What I’m reading, April 2013

Taking stock of books I’m currently reading, just read, or soon to start:

The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff by Jeanne de Salzmann. My Fourth Way  group undertook reading this book aloud together. De Salzmann was one of Gurdjieff’s long-time students. She wrote about his teachings in a straightforward way, making them understandable and accessible. Her heirs found her undated notes after she died at 101 and published them a couple of years ago.

The book is about waking up the Essential Self. There are many, many passages I could share, but this one is from early in the book:

Gurdjieff taught the necessity of self-observation, but this practice has been mostly misunderstood. Usually when I try to observe, there is a point from which the observation is made, and my mind projects the idea of observing, of an observer separate from the object being observed. But the idea of observing is not the observing. Seeing is not an idea. It is an act, the act of seeing…it is an experience that can take place only if there is no separation between what sees and what is seen….

Next up for my book group is Practical Work on Self, by E.J. Gold. After that, we’ll be reading Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson: All and Everything, by Gurdjieff , which will probably take us two years, accompanied by a commentary.

On my own, I’m currently reading Gurdjieff: Making a New World by J.G. Bennett, about Gurdjieff’s searches for ancient wisdom (which has me using Google Maps to get familiar with the geography mentioned — Gurdjieff traveled from the Caucasus region to Egypt, Ethiopia, Tibet, Siberia, Italy, and points between in his searches, done on foot, horseback, and by rail before 1915).

Before starting Beelzebub’s Tales, I plan to  read In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching by P.D. Ouspensky, an account of his teachings by an early student.

I’m also interested in reading J.G. Bennett’s book Enneagram Studies to learn more about Gurdjieff’s understanding of the enneagram. He used the enneagram symbol extensively, but I’m not sure how it relates to the system of understanding the fixations that keep us asleep.

It’s not hard to understand the attraction of someone who believes wellness must include body, mind, heart, and spirit to the Fourth Way of Gurdjieff. I like the format of my group: We take turns reading, engage in discussion, do exercises.

I’m interested in Gurdjieff’s teachings, but I wouldn’t call myself a follower. I’m more of an explorer seeking wisdom. By the way, although he was fluent in Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Russian, and other languages, Gurdjieff didn’t write in English, and apparently a lot of what he wrote was embellished for teaching purposes and not necessarily straightforward, so to understand his teachings, it helps to read what his students wrote.

I do think he was a remarkable man and urge anyone interested in his life and teachings to at least see the film Meetings with Remarkable Men, or read his book of the same name, an account of his search for ancient spiritual wisdom.

Another book on my nightstand is called mBraining: Using Your Multiple Brains to Do Cool Stuff, by Marvin Oka and Grant Soosalu. It includes recent findings in neuroscience about the head, heart, and gut brains and how using these multiple brains can increase intuition and wiser decision-making. The authors’ background is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), cognitive linguistics, and behavioral modeling.

Our modern culture emphasizes the head brain. We try to think our way out of problems. Farming and civilization have been around for 12,000 years, and we are still killing each other. We are now ruining the planet we live on. In my opinion,  more intelligences are direly needed! I would surely like to have more resources, to use my multiple brains appropriately and experience less conflict, more intuition, better decisions…

So how do you tell which brain is operating? How do you know which brain is best suited for a given situation? How do you know when they’re not working together? How can you strengthen the brain you use the least? How can you ensure all three brains are in alignment for important decisions, relationships, and well-being?

Read the book and learn!

I’m in a different book group reading a book unrelated to the above books except as it applies to my quality of life. We are reading Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence to become knowledgeable and mindful about the role of money in our lives. We use a study guide (available for $5 from The Simple Living Network) developed for groups using the book to start on the path toward financial freedom. We meet seven times.

So far, I’ve added up my lifetime earnings (way more than I thought), started tracking every cent that comes in and out, started an inventory of my possessions, calculated my real hourly wage, and come up with a way to determine whether my spending is fulfilling and aligned with my values.

The authors have gotten feedback that after implementing the nine steps, people have reduced their expenses by 25 percent within 6 months and say their quality of life has gone way up. I’m finding this very helpful since I’ve transitioned from being an employee with a regular paycheck to being self-employed.

