Morning download, 3.13.2019

It’s a coolish, rainy morning here in the outskirts of ATX. Haven’t heard the mockingbird yet, but a cardinal made itself heard just outside my trailer. The rain now hitting the metal roof is drowning out all birdsong. It can get quite loud during a heavy downpour!

A friend texted me yesterday that her mother, in Missouri, is passing. She got to talk to her on the phone, texting me later, “Lots of Love exchanges. She said goodbye and to take care of myself.” The mother was conscious, in no pain, but very weak.

That’s a good way to die. I’d like to be conscious, unmedicated, and not in pain when death comes for me. It’s got to be quite the experience!

I wish I could tell you afterwards what it was like, but that seems to be against the rules. “Just one more blog post, please? This is too amazing not to share!” But I don’t think you can bargain with death. It might play with you, but it always wins, in the end.

Today: loving my matcha/sitting/breathing/downloading early in this day, then hairdresser, then biodynamic session for my friend who’s losing her mother, and then a visit with a shaman to work on some emotional/empath issues that i haven’t been able to resolve on my own.

Some friends have been studying with this shaman, and I look forward to meeting her and experiencing how she works. I received a yummy practice session from one of those friends, now studying energy medicine, who told me about a class for empaths, but the class had filled, so I’m doing 1:1 with the shaman.

I’m seeking something of a superpower for me: the ability to not feel others’ deep suffering. I can suffer well enough from my own losses and traumas and don’t need to experience the broken hearts and minds of others in order to be compassionate and supportive and resourceful. I can be more useful with a healthier boundary.

This image cracks me up. It came up when I googled “image empath”. It is a beautiful image but I don’t see myself like this at all. I do have green eyes, though. The rest of it is someone’s fantasy! Except that ajna chakra, third eye, is real. https://articles.spiritsciencecentral.com/empathy-101/.

It’s the biggest downside of being an empath that I can think of. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you will know that calling myself an empath is new, something I’m starting to dance with. Once it occurred to me, a lot of mysteries about me and how I’ve chosen to live began to fall into place.

What is being an empath good for? You tell me. It served extremely well once, may have saved my baby daughter’s life, but there’s a lot of weirdness, and some fun, that comes with it, so far. Premonitions, insights, auras, dreams, beginner’s mind, flow states, obviously empathy. I have marks in my hand indicating clairvoyance, but I don’t practice it.

There are some superpowers that with the right teachers, I could probably develop. Not sure I need or want to, though. For now, becoming a healthy empath is my intent.

I’ve begun paying more attention to the people and environments that are nurturing and those that are not. I had to go to the mall a couple of weeks ago. The commercialism — the bigness of the “buy this — enter this store — take this free gift bag” messaging — was overwhelming. Giant words are scary! Pushy people are scary! It was not a friendly place, and I felt like an alien — I wish I could say that was unusual, but it’s not.

I felt my resistance and stayed focused on my errand. Found a chair and closed my eyes and just breathed while waiting for a genius to replace my phone battery. Once outside under the big sky, trees in view across the vast parking lot, so much better.

I notice I have better rapport with intuitive feelers who may also be empaths. I’m so lucky to know and love a few!

If you are an empath and are reading this, what has helped you? Books, people, classes, practices, learnings. I want to hear it, please.

The rain has paused and the mockingbird is singing its heart out. Enjoy this promising day.

Morning download, 2.15.19

I’ve been waking before 6, lying drowsily in the dark, under the covers, all warm and snuggly, surrounded by pillows, luxuriating in not having to get up and (usually) not feeling like I didn’t get enough sleep and need to get some more shut-eye.

This daily journey from nonconsciousness to consciousness feels so good to take it slowly. Feeling my warmth, my body weight surrendered to gravity, I notice that energy is pouring out the soles of my feet — or maybe pouring in. Not even the entire sole, but a circle around K1, Bubbling Spring, where the kidney channel begins. The force is strong there.

The little part of my brain that’s always going, “But what does it meeeaaaannnn?” doesn’t know what that’s about except that it’s healthy. Am I letting out too much or being replenished? Don’t know. Maybe connected to earth element because feet, right? Powerful point, powerful channel, kidney chi.

I may doze a little, but when the light starts to return, I get up and pee and return to sit in my bed and just sit. Yeah, I have beautiful, fancy meditation gear, and I sit in my bed.

