Sage Advice 1: balance first

A big part of my journey has involved physical issues.  I’ve mentioned my journey through alternative medicine occasionally and people have expressed interest in hearing about what I’ve learned.  So I decided to start occasionally posting “Sage Advice”.

When I first started having issues in the 80’s, western medicine held quite firm on insisting neither chronic fatigue nor fibromyalgia existed.  I knew something was wrong and when I grew tired of hearing them suggest I see a shrink, I turned to alternative medicine.

My first foray into the alternative medicine world was acupuncture, a modality I love and stayed with regularly for 15 or so years.  One of the things I’ve loved most about alternative practitioners is they always try to make sure I understand what’s happening and what I can do to help and my first practitioner, Chicago’s Jody Speckman (still in practice, for any of you in the area) taught me SO much.

One arena of advice has been on my mind a lot lately.  When it came to many things to do with what I ate or drank regularly, she told me not to try to stop cold turkey.  It’s mostly a path of frustration.  And the most unusual corollary:  as you move more into a state of balance your craving for the things that are harmful will naturally fall away.  She suggested I cut back as best I could but to let the desire fade as healing proceeded.

I’d always thought cold turkey seemed like a goofy plan and I was so struck by the idea that it’s more important to work toward a place of greater balance/healthiness.  In this case the acupuncture and a lot of horrible Chinese herbs made into “teas” were doing the work.

As you know, a whole lot of stuff was way off kilter for me, so it’ taken a long time to reach the place where I absolutely see the truth of her advice.  I’ve been slowly changing various dietary habits ever since I started seeing her, especially since she found I have mild allergies to wheat and dairy.  But it took years before shifting those habits combined with therapies to get toward that balance.

Lately, though, I’ve been noticing that I’m more naturally attracted to healthier food.  Not that I don’t still love some fried chicken or a chocolate sundae, but far more often I want something healthier.  And for the first time ever I’ve been drawn to eat kale-broccoli slaw or half a grapefruit for a snack instead of some dark chocolate or a handful of potato chips.

This change arrives at the moment when all the years of alternative therapies and medicines and my own spiritual and physical activities have paid off in feeling better than I have in years. Not sure Jody foresaw it would be 30 years down the road before I hit the place of balance to which she referred 🙂 , but it’s so true that when your health is in better shape you tend to crave more of the things that keep it healthy.

It seems such a kinder way to treat yourself.  I’ve watched so many people struggle with going cold turkey off of things and then feeling depressed by failure, a slower gentler approach makes so much more sense to me.  And then it’s so easy when you have improved enough to have healthier cravings.

So first advice:  work toward balance and then watch your habits change to hold the new, better feeling.

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The right stuff finding me

Throughout my journey I’ve been kind of up and down about how well I pick up on my inner voice — and whether I listen to it when I do hear it…  In a couple of arenas though, I consistently both hear and receive/act on the messages:  which alternative health therapies, therapists, supplements, etc. are the next best step for me and which spiritual teachers, classes, etc. are for me.

In the last couple of months I’ve had several alternative medicines tap me on the shoulder and trying them has been life changing.  Several people over the years have expressed interest in hearing more about some of the alternative health paths I’ve explored, so I thought I would share these latest additions.

Catnip Tincture

First, my friend Hanna started touting catnip tincture and gave me a sample from a recipe made by a friend.  She offered it for sleep and, while it does ultimately help me with sleep, nothing is enough to overcome the muscles in my face yanking.  But I quickly noted how very calm and peaceful I felt and then that I slept a bit longer and more deeply once the yanking stopped.

I googled and found recipes and made a batch of my own.  Initially I just used it once or twice a week, especially if I faced a busy day and wanted to be more sure of getting some rest.  But lately I’ve been taking some every night and have had more sleep in a week or 10 days than I’ve normally had in more like a month.

Nasaya Oil

Facebook has figured out that I’m interested in alternative remedies, so sometimes I see something there that’s new to me.  Most of the time I shrug and move on, but once in a while something grabs me in that “knowing” sense so I do some research and nasaya oil was one of them.

