The healing process: a primer

People ask me about this because I’ve worked on it and continue to work it, in my personal life and as a professional in healing arts. I’ve documented bits of my own healing processes in this blog: from a severe childhood trauma, 20-year-old injury to my sacroiliac joint, a hiatal hernia, leaky gut, and more. I guess I have a little bit of street cred.

P.S. I’m still learning.

We live in a world with broken people and broken behaviors in it, including us and the things we ourselves do. Sometimes you know you’ve healed. You’re done. Sometimes it’s more like a spiral that you revisit as you get on with your life, mature, and find the resources to heal even more deeply.

You need breaks — because healing can be intense and you need to rebalance and integrate, which happens mostly in the non-conscious and is part of the process.

Even on your deathbed, the possibility for healing exists. We are all works in progress. It is a hero’s/heroine’s journey complete with allies, mentors, obstacles, blind alleys, discoveries, expansion, adversaries, stages/gates, divine aid, a transformative learning experience every step of the way.

Healing is multifaceted. It can be physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, seemingly by itself or in any combination, or all of the above, as well as outside of these realms beyond our capacity to understand. Everything is hitched to everything else, and we don’t know what “everything” is. Two-thirds of the universe is dark energy and no one knows what it is. We live inside a huge mystery.

It’s not necessarily linear. We can use linear strategies — I want to get from Point A to Point B — and it’s always a good idea to leave room for quantum changes, because they happen. People get visited by angels, get messages in dreams, recognize signs that provide direction in mundane life, health issues spontaneously disappear. And more. Always, and more.

Healing takes skill, and you can learn to do it, from your own experiences, from experts in it (healers, therapists), from non-professional others who’ve healed themselves, from getting informed about it (please be discerning, don’t believe everything you read, and maximize what’s helpful to you — if it’s hurtful, minimize it, but denial is generally not a good strategy).

Sometimes healing doesn’t work, or it is partial. It’s not exactly something we control. We are all mortal. The body wears out eventually, no matter how well you take care of it. Accidents, epidemics, natural disasters, unhealthy people with agendas or weapons or leadership roles exist. Accepting that anything can happen, that everything living has a lifespan, gives us a deadline, so to speak, and can prompt us to do some of our finest healing work. Who do you want to be next year?

There are issues that we simply don’t yet have the knowledge to heal. We are creatures of habit, conditioned by the past, and often those habits detract from healing. Examining and releasing your dysfunctional conditioning — beliefs, habits, patterns that don’t serve — is important.

Waking up is a synonym for healing. What is your place in the universe? Who are you? Why are you here? What’s your purpose? What do you bring to the table? What do you want to bring to the table? How can you make the world a better place, one day at a time, one conversation at a time? What is real? What is delusion? How do you know?

Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken. Take heed, do not squander your life.

~ Dogen Zenji

You may think you’re alone with your suffering, but you’re actually not alone. Someone, somewhere, has gone through something very similar and come through to the other side. Seek them out, learn from them, learn from each other, share resources. Shame keeps you separate. I like Brene Brown’s work on shame.

Everyone gets wounded. Everyone is vulnerable — although, word to the wise, find people to share with who are compassionate, who can empathize. Not everyone is. Develop your compassion, including self-compassion.

There are some prerequisites: first, you need to believe that healing is possible. Beliefs are powerful. They run deep. They often run the show without your conscious awareness until you make it your business to become aware of them and question them. Is it true? Check out Byron Katie’s The Work to dive in.

Next, in order to heal, you have to allow yourself to heal. This is important, even when you are going to a healer. Yes, healers can “do stuff” to you, but you are the one who lets it work. This is a skill. Surrendering is a skill, and it has to do with allowing yourself to be open to change that’s beyond your control. , and it

This can be quite scary for some. Please recognize that needing to be in control may be exactly the thing that keeps you from healing. Healing is bigger than the you that you know, and it’s mysterious. Healing means taking risks to allow the unknown to happen, and it also means expanding into a bigger version of you that you’re not familiar with yet.

If you could heal using only what you can control, how’s that working for you? Wouldn’t you already be healed?

Finally, you already are a healer. When you get a scratch, it bleeds, scabs over, the scab falls off, and the skin has knit itself back together. Hurts and disappointments diminish over time and possibly, with perspective, may even come to be seen as blessings in disguise that called on you to grow and heal.

As long as you are alive, life wants you to heal and provides some resources. You can get familiar with and cultivate those resources.

