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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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

How Phyllis got off pharmaceuticals

Phyllis was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. She also had thyroid issues, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. At the most, she was taking 12 different pharmaceuticals.

Besides reversing her diabetes (to read that story, start with Part 1 here or read this summary), she got off all her prescription meds.

Getting off medication is a taboo in many people’s minds. Once prescribed a medication, they believe that they have to take it for the rest of their life because their condition is irreversible. They believe that no longer taking a medication would be disobeying a doctor’s orders, and doctors are like God.

Medications can be extremely helpful, even life-saving. Byetta made a major difference for Phyllis. Yet it turned out she only needed it for a while, until her body became healthier and less resistant to insulin.

If you are in doubt about whether you might ever be able to go off a medication, ask your doctor if lifestyle changes can make a difference. Continue reading

A hero’s journey: lessons in reversing diabetes

Note: This is a summary of Phyllis’ return to health after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. To read her four-part story, start with Part 1.

“The adventure of the hero is the adventure of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell

The path to healing autoimmune disease is not a well-worn path, but it can be done. If it’s possible for Phyllis to reverse her Type 2 diabetes, it’s possible for others. Many people still treat autoimmune diseases as intractable — believing they can only cause a steady prolonged decline, and there’s nothing you can do about it except take the prescribed medications and wait for disability and death.

Even doctors, as Phyllis learned, don’t always offer counsel that lifestyle changes can improve health.

I wanted to look at Phyllis’ sojourn as steps she took on her life path where she learned to choose those forks in the road that led her in the direction of better health. Continue reading

Note to self: remember this next time I get sick of myself

There’s nothing like it.

My mind can be going 1,000 miles per hour, worrying life like a dog worries a bone, oh so busy “figuring things out.” Making Plans A and B, sometimes C and D. Analyzing. Focusing on what is wrong: I should be making more money, should spend more time Continue reading

How to live a more satisfying life

The best first step towards changing the way things are is to fully accept the way things are.

Michael Giles has written a book called Action of Mind: Essential Steps Toward a Satisfying Life. Neatly divided into three sections — Open Mind, Focused Mind, and Big Mind — the book offers chapters on topics like intent, stillness, setting and achieving satisfying goals, the unknown, and your purpose.

He acknowledges that reading the middle section (Focused Mind) will help readers understand better how to achieve specific goals they’ve set for themselves, yet he recommends reading the first section (Open Mind) first to get better results by being grounded in the present moment. The third section asks hard questions and deals with some of life’s difficult-to-accept realities.

I’ve known Michael for the past several years. I met him through NLP. Michael is a master practitioner of NLP and a hypnotist (a term he prefers over hypnotherapist) and coach for the last 13 years. Now he’s a working graduate student in the field of social work, an active member of the Texas National Guard, and father of Reyna, with another child on the way. He’s worked hard on creating his own satisfying life, and in this book, he shares his wisdom.

I’ve known Michael also as a long-time practitioner of martial arts. Michael started studying karate at age 12 and holds multiple black belts. Familiar with the Taoism and Buddhism, he  practices and teaches tai chi. These practices, and meditation, have greatly influenced Michael’s perceptiveness, intelligence, and response-ability, which show up in his book.

Michael draws on NLP, hypnosis, martial arts, his own personal history, and story-telling to share his insights and exercises for living a more satisfying life. Here are some excerpts from his book, little nuggets that hint at the wisdom that follows, written in a style that suggests a coach talking directly to a client:

Nothing will guide you as wisely and creatively as your shadow. Your deepest feelings of hurt, fear, or doubt can serve you when you sit with them.

Visualization can be a very helpful element of hypnosis, self-development, or just getting over that threshold into the success that you want. In my experience, it is good to see yourself doing what you want to do and being what you want to be. I have found that affirmations are most helpful for receiving and achieving while visualization is most helpful in the doing and the being.

Whenever a problem is solved, it is because we have received a gift from the unknown. A more prosaic way of stating this is that solutions are pieces of information that we were ignorant of until we found them. If we know the solution to a problem already, then the problem is not really a problem. It is only a problem while we do not know the solution. It travels from the category of “unknown” to the category of “known.” Therefore, the unknown is the source of all our problem solving, positive change, and personal evolution.