This winter I had an unusual run of allergy issues and just as I was wondering what alternative thing I could try — besides the nasal cup I already use daily — nasaya oil popped up.  It’s an ayurvedic formula of essential oils and you just put a drop on your finger and rub it around a bit in your nostrils.

Not only did it clear my unusual sinus/allergy problems in winter, but now that we’re in the spring pollen season which is often miserable for me, I’m having no problems at all.  Not even on the days when the pollen count is super high.  If I start to itch, I can rub a drop around and in minutes, problem solved.

It’s so effective I have a tendency to forget to use it every day and the impact even lasts pretty well through several days of spacing it out.  And as soon as any symptoms arrive and remind me to use it, one drop erases the symptoms.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha appeared on Facebook one day, felt drawn to it, and immediately set off to read about it.  There’s a nice piece on Chopra’s site and also a good explanation here.  I was excited by what I read.  While most customer reviews rave about its stress-relieving effects, it was the thyroid and adrenal benefits that roused my interest, along with its boost for weak immune system, and antiinflammatory impacts for my mom’s arthritis.

Last year the muscles around my thyroid loosened enough for me to spontaneously lose quite a bit of weight as my thyroid began to function again.  I still have some symptoms of low thyroid but I figured with the looser muscles there’d be a chance a supplement would help.

My various acupuncturists used to treat me often for weak adrenals and sometimes their needles and/or herbs gave a boost but once I found out the real problem was muscles squeezing all my glands and organs, I understood why none of it ever lasted.

Recently the muscles squeezing my kidneys and adrenals have finally loosened a bit.  Seemed like a perfect moment to see if ashwagandha’s adrenal benefits could give me a boost.  After a bunch of research on the “best” ones, I chose Nutraherbal Organic Ashwagandha with Black Pepper Extract.

After looking at lots of them I realized they come in many different numbers of mg and with wildly differing suggested daily doses (mg wise).  I picked this one not only because it made several “best” lists but it’s also one of the highest dosages.  I started off trying just one of the two suggested daily capsules and it has turned out to be plenty for me — in fact two seems like too much, moving me from energized to feeling a little hyper.

Many sources told me it could take a month or two to decide whether it helped, but I felt energized an hour after taking the first one.  Since then I have been building more energy during the day, going to sleep earlier at night (that one still needs a lot of adjusting but any change helps!), staying asleep for more hours (helped along by the catnip tincture).

Back when I was getting regular acupuncture (and the chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia were FAR worse), I’d get a boost from each treatment  or new herb try that would give me a few days of pretty good energy.  Since stopping acupuncture in favor of body work for the muscles, I have rarely had any of those “energy” days.  And once the unwinding started interfering with sleep, almost no days of feeling energetic.

As the muscle stuff has gotten better, I’ve been working a bit at re-building stamina and have been pleased with small increments of improvement, but most of the time I’ve just felt exhausted.  I’ve been taking Ashwagandha for about six weeks now and energy has been slowly building.

I’m regularly staying a bit busier during the day than I’d been able to be for years, which has been helping the stamina building process.  I haven’t felt this good in decades — and to be honest the last time I had this long a sustained period of feeling energetic, it was mostly thanks to caffeine and nicotine– combined with being completely neurotic and anxiety ridden– pumping me up.

Ashwagandha so far has exceeded my expectations, bearing out once again how well my instincts operate for this kind of thing.  I’ve been waiting for years for all the alternative treatments and therapies to finally bring me some energy back.

Without all that came before, I doubt the Ashwagandha would be having this dramatic impact, so I don’t credit it alone, but wow, how perfect a tap from the Universe this was.

 

A little vision update

It’s been a long time since I mentioned much about the impact of the changes in my muscles on my eyesight.  Long ago I wrote a post about the late vision therapist Dr. Harry Sirota’s theories about emotions creating tight muscles that cause near-sightedness (and so much more).  At that time I was chronicling some improvements in my eyesight as the muscles unwound.