Hot green nourishing soup

I don’t know about you, but after the excesses of holiday eating, I’m so ready for something simple and nourishing.

I was inspired by a recent segment on The Splendid Table podcast about basic green soup.

I also am a big fan of The Soup Peddler‘s (colorful Austin vendor of soups, juices, smoothies, and more) green detox broth.

Here’s my mashup, made in an Instant Pot using an immersion blender. I now have some good simple eating for the week and some to put in the freezer.

You can easily make this vegan or Paleo using your own adaptations. Recipes are for inspiration!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of ghee, bacon grease, coconut oil, or olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • black pepper to taste (optional)
  • 3 cups water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Arborio rice (improves texture after blending)
  • 16 cups of leafy greens, herbs, broccoli, and zucchini (whatever is green and in season), coarsely chopped
  • 4 cups water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth
  • a pinch of cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • any other seasonings desired
  • olive oil to garnish

Steps:

  1. Set Instant Pot to saute and add fat, onions, salt, and pepper.
  2. Stir occasionally while cooking for 5 minutes, lid off.
  3. Stir, put the lid on, seal, and pressure cook for 20 minutes. Release pressure and remove lid. Onions should have a nice caramel color.
  4. Stir in 3 cups water or broth and 1/4 cup Arborio rice. Put the lid on, seal, and pressure cook for 1 minute. Release pressure manually and remove lid.
  5. Stir in the green veggies and add 4 more cups water or broth to Instant Pot. Pressure cook for 4 minutes. Release pressure and remove lid.
  6. Use an immersion blender in the pot, blending until contents are liquified.
  7. Add cayenne and lemon juice to taste. Adjust seasonings as desired. Garnish with olive oil.

What to know when seeking manual therapy for jaw tension/pain

So far, in five years of practice, I’ve had two clients come in for TMJ relief sessions who had previously seen multiple practitioners who worked inside their mouths to try to relieve their TMJ symptoms.

They had seen chiropractors, chiropractic neurologists, Rolfers, dentists trained by the Las Vegas Institute (LVI), and/or other massage therapists.

These two clients both told me, “No one has ever touched me there,” after I worked on their lateral pterygoids.

These are small, hard to access muscles, and in my opinion, they are most often the key muscles to address to release jaw tension.

anatomy of the jaw muscles

It’s not that the other jaw muscles don’t contribute. They do, and in roughly 10% of the TMD cases I’ve worked on so far, one of the medial pterygoids is “the problem child” creating the most pain and dysfunction in the jaws.

The external jaw muscles — the masseters and temporalises — also play a role in jaw tension but are never (that I’ve seen so far) the biggest contributors.

In other words, about 90% of the time when people have jaw pain from muscle tension, the lateral pterygoids are the main source.

It’s not that these other intra-oral practitioners have nothing to offer. Chiropractors, Rolfers, and massage therapists have definitely helped me, and I’m not familiar with the others. Also, some LVI-trained dentists do receive specific training in treating TMJ issues — and I’m sure they can help with more complex or advanced problems.

The only complaint I’ve heard about going to a physical therapist for TMJ relief is that they work aggressively, with little concern for patient comfort. I’m pretty sure that is because they are restricted by insurance companies to the amount of time allowed to address a given problem. If you can handle it, they probably will work on your lateral pterygoids.

You can always talk to them first about what to expect.

I don’t work with insurance, but even people living on a budget who are determined to get gentle, lasting TMJ relief have found a way to pay my reasonable rates.

I’ve learned through trial and error that one 75-minute session provides relief, but it may not be lasting. For longer-lasting relief, 5 sessions in 4 weeks with support for habit change and self-care help retrain the jaw muscles to lengthen and relax.

If jaw tension or pain resulting from jaw tension is your major complaint, and you’d like a sense of spaciousness in your TMJs (if you can even imagine how great that would feel), please seek a practitioner that works on the lateral pterygoids.

Click here to book a free 30-minute consultation. (My practice is in Austin, Texas.)

Things that distinguish my work:

  • I work as gently as possible. 
  • I never make any sudden moves. 
  • My sessions start with full body alignment to get you relaxed and progress toward the intra-oral work near the end. 
  • My referral partners include dentists, chiropractors, doctors, and massage therapists.

I started a Facebook group, Word of Mouth: Resources for Jaw Pain/Dysfunction, for people who want to work on their jaw issues. You can ask questions and learn more there.

I hope this information helps you ask informed questions when choosing a practitioner to relieve your jaw tension and pain. 

