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

Brainwave optimization follow-up, two years later

I received a phone call yesterday from someone who had read my original post about receiving brainwave optimization. Barbara in Houston was considering it. She’d read this blog and wanted to hear some follow-up. We had a nice long conversation, and I felt inspired by her courage.

This month marks two years since I underwent brainwave optimization — five days of twice-daily sessions designed to help my brain function better using biofeedback.

I have no regrets about doing it. I’m glad I took that leap of faith.

Of course it’s impossible to say how I might be different had I not received it. It’s also impossible to separate the BWO from the meditation, diet, yoga, and other work I’ve done. (I still think BWO is probably the equivalent of five years of daily meditation.)

What I can say is that when I compare how I experience myself now and how I experienced myself then, now is better. I feel more myself — I occupy my body and my life more fully and with more pleasure and serenity and depth and wholeness than I did before. I make better decisions. I am happier.

One of my reasons for doing it was that I had experienced trauma in my childhood that plagued me with ill effects for decades. Facing the trauma, healing and integrating it were turning points toward health in my life. I wanted to see if brainwave optimization could relieve me from any more dysfunctional patterns that might remain.

Last year, a year after undergoing BWO, I did get triggered by someone who didn’t recognize the extent of his own traumatic experiences and was unable to communicate responsibly about it. I experienced the flood of stress hormones and adrenal exhaustion that went along with being triggered.

The useful part of that experience was being able to witness how those stress hormones affected my thinking. I got a clear sense of what I’m like unaffected by trauma and what I’m like after being triggered. Day and night. Equanimity vs. fear and anger. Sunshine and butterflies vs. creepy shadows with hidden monsters.

The unpleasant part was that it took months to completely clear the effects of the cascade of stress hormones and return to robust, excellent well-being. During this time, I forgot that I could have gotten follow-up sessions of brainwave optimization, which are much less expensive than the initial assessment and 10 sessions.

In hindsight, it would have been really smart of me to experience just enough of being triggered to learn its lessons and then to shorten my suffering by going in for some follow-up work. I don’t know if it would have worked, but I believe that it would have made a difference, because when you make an effort on behalf of your own well-being, that commitment to action makes a big difference and amplifies the measures you choose to take. 

I regret now that it did not occur to me to do that.

It’s clear to me now that undergoing BWO does not give someone who’s experienced trauma a bulletproof vest against being further traumatized or being triggered. It does give you more resilience, because experiencing wholeness is so desirable. The brain is aware of its own well-being and likes it and will return to it as soon as it can. That’s a big part of how BWO works, in my understanding.

If you’re not sure your brain has experienced well-being because of past trauma, or if it’s been so long it’s hard to remember what well-being was like, I recommend getting brainwave optimization. It can’t hurt, and if it doesn’t help in the way you think it might, then at the least you’ve ruled something out on your path to recovery. You have not left that stone unturned.

And it might help in ways you haven’t thought of, so please be open to that. It’s hard to describe well-being if you’ve never experienced it. It’s hard to know what to expect before you do it.

Also, the brainwave changes keep happening for a long time after you finish the treatments. Hold your story lightly and keep a journal. I have been told by people who’ve known me for awhile that I’ve changed for the better more than anyone they know.

I also take the Buddha’s Brain supplements to support my post-BWO brain health, and I recommend that.

A video that could help you sleep

Insomnia is a malady I have rarely had over the last few years. Only when I drink caffeine late in the day (I usually know better), and even more rarely, when I feel so disturbed about some issue in my life that my mind can’t let go of it do I lie awake at night unable to sleep and feel like a zombie the next day.

I have experienced months of insomnia every night in the past, however, and that experience has given me great compassion for those who suffer from it. A good night’s sleep is just essential for well-being.

I’ve posted about various remedies for insomnia occasionally. You can search my blog on “insomnia” to find those posts if you wish.

Cures or relief from insomnia is a topic of great interest. New information emerges. I’m interested in what works. Could it be that there is not a “one size fits all” cure for insomnia?

Today I stumbled across a video purportedly created by scientists to help you sleep. I listened to it (and did not fall asleep, but it’s morning and I am well rested already). I found it very peaceful. I can imagine that it would help me fall asleep.

Here’s the link if you want to give it a try:

http://www.wimp.com/scientistscreated/

The only other information I could find is that the video and music are by a band called Marconi Union. I don’t know if this is a band of scientists or what!

The best help I know of for insomnia (and the most expensive) is brainwave optimization.   I wasn’t experiencing any insomnia when I did the five days of brain training in June 2011. But it has been known to help with insomnia, and a study is underway to learn more about its effects on insomnia.

Even more awesome, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is undertaking this study of insomnia, and other studies are planned for migraines, mild cognitive impairment, and traumatic brain injury/concussion later this year!

