|I found these tips from Dr. Rick Hanson’s newletter to be very doable, simple and quite effective. “Slow down, do less.” Good advice for most of us during the season of cold, long nights. I’ve copied it below in case anyone needs some gentle guidance.|
|In your body, keep engaging the balance to the sympathetic nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Potential ways to do this include long exhalations, relaxing the tongue, warming the hands, and relaxing the body as a whole.|
In your emotions, keep turning to the small positive experiences available during the holidays: for example, decorations are pretty, oranges smell good, it’s fun to go sledding, kids are cute, and it feels sweet to make others happy. Then take a dozen seconds or more to savor the positive experience so that it can transfer from short-term memory buffers to long-term emotional memory, and thus really sink into you.
|Take care of your body, emotions, thoughts, and actions.|
|In your thoughts, beware “shoulds” and “musts.” The things we do during the holidays are only means to ends: goals such as happiness, love, sacredness, generosity, and fun. If the means get in the way of the ends – as they so often do at this time of year – it is time to lighten up about the means. Keep coming back to simplicity inside your own mind as an end in itself: the simple truth that in this moment, each moment, you are actually basically alright; the simple fullness of being in the present, not regretting the past or worrying about or planning the future.|
In your actions, slow down and do less. Keep coming back to your breathing as you look for gifts, do dishes, wrap presents, or visit friends. Don’t let others rush you. Be kind; cut others slack; this time could be stressful for them, too.
One last thought would be the reflection that the practices of thought, word, and deed that lead to sanity during the holidays sound like a pretty good way to live year round!
This morning while at the shoe repair shop, I saw a woman write “shoes” on her notepad and immediately cross it off. Risking being nosy, I asked if she just wrote the errand she’s currently running on her to-do list just to mark it as completed. She sheepishly admitted that she did. We enjoyed a moment of camaraderie uncommon amongst strangers.
I shared my strategy (thanks to my college roommate’s dad, I believe) to circle and star the accomplished tasks. In a world of seemingly never-ending to-do’s I believe it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate each and every little thing rather than jumping right to the next errand.
I’m rewiring my brain to notice all that I’ve achieved rather than constantly scanning for the next dozen things that need doing. The result is that I feel more relaxed. Lest you think that’s an airy-fairy, wu-wu goal; taking a break from chronic stress has a physiological response that promotes a healthier immune system, better quality sleep and digestion, less pain and muscle tension, lower blood pressure, and feel-good neurochemistry.
In addition to learning not to sweat the (negative) small stuff, I’m choosing to celebrate the (positive) small stuff every chance I get.
Promoting resiliency and maximum well-being is well worth the effort!
Shoes*** Curtains *** Frame for diploma*** Bank*** Emails*** Meditation*** Lunch*** Blog*** Correct glaring error in title of blog***
So often I see clients completely wiped out after their heavily-scheduled “vacations”. They show up fatigued, aching, and dehydrated or overloaded with toxins and it takes a few weeks to get back on track. I’m aiming to avoid a necessary recovery period from my vacation this summer.
Here’s my plan.
Visiting family is a wonderful joy, and also brings up loads of deeply buried triggers and mismatched lifestyle choices. Now that I have nephews and a niece that I long to spend time with, my former plan of very short visits isn’t working any more.
Instead I’ve found a way to have my own space and have occasional visitors or drop in on them for a few hours now and then. As someone who needs A LOT of downtime, this is essential. I’ve claimed mornings as “me” time, making space for sunrise yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, and sipping tea while gazing through the trees at the lake.
I’m attempting to balance activities such as kayaking and swimming, which aren’t available in my normal life, with rest and restoration by making time for naps and a massage. I’m definitely eating more sugar than I recognize is good for me, but counteracting it somewhat with loads of fresh veggies and filtered water.
I’d forgotten how rough these little ones can be and was completely unaware of how much muscular effort is required on a peddle boat, so I was unprepared for aches and bruises. I’ll stop at the local co-op today for Epsom salts and arnica for my poor legs. Luckily I’ve not been head butted or had any teeth chipped on this trip!
I’m still working a bit while I’m here. Books need keeping and invoices need sending or else I’ll be swamped when I return. I’m doing several long-distance Reiki treatments for clients with urgent needs. AND I’m capping working hours at two per day. A pretty good ratio, I must say!
