We are all miracles. Appreciate yourself!

Today I heard a cardinal chirping when I first awoke, a sign that spring is coming. They nest here every year. I love hearing and seeing them.

I went to work on my business website, editing and updating my offerings, before I even remembered to meditate.

Staying at home during this Texas ice storm has thrown my rhythms off.

Radiance came first, then third eye, solar plexus, heart, and root chakras, followed by a little bit of tide and a lot of swirliness.

Swirliness moved through my upper back, shoulders, and neck, reminding me to use better posture, because when I get into a writing trance, I can easily forget I have a body until it reminds me.

Swirliness also addressed issues in my upper abdomen, in the middle where stomach and liver abut.

It could have been my omentum, too, the layer of adipose tissue that moves to cuddle needy abdominal organs, bringing them extra resources.

We are simply fascinating! Every single one of us is a walking miracle.

Effervescence and soothing kindness nurture my vitality

My Biodynamic Meditation session this morning was about breath, awareness of my central energy channel, awareness of the Tide moving up and down and then settling at my sacrum as healing energy for a bit, moving up to my solar plexus region, and then to my crown chakra.

The energetic sensation was that of effervescence at my sacrum and my crown, and like soothing kindness at my solar plexus.

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Biodynamic Meditation posts on Instagram

I started studying craniosacral therapy in 2011 while still a massage student, after receiving it monthly for 3 years and understanding its sometimes-subtle but cumulative benefits to my health and well-being.

I started studying craniosacral biodynamics in 2013. Three days after learning it existed and hearing it described, I was in a class.

It’s a passion of mine. I’ve taken dozens of classes since, in both biodynamic and directive, Upledger-style CST. I’ve taken several classes multiple times and been a teaching assistant.

Craniosacral biodynamics works quite a bit with interoception, the “felt sense” in oneself.

A lot of the language in my classes was highly conceptual even though referring to felt states. There’s a big gap between concept and experience, between the map and the territory. It was frustrating!

What does the Breath of Life feel like? How do you distinguish the different tides? What does a still point feel like? How do you track potency? What about the different stages? What the heck is Dynamic Stillness and how do you get there?

I started experimenting with trying to sense these concepts in my meditation practice and had some pretty profound experiences, such as feeling like I was in the ocean and currents were flowing through and around me, experiencing a me-shaped hole of emptiness surrounded by dense energies holding me in place, the sense of being breathed, and the like.

But they were random experiences and I still didn’t know the names for them or how to get there. Hence pursuing more training.

Sequencing is important in a yoga class. You prepare carefully with easier poses and work up to the harder poses you didn’t think you could do — and then, wow, you’re doing them! It’s important in teaching and learning Craniosacral Biodynamics, too, guided by carefully considered preparation.

All of these states and experiences have helped me become more whole and healthy, wise and compassionate about our common human experience. They help me heal, and I do have experiences to heal from, still.

Samsara can be so rough.

I am an investigator, an Enneagram 5. I am driven by curiosity and learning and compassion. I came into this world to make a difference, and although side-lined by early difficulties, I’m doing it now.

Where I am now is this: I have a private practice in West Lake Hills, an old Austin suburb, where I offer two specialties: Craniosacral Biodynamics and TMJ Relief.

I also offer the same specialties in downtown Austin, at West Holistic Medicine.

And, I’m doing an experiment on Instagram. Every day I do a #biodynamicmeditation and post about it on Instagram. I choose images and music to accompany my words. It’s fun and growing, gaining followers, including teachers of Craniosacral Biodynamics.

If you want to follow me there, I’m @mareynolds. These posts also appear on my Facebook business page and on Tumblr and LinkedIn.

What’s behind this new endeavor? Well, if I could receive a Biodynamic session every day, I would! But I can’t afford it and don’t always have time.

However, I do have time to meditate every day. So do you, most likely, on most days.

So I practice Biodynamic Meditation and post about it, with an eye to eventually teaching it as a recognized form of meditation where the focus is on self-healing and restoring vitality. You can follow my progress.

Whatever we couldn’t process at the time gets contained energetically. Sometimes we experience releases and may or may not be aware of it. We feel more ourselves, more centered, grounded, vibrant, confident, resourceful.

Craniosacral Biodynamics greatly augments the body-mind’s ability to heal itself of dysregulation, stuckness, inertia.

When that energy is released, it returns to our overall vitality and well-being.

