensitive to chairs and muscle impacts than most people.  But I’d bet some of the really poor chairs I sat in have started off issues for many people who just didn’t realize at the time a pattern started from the uncomfortable chair.  That’s how they go.  Set a muscle or two off by sitting badly for enough hours and they settle into a pattern and then that pattern begins impacting all the nearby muscles.

I wish allopathic medicine would wise up and start teaching people to get something done (body work) or to do something (possibly yoga or Feldenkrais, etc.) as soon as an injury has occurred or they’ve spent a bunch of time in an uncomfortable position or doing a repetitive motion.  If you keep the patterns from settling in, you can avoid getting to the point of spending months or years trying to fix it.

In the meantime, thank goodness for the Robert Masters work; I’ve been able to do the hip releases just often enough to work probably 80-90% of the re-ingrained pattern out.  I find it hard to heal the psoas since it’s involved in so many of our normal movements, it’s constantly getting flared.  A bit of stretching to keep the pain from locking it up but otherwise staying careful about how much I move…

And then in the midst of all this broken (Mom) and unhappy hip stuff, enter Covid-19!

A big twist in the road

I’ve been largely absent for a while now.  My 94 year old mother fell and broke her hip on January 24 and life has felt like I went down a rabbit hole ever since.

The first hospital failed to take proper x-rays and sent her home, being told to just walk on it. The second one the next day found broken hip and two days later she had three pins put in by a specialist.  All this launched what wound up being almost two months of daily trips to either hospital or rehab, trying to get the house completely rearranged around that schedule so she can get a walker everywhere she needs to, running errands around both of those activities…

In other words anything resembling “my life” pretty much disappeared as life circled around Mom’s health and well-being.  She didn’t like the food at the rehab place so it also included having to fix a sandwich and put together some other snacks — not to mention making sure she still had her daily doses of kombucha and a smoothie– on a daily basis.

After the first days at rehab another problem was found, sending her back to the hospital for almost a week which interfered so much with her PT progress that her stay at the SNF wound up being extended.

By the last week or so of her time at SNF the coronavirus was becoming a thing and the full force began hitting on the first week home.  We’d been left for days high and dry with no nurse’s aide to help and OT and PT in home being slow to start.  Already floundering as I shifted from the weird schedule of the daily visits, etc. to having to be up and down all night to help her and available all day, the worries about the virus initially didn’t really register with me.

In the meantime, sitting for hours in bad chairs at various of the places wound up setting off an old painful hip pattern which wound up intertwined with a badly pulled psoas, so the next post will be about the journey through all of this while barely being able to walk.  And then after that we’ll get to Covid-19.

Yup, I fell down a rabbit hole and I just keep falling past a new twist and another turn…  Must be a really big rabbit!

It was a pretty good year

My mother and I are not big fans of New Years Eve.  Have never really seen what the big deal about changing years is (for me birthday is more a time to think about that) and, having put up with her alcoholic sister for decades of our lives, neither of us finds hanging out in rooms full of drunks to be as much fun as many people apparently do.  So the big celebration this year involved making popcorn and both of us watching TV in separate rooms.

But this year I have been in a reflective mode through the latter part of fall, marking some bigger changes than most years for a while.

Finally arriving at a place where the inner journeying and physical healing are producing noticeable results outwardly — after years of constant inner transformation and physical progress that moved along but seemed to never end — feels worth noting.

I’m very pleased and excited at my work on the People Power series I’ve been writing here.  Feel totally magnetized to it and while I don’t yet see where this path is leading, I definitely feel it’s a path I’m meant to be on and for which SO many things in my life have prepared me.

It’s been a couple of years since I began noticing a bit more stamina.  For many years the chronic fatigue left me literally feeling no “there” there — a state one practitioner referred to as having “negative chi”.  No matter how much I slept (and for some years it was a LOT) I always felt shaky and exhausted.  Now even a moderately good night’s sleep leaves me with the energy to feel pretty normal for a chunk of the day and this year that became more sustained.

With some energy I can count on, this year has been one of trying to take back control of a few more things.  Perhaps the biggest change has been in reaching out to make some new friends.  I’d worked very hard at networking in my first years here but slowly the groups fell apart, people moved away and by the time my health left me pretty isolated, there were few people to reach out to.

I began with signing up to volunteer with Ahava Center for Spiritual Living’s God’s Pantry group, my first evening being the last Friday of December, 2018.  A number of friends are involved at Ahava and I’ve nibbled around the edges for years.  Through the volunteer group I’ve been meeting some lovely folks.

Eventually I inched a little closer and am now in a women’s group at ASCL.  Not much of a service attendee, I’m occasionally actually showing up for one; really nice to walk into a group of friendly faces.  I’ve pushed to attend a few other events here and there along with a few more lunches with old friends.  All still a little tentative, but it’s been nice to move out in the world a bit more after this long hibernation.  Feels like doors opening, life moving, etc.

