Yesterday, I wrote, “Through no choice of our own, we are all being called to pull inward, to the comfort of the hearth fire.” Later, I began to think, Is this really an absolute? Aren’t we, in fact, co-creators of our destinies? Do our thoughts, along with our actions, not weave, eventually, into being? Invisible threads coalescing into paths that we will inevitably walk, whether we want to or not?
Few (I hope) would now deny that climate change is something that has been greatly affected by our collective actions (and thoughts). In the hours after I wrote yesterday’s post, I found myself thinking about the thoughts that I have held inside incubation and then, at some moment, unbeknownst to my conscious mind, let go.
Some of these thoughts of yearnings and wishes have now become my reality. I cannot deny the gifts of their existence.
Held inside the rules of quarantine, is the gift of family time slowed down. Distilled into poignant moments. They are not always easy moments. Often, there are they are bursts of heightened emotions. The tumbling of fears erratic struggle for air. Letting go can also be a gift.
We are walking more, together, hiking trails through the forest nearby our home. The four of us, plus our two dogs, who could not be more pleased with this enforced family time. How often have I wished for more of these walks in the woods?
And the excuse and time to grow our own food, despite our lack of sun? Or begin the daunting task of sorting through fifteen years of photos and keepsakes to create albums for my children before they leave the hearth fire? And, what of the pull to break free of the comforts of the known and venture into the unknown with my own work?
How many of us have longed for something similar? To slow the rat race into a meaningful walk? Could this disease that threatens the lungs also be an opportunity for us to breathe together, with shared purpose? Joined, as we are, in isolation from the oftentimes maddening cacophony of our “normal” lives?
Distilled time. Seconds treasured for their ability to span into minutes, then hours, and days held in the embrace of the beloved. Gratitude for the simple gifts often overlooked. Certainly Earth is breathing a bit easier without her usual congestion from our created actions.
Through no choice of our own, we are all being called to pull inward, to the comfort of the hearth fire. To our homes. At night I dream of old homes and new. Of fireplaces in rooms they have never been before. Reality is teased into new forms and one wonders what is real.
No doubt I am not the only one who is losing track of dates and even minutes. Each day feels like a Saturday, wrapped inside of itself like the planet in the distant sky. There is comfort to staying within. Avoidance, though, does not always equal protection.
The further we retreat inside, the more we are beckoned by what resides within the shadows. As we walk the familiar hallways of our “homes,” the eye is pulled to see what it has easily overlooked due to the hustle of distraction.
Never before, in my lifetime, have I felt the collective pull into the present moment. Each breath feels like a gift. Each inhale an opportunity to receive or let go. As I healer, I have come to know the feel of fear and how it likes to wrap the chest like armor. I will protect you, it whispers promise.
Fear lies. The promise of protection becomes a trap when it is held for too long. The breath shortens and becomes shallow. Instead of coursing on the wave of life throughout the body, it pounds for freedom off the walls of the chest.
I cannot help but think often of the breath during these days that feel like one endless cycle of rebirth. Within the endless minute I notice how long my body holds air before it lets go. How much life it is willing to take inside, and how much it is willing to let go.
We may cling to the belief that there is little we can now control, but this too is a false whisper belonging to fear. Never before, perhaps, have most of us been given a greater opportunity to take hold of the reins and ride into wild freedom, or pull tightly into restraint.
By freedom, I do not intend to imply a reckless abandonment of judgement. True freedom is a personal ride to find one’s own natural rhythm among the outer rhythm of life. When the outer slows down its hustle, the opportunity to find the cadence within is opened, its dance tantalizingly electric.
The outer eyes collapse into the inner and life is explored in new ways. Dormant seeds begin to find the light you bring to them, and new growth starts to take hold and even flourish. When the outer world as we knows it collapses into a new fold, so too must we.
Even though the dance may at first feel awkward, Joy’s hand is always there ready to be grasped. My own inner journey during this long stretch of Saturdays, has found me exploring virtual yoga. Instead of grasping the familiar of avoidance, I found it was time to let go resistance and find a new home teaching remotely, through a screen.
