Orienting to space

Not too long ago, I posted Orienting to stillness, orienting to motion, providing some options for people who are interested in exploring awareness. Today I want to share some experiences with orienting to space.

First, a little backtracking. Starting in 2010, I wrote here about the 12 states of attention (and also here), which I learned from Nelson Zink on his website Navaching (which also included instructions for night walking), which sadly he has taken down. Reading his book of stories The Structure of Delight is an experience I highly recommend. It’s like no other book you’ve encountered, and if you’re interested in acquiring wisdom from a bunch of interesting characters, you’ll enjoy it.

(If you don’t want to click the links about the 12 states, here’s a summary: We primarily use our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses. Our experience can be subdivided into narrow and broad. For instance, a broad auditory state would be listening to the whole orchestra playing, while a narrow auditory state would be singling out the oboe in the orchestra. These states can be further divided into external and internal. An external visual state is seeing your environment with your eyes, while an internal one is imagining or remembering something. The image below shows the 12 states.)

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Although I haven’t written about the 12 states in recent years, they are embedded in my world view. I value having flexibility in what I pay attention to, how I pay attention to it, and understanding what others may be experiencing. We have natural proclivities among these states that play a big role in the work and pastimes we choose, yet some of these realms can go unexplored for much of a person’s lifetime, which is a loss, in my opinion. From bean counters to visionaries, proofreaders to poets, there’s room for all at the table, and I would presume that part of the maturing process in a fully lived life would include expanding one’s experience of more of these states.

So for today’s topic, orienting to space, I’m going to refer to the 12 states, also drawing on my training in craniosacral biodynamics and yoga, for some kinesthetic experiences in meditation.

Here are some kinesthetic narrow experiences to try when sitting quietly, uninterrupted. These are both internal and external: you will feel sensations on your skin, You may also feel these sensations inside your body and extending into the field around you.

  • Bring your attention to the top of your head, your crown chakra. Keep your attention there, and you will at some point notice a sensation there. It may feel like  pressure, flickering, vibrating, warmth, air moving, or something else. If you don’t feel anything, stay with it. If you still don’t, come back again and again until you do.
  • Bring your attention thusly down to each chakra: third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, umbilicus/sacrum, root. Spend some time at each chakra feeling the sensations there.
  • When you reach your root chakra, imagine/feel that energy descending into the earth.
  • Bring your attention back up your body, chakra by chakra. Yin moves down toward the earth, yang moves up toward heaven, and sometimes people find one direction easier than the other. What works best for you?
  • When you reach your crown chakra, imagine/feel it extending above you, stretching into the cosmos.
  • Sense this territory as a tube running from deep in the earth to outer space, penetrating your body vertically along your midline, with each chakra open like a jewel on a string. How does it feel to be connected to the earth and the cosmos with all your chakras open? Vibrant? Expanded? Enjoy the state.

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The next experiences are to spend time in Kinesthetic Internal awareness, both Broad and Narrow:

  • When sitting quietly, sooner or later your attention will be drawn to specific areas in your body experiencing discomfort, pain, tingling, energized, or a lack of sensation. Just notice and breathe. Make yourself as comfortable as you can. Be sure to notice which parts feel good!
  • Body awareness is a vast realm. Using your knowledge of anatomy and imagining/feeling, you can sense your body by system: skeletal, muscular/fascial, nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, craniosacral, etc. Go slowly and just notice. Pretend like you’re remote viewing into your own body. Does your body have anything to tell you?
  • You can also sense your body by region: head, neck, shoulders, arms, etc. You can sense it from your skin inwards and from your core outwards.
  • You can experience each of the three major containers, lower (pelvic), middle (chest), and upper (head).
  • You may notice a slow, rhythmic fluid tide moving up and down your body. This usually takes a while to experience. This is a manifestation of primary respiration in biodynamics, and giving it attention makes your system more coherent.
  • One of the great koans in my life has been “whole body awareness.” See if you can sense your entire body at once! Experimenting with how to do this is fruitful. You might experience complete embodiment, being completely at home and aware inside your skin. That would be KIB. If you extend this into the space around you, you are moving into KEB.

