Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Get Grounded

I’m spending a lot of time lately doing remote Reiki treatments for immune system support. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Reiki healing energy is that it’s not limited by time or space, so even during this period of isolation and quarantine, people are still able to benefit from a treatment without the risk of leaving home. Clients tell me they feel less anxious and more relaxed, which translates into healthier immune systems. It’s a win-win-win situation.

What I’ve been noticing over the past two weeks is a sharp decline in clients’ groundedness. When I’m not grounded I feel spacey and out-of-sorts, flitting about constantly but getting nothing done. It’s when my energy is rooted in the earth that I’m most effective at creating positive change.

The simplest way to get grounded is to put bare feet on the earth. Given that it’s still quite cold here most days, that is not an appealing option. I’ve found that making friends with a tree can help. By leaning my spine against the trunk and touching it with bare hands, I can feel my energy patterns begin to normalize and clear thinking return. My natural connection to the earth is reestablished and I become much more productive.

Grounding is also said to reduce inflammation thereby promoting a decrease in pain and an increase in immune system functioning. It’s not my area of expertise, but here’s an article if you’re interested in learning more. There are even techno-gadgets on the market said to enhance grounding through a building’s electrical system.

I prefer the old-fashioned way. Hug a tree. Or if that feels too weird, just lean against it, make contact with your skin, and breathe deeply. Let Nature do the work and allow yourself to receive the benefits.

Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Move Your Body!

I’m finding that all the meditation in the world doesn’t touch the edgy feeling of adrenaline in my system. It’s impossible to connect with the outside world without having a stress response. While I’m over here having a mostly wonderful stay-cation, many people are suffering. I don’t wish to ignore that, and at the same time I recognize that empathetic suffering won’t help them; in fact it diminishes my capacity to support anyone.

Movement, particularly movement that elevates the heart rate, helps the body to process stress hormones. If you are safely able to get your blood pumping, I believe you’ll find it very helpful. My rebounder, this mini trampoline pictured below, is my saving grace these days. There’s not much a vigorous 30 minute bounce can’t cure.

Yes, I know the gyms are closed. Your preferred form of exercise may not currently be available. You may have a tragic relationship with exercise due to 4th grade gym class. I get it. You don’t actually have to enjoy it to benefit. But once you get started, I suspect you just might! Please note that I’m not talking about enduring pain or physical discomfort! That’s not at all what I mean. I am talking about perhaps stepping out of your comfort zone for the sake of your mental, emotional, and physical health during this crisis.

There are all kinds of activities available for free right now online. Vinyasa yoga and fitness classes are more readily available than ever. If you have stairs in your home, a dozen trips up and down should do the trick. My personal favorite is dancing. All you need is your go-to foot tapping music and a little bit of space.

Don’t overthink it. It doesn’t have to be perfect and no one is judging your moves or lack thereof. Just choose a safe and sensible activity and give it a try for 10 minutes. Notice how you feel. Check in with your body. Does it want more? Need a rest? Tone it down? Ramp it up? It will guide you if you listen. You have all the information you need within yourself.

Just like any other journey, take that first step and let your inner wisdom lead.

Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Trust Your Intuition

For those of us who are healthy and confined at home, this is an opportunity to slow down, get quiet and listen to the still, small voice within. We’re faced with such a huge volume of information, much of it conflicting, some of it utter nonsense, that it’s often hard to make sense of it all.

When in doubt, I trust my gut. My intuition has been guiding me for months now to prepare for this crisis. I’ve been stockpiling books and tea and essential oils without knowing why. Now I know! Hundreds of subtle nudges have led me to be much more comfortable in this situation than if had I ignored them. (If only I hadn’t overridden the message to not purchase a monthly transit pass for March, I’d have an extra $130 in my pocket. Oh well, I have taken note! Don’t argue with the gut!)

As I lean into this internal guidance system, my trust deepens and the messages are easier to decode. Generally I don’t know why I’m urged to go to a particular place at a seemingly random time until I get there and find the very thing I didn’t even know I was looking for! Given that I’m mostly moving between the chair and the couch lately, the messages are more often related to reaching out virtually to someone or which meditation or yoga class to enjoy. Still, each step in the right direction brings me closer to my greatest good.

My sense that I’ve been gently herded towards maximum health, safety and comfort by a higher power was confirmed when I received a message with this picture attached. My dear friend Rod is creating a multi-layered chakra affirmation painting for me. He started with root chakra affirmations, painting each next layer on top of the last and for some seemingly random (but I know otherwise!) reason captured the 6th chakra and shared it with me.

