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.

Massage school classwork over; internship starting

This morning I finished my classwork (except for a couple of makeup classes) at The Lauterstein-Conway School of Massage.

I’ve been in the fastest-paced program available, called “the intensive”. My class started on June 27, 2011, and has now completed 450 hours of training. My 50-hour internship in the school’s student clinic starts on Thursday.

If you are in Austin and would like a $35 student massage from me, click this link to view my December internship schedule. You can also just call the clinic at 512-453-2830 and ask when I’m working and not booked. (Please note that these massages are in demand, and the clinic tends to book several weeks in advance. I’m doing 20 massages in December, 28 in January, and 2 in February, if all goes according to plan, so call soon.)

I want to thank those family members and friends who have let me practice on you during my training. I appreciate your patience and willingness (okay, I didn’t have to twist any arms), and I hope my practice benefitted you and enhanced your well-being. Actually, I hope you loved my touch. I’ve worked on about 25 of you outside of school, generally for longer than an hour, and several of you more than once. Thank you.

I’d also love to thank my classmates. Our class held together pretty well, with not too many drop-outs. We started with 28 and ended with approximately 22. It’s been a pleasure knowing you and working on and with you and receiving your work. I’ve worked on most of you multiple times. Thank you! I’d like to stay in touch.

I’ve greatly enjoyed my teachers at TLC, the apropos nickname for The Lauterstein-Conway school. Your personalities are so vivid, I’ve thought that someone should write a sit-com pilot set at a massage school and pitch it to Hollywood — and much hilarity ensues! Thank you for choosing to practice and teach massage, and for teaching me so much.

I’ve learned a lot about anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology — and I’ve really just begun a lifelong love. I’ve learned the basics of Swedish and sports and deep massage and Shiatsu, BMTs, ROMs, stretches, pressure points, and more. All have made their way into my work. In addition, I learned about business, ethics, energy work, clinical protocols, and so much more it’s hard to even remember at this moment.

I also want to acknowledge Awareness, in which you, I, and all of Creation exists, and recognize its internal guidance to this right-for-me livelihood and so many other things that are right in my life.

I want to especially acknowledge two people who work on me, Bo Boatright and Patrice Sullivan, as being instrumental in encouraging me to do healing work.

Bo asked me to work on him when he was injured. I only had reiki training at the time and had hardly used it, and that was all I could do, but I stayed with him and let the energy pour through. He recognized the quality of my touch and my heart connection, and I am finding that others recognize that sometimes too. Thank you for dancing with me, Bo.

Patrice has been the best role model ever for a learned, very skilled healer and teacher and a happy free spirit who does life her own unique way, and it seems to be working out extremely well for her. We’ve come such a long way together over the past few years in terms of health, relating, and getting my qi flowing well. Thank you for dancing with me, Patrice!

Sometimes I don’t know if I’m dreaming or awake. Is living the dream the same as being truly awake? Today I’m going for dreaming and awake.

Suggestions to relieve insomnia and get to sleep

A couple of months ago, I blogged about some exciting new research about insomnia. It seems that when we lie awake at night, unable to fall asleep, it’s because our brains are overheating. They tend to generate more warmth during the day and cool down at night.

So something happens that moves us out of this biorhythm and into the minor hell of insomnia (or major, if it goes on long enough). When you would like to be sleeping, the monkey mind grabs onto thoughts and won’t let go — generating heat in the brain and preventing sleep.

The researcher experimented with a cooling cap. It seemed to me that there were alternatives that were much simpler and more accessible.

Disidentify with your thoughts

First of all, disidentifying with your thoughts is a useful skill anyone can learn with a little practice. Thinking is what the mind does. It serves a purpose. It is not inherently bad.

The question is whether thinking is appropriate when you want to be sleeping. There’s thinking, and then there’s mind-running-amok.

To disidentify with those thoughts, you simply choose to focus your attention on your breath, or on sounds, sensations, rhythms, your weight against the sheets and pillow, a chakra, your whole body, a state of wonder, an image — find something that works for you. (All this stuff is happening all the time. “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans,” right?)

Notice that your thoughts are often about something that’s neither here nor now — they’re in the past or future. Bring your attention into the present moment. What are you actually experiencing?

Your mind may interrupt, but as you continue to focus on your present experience, it will interrupt less and less often, and you will fall asleep.

Also, notice whether that thing your monkey mind won’t let go of is something you have any control over. If you can’t influence it, give it up. Trickster is having fun with you. Just plain let go and hand it over to God, the Universe, Spirit (GUS will take care of it). Now go to sleep.

If you can influence it, unless it’s truly life-or-death, sleep on it and see what option comes to mind when you wake in the morning. In other words, pose the question “How can I influence this for the good of all involved?” Let your unconscious mind work and play with the situation while your conscious mind takes the restful break of sleep. When you wake, notice what comes to mind.

