For Those Who FEEL it All

Last week I was in a workshop with 27 people. The facilitator asked for a show of hands: who had ever had the experience of being “too much”? 26 hands shot up. 27 actually, because I raised both of mine! The outlier was having internet difficulties and off camera, so it’s possible that we were unanimously agreed.

I’m not going to even attempt to define what being too much means. This isn’t that kind of post.

Instead, I have a song to share for everyone who feels it all and believes they’re too much. You’re not alone!

It’s a sweet melody with touching lyrics. I think it’s worth the short ad YouTube requires.

Here’s the link if you’d rather purchase it. I bought the album and have been listening on repeat today. <3.

Motivation for Practicing Self-Care

A new friend recently asked me how I motivate myself to do all the practices that keep me well. He finds it hard to believe that I prioritize spending time every morning tending to body, mind, and spirit. It all feels like a chore to him even though he sees the value in putting in the effort to influence the inflammation and mood disorder that plague him consistently.

My short answer is, I’m motivated by a desire to avoid pain. Secondarily by the desire to actually feel good. Because I know that when I regularly tend to myself, my baseline hovers between content and joyful, and I like it there! I wish I had some lofty, awakened, altruistic piece to add, but really it’s the age-old strategy of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure that fuels my efforts. 

Decades of experimentation have revealed a personalized formula that is consistently reviewed and adjusted, but more or less ongoing. I meditate first thing in the morning because it gets me in touch with my deepest self and internal wisdom. It feels good to experience this connection while starting my day off intentionally. I like to spend a few minutes reading something inspirational to elevate my mood. Currently, “The Four Agreements” sits on my coffee table, next to my journal, where I flush out all the thoughts, helpful and unhelpful, onto the page to clear my mind. 

This sets the stage for creative writing, which is my current challenge in terms of motivation. When I make the time to express myself, a wonderful sense of purpose and joy emerges. My body needs some sort of activity to prevent pain and potentially enjoy pleasure. I have chosen a “movement” practice, often dancing or bouncing, sometimes yoga or hiking, because that sounds a lot more inviting than “exercise”. Just that word brings up dread! And to top it off, I nourish myself. I’ve come upon the perfect combination of macros that works for me and keeps me satisfied and stable for several hours. 

A good part of making all this happen is the devotion. I’ve decided that these efforts are valuable, and designed them to fit into my life in a way that best suits my needs and availability. I’m a morning person, so I load up on the yummy stuff that allows me to coast through the day, and rest in the evening when my energy drops. This isn’t a good plan for everyone, but it totally works for me. Your plan should work for YOU! 

Another piece of the puzzle is planning. Breakfast doesn’t happen but looking in the cupboard at the last minute and wondering how mustard and noodles can become a nourishing dish. I keep myself set up for all these steps, which is why the book, the journal, and the pens are all within easy reach and my tea kettle gets set up before bed. Today I managed a visit to the farmers market before before work so I would have a stocked frig and the opportunity to do some food prep on my day off.

So we have devotion and preparation as two key elements. The third is Reiki. My daily Reiki practice is intended to heal and support myself. This helps remove any blockages so that I can remember why I go through all these steps every day. To FEEL GOOD. It also helps me when the resistance arises- not to squash it, but to investigate and then compassionately tend to the parts of myself that have other ideas about how to best use my morning. There’s often a negotiation that ensues, with younger aspects of myself demanding freedom. They get their say, and often a promise for downtime or screen time later in the day, and I allow my mature self to make the decisions.

Another helpful factor is setting the bar reasonably low, AKA setting myself up for success. My movement commitment is an easy 10 minutes. Once I get going, I usually continue longer than that, but having such a doable goal makes it much easier to begin. If I faced an hour-long goal, it would feel oppressive and I’d likely make all sorts of excuses to avoid it altogether. 

Now, there are some other items on my to-do list that don’t respond to this same strategy. Things I don’t actually want to do are an entirely different story! I think it’s important to acknowledge this. If there’s something you continually aren’t doing, there’s a good chance you’re just not into it. Is it negotiable? Often we carry the “shoulds” from cultural or familial programming and once we realize that this “should” isn’t in alignment with our own desires, it can be liberating to let it go. 

Other items might be obligatory. Like vacuuming. UGH! I don’t like vacuuming one bit. But I do enjoy having a clean floor, so I focus on the end result and offer myself a reward (a leisurely walk or a hot bath, for example) for accomplishing the less-than-pleasant task. 