The foundation for my plan is balance. The goal is rest, play, work- in that order. While I won’t hit the mark every single hour, overall I am succeeding and enjoying the tremendous physiological benefits of relaxation. And hopefully when I return to my normal ratio of work, rest, play; I’ll be completely revitalized and ready to go.
Now if you please excuse me, a novel is waiting for me out on the deck.
“This is the first time I really understood what it means to be kind to my body.”
A client said this to me after a massage. We might have been sitting, but I was totally jumping for joy on the inside. Also the Hallelujah Chorus was playing in my head.
Before the session, we had discussed my kinder, gentler approach to bodywork. I had explained how my goal is to activate the physiological relaxation response that triggers all the feel-good body chemistry and can help break the pain cycle. She understood that I planned to use a moderate pressure to coax the muscles into releasing tension while stimulating circulation, detoxification, and dare I say? Pleasure.
She knew that was the plan, but had no idea how very healing this approach could be. “But you didn’t even attack the knots!” No, I certainly did not! There is no benefit from attacking. Those knots are a symptom of imbalance. I’m much more interested in relieving the root cause of the imbalance, which so very often is… stress. Treating the stress lessens tension and often knots evaporate on their own.
Relaxation is a remedy for stress and pain. Creating more pain through aggressive massage is not a recipe for relaxation. Even intense work that falls just short of pain can stimulate the fight, flight, or freeze response which then triggers… muscle tension. Just like you can’t get carrots by planting cucumber seeds, you cannot cultivate relaxation through pain.
She left feeling considerable relief from the chronic pain that had been plaguing her almost constantly. The next week she reported that she’d had much less discomfort following her treatment, and that it was the first time massage had ever had any noticeable effect. What a victory! I have a feeling this new perspective on being kind to her body will continue to have helpful results as well.
I could have brushed off my hands right there and then and retired happily.
But of course I didn’t because I love my work and there’s so much more of it to be done.
Release into the Summer Solstice with Yoga Restoratives and Reiki!
When my friend and colleague invited me to join her in offering a summer solstice event, I did my happy dance. What a delightful way to honor the rhythms of nature while inviting balance into our own systems. Restorative yoga is one of my favorite practices as it is deeply calming and soothing to my often frazzled nervous system. Adding Reiki into the mix is like the icing on the cake!
Esther will guide the class through a series of asanas, or yoga postures, while I provide deeply nurturing and healing energy for each participant. This will be our second collaboration like this; last year was a huge success and everyone left feeling super-relaxed and at peace. It was a great joy to watch as stress visibly melted away and smiles began to emerge organically.
I hope you’ll consider joining us on the evening of June 20 if you’re near the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. I hope you’ll find a meaningful and healthful way to celebrate the solstice wherever you are, and perhaps include these practices in your own way.
Register here and we look forward to seeing you then!
“You’re Teaching Me to be Kind to Myself.”
A client said this to me during a massage treatment a few weeks ago. The concept of treating our bodies with kindness is somewhat uncommon in our culture of harder/ faster/ deeper/ push-through it mentality. In this particular case, I was working on an inflamed tendon that had been causing quite a bit of pain for over a month and interfering with her quality of life. I was using gentle pressure to soothe and comfort the entire area to encourage circulation and the release of muscular tension.
She had been braced for a painful session and was quite surprised at the results she experienced from my gentle approach. During the treatment she noticed how various body parts connected to one another and then began to see a bigger picture. While it is true that one particular tendon was inflamed due to overwork and a moment of excess strain place on it, all the surrounding muscle groups had been recruited to assist and protect the injury. Tension spread out from the source and had enveloped the entire quadrant. As relaxation settled in and muscles began to release, she could feel the internal structure settle into a more neutral position and breathed a sigh of relief.
When she returned two weeks later for a follow up treatment, she reported much less pain, more ease of movement, and a greater sense of harmony in her body. The persistent pain had been downgraded to a dull ache and the surrounding muscles were no longer locked in defensive contraction. Again I worked gently; this time spending a greater portion of the session integrating the limb with the torso while explaining how the whole body works as a team. She became intrigued with the idea of this one small tendon affecting distant areas and realized how she had adapted posture as well as movement to accommodate the injury.
