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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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.

You Don't Need to Know How and Reiki Package Special

One of the most common questions I hear from Reiki students and clients is, “How do I heal…”. My eczema, my finances, my relationship with my mother, the trauma lingering from childhood abuse, shoddy self-esteem, karma from previous lifetimes, addictions, phobias… You name it, my answer is always the same.

Set an intention and add Reiki. Combining the power of the mind (via intention and attention) with the healing of spiritually guided life-force energy is the formula for soothing whatever ails us. I used to want to make it more complicated, to have specific recipes for each and every circumstance, but that’s just not necessary. I’m learning to appreciate the ease of this one-size-fits-all approach!

In my self-care practice, I treat a sprained ankle the same way I do disappointment or getting out of debt. I invite Reiki to flow for whatever purpose I have in mind. Then I pay attention.

I pay attention to insights and intuitive nudges that arise from within me as well as synchronicities that point me toward guided action. When blockages and resistance arise, I use Reiki to uncover what’s underneath, and then I use Reiki to treat that.

I keep repeating this process as I work through the layers that keep me separate from the experiences I desire. I also use Reiki to help myself accept that wherever I am is exactly where I’m supposed to be, and to release the limiting beliefs that I don’t deserve to have all the goodness that I long for.

I use Reiki to help me let go of the habits that prevent me from receiving my heart’s desires and to notice the clues the universe gives me about how to move toward my goals. When I encounter obstacles, I Reiki them; and when I feel stuck, I Reiki that. Usually what’s underneath it all is a false message I’ve adopted as a result of cultural conditioning or an outdated coping mechanism. Once discovered, I Reiki that too.

I know this time of year can be difficult for many of us. It certainly is for me. I take extra measures to protect my mental and emotional health. To help you do the same, I’m offering a discount on a series of 5 long-distance Reiki session, only $360. Normally $80 each, you save $40 when purchasing a package by 1/31/20. Gift certificates are available as well.

You don’t need to know how to heal this anxiety, depression, auto-immune condition, neurological disorder, PTSD, or anything else. Reiki knows how. All you need to do is receive treatment and take inspired action. Contact me with any questions or to arrange purchase of a package and schedule your first session.

This is What 'Self-Care' REALLY Means

I’ve written a lot about self-care over the years. I talk about it frequently with students and clients. I practice it non-stop. Most of the time it’s not at all glamorous. Often it involves chopping vegetables on a Saturday morning, doing my bookkeeping on a Friday night, saying “no” to invitations that don’t spark joy, NOT buying that awesome tote bag that’s 60% off, getting up at 5 am to pursue my dreams, and going to bed early so I’m not cranky when I do that.

When this touching article by Brianna Wiest came across my radar once again, I decided to share it. She makes very good points about the toxicity that is so rampant in our society and the importance of choosing to go another route. Particularly this: “True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.” So here’s what Brianna has to say. I hope you find it helpful.

“Self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing.

It is making a spreadsheet of your debt and enforcing a morning routine and cooking yourself healthy meals and no longer just running from your problems and calling the distraction a solution.

It is often doing the ugliest thing that you have to do, like sweat through another workout or tell a toxic friend you don’t want to see them anymore or get a second job so you can have a savings account or figure out a way to accept yourself so that you’re not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time and then needing to take deliberate, mandated breaks from living to do basic things like drop some oil into a bath and read Marie Claire and turn your phone off for the day.

A world in which self-care has to be such a trendy topic is a world that is sick. Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure.

True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.

And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.

It often means looking your failures and disappointments square in the eye and re-strategizing. It is not satiating your immediate desires. It is letting go. It is choosing new. It is disappointing some people. It is making sacrifices for others. It is living a way that other people won’t, so maybe you can live in a way that other people can’t.

It is letting yourself be normal. Regular. Unexceptional. It is sometimes having a dirty kitchen and deciding your ultimate goal in life isn’t going to be having abs and keeping up with your fake friends. It is deciding how much of your anxiety comes from not actualizing your latent potential, and how much comes from the way you were being trained to think before you even knew what was happening.

If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.

