Is There Enough?(Hint: Yes! If We Change the Way We Look at Life)

I probably sound like a groupie, but I am utterly enchanted by Dr. Rick Hanson’s work. I just read his newsletter, Just One Thing, Simple practices for resilient happiness from Rick Hanson, Ph.D. , and immediately wanted to shout from the rooftop.

Resilient happiness. Who doesn’t want that?

The newsletter is free, informative and totally relatable. I enjoy reading it every week. Today’s message was about feeling already full. I’m simply going to copy and paste the entire thing here as he says it all.

No, I am not financially affiliated or rewarded in any way for promoting his (or anybody’s) work. This is just too helpful not to share!

Is There Enough?

The Practice:

Feel already full.
Why?

One slice of the pie of life feels relaxed and contented. And then there is that other slice, in which we feel driven and stressed. Trying to get pleasures, avoid pains, pile up accomplishments and recognitions, be loved by more people. Lose more weight, try to fill the hole in the heart. Slake the thirst, satisfy the hunger. Strive, strain, press.

This other slice is the conventional strategy for happiness. We pursue it for four reasons.

1. The brain evolved through its reptilian, mammalian, and primate/human stages to meet three needs: avoid harms, approach rewards, and attach to others. In terms of these three needs, animals that were nervous, driven, and clinging were more likely to survive and pass on their genes – which are woven into our DNA today. Try to feel not one bit uneasy, discontented, or disconnected for more than a few seconds, let alone a few minutes.

2. You’re bombarded by thousands of messages each day that tell you to want more stuff. Even if you turn off the TV, worth in our culture is based greatly on accomplishments, wealth, and appearance; you have to keep improving, and the bar keeps rising.

3. Past experiences, especially young ones, leave traces that are negatively biased due to the Velcro-for-pain but Teflon-for-pleasure default setting of the brain. So there’s a background sense of anxiety, resentment, loss, hurt, or inadequacy, guilt, or shame that makes us over-react today.

4. To have any particular perception, emotion, memory, or desire, the brain must impose order on chaos, signals on noise. In a mouthful of a term, this is “cognitive essentializing.” The brain must turn verbs – dynamic streams of neural activity – into nouns: momentarily stable sights, sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and thoughts. Naturally, we try to hold onto the ones we like. But since neural processing continually changes, all experiences are fleeting. They slip through your fingers as you reach for them, an unreliable basis for deep and lasting happiness. Yet so close, so tantalizing . . . and so we keep reaching.

For these reasons, deep down there is a sense of disturbance, not-enoughness, unease. Feeling threatened and unsafe, disappointed and thwarted, insufficiently valued and loved. Driven to get ahead, to fix oneself, to capture an experience before it evaporates. So, we crave and cling, suffer and harm. As if life were a cup – with a hole in the bottom – that we keep trying to fill. A strategy that is both fruitless and stressful.

All the world’s wisdom traditions point out this truth: that the conventional strategy for happiness is both doomed and actually makes us unhappier. The theistic traditions (e.g., Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity) describe this truth as the inherently unsatisfying nature of a life that is separated from an underlying Divine reality. The agnostic traditions (e.g., Buddhism) describe it as the inherent suffering in grasping or aversion toward innately ephemeral experiences.

Call this the truth of futility. Recognizing it has been both uncomfortable and enormously helpful for me, since you gradually realize that it is pointless to “crave” – to stress and strain over fleeting experiences. But there is another truth, also taught in the wisdom traditions, though perhaps not as forthrightly. This is the truth that there is always already an underlying fullness.

When this truth sinks in emotionally, into your belly and bones, you feel already peaceful, happy, and loved. There is no need for craving, broadly defined, no need to engage an unhappy strategy for happiness. And you have more to offer others now that your cup is truly full.
How?

Recognize the lies built into the conventional strategy for happiness to wake up from their spells. Mother Nature whispers: You should feel threatened, frustrated, lonely. Culture and commerce say: You need more clothes, thinner thighs, better beer; consume more and be like the pretty people on TV. The residues of past experiences, especially young ones, mutter in the background: You’re not that smart, attractive, worthy; you need to do more and be more; if you just have X, you’ll get the life you want. The essentializing nature of cognition implies: Crave more, cling more, it will work the next time, really.