You may want to do some journaling.

Drink some cool, clear water

Drink a glass, or half a glass if your bladder wakes you up early, of water that is between room temperature and cool. Ice isn’t necessary — some people believe that ice is too cooling and not good for the human digestive system’s operations. After all, the human race has done pretty well without iced drinks for millenia upon millenia.

Take a mouthful of cool water, close your mouth, hold it for a bit, and then swallow.

You can also put a cool compress of a wrung-out washcloth on your forehead. Do both!

And, while you’re doing these things, think about the cowboy song Cool, Clear Water while you do this! Let water represent the sleep you want to experience.

Here’s a video of the original by the Sons of the Pioneers. Maybe you have a favorite version.

Yawn and open your mouth when you lie down to sleep

Since it’s currently believed that the purpose of yawning is to cool the overheated brain, yawn several times when you are ready to go to sleep.

Also, you can open your mouth just wide enough to let air (cooler than your body, of course) circulate in your oral cavity and cool the adjacent brain. Try parting your teeth half a finger-width.

Continue to breathe through your nose, not your mouth, unless you have nasal congestion.

Use acupressure to reduce heat

I shared this with my bodyworker/acupuncturist Patrice Sullivan, who got excited and shared with me some of the pressure points that reduce heat, because in Chinese medicine’s understanding of health, the body can get out of balance and have too much heat — and of course this can affect the brain.

Press into pressure points with a fingertip or pencil eraser to stimulate them, unblock meridians, and release heat. Press briefly and see what happens. Then try pressing steadily for 30 second to 2 minutes.

The list below includes the poetic names of the points for fun. You may want to google each point to view a graphic with more precision about the location.

  • Gallbladder 42 and 43, Earth Fivefold Convergence and Clamped Stream, are on the foot between the fourth and fifth metatarsals.
  • Liver 2, Moving Between, is on the top of the foot between the first and second toes before the webbing starts.
  • Gallbladder 34, Yang Hill Spring, is outside the knee, in a depression just below the head of the fibula (smaller lower leg bone) toward the front.
  • Heart 7, Spirit Gate, is on the hand on the crease of the wrist closest to the hand, in line with the ring finger.
  • Large Intestine 11, Crooked Pond, is located at the end of the outer elbow crease.
  • Governing Vessel 20, Hundred Convergences, is at the crown of the head.

Report back so others may benefit

I’d love to be wrong about this, but in my opinion, Big Science is probably not going to fund research on simple, effective ways to relieve insomnia unless they can make money off it by selling you something they’ve patented. So it’s up to us to figure out what works and let others know.

Please feel free to try any or all of these methods to relieve insomnia and please report back on what worked and didn’t work for you in the comments for this post.

Thank you.

Feet report, planting a tree

Well, my feet did not take me to Barton Springs after all on Saturday. I woke and remembered it was a day of honoring my feet, of letting them lead. I put my attention into my feet, feeling into them.

While still in bed, I did some exercises that Fran Bell gave me to increase my ankle and hip range of motion. Out of bed, I did the Z-Health foot exercises that Patrice Sullivan gave me to open foot meridians.

After that, my feet felt alive and glowing! They took me to the shower. I love washing my feet, especially between the toes.

You can say to yourself:

Oh, those are my ordinary feet, and they look clean. I feel them resting on the floor.

Or you can think:

Wow, my feet are tingling with life force, energy, chi! I wonder how far the energy would extend if I could see it. Seriously, if this energy produced light, you could read by it!

Well, those feet took me to my yoga mat! I did a leisurely round of sun salutions, paying special attention to my feet in tadasana, lunge, plank, down dog, and so on, feeling the mat and pressure and stretch and strength and position and air currents.

Then my feet walked me over to the zafu and zabuton. I turned on a timer for 30 minutes and sat. I wanted to spread the aliveness of my feet into the rest of my body.

That was a great start to my day.

The rest of Saturday, I checked in periodically with my feet without thinking too much. They wanted me to make monkey tea. They wanted me to do some more unpacking and arranging at the trailer. They led me to set up my hummingbird feeder.

Then we ran errands. We went to Home Depot, and among other items I bought a soaker hose. My landscape architect friend/writing client Merrie told me I need to water the ground under my trailer, where there are big cracks in the bare soil from the drought.

I came home and soaked the parched earth.

Feet, connect us to the earth, pachamama, terra firma.  Connect us to our big blue marble. Keep us grounded in what we do. Let us be of service to you.

In the evening, my feet served me well when I gave my daughter her first massage from me, the first of many, I hope.

I danced for 90 minutes on Sunday morning. My feet felt free, loved, and joyous. After lunch, I stopped at The Natural Gardener. I needed some potting soil and bought some basil, thyme, and peppermint. The garden center was nearly deserted. Most people give up on gardening in August around here. I’m just getting started in a new place.