Knowing whether you have PTSD, and how it affects you and your relationships

Regular readers of this blog and anyone who has read the About me page knows that I have had PTSD and (mostly) recovered. I’m pretty open about it. I hate that there’s a stigma about having PTSD, or any mental illness, when no one asks for it in the first place. At this point in my life, openness has way more to recommend it than shame and secrecy.

It’s actually an injury that affects the whole bodymindheartspirit.

I also posted about PTSD in November, in Getting over trauma and moving on with your life: some core questions. That post focused on the desire to heal, knowing that you have PTSD.

I’ve posted a lot about the trauma releasing exercises, brainwave optimization, shaking medicine, and other topics related to recovering from trauma.

Recently something happened that triggered my memories of what it was like to have undiagnosed PTSD for a long time and the two years of my life that I spent intensely working on becoming whole and reclaiming myself after I was diagnosed. There were still some holes, but I did feel like I got on top of it enough to function fairly well and keep filling in the holes as my awareness of them arose.

This post is about figuring out whether you have PTSD, what it’s like to have it, and how it affects your relationships.

How do you know you have PTSD? There’s an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV, for the current version), a book used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental illness. The official cause of PTSD is this:

PTSD always follows a traumatic event which causes intense fear and/or helplessness in an individual.  Typically the symptoms develop shortly after the event, but may take years.  The duration for symptoms is at least one month for this diagnosis.

I had thought that the definition included something about violence. The current definition does not. I was wrong about that.

If you’re not sure if what happened to you is considered trauma, here’s a definition of trauma:

an event that is life-threatening or that severely compromises the emotional well-being of an individual or causes intense fear

The common denominator is feeling intense fear. Aka terror or horror. Or “severely compromised emotional well-being.”

If you’re not sure whether you have PTSD, ask yourself whether and when you have experienced intense fear in response to traumatic events or whether something happened to you that severely compromised your emotional well-being.

Of course, sometimes traumatized people may not remember a trauma, which is tricky — in PTSD, the memories of the actual feelings associated with a traumatic event are often suppressed (because they were intensely scary the first time).

Timeline work can be helpful. If in reviewing your life, there’s any event that some would consider to be traumatic or severely compromising to their emotional well-being, even if you don’t remember the actual feeling, you might have PTSD. Read on.

Also, ask yourself whether and when you have experienced a sense of helplessness. When you experienced a traumatic event, did you freeze in terror?

If your answer to one or both of those questions is yes, then you don’t need a psychiatrist to know that you probably have PTSD. However, if you’re still not sure, you can judge by your behavior.

How does having PTSD affect your behavior? People who have been traumatized often have flashbacks, in which something in the present situation triggers an emotional reaction from a past traumatic event. For example, someone may innocuously point a finger at you, and you suddenly feel fear because seeing the pointing finger has triggered the memory of someone else pointing their finger at you while angrily heaping emotional abuse on you. Never mind that the current person is not heaping emotional abuse on you and is in fact startled that their innocent finger has made you feel so visibly afraid.

Your past has kidnapped you emotionally.

I only had one flashback similar to that. The main type of flashback or time distortion that I experienced was regressing back to the age I was when my childhood trauma occurred. Sometimes social situations would make me feel like a child amongst grownups. Mostly I was quiet, but sometimes I would say inappropriately childish, immature things.

I could be talking to someone as a mature woman, and suddenly I became an awkward child again. I didn’t realize I was regressing for a long time. I just thought I was socially awkward. But the age I regressed to was usually 11 years old.

I have so loved that traumatized 11-year-old child, hugged, soothed, and comforted her for all the incomprehensible events she experienced, that she feels integrated and doesn’t pop out like that much any more. When people are baffling to me now, I note it, but it usually doesn’t send me back into childhood any more.

With PTSD, you may also have nightmares. I had them for years. Something terrifying was chasing me, and I couldn’t run fast enough, and I awoke feeling intense fear.

The last such dream related to my original trauma was about 10 years ago, when feeling on high alert, I clearly told a serial killer to put the huge sharp scissors down. By confronting him, I had overcome my helplessness.

In fact, a lot of my recovery was about overcoming helplessness. I imagined riding to my sister’s rescue — on a white horse — and blowing away the killer. It didn’t change the past, but it changed the way my nervous system processed that memory so that I felt empowered.

You may live your life avoiding situations, people, and/or objects that remind you about the event, such as avoiding driving after a serious car accident or avoiding someone who who emotionally abused you or who even just reminds you of them.

Another form of avoidance is that you may experience emotional numbness, which is a way of avoiding yourself. Trauma can make people want to isolate themselves. If you inexplicably regressed when socializing, or got triggered, wouldn’t you want to hide? I spent years of my adult life just working, raising my daughter, going to grad school, and being depressed with no social life to speak of.

Your anxiety levels are higher in general, and you may have a heightened startle response, jumping when you hear a sudden loud noise. (I still do this.) You may have insomnia, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, hyperarousal.