Michael has done a great job of communicating his insights and teaching readers about something that really matters to all of us, living a life that is satisfying.

If that metaphor had been a snake, it would have bit me!

If you don’t remember from high school English what a metaphor is, it is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase ordinarily used to designate one thing is used to designate something else.

Examples: Time is money. Life is a journey. She’s dancing toward happiness. When I reach the top of that mountain, then I’ll be free. I’ve got a knot in my stomach. He’s a real pain in the ass. Let me get something off my chest. Give me a hand. I’m looking for the right path. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. If the shoe fits, wear it. The map is not the territory. Life is like a box of chocolates. It’s like pulling teeth. It’s like herding cats. The poem points a finger at the moon. Before/after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

In each of these examples, the metaphor uses a word or phrase that has a literal, embodied meaning (people do reach the tops of mountains, journeys exist, lights at the ends of tunnels exist) to symbolize an experience.

I’ve been paying attention to metaphors in conversation and writing, and it’s almost unbelievable how pervasive they are. Metaphors are everywhere! I can’t turn around without bumping into a metaphor! If that metaphor had been a snake, it would have bit me!

I’m writing about metaphors because I just spent some time learning the basics of and practicing Symbolic Modelling, aka Clean Language, an approach to changework, which is another hat I wear. (See?)

The workshop and retreat were led by James Lawley and Penny Tompkins. Their book is Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling, and their website is The Clean Collection.

I’m going to be writing more about this, but for now, let me offer some prompts to discover your own personal metaphors.

Fill in the rest of the sentence:

Life is [like] ….

Time is ….

Money is …..

Love is ….

Work is ….

See you back here soon with more on this topic!

Intuition, microexpressions, hypervigilance, and trauma

When Intuition Is A Curse.

When people come into my office and tell me, very early in a conversation, that they are ‘intuitive’ and ‘can see into people’ I often wonder if they have had trauma. The longer I do this for a living the more I realize that some of us developed our insights into humanity as a protection mechanism. It makes sense. People who have experienced trauma tend to be more intuitive. We’ve experienced hypervigilance where we are constantly scanning our environments for signs of danger.

Have you experienced trauma, and are you intuitive, psychic, an empath, and/or clairvoyant? I’m curious.

This article reminded me that early this year, I witnessed some microexpressions, when emotions that someone is trying to suppress appear briefly on their face. Paul Ekman has done a lot of research into them. The TV show Lie To Me is based on his work. Reading them may have a lot to do with intuition.

I noticed hatred and contempt appear fleetingly behind a mask of apparent calm and reason on the face of a man I had dated for a couple of months as he spoke to me. He was unaware of them or that I could read them.

It was disturbing. I could not think of anything I had done to merit those emotions, and I felt hurt and puzzled. From that and other puzzling oddities, I suspected he’d been emotionally abused. He hadn’t mentioned it to me, but his behavior had been strange at times. A mutual friend confirmed years of past abuse. Apparently I had unknowingly done something that triggered his memories of being abused.

After learning of the history of abuse, I felt compassion for him. I also realized I didn’t want to be alone with him in private again.

Later he got his wires crossed again, in public, right in front of me. Curious (because he still hadn’t told me anything about the abuse), I then had a clairvoyant experience in which I “saw” that he’d been the subject of horrific psychotic rage repeatedly for years.

I had a major fight-or-flight reaction.

I rode it out with mindfulness as much as I could. Once the biochemical cascade was underway, there was not much to do but wait for it to fully subside and do what I could to recover my equilibrium. It took a few months for that to happen. I watched my fearful, self-protective mind at work, influenced by deep stress. It wasn’t pretty, and I’m glad it’s over. Although unpleasant and difficult, being able to witness my own experience was useful.

I learned a lot from this. A main take-away is that if I am relating to someone who’s been traumatized, I want them to be up-front about it pretty quickly, if they have any awareness of it at all. It leaks out anyway if they try to hide it, and they come across as untrustworthy.

Over 60 percent of Americans experience trauma at least once in their lives. It’s not that uncommon.

