About MaryAnn Reynolds

Offering bodywork in the Austin, Texas, area at maryannreynolds.com. Blogging about wellness at The Well: bodymindheartspirit. Serving as a volunteer editor for the Truth Be Told Community blog.

Orienting to space

Not too long ago, I posted Orienting to stillness, orienting to motion, providing some options for people who are interested in exploring awareness. Today I want to share some experiences with orienting to space.

First, a little backtracking. Starting in 2010, I wrote here about the 12 states of attention (and also here), which I learned from Nelson Zink on his website Navaching (which also included instructions for night walking), which sadly he has taken down. Reading his book of stories The Structure of Delight is an experience I highly recommend. It’s like no other book you’ve encountered, and if you’re interested in acquiring wisdom from a bunch of interesting characters, you’ll enjoy it.

(If you don’t want to click the links about the 12 states, here’s a summary: We primarily use our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses. Our experience can be subdivided into narrow and broad. For instance, a broad auditory state would be listening to the whole orchestra playing, while a narrow auditory state would be singling out the oboe in the orchestra. These states can be further divided into external and internal. An external visual state is seeing your environment with your eyes, while an internal one is imagining or remembering something. The image below shows the 12 states.)

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 8.24.06 AM

Although I haven’t written about the 12 states in recent years, they are embedded in my world view. I value having flexibility in what I pay attention to, how I pay attention to it, and understanding what others may be experiencing. We have natural proclivities among these states that play a big role in the work and pastimes we choose, yet some of these realms can go unexplored for much of a person’s lifetime, which is a loss, in my opinion. From bean counters to visionaries, proofreaders to poets, there’s room for all at the table, and I would presume that part of the maturing process in a fully lived life would include expanding one’s experience of more of these states.

So for today’s topic, orienting to space, I’m going to refer to the 12 states, also drawing on my training in craniosacral biodynamics and yoga, for some kinesthetic experiences in meditation.

Here are some kinesthetic narrow experiences to try when sitting quietly, uninterrupted. These are both internal and external: you will feel sensations on your skin, You may also feel these sensations inside your body and extending into the field around you.

  • Bring your attention to the top of your head, your crown chakra. Keep your attention there, and you will at some point notice a sensation there. It may feel like  pressure, flickering, vibrating, warmth, air moving, or something else. If you don’t feel anything, stay with it. If you still don’t, come back again and again until you do.
  • Bring your attention thusly down to each chakra: third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, umbilicus/sacrum, root. Spend some time at each chakra feeling the sensations there.
  • When you reach your root chakra, imagine/feel that energy descending into the earth.
  • Bring your attention back up your body, chakra by chakra. Yin moves down toward the earth, yang moves up toward heaven, and sometimes people find one direction easier than the other. What works best for you?
  • When you reach your crown chakra, imagine/feel it extending above you, stretching into the cosmos.
  • Sense this territory as a tube running from deep in the earth to outer space, penetrating your body vertically along your midline, with each chakra open like a jewel on a string. How does it feel to be connected to the earth and the cosmos with all your chakras open? Vibrant? Expanded? Enjoy the state.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 8.46.28 AM

The next experiences are to spend time in Kinesthetic Internal awareness, both Broad and Narrow:

  • When sitting quietly, sooner or later your attention will be drawn to specific areas in your body experiencing discomfort, pain, tingling, energized, or a lack of sensation. Just notice and breathe. Make yourself as comfortable as you can. Be sure to notice which parts feel good!
  • Body awareness is a vast realm. Using your knowledge of anatomy and imagining/feeling, you can sense your body by system: skeletal, muscular/fascial, nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, craniosacral, etc. Go slowly and just notice. Pretend like you’re remote viewing into your own body. Does your body have anything to tell you?
  • You can also sense your body by region: head, neck, shoulders, arms, etc. You can sense it from your skin inwards and from your core outwards.
  • You can experience each of the three major containers, lower (pelvic), middle (chest), and upper (head).
  • You may notice a slow, rhythmic fluid tide moving up and down your body. This usually takes a while to experience. This is a manifestation of primary respiration in biodynamics, and giving it attention makes your system more coherent.
  • One of the great koans in my life has been “whole body awareness.” See if you can sense your entire body at once! Experimenting with how to do this is fruitful. You might experience complete embodiment, being completely at home and aware inside your skin. That would be KIB. If you extend this into the space around you, you are moving into KEB.

In the 12 states, the division between internal and external is your skin. Kinesthetic external sensing is the most neglected of the 12 states for nearly all of us humans! Now you’re noticing the interface between your skin and the space or field around you:

  • To move externally, sense your skin’s interface with your environment: air, clothing, furniture, floor, etc. Notice temperature, drafts, humidity, pressure, texture, gravity, and whatever else you can sense.
  • Your personal field may extend anywhere from inches to several feet away from your body. Can you sense an inch away from your skin? A foot? A yard? If you are close to another person or animal, can you sense their presence? Can you sense changes in density or vibration in the field around you? Does the field around you have anything to tell you?
  • Extend your awareness gradually out into the room you’re in, or if you’re outdoors, into a room-size bubble around you. Can you sense the walls, ceiling, floors, objects in the room? If outdoors, can you sense the presence of nearby trees?
  • Extend your awareness outside the room or bubble. Gradually expand your awareness toward the horizon, either what you can see visually or what you can imagine. Notice if there is a shift in how you experience yourself when imagining/feeling yourself at the center of a 360-degree circle of horizon. Do you feel more or less grounded? Can you sense a wind, a tide, a very slow rhythm? Another manifestation of primary respiration.
  • Keep extending your awareness more broadly toward our planet, solar system, galaxy, as far as you want to go.