Eventually I realized the improvement was entirely in my right eye, which came as no surprise as the tight stuff is far worse on the left side and my left eye has been so cemented in tight and intertwined muscles I’ve had a notion it’s going to be the last piece to unwind.  The muscles on the left side have been holding a lot of stuff on the right side in tightness, etc. so I eventually hit a plateau where the right eye quit improving and nothing seemed to happen to my left eye.  Which is why I haven’t written about my vision in a while…

In the last couple of months a lot of the unwinding has been deep behind my eyes and suddenly today I realized my right eye has improved some more and … ta da ta da… the left eye is better too!!!  Not done… both sides have more to do, but I love these moments when the improvement is tangible.

The long haul

Screaming it out

I was hunting around today for a post I apparently never wrote, trolling through the first couple of years of blogging.  Looking back always seems to be a big reminder of how incredibly long the muscle problems and the crazy unwinding face/head muscles thing has been going on.  I feel a bit ridiculous because I see myself always expressing the hope that the healing is just about complete.   And incredulous I could have spent this many years, so much money, so many hours of my time on healing my muscles — and it still isn’t over.  So, spoiler alert, I’m whiny…

I’ve mainly only “talked” about the unwinding head portion here.  To those who’ve followed for years even that story probably seems long …  and the unwinding actually started about 7 years before the blog.  The head piece was just the final puzzle to solve in a much longer quest for healthy muscles that started in the mid-80s.  The tightness and pain, etc. that led to the quest had been present for years before I started realizing I had to do something.  By the time someone noticed the muscles in my face and head were blocking the final stage of healing the muscles in my body, most of the major muscles in my body were actually in pretty good shape; you know, except the ones being held in twisted patterns by my head.

For the last several years I have felt more debilitated by all this than at any point before — even when far less healthy I was better able to function.  Something about this head thing — and maybe the weariness of how very many years it has taken — has just been too much.

Today I postponed yet another outing I’d looked forward to because I was awake all night with my face being yanked.  [See here for a little video displaying what you can see of the process from the outside.]  Because I haven’t been able to contribute (compounded by stockmarket issues and bad management), my mother and I are facing some very tough decisions about our future.  I don’t get how I landed here…  And it just feels like too much.

Thanks for listening.  I’m sure I’ll meditate and do yoga and restore balance yet again…

 

Peeling more layers

Eyemuscles

Eyemuscles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last couple of weeks have involved a lot of unwinding, not sleeping and headaches…  and a lot of reflection about this long long process.  [Pretty much every muscle you see up there has been wound up in knots and intertwined and/or glued to just about every other muscle in my face they could possibly touch]

Both body work practitioners and meditation “guides” have told me there were dangers (blindness or stroke) in opening the muscles too fast so I’ve tried to be grateful but really by and large I’ve been frustrated and impatient.  I’ve repeatedly asked the Universe and Ku to just finish the healing and let me be free.  I’ve said affirmations and done visualizations (and no, I’m not looking for suggestions for some other technique to try).  I’ve done practices and spent fortunes on body work and healers.  It all helps but the process is still maddeningly slow.

When I feel the degree of tugging on the left optic nerve and realize the depth to which it has been entwined in other muscles it IS nerve wracking and I can sense the danger if something pulled too hard or too suddenly.  It helps me understand the need for a slow unfolding but doesn’t stop me wishing it would hurry up.

I also keep feeling different stages of energy returning, with growing comprehension of how much energy tight muscles commandeer.  Long ago, when I finished the Fisher Hoffman process, most of the major muscles in my body (not head) finally started letting go.  The next year or two brought great progress in body work and I experienced a great boost of energy first from releasing the emotional material and then from opening muscles so energy could flow more freely.  It turned out the chronic fatigue arose from the muscle issues.

Now I’m experiencing an amazing process wherein the unfolding around my eyes is opening up energy pathways through my whole body.  It’s amazing to realize how much of my prana has been sidetracked into holding all these tight muscles in my face and how much tight muscles interfere with the flow of energy.

