Radical Compassion with Tara Brach and Rick Hanson

I learned a lot listening to this podcast from two renowned meditation teachers. They delve into a variety of hot topics with wisdom and compassion. If you’ve ever thought that meditation wasn’t useful in the real world, this might be an opportunity to change your mind! And I can attest from personal experience that changing your mind can change your life. Radical compassion is a fascinating subject and completely applicable to the challenges that most people face in this day and age. Check it out!

Going with the Snow Flow

     

Here in Philadelphia, we just had our third significant snowfall in as many weeks. It makes for a lot of rescheduling clients so they don’t drive home after a relaxing treatment on icy roads. And it’s also provided several unexpected free days. Kinda like snow days as a kid, and loads of time to spend with my beloved books. In short, the weather has been wreaking havoc on my schedule and I’m doing a pretty good job of rolling with it.

I especially enjoy my hikes as the woods are incredibly peaceful.

Until yesterday.

I’m expecting a delivery that has been delayed and have no idea how long. No big deal usually, but I need to sign for this one. When I ordered my BioMat weeks ago, I began sending Reiki to its travels all the way from Hawaii. Obviously there are lots of complications these days for such a lengthy journey, and snow is only one of them. So I turned to Reiki, and have been intending for safe and timely transport.

Last week when I learned that it was scheduled to arrive today, I was elated. At that time, I had no appointments booked and simply blocked out my calendar so I could hang out at home listening for the doorbell. Reiki at its finest! Admittedly, I was a little bit smug about my success.

Then the storm yesterday resulted in a notice that the package has been delayed, but no information as of yet as to how long it’s delayed. Curses! The rest of the week is rather full due to keeping today’s schedule vacant and all the moving clients around because of the weather.

Again, not usually a big deal, even as a dedicated pedestrian. The pick-up store is walkable. But this package is 18 pounds! Too heavy to carry, even to the nearest bus stop. Too difficult to schlep with a shopping cart as crossing every intersection on foot means climbing over a frozen slush bank created by the plows. The likelihood of finding a friend available to give me a lift in the middle of my now-full rest of the week is slim and Lyft and Uber seem rather unappealing these days.

From this perspective, it’s rather a downer. Somehow I’d forgotten about the magic of Reiki! As if the flow of life-force energy is unable to navigate a snowstorm? Puh-lease! I’m grateful I only lost a few moments of my precious life worrying about this triviality before I turned it back over to the ease and grace available when I’m connected to the flow of Reiki.

So, I still have no idea when the package is coming. I’m continuously releasing my attachment to having it arrive today as planned (after all, I’m really, really eager to experience the BioMat!) and releasing my attachment to knowing when it’s supposedly coming so I can make a plan. Instead, I’m placing my trust in Divine Timing and an intelligent and benevolent Universe.

It will get here when it gets here, and I’m certain that its arrival will be perfect in ways I can’t possibly know just yet.

Which is Better, Reiki or Massage?

I get this question a lot from new clients. Is Reiki or massage better? It’s common knowledge that both are helpful for reducing stress and pain, so how does one choose which treatment will provide the most relief?

First of all, neither is better. They’re both fabulous. Just different.

For people who don’t wish to get undressed, don’t want their hair to get mucked up, or don’t like to be touched, Reiki is the perfect solution. Clients remain fully clothed, no oil or lotion is used, and healing energy can be transferred either with or without touch. For those who enjoy the gliding or kneading of bodywork or the moisturizing benefit of being coated in massage cream, well that’s an obvious choice as well.

For the rest of us, it all depends on the goals for the session and the origin of the stressors. Massage is extremely helpful for correcting postural imbalances from sitting too long at a desk and for muscle aches from repetitive movements. It’s my go-to technique for issues that are firmly rooted in the physical body.

For concerns that arise primarily from the mental/emotional realm, I find Reiki to be more helpful. For example, the type of stress that is unleashed from having too much to do and too little time. Reiki is brilliant. It excels at resetting the inner alarm system that keeps us on edge when we’re trying to unplug for a rest. Anxiety, depression, and insomnia all respond particularly well, as does old trauma that was hasn’t yet been released fully.