It accelerates wellness.

I’ve been practicing Biodynamics in meditation, in classes, and with clients for almost a decade. I am far from enlightened, though I have moments of deep presence and clarity about who I am, why I’m here, and what I want.

I am much healther, grounded, centered, aware, bigger minded, and bigger hearted than I used to be. And people who have known me for that long or longer have noticed.

This is where I am now, and I appreciate you reading about my process. There will be more to come, I’m sure. If you have questions, please ask!

Bounce-dancing on a rebounder in intervals after eating is fun!

Factor #1: My friend Katie and I had dinner at a Mediterranean buffet restaurant recently, and she suggested we walk right after eating, citing studies saying that walking for a few minutes immediately after a meal stabilizes insulin.

I looked it up (you know me!), and it has a lot of other benefits. It boosts metabolism, speeds digestion, reduces bloating, increases endorphins and serotonin, promotes better sleep, helps regulate appetite, improves learning and memory, increases circulation for better delivery of nutrients, etc.

Plus, walking with a friend is sweet. You get to catch up with each other and get some sun and fresh air and move. I especially love to go for scenic walks with my friends.

Factor #2: I love ecstatic dancing! It’s free-form movement to music. Dancing the 5 rhythms has been a fairly regular practice since 1995. I love the creative aspects of dance, letting my body move how it wants to move, exploring new movements, getting more familiar with my body, and becoming one with the music.

It’s a fun practice for self-expression and discovery, with health benefits.

Factor #3: I recently bought a rebounder so I can use it at home when the weather is bad or I don’t want to leave. (I’ve become a homebody.)

Rebounding is great for the lymphatic system, which cleans up metabolic waste and toxins in the body, improving immunity, and I’m all in favor of that! It has other benefits, too. Bouncing works the feet, calves, and hips (if you raise your knees), you can add in upper-body movements, and it is good cardiovascular exercise.

So…putting those three factors together, after I eat, I put on some music. It’s important to get the BPM right. I’ve found a couple of tunes that are 45 and 49 BPM. Not too fast, nor too slow, but perfect for bouncing.

Then I start bounce-dancing! I bounce with vigor for a minute, getting out of breath, exploring various ways to bounce (jumping, running, hopping, crossing one foot in front of the other alternatively, doing knee raises, adding kicks, scissoring, etc.).

Then I slow way down for a minute, minimally bouncing, maybe doing some upper body twists, letting my heart rate slow.

I alternative the vigorous and the slow phases, doing a minute of each, for however long the song lasts. It’s also a pleasure to discover new music for bounce-dancing! 10 minutes and experiment with the shortening the length of the slow intervals.

The beauty of bounce-dancing is it’s fun and it’s healthy in many ways. I’ve just been doing it for a few days as I remember to do it, and what I notice most is that I sleep better and have more energy.

Also, I love having strong feet and legs!

Just coincidentally, the New York Times just published an article on rebounding, aka trampolining, Bouncing Your Way to Better Health.

Preventing or slowing age-related cognitive decline

I took notes on Dr. Andrew Huberman’s AMA (ask me anything) — he’s the Stanford neurobiology and ophthalmology professor with a podcast on using science for many factors of well-being.

His AMAs only available to premium subscribers of the Huberman Lab Podcast. Yes, I really am that nerdy!

Dr. Huberman says that lifestyle factors can override a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease if started early enough.

He also mentioned that scientists are working on a method of early detection using visual screening.

By the way, a friend of mine defined aging as “continuing to live”. I love it.

Many of these tips are best started decades before the ages in which Alzheimer’s usually shows up, but are helpful at any age.

  1. Avoid environmental toxins: pesticides, toxins, heavy metals are neurotoxins. They damage your brain. That means eat organic food!
  2. Do not hit your head hard if at all possible. Give up risky behaviors, especially if you’ve already had one TBI.
  3. Get quality sleep at least 80 percent of the time. Deep sleep helps your brain clear toxins, and you can use sleep apps to measure this. Slightly elevating your feet seems to help. Seems to me this would work best for back sleepers, not side sleepers.
  4. Challenge yourself cognitively. It’s not just doing crosswords, it’s more like learning a new language, reading difficult material, learning new-to-you dance steps. If you don’t get frustrated, you’re not being challenged enough!
  5. Get 3 to 3.5 hours of Zone 2 cardiovascular exercise per week to increase blood flow to the brain. Zone 2 cardio includes walking, rowing, swimming, and working out on an elliptical or stationary bike.
  6. Do 20 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to release catecholamines for alertness, turning on neuroplasticity.
  7. Do 5-10 sets of resistance training to offset atrophy from aging.
  8. Your brain needs acetylcholine for focus and cognition. You can get it from food (eggs, especially) or take AlphaGPC in the morning, 300-900mg. Also: nicotine gum or patches — safe nicotine. Can ask your doctor.
  9. Eat a ketogenic diet. Also fasting.
  10. Take creatine monohydrate, 5 mg per day.