And then I wandered through the tree section. Thirty percent off a tree is substantial, and they had quite a few $24.99 trees before the discount. Half my trailer is unshaded, and since I can’t plant a tree 10 years ago, now is the next best time.

I thought I was going to get a cedar elm but felt pretty ho-hum about it. After discussing various oaks, I was drawn to an arroyo sweetwood (new to me), and one of The Natural Gardener’s plant-loving helpers showed me a mature one next to the parking lot that had been planted about 7 years ago.

Wow. These trees grow fast, are native to northern Mexico so can take heat and drought, and are fragrant, smelling like cinnamon and vanilla. They are multi-trunked, and have spring flowers, a dense canopy, and autumn foliage. Something wonderful for every season, plus scent. How perfect can a tree be?

So that’s what I bought, for just under $18. The cashier said my tree looked like a happy tree! I was a happy customer.

On my way home, I saw a sign:

I bought a tree to plant on the hottest day of the hottest month of the hottest year on record.

Yes, you can plant trees at the end of August if you are willing to check the dampness of the soil several inches down every couple of days. They’ll tell you how at The Natural Gardener.

Got home, picked a site that will perfectly frame a view of the tree from inside a nearly-floor-to-ceiling window, and watered the ground. Water, let it soak in, dig, repeat.

I finished digging this morning and planted the tree. When I came home this evening, my new little tree was having its branches gently jostled by the warm wind.

Next up: mulch.

So that’s what happened from letting my feet lead. I got so connected to the earth, I bought a tree and planted it! I took care of the ground under my trailer. I gave my daughter a massage. I did yoga and sat.

Grounded.

Thank you, feet.

Ecstatic shaking dance

On Sunday morning, I was driving to Castle Hill and dancing in my car as I drove. On the way, I realized I didn’t want to do yoga — I wanted to dance. So I drove to the Austin Yoga School and danced with Ecstatic Dance of Austin.

It was a homecoming of sorts. I started doing ecstatic dance (Sweat Your Prayers, 5 rhythms, Gabrielle Roth) in 1995. That group evolved into Body Choir, whom I danced with, while continuing with 5 rhythms when available.

A few years ago (four? five?), I started feeling conflicted about going to dance, any kind of so-called ecstatic dance. When I went, my body didn’t want to dance, it wanted yoga! I felt some attachment to people in the community of dancers and kept going for a while, but my attendance tapered off. I felt less and less joy at dance and finally I stopped going. It felt unsafe, it was too crowded, and the community was too political. And my body really wanted yoga.

I entered into a peaceful time of pulling in my energy, a time of healing my body. I did more yoga, committed to a home practice, and later trained as a teacher. I began meditating. I did two rounds of NLP training. I began seeking and finding great healers — starting with Nina Davis doing cranio-sacral therapy and Patrice Sullivan doing acupuncture and myofascial release (plus Patrice’s unique magic!).

I had NUCCA chiropractic, which got my head straight on my spine, which unwound my scoliosis. That was awesome. Then because I was still having pain in my left sacro-iliac joint, I found Dr. Chandler Collins for applied kinesiology and Bo Boatwright, DC, another creative and effective bodyworker, and I began working with Fran Bell this year.

I learned that I had probably had a birth injury to my S2 nerve. Maybe that’s where the scoliosis came from. And the SI joint pain could be related to the IBS-like symptoms I had before I went gluten-free several years ago. It’s complicated.

Anyway, my body is feeling pretty good these days. I still have some aches and pains, but is that not common at age 58? I don’t know! I notice stiffness when I’ve been still for a while and then stand up and move. It takes longer to warm up and move fluidly than it used to. But I get there!

What’s new is that my left and right sides are more balanced than ever, in body and brain and energy field.

While I was away from dance, lots of change happened. Body Choir became Dancing Together, then Body Choir came back. (I’m not sure I have the story straight.) Then Ecstatic Dance of Austin started up, and when Lakshmi Jackman was telling me about it in Whole Foods, I started thinking about returning to dance. I got a “no” a couple of Sundays ago after meditating, but I knew a “yes” was coming.

It felt good to be back in a large dance studio with a sprung floor, plenty of space, and rhythmic music. Also, no puddles of sweat on the floor! It felt safe, and the energy felt really clean.

I had changed so much over the time I was gone, I needed to get acquainted with my dancing body again. I did some shaking (yes, I can shake while standing now and can induce shaking when I want to) and found that my dancing edge was surfing between voluntary and involuntary movements, letting the shaking arise where I needed to shake, and then surrendering to the beat in dance.

Several times I felt energetic rushes of pure ecstasy move from my center out! Chills, thrills, goosebumps, GUS (God Universe Spirit) bumps — totally that howling-at-the-moon feeling of abandoned joy.

It was a real breakthrough for me, a joy, a homecoming.

I’ll return.