Breathing and being breathed

I have been breathing since shortly after I was born, but I never really gave much thought to it until I started doing yoga a few decades ago, and there wasn’t much instruction. In fact, I was a mindless smoker for part of my younger, ignorant, addicted life.

Pranayama (breath work) is the 4th limb of yoga, right after asana (postures). A few of my yoga teachers have included pranayama techniques at the end of asana class. Awareness of where I feel my breath, feeling it down to my pubic bone, feeling it on the sides and back of my rib cage and in my lumbar area and between my shoulder blades, keeping my shoulders down, letting my diaphragm really expand downwards, moving the heart/lungs and liver/gallbladder/pancreas/stomach/spleen on either side of the diaphragm, increasing the movement of detoxifying lymph with each breath, being present with the energizing inhalation and the relaxing exhalation, noticing the pauses, noticing what happens in my chakras and in my whole being…

Some of the yogic breathing techniques that have stuck with me through the years are kapalabhati (breath of fire), a rapid bellows breathing that floods the body with cleansing, nourishing oxygen as well as increases motivation — and also prevents discomfort from my hiatal hernia, and nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), calming and believed to balance the hemispheres of the brain.

Were you aware that throughout the day, one of your nostrils is more open than the other, and that they periodically switch sides?

Source: https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2015/02/krishnamacharyas-own-asana-and.html

I practice these two techniques every day along with a more modern technique, 4-7-8 breathing, that was taught to Dr. Andrew Weil by his mentor, Dr. Robert Fulford, an American cranial osteopath/shaman (Wikipedia describes him as a pioneer in alternative and energetic medicine) who obviously had studied pranayam.

Dr. Weil recommends doing no more than four rounds of 4-7-8 breathing daily for a couple of months to train the nervous system to quickly move into a relaxed state. I notice that the main times I need to use it are when I’m driving and I narrowly avoid hitting something or being hit.

Another practice that’s not a technique (at least that I’ve ever heard of) is something that occurs in meditation. I call it “being breathed”. It occurs after settling the body and calming the mind, paradoxically by using the breath to relax by lengthening exhalations.

As relaxation/parasympathetic dominance increases, a gradual detachment from controlling the breath allows it to shift to operate on its own, automatically — as it does naturally when we’re not paying attention.

When you notice that your breath has become automatic — you aren’t doing anything to it or with it — you’re simply allowing it to do its thing — breathing becomes completely passive, occurring on its own, and observing it doesn’t change it — that’s what I call being breathed.

There’s a kind of awesomeness to this experience. I wonder if this is what Shri Krishnamacharya, founder of modern yoga, may have been referring to when he said pranayama could result in samadhi.

Am I experiencing samadhi? I don’t know. There’s a sense of oneness and a subtle sense of bliss that permeates. Namaste, my friends.

So that’s my current practice, doing three techniques daily that take 5 minutes, plus meditating (10 minutes with Sam Harris’ Waking Up app, and usually a few more in silence, breathing equally through nose and mouth with my tongue on my palate behind my upper teeth, a Kum Nye technique).

My advanced integrative bodywork practice

Featured

I make my living doing advanced integrative bodywork in Austin, Texas. I use four main techniques: craniosacral therapy, biodynamics, Zero Balancing, and orthopedic massage. As standalone treatments or integrated as needed, depending on my clients’ needs and preferences, these techniques can accomplish the following:

  • reduce stress and deepen relaxation
  • release muscle tension
  • reduce pain
  • improve the flow of fluids
  • align your structure and ease your movement
  • free the flow of energy
  • facilitate healing from injuries
  • harmonize your body’s systems
  • strengthen your body’s innate healing abilities
  • deepen your resilience
  • help you feel expanded and confident

Click here to view my business website.

TMJ Relief

Since 2013, I’ve been developing my skills and expertise in offering relief from jaw tension, pain, and dysfunction. I’ve studied with Ryan Hallford, craniosacral therapist and teacher from Southlake, TX, completed multiple craniosacral courses from the Upledger Institute, and studied with John W. Corry of London, Ontario, long-time massage therapist and teacher specializing in jaw and vocal issues.

My intent when working on jaw issues is to create as little discomfort as possible. This means that any pain experienced should only be productive “hurts-so-good” pain. I check in frequently, and my sessions end with deep relaxation. I can also help you start changing the habits that contribute to jaw discomfort.