Jittery about the election? Here are some simple things you can do to reduce stress

I recently completed a 4-hour continuing education class in Ethics, Communication, and Boundaries through the Lens of the Nervous System. The instructor based this course around applying polyvagal theory in a massage therapy practice.

I want to share some simple things that anyone can use to reduce stress, because many of us may be feeling jumpy and tense, especially with an election approaching. 

Experiment with these and find your favorites — and use them as needed when your stress response is activated! 

  • Making your exhalations longer than your inhalations for a couple of minutes.
  • Singing and humming. 
  • Orienting to the space you’re in by slowly gazing all around you. 
  • Lifting your gaze and imagining the sun shining on your face, neck, and shoulders. 
  • Finding something that’s pleasing and telling yourself “I am safe and happy”. 
  • Making micro movements, dancing, doing yoga. 
  • Listening to calming music. 

Do you find yourself doing any of these without a thought? My mother often hummed when she was washing dishes.

Music and dancing are important parts of my life. I created a playlist of happy music with the help of numerous friends on Facebook who made recommendations. I’m capping it at 100 songs and will post a link to it on Apple Music when I’ve finished listening to everything…a lot of it was new to me.

I have noticed already that some of the happiest-making songs are about dancing!

 

Whole grain bowls are healthy and creative!

A local food trailer that serves wonderfully healthy vegan food has inspired me. The food trailer is called ATX Food, and it’s parked just outside Bicycle Sports Shop on South Lamar, just south of the McDonald’s on Barton Springs and Lamar (which appears to be closed).

ATX Food makes fabulous quinoa bowls! There are several varieties. Each bowl on their menu includes toasted quinoa, half a perfectly ripe avocado, pickled red cabbage, and a generous dusting of sesame seeds. These bowls are colorful as well as healthy!

The photo below is their Chickpea Power Bowl. Other ingredients include wild mushrooms and fresh field greens (hiding under everything else). A green goddess dressing tops it off.

You can get bowls with squash, tomatoes, kale…and there’s even version with barbecued tempeh.

One of these bowls is more than enough food for me. And they are $12. I thought I would try my hand making them at home.

I like to improvise, and I went to town on my homemade grain bowls! Every day I concoct something different. like a variety of colors and textures and tastes. I like my bowls to serve my health as well as my eyes and tastebuds and mouth-feel.

So far I’ve used quinoa and wild rice, both hearty grain-like seeds. In the future I may use brown rice, black rice, buckwheat.

I could also replace the grains/seeds with legumes, and if I want more protein, I can add baked tofu, nuts, seeds, a jammy egg, feta, a sardine. (I’m not vegan, but I am making my diet more plant-based.)

I typically add spring mix but I could use any other kind of lettuce. Other raw veggies: those colorful mini-bell peppers, mixed colors of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, snap peas, green onions, chopped cauliflower, broccoli, or kale will all make a more salad-like bowl.

Possibilities for cooked veggies include asparagus, carrots, celery, green beans, mushrooms, spinach, sweet potatoes, squash, kale, chard, collards, beets. It’s good to research which veggies have more nutrients cooked, versus raw. (Not everyone agrees.) It’s a good way to use leftovers, too.

I enjoy the taste of pickled veggies, and I’ve pickled red cabbage at home…it’s easy, adds a pop of color and taste, and is a lot faster than making kraut. Pickled beets, okra, or ginger add nice pops of flavor, too.

Fermenting food is one of my favorite ways to prepare food. How much should you eat in a day? Short answer: as many types as you can, to strengthen your immune system and improve digestion.

Right now I have kombucha in my cupboard, going through a second fermentation with pomegranate juice. A two-quart jar of beet kvass sits on my counter. My refrigerator holds two jars of homemade kim chi.