I gained compassion for my past traumatized self, before I had done any healing work. I didn’t know myself well enough to understand how much trauma had shaped me.

During that time of riding out the biochemical cascade, I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. I am grateful for the healers who helped me recover, including the healer inside me.

I felt compassion for him. He was admittedly clueless, dissociated, and good at compartmentalizing. In my opinion, he seriously needed professional help.

I grokked his disappointment at leaving an abuser with hopes for a better future, waiting six months after divorcing and taking a course on building new relationships before dating, only to discover that the abuse had made him both easily disturbed by those with positive intentions and disturbing to them.

It was sobering to refer someone I dated to therapy. In hindsight, I think I showed him how a fairly healthy person responds when they are dating or befriending someone who shows signs and symptoms of mental illness, who is either hiding it, discounting its seriousness, or so injured he doesn’t even know he has a mental illness.

I let him know that I knew, told him that I would not have dated him had I known, and I ended our relationship until such time as he has recovered, urging him to get professional help to that end.

It seems probable that he needed to know how someone would do this. But damn, that was really freaky.

May his cluelessness become curiosity.

May his compartmentalization become wholeness and expansion.

May his fears become worthy of reconditioning.

May his dissociation occur only when useful, and may he learn to live in partnership with his body.

May his awareness include an appreciation of the gifts of the unconscious mind and a more conscious partnership with it.

May his contempt, hatred, terror, shame, and secrecy be transformed and his burden be lessened.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

And after I think of him and send energetic blessings his way, I dissolve all thoughts and images of him and bring my attention back to my own body and experience peace and gratitude.

But was my intuition working because I’ve experienced trauma myself and learned to be observant? I don’t know. Here’s a possibility: Apparently some long-time meditators are also adept at reading microexpressions.

From studies with thousands of people, Ekman knew that people who do better at recognizing these subtle emotions are more open to new experience, more interested and more curious about things in general. They are also conscientious — reliable and efficient. “So I had expected that many years of meditative experience” — which requires both openness and conscientiousness — “might make them do better on this ability,” Ekman explains. Thus he had wondered if Öser might be better able to identify these ultra-fast emotions than other people are.

Then Ekman announced his results: both Öser and another advanced Western meditator Ekman had been able to test were two standard deviations above the norm in recognizing these super-quick facial signals of emotion, albeit the two subjects differed in the emotions they were best at perceiving. They both scored far higher than any of the five thousand other people tested. “They do better than policemen, lawyers, psychiatrists, customs officials, judges — even Secret Service agents,” the group that had previously distinguished itself as most accurate.

“It appears that one benefit of some part of the life paths these two have followed is becoming more aware of these subtle signs of how other people feel,” Ekman notes. Öser had super-acuity for the fleeting signs of fear, contempt and anger. The other meditator — a Westerner who, like Öser, had done a total of two to three years in solitary retreats in the Tibetan tradition — was similarly outstanding, though on a different range of emotions: happiness, sadness, disgust and, like Öser, anger.

I’m not nearly as experienced at meditation as these men, but even at my level, meditation can slow the experience of time down until there is only the present moment, which becomes vast, and awareness simply expands.

If you can experience time like that, microexpressions would be much more apparent.

That’s one explanation. Or maybe I’ve just been around the block a few times. Or maybe these long-time meditators had also trauma in their histories. The article didn’t say.

I do know that for years, I’ve been interested in people-reading, and I imagine at some point early on, there was a connection in discerning whether they were safe to be around. But once you realize someone is not out to murder you, there’s still a lot to learn. We humans are pretty fascinating and diverse.

If you want to learn more about reading microexpressions, Paul Ekman (link above) has a newsletter and online training.

What works for insomnia?

A dear friend is suffering badly from insomnia, unable to get a full night’s sleep without taking something. She is exasperated by chiropractors who say they can help her, take her $200, and she’s still not sleeping.

I would be too.

I had one period a few years back when I didn’t sleep well for months. I remember how dreadful that was. I felt tired, cranky, and tense all the time. I tried supplements, which weren’t very effective. Listening to a delta brain wave CD helped, but it required falling asleep with headphones on, which was awkward.

Eventually something shifted, and I slept well again.