I’m also making my way through a couple of bodywork books, which I’ll write about another time.

If you’re reading this, you’re a reader. May you find books that nourish you!

Election, holidays: with respect for grace and sanity

The election is over. This time it was different. I felt more detached, less prone to let others’ emotions affect me.

I don’t own a TV. I do listen to public radio in my car sometimes, and I sometimes check out the headlines online, so I’m not completely unfamiliar with current events. I check Facebook and Twitter almost daily, and I caught a lot of people’s posts/tweets about the candidates, issues, things the candidates ignored that should have been issues, spin, and so on.

I didn’t get wound up about it. I knew who I would vote for, and I followed through. The candidate I voted for won, which isn’t always the case. Now we’ll see how the nation and the world fare for the next four years.

It was surprisingly serene.

Thanksgiving was also very low-key this year. I cooked, and a couple of friends came over for potluck, talk, and play. Then we went to see The Life of Pi in 3D. I’d read the book and thought the film was well-done.

I went to another movie the next day with my family. Did not go shopping. Worked Saturday morning. Danced with my ecstatic community in our new space on Sunday morning. Worked Sunday evening.

We’re supposed to feel grateful at Thanksgiving. I have gotten leery of “supposed to” thinking. I could have posted a feel-good post about Thanksgiving, yet something inside made me hesitate.

Even better than feeling grateful because it’s Thanksgiving: Listening to how you really feel.

What if your highest purpose in life is to be yourself and to love yourself no matter what?

Anyway, my best wish for us all is to get through this holiday season with grace and sanity.

Renewing my sitting practice, massage self care, oil pulling, and a 21-day challenge: Byron Katie’s The Work

I got away from my meditation practice. For many months.

It always seemed like a good idea when I thought about it, and I still didn’t actually do it more than occasionally. Committing to 20-30 minutes of doing nothing — well, it seemed like I didn’t have time. I had other things to do.

This is after years of meditating and a full year of daily sitting.

Hmmm. The mind plays tricks, takes itself way too seriously, makes excuses, avoids.

I missed it, and when a friend told me she gets out of bed and sits first thing every day, it inspired me to start again.

I was also inspired by the film The Dhamma Brothers, about a program in an Alabama prison where inmates did vipassana meditation, 10 days of silent sitting. It was profound to see peace on the faces of men who had committed terrible crimes.

One inmate said:

I thought my biggest fear was growing old and dying in prison. In truth, my biggest fear was growing old and not knowing myself.

Meditation has always been about facing my self, from the day I started, so tentatively, having realized that nothing else I had tried was taking my suffering away, so I might at least fully face it.

It didn’t take it away, but I quickly understood that my experience was larger than my suffering.

Aren’t we all in prisons of some kind? Fears, mindless behaviors, disconnections, denial, insane beliefs…

I want to know myself. And that in itself is such a koan, I felt inspired to sit with it.

Getting on the computer first thing in the morning is my worst distraction. I seem to have developed an affinity for my laptop, for Facebook, email, checking my blog stats, reading what interests me. Time can get away from me. It’s like an addiction.

So I realized that I need to sit first thing. Actually, I do a couple of sun salutations first. Otherwise, more of my attention goes to my aches and pains when I sit.

Yoga frees my mind to pay more attention to noticing my thoughts and sensing the subtle energies.

Today I experienced this:

Indeed, the ineffability of the air seems akin to the ineffability of awareness itself, and we should not be surprised that many indigenous peoples construe awareness, or ‘mind,’ not as a power that resides inside their heads, but rather as a quality that they themselves are inside of, along with the other animals and the plants, the mountains and the clouds. ~ David Abram