In my opinion, people can experience anxiety, avoidance, and nightmares without necessarily having PTSD, but having flashbacks is unique to PTSD, as far as I know. If anyone knows different, please comment.

How does PTSD affect relationships? PTSD affects the relationships you value most — intimate relationships, with family, lovers, and close friends. You may be difficult to get close to. You may fear closeness and decide to move on when someone is becoming close, or others may distance themselves from you if you shut down emotionally.

You may have difficulty listening and making cooperative decisions. You may carry a sense of betrayal or grievance into nonabusive relationships. You may be blaming, punitive, passive aggressive, dissociative, cold, insensitive, insulting, under- or overreactive emotionally, and behave in other ways that make you a difficult, frightening,  or unpleasant person to relate to. Working out problems may seem impossible.

If you have it, I’m sorry for the suffering you’ve experienced. Really truly sorry you suffered in the first place, and that it continues. Finding out you have PTSD is not fun, but at least you have an explanation for your baffling behavior and can start your journey toward health.

I can only advise you that once you suspect you have it, get counseling as soon as possible. Get counseling as if your life depends on it, because the quality of every day of the rest of your life and the quality of your most valued relationships actually does. Go to the best counselor you can find.

I also recommend brain wave optimization to normalize your brain waves after trauma.

The post-PTSD life, the joy, the friendships and close relationships that await you, the presence, the freedom — I cannot tell you how good life can be.

Go for it. You’re worth it.

Looking back on a year full of changes

This past year held a lot of change for me. The previous year, 2010, was a year of sitting in meditation daily, and I very nearly accomplished that. It was a year of contemplation, exploring my identity, waking up, and getting clear.

The changes in 2011 helped my external life — how I live in the world — match up better with how my energy and identity had changed after all that meditation.

Changes to the blog

This blog had gotten 5,000 views in January and is ending the year with nearly 27,000. Readership really accelerated. I felt like I hit my stride in the second year, and I want to keep getting better. I currently have 156 followers, which includes WordPress and email subscribers as well as Twitter followers.

I redesigned and renamed the blog (from The Zafu Report) at the beginning of 2011 and stuck with the same template, albeit changing the photo often, for the entire year. I broadened the topics from mostly posting about meditation and yoga to posting about wellness and aliveness. I began including posts about healthy eating and reviews of movies that I’ve found inspiring and expansive.

My intent for 2012 is to be more personal in my writing. I noticed that those are the posts that get the most views, likes, and comments, not the reposts. I will still share the juicy information I come across, but I’ll also tell you why it’s meaningful to me. I’d love to have more comments from you.

Selling my house and moving into a trailer

My house was on the market in January 2011, and I closed and moved out in late February. I immediately bought the vintage Spartan Carousel that I’d had my eye on online for months. I put household stuff in storage (what remained after paring down) and moved in with dear friends until I could get the trailer here.

I found my trailer park in March.

First, I waited to get a title from the state of Washington, and then I waited for flood waters to recede so the trailer could be loaded on a trailer and hauled here. That finally happened in June. We got it set up, repaired, installed cork flooring and an HVAC unit, and I moved in in August. A friend donated a washer and dryer, and I got them set up in my shed in October.

Trailer life is good! I am enjoying living here a lot, and it’s great to have a paid-for, portable, recycled, streamlined, vintage home. I’ve had friends do two house blessings here, and I’ve done some landscaping. I’ve seen deer and a fox in the park, as well as lots of birds. My neighbors have been very unobtrusive.

The only sad part is that my cat, Mango, did not adapt well to trailer park life, and he went back to live with my former roommates, who love him, and we all have joint custody. I see him every week, and he still loves me.

It’s also been a bit of an adjustment, moving from the center of the city to the edge. I do more driving. I listen to music and NLP CDs a lot now while I drive.

My intent for 2012 is to install more window coverings, have a deck built, and get a chimenea and some bird-feeders for viewing pleasure. I look forward to doing more landscaping and gardening. I’ll see what my budget allows in terms of further improvements.

Teaching and studying yoga

I taught restorative yoga weekly through July at an acupuncture clinic. Although the class size was small, that teaching experience was invaluable. I worked with private students and substituted at a lunchtime yoga class — the one I took when I was working — and taught a restorative class in a studio for Free Day of Yoga. Did restorative yoga by invitation on a friend’s moving day.

I did two workshops in 2011 with nationally known teachers, Shiva Rea in January and Judith Hanson Lasater in February. In the summer, I began taking classes from Anusara teachers and later picked up a sweaty vinyasa flow class for a more challenging workout. I love working with accomplished teachers — I’m there to learn more about teaching as well as about yoga.

I’m signed up to take Yoga Anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff in January 2012.  I’d love to combine my love of yoga with my love of massage to work on yogis and help prevent and heal yoga injuries.

