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!

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

Relieving forward head posture: full body myofascial release (aka Deep Massage)

This is the fourth post in a series about Cate and me partnering in bodywork to relieve her forward head posture. Click here to read the first post, here for the second, here for the third, and here for a special post about the Still Point Inducer.

by Cate Radebaugh

Since I was in Austin for several days early this week, I opted to go to MaryAnn’s on Wednesday instead of Friday. She told me that it was time for a full body myofascial massage and gave me the familiar intake paper with four sketches of a human body — front, back, and both sides — and instructions to circle where I feel discomfort, pain, tension, etc.

It’s always the same for me: neck and shoulders, lower back, and feet — so that’s where I made my circles.

Then MaryAnn went out while I undressed, got on the table, and under the sheets. I’ve had massages before, so I knew about putting my face in the little face holder, but she also had a special pillow with holes in it that I could put my breasts in, and that was wonderful, because typically, they get smooshed between me and the table, which is not so great. With my breasts in a safe space, I felt completely comfortable for the first time ever laying prone on a massage table.

Continue reading

Relieving forward head posture: integrating bodywork techniques, plus, a still point

This is the third post in a series about my bodywork sessions with Cate to relieve forward head posture. Go here for the first post, here for the second.

by Cate Radebaugh

This session on September 30 is hard to write about because it was so fluid. I’d like to start, though, with something I left out of my last post, which is, I have a hard time figuring out where I am on the table. I’m supposed to lay centered on it, but I’m either too far to the left or right at my shoulders and too far the other direction at my hips, and sometimes, the direction I think I’m going in is not the direction I’m actually going in. This is an issue with proprioception*, and probably explains why I bump into things a lot. I don’t know where my body is in space or where my parts are relative to each other.

Anyway, our first task every session is getting me aligned on that table. I keep waiting for MaryAnn to say “goodgodamighty, get straight, Cate,” but so far she hasn’t even sighed.

I don’t know what modalities MaryAnn used in the session*, and I couldn’t recall the sequence of things after I left because the session felt so fluid. One discrete experience flowed into another, except for the first one, which was me on my back while MA held my heels in her hands and pulled on both my legs at the same time. It really does feel like my legs get longer as she pulls on them. Continue reading

Working with forward head: myofascial release

Read the first post in this series here. My notes are at the end of this post, along with a link to the following post. ~ MaryAnn

by Cate Radebaugh

So, I had another ‘forward head position’ appointment with Mary Ann. She is very excited about the new Zero Balancing work she’s learned and briefly contemplated adding that to this session, but decided against it. Myofascial release it was.

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Notice that Cate’s ear is in front of the middle of her shoulder. The SCM runs from behind her ear to her chest.

First, she took a picture of my neck so we can all track my progress.

Then, because this is “take some of your clothes off and cover up with a sheet” work, that’s what I did. (Those sheets are so soft. They’re made of microfiber. I suggest you get some for yourself. Or go do work with Mary Ann, because they’re part of the treat. Now back to the forward head thingy.)

One of the advantages of working with Mary Ann is she shares her knowledge about bodies with her clients as she’s working on them. I feel on speaking terms with some of my muscles now.

Two big ones are the sternocleidomastoids, SCMs for short. They run from my mastoid processes – the two bumps behind my ears at the base of my skull – down my neck and attach to my collarbones and sternum, and are what turn and nod my head. Continue reading

Working with forward head posture: Zero Balancing and more

Note from MaryAnn: This is a guest post by someone I’ve known for nearly a decade. Years have gone by without us seeing each other, and then we reconnect, and it’s a happy occasion. She is a wonderful writer with a fascinating and fascinated mind, a perceptive presence, and a wicked sense of humor.

We initially did a 90-minute craniosacral therapy session with Zero Balancing. Then we did a 30-minute Zero Balancing session that she writes about here. This is the first in a series of posts about her experience receiving bodywork from me to help relieve her forward head posture (and the pain and tension that accompany it) and work with anything else that arises.

Forward head posture is becoming more common with our sedentary, screen-gazing habits. Several of the modalities which I’ve trained in and practiced are very effective at relieving forward head posture, including Zero Balancing, myofascial release/Deep Massage, and craniosacral therapy. And Cate will have homework to do as well.

I hope you enjoy reading these posts as we progress. The bottom of the post contains a link to the following post if you wish to read them consecutively.

by Cate Radebaugh

Over the years, I’ve developed forward head posture. Some of it comes from many hours in front of a computer screen, and obesity and self-image issues haven’t helped any. I recently became aware, though, that carrying my head out so far in front of my body is exhausting, and my neck, shoulders, and upper back are so constricted from the constant weight that they never really relax or rest, even in sleep.

So … I went to see my friend MaryAnn Reynolds to find out if she might be able to help. I’ve already said a little about my first visit* and my second was just as interesting. It was a Zero Balancing session. I think Zero Balancing is a really funny name and an even funnier intent, because I already experience moments of what I think of as zero balance and would just as soon not. MaryAnn’s Zero Balancing is different from that. In fact, it seems to be something of antidote. Continue reading

If you want to get better at healing others and/or self, read this blog post

My wonderful craniosacral therapy teacher of the past few years, Ryan Hallford, wrote a blog post entitled Soft Mantras for Hard Lesions. Although specific to biodynamic craniosacral work, in my opinion it applies to so much more – all types of healing work with others and all healing work on self.

ryanSubstitute “stuck places” for lesions and consider his statement that this post is about our mindset when encountering them, and you can understand how applicable this is to all realms of life.

Toward the end of the post, he lists three mantras (internal prayers) that a person intending to heal (self or other) might find helpful to ask.

I’ve read this blog post three times now and decided to write down the questions to carry with me at all times. This is a practice I use when I want to integrate something new into my being. The writing of it helps me commit it to memory as my pen moves across the paper letter by letter, word by word, and carrying the written paper with me signals my commitment to integrate it.  Continue reading

Update on using the sacroiliac belt

It’s been a week since I started self-treatment for SI joint pain. I’ve made some changes after talking with my teacher that I want to share, in case you’re doing this at home. (If you’re just tuning in, you may want to read my first post on this topic.)

First, I am wearing the sacroiliac belt at night while I sleep.

Since we spend about one-third of our life sleeping, and we’re unconscious while we sleep, sleep posture is extremely important when working on alignment issues like an SI joint that has been out of alignment for years.

I decided to sleep with the sacroiliac belt on 24/7 to prevent the alignment occurring during the daytime hours from being undone while I sleep. Of course I take it off to shower and swim.  Continue reading