Orienting to stillness, orienting to motion

I started this blog to document meditating every day in 2010. My blog posts got kind of boring and I ended up broadening the topic, but before the year ended, I had made some big decisions, changing my approaches to work and home that resulted in living a more authentic, self-realizing life.

Selling my house and quitting my job with no clear path ahead were not changes I would have undertaken had not my meditation practice compelled me to make them for my own well-being and trust that the Universe and my own capabilities would come through. There was uncertainty along the way, and luck, but I figured I could always rent a room and do temp jobs to support myself, and that gave me courage. (I rented a room and did a few temp jobs on my path!)

However, I really wanted more than that for myself: I wanted to own an affordable, paid-for home in Austin, Texas, and I wanted to do work that I really loved. And I got those things.  Meditation helped me understand that not living authentically was no longer possible for me, and I’m happy with those decisions.

Since then I’ve divorced my meditation practice from any religion. I’ve occasionally slacked off for weeks at a time, and I’ve meditated irregularly and half-heartedly. I have not worked with another teacher.

Instead, I have groped my untutored way around stillness and silence, acutely aware of my vata monkey-mind, wondering if I have a touch of ADHD (other family members do), and occasionally stumbling upon states of pervasive bliss, being literally held by a higher power, being breathed, feeling currents moving in and through me, and experiencing brief moments of exquisite clarity. All with no idea how to return to any of those states. The birds ate my bread crumbs!

In August 2016, I discovered the Insight Timer app (iOS) for recording my meditation practice sessions, and my desire to meditate every day grew. As of today, I’ve meditated 188 consecutive days since September 26. You gotta love an app that gives you a gold star for meditating 10 days in a row.

In January, I had a breakthrough in a body/energy work practice, Biodynamics, that I’ve been studying for four years now that is mostly perception, and this also renewed my commitment to meditation, especially for doing longer sits of an hour when my schedule allows.

Feeling more committed, I signed up for a 10-day vipassana retreat in August, which is a good month to be away from work in an air-conditioned room, meditating my ass off with a bunch of Hindus and some other English-speaking people. Vipassana has been on my bucket list for years, and it’s finally going to happen.

So my love for meditation has been rekindled. Most mornings I wake up and can’t wait to meditate.

Out of this scenario, I feel like I have some things to say that might be helpful to new meditators and stalled meditators and meditators looking for inspiration. Because meditation is such a nonverbal realm, I’d like to make an attempt to put some words to it and make some suggestions that you can take or leave as you please.

We can’t notice everything at the same time. (Or at least not until/unless we are way advanced, as far as I know now.) This bird calling draws our attention, there’s the hum of the refrigerator, the faint smell of honeysuckle, the sensations of my feet being hot, the impulse to take my shoes and socks off. Pause. A chakra opens, a stuck place in my body makes itself known, oh should I have said that?, I can taste the cheese I ate earlier, that was a really satisfying breath, what’s for dinner?

We filter information about our experience in bits, and at the beginning of a session, it often changes quickly, like a slideshow on fast-forward. It would be overwhelming to experience all that simultaneously, not to mention hard to appreciate.

We can use our natural filtering capability to develop skills in orienting, which means setting a direction for what you intend to notice. It helps slow the monkey-mind slideshow down considerably.

Two ways of orienting that you may come to value are orienting toward stillness and orienting toward motion.

In orienting to stillness, notice the pauses between your inhalations and exhalations, and between your exhalations and inhalations. Notice the gaps between your thoughts. Notice your mind at rest. Nothing happening, nothing to see here, just…emptiness.

Ironically, in stillness, you may notice all kinds of subtler experiences, such as energy dancing across your face or even the beginning of a thought.

The other polarity is orienting to motion, such as your breath, which you’ve tuned into many times. Notice more about it. What moves in your body when you inhale and when you exhale? Do you feel a sense of with your inhalations? Do your exhalations help you y? Put your experiences into your own words if you can.

What about your heart, beating in your chest? Can you feel it pumping away, keeping you alive? You have pulses located all over your body. Can you sense them?

There’s a more subtle, slower rhythm, the rhythm of cerebrospinal fluid expanding your cranial bones ever so slightly and then receding, which you might even feel all the way down your spine. And there are even more subtle rhythms that are perceptible.

