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

Orienting to space

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

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

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

Frida Kahlo probably had fibromyalgia

While continuing to learn more about fibromyalgia, I found something interesting: Frida Kahlo probably had it.

If you’re wondering what fibromyalgia is, the Mayo Clinic says it’s a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Symptoms sometimes begin after a trauma, surgery, infection, or significant stress. Women are much more likely to develop it.

One researcher, Manuel Martinez-lavin, says it’s likely the iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo had fibromyalgia. The bus accident that badly injured her at age 18 must have been quite traumatic and was followed by many stressful surgeries. The accident left her with chronic pain, well documented in her art.

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-11-07-37-amThe Broken Column

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Help for respiratory allergies

It’s cedar fever time again, and I want to share this story because it may help someone to suffer less.

Many years ago, I took prescription allergy medicine (Seldane and later Claritin) daily, all year round, and could count on getting at least one sinus infection each year. Austin is known for its allergens, so much so that the weather reports include the pollen and mold counts. We’re especially known for “cedar fever,” which comes on after the first freeze in the Hill Country, which is laden with Ashe juniper trees commonly called cedars here. The male trees release clouds of pollen, which some people are so sensitive to, they stay sick for weeks.

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No more ads!

As of November 2, 2016, you will not see any advertising on this blog! WordPress used to charge $100 to run an ad-free blog, which I thought was too expensive, given that I’m already paying them to run this blog.

The price came down, as I learned when I helped a friend set up a WordPress website. It now costs $2.99 a month, payable annually, to remove all advertising. I can afford that.

Thank you, WordPress.

It’s not that I’m totally opposed to advertising. A lot of what we do in our human interactions is marketing goods and services, when we praise or disdain restaurants, books, movies, massage therapists, cars, candidates, jobs, insurance companies, and so on. I like word-of-mouth best, but sometimes I seek online help finding a good place to spend my money.

Advertising is so prevalent in our 21st century American culture: on signs, billboards, the sides of trucks, bumper stickers, television, and rampantly on the internet. It feels distracting, like I’m being yelled at or grabbed without my consent. It’s insidious and annoying. And no, I don’t equate invasive capitalism with democracy. I want a choice.

I thought I could I ignore the ads, but when I began to use AdBlock, I must say it feels so much more satisfying to view websites without ads. I can appreciate the design, and it feels like a more peaceful, relaxing experience I can savor.

I know that some good websites rely on the income from ads. My response is, give me the option to subscribe without ads. If I like it, I might pay a few bucks to keep it ad-free.

I had no choice about which ads appeared on my WordPress blog. Wanting to be in integrity with my mission as a wellness blogger, when I saw a McDonald’s ad on my blog, I stopped allowing WordPress to freely run ads. (Not that I had enough views to earn even one cent from it.)

The single ad WordPress insisted on making me pay to remove is now gone.

May you enjoy your ad-free experience here.

Fermenting more stuff: I made natto at home!

A day after attending the Austin Fermentation Festival, where I sampled various kombuchas, krauts, a beet kvass, pickled veggies, mead, cider, raw milk cheese, and more, and thoroughly provided my gut with a wide array of probiotics, I am eating homemade natto for breakfast.

No one was selling or giving away samples of natto at the festival, which is a shame. Maybe that’s because, as one natto fan describes it, it’s like a vegan stinky cheese. I’ve heard some Japanese restaurants in the U.S. even seat natto eaters in a separate section! But I believe this crowd would have loved the opportunity to sample it and make up their own minds about it.

I got interested in making natto, a Japanese dish made of fermented soybeans, after learning it’s the highest known food source of Vitamin K2.You can also get K2 from Gouda and Brie cheeses, liver, egg yolks, butter/milk/meat from livestock eating green grass grown on good soil, fish eggs, and other sources.

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A tale of recovery: my path from traumatized to healer

I had lunch a few weeks ago with John, someone I’ve known for about 12 years but haven’t seen much in recent years. He commented that I am a very different person now from when he met me, and that would not be apparent to people who hadn’t known me that long.

When we met in 2004 (I think), I seemed troubled to him, and I was. John said that now, I appear to be happy and “like a fountain” (which I love), and he was curious about that.

Other people have said I’ve changed more than anyone they know. Well, that’s probably because I was starting from a more troubled place than most.

So I’m reviewing my path in search of insights to share. This is for you, John, and I know that some of you are interested in recovery from trauma, and some of you are interested in personal growth, so this is for you too. Continue reading

Lead and cadmium in chocolate? Oh, my!

This just in! Have you heard? Some (mostly dark) chocolate bars contain small amounts of lead and cadmium. CNN reports:

As You Sow, a California-based consumer advocacy group, believes that some chocolate has more lead than necessary. An updated survey released by the group this week found levels of lead in chocolate at nine times the daily amount that California considers safe to avoid reproductive harm. In addition, the group also found cadmium up to seven times the state’s maximum daily exposure.

The group had multiple samples of 50 different cocoa products analyzed by an independent lab and found more than half contained lead and cadmium levels above the state’s limits, which are more strict than federal guidelines. As You Sow won’t disclose the exact amounts of metals found in the products, in hopes of working directly with the manufacturers to help target sources of these metals, it said. [my emphasis]

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New science about heart disease, sulfate, glyphosate, sunlight, statins, and aluminum

I listened to a podcast earlier this week that was pretty scientific (for me), yet fascinating. The Bulletproof Exec (Dave Asprey) interviewed Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior researcher at MIT. For three decades she’s been doing interdisciplinary research where biology and computers intersect.

It was so full of information, I could hardly keep up with the podcast while driving. Later I went online to read the actual transcript. Here’s the link, and the page also has video of the Facetime-like conversation.

I am not a scientist, but the findings and recommendations that I found intriguing in this lengthy and wide-ranging conversation are listed below. If you want to learn more about any of this, there’s a lot of good information available online. There are open-access scientific journals and papers available on the internet that are free. And you can google “Seneff”.

  • The cause of heart disease isn’t high cholesterol, it’s a deficiency in sulfate.

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Stay hydrated all the time, not just after a massage

I’ve written about this before. I tell my clients to stay hydrated, rather than asking them to drink “extra water” after a massage to “flush the toxins out.”

Water makes physiological processes, especially the brain, work better, so getting enough is important. Whatever measure you use – a gallon a day, half your body weight in ounces, until your pee is clear – most of us don’t drink enough, and we need extra to make up for sweating, diarrhea, etc.

Now New York Times health writer Gretchen Reynolds addresses the issue, interviewing an expertContinue reading