This new gift of collapsing space to find connection through a screen brought some frustration until I acknowledged the vice of Fear attempt to trap. And there was Joy on the other side. Waiting for to laugh we me at the missteps. Waiting to take my hand and waltz into this new land. Joy never promises the dance will be easy, but it always lead with the light of truth.
Although I’m married to a physician, I’m not what you’d call a model patient. Last week I had my second ever mammogram. I’m 46. I also got a pap smear. My last one was five years ago. Both appear to have yielded normal results, so for now the cards seem to be stacked in my favor.
I’m up-to-date on my vaccinations, and I get the one for flu each year. Aside from going to the lab to have my TSH checked semi-regularly to ensure I’m on the proper dose of thyroid medication, I’m not a frequent visitor at the doctor’s office. My approach to wellness, you could say, is part conventional and part unconventional.
In this time of hyper-fear over the latest virus to spread across the land, I thought I’d share some of the ways I have found to stay as healthy and balanced as possible. I believe there’s a no one-size-fits all approach, but if something here rings your bell, perhaps it means it was worthwhile to write this.
Supplementing with Inner Wisdom
Please know this is not something I recommend everyone adopt instead of following the advice of their medical provider. That said, there’s an innate truth to the wisdom you hold inside of you. Although my husband has urged me, in the past, to take a multivitamin, I found that my body rejects a formulated blend intended for daily intake by women. Within five minutes of taking the multivitamin, my body attempts to vomit it out of its system. Clearly there is something in there that my chemistry does not align with. We’re all unique.
Instead of the multivitamin, I have found my body likes to have enough vitamin D (many of us in northern climates especially do not get enough), which I take in capsule form. When I feel vulnerable to viruses and other pathogens, I find myself drawn to natural sources of vitamin C , as well as a wider than usual variety of fresh fruits and veggies in my diet each day. Organic and free of pesticides, if possible (I use Misfits Market for an affordable source).
I also drink (organic) tea. Sometimes three cups (usually not all the same kind) a day in the winter months. I tend to accumulate a variety of tea boxes in my pantry, and at the moment my go-to is Dandelion Root. My body craves it, so I give it a cup almost every day, with a swirl of raw, organic honey (as local as possible). Note: raw honey is not recommended for infants.
Balance, though, is not always easy to achieve everyday. There are days when I eat more sugar than I probably should and scoop ice cream instead of quinoa into my bowl. But there’s something to be said about eating love instead of fear, but more on that later. Instead of worrying too much about the occasional over-indulgence, I have found that my body will eventually tell me what it does or does not need. Often-times that wisdom will appear in my dreams.
When I dream of food, I pay attention. Dreams are tricky creatures and they like to speak in allegory and metaphor. Becoming attuned to the language of your dream-self can be incredibly valuable, and if you don’t know the answers you seek, your dreams will often reveal them to you in some form. Sometimes the answers are subtle, and sometimes they shout results without a shred of doubt as to their intended meaning. When my body was lacking calcium and magnesium, my dream-self brought through the message loud and clear one night, “you need more calcium and magnesium.” Okay. Roger that. If you are just beginning to explore the wisdom of your dreams, there are lots of resources out there. Denise Linn has a wonderful book about dreams, which helped to guide my own journey into dreamland.
Taking Care of the Subtle Energies
Science is just starting to prove the existence of the “subtle” energy centers in the body, popularly referred to as the chakras, but our far-distant ancestors never doubted their power to heal and transform the mind and body. Acupuncture, which targets the meridians that run through the chakras and the various organs of the body, is widely used in both the eastern and western sides of the globe.
Whenever I feel “off,” a half-hour or so of my time devoted to the practice of yoga will inevitably make me feel better. The physical practice of Yoga moves the subtle flows of energy in the body. It clears the channels that are blocked and aligns and balances the body’s energy systems. Whereas yoga works for me, another form of subtle-energy-focused exercise may resonate more for you, such as Tai Chi or Qigong. All work with the “Chi,” or “Qui,” the life force energy that moves through the body.
This life force that resides within the breath. There is, perhaps, nothing more important than the breath that moves through us. It carries our life force. A shallow breath impedes the flow of chi, and the held breath in fear can create density. Multiple studies have shown that mindful breathing calms the nervous system. Taking time to focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and fully (please google mindful breathing if you don’t know how to) will be a gift to your body’s overall wellbeing.