The long unwinding of muscles in my face and head still continues, but this year there’s enough opened up to feel my face as SO different   There’s still enough tightness I don’t quite know how it feels to have all these muscles in their natural state but one increment at a time I learn more about what healthy muscles in my face feel like.  From steely and hard, many of them have transitioned to feeling spongy and flexible.  So cool.

Some of the smallest things are among those I note the most.  I mentioned a while back getting control over a few things like getting dishes done in the evening.  It’s around two years or so now that I’ve gotten it done every single night, never facing a pile of dishes in the morning because I was too tired to do it.  The last couple of months I’ve smiled and felt so grateful every time I soap and rinse, pleased to have a record so long I can’t tell you exactly when the streak began.

I’ve added in a regular laundry day.  The piles don’t always cooperate by being the right size on the right day, but a lot gets done every week on the same day and just that small regular thing feels so good.

The other big shift has been trying to take control of my schedule.  The unwinding, with accompanying sleeplessness, shifted my sleep schedule till it was pretty normal to go to sleep at 5 a.m. and get up at noon or later.  For a long time the exhaustion was so bad I just slept whenever I could and made no effort to corral the times.

In the summer I decided my increased stamina meant I could tolerate some even bigger losses of sleep.  I started off shifting the schedule by about 2 hours and then managed to get to 3 on a journey to make it 4.  Recently the unwinding around my eyes has wreaked such havoc I’ve lost ground back to the 2 hour shift but I’m counting it as a victory to have managed to hang on to that much of the change.

Some days it’s a little weird for me to look at these little shifts and changes as big victories, but compared to life a few years ago, this feels like a major unfurling.  Some days I’m still resentful at being handed such a long difficult healing journey.  But a lot of the time this year I feel so pleased to see these little changes slowly, slowly, carefully moving me to living a fuller life again, this time as a person with so much more emotional, mental, spiritual and physical health than I ever had before.

Looking forward to even more opening and LIVING in 2020.  Hope you all are starting the new year in peace and that this will be your best year ever.

 

The meaning of faith?

Lately I’ve been observing how very fearful a lot of people who say they have faith are.  It’s had me thinking about faith as I experience it and wondering how fear and faith can reside together.

Long time readers may remember I’ve mentioned previously that faith has two levels for me.  Consciously I have a lot and have been able to pursue a fiscally risky path of healing in large part because of my faith that it’s the right path and that I’ll be okay if I follow it.

As I dig into my unconscious, I periodically realize there are old issues that led to a lack of faith and on certain issues I struggle to get past the inner child who doubts.  But because my conscious thoughts include faith and I work pretty hard on transforming those old beliefs, I spend quite a lot of time in “the faith place”.

When I really center and check in, allowing myself to feel the divine presence and the energy of All That Is, I am in a space of calm and security.  In this place no fear exists nor does fear have a reason to be.  The only times I feel fearful are when I move out of the calm secure cloak of faith and into my issues.

So I keep looking at the folks on the right who are so vociferous about their great faith but nonetheless fearful of immigrants, of people of other races and/or religions, of new ideas, etc. and wonder how they can possibly be living in faith and at the same time be so afraid of so much of the world?

And since their faith is allegedly Christian, why do they believe in Christ, who taught love for all our brethren and yet exhibit so much hate for so many others? In that calm center where my faith dwells, I can’t find or feel hate anywhere.  Just can’t be there.  So I really don’t understand this.

Why does faith not bring them peace?  Why does faith not leave them feeling secure that all will be well?

I keep having a corollary thought when, say, a tornado strikes and some of these “believers” point fingers and claim it was because God was mad at the gay mayor –who was completely unharmed– or the liberal congresswoman, etc.

So it seems they have faith in a God who gets mad at a gay mayor and decides to aim a metaphorical thunderbolt but is so incompetent he hits 20 other people and misses the mayor?  I struggle to understand why anyone would ever believe in a god that inept.

I’m quite sure if the ultimate being of my faith decided to smite someone She’d hit the right person…  Or should I say, “I have faith in Her and Her aim?” Although I don’t really believe She’s so much into smiting.

Just stuff I’m thinkin’. No expert opinions or answers, just wondering…

Over too soon

I’ve so enjoyed this more relaxed version of national blogging month, I’m sorry it’s over.

As much as we reduced the requirements, I still didn’t manage to meet them.  I think with this one I’m two short on posts.  I did read blogs almost every day but commenting was sporadic and, since I’m only on FB and Twitter and fairly carefully curate what I put on each, the share on social media requirement was unlikely to be met from the get go.

But the last couple of weeks have been a rough go on the face unwinding/then not sleeping issue so I’m fairly pleased I managed to be in it at all.  Though I’m also sorry I didn’t hit the requirements, the pleased part mostly wins.  For a lot of the miserable years this has been going on, I’d have just disappeared from the challenge.