I used to think of it as meditation, but now I like to just call it sitting. Sitting with what is. I tune into breath and body, sounds, and I enter a state of integrity and subtle bliss. I notice sensations, thoughts arising and dissipating, sometimes an emotional tone. I open up and make myself available.

Sometimes my thoughts are strong and sticky. I use my will to return to stillness, over and over. Sometimes I command my unruly thinker to be still, and it actually obeys, which is amazing and gratifying. I like to go deep into the swirly energy currents and let them wash me inside and out. When I am being breathed, I’m there. No will needed. Just surrender.

After sitting, breathing. Current practice: kapalabhati, the 4-7-8 kriya that Dr. Fulford taught Dr. Weil, and nadi shodhana.

I make myself a cup of matcha (with Berkey-filtered water heated to 160 degrees F because I’m that kind of person) and return to my bed, stare out my window, hear the noise of birds, traffic, trains, and the motors and beeps of heavy construction equipment, because Austin. The city is reaching the country.

I come into some clarity, and I simply need to write and share. I’ve realized that it’s probably not a good idea to text my early morning downloads to the possibly unprepared dear ones I’m fortunate enough to have in my life, at least until I’ve had an opportunity to check in. Still, there’s that need to express.

Guess what? I have a blog, and you’re reading it! I used to post more personal writing here but haven’t for a long time. I can do that again.

So…I’m back, my people! Here we are with my new strategy: morning pages for all to see, being intimate in a way that’s safe for me and my associates in this sometimes crazy, dangerous world. You didn’t want to know the particulars anyway — you like melding minds, and here’s my contribution. This business of being human requires courage and boundaries and discernment and trust, and a whole lot more…and that’s what’s coming up today.

Some things I will be writing about: finally figuring out that I’m an empath and learning how to be a healthy empath because sometimes it is quite troubling and draining.

Also, what the fuck is right relationship and how can I be/do/create/collaborate on that?

And also, being an autodidact. Being both ordinary and extraordinary because so are you and let’s talk about it. And whatever comes up that’s appropriate to share here.

We all learning here on this bus. That’s all for today, lovelies. Be well.

2018 blog stats

Every year since 2010, I’ve written a post summarizing the year on this blog. Here are the highlights for 2018.

My posts from years past about healing my injured sacroiliac joints have gotten a lot of comments in 2018 from people who are also suffering, and that has brought the most gratification this year, to know that documenting my healing journey offers hope to others.

To summarize that journey, I saw many practitioners in various bodywork modalities for a couple of decades before finding one who truly understood what it would take to heal the injury. I followed her advice, and it worked. My final post, Sacroiliac joint healed!, published in 2017, includes links to all my previous posts on the topic.

In 2018, I had 94,239 visitors and 127,235 views. This is down a bit from 2017, even though I wrote more posts in 2018. I’m attributing the downturn in visitors and views to social media burnout.

Social media has been a fun new toy — and more people are seeking balance in their lives. I’m actually fine with it, as I’m seeking balance too. Writing fewer posts but having them be more germane to how we can live better lives works for me. Plus, I’m a bodyworker and wellness advocate by trade. Less text neck, eye strain, forward head posture, and sitting are better for your health. I want you to be healthy!

I wrote 32 blog posts in 2018, totaling 16,319 words, averaging 510 words per post, a bit shorter than I typically have written.

Of the posts I wrote this year, these have gotten the most views (listed newest to oldest):

The most-read post in 2018 was one first posted back in January 2014, How to drink water with lemon and preserve your tooth enamel. It’s gotten the most comments of any post I’ve ever written. Believe it or not, almost 5 years after it was first published, 40,960 people read that post in 2018. I hope they/you are preserving their/your tooth enamel!

At the end of 2018, I have 292 followers on WordPress, 92 on email, and 605 on social media. Thank you!

The most popular day and hour for reading my blog is Sunday at 2 pm.

And now (drum roll), where are readers from? Well, it looks like this:

  • all of North America except Greenland
  • all of South America except for one tiny country north of Brazil (French Guiana)
  • all of Europe except Svalbard islands
  • all of Asia except Iran, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan
  • most of Africa except Western Sahara, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia
  • I imagine there are some tiny island nations that don’t appear on the map with no readers

As always, it astounds me how connected the world is now because of the internet.

