Orienting to stillness, orienting to motion

I started this blog to document meditating every day in 2010. My blog posts got kind of boring and I ended up broadening the topic, but before the year ended, I had made some big decisions, changing my approaches to work and home that resulted in living a more authentic, self-realizing life.

Selling my house and quitting my job with no clear path ahead were not changes I would have undertaken had not my meditation practice compelled me to make them for my own well-being and trust that the Universe and my own capabilities would come through. There was uncertainty along the way, and luck, but I figured I could always rent a room and do temp jobs to support myself, and that gave me courage. (I rented a room and did a few temp jobs on my path!)

However, I really wanted more than that for myself: I wanted to own an affordable, paid-for home in Austin, Texas, and I wanted to do work that I really loved. And I got those things.  Meditation helped me understand that not living authentically was no longer possible for me, and I’m happy with those decisions.

Since then I’ve divorced my meditation practice from any religion. I’ve occasionally slacked off for weeks at a time, and I’ve meditated irregularly and half-heartedly. I have not worked with another teacher.

Instead, I have groped my untutored way around stillness and silence, acutely aware of my vata monkey-mind, wondering if I have a touch of ADHD (other family members do), and occasionally stumbling upon states of pervasive bliss, being literally held by a higher power, being breathed, feeling currents moving in and through me, and experiencing brief moments of exquisite clarity. All with no idea how to return to any of those states. The birds ate my bread crumbs!

In August 2016, I discovered the Insight Timer app (iOS) for recording my meditation practice sessions, and my desire to meditate every day grew. As of today, I’ve meditated 188 consecutive days since September 26. You gotta love an app that gives you a gold star for meditating 10 days in a row.

In January, I had a breakthrough in a body/energy work practice, Biodynamics, that I’ve been studying for four years now that is mostly perception, and this also renewed my commitment to meditation, especially for doing longer sits of an hour when my schedule allows.

Feeling more committed, I signed up for a 10-day vipassana retreat in August, which is a good month to be away from work in an air-conditioned room, meditating my ass off with a bunch of Hindus and some other English-speaking people. Vipassana has been on my bucket list for years, and it’s finally going to happen.

So my love for meditation has been rekindled. Most mornings I wake up and can’t wait to meditate.

Out of this scenario, I feel like I have some things to say that might be helpful to new meditators and stalled meditators and meditators looking for inspiration. Because meditation is such a nonverbal realm, I’d like to make an attempt to put some words to it and make some suggestions that you can take or leave as you please.

We can’t notice everything at the same time. (Or at least not until/unless we are way advanced, as far as I know now.) This bird calling draws our attention, there’s the hum of the refrigerator, the faint smell of honeysuckle, the sensations of my feet being hot, the impulse to take my shoes and socks off. Pause. A chakra opens, a stuck place in my body makes itself known, oh should I have said that?, I can taste the cheese I ate earlier, that was a really satisfying breath, what’s for dinner?

We filter information about our experience in bits, and at the beginning of a session, it often changes quickly, like a slideshow on fast-forward. It would be overwhelming to experience all that simultaneously, not to mention hard to appreciate.

We can use our natural filtering capability to develop skills in orienting, which means setting a direction for what you intend to notice. It helps slow the monkey-mind slideshow down considerably.

Two ways of orienting that you may come to value are orienting toward stillness and orienting toward motion.

In orienting to stillness, notice the pauses between your inhalations and exhalations, and between your exhalations and inhalations. Notice the gaps between your thoughts. Notice your mind at rest. Nothing happening, nothing to see here, just…emptiness.

Ironically, in stillness, you may notice all kinds of subtler experiences, such as energy dancing across your face or even the beginning of a thought.

The other polarity is orienting to motion, such as your breath, which you’ve tuned into many times. Notice more about it. What moves in your body when you inhale and when you exhale? Do you feel a sense of with your inhalations? Do your exhalations help you y? Put your experiences into your own words if you can.

What about your heart, beating in your chest? Can you feel it pumping away, keeping you alive? You have pulses located all over your body. Can you sense them?

There’s a more subtle, slower rhythm, the rhythm of cerebrospinal fluid expanding your cranial bones ever so slightly and then receding, which you might even feel all the way down your spine. And there are even more subtle rhythms that are perceptible.

Stillness and motion are not opposites. There’s a bit of stillness in motion, and a bit of motion in stillness. Developing your perceptions of motion augments your perceptions of stillness, and vice versa.