In the 12 states, the division between internal and external is your skin. Kinesthetic external sensing is the most neglected of the 12 states for nearly all of us humans! Now you’re noticing the interface between your skin and the space or field around you:

  • To move externally, sense your skin’s interface with your environment: air, clothing, furniture, floor, etc. Notice temperature, drafts, humidity, pressure, texture, gravity, and whatever else you can sense.
  • Your personal field may extend anywhere from inches to several feet away from your body. Can you sense an inch away from your skin? A foot? A yard? If you are close to another person or animal, can you sense their presence? Can you sense changes in density or vibration in the field around you? Does the field around you have anything to tell you?
  • Extend your awareness gradually out into the room you’re in, or if you’re outdoors, into a room-size bubble around you. Can you sense the walls, ceiling, floors, objects in the room? If outdoors, can you sense the presence of nearby trees?
  • Extend your awareness outside the room or bubble. Gradually expand your awareness toward the horizon, either what you can see visually or what you can imagine. Notice if there is a shift in how you experience yourself when imagining/feeling yourself at the center of a 360-degree circle of horizon. Do you feel more or less grounded? Can you sense a wind, a tide, a very slow rhythm? Another manifestation of primary respiration.
  • Keep extending your awareness more broadly toward our planet, solar system, galaxy, as far as you want to go.

The experience of living suspended in fields, personal and vast, is a huge paradigm shift for all of us.

Warning: This practice can lead to deeper body awareness, inner peace, and experiences of oneness and connection to others and the planet.

 

 

Sacroiliac joint healed!

Back in late June 2015, I wrote about using a sacroiliac belt for pain in that joint. (See When the healer needs healing: chronic pain in a sacroiliac joint).

I posted a few updates. (See Update on using the sacroiliac beltA cheaper sacroiliac belt, working toward “the new normal”, and SI belt update, plus insoles for Morton’s foot.)

It’s now January 2017, and I’m here to give you an update, prompted by a couple of comments I’ve received recently from readers who are suffering from SI joint pain.

I finally stopped wearing the belt last month, in December 2016. That’s right, I wore it most of the time for 18 months, a year and a half. My pelvis feels pretty aligned now. It’s not perfect but it is strong and tight enough that it stays in place . Since I started wearing it, I haven’t had that unstable, painful feeling of my SI joint going out of place. Continue reading

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

Reversing diabetes: Phyllis’ return to health. Part 2.

This is Part 2 in a series of posts telling the story of Phyllis and how she reversed Type 2 diabetes. Part 1 is here. If your reading time is limited, here is a summary.

To recap, Phyllis was working stressful 12-hour days with two-hour commutes each way. She wasn’t eating right. Her doctor told her she had a choice: be hospitalized or see an endocrinologist. She learned her A1C level was 10.2, putting her at high risk for serious complications…

Peace, Quiet, and Nature

Phyllis realized she had to do something differently. She knew she had to get away from food being such a comfort to offset the stress she was under.

She faced the stress first by giving a month’s notice and stepping away from her stressful job and commute.

She says now she was so sick back then, she couldn’t even think. Her body felt bad. Besides the diabetes, she had blood pressure issues, a heart murmur, and thyroid issues (Hashimoto’s, another autoimmune disease). Her memory declined. Continue reading

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

My posting has fallen off this year as I’ve focused more on building my bodywork practice. I continue to be interested in and practice “life hacks” — self-care practices that pay off. Some current ones:

  • Drinking 8 ounces of water every morning (after brushing and flossing my teeth), and stirring 1 tablespoon of organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of gelatin.
  • Doing yoga each morning in the form of slow sun salutations — slow as in about 2-3 minutes of standing forward bend to allow my hamstrings to gently lengthen. I also hold downward facing dog for a few minutes to feel the stretch in the entire back body. I add warrior, triangle, and reverse triangle for strength, hip mobility, and spinal twist.
  • I bought a device from HeartMath that allows me to check on my stress level (measured as heart rate variability) and take steps (heart-centered slow breathing) to de-stress. It works with my iPhone and clips to my earlobe. My goal is to use it three times a day for 5 minutes each time, and for a longer period (15-30 minutes) at least once a week. The beauty is that I can measure stress when I’ve been driving, shopping, and working — just doing daily tasks. It doesn’t replace seated meditation, just adds more body awareness throughout my day.