I wrote these words several months ago and believe them to be true. Yet it was still very powerful to be reminded of this Truth. I am guided. Every step of the way. And when I remember this and take guided action, I am empowered and more likely to experience my optimal reality.

Won’t you join me in taking this time-out in our collective narrative to tune-in to your inner guidance system and develop a relationship with your intuition? It does take patience and practice, but I can promise you that it’s worth the effort!

Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Support Someone in Need

Well, it’s official. The mayor of Philadelphia has essentially sent me to my room. As an introverted homebody, I’m actually looking forward to an even slower pace and the challenges of occupying myself without any outside influence. It’s a brilliant time to get creative in the kitchen since it’s clear that popping out for snack food can literally kill me. Strange times!

Many other people have had a less cheerful reaction to the shelter at home restriction. If you’re healthy and confined, I have some ideas to help ease the tension. Stress is incredibly damaging to the immune system, and minimizing it is probably the most important thing you can do for your health aside from social distancing and hand washing.

Given that I have some time on my very clean hands, I recognize this as a brilliant opportunity to devote more time to my blog. I keep saying I want to do that, but life interferes. With much of life on hold for the moment, I have no excuses. I’ve cancelled all my appointments except the long-distance Reiki healing sessions, and since I have no commute for those, I’m blessed with the gift of free time. So here we go.

Once you’ve done all the things you need to do for your own wellness, consider how you can help someone else. Is there one small step you can take to make someone’s life easier? Can you help a local business stay afloat? Can you reach out to someone who might need to hear a friendly voice?

Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

The clients, students and friends I speak with who are actively engaged in being supportive to others seem to be faring much better than those who are obsessed with their own microcosms. Don’t get me wrong, first we need to attend to our own stuff, emotions included, but shifting the focus to someone who might be needing a hand can work wonders. It doesn’t need to be an expensive or heroic act either.

Today I reached out to the farmers I usually buy my produce from at the farmers market. I figure they have vegetables, I want vegetables, there must be a way to connect. I’d much rather spend my money with local merchants who must be struggling than support the richest man on earth by ordering online. I was delighted (perhaps overly so!) to hear that I can get my veggies at the end of the week and even more delighted to have shared a brief connection with the farmer.

It was a small act, but really the high point of my day. I suspect we have a lot of days ahead sheltering at home, and I’m eager to make the most of them. Lending a helping hand where I can is definitely going on my to-do list. I’d love to hear about ways others are being supportive. You never know what might inspire another person to take action.

Keeping Spirits High During Global Crisis

I’m lying on my new rug in sphinx pose, listening to Deva Premal, saturated in mega doses of purifying essential oils, drinking cocoa, in my pajamas, adapting upcoming classes and events to an online format. I’ve been training for this moment for years; I just didn’t know it! Use all your tools to keep your spirits high. It’s as important as washing your hands. And business is open for long-distance Reiki treatments to boost the immune system and minimize stress. The perfect remedy for this crisis. I’m here to support you through this difficult time.

Immune System Boost

I’m typing this on my phone while sitting by the creek. I needed some fresh air and sunshine and craved the sounds of nature. And I know in my gut the most important thing I can do for my immune system is to minimize stress and maximize life-force energy.

Ki factory 🙂

By now everyone has learned the importance of washing hands and social isolation. What has been missing from the inundation of warnings in my inbox is the importance of supporting the immune system in addition to avoiding viral contamination.

Stress has a physiological effect which dampens immune system function. This is not some wu-wu new age fiddle faddle. It’s science. When the fight, flight or freeze mechanism kicks in, the body’s energy is diverted away from the immune system to the heart, lungs and major muscle groups.

My approach to remaining healthy so I can continue to serve my community is to both manage stress (limiting contact with fear promoting agents, meditation, yoga, music, aromatherapy, Reiki) and cultivating life-force energy (Reiki, yoga, nature, laughter, music, creativity, gratitude). And of course, all the CDC recommendations.

I’m still seeing healthy clients in-person. But I’m shifting community events and classes online. We still need connection. Even more so with this lockdown situation. I’ll be posting more about online events soon.

Perhaps most importantly, I’m eager to remind people that Reiki is just as powerful, often more so, when shared remotely. You can stay at home and receive a healing session. This is great news for those who are sick or at risk! Stress reduction and life-force boosting all from the comfort and safety of your own house.

So find yourself some online meditations, art or yoga classes, and a Reiki practitioner. I’m here to help, and so are many others. Contact me to discuss booking a session. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

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?