Integrated into almost every yoga practice I teach, and in my home self-care regime, I like to incorporate some version of Donna Eden’s Daily Energy Routine . My yoga students love it and can attest to how it makes them feel better. It takes just five minutes (or less, I don’t always do all parts, but follow what I feel I need). Donna’s routine works directly with the body’s meridians and chakras, using tapping, gentle, targeted pressure, and the body’s breath.
Nourishing with Words
I am fortunate to have the means to support a healthy diet by purchasing mostly organically grown sources of food. Not everyone does. Perhaps equally important as the foods we consume, though, are the emotions, or words, we consume. We all know how awful negative words can feel when they are directed at us. The same rule applies to our own thoughts and self-directed words. What we say to ourselves matters. Which means what we say to ourselves while we eat matters too. Changing the chemistry of our words can change the chemistry of your body.
Sometimes, when people I encounter seem to be wrapped up in the fear, in particular over food, I like to share the story of my grandmother (who, by the way, is still living). Although my grandmother is not, by any means, positive with all the words she speaks to herself and others, she eats every bite of food with gratitude. Most of the good she eats is not organic, or even fresh. She grew up knowing starvation, and as a child who suffered the effects of the Great Depression, she also learned the power of gratitude on the body. Every bite of food, and every drink of water, is a gift she brings into her body.
What we say to our bodies matters. Nourishing them with love can go a long way to improving our state of wellbeing. Be easy on yourself. Forgive, love, and express gratitude for your body and what goes into it.
Attune with Nature
There are so many benefits to being out in nature, and there is probably no need to list them all here. But, sometimes we can forget how powerful the natural world’s effects on our individual wellbeing are. I can think of no greater healing balm than that of the embrace of Mother Nature. For myself, I have found that walking outside, each day, with my two dogs is something I have come to depend upon. My senses attune to the frequency of nature’s rhythms, calming the troubles that might be weighing down my mind. The scattered mind and body ground through my walks, especially when they are on nature’s paths and not pavement. The energy of the trees lend specific wisdom and healing, as do the animal and insect visitors I encounter along my journeys. As within the world of dreams, I find that realm of the natural world is always ready to gift me with the answers and healing I might be seeking. I just need to open up to receive it.
If Your Teenager Won’t Hug You, Hug Your Pet(s)
In all seriousness, I have found my furry companions to be invaluable to my wellbeing. It’s true, I have two teenagers who don’t think hugging their parents is cool, so my dogs and cats get the bulk of my affection most days. Anyone with a beloved pet knows how valuable they are to our health and wellbeing, and there’s science to support this. Animals are highly tuned into our emotions, and I have found proof of this in my yoga classes. Without fail, Zelda-the-faithful-yoga-dog or Millie-the-sometimes-yoga-assistant-cat will make an appearance beside the mat of the person in most need of their love. Nothing quite compares to the love of an animal companion who is unconditionally present in our times of need.
What About You?
I’d love to hear what you do to stay balanced and maintain wellness, especially during times of increased stress. Please share your tips in the comments.
“You know what it’s like to be brainwashed,” someone close to me wrote on my Facebook wall in response to a post about our current political crisis. The words have echoed through me ever since. I lived a childhood, that extended well into adulthood, haunted by lies. I was fed half-truths, skewed truths, and false-truths so often they became my truths. I know what it’s like to be brainwashed to the point of belief.
My personal story may be unique, but I believe brainwashing is a problem that is spreading like the wildfires across our planet.
The source of brainwashing, like anything that goes against truth, is fear. I am not a mental health professional, but I have learned a few things about fear and its insidious effects that can lead to the brainwashing of its subjects.
Fear takes hold of the mind that looks for something to control its darkness. It seeks dominion above all else, seizing upon our greatest weaknesses to hold fast its power until its subjects succumb to its lies.
When fear over-powers truth, the mind becomes a haven for lies and the body follows suit. One need only to look at the Tweets flying through the airwaves and the memes plastering social media to realize fear’s struggle for dominion. Right now it looks a lot like fear is winning, along with its lies, as its insidious wave of brainwashing takes over its populace.