As you see through these lies, recognize the truth of fullness. In terms of your core needs to avoid harms, approach rewards, and attach to others, observe: that you are basically alright right now; that this moment of experience has an almost overwhelming abundance of stimulation, and you probably live better than the kings and queens of old; and that you are always intimately connected with all life, and almost certainly loved. Regarding our consumerist and status-seeking culture, consider what really matters to you – for example, if you were told you had one year to live – and notice that you already have most if not all of what matters most. In terms of the messages from previous experiences, look inside to see the facts of your own natural goodness, talents, and spirit. And about the impermanent nature of experience, notice what happens when you let go of this moment: another one emerges, the vanishing Now is endlessly renewed.

Abiding in fullness doesn’t mean you sit on your thumbs. It’s normal and fine to wish for more pleasure and less pain, to aspire and create, to lean into life with passion and purpose, to pursue justice and peace. But we don’t have to want for more, fight with more, drive for more, clutch at more. While the truth of futility is that it is hopeless to crave, the truth of fullness is that it’s unnecessary.

Finding this fullness, let it sink in. For survival purposes, the brain is good at learning from the bad, but bad at learning from the good. So, help it by enriching an experience through making it last a 10-20 seconds or longer, fill your body and mind, and become more intense. Also absorb it by intending and sensing that it is sinking into you as you sink into it. Do this half a dozen times a day, maybe half a minute at a time. It’s less than five minutes a day. But you’ll be gradually weaving a profound sense of being already fundamentally peaceful, happy, loved, and loving into the fabric of your brain and your life.

Needless to say I highly recommend signing up to receive this gem in your inbox every week. He also links his podcast, classes, and other news in the world of resilient happiness. And I want that for all of us.

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Communicating with Both Kindness and Honesty

This is a hot topic amongst my friends, colleagues, students and clients.

How do we share our truth from the heart?

How do we interact as loving beings without being taken advantage of?

How do we ask for what we need and express our desires, fears and disappointments without clinging, blaming, or falling into codependency?

This is something we work on frequently in Reiki sessions. I like to link the heart and throat chakras while setting an intention for honest and kind communication. Most of us learned to do one or the other. Some are comfortable telling the truth, but might be insensitive in the process. Others are consistently kind, but rarely speak up when feelings are hurt.

Learning to stand our ground and remain considerate and compassionate is a skill that can be developed. This weekend I listened to an excellent podcast about this very thing. Rick Hanson’s Being Well Podcast: Friendly and Fearless in Relationships. I found it to be incredibly helpful.

Rick is a neuropsychologist and a Buddhist. His work is a fascinating intersection of eastern spiritual practices and the modern science of how the brain works and what we can do to maximize our potential. I’m just finishing up his year-long Growing the Good online meditation course and learning so much!

In this podcast, he and his son interview Dr. Daniel Ellenberg. “Daniel has been a practicing marriage and family therapist for over 30 years, and is the co-founder of Relationships That Work, and the founder and director of Strength With Heart men’s groups. He’s led workshops at the Esalen Institute, Spirit Rock, the Association of Humanistic Psychology, Stanford University, and, of all places, NASA, and is the co-author of Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership.”

(I couldn’t resist ordering this book despite the fact that I have about 30 other books waiting to be read. Perhaps it’s time to Reiki my book collecting addiction?)

If you prefer a more passive and receptive route, contact me to schedule a Reiki treatment, either in-person or long-distance, and we can use an energetic approach to upgrading your communication skills. If you’re more of a-roll-up-your-sleeves type, find yourself a Reiki class and soon you can be treating yourself on a daily basis. Or if you’d simply like some practical tips, do check out the podcast.

Celebrating No Headaches!

One of my greatest joys as a massage therapist is helping people reduce or eliminate pain through a body-mind-spirit approach. When a client tells me that she hasn’t had any headaches since her two appointment two weeks ago, I get excited. When she tells me that it’s very rare for her to go that long without a migraine, let alone a “regular” headache, I’m practically jumping for joy.

smiling woman wearing black jacket and pants jumping in brown open field
Photo by Pete Johnson on Pexels.com

Lately I’m seeing more and more clients for headache relief, many of whom have tried all sorts of medications, various therapies, or dietary changes. This particularly client is getting Botox injections, which help but don’t eliminate her pain, and wear off weeks before her insurance company is willing to pay for the next round. Massage seems to be bridging that gap without contributing any unwanted side effects.

The best part of this story is that I’m using good ole-fashioned Swedish massage. No fancy techniques. No deep tissue. No discomfort whatsoever during a session. My goal is to activate the relaxation response, in which the body’s internal feel-good pharmacy gets triggered. Digestion and nutrient assimilation are enhanced, the immune and lymphatic systems are supported, the cardiovascular system calms, and the endocrine system is supported.