Practicing changework

I started this year serving as an assistant for NLP master practitioner training by Tom Best of Best Resources/Texas Institute of NLP. That ended in April. I served as program director for the Austin NLP meet-up for a few months and later co-taught an NLP class to women in prison. I attended Metaphors of Money, a workshop with Charles Faulkner, in the fall.

I offered NLP changework sessions this past year, and some of my clients had some wonderful outcomes, reaching major milestones and fulfilling long-time dreams. The sessions played a role in their success, which is pleasing, of course, and my clients already had a lot of resources when I worked with them. It was fun.

I attended two weekend sessions with Byron Katie in which she demonstrated The Work. I use her method of inquiry on myself often and with clients.

I did a lot of reading and personal experimentation with two healing practices, the trauma releasing exercises of David Berceli and shaking medicine taught by Bradford Keeney. Each has tremendous value.

I practiced the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) every day in January as I waited for my house to sell and found it helped keep me calm and centered. I’ve since taught it to others.

Going to massage school

In April, I learned about hands-on healing from giving it, and that steered me toward massage school rather than acupuncture school (although never say never). I began studying at The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in late June (the same day my trailer arrived!) and finished my academic work in early December. I’m currently working in the student clinic, gaining the required 50 hours of internship to get my license.

Meanwhile, I’ve worked on about 30 friends and family members and about 25 of my fellow students.

Besides my regular classes, I took a workshop on cranio-sacral therapy. I’ve gotten massages from my teachers as a way of learning, and I’ve been fortunate enough to trade Swedish massage for lomi lomi and reflexology sessions. The learning will always continue.

Once I’m licensed, probably in February, I’ll officially start my practice, although I’ve been doing bodywork/changework sessions for gratis for several months.

Continuing my own healing

I continued to do acupuncture with Patrice Sullivan and did my usual spring and fall cleanses, which I’ve posted about before. This year I finally cleared my liver and gallbladder of stones!

I continued receiving applied kinesiology sessions from Chandler Collins and hands-on bodywork sessions from Bo Boatwright to free up even  more health into my body and life.

I began working with Fran Bell, who gave my walk a makeover. I had been walking as if I was still injured long after my injuries had healed. Sometimes it takes help to change habitual patterns. Now when I walk, my body feels good and has energy.

Also in the past year, I resumed my practice of ecstatic dance, which I fell in love with in 1995. My ecstatic dancing was on hiatus for the past three or so years. My body craved yoga and more silence, stillness, and solitude. It’s good to be back. I feel like I’ve found a good community, Ecstatic Dance of Austin.

In May I had the initial assessment for brainwave optimization, and in June I did 10 sessions with NeuroBeginnings. The benefits continue to show up for months afterward. I feel more centered, myself, and content. I imagine 2012 will bring even more health and healing into my life.

Working 

I started the year jobless, living on my savings. When I realized I had no idea how long it might take to sell my house, I decided to do contract technical writing. The day I posted my resume, I was contacted by a recruiter. I worked at 3M for 3 months.

I’ve done some freelance work writing and editing website copy.

I’m holding a space for a part-time job in 2012 for financial security while I get my practice established.

Spiritual direction

In the spring, I joined my friend Thomas in watching a group of Tibetan monks destroy a sand painting they had constructed painstakingly and then walk in procession to release the sand into Lady Bird Lake. Very moving, a reminder of impermanence.

On the fall equinox, I realized that I felt as if I had finally fully arrived, or one might say, as if I fully occupied myself, as though I became fully present. Gratified. It’s hard to know that is even a goal until you experience it.

I joined a book group in the fall, studying the 4th way Gurdjieffian path as taught by E.J. Gold. I plan to continue with that in 2012.

I also began dating someone this fall after four years of not dating. I don’t know the future, but it totally feels very sweet and lovely to be in a relationship at this time with this man!!

My second Saturn return occurred in December. My astrologer said that for Aquarians like me, rather than age, I “youth”. So far, so good!

So that wraps up 2011, the year of big changes. I don’t do resolutions, but I check in with my intentions, many of which I’ve shared here.

Wishing you all many blessings in 2012.

Astrology for the coming year

One of my favorite astrology writers is Rob Brezsny. His weekly Free Will Astrology horoscopes, available online, via email newsletter, and in weekly print publications like the Austin Chronicle, always stimulate me. He’s that skilled and creative and that good a writer.

Rob is offering three-part in-depth audio discussions of each sign’s outlook for 2012 beginning next week and for the two weeks following. The cost is $6 per sign, with discounts for multiple readings.

Abbreviated versions appear in print. The forecast for each week is published on Tuesdays.

I usually copy and paste the readings for the coming year into a single document that I can read to see the big picture of my outlook. I read both my sun (Aquarius) and rising (Virgo) signs.