Tom Best would love that quote. Living inside of awareness. Sweet. I miss him.

~~~

I’ve been giving 15-20 massages a week, and my body is feeling it. I like the honesty of physical work, and I’m learning about remedies like rosemary oil for achy thumbs, trigger points on the forearm, wrist stretches.

Immersing myself in the cold waters of Barton Springs and snorkeling a lap is very, very good for aches and pains. I sleep well.

I’ve also changed up my mouth care routine. I’m brushing with turmeric (if you try it, be careful because it stains towels and possibly porcelain, but it whitens teeth and reduces inflammation in gum pockets), tongue scraping, flossing, oil pulling with organic coconut oil (sometimes adding a drop of peppermint or clove oil).

I do the oil pulling for 20 minutes most days.

So far, my teeth are whiter, my mouth feels cleaner, and my breath smells good throughout the day.

I’ve done this about a week now. I want to do it for a couple of months and see if it makes a big difference. Some folks claim that oil pulling has huge unexpected health benefits; some say that’s because it reduces inflammation in the mouth and body.

I’ll let you know.

~~~

Finally, I am planning to start a new 21-day challenge on Sept. 1, ending on the fall equinox. I will be doing The Work of Byron Katie, starting with her Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.

I will do at least one worksheet online so people can see how The Work actually works.

I’m also re-reading her book, Loving What Is (which she autographed for me last time I saw her!), and will add insights from that and the workshops I’ve attended.

If you’d like to do it along with me, here’s a link to the worksheet online.

Free screening of Meetings with Remarkable Men: a film about Gurdjieff

My weekly book group, the Austin Redfin Group, just recently up and named itself and decided to host a public event!

We’ve been reading books about “The Work” of G.I. Gurdjieff, a famous Russian mystic and spiritual teacher. Right now we’re reading The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff, by Jeanne de Salzmann, his closest follower, whose notes on his teachings were just published in 2010, even though Gurdjieff died in 1949. I find her writing very clear and accessible.

We’ve also read books by E.J. Gold, author of the American Book of the Dead and many books in the Gurdjieffian Fourth Way tradition.

We’re hosting a viewing of the 1979 film Meetings with Remarkable Men, based on one of Gurdjieff’s books of the same name. The film covers his adventurous search for truth, his initiation into the mysterious Sarmoung Brotherhood, and a demonstration of the movements and sacred dances that later became part of The Work.

Filmed on location in Afghanistan, the movie tells a story of the universal search for the truth and meaning of life and the desire to awaken and realize oneself.

The screening is at Casa de Luz, Serena Room, 1701 Toomey Rd., on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, from 7-9ish pm.

If you are or have been a seeker after truth, you might really enjoy seeing this film. Please consider yourself invited to attend.

My short psychic reading

Today I had a psychic reading. Have you ever done that?

In the past, I’ve worked with Richard Ungar many times. He does hand analysis and does not claim to be psychic, although he’s very intuitive. He’s been trying to bring the ancient art of palmistry into the realm of science (he founded the International Institute of Hand Analysis), and to that end, has utilized massive databases of finger- and hand-prints.

I’ve studied Richard’s book, Life Prints, and taken my friends’ and family members’ fingerprints, which I decoded for them. Very fun.

I highly recommend getting a reading with Richard if you ever have a chance.

I’ve also had astrological readings done. The last one was last summer. I’m happy to say that my Jupiter return, which occurs once every 12 years, begins at the end of this month, and I am so looking forward to moving into a period of expansion.

Today Joe Nicols, a long-time, well-known Austin palmist/psychic, read my hands in a 10-minute reading. I found what he had to say interesting and am considering going back to him for a full reading.

Joe wears a suit, and one of my companions was very impressed by that!

First, by looking at the backs of my hands, he said that I’d had an emotional disturbance recently. Yes.

He told me I’d been blind in a previous life, and that I’m very careful who I listen to. He said he was flattered that I was listening to him.

Huh. I do know that I am (often) more auditory than visual and that uncorrected, my vision is in the -9 to -10 range, extremely near-sighted. The pleasures of making eye contact were an adult revelation.

Over the past few years, I have gotten choosy about people’s voices. I’ve been disturbed by certain voices and distanced myself because hearing the person talk grated on my nerves. It’s partly their tone and partly hearing their mindless suffering.

I prefer to be around people who are careful with their speech, who really understand it as communication. People have interesting communication habits (including me, I’m sure). Some are predictable and straightforward, some deliver with a smile or laugh, and some bury what I consider important information and only later do I get it. Some withhold it.