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The stats that are most amazing to me are those showing where readers came from. By far the most come from the U.S., followed by Canada and the UK, and other countries with a lot of English speakers (Australia, Brazil, India, Germany, and South Africa).

But there are a lot of surprising places that had just one reader, including Uzbekistan, Mauritius, Albania, Grenada, Yemen, Guadaloupe, Reunion, Jordan, and Moldova. And Bosnia and Herzegovina, Aruba, American Samoa, Kyrgyzstan, Malta, Guernsey, St. Kitts and Nevis, Papua New Guinea (!), and Zambia. And Nicaragua, Northern Mariana Islands, Isle of Man, Paraguay, Mozambique, Cameroon, Luxembourg, and Haiti.

The nationality of readers (based on IP address?) has been noted since February 2012. I am still hoping to get readers from Cuba, Greenland, Suriname, and French Guiana in the western hemisphere, several Central and West African nations as well as Lesotho in southern Africa, Iran, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and North Korea in Asia. And there are also probably still some small island nations who have yet to discover this blog.

A girl can dream of collecting readers from all the planet’s nations. Regardless, it is inspiring and humbling to realize the reach of the internet. I hope my posts have been of some small value.

Thank you, dear readers!

Inspirational video about the power of belief, yoga, and health

I love this video about Arthur, a disabled Gulf war vet who felt hopeless and got fat, who was turned down by many yoga teachers. Then he met the manly yoga teacher Diamond Dallas Page, who asked himself:

How am I gonna help that guy?

That’s all it takes from the teacher. Arthur was willing to make an effort and fail:

Just because I can’t do it today doesn’t mean I can’t do it some day.

And that’s all it takes from the student.

I hope it inspires your practice, whether it’s yoga or commitment to any path toward health.

Sunday morning: a little trauma release, a fine buzz, then some yoga jazz, and a tribute to a teacher

Long-time readers know I spent some time and energy on learning the trauma releasing exercises of David Berceli and practicing them. (If you’re a new reader, go to the tag cloud in the right panel and click TRE or trauma releasing exercises to see the many posts on the topic. If you want to learn them, I recommend Berceli’s book and video.)

I haven’t written much about them for a while. I still value them very much as a tool for releasing tension.

Sometimes at ecstatic dance, I allow my legs to shake for a little while, which releases leg tension, especially around my hip joint. (Nobody notices or comments, ever.)

Some mornings I wake up and just know I need to do them. I may tremble for 30 seconds to a minute or two. It doesn’t have to last long to be effective.

I imagine that the more you do them and really surrender to them, the less you need to do them. Also, the more you do them, the more aware you become of tensions accumulating in your body, and you adjust sooner — taking a deep, cleansing breath to let it all out, stretching and moving the tense area.

This morning I did them for longer, because my body wanted to keep going. First my legs surrendered to the shaking, then left my arm flapped, then right my arm flapped, then my lower spine hammered, then my upper spine waved, then more legs, and so on. It’s entertaining to witness where the surrendering moves!

Then afterward, the fine buzz inhabiting my body. Mmm.

Walk to my yoga mat. Tadasana, feeling feet, upward energy. Stretching arms up into hastasana circling to anjali mudra several times to warm up, each with my gaze a little higher, a little more backbend.

Then from hips, float down into uttanasana and just hang. Feel my tight hamstrings. Hold. Breathe. They become like rubber bands, surrendering to the stretch. Then extend spine and re-bow.

Left leg back into lunge. Feeling the tight gastrocnemius and soleus. Push heel back and breathe. Right leg back to join it. Breathe length into calves.

Plank, with spread fingers, sturdy column arms under shoulders. Feel strength. Pressing palm and fingers evenly into mat, slowly lowering into chataranga, feeling creaks and twinges in shoulders and elbows.