My horoscopes for 2011 called this year my bridge-building year, and asked me to meditate on how to call forth, nurture, and direct my yearning. It’s been a year of getting trained to change my work into more of a right livelihood for me, bodywork and change work. It definitely feels like a bridge-building year.

I was told that life would be conspiring to strengthen my brain, sharpen my wits, and see the world with greater clarity. I actually underwent brainwave optimization in June, which has sharpened my wits, and I do feel as though I am seeing the world with more clarity.

I was encouraged to be myself to find success, and to cultivate my unique talents, some of which might still be latent and undiscovered. I had no idea then that I’d be going to massage school. Several confirmations that being myself leads to success have popped up.

My 2011 readings seem spot on in hindsight.

I have a strong hunch that 2012 is going to be about blending heaven and earth, taking my spiritual ideals and putting them into form. At least that is what my personal, local astrologer Laura Waldman says. I’ve encountered that phrase, blending heaven and earth, from Patrice, my acupuncturist as well.

It will be a year of finishing my internship and getting licensed, of starting my private practice, and perhaps doing other work as well.

I also foresee it as a year of deepening and strengthening relationships.

Can’t wait to see what Rob Brezsny says!

I’m looking forward to reading what Rob says the coming year will bring.  Thanks, Rob and Laura, for all you do!

Massage, brainwaves, NLP, work, yoga, women in prison, Gurdjieffian book group, trailer, and more

Life is going pretty well. Knock wood, right?

I’m doing well in massage school. Got in some great practice on three people outside of school this past Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s practical exam. I have a major written test next week and then a week off. It’s hard to believe that I’m about halfway through!

Tomorrow it will be three months since I finished brainwave optimization. I am glad I did it. I feel more centered, my memory is better, and so is my focus. It’s been worth the expense, and I can still go back for individual sessions if I feel the need. It’s been helpful with juggling school/trailer/moving/remodeling/working and so on.

I’m looking forward to doing some gamma wave enhancement when my trainer Gigi Turner at NeuroBeginnings is ready and I have time.

Also, I can have a drink now! You are warned not to drink alcohol during the training and for three months afterward. Kinda makes me wonder what alcohol actually does to the brain. Any drinking I do will be very light — my alcohol tolerance is low.

I did an NLP session with a friend today and picked up a freelance writing/editing job for her website! This is my second recent website writing job. I love doing this for people who have created and are running their small businesses that make the world a better, healthier place, people who are living their passions. I’m looking for more work like that.

I posted my technical writing resume on Monster.com a couple of weeks ago. I’m looking to work 20 hours a week at most, flex-time and telecommuting preferred. Meanwhile, I’m open to doing freelance writing and editing, as well as more yoga and NLP coaching.

I’d love to teach yoga out of my trailer to individuals or small groups (up to 4 max). I’m putting this out there so if you know anyone in South Austin who’d like a small class with more personal attention, you can refer them to me.

I’m considering teaching a donation-only class on Saturday mornings until the weather gets cold. I plan to check out Searight Park in my neighborhood as a possible location. I have Sun Salutations on my mind!

I’ve been attending a weekly class in Anusara yoga at Castle Hill taught by Brigitte Edery or Liz Belile, both great teachers who stimulate and challenge the mind and body. It’s a natural segue from my Iyengar-based training. Love the attention to awareness.

Next week I’m going with Keith Fail into the state prison in Lockhart to teach some basic NLP to women in prison, as part of Truth Be Told‘s Exploring Creativity program. We’ll teach triple description — first, second, and third position, like first, second, and third person in English class, only applying it to your real life. Perceptual flexibility is a fabulous skill to teach, and I’m looking forward to it.

I’m participating in a book group, reading Life in the Labyrinth, by E.J. Gold. This is my first foray into the Gurdjieffian lineage, not counting my longtime interest in the Enneagram. The group has been meeting for a while, and I’m honored to have been invited. We take turns reading aloud, covering a chapter a week, and enjoying some stimulating discussion.

I’ve signed up for a one-day workshop at Lauterstein-Conway later this month on cranio-sacral massage. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I received CST every month for 2-3 years from Nina Davis. It is a fascinating branch on the massage family tree.

Week after next, I’m trading two hours of Swedish massage, with all the extras, for a two-hour lomi lomi (Hawaiian style) massage with James Moore. Really looking forward to that! I haven’t had a lomi lomi massage yet but have read about the Hawaiian healers who have kept this art alive.

Last, the trailer. I’m working on finding the best weatherstripping for the aluminum jalousie windows — something that will last that I can buy in bulk for the 48 windows, which have had the old, melted weatherstripping painstakingly removed.

Then, I hope to replace the nonworking sliding glass doors at the entry with something that works and build an entry deck. I’ve been using the back door to come and go.

Oh, and I must share this! August 2011 was the hottest month in the hottest year on record in Austin. It was also my first full month of having AC in the trailer. Friends have been telling me about their outrageous electric bills — as much as $400.