I’ll soon be making kraut from a big beautiful red cabbage and salt. Kombucha, kvass, kim chi, and kraut are the big 4 Ks in my kitchen.

I also fermented soy beans, inoculating them with store-bought frozen natto. I now have lots of sticky, stringy natto that is so good with kim chi, and so good for getting calcium into your bones.

Wow, where am I? I really went off on a tangent there! I add kim chi or kraut to my bowls.

There are lots of ways to garnish a bowl: fresh sprouts, microgreens, pepitas, pistachios, chopped walnuts or almonds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, pomegranate seeds, blueberries!

I like Bragg’s dressings made with olive oil. I love a good sesame-ginger dressing too. There’s a delicious miso dressing sold at H-E-B (Oka’s) that I want to replicate with healthy oil. Salsa, tahini, and yogurt are other possibilities.

The opportunities to create beautiful food that tastes great are many. These bowls are balanced, colorful, textured, and nutrient-dense. I like to eat one for my main meal of the day. If I’m hungry in the evening, I eat lightly.

The three ignitions, plus some great questions

It’s been a good long while since I’ve posted anything here, and I have a free Monday morning, so here goes!

I just got back last night from a 3-day retreat on Biodynamics and Spiritual Embodiment taught by my colleague Christian Current. (If you don’t know already, I practice craniosacral biodynamics in Austin and Taos. Professional website: maryannreynolds.com.)

The setting was a private rural acreage 25 miles away from my home — with only the sounds of birds, wind, wind chimes, and running water from bubbling pools and fountains. No noise from traffic, sirens, planes — lovely. There were cabins, an Airstream, and a Winnebago for sleeping, and a talented young cook provided fresh healthful tasty food for the 12 of us. A pool and hot tub and gardens rounded out the amenities.

The retreat centered around the three energetic ignitions that occur in every living human before and right after birth: the conception ignition, the heart ignition, and the birth ignition.

Please note that the locations of these ignitions correspond to the upper, middle, and lower dantiens in Taoist energy physiology, to the three bony compartments of our bodies, the cranium, rib cage, and pelvis, and to three major energies we experience as humans, the energies of being, of relating, and of autonomy.

I learned a lot! Did you know that there’s a flash of light at conception, and that after the invited sperm embeds in the ovum, the sperm head dissolves and 20 minutes of complete stillness follow?

Maybe that’s why so many meditation guidelines recommend 20 minutes once or twice a day.

Did you know that the place where the sperm enters the egg becomes the third eye/ajna chakra/third ventricle of brain?

Did you know that blood is the first organ (it’s connective tissue) and it forms the heart? Not, as one might think, the container forms first and then fills.

Did you know that when the umbilical cord stops pulsing (on its own — it’s frequently severed too soon) and the first breath is taken, an ignition occurs that where the baby separates as an entity from its mother?

There was so much more. Some of it I’ve learned in previous trainings, but not in this much depth.

Oh, and it was full of great questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I want? What makes me happy?
  • What power(s) do I wield? What effects do I see I make in the world or myself?

I wanted to find the clearest truth possible in each of my answers:

  • I am loving awareness, which is always present as a baseline.
  • What I want and what makes me happy are the same: fulfillment.
  • My greatest power is choice.

How would you answer these questions?

Swishing with salt water reduces gum disease

I have a new dental hygienist, Melissa, and one of the things I love about my dentist is that she hires people who are really experienced and good at what they do. Turnover is really low in her office.

The excellent hygienist she replaced went on to a job teaching dental hygiene. Her students are lucky to have her.

I’ve written about my dental issues before: the one back molar that had a pocket that kept getting deeper…4, 5, 7, 8…

Short version of how it happened: When I had my wisdom teeth extracted ages ago, the dentist did not remove the extra gum tissue. Years after, I got a piece of popcorn kernel stuck between the now-back molar (tooth #2) and that extra gum tissue. I could not get it out, went to sleep, and the next day I couldn’t feel it any more. It softened from saliva.

I forgot about it, but that gum tissue slowly became infected from bacteria drawn to the stuck food, and it eventually affected the bone.

I finally had the tooth extracted and bone treated a couple of years ago. Problem solved. Whew.

The thing is, having one deep pocket affects the entire microbiome of the mouth. Those inflammatory bacteria spread and deepen other pockets.

I still had some recovery to do.