So why do we let fear take this type of hold on us? I believe the answer resides in our most basic need. To love and be loved. When this becomes tenuous and conditional, fear sets in at our roots, destabilizing the structure that we rely upon for our survival.
To begin to free ourselves of fear’s hold, we must return to our roots and ask where did fear begin? What is its source? Who is feeding it to me? And, why am “I” trying to nourish “myself” with it?
When I look at my own path to fear-fed brainwashing, I see similarities in what is occurring in our political system. In both, the parental/governing parties hold the roots of fear. Those that sit atop authority, hold the reins of dominion that promise protection at the cost of our loyalty. It’s nearly impossible not to become a victim of brainwashing, if those that we depend upon for our survival, and for love, are “nurturing” us with lies.
There is, perhaps, no stronger bond that exists than the one between a parent and its child, especially the mother-child bond. This, bond, I believe, is paramount in our current crisis with the truth.
A mother feeds her child with her life-giving blood before birth. If we extrapolate from the mother who feeds and births the individual, to the mother who feeds and nurtures the whole, we arrive at the root of our present day crisis, which is occurring on a global scale.
In the majority of the areas of the world we have labeled “first world,” we have, in essence, de-evolved over the course of thousands of years. What we would label as “progress” has been an uncensored growth of advancements that have occurred through the force of the “parental/governing” ego. A progress that has been fed from the top, but does not often trickle down to nurture the children who are in most need.
Unsettling the natural state of balance even more, is the vast majority of this rapidly progression of unchecked progress has been at the incredible expense of the Mother in the form of our planet. A planet that is designed to nurture and feed all her children, in equal measure to meet their basic needs, but not to serve “man”kind only.
Yet, our most powerful nations were built upon a discontenting from their true source. The life-giving “blood” taken from the Mother (Earth) that feeds us all, robbing in the process, more than our share, and stolen without reverence. It has been a righteous taking of more than is needed. Reverence and honor of the Mother has been long forgotten for most of our societies. As a result, the Earth has suffered and so have we.
I cannot help but think about the poignant symbolism that is dividing the nation I live in and how it is reflected by the colors of our chakras. Red is associated with the republican party here in the US, while blue is the color of the democratic. Our nation is founded upon polarity, it is part of our roots.
Yet, each side holds fast to its truths, not realizing that a balanced nation is akin to a balanced body.
If we look at the chakra system, we see that red is associated with the color of the root chakra. It is considered the first of our major energy systems in the body, supporting our foundation. The root chakra is therefore associated with our very survival. It is what develops first in the growing human. The root chakra is fed through our connections to our family/clan/nation. If we allow ourselves to be controlled by a foundation of fear and false truths, it becomes us.
A balanced and healthy root chakra, on the other hand, is nourished by the grounding energy of the Mother source. Not our birth mother, but the Mother of all life. Our source of this living-giving “blood” comes from our planet. If we break this Mother-child bond, as we have allowed ourselves to do over many centuries, we become destabilized. We start to cling to other foundations that are false, and that are more often than not, fed by the ego’s fear of not being in control.
The color blue, in the chakra system, is associated with the area that resides in and around the area of our throat. It feeds our entire communication system as it extends down the neck and out the hands, as well as up to the ears. When it is healthy, the throat chakra enables us to hear the truth and discern it from that which are lies. It also guides us in speaking truth with compassion, love, and trust. A healthy throat chakra knows that Truth is a universal law that supports all life. It is not individually divided, but a web that weaves through and unites all life.
When our throat chakra is compromised, the energy in these systems of the body contract in distrust of “others” and of the self (although this is not usually acknowledge by the self). We are seeing this now. Our media is swarming with information that cannot be trusted due to the fear-driving ego-centric sources that are feeding it. A massive brainwashing of the populace, aka, “children,” is occurring through the false truths of their governing bodies, aka, “parents.” We are at point of extreme polarity. The left half in battle with the right. The red fighting with the blue, instead of uniting with the common good. We have forgotten that we are each halves of the same body, seeking union, true stability, and nurturing. We have forgotten how to discern truth from lies, because we have bi-passed the heart at our center, the place of pure knowing, as we cut the roots off from the Mother-blood and constricted our throats and ears from the universal voice of Truth.