My AC ran nearly all day every day in August. I worried about my bill being outrageous.

The August bill was $100. Whew! Jon Esquivel at Austin Star Services did a good job getting a good unit in this trailer. For that I am grateful.

Other tasks coming up include plumbing and wiring my shed for a washer and dryer, getting some good window coverings and installing them, and planting more trees and a fall garden with some edible landscaping.

I am really, really loving my life now and the direction it’s going. It’s scary to make a big change in direction like I did, and it is working out well. Knock wood!

Update on trailer, brainwave optimization, TRE and shaking medicine

My Spartan Carousel trailer is still not here. Southeastern Washington state, usually somewhat desert-y, has had unusual flooding on the Columbia and Yakima Rivers. Although my trailer has been on high ground, the road to it has been underwater. However, it’s finally drying up, and a truck may be able to get in there and start its journey here any day now!

I’ve been having dreams about it for a couple of weeks now. Have talked to a handyman with RV experience about helping me get it operational.

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It’s been almost a week since I did brainwave optimization at Neuro Beginnings. What I notice is that my thoughts and emotions seem clearer and I feel more together, sparkly, and capable than before.

Meditation and doing something physically active in nature, like walking or swimming or kayaking, each day seem to be really helping.

I am more aware of my mind than ever, and notice how untamed it often is, and yet it functions pretty well! I work on actively calming it (moving from beta to alpha) several times a day. When I meditate, I surrender from alpha into theta.

I’ve borrowed the book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain,by David Eagleman, which “navigates the depths of the unconscious brain,” according to the book jacket. I am very much looking forward to reading it after I finish my current book.

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I have experienced some spontaneous shaking, i.e., trembling without doing the trauma releasing exercises. A couple of times, I’ve noticed tension in my body and just laid down and shook for 5 minutes. Nice!

If I haven’t had any spontaneous shaking, I do the exercises about once a week. More of my body is involved. If you remember, at first it was just my legs, then my left arm and shoulder, and it has continued to spread.

I notice that I do less of the fine quivering or trembling, although I still experience that in my legs. I do more shaking, rocking, rolling, flapping, circling, twirling — repetitive movements of all kinds.

My body seems to like to do quite a variety of these, not staying in any one pattern for more than 15-20 seconds.

Then I lie still for a while, not knowing if I’m “done” shaking. I discovered that if I straighten my legs, sometimes they still need to shake. So my feet move back in forth, in unison and in opposition, and sometimes my heels bounce!

I’m also noticing that after I’ve laid on the floor and shaken, sometimes when I stand, my body still wants to make rhythmic movements for a while. These seem more dance-like, but it’s more like I am being moved than deliberately moving.

More and more I notice the feeling state I’m in after I tremble or shake. It’s like the channels are cleared out. I feel lighter, more open, more centered. My vibrations feel stronger and higher. I feel very balanced between mind and heart.

It is definitely a good feeling to have, a very pleasant state to be in, a kind of quiet, subtle ecstasy.

I wonder if I’m moving from the trauma releasing exercises into shaking medicine. Will keep you posted on that!

My experience with brainwave optimization

Last week I did brainwave optimization, aka brain training, at NeuroBeginnings.  I did the baseline assessment in May and wrote about it here. It’s an astounding new technology with huge potential to alleviate suffering and help people’s brains function optimally without spending a minor (or major) fortune on health care.

Gigi Turner, owner of NeuroBeginnings, likes to schedule the training to start within two weeks of the initial assessment, but we had to work around finishing my 3M contract, which was hard to pin down. You need a full week as free of demands as possible so you can integrate the brain training. It’s a wonderful activity for a vacation (or stay-cation if you live in Austin). 

By the way, Gigi is hard-working, personable, and adorable. She’s easy to relate to, and you know she’s working for your best interests. She’s a woman after my own heart, fascinated with the brain and its workings, making the world a better place one brain at a time.

I did two sessions per day, Monday through Friday, one at 9 am and another at 12:30 pm, each lasting about an hour and forty-five minutes.

Between the morning and afternoon sessions, I hung out at the Zilker Botanical Gardens or walked along Barton Creek. It felt great to move after being still, and being outdoors in scenic nature was refreshing. I’d get lunch at the Daily Juice or Whole Foods, something light and very healthy.

During each session, I sat in a special recliner and either watched a computer monitor or just relaxed doing nothing. Gigi attached electrodes to my head and moved them to various places — frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes.

There were several exercises I did in every session: sitting and watching a bar move to a lower position,  reclining with the lights off and relaxing deeply, imagining/remembering an activity that uses all the senses, and visualizing a guided meditation.

During all the exercises, I heard musical notes playing. Gigi said you actually want them to stay in the background and not think about it too much. They are random notes, not playing a tune, not rhythmic, not even music — just random notes. There are a variety of musical sounds. You might hear the random notes played on a guitar, xylophone, steel drum, bells, or piano.