I also like people who are emotionally sensitive — not just about what they hear but also about what they say. Insensitivity is alienating, and I say that as someone who knows she has responded to it in kind but who later regrets not calling the other on it when first received. Insensitivities tear at the fabric of trust, in my opinion.

I have a strong aversion to hearing bad news given badly. I like to be prepared for it and be offered emotional support.

These are just some things I’ve noticed about listening, partly from having bumped into someone whose communication style I sometimes found difficult and puzzling.

Joe told me that I’d been a healer for many, many lifetimes, doing healing of various types — as a doctor, midwife, and so on.

This makes sense to me. I can easily believe that I’ve met up with people I’ve known as fellow healers in previous lives, and they’ve drawn me back into healing work in this lifetime. I’m coming home.

He said I came into this lifetime ready to make a mark but that factors in my early life dampened that. True.

He said I have the mark of an athlete in my hands. That was surprising, but yep, if you consider yoga and dance athletic.

He also said that I could have done many things in this lifetime. He said I could have been an engineer, for instance. Hmm. Okay.

Joe also said I’d been a writer in many, many lifetimes, and that I was once a man who wrote with a quill pen!

Whoa. I wonder if I wrote standing up. I wonder if I wore a powdered wig. I wonder what I wrote! Wow! If I knew who I was in this previous life, I could look up my writing!

You could say that by blogging about wellness and practicing massage, I’m continuing two karmic traditions. Joe had no idea that that’s what I do.

Joe told me that I’m not materialistic and can’t be bought. Yep, I know that’s true.

Joe also spoke to me about having an aversion to being trapped, because I wear no jewelry on my hands. (I said, “But I’m a massage therapist. I don’t wear rings or bracelets when I’m working, so it’s easier not to wear them at all.” He replied that my conscious mind may understand it that way, but it’s deeper than that. Okay.)

Yes, of course I have an aversion to being trapped! Who wants to be trapped? I asked him what was wrong with that, and he made it sound like it was necessary to allow oneself to be trapped to be in a relationship.

Hmm. I still don’t like it. Surely there’s got to be a happy place of being in a relationship and not feeling trapped.

Joe then switched from reading my hands to reading cards. He had me shuffle an ordinary deck a few times and cut the cards. Then he laid them out in a spread to give me a reading on love.

He said I was entering a time of exploring new relationships, that I’m open to it and will learn from it, and in a couple of years I will be very drawn toward someone who is talkative, busy, and a mover and shaker.

That sounds good. May he be drawn to me as well.

How to bounce back

Sometimes in life, things are going well, and then something happens, and before you know it, you’ve gotten off track. Unpleasant surprises having to do with work, love, friendship, money, health, family, whatever we care about, can put us into an experience of suffering (aka “pain with a story”).

So what do you do to get back on track? Here’s what works for me:

  1. Realize it’s a process and there’s probably not an instant fix. Accept that you’re off track instead of pretending that everything is fine. Relax into it.
  2. Take care of your health. Go to bed and wake at the regular times. Eat healthy food, and not too much comfort food. Drink plenty of water. Exercise in whatever form you enjoy. Dance, run, do yoga, shadow-box. Move your body. A little sweat won’t hurt a bit, either. If you need inspiration, listen to this and try some of James Brown’s moves. You know he taught Michael Jackson how to dance:
  3. Let your emotions flow instead of suppressing them. Movement can help with this too. Walk around and make nonsense noises and start moving how you feel. Waaahhhhh! Grrrrrrr! Listen to music that helps you cry if tears feel blocked — this music can help:
     If you don’t feel safe expressing your feelings to another human being, write them out. Or get curious — what is the name of the emotion? Where in your body are you feeling it? How would your body like to move with this emotion? If you could dance it or see it dancing, what would that be like? What kind of music would it be dancing to? What color is it?
  4. Do something that will really make you feel better. There are tons of techniques that can be helpful. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) works for a lot of people. Now, this may seem crazy, but an even simpler technique for restoring emotional equilibrium is to slowly toss a small ball from hand to hand. While tossing it, slowly look toward the ceiling, close your eyes, and return your head to normal position. (It will take some practice to do this.) If you drop the ball, pick it up and start over (it’s easiest to do over a bed or sofa). It induces the feeling of being centered. Even 2 minutes of it shifts me. For theory and details on this, see Mind Juggling on Nelson Zink’s awesome website Navaching.
  5. Set boundaries that work for you. They don’t have to be permanent, but if you need a break from something that drains your energy, just take one. You being drained contributes to no one’s well-being. One of my favorite films of all time is Office Space. Make like Peter and don’t give a damn. You don’t have to drink the Kool-Aid. Savor your own mojo, and don’t give it away to the unappreciative.
  6. Think happy thoughts, imagine happy pictures, feel the good experiences you’ve had again. Do you know someone who has a radiant smile? Imagine their wonderful face. Has someone been particularly kind to you? Remember that feeling. What words do you like to hear? “Everything is going to be all right” is very soothing. Really, who the hell knows how everything is going to be, but saying that to yourself can feel comforting. Also, I have a big envelope full of cards, letters, and photos that people have given me over the past few years. When I pull that out and look through it, I feel reconnected with the good will of these people who’ve cared enough about me to make that effort. (Reminds me to make more of an effort myself toward that end.)
  7. Do something spiritual. Could be meditation, an act of kindness, reading spiritual books or listening to audiotapes, feeling gratitude, forgiving those who’ve hurt you. Even laughing, because laughter is a gift from the gods. Here’s James Altucher’s hilarious blog post on 60 second meditations. (I love washing dishes.)

This has been my favorite blog post to write, because I wrote it to help myself bounce back. So I guess 8. would be to write up your own methods of bouncing back, testing each step.

Before you know it, you’ve returned to your healthy self.

Dance, ecstasy, Pina, play

Today I had three dance experiences, which made it a wonderfully memorable day.

  1. I participated in Ecstatic Dance Austin this morning.
  2. I saw the film Pina by Wim Wenders, about the late German dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch, her work, and her dancers.
  3. My friend Peggy and I walked and played our way around Town Lake.

There is a shortcut to ecstasy. It’s called dance. ~ Gabrielle Roth

I am in love with Ecstatic Dance Austin, feeling so grateful that I have two hours every Sunday morning as an outlet for my energy, movement, physicality, playfulness, experimentation, and connection.

Today it occurred to me that if I didn’t have this, I’d curl up in a ball and die, or at least be really depressed. When I’m struggling over relationships, finances, work, decisions, politics, life, this is a place where I can give all that heaviness over to Spirit and just move, feel, connect, play, and be present. Life becomes a dance.

It is joy to walk into a big dance studio with a great sound system playing the kind of music that invites movement. I move out onto the floor. I begin moving.

Because there’s no talking, I connect with people using eye contact, smiles, and sometimes hugs. Sometimes I create my own space by closing my eyes and dancing.

I smile a lot because I feel so radiant and happy. There’s joy in the present moment, of course. My more personal joy is that I’ve worked on my health for years with bodywork, yoga, and a clean diet, and I feel great. My stamina is good — I stay moving, even through the burning fire of dancing all-out chaos. My creativity is good — there’s no end to discovering rewarding movements that morph into new grooves. My capacity for living and dancing from joy is good — although I have moments when heavy thoughts arise in my awareness during dance, I can move through them and return to joy.

I find ecstatic dance to be a great healing antidote. If I’m suffering relationship woes, I can dance with men who appreciate me, move with me, play with me, honor me. They don’t know my story, and I don’t know theirs. We just dance. A couple of dances can restore my sense of being valued as a woman by the other sex.

And for days when I’m fed up with male egos, I can have playful, fun dances with women.

And of course, I can have dances with men or women, or men and women, any time for no reason at all except that we’re together in the studio, there’s some great music playing, and we share the joy.

The physicality of it, the improvisational nature of ecstatic dance, the freedom and goodness I feel in my body, the wave of rhythms that peaks somewhere in the middle just clear me out until nothing is left but sweat, breath, and oneness.

Afterward we sit or lie spent in a big circle on the floor and give ourselves a couple of minutes of silence. We say names. We have announcements. We mingle and leave.

