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.

 

Working on a plan…

The class on Co-Humanity and Compassion more or less ended last weekend (material stays up for six months and we can keep working on it and post about it) and I sort of dropped off.  As mentioned in another post about the class, I struggled early on with the secular viewpoint and the final push was to make a plan concerning what we intend to do to help “bridge the/a divide”.

In the end, while I seemed to fall out of step with the class and its goals, its thought-provoking nature and my deep contemplation of my discomfort with it have brought me in step with myself.  Seeing where I’m aiming more clearly.

Pretty much all instructions made it clear that creating a meeting, setting up a facilitated dialog, joining an interfaith discussion were the intended kinds of plans.  Action out in the world would count as “doing something”.  Prayer, meditation, raising consciousness, etc. don’t count.

The issue of what constitutes “doing” is one with which I’ve grappled for a long time–in fact I wrote a post some years ago asking what If prayer is something?  I’ve now come down firmly on the side of believing that praying, envisioning, meditating, clearing issues and any other forms of clearing lower energies and raising vibration are not only doing something but perhaps the most important something we can do.

In a world where SO many people don’t believe that last statement to be true, I also see the proliferation of attempts to build bridges, change policies, etc. as important steps in the process.  So I’m not discounting the efforts of the do-tasks form of action, just stumping for the great importance of understanding we’re all part of one great consciousness and every time we lift the level of vibration we change the world.

When I read David Hawkins’ Power vs. Force to some extent I felt I was reading confirmation of something I already knew.  His extensive studies on energy levels and how they impact the whole are, I think, probably just a beginning.  When science really learns how to study this stuff I imagine there will be many refinements.  But the basics he lays out in the book I think describe how it works quite well.

There’s a scale of energy vibration/consciousness:

The higher the level at which a given individual is vibrating the more people he or she can counterbalance:

One individual at level 700      counterbalances…       70 million individuals below level 200.

One individual at level 600      counterbalances…       10 million individuals below level 200.

One individual at level 500      counterbalances…       750,000 individuals below level 200.

One individual at level 400      counterbalances…       400,000 individuals below level 200.

One individual at level 300      counterbalances…       90,000 individuals below level 200.

Twelve individuals at level 700          equals…                  one Avatar at 1,000

Hawkins, Power vs. Force 1995, p. 282.

Accepting these numbers means a relatively small number of people who raise their own vibratory pattern to a higher level can not only counterbalance many who operate at lower frequencies, but can lift the consciousness level of the whole. My personal take on some of the anger and chaos unleashed now is that the huge number of people around the world who have been on a spiritual journey of clearing old issues and meditating, etc. to raise consciousness have lifted a huge portion of the population out of the 50 and below range into the 75 to 100 range where jealousy, anger, etc. dwell.

When enough of the world is lifted above 200, I think that is when we will begin to see peace and harmony unfolding.

So my plan is to continue on my People Power series. From the spiritual perspective there are two main points to the series and then a third more secular one.  (1) In many places I’m pointing out places where cultural issues are embedded in our collective consciousness and need to be released; (2) spoiler alert I’m going to advocate for the power of creating visions, meditating, etc. to help shift the planet; (3) I’m suggesting some”practical” doing steps that move outside the normal boxes and suggest radical change.

So that’s my plan and I’m sticking to it!

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: Government, the Environment and Us

For some years I’ve been increasingly fascinated by the degree to which Americans want government to do everything for them yet don’t want to pay taxes for it and simultaneously dislike “big government”.

Lately I’ve been finding it especially ironic that many are reviving the old “red scare” which completely misunderstands socialism (and conflates it with Soviet Communism) while also wanting government to take care of everything from roads to health care to the environment to jobs, etc.  Which is kind of socialist…

Liberals have always been more complacent about government but in some ways the widespread assumption that government intervention is the most important source of help for multiple problems is misguided in my opinion.

For instance, the liberal/left keeps jumping up and down about climate change and making the federal government’s role in it central and crucial to any success.  In the meantime, though, if you look around at what’s happening around the world, the greatest and most vibrant projects with potential for saving the earth arose from individuals, non-profits and local governments taking initiative to work on new and creative ideas.

Project Drawdown is an extremely heartening book detailing innovations already under way with potential to turn around climate change if they continue and expand. Multitudes of projects are already happening and almost none of them were implemented by national governments. See also Yes Magazine, Planet tab, and note this article in particular: How to Not Be Completely Depressed About Climate Change.

I’m not saying that government can’t play an important role or that it isn’t a huge help if national governments get on board.  But the reality is most federal governments are so ruled by corporate interests and so deeply corrupted by those ties that to me it isn’t realistic to assume even the “right” elected representatives can create changes of the magnitude we need.

The one heartening piece I’ve seen lately was the number of newly elected representatives to the U.S. House who raised money only through individuals, not through corporate PACs.  If we could accomplish a turnover in which the majority of those elected are doing it without corporate money, we might start shifting the corruption because they might be less subject to influence.  I also think that might take too long.

Too me the great hope for the world is in having more of us participating, from trying out the kinds of innovations others have already launched, to financially supporting non-profits with viable programs to creating your own climate saving project.  From projects you can do in your own yard to ideas for solar buildings and/or neighborhoods, etc. there are multitudes of ways people power can expand and create ever greater impacts.

Throughout this series I’ll be calling for local action and for more conscious meshing of ideas, groups, volunteering etc. within communities in order to separate ourselves on many levels from the greed of the 2% and corporate power.

A topic for another day is using people power to break corporate power and thus the global corporate tendency to destroy the environment.  In the meantime, yes, work to elect “green” candidates and push for helpful legislation, but even more important look at your local landscape and see what YOU can do.  What’s happening that you could participate in with friends?  What organizations are doing great things that could use volunteers or more funds?

And for the spiritually-minded, who believe in the power of prayer, visualization and energy:  holding a vision of a healthy world, raising your own vibration to help raise the world’s vibration, sending healing energy to Earth and affirming the positive innovations by bringing attention to them are all ways to contribute.

The People Power series so far:

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.