I am a thinker. I have a very active mind, and I’m gaining facility in switching from that active, inquiring, analytical state to more relaxed states.

I noticed that I liked it when a lot of notes played fairly densely, and I didn’t like it when one note played over and over, or when there was a long silence. I wanted the “music” to be pleasing to my ears.

A couple of times I would recognize a fragment of a song in a string of 3 or 4 notes and smile to myself. I noticed that if I was getting one note repeatedly, I could move my eyes, and the sound would shift. That’s an NLP trick!

The sounds reflect current brainwave activity, allowing the brain to “see” itself, as Lee Gerdes says in his book, Limitless You. You do occasionally view your brain activity on the monitor, but mostly the brain is hearing itself, and the more in harmony and cohesive the brain gets, the more the sounds reflect that.

You don’t have to do anything. The brain adjusts itself. At least, that’s how I think it works.

Watching the bar was hardest for me. I tried too hard, and it strained my eyes (I wear contacts and need to blink often — did you know your brainwaves change when you close your eyes, even to blink?). I stopped drinking green tea in the morning and brought eyedrops, attempting to make this exercise easier to accomplish.

I finally started getting the hang of it on Friday when I imagined that the sound of the air conditioning was a waterfall that was very nearby. When my attention was split between listening to the “waterfall” and gazing beneath the bar (rather than staring intently at it), I made progress.

I believe that exercise was about my “thinking” mind — aka bringing down my beta waves.

I went into brain training wanting to get rid of any remaining dysfunctional patterns from my childhood trauma and years of PTSD. Most of the changes took place in the frontal and occipital lobes — the center for executive functioning and the visual cortex, respectively. After my last session, Gigi gave me printouts showing how my brainwaves in those lobes had changed over the week of training. She got my left and right hemispheres more in sync in those lobes.

I loved the relaxation exercises. It turns out I’m very good at going into alpha! As I got used to the process, I got pretty good at dropping into theta and good at noticing the difference between alpha and theta. (Theta is where deep healing occurs.) I dropped into delta (sleep) a few times, especially after lunch, at first, but as the week progressed, I was able to stay awake in theta for longer periods.

I really loved the task of imagining I was entering a house, walking upstairs, and entering three rooms. Each day I created different rooms. Here are some juicy ones:

  • A room full of guides — lamas, teachers, angels, masters, buddhas and boddhisattvas, yogis, healers, shamans, seers — who included me and gave me gifts, laying their hands on me.
  • A room of possibilities that I’d like to manifest — travel, prosperity, success, joy, gifts and talents and skills, love, creativity, equanimity, health, goodness.
  • A room containing my fears and obstacles, with wonderful resources to address each one.
  • A room of gratitude for past, present, and future.
  • A room where I gave my gifts and resources to those who needed them.
  • A room of beginner’s mind.
  • A room for my future sage elder self.
  • A room of intuition.

Also, the Jean Houston guided meditation of cleansing the senses works well here. Having NLP training was useful!

During the five days of training, I didn’t experience any sudden or drastic changes in brain functioning, but each day I felt a little bit sharper, more present, more centered.

I learned that my brain operations were actually in pretty good shape to start with, and with a few tweaks it will operate even better. The changes will continue to manifest over a period of months after the training.

To get the most from it, the instructions are that for at least the next three weeks, I need to avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, exercise/walk daily, eat a lot of protein, and drink plenty of water.

It would be helpful to practice awareness through progressive relaxation, visualization while listening to a CD Gigi gave me (I liked the sound of a stream during some of the sessions, which has become an anchor), and doing breathwork.

I also need to postpone appointments for other therapeutic modalities until three weeks have passed, so I’ll need to make some phone calls on Monday.

If you’re interested, I recommend calling NeuroBeginnings for a baseline assessment. Her number is 512-699-6593. The baseline assessment currently costs $160. The entire cost, at present, is $1,635, if I remember correctly. Compared to doctor visits and medication, brain training could actually save you time, money, and side effects. 

I’m going to wait at least three months before going back for a tune-up unless something drastic happens, and then I hope to try one of their new gamma wave protocols.

I look forward to noticing improvements in my brain’s functioning and sharing them with you!

Starting the process of brainwave optimization

Yesterday I did something I’ve wanted to do ever since I learned about it. I had an assessment of how my brainwaves are working.

I learned that I still have traces of fight-or-flight activity stemming from PTSD. Forty something years after the trauma, after nearly 20 years of yoga, psychotherapy, releasing the traumatic energy block a la Waking the Tiger, over 5 years of meditation, learning NLP, and doing the trauma releasing exercises, this pattern (although much less than it was) is still present in my energy field. All of those healing modalities have helped and been completely worthwhile, to be sure.