To sum it all up, I don’t really need to motivate much because I like pleasure and dislike pain. Over time, I’m made consistent baby steps and created the circumstances to move in that direction. Meditation was first. The rest followed, bit by bit. Most of my good habits were developed on an average of one per year. That’s both doable and has an amazing cumulative effect when you keep at it. It’s not to hard to keep at it when you are enjoying the rewards and have Reiki on your side. 

Happy Reiki Day!

I’m so excited to be on the receiving end of a remote Reiki session today!!! A few weeks ago I’m was feeling pretty worn down and recognized that I needed some extra support. I remember listening to a podcast where the woman being interviewed recommended getting LOTS of support, not just the bare minimum. I chuckled to myself, and thought, hmmm… that’s what I’ve been doing! Just getting the minimum to keep going and relying, over-relying actually, on my self-care routines.

It took me a few moments to figure out what would be the most helpful. The idea of dragging myself to yet another appointment, potentially trading working hours for relaxation, didn’t resonate at all. Even trying out a new-to-me bodyworker in the neighborhood didn’t float my boat. These things are so subjective! 

I’m not sure why it took so long for me to figure out that thing that would help me the most is the thing I most often recommend. Didn’t see the forest for all the tree, I guess. 🙂 I booked a long-distance session with my teacher, Laura Bruno, who happens to live 1,000 miles away. No worries. Reiki can travel. And it can bend time, so I’ve set up my session so that she can do it during her working hours, and arrange for it to arrive at 10pm. When I will be off my feet, no longer tending to busyness or business, tucked into bed and maximally receptive. 

Even we caretakers need some caretaking. I seem to have taken on the role of the caretakers’ caretaker, as I have many clients who are in heavy duty caretaking roles. They come to me for support when they get depleted, or better yet to prevent getting depleted. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I need to keep my own tank full so I can keep operating. And tomorrow morning, I will wake up with a full tank, magically restored while I was resting. 

How does it get better than that? 

Clearing Self-Sabotage

A series of events led me to pick up this gem again after many years. Some might call events like these random, but I call them divine intervention. The universe really is guiding me to my highest good if I only pay attention and follow the breadcrumbs!

In “The Big Leap”, Gay Hendricks offers simple strategies to overcoming what he calls our Upper Limit Problem. As you can see, this book is well-loved, and each rereading reveals deeper insights.

He describes a sort of thermostat that we all have for the upper limits of our ability to experience success, love, and creativity. When we pass that limit, it creates cognitive dissonance- the inability to hold two conflicting ideas- which causes inner conflict. Getting promoted while thinking that I don’t deserve success would be a common example. He goes on to say that we have two options- to shift the belief or tank the success and return to the comfortable thermostat setting.

Without awareness of this phenomenon, we default to the latter. Only by shining the light on the beliefs that hold us back can we move beyond this frustrating tendency to yank on the reigns when the going gets good.

He’s pointing to four limiting beliefs that lay the foundation for the Upper Limit Problem and boy, do they ring true! While it’s always easier for me to see patterns in people around me than in myself, his coaching is so gentle and nonjudgmental that I could see the remnants of beliefs in me that I thought I had cleared ages ago. As the themes of “stuck” and “self-sabotage” seem to be up for so many around me, I wanted to share this incredibly helpful tool for creating change.

Two thumbs up for “The Big Leap”!

KrautFest 2022

Today is our fourth annual (albeit not consecutive) sauerkraut making day. I’m interested in sauerkraut for the phenomenal digestive health benefits and making a giant vat saves a ton of money over the course of a year. Last I checked, it was selling for $14/pint for the truly fermented kind (vs pickled in vinegar). Today we have eight cabbages weighing about 5 lbs each. A month from now, we’ll have two plus gallons of kraut.

My dad is Pennsylvania Dutch, which for those of you who aren’t from around here might not know, means of German (deutsch) descent. And while there are also plenty of Amish folks in the state, also of German descent, it’s not the same thing. Just a quick PSA based on questions I’ve received over the years wondering how I escaped the barn-raising lifestyle or about my ancestors in the Netherlands.

According to him, the traditional way to make sauerkraut is to shred cabbage and mix with salt, place it in a crock down by the river and pay a neighbor boy a nickel every day to check on it and report when it’s ready.

We will only use the first few steps of that recipe! The crock used to sit and ferment in the basement until it started to smell funny, the universal sign that it’s ready. I’m not keen on carrying it down the stairs, so we’ve made different arrangements this year. One of the more important steps is placing it in some sort of tray to catch and juice that bubbles over. We’ve tried out a variety of cookie trays and such and finally found something large enough to hold the crock.

