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!

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!

“We’ve got it so good and it’s still hard.”

I was struck by the wisdom of these words overheard at the farmers’ market the other day. It’s been a rough 10 months for most of us. Pretending that it isn’t hard just because others have it harder isn’t particularly helpful. I often hear people who have the privilege of a safe and comfortable home, plenty of food on the table, and good health downplay their struggles, knowing that others are suffering more.

It’s nearly impossible to take action to improve a situation if you deny that it exists. Acknowledging that it’s hard to be separated from loved ones or restricted to one building, no matter how lovely it may be, is the first step to creating solutions- compromises probably, but something that can at least begin to fill the gaping hole where hugs from grandchildren and travel used to reside.

Admitting that these times are hard allows us to fine-tune the adjustments we wish to make. It allows us to draw on the resilience that is present, although possibly inactive, in everyone. Most of us haven’t had to endure any sort of lasting challenge like this, but our ancestors survived World Wars and The Great Depression. Clearly we come from hearty stock or we wouldn’t be alive today!

“We can do hard things.” Another sentence crammed with wisdom, this one from Glennon Doyle’s Untamed.

I’m not suggesting to exclusively shift your focus to the difficulties you are facing. Thoughts are powerful things and it pays to choose them wisely. But just as ignoring the “check engine” light on your dashboard will not lead to a perfectly operational vehicle, neither does avoiding your feelings lead to wellbeing. Just as the light is meant to motivate a visit to the mechanic, noticing your emotional state can propel you to getting the help you need.

Somewhere there is a balance between wallowing in self-pity and disregarding an unpleasant truth. Allowing ourselves to accept what is real gives us greater power to create change. Freeing up all that energy of projecting a shiny façade enables us to see more clearly how we can make the most of what we’ve got and how we might be able to assist those who have less.

Wherever you are on the difficulty spectrum, I wish you greater ease and comfort. If you’re in a position to lend a hand to another, please do so. There’s very likely a food bank or shelter or agency in your area that’s overwhelmed by demand or a neighbor who could benefit from a small act of kindness. I know from personal experience that you’ll feel better if you do and your efforts will ripple outward into the world.

Yes, it’s hard. Fortunately we can do hard things.

Help for Empaths

I’ve been revisiting the tools and techniques in The Emphath’s Survival Guide; Life Strategies for Sensitive People over the last few months. As the fear and anger in the collective realm continue to escalate, I’ve been finding a need to step up my protective mechanisms.

Judith Orloff, MD says, “Empaths have an extremely reactive neurological system. We don’t have the same filters that other people do to block out stimulation. As a consequence, we absorb into our own bodies both the positive and stressful energies around us.”

If you’ve ever been scolded for being “too sensitive” or commanded to “toughen up”, you might be an empath.

If you’ve ever wished you had armor like Ultraman, you might be an empath.

If strangers tell you their problems and people dump their emotional garbage on you and it feels like being slimed by ectoplasm, similar to what happened in Ghostbusters, you might be an empath.

If you’ve ever wanted to move to a remote forest with no neighbors, well that’s probably a human thing, but if you’ve actually looked up properties in Alaska and learned how to make your own candles, then you might be an empath!

The good news is that once you understand that there’s nothing wrong with you, that sensitivity can be a blessing, that there are ways to protect yourself that don’t come in a bottle or loaded with sugar, you can take action to cultivate your wellness. In these pages, you’ll find great wisdom to help you navigate. I sure have!

Book Recommendations for Sanity during a Global Crisis

I’ve had a bit of extra time the last several months to indulge in one of my all-time favorite pleasures. Books! I’m dropping the titles of a few that have been significantly meaningful below. Please consider shopping at your local bookstore, perhaps Big Blue Marble if you’re in Mt. Airy. They need your support much more so than the richest man on the planet.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’d rather spend my time reading them than writing about them, but I will say that these gems have provided me with tools that have contributed greatly to my mental and emotional wellness at a time when the world seems very opposed to such things. Taking a break from the news and social media to attend to your inner landscape can be remarkably empowering.

  • Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Rick Hanson, PhD
  • Change Me Prayers: The Hidden Power of Spiritual Surrender, Tosha Silver
  • The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael Singer
  • The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Julia Cameron
  • If Women Rose Rooted: A Journey to Authenticity and Belonging, Sharon Blackie
  • The Three “Only” Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence, and Imagination, Robert Moss
  • Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, Toko- pa Turner

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.

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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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.

Reiki for Healing Self-Sabotage

This is a topic that has been recurring in classes and sessions, as well as in my own life, again and again. I’d really rather ignore the nudges to write about it, but they’ve grown increasingly insistent. I’ve learned the hard way to honor my Inner Nudge, so here we go!

It’s not uncommon to commit to a goal, make a plan to achieve that goal, actively implement that plan, and within a short period of time abandon the whole thing. I’m pretty sure we’ve all experienced this at one time or another. We might meet resistance along the way, perhaps apathy or overwhelm, or even downright self-sabotage. Often we’ll beat ourselves up for failing and begin again, this time with harsher guidelines, only to hit that same brick wall, this time with greater velocity.

Here’s the thing. If any part of me believes that it’s not safe to achieve my goals, my subconscious is going to do everything in its power to prevent me from succeeding. If I believe it isn’t safe to be creative or successful or thin, my willpower is no match for my Inner Protector. As many times as I try, as many strategies as I develop, I will never best my subconscious!

This is the point were it’s easy to give up and settle for less. But I’m here to tell you that there’s another way! The amazing healing power of Reiki can be used to uncover any false beliefs that may be holding us back from our true magnificence and shift them to support our desires.

It might sound complicated and exhausting, but really this process is quite simple. Reiki is activated by intention, so all we need do is to invite it into the process. For example, “My intention is to uncover and release any blockages that prevent me from losing weight.” Whether you’re a practitioner yourself or seeking professional treatment, from here on out the work is simply showing up and paying attention.

When the treatment reveals a memory or a belief that is standing in my way, I must acknowledge it and accept it as my starting point. I always need to start from where I am. Plugging my ears and hiding my head in the sand has never gotten me anywhere! If I’m ignoring, numbing, or suppressing the gremlins that I’d prefer weren’t there, I’m giving away my power and allowing them to call the shots from the shadows.

My suggestion for those working on releasing self-sabotage is quite simple. State your intention clearly. Turn Reiki on and allow it to flow. If you feel a place in your body where a belief or blockage resides, place your hands there. If there’s no apparent location, imagine a Reiki spotlight above your head radiating down through your crown and illuminating your head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, torso, pelvis, legs, and feet. Feel the glow within yourself. Notice any parts that might be resisting this glow, and gently focus the spotlight there.

Notice any “yeah, but…” statements that come up. “Yeah, I want to lose 20 pounds, but…”. These are super-important clues! Pay attention. Acknowledge these thoughts. Shine the spotlight on them. Follow the thought train, and it will lead you eventually to a submerged belief that for reason xyz, it isn’t safe to lose those 20 pounds.

Reiki that belief every day until it is healed. If it isn’t True (meaning not in alignment with the perfection of your Spirit), it will eventual fade. Sometimes it helps to write it on an index card, or to find or draw a visual representation of this belief and to Reiki that. This is the process of healing the source of the resistance/blockage/self-sabotage so that you may begin the process of actually moving forward to creating your goals rather that continuing to bang your head against the wall.

While this practice is simple, it may take time. The beliefs may have very deep roots. It requires patience and persistence to reprogram our thoughts. Just as a long journey begins with a single step followed by putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly, we only need to keep showing up and chipping away at our obstacles. If there’s a history of trauma or abuse, professional support will likely be required.

No matter how long you’ve been struggling with self-sabotage, there is indeed hope for breaking the cycle. Using the tools of kindness, awareness, and acceptance boosted with the power of Reiki healing energy, the path can be cleared and the journey to reaching your goals begun. As always, you’re welcome to reach out to me to schedule a session if you’d like some support.