Notice what you notice each time you meditate, and know that your next session will offer you new gifts of perception. Play with it!

I hope these suggestions inspire you to experience more deeply the human being that you are. May you have breakthroughs!

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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Gravity Pal, a low angle inversion table, makes a difference in a minute a day

I just had the pleasure of taking Zero Balancing II training in my pursuit of skill and finesse in my bodywork practice. Jamie Carmody was an excellent teacher, her lovely San Antonio studio well located, and my fellow students a delight to learn with, practice with, and get to know.

For more about Zero Balancing, go here. I’m getting ready to send out a newsletter with some sweet special offers, including one for Zero Balancing that will be impossible to resist for wellness-seekers in the Austin area. If you’d like to subscribe and get in on this time-limited offer, please send your email address to me at mareynolds27 at gmail dot com.

If you haven’t yet encountered it, you’re probably wondering what Zero Balancing is. My description is that it lets you feel like you’d feel without habitual tension patterns or the constant pressure of gravity pulling you down. Younger? Taller? Lighter? Buzzing with healthy energy? Can you even imagine feeling like this? I invite you to come get a session, or two or three, and find out how it affects your body.

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Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, prevention.

Browsing the web looking for health information, I learned that academics have discovered an undeniable link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Melissa Schilling, a professor at the NYU Stern School of Business, has just completed a large scale study in which she reviewed the extensive literature that clearly associates diabetes with Alzheimer’s disease, both in terms of risk and now in terms of mechanism. She was able to find robust evidence that links insulin, as well as the enzyme that degrades insulin (insulin-degrading enzyme or IDE), and the development of Alzheimer’s disease in itself. Her study strongly suggest that elevated insulin plays a critical role in the development of the various hallmarks characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. – See more at: http://www.drperlmutter.com/alzheimers-news-front-page/#sthash.dAVa7l9b.dpuf

Given that diabetes (Type 2, anyway) is considered a lifestyle disease, it adds to the urgency that diabetics and pre-diabetics change their diets now to prevent Alzheimer’s later. Some say Alzheimer’s is Type 3 diabetes.

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Giving and receiving Zero Balancing bodywork sessions

I’m currently running a special in my bodywork/changework practice in Austin, Texas, for Zero Balancing: The first session is pay-what-you-wish ($25-40 range suggested), and follow-up sessions are only $45, down from $60, through June 15, 2016. If you’re interested in benefitting, go to my website and book a 45-minute session.

Come in, receive the session, and pay afterwards, deciding if you want to buy a package of three ZB sessions for $135 or just do the one session. You can buy as many packages as you want at this price, but only through June 15. You can rebook single sessions for $45 each any time before then as well.

I recommend getting three sessions 7-10 days apart to help train your body to retain the changes, and then come in as needed for maintenance (monthly or when you feel you need it). But if one session is all you can do, I invite you to come experience it!

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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

Massage clients wanted!

monkeymassage

Need to dump your stress, chill, release tension, move better, relieve pain, recover from an injury, treat a condition?

I can help.

I’ve been doing massage for four years now, and for the first time, a contract has fallen through. It’s nobody’s fault: my employer (a small unit in huge company) was internally audited. The audit caught some irregularities in my paperwork, and I can’t work there until it’s straightened out. Since it’s a huge bureaucracy known for its slowly turning administrative wheels, I have no idea how long that will take but I’m not holding my breath. Continue reading

The rapture of being alive

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life… I think that what we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell

This quote has been a long-time favorite and is included on my Favorite Quotes page.

I want to go on record as saying that one of the times when I most feel the rapture of being alive is when I’m practicing biodynamic craniosacral therapy.

It’s like meditating together, but with much more connection, yet totally safe because nothing is expected.

I don’t know what else to say about it, except that if you want to experience it too, I’m happy to do a session with you.

 

 

Gift suggestions that increase well-being

If you’re looking for gift ideas for those you care about, here are a few suggestions. Since I am a licensed massage therapist, that’s where I’ll start.

Although there are a few people around who don’t like to be touched, most people enjoy a professional massage that’s tailored for their needs: the right modality, the right pressure, the right length. One thing people say they’d do if they had unlimited resources is to get massages more often.

Massage gift certificates are welcome gifts, especially with a personal note from you letting them know how much they deserve to be pampered. If the recipient is a busy person, adding the promise of watching the kids or making dinner afterwards so they can enjoy the afterglow is an extra nice touch. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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