If you have any experience or have heard of effective remedies for insomnia (that don’t include pharmaceuticals or Benadryl or anything OTC with “PM” in the name), would you mind sharing in the comments?

Thank you.

Lessons from the 21-day Byron Katie challenge

The challenge to focus on The Work of Byron Katie for 21 days was worthwhile. I examined a painful thought that has been a thread running through my life, that my father didn’t care about me.

I subjected that belief to inquiry, and it did not hold up. My father did care about me. I know that deeply now. The way he chose to express it — nonverbally, without physical, verbal, or visual signs of affection, without playfulness, and pretty much without much eye contact or much facial expression at all — was not a way I understood or valued when I was young and first had this thought.

I realize now that he showed his caring by simply being there with his family and not somewhere else, supporting me from infancy through adulthood, reading aloud to his children, helping with homework, and creating order through daily rituals (dinner time, bath time, bed time). He wasn’t really that different from many men who were fathers in the 1950s and 1960s — who had been through sobering times (the Great Depression and World War II). He was not frivolous, not expressive, and a man who had lost his own father at age 9.

I took him for granted.

I did this challenge a bit differently than I initially envisioned doing it. I had thought that I would do one worksheet a day, answering the four questions and doing the turnarounds for 21 days.

That would have been extremely time-consuming. My blog posts would have been quite lengthy, and I fear you, dear readers, might have completely lost patience and interest.

So instead, I worked on one issue, my relationship with my dad, which even though he’s been dead for years, I still felt some tender sensitivity and pain about. I liked doing it slowly and deeply like this. Sometimes at Katie’s workshops, there just isn’t time to really go deep with my own stuff. This was satisfying and memorable. I feel like I got the process in my bones and now find myself asking, “Is that true?” and “What happens when I believe that thought?” Just noticing…

I have turned over that rock and examined the ground under it, the creepy-crawlies, the shadow, took a good thorough look, and then put the rock back and moved on.

Of course there are more rocks to investigate, but I can see that each time I do inquiry, the remaining rocks are perhaps fewer, lighter, and smaller.

And wow. Would I ever like to get to the bottom of how I create my own suffering with my thinking! That would require a lot of discernment. Speaking of which, this great quote on that topic came up today on Tricycle Daily Dharma:

The fundamental aim of Buddhist practice is not belief; it’s enlightenment, the awakening that takes place when illusion has been overcome. It may sound simple, but it’s probably the most difficult thing of all to achieve. It isn’t some kind of magical reward that someone can give you or that a strong belief will enable you to acquire. The true path to awakening is genuine discernment; it’s the very opposite of belief. ~ Trinlay Tulku Rinpoche, “The Seeds of Life”

So yeah. Enlightenment comes through examining illusion, that is, using inquiry and discerning the truth. This is how it works in real life.

In filling out the worksheet, I went back to the last years I lived at home, when I was in high school, and how it was then between my father and me. I remembered yearning for his positive personal attention, and it never even crossing my mind to just ask him for it! Because “we didn’t do that in our family,” it wasn’t even in my realm of possibilities back then.

I am so grateful to have busted out of that prison. I’m not sure when that happened.  At some point, I gained the quality of brashness. It usually works, too.

I think it’s a great idea for people to ask for attention when you need it. If the person who is asked can give it, fine, and if not, fine. There are always others, and of course, there’s the self. Doing The Work is a fine way to relate to the self. Quality time.

My relationship with my father, which transcends his death, has expanded. It’s become lighter and broader. I can consider other possibilities for his behavior than the narrow, joyless ones I laid on him.

This opens me up too. My hurting self, the wounded child, has healed (at least about this topic). It’s a memory now, in the past.

After having done the work, it doesn’t matter whether my father did or didn’t have Asperger’s Syndrome. That’s only a concept, just a theory to explain his behavior.

When I ask, “How do I react, what happens, when I think that thought?” I realize that it just doesn’t matter that much to me. I wonder more how he would have reacted had he known, fully aware that whatever I think is idle speculation, just opinion. It was his business, not mine.

I like to think that if he wanted help with it, which he never asked for, I would have gladly been willing to give it.

Just like he would have been glad to give me more attention, if I had asked for it.

People are like that, aren’t we.