And the more I feel it the more I want to shout out to the many folks I see everywhere I go whose muscles are visibly tight:  heal your muscles and get your energy back!  Haven’t decided how to present this mission of healing but I can see it’s part of the reason for this long drawn-out process.

My impression, based both on my own experience and what I’ve observed, is that most people don’t realize how fatiguing it is to have tight muscles.  How detrimental to your health.  Until I finally got the right diagnosis, I had no idea tight muscles could squeeze organs and glands.  For me, it was every organ and every gland being squeezed until they could barely function.

For now all I can think of is to tell you to take care of your muscles.  If you have knots and painful places, do what you have to to heal them.  Your health and vitality depend on it.

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Muscles: 4 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Back… Forever?

Helen yoga

Helen yoga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trying to post the last couple of weeks has been an interesting process.  In this time of transition I have SO many ideas swirling through my head, so many realizations arising; much of it is interconnected.  Right now I’m struggling to sort my way through it all and my mind doesn’t seem to have its usual organizational abilities to sort through it all and create posts.  Not to mention that much of it is still in process…

I will get back to J2P Monday again, but right now the one arena where I seem to have some coherent thoughts is about muscles.

Last time, I talked about how muscles intertwine, squeeze off energy and can take a long time unwinding.  This time the exploration moves to the up and down process of healing muscles.

You see, no matter how much body work you get or how many muscle-healing exercises you’re doing, life is still going on.  You sit with your head twisted to the side watching television and that’s twisting the muscles in your neck.  You hit your head on a cupboard door and tighten a bunch of muscles in your jaw, neck and shoulders.  Your boss goes on a rampage and you tighten your whole body.  If you have really tight muscles, the tight ones are pulling the healed pieces back into tightness.

For a long time I found that at every massage appointment the first half — at least — was spent getting out the kinks that settled back in between appointments.  Increasingly I tried to make sure to do yoga and/or soak in a hot bath before an appointment so I could work some of the kinks out on my own.

When I created my movement work, it was just for me and I practiced numerous times in between appointments, often achieving more releases.  Sometimes my practitioners said I came back in even better shape than I’d been in at the end of the last appointment.

At this point I generally make appointments at a time when I can spend at least an hour-and-a-half beforehand on doing the release movements and yoga and then soaking at least 20 minutes in a hot bath.  Very little time is wasted in my appointments on retrieving lost ground and the fact that I’m looser and in balance makes it easier to achieve some deep releases.

Even with these efforts, there were times when I fell or slept in an awkward position and lost some ground.  With TMJ, even though the muscles in my face and jaw were unwinding, I clenched in the night and tightened it back up.  Sometimes I had stellar spells when the movement seemed only forward.  But most of the time the process of healing my muscles moved more like four steps forward, two steps back.  Always getting better, but an up and down process…

The healing moved much more quickly when I developed the exercise sets that so deeply trigger releases in the muscles but still it has been kind of four steps forward, one step back.  Always up and down.

When I say I’m almost done, I’m referring to the patterns of muscles currently in my head.  There are still a few other places that haven’t let go.  And I’m always aware, body work and doing my exercises is a life-time commitment because as long as I’m alive my muscles will ever be subject to sitting “funny”, bumping into things, tension, etc.

There is no such thing as DONE with muscles.  If you want muscles that are relaxed, strong and healthy, it’s a lifetime commitment to taking care of them.  Even when you’ve solved any specific issues you may have, you still have to work at keeping them healthy.

J2P Monday: My Body, My World

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this interconnected web of all life, our bodies are deeply connected to Earth.  The care and health of one has an impact on the other.  When we harm the land, the sea, and the air, we create health issues for our bodies.  And when we don’t care for our own bodies, we don’t take care of the earth.