Yet it really isn’t as black or white as that. The physical, mental and emotional bodies are all interwoven and constantly impact one another. If I’m worried about meeting a deadline, the concern begins in my mind but it triggers physiological affect as well. If I spend 12 hours in front of my computer, it’s my body that is slumped over and achy, but my mood also pays a price.

If we bring in spiritual aspirations such as reclaiming worthiness or embodying the divine, the waters get even murkier. Releasing tension from the muscles allows us greater freedom to pursue a meditation practice or creative projects. And using Reiki to bring the chakras into alignment or balancing the flow of energy top to toe can give us the fuel we need to really dig into the necessary action steps.

The good news is, you don’t have to choose. This needn’t be an either/or situation. It can be a both/and scenario. It’s possible to blend energywork and bodywork together in a treatment. I really enjoy offering combination sessions as I can pull what’s most useful from each system for the immediate circumstances. Or it’s possible to alternate modalities depending on what your unique needs are on that particular day. This might require some advanced planning if you’re seeing two different practitioners. However, there are quite a lot of us hybrids out there who can adapt relatively easily.

I don’t think I’ve done a very good job answering the question! I guess my short answer is, it depends. In the care of a skilled and caring practitioner, you really can’t go wrong though. Either modality can be an effective tool for most complaints. Rather than trying to analyze the benefits intellectually, I think you’ll get a lot more information from experiencing a session. When in doubt, place a hand over your heart and inquire within. You have a great well of wisdom inside and who knows better than you what is in your best interest?

Leave the Red Zone, by Dr. Rick Hanson

My inbox is quite the mixed bag today! There’s an astrology report announcing super-intense cosmic energies and a weather forecast predicting a major winter storm in my area. All this on top of so many people already struggling with cabin fever. Massive snow seems to bring out either the very best or the very worst in Philadelphians. Some people gladly shovel their neighbors’ sidewalks and others get aggressively proprietorial about parking spots. All in all, I’m expecting a very interesting next few days!

If you find yourself stressed out, overwhelmed, frazzled or irritable, you might enjoy this blog by Dr. Rick Hanson. He outlines some simple techniques for cultivating inner calm despite outer chaos. Stress has major physiological affects which can negatively affect one’s health over time. I can personally attest to the beneficial results of these methods. The more consistently I apply them, the happier I am.

Whatever the world is throwing at you, there’s help to be had for minimal investment of time and effort. Safe, easy, and free plus the side effects of improving focus, relationships, and overall wellness? It’s a no-brainer for sure!

Efforts Rewarded!

I’m accustomed to strangers telling me their life stories. Dr. Judith Orloff’s book, The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, is helping me to understand that my compassionate presence attracts people needing compassion. As you might imagine, listening to the problems of people, lots of people, some of whom I’ve never met before can be somewhat draining, if not downright exhausting. So I’ve been working with energetic techniques to protect myself (thank you Dr. Orloff!) and to shift this pattern. Guess what? It’s working!

This morning there was a man sitting in front of my home, apparently supervising work on the house across the street. Conversation went from “Hello” to “Beautiful morning, isn’t it?” to “This is great weather, my allergies are practically gone.” At this point, I’m poised to bolt as historically this type of statement was followed by a lengthy description of symptoms and suffering. Really. It happens to me. All. The. Time!

Or, it used to. 😉

But this gentleman, with a sparkling smile, went on to tell me about a plant remedy. A holistic concoction that has helped with his asthma, allergies, arthritis, and various other aches and pains. Something I had never heard of, and sounded completely bizarre. (Normally I’m the one saying such things!) How refreshing!

I suspect he was sent to support my transition by acting as an indicator that I’m on the right track, and that assistance comes in all sorts of unexpected packages. Fascinating! Because of the grounding and shielding practices I’ve been using to protect my energy field, I was able to enjoy a random interaction with a stranger rather than heading for the hills.

I’m sharing this here in case anyone else tends to attract emotional dumpers or drainers and has yet to learn that there is hope beyond moving to a deserted island. I doubt that I’m forever free of hearing about people’s problems and ailments, but it is encouraging to have a different experience after making an effort to attract different experiences! I really can’t say enough about how useful this book is. If it can help me be less vulnerable out in the world, I’m guessing it can help you too.