My new hygienist gave me a very valuable tip. She said that if I swished salt water in my mouth for one minute after brushing and flossing, and did that every night for six months, my pockets would go down two points (millimeters).

She says a pocket 4 mm deep is consider borderline. Better to get 1, 2, or 3. A depth of 5mm or greater is serious, requiring more frequent cleanings and treatments.

I starting doing the saltwater swish, using about 1/8 teaspoon of Real salt (my favorite for cooking as well) and a tablespoon or two of warm water.

My setup for salt water swishing

Although I was not as consistent as she prescribed, I did it frequently enough that my pockets did indeed go down. Last week, a year after I started salt water swishing, Melissa took a look in my mouth and didn’t even bother to measure the pockets…they were all 1s and 2s.

My mouth feels deeply clean after the salt water swish. The reduction in bacteria helps your breath stay fresh longer, too.

Another bonus: the dental office is now scheduling my cleanings every 6 months instead of every 4 months.

Swishing with salt water after brushing and flossing is simple, inexpensive, and easily obtainable.

How does it work?

Salt pulls fluids out of tissues, reducing inflammation and swelling.

Salt alkalizes the pH of the mouth, reducing harmful bacteria that prefer an acidic environment to thrive. Thus, it is anti-bacterial, killing bacteria causing gingivitis and bad breath and reducing plaque on teeth. You can skip the mouthwash.

The swishing action also loosens any food particles not removed by brushing and flossing (and if you don’t have time to floss, swishing will at least keep your mouth cleaner).

It reportedly helps with canker sores and soothes toothaches.

Salt water swishing also promotes healing after dental procedures, preventing painful “dry socket” after an extraction.

If you gargle the salt water before spitting it out, it soothes sore throats and prevents colds, upper respiratory infections, and virus transmission.

Precautions? Don’t swallow it, spit it out! Don’t overdo it, either. Once or twice a day is enough. Overuse could irritate inflamed gums. Also, use warm water if your teeth are sensitive to cold.

I used a CGM to monitor my blood sugar

I’ve been wearing a continuous glucose monitor for a few months. It’s a sensor on the back of my upper arm that I scan with my phone using an app that analyzes data.

I enter what I eat and when.

I was curious about how glucose affected me. Apparently people can’t tell when their glucose is too high, unlike when it’s too low. And with so many people being prediabetic or diabetic, I wanted personal information.

Things I’ve learned:

It’s all about carbs/sugars/starches — whatever you call it, it’s converted to glucose.

Warm roasted potatoes make my glucose spike high. Cold potatoes not so much, and I presume that other starchy foods like cold rice or pasta salads would be the same. Better cold than hot.

(Another benefit: I understand many grains and starchy veggies, when served cold, create resistant starch, which feeds gut bacteria.)

Half a serving of warm potatoes doesn’t spike it nearly as much. Same with a banana. Half is better — you still get some carbs but keep glucose levels down.

I’ve read that not everyone responds the same. Some people may be able to eat warm potatoes and not have their glucose spike as high as mine did.

I haven’t tested popcorn yet and am curious.

You want your glucose to come back to baseline within 2-3 hours after eating.

One staple of my diet, at least in summer, is a large salad of greens, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato, green onions, black olives, capers, walnuts, and sprouts, with half a filet of wild salmon or some chicken sprinkled across the top, drenched in a balsamic vinaigrette I make with olive oil.

It does not budge my blood sugar.

My reading on a really good day

Walking or otherwise exercising after eating lowers glucose because you’re burning it as energy, especially if you eat carbs.

You want to keep glucose levels between 70 and 140, with your daily average below 105.

Fasting glucose is measured two hours after waking up and not eating anything. Eating dinner and/or drinking alcohol closer to bedtime raises it. Try to eat your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime.

That’s a key indicator of future health. Here’s more info on levels, from Levels, another CGM company (that has a wait list).

Also, you may understand from this why intermittent fasting (eating within a 4-8 hour window) makes such a difference in health.

If you don’t want to use a CGM device, you can use the finger prick method of obtaining your fasting glucose level two hours after waking. Research shows that a fasting glucose reading of 86 is ideal for health and longevity purposes.

That, and keeping it steady from day to day, are the best and easiest ways to optimize healthy blood sugar levels.

NutriSense is the company I used. I had access to a dietitian for free the first month.

If you want to try it with $25 off your first month, use this: https://nutrisense.io?code=MARYANNR