Swedish massage manually promotes the relaxation of muscles and encourages circulation and the elimination of cellular waste and toxins. It’s rather like wringing out a dirty sponge, then running it under fresh hot water. As the body adjusts to its new, less-constricted state, internal mechanisms are nudged to promote balance from within. The combination of the relaxation response and the manual “wringing out” therapy is a two-pronged strategy for reducing headaches.

Many of my clients are able to reduce frequency, duration, and/or intensity of chronic headaches with one or two massages each month. For them bodywork is a form of alternative care which prevents them from seeking medical intervention. Many others are less than satisfied with the results of their medical intervention, and get great relief from massage as a complementary therapy.

You don’t need to give up modern medicine to enjoy the benefits of massage. It might just be the key that allows you to celebrate a fortnight free of headaches. And a fortnight after that. And another and another. Why not give it a try?

Reiki Master Teacher Certification

Reiki Master Teacher Certification & Personal Healing Quest

I’ve been working quite industriously to distill my 16 years of experience into one training. This is it! This program has been designed to deepen your connection to Reiki and your personal practice, to produce maximum benefits with minimum investment, in the most convenient package possible.

Most of the work is independent study. Six of the seven meetings will be online. You can join us from your living room in your pajamas; I plan to!

In addition to practice, practice, practice on self and others, there will be reading assignments in Penelope Quest’s The Reiki Manual. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever found to a manual I would write if I could find the time! We’ll learn how to do healing and initiation attunements, work with a crystal grid, use the spiritual healing symbol, and start a practice sharing this magical system with paying clients. 

Whether you’re interested in attuning all your people, delving into spiritual healing, or simply having more oomph for your own evolution, this course offers the potential for intense transformation; if you do the work. I can’t do it for you, but I’m eager to shine some light on the path. 

The fourth Thursdays, March- September, 6-8:30 pm
Inaugural class bonus: two 30 minute, one-on-one calls with me. Investment = $777. Early bird discount, $77 off, through 3/1.

Contact me to apply.

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Why Wait Till You're Sick to Rest?

Recently a client told me that maybe it would be better if she just got sick so she could spend a few days in bed resting. For the past week her entire family had been fighting off one bug after another, and she was exhausted. I shared my strategy of taking time off when I feel the first hints of less-than-wellness, preferring to spend my time in bed resting without being miserable.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It really got me thinking how we’re programmed in our culture to keep going, going, going no matter the cost to our health. We’re taught to push through discomfort and to force ourselves to carry on at any cost. In order to receive permission to take time off, from an authority figure or even ourselves, we often need to be seriously ill, oozing bodily fluids, devoid of all energy, and utterly wrung out.

Then it takes a week or more to recover when a day or two of rest might have been enough to avoid the entire episode. From a productivity point of view, it’s completely inefficient. From a wellness point of view, it’s completely bonkers!

Choosing to prioritize my health has shifted my thinking completely. I recognize the value in protecting my life-force energy and making choices that maximize my well-being. When I don’t work, I don’t get paid, which only reinforces my desire to defend my health. Taking two days off is rarely easy, yet it’s always easier than loosing a week or more of work.

My most recent bout of almost-sickness led to some serious soul-searching. What could I change to prevent a future incident? What is it that I give myself permission to do when I’m sick that I don’t have permission to do when I’m well? Is it possible to provide that without needing the threat of illness? Spending two days in bed creates its own problems in the form of stiffness and backache and isn’t the most ideal solution.

For many people it is about rest. But I fiercely guard my precious sleep, so that’s not it. For me, the answer was obvious. I’m “allowed” to do nothing and watch movies when I don’t feel well. It’s about downtime and entertainment. Pieces of the puzzle that are often missing in my daily life.

I’ve decided to upgrade my plan from resting when illness threatens to making time in my schedule every week for play and fun. Finding blocks of time that aren’t about being productive or learning or even creating (as much as I enjoy these things) is the prescription.

If I willingly give my psyche the time it needs to thrive, it won’t need to demand it through illness. Which isn’t to say that I’ll never be sick again. I wish! I’m still living in a human body, with all its frailties and imperfections. Yet I can give myself the best chance possible to prevent all preventable illness by making pro-active decisions.

And that’s really the best I can do.