No Need to Apologize

Over the past 18 years of practicing Reiki and massage, I’ve noted the things that clients, particularly women, apologize for that don’t require an apology. Once somebody head-butted me while turning over and sometimes people don’t show up for appointments. These are apology- worthy events. The way you look or feel is not. It saddens me that we’ve been indoctrinated to be embarrassed or ashamed of our bodies and emotions. 

I’m sorry that my hair is wet or not freshly washed, that my toes are unpainted or just-now-painted, that my legs are unshaven, that I did or didn’t put on makeup. These are all expressions that I used to hear frequently when I worked in a spa. In my private practice, my regular clients have all been informed that none of these things matter to me. They are accepted exactly as they are and have learned to forgo the amends.

My all-time favorite is, “Sorry I fell asleep.” Feeling safe and relaxed enough to drift off during a treatment is the ultimate compliment to me! Likewise, snoring isn’t offensive. It’s amusing and endearing when it gets loud enough to wake the snorer up. 

Having difficulty settling in or getting comfortable is quite common in a treatment room and it’s the therapist’s job to help you do so. There is absolutely no call to apologize for being too hot or too cold or having a leg cramp. Seriously, we want you to be ideally cozy and without sudden, searing pain and will go to great lengths to accommodate your needs. It’s no trouble at all to get an extra blanket or adjust the face cradle. 

It’s not uncommon for tears to come up before, during, or after a session. Sometimes people arrive in vulnerable state and other times old pain is released from its storage place. Either way, there’s nothing to be ashamed about. While clients may not be accustomed to crying in front of another person, any bodyworker or energyworker worth their salt is solidly rooted in compassion and able to stay present without feeling the need to fix or solve anything. You might feel uncomfortable shedding tears, which is perfectly natural, but please know that there is absolutely no reason to apologize for them. 

I’d like to suggest that we save our apologies for when they are truly necessary; when we hurt someone either accidentally or deliberately and condolences. Let’s stop apologizing for things that are beyond our control or that violate ridiculous societal norms, especially for feeling upset and for the shape and condition of our bodies. 

Here’s a trick that might help you. When wondering if I need to say “I’m sorry”, I imagine my adorable six year old niece and whether or not I would expect or demand an apology from her in similar circumstances. Why would I apply higher standards to myself than this sweet, sassy, and innocent being? Choose a cutie you know or even one from a darling YouTube video and give it a try. I think you’ll find it incredibly liberating! I sure did.

Letting Go

I recently came across this amazing poem written by Robert Moss. I know him as The Dream Guy because his books are teaching me to access the guidance delivered through my nighttime dreams. He apparently wrote the words I’ve copied below about a dream of his own. It illustrates perfectly what I’m seeing lately in Reiki sessions and in my own life.

We’re in a tremendous transition period. As the outside world shifts and changes, we’re being called to do the same on an internal level. Clinging to outdated coping mechanisms and limiting beliefs causes great suffering. The universe is encouraging all of us to examine our choices (thoughts, words, and actions) and evaluate which are serving our highest good, which need to be tuned up or repaired, and which need to be let go of entirely.

It’s a process that requires dedication, clarity, motivation, and resilience. We must simply choose again and again to follow the soul’s guidance rather than moving toward what’s convenient, conventional, or comfortable. Sometimes they overlap, but not always. Sometimes our loved ones cheer us on from the sidelines and other times they’d prefer that we didn’t rock the boat.

I just love how the poem expresses the journey of transformation with such vivid imagery. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Robert Moss, The Man with a Corpse on His Back

When you die to the old life

you must bury it well

or you’ll stumble on

with the corpse of your old self

strapped to your back.

Bury it well and do your grieving.

Set right what can be set right

with those you hurt

and those who hurt you.

Give up the souls you’ve stolen.

Reclaim what was stolen from you.

Then walk on and don’t look back.

Others will dig up your corpse.

Not only enemies and abandoned lovers

but your very best friends.

They’ll exhume your bag of bones

and lash it to your shoulders

to prove you haven’t changed.

You’ll be dragged, down and back.

You’ll need a second wake,

a second burial.