I offer several ways to be of service to people with jaw issues:

  • You can join my Facebook group, called Word of Mouth: Resources for Relieving Jaw Pain/Dysfunction, which offers educational units as well as connection with others working on their jaw issues.
  • You may schedule a free 30-minute consultation so I can learn about your jaw issues, do an evaluation, and discover if we’re a good match for successful treatment.
  • You may alternatively schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to answer your questions.
  • You may schedule a 75-minute TMJ Relief session, which can be right after the in-office consultation if that time slot is available on my online scheduling program.
  • You may decide to join my TMJ Relief Program, designed to create long-lasting relief by offering 5 sessions in 4-5 weeks, along with education, exercises, supplement recommendations, links to videos, and more. Many patients try one session and then decide to do the program.

You need to be in Austin to receive a session, unless you arrange my travel elsewhere — please call to discuss if interested. The Facebook group is open to people anywhere who are seeking to address their jaw issues. The educational units (click Units on left panel to view) available for the group include teaching relaxed resting mouth position, jaw exercises, self-massage, relaxation techniques, terminology, sleep positioning, and more.

If you’re interested in joining the group, click this link, answer the three questions, and you’re in!

2018 blog stats

Every year since 2010, I’ve written a post summarizing the year on this blog. Here are the highlights for 2018.

My posts from years past about healing my injured sacroiliac joints have gotten a lot of comments in 2018 from people who are also suffering, and that has brought the most gratification this year, to know that documenting my healing journey offers hope to others.

To summarize that journey, I saw many practitioners in various bodywork modalities for a couple of decades before finding one who truly understood what it would take to heal the injury. I followed her advice, and it worked. My final post, Sacroiliac joint healed!, published in 2017, includes links to all my previous posts on the topic.

In 2018, I had 94,239 visitors and 127,235 views. This is down a bit from 2017, even though I wrote more posts in 2018. I’m attributing the downturn in visitors and views to social media burnout.

Social media has been a fun new toy — and more people are seeking balance in their lives. I’m actually fine with it, as I’m seeking balance too. Writing fewer posts but having them be more germane to how we can live better lives works for me. Plus, I’m a bodyworker and wellness advocate by trade. Less text neck, eye strain, forward head posture, and sitting are better for your health. I want you to be healthy!

I wrote 32 blog posts in 2018, totaling 16,319 words, averaging 510 words per post, a bit shorter than I typically have written.

Of the posts I wrote this year, these have gotten the most views (listed newest to oldest):

The most-read post in 2018 was one first posted back in January 2014, How to drink water with lemon and preserve your tooth enamel. It’s gotten the most comments of any post I’ve ever written. Believe it or not, almost 5 years after it was first published, 40,960 people read that post in 2018. I hope they/you are preserving their/your tooth enamel!

At the end of 2018, I have 292 followers on WordPress, 92 on email, and 605 on social media. Thank you!

The most popular day and hour for reading my blog is Sunday at 2 pm.

And now (drum roll), where are readers from? Well, it looks like this:

  • all of North America except Greenland
  • all of South America except for one tiny country north of Brazil (French Guiana)
  • all of Europe except Svalbard islands
  • all of Asia except Iran, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan
  • most of Africa except Western Sahara, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia
  • I imagine there are some tiny island nations that don’t appear on the map with no readers

As always, it astounds me how connected the world is now because of the internet.

One of my intentions for 2019 is to improve my writing. I’d like to write a monthly post but have each be more interesting, compelling, and shareable.

Thank you so much for reading!

Making and using umami powder


The Splendid Table podcast had a guest caller who shared her recipe for umami powder, in October 2017. She’d grown up in Japan, and after returning to the U.S. as an adult, experimented and came up with this flavor-enhancing powder that you can add to American favorites as well as East Asian ones.

Here’s the episode (the umami power segment starts at 41:30 and ends at 46:30), and here’s the recipe. I thought I’d share my experience making it, as well as ways to use it.