So today we’ll spend a few hours turning about $30 dollars worth of local cabbage and some pink Himalayan salt into a few hundred dollars worth of pre- and pro-biotics and a tasty dish. The neighbor lady, who incidentally has known me since I was a day old, has brought an electric slicer, so it will likely go even quicker. And hopefully spare all our fingertips. 🙂 And potentially make clean up more interesting…

I think everything is ready to go and we’ll begin after lunch. Hopefully it all goes well as I’m planning to return to Philly this evening. I don’t love the drive, but this tradition has lured me out of my comfy little apartment, which is much to small to host such an event.

I’ll report back next month!

Give it S P A C E !!!

I had a heck of a dream in the wee hours that triggered some old emotional wounds. I woke up suddenly and unexpectedly with strong feelings of shame, hurt, and resentment coursing through my veins. Not the most pleasant wake-up call! And after an hour of tossing and turning, I decided to claim it as an opportunity for healing.

As I sat in meditation, I suddenly felt that my apartment was too small, much too small to contain these very big feelings. I hastily rearranged my day, threw my travel mug and a few hard-boiled eggs in my backpack, dug out a scarf, hat, and gloves and headed to the creek.

There is something quite magical about being near running water for me. I find it much easier to exhale. And exhales were what I needed to regulate my nervous system that was edging into the red zone. I knew that if I wanted to have a chance to be with the emotions, I needed to stay out of fight-flight-freeze activation. Once that alarm gets pulled, it takes time for me to reset and dig myself out of survival mode.

The chilly air (hooray for autumn!), the brisk walk, and the majesty of nature all supported my goal, and I was able to sit and breath by the water, allowing the emotions to flow. To my surprise, the entire episode passed pretty quickly because I gave it the space it needed. In the past, this level of intense upset would have sidetracked me for days. Today, it was more or less settled in an hour. I was hope in plenty of time for my 11am meeting, which turned out to actually be at noon, so I had an hour to spare and try to capture my experience in words.

Calm returns!

It’s really helpful to have a plan for moments like these. Rational thinking often isn’t available when we get triggered, and it can be hard to figure out a strategy when we’re IN it. Knowing what helps calm you down in advance can be a blessing. For those on the inner journey, doing the work of excavating the caves or exploring the labyrinth, it’s essential.

Movement, sound, breath, nature, and prayer are all tried and true emergency responses. Taking a few minutes on a daily basis to design and refine a protocol when you’re on even ground is a solid step towards saving time and distress when stuff comes up. Building on a foundation of mindfulness and compassion can provide advance warning and the motivation to face challenges head on.

If you have Reiki superpowers, you can use them to help yourself stay centered and willing to meet challenging emotions. For me, it helps to take the edge off and more easily navigate upheaval. The more calm I am, the more likely I am to find the courage and energy to stay put rather than turning to a distraction for artificial relief. It’s a simple as placing a hand on the belly and the other on the heart and thinking “Reiki on”. Let the energy flow and support you on your journey.

Using Reiki for Internal Integrity

Lately, I’ve become increasingly aware of how my Reiki practice helps me align with my integrity. For the purposes of this article, I’m using the word “integrity” to indicate when my body, mind, and spirit are working together. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, circumstances, and goals are all taken into account and inform my decision making when I’m in integrity.

This requires honesty about where I am starting from, where I wish to go, and the resources I have at my disposal. I need to slog through layers of conditioning that tell me who I should be and what I should desire as well as the stories I tell myself about who I imagine myself to be. I need to have accurate coordinates to get accurate directions to my desired destination. If I wish I was in Phoenix, but really I’m in LA, and society tells me I ought to go to Seattle, but my heart chooses Buffalo, it’s pretty simple to see how my GPS could help or hinder me.

Today I’m feeling the need to get out of my apartment, where I’ve been holed up pretty consistently when not treating clients. I’ve had a series of long days and just want to go home after work. Yet… my soul needs time in nature. My normal plan is a hike in the nearby woods. However, I’m feeling pretty low energy, and not exactly up for a hike. My morning Reiki ritual helped me to understand that both these facts are important. It would be easy to neglect or override one or the other, but integrity requires me to consider both the need to be outside and to minimize exertion. Once I acknowledged this, it was easy to arrive at a solution to visit a neighborhood park and sit in the grass under a tree.