She left that day encouraged to be more aware of her body mechanics and overall attitude towards her body. Introducing clients to the transformative belief that treating ourselves and our bodies with kindness produces lasting and deep effects is perhaps the most helpful input I have to offer as a bodyworker. I could explain this in terms of the nervous system triggering the fight-or-flight reflex vs the relaxation response and get into the biological effects of an aggressive approach vs a more gentle on; yet I think that deep down we can all intuitively grasp this concept. Be kind to your body; and it will respond by letting go of stress and pain.
Launching a new business while working two part time jobs feels a lot like rafting down the rapids without a paddle. The current takes me along for the ride and I do my best to hold on. I just keep doing the task that shows up in front of me and steadily moving forward. There’s really no point in struggling or trying to push the river, as that is just exhausting and rather pointless. I’m reminded of my hero, Louise Hay, saying that she started her now-international publishing company simply by opening the mail and answering the phones. Meaning: do the work at hand.
Well, it just so happens that there’s loads of work at hand! My to-do list keeps growing and yet there are still the same number of hours in each day. Inspiration comes and goes, sometimes at inconvenient times, and interrupts my plans. Yet I’m committed to taking good care of myself; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually so that I may remain healthy and happy and have a full life. It has become apparent that protecting my downtime a necessary step in this discovery process.
I’ve been failing at guarding my personal time. It’s somewhat scarce these days and all the more precious for that. Carving out time for self-care practices each morning and evening has become second nature to me: I have blocked out an entire morning each week for pajama time , I make an effort to connect with my friends, and I’m clear about which hours are reserved for work. The spaces that remain I consider to be recreational: reading a novel, watching Netflix, listening to music, going for a walk, or puttering around my home are some examples of how I fill my personal time.
The challenge lies in that it’s easy to be distracted by another task on my to-do list. One more email, another revision to my website, updating my calendar, folding the laundry are all important items that can interrupt me and before I know it, the small window of opportunity to play has slipped away. I now recognize the importance of having unstructured downtime in my self-care regime, and the need to create boundaries to protect it. So I’m silencing my phone and resisting the urge to check messages or the weather or my schedule or… whatever when I’m reading or watching a show. I’m learning how to overlook my unmade bed and piles of unopened mail. I’m allowing emails to accumulate until it’s time to clock into business mode.
Basically I’m choosing to focus on the activity that I’m doing in each moment and get every morsel of pleasure that I can out of my brief and priceless downtime. I’m generating awareness that while my work is indeed very important, it is not the only, or even the most important thing. I’m creating a rich and full life for myself that includes balance between work and play and that means unplugging every day, if only for 20 minutes, to enjoy myself and be free. Downtime. It makes uptime more productive!
First of all, I’m psyched to celebrate the completion of my first week of radical self-care. I gave my maximum amount of massages over the past four days and rather than feeling depleted and sore, I am rather energized. That’s great news because today is my only day off and I’d be bummed if I was couch-ridden or immobilized. Clearly my increased emphasis on taking good care of myself (body, mind, heart, and soul) is paying off!
Today’s realization is that it’s important for me to have one morning each week without any plans. Even better if I could get a whole day, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. So I’m claiming one morning AND one evening. I call this pajama time. Not having to focus on leaving the house at a specific time creates a sense of leisure that I find to be incredibly restorative.
Pajama time may or may not coincide with a day off. This week is does not, and that’s what sparked the awareness that I need to carve out another morning and reserve it to stay at home. Today is my day off, meaning I will not see any clients or do marketing or accounting or website updates. However, I am planning to go to a yoga class and get a facial afterwards. Which means a 6:00 am wakeup, body brushing , meditation, spiritual practice , breakfast and plenty of time to get to class at a leisurely pace. It is most definitely not a less is more, or a pajama day.
So I actually just blocked off time in my schedule tomorrow morning to remain at home. It is a work day, but the work I need to do is computer tasks, and it can be done easily from the comfort of my room, with messy hair, while wearing my favorite Oscar the Grouch T-shirt. I’m not joking; I take this so seriously that I entered “pajama time” into my iPhone as a repeating event for Wednesdays. I might move it around from week to week, but having a digital record of this commitment will help me to reschedule it if something comes up.