It’s been a treat re-connecting with a few folks from the past, finding some new people to follow, reading new and different things, etc.  I’m wishing we did this more often.  Not too often 🙂 … but more

Anger in the air

Screaming it out

In a recent post I alluded to experiencing some irritability lately and the first couple of days of this week had me at such high levels of feisty and cranky I’ve been doing some contemplating.

The orange man held a rally here in town on Monday and I’m pretty sure some of it was me picking up on the great numbers of angry people who converged here to attend and the angst of those who opposed and gathered outside in protest.  Now that the election is over, I’m much calmer so I’d say that was a lot of it.

But since anger was a big issue in my early inner explorations and a lot of the processing work I did during the Fischer-Hoffman Process* involved releasing huge amounts, I try to stay aware if I think another issue seems to be surfacing.  I did the Fischer Hoffman 1992-93 and for I’d say 10 years after, every time I unearthed an issue with angst attached I used “the process”, identifying the source and pounding pillows, etc.

Without intending to, I drifted away from doing it and most of the release in the last 15 years or so has been at the agency of body work therapists and/or me using the triggers of release work and opening something up.  When I first encountered Ellen, the F-H facilitator, at Nine Gates during third chakra work, we used some techniques Gay Luce added, which she called “emotional hygiene”.

I used to do those off and on as well, my favorite being one where you take a somewhat wide stance, clasp your hands, inhale and hold your breath, and then raise and lower your hands while bending forward as if you were chopping big logs with an axe.  You keep swinging for as long as you can possibly hold your breath.  Then exhale and repeat as necessary. It’s a great way to shake some of the daily irritants of life and, if something is bubbling up, it is also really effective at getting it to the surface.

Remembering the work has me thinking it would be good to incorporate the chopping on some regular basis and also exploring whether I feel a round of the process is in order.  I know that besides picking up on community energies, the current round of muscle releases in my head is off-loading some old and/or ancestral and/or past life issues locked in for most of my life.

Most of the time I try to look at this long healing road as a good thing, both (1) from the standpoint of being freed of physical pain and problems and (2) especially for healing the emotional issues lurking beneath.  But I’m realizing there’s a level on which I’m pretty angry about the huge disruption in my life this has caused for YEARS, especially the precarious financial situation in which it has left me.

So I’m thinking it’s time to dust off the process tools — as best I can remember them now 🙂 — and plan a session.  And some chopping.  Definitely some chopping.

The return to lovingkindness chanting is definitely also helping but since these bouts of temper keep arising in between rounds of chanting I’m feeling the anger needs to be addressed.  Disappointing to be back to this, yet I also know every bit of clearing any one of us does contributes to lifting the anger out of the Oneness, so I feel committed.

*Ellen, having been a facilitator for many years had devised a deeper and longer version.  The original process, now called the Quadrinity Method, is still around but not the same as her work.  Since her death, as far as I know there is no one doing her variation.

The Ah in God

Contemplating the divisiveness these days on many issues, especially religious, I’ve been thinking a lot about some teachings I received long ago.  Late 80’s into mid-90’s I had several different teachers who talked about vowel sounds in ancient times and how they relate to chakras, meanings and to modern language.  There was a gem about the sound and meaning of “ah” that has always stuck with me.

The two teachers I can recall most specifically are David Patten, who is a Druid descendant and teaches about ancient Celtic practices at Nine Gates, including the alphabet– the “oghams”– and Paul Ray, who taught Sufi at Nine Gates (long ago, when I went through…).  I lived in an apartment connected to the home of my friend Gay and David, so I also got to hear about oghams at the dinner table while he worked on a book.  This many years later I don’t remember which other teachers and much of what I learned is a bit of a jumble.

For all these years, though, a teaching on “ah” as the sound of God has always stuck.  Many of these ancient concepts provided layers of meaning to each letter — things like, a type of tree, a mineral, a bird, a divination interpretation, etc. — and those ideas were often incorporated in later alphabets and languages though the underlying layers are no longer known in general.*  So it turns out that the “ah” sound, if you look carefully, is in every name for God.  Krishna.  Allah.  Yeshua (Jesus). etc.  And of course the way we pronounce “God” there’s an ah in it…

As I studied with teachers from different traditions and increasingly realized every major religion has the same principles at the core, I would come back to the sound of “ah” and realize the name is not only there in each place, but the sound that conveys all those principles and shows up in each one is a unifying piece.

The name may look different in each language, but the spirit of love in the “ah” is always present.  The same principles of the Eightfold Path — right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration — are within all of them, they just use different words to express them.

So I look at all the division and discord about this religion versus that or this denomination versus another and I wish everyone could take a breath and feel the “ah”.  For many, if the words are different for some reason they can’t see the heart is the same.  I just feel the love at the core and keep wishing we could all find our way back to the heart and the love and compassion.

This is my first post for this year’s Nano Poblano — a version of National Blog Post Writing Month.  The group decided to change it up, so this year participants are committing to 30 days of blog activities–  10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform. You can see posts for the event here.

*David has been able to translate some obscure modern languages without having ever studied or spoken them just by applying his knowledge of the meaning of letters.