Stillness and motion are not opposites. There’s a bit of stillness in motion, and a bit of motion in stillness. Developing your perceptions of motion augments your perceptions of stillness, and vice versa.

Notice what you notice each time you meditate, and know that your next session will offer you new gifts of perception. Play with it!

I hope these suggestions inspire you to experience more deeply the human being that you are. May you have breakthroughs!

New work-related blog

I am blessed and fortunate enough to have a worldwide reader base for this blog. See the graphic map on this post to view all the countries where readers are from.

I live and work in the Austin, Texas, USA, area, and I have created a new website, MaryAnn Reynolds, MS, LMT, BCTMB, on WordPress for my private massage and bodywork practice. I also have a blog as a page on that site.

To prevent confusion:

  • The new blog will be limited to posts about local events I’m participating in and my massage and bodywork practice. If you are interested, check it out and see if you want to follow that blog.
  • This blog will remain dedicated to more general topics relating to wellness.
  • I haven’t done so yet, but I may occasionally cross-post if the information seems related to both blogs.

To your health and well-being!

A lazy woman’s experiment with the ketogenic diet

Last summer I did some intermittent fasting. I lost a few pounds and then plateaued. I found it difficult to maintain on a daily basis long-term. I dropped it after a couple of months and gained back the pounds I had lost.

For the past 5 weeks now, I’ve been following a ketogenic diet, and again, I’ve lost a few pounds. I haven’t lost muscle that I can tell: I’m still able to do as many repetitions of bodyweight exercises (squats, pushups) as before with about same amount of effort. I have an abundance of energy, which stays stable. I sleep well. I feel good!

I did a lot of online research about the ketogenic diet. Basically it is a high fat, moderate protein, very low carb diet. By consistently eating this way, your body makes the switch from burning glucose to burning fat for fuel. (That’s what ketosis is.) Once your body gets trained into ketosis, it affects your fat-burning ability for life. This can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months to occur.

The keto diet has a lot of other benefits as well. It helps with epilepsy, early Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s, ADHD, MS, autism, and bipolar II. It lowers blood sugar and insulin, and some say it prevents and kills cancer cells (which may be due the lack of sugar/carbs). There are more claims based on personal experience. Although high in fat, it does not increase your risk for heart disease, and it’s said to prevent strokes.

Here are 14 takeaways from my experience so far (and if you have health issues, especially regarding blood sugar, please consult with your doctor before trying any of this): Continue reading

Sacroiliac joint healed!

Back in late June 2015, I wrote about using a sacroiliac belt for pain in that joint. (See When the healer needs healing: chronic pain in a sacroiliac joint).

I posted a few updates. (See Update on using the sacroiliac beltA cheaper sacroiliac belt, working toward “the new normal”, and SI belt update, plus insoles for Morton’s foot.)

It’s now January 2017, and I’m here to give you an update, prompted by a couple of comments I’ve received recently from readers who are suffering from SI joint pain.

I finally stopped wearing the belt last month, in December 2016. That’s right, I wore it most of the time for 18 months, a year and a half. My pelvis feels pretty aligned now. It’s not perfect but it is strong and tight enough that it stays in place . Since I started wearing it, I haven’t had that unstable, painful feeling of my SI joint going out of place. Continue reading

Healing a deep dental pocket

I went to the dentist yesterday for an exam and cleaning, five months after my previous visit. The best news is that the pockets that had deepened from using the Waterpik on too high a setting and too much angle have returned to 2s, 3s, and a couple of 4s.

Since that appointment, I returned to flossing and using dental picks, as described in a previous post, Rebuilding tooth enamel after drinking water with lemon. I continued to gently brush my gumlines at a 90 degree angle.

That did the job, except for one tooth. The back part of my upper right back molar has pockets measuring 7 and 8 mm (3 or lower is healthy). It was painful when the hygienist was probing with her tool. On earlier visits it’s been 4 or 5 mm deep, concerning but not dire. Now it’s dire.

I’ve never had any pockets this deep, and of course they want me to see a periodontist. (Beyond that, the hygienist didn’t have much scraping to do, so my plaque levels are down.)

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Image from Brandywine Dental Services

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Blog stats for 2016

Well, folks, I broke 100,000 views in 2016, something I never dreamed of when I started this blog at the tail end of 2009. This little blog got 108,999 total views in 2016. In 2015, I got 51,449, so views more than doubled last year.