And so it is that chaos has taken the reins, and we are left awash in a swirl of angry, divisive energy. Pointing fingers in accusation, and hurling abuses ate each other as though we are in constant battle with parasites. Instead of realizing that the other we hurt, is actually ourselves. The true parasite: the darkness of our own fear we refuse to extract and transmute into light.
I’m a little surprised that my heart is filled with hope and not despair on this auspicious day. That instead of focusing on the outcome, I am thinking of the opportunities. I believe that life is given to us so that we may find our own paths to Truth and Love. Sometimes we get off track and decide to linger inside the darkness of the shadowlands of the self, but eventually the light inside points us to home.
Today is primary day for the presidential election in New Hampshire. It’s also the eleventh day of the month. A doorway date. Today, the doorway feels rimmed with hope. The doors present before us to open as wide as we choose through the hands of our hearts.
I voted just a short while ago. The parking lot in our small town was crowded with cars, yet each waited patiently for their turn. Inside the voting hall, people queued into lines, while others greeted those who may be confused where to go. I was one of the confused ones, until a kind selectwoman guided the way. As I stepped into the empty line blocked from view by the one beside it, a couple discovered they had followed, unknowingly, the longer queue of bodies. I stepped back, and ushered them ahead of me.
I think they were grateful, the seemed so. It didn’t matter really, because it was the right thing to do. I was in no rush, and they had been waiting longer than I. I watched as they took their ballets from the smaller stack of red before I took mine from the blue. I looked around, noticing the tables that seemed to all share smaller piles of red than blue.
It’s okay, I thought as I marked my choice and sent it into the ballet machine, I had voted with my heart. It’s okay, I thought, if the election, in the end, turns out contrary to what I hope for. It’s happened before. It may happen again.
It’s okay, because that is how Life works. I cannot still the hand that votes, or guide it to another choice. I can merely guide my own, in the best way I can, toward Love and Truth. In the teachings of the mysteries and of yoga, the individual journeys not just toward Love and Truth, but toward non-judgement. Of the self, and of others. Realizing, as s/he journeys, that there is, in essence, no separation.
As I journey through the spiral, taking yet another circle inward, I find that I have been offered another lesson in acceptance. It is not a giving in to futility, though, but a giving into hope. The heart opening, rather than shutting off. Resisting the impulse to pull open the doors I may think others should walk through, I find myself returning to the doors around my own heart. Who am I to judge the best outcome for humanity and the world? The ego reigns with fear in so many forms when we succumb to its seductions.
The body grows tired with restriction and the holding in of tension. So does the mind. So does the spirit. Life breathes freely through love. Pure and simple. It seeks always the one true path. We are the keepers of our own souls. The body, their house for a time, is kept clean or cluttered with debris by the individual housed inside of it. The choice is held within.
I look around at the gray winter day knowing that the light outside my home is only veiled by a cover of clouds. Eventually it will break through and the sky will spread wide its blue expanse to the sun. It may not be today, or even tomorrow, but the light, eventually, and always, breaks through the darkness.
This Saturday morning found me soaking the heat from the pellet stove and gazing in wonderment at the geranium in my window. Outside, the waking sun filtered golden light through the boughs of the hemlocks laced with yesterday’s snow. My mind was adrift with thoughts about those things that can worry us. Specifically, the state of the world and whether the inspiration I found watching seven compassionate and intelligent individuals debate amicably on a stage in my home state of NH could inspire a new feeling of hope in those who had lost it.
Sometimes frustration and despair overwhelm. Hope is lost in those shadows of darkness that seems to grow beyond our control. Yet, there is always light to be found, even in the small, seemingly hidden places. There is always the ever-present force of life seeking its source. I began to look with focus at the houseplant I had brought in from the summer. Noticing, as I pulled my thoughts into the moment, how its spring green limbs were growing with gusto even though there were no buds to be found on their tips. This life seeking the light outside my window, growing inside my home in winter because I had brought it inside.
There is a soft peace to houseplants. Roots contained in potted soil can thrive if the human hand tends to them with compassion. A gentle caress and a kind word now and then can make them flourish, just as we flourish with love. There is hope to be found in the way they accept the containment, asking only to be watered and given a space to receive the filtered sunlight. In turn, they offer beauty while their cells silently filter the air we breathe.