One of my intentions for 2019 is to improve my writing. I’d like to write a monthly post but have each be more interesting, compelling, and shareable.

Thank you so much for reading!

Subjective measures of relaxation: what would you add?

How do you know you’re relaxed? I have a hunch that most people think they relax sometimes, but compared to people who’ve explored relaxation, they are not. Relaxing with a beer, with friends, in nature, on vacation, etc. is what comes to mind for a lot of people when they think of relaxation.

Yes, it’s different from working or feeling stressed, and yet the depth of relaxation can be so much more. It’s not about what you do, it’s what you experience in your body, and in your mind.  Continue reading

Meet Amanda Lee, humanitarian and therapist

My friend Amanda is an amazing woman that I want everyone to know about. She’s a trauma survivor who went on to spend many years of her life working in the world’s crisis zones on humanitarian projects.

Honestly, I started to call her a super-therapist, but I decided not to because it might convey the impression that she’s inaccessible, beyond the human. She’s definitely living in this world, has worked through many of her own struggles, and she’s accessible. (And still super in my heart.)

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Sensible eating for healthy weight loss: my best practices and desired habits

I have put on some extra weight and I want to take it off. I already eat a fairly healthy, mostly Paleo diet. I was thinking about the mindset and habits I want to cultivate. I’m looking at what’s worked for me in the past and some new best practices.

Twice since 2000, I’ve lost weight: the first time, I lost 35 pounds, of which 20 pounds crept back on for a few years, and then I lost the 20 pounds and kept it off for a few years. Those 20 pounds have crept back on over the past 7 years.

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Courtesy: Diethunters.com

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Check out The Center for Healthy Minds

In my recent presentation, Investigating the Power of Silence, at Austin’s Free Day of NLP, I drew on some research done by the Center for Healthy Minds.

I love that name! And I just got on their mailing list.

You may have heard of it. It’s located at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and is run by Dr. Richard Davidson, who was encouraged by the Dalai Lama in 1992 to study the brains of Tibetan yogis. Dozens of monks have flown into Madison over the years, been hooked up with caps of electrodes for EEGs to study their brainwaves and undergone fMRI to see where the brain is most active during meditation, rest, and tasks. These are the “professional” meditators with over 12,000 hours of practice.

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 10.43.54 AMThe research I mentioned in my presentation was done on the Tibetan yogi with the most meditation experience they’ve studied so far, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, who’s clocked an astounding 62,000 hours of meditation (and looks like he’s about 30 years old but is actually 43 in 2018).

Here’s the link to the article, and here’s a photo of the rinpoche.

Yongey Mingyur became a wandering monk for four years, leaving behind his life as a prominent teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, and then resuming it with new perspective. His story includes overcoming panic attacks as a young teenager. Read more here. To find out about his experience wandering, read this.

The Center for Healthy Minds has also improved the rigor of the science behind studies of meditation, holding it to high standards including classifying meditators as beginning, long-term, and professional and distinguishing between types of meditation.

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Breathing naturally

Given that one of my investigations is to find out how relaxed I can get and still be awake, I have something to share. I’ve become aware that some of us do not breathe naturally, and I think it could be keeping our nervous symptoms from experiencing the relaxing, healing benefits of going into the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state of the autonomic nervous system.

I imagine everyone is aware that breathing is a function that we have some control over, and also that when we don’t pay it any attention, the breath will continue on its own, unconsciously. We may be told how to control our breathing in yoga or meditation classes, or in voice or speech classes, and some students may then infer that these ways of using the breath are somehow better than normal breathing and adopt them into their everyday lives.

Stress and trauma affect our breathing too, and unfortunately for many, living with stress has become a way of life, at least temporarily. The breathing pattern, however, may remain disordered.

We may also adopt a disordered way of breathing due to pollution and attempts not to inhale smog, smoke, aromas, dust, pollens, and so on. Some people who believe they have asthma may actually have a breathing pattern disorder.

There are many benefits to learning how to breathe naturally. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned and experienced myself regarding breathing.

First of all, the natural relaxed breath does not have a rhythm like a metronome, where inhalations and exhalations are regular and evenly paced. Yes, when we exert ourselves, our lungs work rhythmically to bring in the oxygen and release the carbon dioxide that our bodies need.

The relaxed breath is different.