Once flat, press pelvis and tops of feet into floor and lift up into bhujangasana, cobra. Imagine the fronts of my vertebrae, deep in the middle of my torso, fanning wide open to give and receive and expand my energy. This spine, this flexible column of bone, fluids, muscle, nerve, this backbone. Yes.

Turn toes under. Strongly lift my body up, elevating my pelvis as high as it will go. Push palms and fingers evenly into floor. Push heels back to stretch my soles (I’m hearing my teacher Eleanor Harris now). Lift sit bones to ceiling. Feel strong shoulders. Downward-facing dog, adho mukha svanasana.

“Enjoy your breath,” as my teacher Brigitte Edery is fond of saying. And I do.

Then bring right leg forward into lunge. Then today’s standing sequence: warrior two, extended side angle, reverse extended side angle, triangle, reverse triangle, ardha chandrasana, warrior one, warrior three. Nice standing vinyasa (with room for improvement in the sequencing, I notice), and I am aware of all the different stretches each pose brings where spine meets pelvis meets thighs.

I am pleased with my balance in ardha chandrasana, but I need to put my extended arms on the top of a stool to hold warrior three. There’s always an edge. Today, and probably for a few weeks (or months, who knows?), that’s mine — balancing in warrior three.

Then back to lunge, uttanasana (notice how much deeper my fold is), extending spine, and reverse swan dive up, arms circling into anjali mudra.

Repeat on other side.

I follow with pigeon, a deep twist (thrilling as my shoulders reached the floor), happy baby, and rock to standing.

I am in my body, ready for today, for ecstatic dance, for community, for work, for learning prenatal massage.

Feeling very grateful for my friends, and for my teacher Gabrielle Roth, whose work I knew better than I knew her personally, who was so influential in opening my awareness up to new movements, rhythms, and energies in life, who is in her own life now moving into stillness. She dedicated her life to healing the mind-body split. Amen to that.

Here’s my favorite Gabrielle quote:

After you jump, before you land is God.

I’m going to light a candle and open myself up to God.

Self-care for massage therapists, part 2 (what works for me)

In part 1, I listed various self-care methods that massage therapists use for their own aches and pains from giving massage. In part 2, I want to share what I’ve tried (so far) that works.

First, I want to say that my strength and endurance have increased with practice. I used to be in pain after giving 3 hour-long massages in a row several days in a row. Now I can do 4 hours 5 days a week with just a few twinges and aches afterwards. For several weeks, though, I was hurting and feeling some despair about having upended my life to get trained and start working in this new profession and the possibility of not being physically able to do it.

Key learnings from a newbie:

  • I no longer attempt deep tissue work, sticking to Swedish and reflexology. My Swedish massages are good and getting better. I incorporate some of David Lauterstein’s deep massage strokes into every Swedish massage, and I use pressure points, stretching, techniques from sports massage, body mobilization techniques, and reflexology, depending on the client’s issues and the amount of time I have. I cannot deliver the pressure that some clients (well-informed or not about what “deep tissue” means) seem to want. If I work within my limitations, it’s win-win for everyone.
  • I trained in Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy so that I can deliver deeper pressure using my feet and body weight, controlled by holding onto overhead bars. It’s so much easier on my body and a lot of fun, too.
  • I rock with my feet and leverage my body weight strategically as I deliver Swedish massage so my arms and shoulders do less work.
  • Hydrotherapy totally rocks after a long shift. I fill my double kitchen sinks with hot water (my water heater is set to 130 degrees F. for sanitizing laundry) and cold water that I dump a quart or two of ice into. I immerse my aching forearms and hands in the water, alternating cold-hot-cold-hot-cold, for one minute each. I can barely stand it, and yet it makes a huge difference in just 5 minutes. Seems to flush toxins and swelling and pain right out.
  • I stretch my fingers and wrists, holding each stretch for 15 seconds. Good to do when driving, at red lights.
  • I press into the trigger points for the elbow and wrist (see part 1 for links).
  • I apply magnesium gel with seaweed extract topically. According to Wikipedia, symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps, weakness, and fatigue, and fifty-seven percent of the US population does not get enough magnesium from food.
  • I love epsom salts in a bath. (Guess what? They contain magnesium!) When I was feeling a lot of pain all over, I would dump a cup or two of epsom salts into a fairly hot bath and add a few drops of lavender oil, then soak for 15-20 minutes. I felt like a new woman when I came out! I learned this years ago from dancers.
  • I use Young Living’s OrthoEase oil on clients’ painful muscles, and I use it on mine as well. Contains wintergreen, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and more that are analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
  • I keep hydrated and have been avoiding nightshades lately. I’m already gluten-free and eat fairly healthily. I’m interested in following an anti-inflammatory diet but haven’t done the research yet.
  • I take at least a couple of days off per week, not always together, though. I’m still finding my ideal schedule.
  • I do 10-15 minutes of yoga every morning. Sun salutations stretch and strengthen my body. Plus, it’s a great check-in to do something that starts the same every day. I start slowly and really let my hamstrings lengthen in forward bend before I move on to the next pose. I add standing poses, balance poses, and pigeon as I feel the need and to keep it interesting.
  • I get at least a chair massage every week. I’m interested in setting up a weekly trade for a full-body massage with someone, too.
  • I use a foam roller on back when needed, and a tennis ball to my gluteus.
  • I have two tennis balls tied into a sock that I use when driving to massage my back. I’ve also learned to “pop” my own back while giving massage!

Here’s something that just doesn’t fit into any of the categories I’ve seen so far about self-care for MTs. It’s about how you use your attention. I’ve learned to keep some of my attention on my body most of the time.

When I focused exclusively on the client’s body, delivering what I thought they wanted, I hurt and fatigued myself. I listen more to my body now and check in verbally with the client if I am not noticing nonverbal feedback.

If I notice that I feel rigid anywhere in my body, I say to myself, “Soften,” and my body softens.

Sometimes I put my attention on the soles of my feet and their connection to the floor/earth (I massage with bare feet always for Ashiatsu and as much as possible for Swedish), making the movements of giving massage into a soft, fluid dance.

Sometimes I attend to my breath, letting it become easy and relaxing (and audible to the client, as a nonverbal suggestion that they relax too).

All of these techniques activate the inner body, subtle body, energy body, whatever you want to call it. It feels better to give massage with this “soft present alive expanded body” than not. There is definitely an aspect of being “in the flow” that seems somehow related to doing Reiki, but I don’t know how to put it into words (yet).

Another bonus: the sensations of pain and fatigue become distant as peace and love fill my awareness.

I don’t know if clients perceive the difference, but I don’t think it could hurt. I do it for me because I “in-joy” it!

It’s been four months since I got licensed and began working. I look forward to learning even more new things about self-care and sharing them here.

New blog milestones and best massage ever given

Sometime this weekend when I wasn’t looking, my blog passed 60,000 views! This is a labor of love, and I can’t measure my “success” in monetary terms. Blog views, likes, and comments are my currency.

Thank you for reading me.

And…yesterday I had my best single day ever with 426 views! That’s pretty astonishing, considering the average number of views per day in 2012 (so far) has been 182.

I took the whole weekend off, spending a good chunk of it out in the country at a friend’s remote ranch. Clean air, water, cattle, a river, lots of trees, big sky, silence (compared to the city), a sweet porch on which I did a couple of great yoga sequences, soaking in a metal tub filled with well water, and lots of laughter were just the ticket for rest and relaxation.

I didn’t do a stroke of bodywork all weekend (except a little self-massage on my shoulders and arms). This morning I gave what felt to me like the best massage I’ve ever given, a 90-minute full body massage combining Swedish, deep, pressure points, rocking, reflexology, and lots of attention to her neck, shoulders, and hips. My client really appreciated it. Her week started extremely well.

If you’re looking for a great massage, consider booking one in the morning when your massage therapist is feeling refreshed, especially after a couple of days off! If you’re in the Austin area, I’d love your business!

See you later, with the first turnaround of Byron Katie’s Work!