The experience of living suspended in fields, personal and vast, is a huge paradigm shift for all of us.

Warning: This practice can lead to deeper body awareness, inner peace, and experiences of oneness and connection to others and the planet.

 

 

Asparagus soup with lemon and Parmesan

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 8.18.22 PM

You know when you buy bunches of asparagus to steam or roast, and you snap off the woody ends of the stems because they are so fibrous and chewy?

In the past, I have thrown them away or saved them for stock. But no more!

Today I used them to make a delicious asparagus soup! I also used the lemon butter left over from the roasted asparagus I made last night, so as not to waste that wonderful flavor. So this soup is twice frugal.

Wow, it is tasty! Here’s how:

Lemon butter:

1 stick grass-fed butter
juice of a medium-size lemon

Asparagus soup:

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
16 ounces chicken bone broth (use commercial chicken broth or vegetable broth in a pinch)
woody stems snapped off 3 bunches of asparagus, cut or snapped into smaller pieces
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
about 1 tsp Real salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiono

Melt butter over low heat and stir in lemon juice.

Sauté chopped onion in lemon butter. Once softened, add garlic cloves and bone broth. Raise heat and add pieces of asparagus stems. (Add water if stems are not covered by broth.) Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.

Add thyme, salt, and pepper, and add juice of one lemon if more tanginess is desired.

Pour soup into Vitamix and process, dialing up to highest setting for 1-2 minutes, until soup is thick and well-blended but no longer fibrous.

Pour back into pot and stir in the grated Parmesan. Taste, correct seasoning if needed, and serve! It’s great cold, too!

 

 

What is biodynamics?

Biodynamics is a western approach to wellness. Osteopath William Sutherland (1873-1954) began exploring the dynamics of the skull and its membranes and fluids, establishing the field of cranial osteopathy, from which craniosacral therapy and biodynamics evolved.

After years of sitting quietly with patients, listening to their body-mind systems, Sutherland and other cranial osteopaths became aware that something other than tissue manipulation was helping their patients heal from all kinds of conditions. They learned over time that the more they just listened and the less they tried to do, the more their patients’ inherent healing processes took over, returning their systems to healthier functioning. Over time they learned how to support and augment the healing process with their presence, attention, discernment, and intent.

This way of healing came to be called craniosacral biodynamics, biodynamic craniosacral therapy, or just biodynamics. As a separate modality from cranial osteopathy, it’s been in existence for nearly 40 years. Although biodynamics shares some elements with biomechanical craniosacral therapy, it focuses more on perceptual awareness of the fields in and around us.

Biodynamics resonates with Buddhist and Taoist beliefs about emptiness, form, transformation, compassion, and oneness.

Book review: The Nature of Consciousness: Essays on the Unity of Mind and Matter, by Rupert Spira

I occasionally receive books on spiritual topics in the mail, with nice cover letters from publishers or marketing people, because I apparently was added to some mysterious mailing list, perhaps of “bloggers who write about spiritual topics.” I (rarely) review books or films on this blog, as I don’t have much time to read them, being engaged in an intensely focused study and practice of biodynamics (a bridge between meditation and healing, as I’ve come to think of it).

I asked members of my long-time spiritual book group if they wanted to read and review some books I’d received, and Harry Lundell chose this book.

Here is Harry’s review:

Rupert Spira’s newest book, The Nature of Consciousness: Essays on the Unity of Mind and Matter, represents an expansion and a summarization of his earlier efforts in spreading the philosophy of non-dualism (consciousness-only) to the Western world.  This little volume is a must-read for anyone interested in spiritual growth and the expansion of consciousness sought by increasing numbers of people everywhere. As a practicing psychotherapist  for over twenty-five years and a rehabilitation counselor for fourteen years before that, this reviewer had only a passing familiarity with Mr. Spira’s work when asked to provide a review of his newest work — an oversight that has since been happily addressed.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the text from this reviewer’s perspective is how it has had a definite and beneficial effect upon the lives of my patients. Combining the reading of this text with therapeutic protocols has gone a long way toward releasing selected patients from fear and anxiety, the inevitable downstream effects of what Mr. Spira calls the “soft materialism” of reductionism that has permeated the practice of psychotherapy — the belief that our noblest emotions and spiritual aspirations are just the epiphenomenal “side-effects” of molecules bumping into one another in our brains.

Spira points out that we, as a world culture, have completely bought into the belief that the only thing we have ever experienced — the awareness of our experience — is derived from the only thing we have never experienced — the existence of matter independent of our awareness of it! Spira believes that Western science in particular has gotten it completely backwards with the belief that mind is derived from matter.  Apparently Albert Einstein agreed with the author’s perspective when he said that “all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.” The author goes on to demonstrate, given the prevailing mindset, that it is small wonder the West is experiencing a tsunami of mental illness.

Mr. Spira’s new book goes on to articulate how this fundamental error of thought and belief has negatively impacted the warp and weft of our entire culture, and that the remedy has always been close by, hidden in awareness of our own experience.

This reviewer can suggest nothing less than a five-star rating for this slender masterpiece of clarity.

Thank you so much, Harry. Although I have not had a chance to read it yet, I do know that Harry plans to propose that our book group read it when we finish our current book, In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspensky — who happens to be one of Mr. Spira’s influences. Harry is quite taken with Mr. Spira’s clarity of thought, and I am looking forward to reading and discussing it in our book group.

This book, with a foreword by Deepak Chopra, will be published on June 1, 2017, and is  available for pre-order on Amazon.com, where it should probably not be classified in the category “Christian living.”

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.)

screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-1-27-07-pm

Image from Brandywine Dental Services

Continue reading

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.

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-34-49-pm

Continue reading