If you have an opportunity to watch an infant or young child breath when asleep, you will notice that sometimes the breath is like that, with regular inhalations and exhalations. And sometimes it’s not. The child may take a fuller breath. There may be pauses between breaths when it seems they skip a breath. This is not like sleep apnea, which is a disorder where people struggle to get enough oxygen in their sleep.

Some of these pauses can last for awhile, but the inhalation does return. (If it happens a lot, see a specialist.)

Thank you to Dr. Fritz Smith, founder of Zero Balancing, for educating me on this in Inner Bridges and classes.

This pattern — sometimes regular, occasionally with bigger breaths and pauses — is what I mean by natural relaxed breathing.

I noticed in meditation that sometimes I lightly controlled my breathing. This is probably something I adopted from a yoga class years ago or from meditation instructions.

I wanted to stop doing that and breathe naturally. What I did was check in with my breath, pause after an exhalation, and simply allow the next inhalation to arise on its own. I’d repeat that cycle a few times, and then I would move my attention to something else. I did this a couple of times a day for a few days. My body took to this more relaxed, effortless way of breathing, and I don’t manipulate my breathing any more unless I consciously want to. Natural breathing has become easy and joyful.

I’m not saying that breathing exercises are bad or not to do them. I’m glad to know that I can influence my autonomic nervous system with my breath, because sometimes I want to calm down quickly (by lengthening my exhalations), and other times I want to quickly increase my alertness (by lengthening my inhalations). I also love nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) for calming and balancing.

What is particularly bringing me joy now is something that happens when I’ve been meditating for awhile. (I’m guessing at least 30 minutes.) Sitting still means the body doesn’t require as much oxygen as when active, and my breath naturally slows and gets shallower. Often, my breath gets so light that I can’t tell if I’m inhaling or exhaling.

Watching my breath doesn’t change it. There’s a principle in physics that when you observe an object, it changes the object’s behavior. But when you are in a non-dual state, everything is one, and there is no separation between subject and object. It’s a marker, if you like.

I may segue into a state where I am simply being breathed. There is no effort. There is no will. The breath rises and falls on its own, and I simply witness. Source takes over, and I surrender. I feel touched by the sublime.

What to bring to a vipassana course

Just got back home yesterday after taking my second 10-day vipassana course at Dhamma Siri, Kaufman, Texas. I reached new abilities to sense subtle sensations and found deeper stillness and inner silence. Reentry into the real world has been easier this time as well.

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Plus, I made eye contact with a bobcat. More about that later.

While it’s fresh, I want to put into writing what to bring next time. I am into avoiding unnecessary suffering for myself, and others. It doesn’t mean that I can’t sit with some discomfort and be equanimous — and discomfort is inevitable unless you already are sitting still for 12 hours a day, day after day. Your low back, mid-back, upper back, shoulders, hips, knees, feet — at least one area of your body is going to feel the strain — and this is an unavoidable part of the process.

The pain and discomfort are necessary to get the full vipassana experience. Meditation isn’t all about transcendence. It’s about learning to witness and accept the truth of what you are experiencing with equanimity. You become more familiar with your mind, craving what isn’t there and feeling aversion to what is there. Continue reading

After my first 10-day Vipassana meditation course

On Wednesday, August 9, I got up early, loaded my car, made a home visit to massage one of my regular clients, and drove from Austin to Kaufman, Texas, a 3.5 hour drive.

BTW, my client commented afterwards that it was really a great massage. He even had a waking lucid dream toward the end of the session. I attribute that to his learned ability to relax deeply while staying awake and to me having more presence and being more tuned into him and myself. I knew that for the next 10 days, I’d be stepping out of my everyday life and meditating quite a lot without distractions. I didn’t have my normal everyday thoughts about logistics (travel, meals, timing, errands), which made a huge difference in my ability to really be present. So it started before I even left town.

IMG_0175I arrived at the Southwest Vipassana Meditation Center near Kaufman mid-afternoon. I registered, was assigned a room in the women’s dorm, and surrendered my wallet and cell phone. I had left books, computer, and writing materials at home.

I unloaded my stuff and set up my room, which was small, furnished with an extra-long twin bed and a plastic chair and small table, with open shelves and a place to hang clothing, and a bathroom with a shower. And a big window looking out on trees and clothesline. Very simple and adequate, and yet this particular Vipassana center is considered one of the more luxurious centers worldwide. Continue reading