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-33-44-pmIt started in January. Total views jumped to over 10,000 per month. The main driver seems to have been a single post, How to drink water with lemon and preserve your tooth enamel. That post got 52,433 views in 2016, and only 10,715 in 2015. First published in January 2014, it only got 209 views that entire year.

I’m guessing that starting in January 2015, people were drinking lemon water, felt something different going on in their mouths, and they got concerned, Googled, and found my post. I wish I knew more about why that post went viral. Did WordPress feature it? Did it get reblogged elsewhere? Who linked to it? It’s a mystery to me.

So 2016 turned out to be the year of preserving tooth enamel. In response to the interest, and after a visit to my dentist, I wrote another post, Rebuilding tooth enamel after drinking water with lemon, in June 2016 that got 2,148 views last year. That was the only top post I actually wrote in 2016.

There was also a lot of interest in the posts Recovering from a virus, recovering from adrenal exhaustion, My experience with brainwave optimization, and Healing bruised, strained toes, which round out the top 5 posts for 2016.

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Frida Kahlo probably had fibromyalgia

While continuing to learn more about fibromyalgia, I found something interesting: Frida Kahlo probably had it.

If you’re wondering what fibromyalgia is, the Mayo Clinic says it’s a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Symptoms sometimes begin after a trauma, surgery, infection, or significant stress. Women are much more likely to develop it.

One researcher, Manuel Martinez-lavin, says it’s likely the iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo had fibromyalgia. The bus accident that badly injured her at age 18 must have been quite traumatic and was followed by many stressful surgeries. The accident left her with chronic pain, well documented in her art.

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-11-07-37-amThe Broken Column

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Help for respiratory allergies

It’s cedar fever time again, and I want to share this story because it may help someone to suffer less.

Many years ago, I took prescription allergy medicine (Seldane and later Claritin) daily, all year round, and could count on getting at least one sinus infection each year. Austin is known for its allergens, so much so that the weather reports include the pollen and mold counts. We’re especially known for “cedar fever,” which comes on after the first freeze in the Hill Country, which is laden with Ashe juniper trees commonly called cedars here. The male trees release clouds of pollen, which some people are so sensitive to, they stay sick for weeks.

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What people are saying after Zero Balancing

So far in 2016, I’ve done 96 Zero Balancing sessions ranging from 15 to 45 minutes in length. Most were about 30 minutes.

Help me make at least 100 in 2016! [I made my goal!]

The part I love most about giving my clients a Zero Balancing session comes after the fully-clothed bodywork has concluded, when the receiver slowly moves from supine on my massage table to sidelying to seated to standing, taking a pause after each movement, and finally takes a few steps around my office.

I ask, “What are you noticing?” Continue reading

No more ads!

As of November 2, you will not see any advertising on this blog! WordPress used to charge $100 to run an ad-free blog, which I thought was too expensive, given that I’m already paying them to run this blog.

The price came down, as I learned when I helped a friend set up a simple, one-page website. It now costs $2.99 a month, payable annually, to remove all advertising. I can afford that.

Thank you, WordPress.

It’s not that I’m totally opposed to advertising. A lot of what we do in our human interactions is marketing goods and services, when we praise or disdain restaurants, books, movies, massage therapists, cars, candidates, jobs, insurance companies, and so on. I use Google to advertise my business, and Moo.com for business cards, and lots of word-of-mouth.

Advertising is so prevalent in our 21st century American culture: on signs, billboards, the sides of trucks, bumper stickers, television, and rampant on the internet. It feels distracting, like I’m being yelled at or grabbed without my consent. It’s insidious and annoying.

I thought I could I ignore the ads, but when I began to use AdBlock, I must say it feels satisfying to view websites without the ads. I can appreciate the design, and it feels like a more peaceful, relaxing experience I can savor.

I know that some good websites rely on the income from ads. My response is, give me the option to subscribe without ads. If I like it, I might pay a few bucks to keep it ad-free.

I had no choice about which ads appeared on my blog. Wanting to be in integrity, when I saw a McDonald’s ad on my blog about wellness, I stopped allowing WordPress to freely run ads. (Not that I ever had enough views to earn anything.)

The single ad WordPress insisted on making me pay to remove is now gone. I hope you enjoy your ad-free experience.