The grave-robbers will come for you

again and again

to chain you to your dead self

until you are changed so utterly

you can only be seen

by those who have changed their eyes.

You’ll vanish into the sunlit spaces

where those who cling

to the ghost of what you were

can’t find you anymore.

Sound Healing for the Sacral Chakra

I’ve been enjoying this soothing music over the past several days and I suspect others would enjoy it too. The sacral chakra relates to complex issues such as sexuality, relationships, and creativity. It resides in the lower belly at the level of the sacrum, an area where many people experience back pain. If you’re working on some deep healing, are uncomfortably pregnant or simply spent hours shoveling crazy heavy snow yesterday, this could be helpful.

I confess that I don’t understand how sound healing works. Vibrations are said to have a restorative effect on our cells. It’s not necessary to comprehend the workings of the technique to reap benefits. I also don’t know how my laptop and the furnace work, but that doesn’t stop me from using them!

This track is subtle enough to play in the background while working or reading. I’ve listened while cooking and imagine that the meal is then infused with extra healing vibes. It adds a nice layer to seated meditation and yoga as well. I especially like that it’s so long- watch one 5 second advertisement and get three and half hours of music.

Check it out and let me know how it feels.

Upgraded Hair Care

This post has been trying to come through for a few months now and I’ve been dodging it unsuccessfully. My brain says it isn’t exactly on topic; my heart says to write it anyway. Eventually the heart always wins! And I suppose body-care fits squarely into the self-care category of holistic health and wellness, so… here we go.

For years I’ve been spending a small fortune on organic shampoos and conditioners with less-than-optimal results. Either I don’t love the ingredients or the way my hair looks, smells, or feels afterwards. I especially dislike the single-use plastic containers. Sadly, everything available in bulk locally just doesn’t suit me either. I tried shampoo bars and was greatly underwhelmed.

Last spring when my business was shut down and I was confined to home, I decided to conquer this predicament once and for all. Some online research led me to the “no-poo” technique, which (I’m happy to say!) has absolutely nothing to do with constipation.

I was surprised to read that suds simply aren’t necessary to clean one’s hair even though we have been conditioned (pun intended!) to believe they are. No-poo advocates claim that the suds strip natural oils from hair, stimulating the scalp to produce more oil and causing a never-ending cycle of greasy hair/shampoo/greasy hair… It makes perfect sense if you think about it.

Some people are able to care for their hair using only hot water. Not me. I’ve gotten hooked on the baking soda and apple cider vinegar method. I love the simplicity of the ingredients; perfectly naturally substances that come in cardboard and glass, respectively. Here’s a lovely bonus- extremely low cost! Good for my hair, my budget, AND the planet. A rare trifecta in the natural products realm!

I have a crystal-clear memory of my first no-poo experience. Afterwards, I was sitting on the back patio reading and my neighbor told me that my hair looked glamorous.

Yes, that’s right!

Glamorous!

I remember it vividly as that’s not a word that has ever been used to describe me or any part of me. I had towel dried, but not combed, my hair and was wearing my 2020 uniform of pajamas. I felt pretty much the opposite of glamorous.

Just wait. It gets better! I noticed that my hair was super soft and rarely tangled. My scalp did not get oily. It looked really good on days 3, 4, and 5. Days 6 and 7 it became a little limp and by then I’d usually gotten some moisturizer or almond butter or something in it which compelled me to “wash” again. I haven’t tested the limits of this system, but I suspect if I was neater, I could go much longer in between treatments.  

You can easily find instructions for no-pooing online. I’m just here to let you know that this cheap, simple, easy, non-toxic shampoo alternative that can last up to a week and help save the polar bears is available to all of us.

Give it a few cycles before you make your final judgment. For me, there was a sticky feeling the first few times, which I think was actually the residue of former products being released. It hasn’t happened again in the many months that I’ve been doing this. Twice I’ve felt the need to do a deep conditioning, but that isn’t new for me.

If you’re interested in spending less than $15 annually to have glamorous, shiny, healthy hair without creating unnecessary plastic waste or exposing yourself to chemicals, I can wholeheartedly suggest that you give this a try. I’d love to hear how it goes if you do!