 

Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost. ~ Pina Bausch

Pina, the film written, directed, and produced by Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, Buena Vista Social Club), is showing at the Violet Crown in downtown Austin. The film has been nominated for Best Documentary for the Academy Awards. (Click the link to view the awesome trailer.)

Pina Bausch worked with Tanztheater Wuppertal in Berlin from 1973 until her sudden death in 2009. Rather than being a biographical documentary, Pina shows her choreographic work and the dancers who danced her work speaking about her.

Here’s a clip (it’s in 3D, by the way — first dance film in 3D, that I know of — thanks, Wim Wenders!):

And here’s another:

And another:

She painted with dancers, movement, costumes. Her dances are not ecstatic dance — they are choreographed — but from what I could tell, she started with improvisation, asking for instance for a dancer to show her joy. Although some of the dance is highly structured, it retains its aliveness.

The film is a revelation — about life, love, pain, loneliness, longing. And creativity and playfulness.

WIM WENDERS ABOUT PINA BAUSCH
No, there was no hurricane that swept across the stage,
there were just … people performing
who moved differently then I knew
and who moved me as I had never been moved before.
After only a few moments I had a lump in my throat,
and after a few minutes of unbelieving amazement
I simply let go of my feelings
and cried unrestrainedly.
This had never happened to me before…
maybe in life, sometimes in the cinema,
but not when watching a rehearsed production,
let alone choreography.
This was not theatre, nor pantomime,
nor ballet and not at all opera.
Pina is, as you know,
the creator of a new art.
Dance theatre.

I loved seeing the dances, dancers, costumes, settings. This film inspires me. I want colorful, flowing, sexy evening gowns to dance in. I want to play with movement, to experiment, to have fun.

 

I can trust my friends. These people force me to examine, encourage me to grow. ~ Cher

Peggy is a dancer and choreographer and a dear friend of mine for years. Having just seen the film and danced our way out of the theater, we walked around Town Lake incorporating playful movements — stepping stylishly between two trees, walking on benches, doing asana on bridges, mimicking the arm gestures we saw in the film, striking poses, waving arms, adding twirls and hops into our walk.

We made our walk into a dance, and you know I’m such a sucker for dancing in unlikely places. The hike and bike trail is as good a place as any, maybe better than most.

It was a beautiful cloudy cool winter afternoon, and people were out enjoying themselves on the trail, walking, running, biking. Our play gave them a little extra enjoyment. People can be so serious, it’s like an illness. We put smiles on their faces.

As we played, we talked about creating dances. We shared some hilarious, outrageous, fun, engaging ideas for dances.

I hope we do them. I’m moved!

Two years of blogging, and happy first birthday, wellbodymindheartspirit!

Two years ago today, I posted my first blog post on this blog. Back then, this blog was called The Zafu Report. After the first year, I expanded its mission and changed the name to The Well: bodymindheartspirit. The blog has evolved as I have evolved, and it’s been a great journey of learning by doing.

I am grateful to WordPress for providing templates and widgets that make it look good and take the skill and decision-making that goes with that out of my hands, freeing me up to write.

I thought I’d celebrate by listing the most viewed posts and thanking all of you who have connected. This, by the way, is the 503rd post I’ve published, and the blog has now received 26,847 views with 156 followers. My biggest lesson: persistence pays off.