Reiki for Homes

I’ve been using Reiki to clear the energy in my home and office regularly for over a decade. It makes a huge difference how a room feels to me. Emotional residue can build up over time creating an energetic field that influences my personal field. You don’t have to be super-sensitive to pick this up- surely at some point in your life you’ve unknowingly interrupted an argument or a gossip session and felt wildly uncomfortable even if you didn’t overhear any actual words.

Recently I was hired to support a family moving from one home to another. The results exceeded everyone’s expectations by far! The intention in the new house was to clear any energy left by the previous occupants and to create a harmonious space that would foster creativity, growth, nourishment, safety, and pleasure.

Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

I get occasional texts from the client reporting children writing and producing plays together and happily eating their vegetables at the dinner table. In short, parental heaven! Likely this fairy tale bliss will require periodic Reiki refreshers, but how wonderful to know that it is an attainable possibility!

In the former home, the intention was to cut any energetic ties and attract the perfect buyers who would fall in love with the house and pay a generous price. There were three offers within 24 hours of the house going on the market. Two days later, five offers, all above asking price. The next day it was under contract for $55,000 above asking price!

Now, I am certainly not claiming any credit for this; I’m just the hose through which Reiki flows. We also performed a traditional Italian ritual of planting a St. Joseph statue in the yard to assist the selling process. I’m neither Italian nor Catholic, so I can’t comment on this, but I can wholeheartedly attest to the power of ritual and belief.

We had planned to smudge the new house by burning white sage as a cleansing agent, but I got an intuitive message to instead recommend an aromatherapy spray. When I learned that the children meant to help, this made much more sense than handing a seven year old a bundle of flaming herbs! No doubt both these rituals along with the Reiki and the potency of intention combined to create the fantastic success achieved on both fronts.

Looking back, it’s clear that the moving process itself could have benefited from some Reiki mojo too. The moving truck broke down, and so did the appliance delivery truck! The family roughed it in the new home for over a week without a refrigerator, washer/dryer or heating oil. Winter weather helped in the food storage department, the fireplace saved the day in the not freezing to death department, and the memories will be cherished… eventually.

Remember the time we all lived in one room without clean clothes or home-cooked meals? Wasn’t that a grand adventure!?

This amazing experience has inspired me to offer Reiki for Homes as a service to others. Since Reiki is not limited by such silly confines as time or space, I can practice healing attunements, clearings, and releasings from afar, so it doesn’t matter where you live. All I need is an address, a few pictures, and your intentions for what you wish to create.

If you’d like to cleanse the space where you live now, a single session will likely be enough. If you have multiple teenagers, marital discord, or work a stressful job from home; maybe two. If you’re relocating, I’d recommend a package of three to include both houses and the moving process itself. $80 for one session, $150 for two, $200 for three. I think it’s quite the bargain! Mostly because I don’t have the desire to bother figuring out how to collect a commission. 🙂

Contact me to arrange your smooth and easy transition into your new home.

Rejected. Thank Goodness!

Today I received a “thank you for your application, but…” email from a local non-profit group I want to volunteer for. Or at least I thought I want to volunteer. As I’ve been waiting to learn if I was in or not, I’d begun to feel anxious about the time requirements, both for the training and the monthly commitment afterwards. I’d put several other opportunities on hold to save time for this group and felt mildly resentful about that too.

So now I feel as if a burden has been lifted! Once again I didn’t know what I really wanted and chose to pursue something that wasn’t an ideal match for my needs. In fact, had I been accepted, I can now see that one of my favorite pastimes would have been irrevocably linked in my mind to volunteering and likely forever tainted by a sense of obligation .

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

How cool is it that fate or the Universe or Divine Planning (or whatever you want to call it!) didn’t give me the thing I thought I wanted that I really didn’t? Not only that, but during my interview I was given the name of a book that actually contains the information that drove me to seek out the training in the first place. Perhaps that was the whole point!

Most magical of all, I’ve been able to see this potentially upsetting news as the gift that it really is. If it weren’t for my consistent practice of filling myself up with Reiki before getting out of bed every morning, I would have likely been sucked into a downward self-pity spiral. Instead I was able to tap into my inner resilience and wisdom.

I tell my students that Reiki always works, just not always in the ways we want it to. I had been using Reiki to support my hopes of being accepted into the program. I didn’t get what I thought I wanted, but I did get what I needed. Fortunately Reiki can see the bigger picture and has my highest good prioritized. My only job is to activate it, trust, and follow through on the steps I’m guided to take.

Whew! That’s totally doable.

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