Ingredients:

  • 1-oz. package of bonito flakes (makes 6 tablespoons)
  • 1 oz. bulk dried shiitake mushrooms (or if not available in bulk, a small package — use the rest in soups)
  • small package of kombu (with what you don’t use for umami powder, add half a sheet when cooking dried legumes — it takes the gas out, and you can fish it out before serving )

Tools:

  • coffee/spice grinder
  • medium-size bowl
  • kitchen scale
  • scissors
  • small whisk

Instructions:

  1. Fill the coffee/spice grinder with bonito flakes and pulverize into a fine powder. Empty the grinder into the bowl. Repeat until all the bonito flakes are ground up.
  2. Do the same with the shiitakes. You may need to manually break large ones up to fit into the grinder. Repeat as needed. Add the shiitake powder to the bonito flake powder.
  3. Place sheets of kombu on the scale and add/subtract to get one ounce. Use scissors to cut 1/4″ strips of kombu lengthwise, and then cut across the strips to make 1/4″ squares. 
  4. Put these into the grinder and grind to a fine powder. Add to the bonito and shiitake powder.
  5. Whisk the three powders gently to mix well. 
  6. Makes 1 cup of light, fluffy powder. I stored it in a jar, and you could also put some in a spice container for sprinkling on food.

The originator of this recipe, Erica from Seattle, recommends adding the powder to burgers, meatloaf, and “a savory oatmeal that was phenomenal”.

She also mentions adding it to seafood soups to make them taste like they’ve simmered for hours.

Other ideas:

  • Sprinkle it on food as a seasoning.
  • Use it to add flavor to sauces and broths.
  • Add it to savory porridges like congee.
  • Sprinkle it on a piece of fish before cooking. 
  • Sprinkle on chicken before baking.
  • Add to ricotta with herbs to make spread for toast or crackers.

Have you made umami powder? How have you used it?

Polyvagal theory, applied

I’m summarizing polyvagal theory, originated by Dr. Stephen Porges, from a 10:48-minute video interview of him. I’m doing this for my own understanding, and I want to share because it’s a new way of thinking about traumatic responses. It has major implications for my work, and I’ve added my own comments in brackets. I am sure I will continue to refine my understanding.

Dr. Porges says that polyvagal theory is the understanding of how our body reacts to various challenges. The autonomic nervous system [involuntary, like heart beat] has evolved in vertebrates, changing and adding new circuits that function in a hierarchy. The newer circuits can inhibit older circuits. The older circuits were circuits of defense. Continue reading

Treating TMJ issues: a series of posts

I’ve been writing about TMJ pain and dysfunction on my Facebook business page and on my Austin, Texas, USA, private-practice website’s blog. Now I’m sharing an index of these posts here on my “big blog”.

If you have TMJ disorder and want to read any of those posts, here are the links.

I view TMJ issues as not just biomechanics, although it plays a role. This issue has social, emotional, historical, biological, cognitive, and spiritual aspects. I am very aware that some people, especially in the mainstream medical and dental fields, may believe it’s unnecessary or even laughable to provide information on so-called “woo-woo” or “fluffy” topics like essential oils, yoga, and the throat chakra for people who are suffering from jaw pain and dysfunction.

So let me share how I came to write this series of posts. Instead of just going to experts (and I have done that), I also asked women who suffer from this problem what helps, and they told me. And I believe them!

Since nine times more women than men experience severe, chronic TMJ issues, this is super valuable information to share.

I want the world to know that TMJ treatment is available beyond night guards, pain meds, and surgery, and there are so many options for self-care: massage, exercises, training yourself in new habits, reducing stress, improving posture, acupressure, nutrition, stretching, journaling, meditating, and more. I’m working on designing programs to evaluate and treat specific TMJ-related issues. More later!

If you bump into this limited and limiting attitude, please share this post, and please share in the comments your experiences and any other resources you have found helpful.

FB posts on TMJ disorder and remedies

I am writing 30 posts in 30 days on my Facebook business page on TMJ disorder (jaw pain and dysfunction). Please like and follow my page if you are interested in this topic, either as someone who suffers from it (or cares about someone who does) or provides treatment (or wants to learn about treatment, ahem, dentists and hygienists).

I’ve been offering TMJ Relief sessions since 2013. I was lucky to have learned how to do intra-oral work from Ryan Hallford of Southlake, Texas (near Fort Worth). Ryan is a craniosacral therapist who also teaches internationally, and he is the creator of The Craniosacral Podcast.

I’ve also studied craniosacral techniques with the Upledger Institute, including how to work with the hard palate.

None of my TMJ sessions would be complete without some massage techniques.

I am so attracted to doing TMJ work because it so often makes a dramatic difference. One session will help your jaw move with more ease and feel more spacious. I recommend three sessions (a week to 10 days apart if possible) for lasting results.

I often never hear from people again after they’ve received three sessions. Others come back for a session only after experiencing prolonged dental work or stress. If you are interested in booking a session with me, here’s my website with online booking.

I am always interested in learning more about what works, and I look forward to researching and connecting in this area.