Sometimes, when I think of the devastation humanity is causing across the land, I think of my houseplants. I think of the air they filter and oxygenate that will enter my lungs and gratitude for their presence fills my heart. I marvel at how even in the depths of winter, I can behold green life growing as it gives back and receives only what it needs in return. I think about how this is, in essence, life. At its most basic components, and yet, there is nothing more beautiful or wondrous. Life existing in the quiet grace of peace.
There’s a pose in EM Yoga that I call the “mother hug.” Lauren Walker, the creator of EM Yoga, refers to it as “cradling the baby.” The pose is simple, in essence. The arms are lifted to the sky, then wrapped around the waist, one crossed over the other. Eyes close while the body gently sways in its own embrace. The first time I hugged myself I wept.
Weeping is a natural side effect to the pose, as Lauren points out. Not many of us love ourselves unconditionally, and the act of self-hugging requires a surrender to this love of the self despite our perceived imperfections. It also requires the willingness to love the self despite not feeling wholly beloved. It’s as profoundly vulnerable as it is healing. The asana represents the element of Earth. The Mother energy.
In the pose, you are both the baby and the mother. You are the beloved and the one who gives love unconditionally.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself on a (different) massage table inside the belly of a whale. As you may have guessed, it was no ordinary massage. While I lay upon a heated mat of amethyst, crystal bowls sang around me and tuning forks hummed into my cells. I was easily transported, and how I found myself in the belly of a whale, I cannot wholly say, but there I was cradled inside its womb.
I was not merely the baby, I realized, as I lay there listening to whale’s song humming inside each cell of my body. I was the child in the womb, but I was also the mother (whale) who rocked the child within. The mother inside the great mother, swimming in belly of Earth. There was no separation, only union. Three hearts beating as one. I never wanted to leave.
When I was a young child, I fell in love with the song of whales. Around my neck I sometimes wore pewter chiseled into the curve of a humpback whale and listened to recordings of its haunting song echoing through Earth’s waters. Whales pull us back to the womb to feel the unconditional embrace of the Mother.
It seems the whale has returned to me again. A few nights ago I dreamt of a beluga, and since that night it has appeared to me in images each day. When an animal messenger appears to you at least three times, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what it has to tell you.
Beluga whales live in Arctic waters, and perhaps it has appeared to me, in part because I am planning a trip to Iceland. They are white, an unusual color for whales, and are related to the narwhal or “unicorn” whale. They are also related to dolphins and can imitate the human voice. Belugas are fascinating, as all creatures are. And I have been wondering why the one has chosen to appear to me now, and not the beloved humpback whale of my childhood.
There is a solitary nature to humpbacks, which contrasts the more gregarious personality of the beluga. Each time I saw the beluga, in my dream and in the photographs that randomly appeared in the ensuing days, it was raised up vertically, peering at me, as though in greeting. The humpback, in turn, swam through my childhood alone in the dark depths of the ocean, its voice an echo unreturned. As a young child, I felt a kinship to the humpback whale and its song.
Perhaps the beluga is heralding a time of transformation. In my efforts to accept that I will not receive unconditional mother love from my human mother in this lifetime, I have slowly come to the acceptance that the mother love is always within. I am both the mother and the child.
This year has brought another layer of unfolding and acceptance. For the past five years I have made an annual trip to England, a land where I have felt Mother Love like nowhere else. It is a pull that travels though lifetimes, deeply encoded in my cells. Yet, circumstances have unraveled so that a trip this year seems unlikely. I have found myself somewhat surprised that this does not discomfort me more. And, so, I have found myself unwrapping not just the hold of one mother, but of the Mother. Not to reject it, but to feel the knowing that I am whole without the need to be held by the arms of another.
I suspect I am not the only one who finds the “mother hug” as complex as it is simple. I suspect that I am not the only one who has difficulty surrendering to the realization that the beloved is within. Whole and complete. The child and the mother in one form. To wrap your own arms around yourself takes trust in the knowing and a giving into love without conditions. To realize there is no need to look outside, but only within. One hug will not, in all likelihood, render you feeling a complete, unbroken circle. But, perhaps it is worth it once in awhile to give into the physical embrace of the self. To wrap our arms around our wombs and rock the mother and the child whole.