Of course not all compromises are as simple as this one, but Reiki always helps me find my way. If you’re interesting in learning how to get all aspects of yourself connected and collaborating, consider taking a Reiki class. It’s much more affordable than getting consistent treatments from a professional, and super-easy to learn. You can have healing energy at your fingertips wherever you are.

Effective Communication

I found this podcast to be extremely helpful! Dr. Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and Buddhist meditation teacher does such a fabulous job of weaving eastern and western tradition together. This collaborative endeavor with his son models healthy masculine relationships. And this particular episode about communicating what we want in ways that are more likely to be heard and receive a positive response really captivated me.

In my Reiki Master Teacher class, we’ve been exploring how to know what we really want, aside from familial, cultural, and media conditioning. Surprisingly it’s more complicated than it seems! Uncovering our true desires often takes some detective work. In the classes, we’re excavating authentic desires for the purpose of setting clear and effective intentions for Reiki application.

The next step, which is beyond the scope of my current classes, is to then bring our requests to those who can help us achieve our desires. In the podcasts, things such as shared housework and child raising are addressed, as well as issues within the workplace and groups of friends.

Having studied and practiced Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-violent Communications, I find this approach to be somewhat softer and more malleable. What it really comes down to is a heartfelt attempt at cooperation in which all parties get their needs met in ways that benefit everybody. Pretty radical considering the competitive narrative of “I win, you lose” or vice versa that runs rampant.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Fun on Rebubble

Last night, an online search for postcards led me to Redbubble and I spent a bit of time exploring that rabbit hole. In case you’re later to the party than I am, here’s a blurb from their website:

“Awesome products designed by independent artists.” Love that!

This is postcard that really convinced me I was in the right place. So creative! And humorous! A friend and I often joke about Kermit’s song, “It’s not easy being green” given our goals to drink green juices (her) and smoothies (me) frequently. We’re both quite hermit-like. Let’s just say it tickled my funny bone.

I haven’t decided what item to have this image printed on. T-shirt? Hoodie? Tote bag? Mug? I’m leaning toward the spiral bound journal, but will give it some time to percolate.

Have a look at all the kooky, whimsical, silly, and gorgeous offerings and consider something out of the box for any upcoming gift purchases. It’s a great, easy, and affordable way to support artists. I have no affiliations to Redbubble or the Kermit Hermit artist. I just so appreciated the work I felt inspired to share and hope that some chuckles will be had.

Redefining “Self-Care”

I talk about self-care a lot. A LOT! It’s an important part of my wellness and healthy aging plans and my career. It’s become increasingly popular over the years and social media is full of prescriptions for all the things you should be doing (and buying!) to practice self-care.

I’m here to propose that “should” be removed entirely from the conversation. What if self-care practices aren’t something that you do because external experts have advised you to?

What if, instead, it’s a simple practice of checking in with yourself frequently? Asking yourself three simple questions (curtesy of Kristy Arbon’s Somatic Self-Compassion work) that can help you get in touch with your inner landscape and allow your decisions to emerge from there? How do I feel? What do I need? What can I do?

What if we learned to care for ourselves the same way we would a three-year old?

Are you hungry? Let’s have a snack. What would you like? Can we find a reasonable compromise that will satisfy desires without causing harm? Can we plan to keep some healthy and convenient options on hand for the future?

Tired? Can we take a minute to stretch or move or just close our eyes and regroup? Can we do some restorative yoga at lunch and cancel any non-essential plans this weekend to enjoy some downtime?

We wouldn’t give a child a list of 20 items that have been prescribed by a self-care guru as daily requirements! Let’s not impose such rigidity on ourselves in the name of wellness. Instead, might we choose to let go of the dogma and let self-care be a practice of caring for ourselves, our needs, our bodies, and our feelings with kindness and compassion?

A revolution like this just doesn’t happen spontaneously. We need to make it a priority. Make ourselves a priority. What if my feelings matter? What if my comfort matters? What if I actually matter? How would I approach my day?

Likely some forethought will be helpful. If I have an energy crash every day at 2:00 that compels me to reach for artificial energy, I could research ways to prevent the crash or healthier ways to navigate it. It is beneficial to tuck some tricks up your sleeve in advance. But rather than bending over backwards to do the tricks just for the sake of checking off a box, see what tricks are going to fulfill your current needs. Let the tricks work for you!

What if self-care is actually a lifestyle based on self-inquiry, self-acceptance and self-compassion rather than more tasks to perform? Let’s find out!