  1. Home Page has gotten 4,493 views. Of course, the home page changes with each new post, so if you click a link that takes you to the blog, Home Page is where you land.
  2. Update on my Spartan trailer has received 1,844 views and the second most comments. A lot of people using search engines to find information about Spartan trailers end up here. (“spartan trailer,” “spartan trailer for sale,” “spartan carousel,” and “spartan trailers” are among the top 10 search engine terms to steer viewers to this blog.) I feel kind of badly for them because this is not a blog about Spartans. I happen to have purchased, transported, remodeled, and moved into a Spartan Carousel in the past year, and it’s definitely part of my lifestyle redesign to a more sustainable, less stressful way of life. In that way, it fits into my main topic of wellness, and after some internal debate, I decided to post about it here. Some Spartan-appreciating readers have lingered, commented, and/or checked out vintage campers.com or trailerchix.com, and I’ve made a few new friends whose interests jive with mine in a broader way. This particular post was added in April 2011 when I had purchased the trailer but was still awaiting title and delivery.
  3. Trauma releasing exercises has gotten 1,132 views. This post in May 2010 was written when I first revealed that I’d been experimenting with them. I’ve written a lot of posts since then about both trauma releasing exercises and shaking medicine, but this one has gotten the most views, mostly via search engines, because of the simple title.
  4. More yoga tattoos! has been viewed 566 times. That post actually links to Alison Hinks’ blog post of yoga tattoos. She’s awesome with the visuals! The internet must have many users who are hungry for tattoos relating to Asian spirituality, since “yoga tattoos,” “yoga tattoo,” and “buddha tattoo” are also among the top 10 search terms that landed viewers here. I have a yoga tattoo myself, a small OM.
  5. About me is actually a page, not a post. It’s received 500 views. I actually revise that page every so often because how I describe myself changes and will continue to change. Good for you for coming back. This page has gotten a few comments, too.
  6. Comparing trauma release and shaking medicine videos has gotten 336 views, and I’m pleased to have posted it. My exploration of these healing modalities included locating videos of each online and sharing. Curious viewers can see each modality in action.
  7. Book review: Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson is the next most viewed blog post, at 326 views. I enjoyed reading this book and writing this review. I especially liked the appendix to the book that lists supplements for optimal brain health, written by Rick Hanson’s wife, an acupuncturist. I wrote about that in Buddha’s Brain: Supplements for brain health (236 views). I take them.
  8. The left brain right brain crossover has received 322 views. That seems surprising for an anatomy topic, but I guess a lot of curious brain geeks out there are wondering about this too. I got a few comments, and it was reassuring that one reader told me, “just to let you know that you could study this for years and it would still remain an enigma. such is the complexity of the human brain – even at a macroscopic level!”
  9. Spartan Carousel has arrived! got 319 views. That was posted in late June of 2011, the day after it arrived from southeast Washington.  It has some photos, and it’s received more comments than any other post. Thank you for sharing my joyous relief at its arrival!
  10. The tenth most viewed post is Fantastic prehistoric cave art movie, posted May 17, 2011, with 307 views. I loved that film by Werner Erhardt. This post was written before I saw the movie. It included online research I did in advance of seeing it. Okay, I know I’m geeky like that! My actual review, Movie review: The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, was the 20th most viewed blog post.

So there you have it, the most viewed posts in two years of blogging. Thank you for reading.

A changework and bodywork session

One evening this past week, I received a special honor. I got to do changework and bodywork with someone who has done changework and bodywork with me. I’m not going to provide any identifying information out of respect for her privacy. Think of this as a case study: it really happened, but you will never be able to tell whose experience it was, and in any case, it doesn’t really matter.

I’m writing this session up to illustrate what I am offering in my private practice: changework combined with bodywork.

Most everyone is at least familiar with what bodywork and massage are. Changework is less known. You can think of it as a kind of coaching, with applications for managing stress, becoming more relaxed, changing your stories, shelving beliefs that no longer apply, clarifying, removing obstacles, getting unstuck, achieving goals, knowing yourself, expanding, transforming emotions, and more.

I have some training and experience I can draw on, but mostly I listen to understand and offer support for a client to explore and find movement toward resolution. Sometimes just being really listened to makes a huge difference. Sometimes a client just needs another point of view. Sometimes a question or two can open up a whole new direction. Sometimes a technique can help.

When a positive shift has occurred, we move into the bodywork part of a session — to literally embody the change.

My client had overdone it with some physical activity and then made a ducking, twisting movement — and her back started spasming. After several days, the spasms were entirely gone and she went back to work…and they returned. She understood then that the spasms were probably tied to something else.

She had already done significant work on this before we met. She examined what had been happening emotionally before the injury occurred — especially in regard to work, because the spasms resumed when she went back to work.

She had been feeling irritated about some of her clients not taking care of themselves despite all she had put into their sessions. (This experience is pretty universal among health care providers.) She was just being with this awareness, not knowing what she was going to do about it, when she overdid it and started having back spasms. She put resolving this issue on hold.