For me, it’s very clear that the cavalier way many of us treat our bodies (particularly here in the U.S.; if your culture does it differently, chime in in the comments) directly connects to the cavalier way we treat the earth. And that the diseases of the earth relate to our poor treatment of our bodies.  From poor eating habits to poor exercise habits to regular sleep deprivation to abuse of medicines, the ways we fail our bodies are myriad.  How can we expect to heal the earth if we can’t take care of our own physical well-being?

Everything is energy.  Our bodies are energy.  The planets are energy.  The totality of energy creates the great web of oneness or All That Is.  The food we eat has energy.  Our thoughts have energy. The content of our thoughts and actions and eating influences the vibration of our bodies.  As part of the web, our bodies influence all life and thus life on Earth.

Your spiritual journey is affected by this as well.  The mind/body/spirit connection is profoundly deep.  Pursuit of mental balance and higher spiritual consciousness can never be successful if you’re ignoring your physical well-being.

Poor habits are so ingrained in U.S. culture, I’ve found it a big challenge to stick to a healthier plan.  I’m surrounded by choices that tempt me away from good eating and regular exercise and I have to stay mindful to stick to a path.  I’ve also found it hard that everyone who has a theory seems to find it necessary to tout that theory as being true for all of mankind.  They almost never are.

Our bodies have so many differences from ancestral cellular memory to blood type to allergies to biorhythms, each of us has to figure out which foods, which exercises, which sleep times, etc. work for us.  And then follow the program that works.

There are a lot of theories about healthy eating out there that absolutely don’t work for me.  A vegan diet, for instance, sends me into a downward spiral that sucks the energy out of me at a frightening pace.  Too much raw food has the same effect.  I have issues with iron and anemia that mean the only way I keep from regular bouts of iron deficiency anemia is to make sure I eat red meat a couple of times a week.

I also have a few habits like a daily cup of coffee and once a day eating a sweet something that leave my pristine eating friends rolling their eyes over my bad habits — even though in general I eat far more fruits and veggies and generally healthier meals than most.

I get a kick out of it because most of the health food fanatics who disapprove of my diet fail to do regular exercises for healthy muscles.  They’re so tied up about food issues, they give no attention to developing muscles that are both strong and flexible–a balance that is required for healthy muscles–and allow energy to flow freely through the body.

I find most people lean toward healthy exercise or healthy eating but don’t manage both.  And among those who do both, I find most follow exercise regimens that emphasize strength and hard muscles but don’t balance with keeping their muscles also flexible.  As you grow older those hard muscles contribute to poor balance and falling; without the flexibility, the strength ultimately doesn’t serve.

The point is, few of us manage to follow a perfectly pristine regimen — and many follow paths to health that are popular rather than best for their own bodies.  I think if you’re doing the best you can at changing your diet, exercising, etc. you’re already on the right path.

Take small steps.  My diet has changed slowly over quite a few years as I’ve learned more about how (1)  different foods make me feel; (2) to modify recipes to substitute for foods to which I have sensitivities; and (3) to add nutrition to a variety of dishes.  Sometimes it helps to just cut out one or two things and discover a couple of healthier things to eat instead.  When you’ve rooted that into your habits, choose a couple more things to change.

It’s much easier on your psyche to take it slow.  I now have a long list of healthier foods I love and regularly eat, most of which I’d never have made or ordered years ago.  I learned to like some things I wasn’t inclined to and found I really liked other healthy things I didn’t expect to…

Fortunately for me, I fell in love with yoga from the get go so for most of the 29+ years I’ve practiced, it hasn’t been an issue to put in the time.  But these last few years of health issues have interfered with my decades-long exercise habit.  I’ve found it’s easy to at least do a small something rather than nothing and so in small increments I’ve managed not to lose all my progress and as I’ve felt better, in slightly growing increments, I’ve been restoring what I lost.  Small and steady can do it.

If you are serious about wanting to bring peace to the world and to heal the planet, think about how you treat your own body.  Do you give the same care and concern for your own heath that you feel for the world?  In the next J2P post or two I’m going to explore more about health and apply ho’oponopono to aspects of healing.