It is no longer using your hectic and unreasonable life as justification for self-sabotage in the form of liquor and procrastination. It is learning how to stop trying to “fix yourself” and start trying to take care of yourself… and maybe finding that taking care lovingly attends to a lot of the problems you were trying to fix in the first place.

It means being the hero of your life, not the victim. It means rewiring what you have until your everyday life isn’t something you need therapy to recover from. It is no longer choosing a life that looks good over a life that feels good. It is giving the hell up on some goals so you can care about others. It is being honest even if that means you aren’t universally liked. It is meeting your own needs so you aren’t anxious and dependent on other people.

It is becoming the person you know you want and are meant to be. Someone who knows that salt baths and chocolate cake are ways to enjoy life – not escape from it.”
-Brianna Wiest

Health Insurance

As the year draws to a close, I’m receiving a lot of calls and emails about choosing my health insurance package for next year. While I am indeed grateful for the ability to seek medical care should I need it, I’m more interested in the steps I can take every day to insure my optimal health and wellbeing.

For me, that’s spending time in nature, being with the trees and flowing water. Drinking my tea outside at sunrise allowing myself to be still and quiet and present with my intentions and feelings. Choosing organic and sustainably produced foods from the farmers market and making the time to prepare and enjoy nourishing meals. Setting healthy boundaries to protect my down time and peace of mind. Engaging in meaningful and uplifting conversations and reading material.

And my latest project- learning to have fun, since I’ve managed to take really good care of myself in an overly serious and chore-like manner. So tomorrow night you can find me wearing silly glasses and a tiara (it’s Halloween after all!) turning in the wrong direction and stepping on toes and having a blast with my neighborhood contra dancing community.

It doesn’t really matter what type of insurance you invest in for yourself. Knitting, baking, painting, gardening, hiking, writing, singing… I could go on for ages! But I do encourage everyone to empower themselves by taking action (or stillness, as might often be more helpful!) to promote your health rather than relying on a doctor to “fix” you once things begin to fall apart.

Celebrate the Small Stuff

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.

Yes please!

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***

Yoga

Instant Inflammation

A few weeks ago, when I was visiting family in Michigan, my brother invited me to the county fair with him. He was going to purchase a steer and a hog at the 4H youth livestock auction. I decided to go for the experience of witnessing something so very outside of my urban reality. And for the funnel cake.

Funnel cake has always been my favorite fair food. It’s a very rare, nostalgic treat that I know has negative consequences. If you’re unfamiliar with such delicacies, it’s basically fried dough with powdered sugar on top. The batter drops through a funnel, creating a haphazard pattern in the hot oil, no doubt vegetable oil from the 1990’s. (Vegetable oil might sound healthy; I assure you, it is not! It’s likely a blend of GMO corn, GMO soy, and GMO canola oils, high in omega 6 fatty acids, and a precursor to joint inflammation.) It comes with 18 napkins to help soak up the greasy residue.

The full scoop is that after surveying the food arena, there was no funnel cake to be found! I was all revved up for something decadent and ended up choosing a caramel apple. Then on the way out, by some miracle or devilry, I spotted the jackpot. I got my precious funnel cake even though I wasn’t hungry anymore.

After approximately 3 bites, my knee began to ache. It continued to stiffen and swell and even throb a little. This is the knee that I had injured (likely a meniscus tear) about 18 months ago. It doesn’t bend completely, but hasn’t bothered me in over a year. A few bites of a triple inflammatory (vegetable oil, wheat, sugar) and poof! It regressed fantastically. And stayed that way for nearly a week!

I’m here to implore you to consider what systemic inflammation you may be experiencing due to dietary choices. Wouldn’t you like to know what it feels like to have greater mobility and less pain? Do you really get so much enjoyment out of doughnuts that it makes the subsequent suffering worthwhile?

I never felt better than when following the elimination diet recommended by Dr. Alejandro Junger in his book “Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself”. If that sounds too daunting, perhaps begin by taking just a small step and replacing one sugary fried dough product with something more wholesome. Every step towards reducing inflammation is a step in the direction of optimal health, freedom, and greater quality of life.

I promise, once you begin to experience life with less pain, you won’t even miss that funnel cake. After this epiphany, I certainly won’t ever eat one bite ever again.