Making time to rest in this fast-paced world requires some ingenuity and a great deal of devotion. How do you reserve space for restoration in your busy schedule?
Already I’m feeling the benefits of enhancing my self-care practices. Taking on a part-time job to enable me to pursue my dream of operating a Reiki practice has turned up the pressure, making it necessary for me to optimize my wellness routine. After exploring the rewards of doing less and of daily meditation, today I am renewing my devotion to yoga classes.
I’ve fallen out of the habit of attending classes regularly after moving to a new neighborhood. Traveling to my favorite classes has suddenly become incredibly inconvenient and I adjusted by finding some great videos online and stepping up my home practice. Yet I have been missing the magic that happens when practicing with others, the individual attention of an experienced teacher, and the personal growth that is possible in a class environment.
Yesterday I tried a class at a studio near my home that sounded just right for my particular needs: convenience, hands-on adjustments, knowledgeable instructor, and good timing. I was so delighted by the results that I have decided to block that time off on a weekly basis to continue my exploration. This commitment seems to be the most important part of self-care; intention without action is meaningless. So I’m devoted to getting there every Thursday, and if for any reason I’m unavailable at that time, I’ll choose another class as a substitute.
If you happen to live in the Philly area, I’m delighted to wholeheartedly recommend Alex at Magu Yoga in Mount Airy. She’s a true yogini and a wonderful teacher. If you’re not in the Philly area, I encourage you to do some research and find a class that is both convenient and inspiring. Without those two elements, it’s easy to flake. The rewards of attending a class regularly are priceless and the feeling of bliss after each yoga experience is a tremendous motivator to keep coming back.
Lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of long-distance Reiki. It can be a difficult concept to grasp, but energy is not limited by time or space. There is a symbol that level 2 Reiki students learn that allows us to send energy to someone who is not in the same room. Reiki can be transmitted across the globe for the healing benefit of a recipient far away. There are scientific explanations for this phenomenon, but let’s face it; we’re talking about a spiritually guided energy. It’s a whole lot easier for me to grasp that the higher power directing Reiki knows how to deliver a package to wherever it needs to go, than to wrap my mind around Quantum physics.
What I especially appreciate about long-distance Reiki (also called remote Reiki), is the simplicity and convenience for the client. There’s no need to get dressed, leave the house, trudge through traffic, scout out a parking spot, or face inclement weather. It helps stay-at-home parents who would otherwise need to find childcare, those with transportation challenges, and people who just plain don’t want to go outside. It eliminates the need to block out time from a busy schedule for traveling time and allows one to integrate the healing energy from the comfort of home rather than on the freeway.
When I offer a long-distance session to a client, I suggest that they make the time to create a quiet space in which they will not be disturbed. Their only job is to rest and be comfortable. Usually people lie down, but some like to be in nature, or in their favorite chair. As long as they are relaxed, they are allowing themselves to receive the maximum benefits. I simply go into a meditative state, invoke the Reiki symbols, and imagine the client is before me. Some practitioners use a teddy bear or a pillow as a surrogate to help focus their attention. It’s not necessary, but can be a useful tool.
When I’m working with a client I haven’t met in person, we communicate in advance by email. Not only does it help me connect with them and get a sense of their intention, but it also reassures the recipient that this virtual stranger whom they have hired to send healing life-force energy to them is for real. (Yes, I know. It can be a difficult concept to grasp!) Often after the first three or four sessions we both become comfortable enough to minimize the electronic connection.
I’ve read stories of miraculous recoveries people have experienced through remote Reiki. Blood clots disappearing, tumors shrinking and mysterious ailments evaporating. While I believe all that to be possible, mostly what I have witnessed are clients who have a greater sense of ease in their minds and bodies, and are better able to cope with the stresses of their daily lives. This seems to me to be the key to maintaining health and quality of life. Managing stress is a necessity of modern life. Long-distance Reiki offers people an opportunity to do this in a super-easy, convenient, comfortable way, without adding the stress of having to arrive on time at an appointment across town. What could be better than that?!
If you’re interested in learning more, visit my website. I offer complimentary 10 minute phone consultations to those who are unsure if my services can benefit them. There’s no topic I enjoy more than health and healing, so please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’re interested in learning more.