Once she identified the unresolved issue, bringing it into the light, she made some changes in her work, and a deeper level of healing began.

She was still feeling like more exploration was needed when she came to me.

I asked how I could help, and she said maybe we could do a little tapping — EFT, the Emotional Freedom Technique. I shared with her a version I like, and she tapped away as we talked.

With EFT, you identify what you are feeling. Behind the irritability, she recognized that she felt sad about not being able to help.

I asked if she could really know that she wasn’t helping these clients, and she said no.

Sometimes people have to step in the hole again (or a thousand times; see Groundhog Day, one of my favorite movies) before they walk around it.

When someone finally makes a decision (or the decision makes itself) to walk around the hole, changing has become more attractive than not changing. Her clients’ experiences of her own healthy vibrancy, her work, and her commitment to well-being are of course part of the force-field that makes changing to healthier habits more attractive. It just might take them awhile to really be ready, though.

On her own, she came up with an inspiring course to take — if some of her clients are choosing the shadow over the light, and she’s resisting them doing that, then maybe now is a great time for her to examine her own shadow side.

Brilliant. Perfect for the season, too, as the nights get longer.

Then she got on the table, and I gave her a deep massage, which she had not previously experienced. She loved 9 points (TLC people, if you’re reading this, you’ll know what I mean). I reached some back muscle tenderness and melted into it.

She blissed out on the table, and I finished working on her, and we talked a little more, and she slipped away into the night — until we meet again.

The Tree of Life: go see it!

I just saw an extraordinary movie. The Tree of Life is about the mystery that we live our lives in, that surrounds us all.

I’m not a film critic. I’m just a lover of good films. This film is worth blogging about to spread the word. If I liked it, maybe you will too, if you’ve found your way here.

It’s hard to describe this film because it’s so different from most movies. It doesn’t really have a linear narrative, and yet it does, so if someone asks you what it’s about, you could say it’s about a central Texas family in the 1950s or early 1960s, a mother, father, and three boys.

It’s not the kind of movie you go to to escape your own life. Instead it leads you into your own life.

It is really an attempt to capture on film the experience of living a human life, from childhood into middle age, encountering love, destruction, loss, and reconciliation, in the context of all of creation, within the constraints of the way we Americans are taught to connect to creation through the Biblical God.

I think this filmmaker, Terrence Malick, probably did as good a job as anyone could with this subject matter! Or better.

The beginning and end skip around in time, from a middle-aged man and his boyhood, a mother receiving news of a death, to the natural world and the vastness of creation, while the middle is more solidly about the family. However, the film never gets too far away from people whispering plaintively to God, “Why are we here?” “What are you?” “Why should I be good if you’re not good?” “What have I started?”

I would say this is a spiritual film, a prayer, even, in the tradition of Judeo-Christianity. It begins with a quote from Job, and it plays with the western archetypes of man and woman. It shows the family up close and very intimately, mostly from a child’s point of view — the sibling friendship and rivalry, the love and hatred toward the parents (especially the sometimes-tough, sometimes-loving father), the encountering of good and evil in others and oneself, and the inevitable separation and loss of innocence followed by the return to grace through love.

Scene after scene captures the ineffable beauty of nature, both of the natural world and of human nature, even when it is cruel and mindless.

The soundtrack is amazingly beautiful and suitable.

I spent part of my childhood in small town Texas at the time of this family, and I could relate to the fireflies and fireworks, live oaks, Willow ware, and so much more.

Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are so well known, it’s hard to get past thinking “That’s Brad Pitt playing a role, acting with his lower lip.”

Sean Penn’s role was confusing. Was his character marrying a beautiful woman 30 years younger than he? Or was that a flashback?

The mother and the three boys were well written and cast. The older one really carried that part of the film more than anyone. The actor playing the middle son looks like he could be Brad Pitt’s actual son, there’s such a strong resemblance.

Even though it’s hard to describe this film, go see it anyway. It’s an experience. And if you’re from Austin, it’s a joy to see local landmarks like Barton Springs, Hamilton Pool, the interior of the state capitol building, and shots of the Colorado River.