Fight-or-flight is a wonderful instinct to have — when there’s something to fight or flee from. The problem is when there’s nothing in the environment to fear, but I am still tense or jumpy. It’s a brainwave pattern.

I’ve wondered how can I know I’ve completely recovered from trauma. The trauma happened when I was young, so I don’t have an adult baseline of well-being to compare to. I’d really like to know that I’m over it and don’t need to spend any more energy on it. Ever.

The aftereffects of a trauma can last a lifetime. I’d like to experience what it is like to be untraumatized. I can’t change the past, but I can change my brain wave patterns and therefore my life.  

Here’s how the process has gone so far. I made an appointment with Gigi Turner at NeuroBeginnings. That is one of three Austin affiliates offering brainwave optimization using the equipment and software and training provided by Brain State Technologies (BST).

The founder of BST, Lee Gerdes, has written a book, Limitless You: The Infinite Possibilities of a Balanced Brain. I have just gotten the book myself. One of the testimonials on the back cover mentions “restoring … humans to a joyful and highly functional state in their daily life.” Yeah.

All of these companies are staying busy, from what I hear, and I’m sure they are all very competent at doing what they do. I connected well with Gigi on the phone and identified with her as a working woman, so I chose her. She’s also the most highly trained BST certified technician in town.

At my first appointment, she had me fill out an extensive online questionnaire. I’m pretty sure they ask about so many issues because BST wants to collect as much data as it can. All in the name of compassionate science. This is a fascinating frontier that I’ve blogged about before.

At the end of the questionnaire, I identified my top reasons for wanting to do this. I listed well-being and happiness first. And, oh yeah, I wouldn’t mind having better spiritual development and meditation, cognitive improvement, social interactions, etc.

Gigi had me sit in a recliner. She put some electrodes on my earlobes and scalp. She then asked me to close my eyes for 2-3 minutes. Then she asked me to open my eyes partially. Then she asked me to open my eyes completely. With eyes open, she had me do an exercise like repeat strings of numbers.

Meanwhile, a big computer monitor with a split screen is showing my left and right hemisphere activity as colors — blues, green, red, each color representing a range of brainwaves like beta, alpha, theta, delta — streaming by.

Pretty and fascinating. I wonder what this means.

Then she’d move the electrodes and repeat the process for a different area of my brain, getting readings for the frontal lobe, parietal, temporal, occipital, cingulate gyrus, and midline, if I remember accurately.

With my eyes open, I’d do a different exercise for each area. I solved math problems aloud, read to myself and answered a question, listened to Gigi reading and answered a question, and just looked around the room.

At the end, she removed the electrodes and showed me a summary on the computer of my assessment. (It’s proprietary, so I didn’t get a copy. Darn! I love looking at data, seeing what pops out.)

Basically for each area of the brain, there’s data about the left and right hemispheres, about each brainwave type, and about ratios between types (such as between beta and theta), as far as I could tell. I bet there’s also data about the brain’s flexibility in moving from eyes closed, partly open, to wide open, and how well it functions doing each assigned task.

From experience, the BST-trained technicians have come to recognize “brainwave signatures” for various conditions like PTSD, ADHD, and so on. But it’s really not meant as a diagnostic tool. It’s meant to be used to harmonize and balance the brain, and this is the starting place.

They also can tell what range the numbers “should” be in for optimal functioning. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with being out of range. I imagine some gifts and talents that people have developed (math prodigy, psychic) rely on being out of normal range while doing that activity. The question is, are they happy and healthy? Can their brainwaves change to meet the situation, or are they in a dysfunctional pattern?

Even if you don’t have anything like PTSD, you can probably benefit from tuning up your brain. The literature says it can help with addictions, anger, anxiety, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, compulsive behaviors, eating disorders, learning difficulties, obsessive thinking, panic attacks, poor memory, sleeping difficulties, stress, and a host of other issues.

So it is possible that with the training, I can completely retrain my brain to operate as if I never had PTSD.

I can be less jumpy and experience even more well-being. I’m looking forward to that.

I can also learn to focus better on reading material that is, ahem, less than compelling. Like textbooks and other dry material.

I’m a pretty good sleeper, but Gigi says that optimizing my brain waves will help me sleep even better, waking up even more refreshed. Wow. I’ve had insomnia before and have great compassion for people with sleep problems. I’m looking forward to sleeping more restfully.

BST affiliates can also do things like increase beta in the left hemisphere and increase alpha in the right hemisphere. Yeah, let those hemispheres specialize even more! I imagine this would make someone more cognitively adept when they need to be and happier the rest of the time. I’ll have some of that, too!

So I’m going to do it later this month, when my contract job is completely done. You need to be able to come in for a couple of hours a day every day, or even twice a day, which is why I’ve waited until now.

I understand the process uses sound, and that you actually “observe” your brain waves and optimize them yourself, creating the balance and harmony you desire, rather than matching an external norm.

I will report back here at Well:bodymindheartspirit.