Friday, December 17, 2010

Sunlight, Pins & Needles, and Peace

There's  nothing like a bright sunny day during mid-December in Vermont.  The glimmers that sparkle through the windows are enhanced by their reflection off of the whiteness that covers the ground.  A bit blinding and in my case, although I love sunlight, my eyes have become sensitive to the point where I must drawn the blinds a bit.  Still, the rays push on through beaming onto my legs.  The warm feels as if its a gift, a hug to myself shared with the Universe.  Its a splendid feeling and suddenly I'm aware of the tingly in my feet and legs and knees.  And the combination of the two - feel like I can live with a real sense of peace.

The holiday season can be a challenging time for those of us with physical restrictions.  The energy of the winter and holiday season and the activities - lend themselves to stressful times.  I've found excellent ways this year to LIVE WITH PEACE AND LIVE FULLY!

Here's something:  One of my students was selling citrus fruit for a fundraiser for the Future Farmer's of America (our local chapter)  I purchased my fair share; it was fun - I felt a surge.  Now I am giving them out as the Winter Solstice approaches to bring a bit of juicy, Vitamin C to my neighbors, family, and friends :)  Living that experience, makes me live fully.  My soul warms throughout the experience.

Something else:  I took clothes to 2 consignment stores; one for adults and one for children.  My husband, daughter, and I all sold back some lightly used items.  Plus we collected all sorts of things from around our house: clothes, books, toys, jewelry, watches, purses/bags, geez I know there's more but I can't even remember.  I dropped all that stuff off at the Goodwill in South Burlington, VT hoping some families could gift nice things as wants or needs this season.

Current project:  I'm planning to donate books from infant to adult levels to an organization called Family-To-Family  My plan is to donate books to an area of the US where, historically, immigrants have landed.  My families certainly arrived and thrived in parts all over NYC.  We are all one and thus, the gift of books, useful for entertainment, education, and empowerment, are a sheer bit of joy to be giving.  Even more exciting is that I'm planning to present this to my parents Christmas evening as a gift - two who are very passionated by education, reading and the under served.

My point here, is that even though I live with pain and difficulties, doing simple, good things for myself (sunlight bringing awareness to my legs) or acts of kindness (giving away things) - I continue to live on with peace and live fully NOW.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Zest For Life

I often remark at 4:30am when my 19 month old nephew is screeching with delight or disgust that he has the zest for life- as if to dismiss his midnight/early morning energy splurge as a developmental milestone. And still, I often don't doubt that statement.  But when I am strapped down by some sort of condition that inhibits me from feeling my zest for life, well then- I get mad.

Thanksgiving was awesome.  I loved having my in-laws in town.  I love filling our home up to visitors, letting them lead some sort of alternative lifestyle for a moment.  Always the comments flood in about how lucky we are.  Not to seem curt but we do lead a pretty charmed life.  Communal living has afforded us a beautiful house, land, the flexibility to work less and make less.  I often remind my visitors of the challenges we face living like this; it is hard to live with anyone and compromise is always involved.   But alas, our weekend is fantastical (as my sister-in-law would put it).

This great weekend didn't come without a price.  Having been dealing with these very odd physical symptoms, I was worried I wouldn't enjoy myself.  I did though.  I will not say that I was feeling great; I had some uncomfortable occurrences, but nothing that had me out cold.  I tried my best in the kitchen without overdoing it.  Thursday as I was prepping for the meal, I started to notice that my left hand was hurting.   I had already chopped mirepoix necessities: carrots, celery and onions.  I went so far as to mince about a half a bulb of garlic as well.  I can't help myself, I love cooking.  It is often what makes me feel alive and connected.  But as time passed that morning, I knew I was not going to be able to keep up this pace.  In fact, when the symptoms begin to rear their slow, painful, dreary heads, you know you've gotta sit out some.

So I did.  My presence in the kitchen didn't falter, I just sat and took breaks, talked people through and continued on with my happy turkey day.  The phone call to my parents' house brought me to my knees emotionally.  I spoke with almost everyone there: I'm counting 9 to be exact.  I cried to each in my melodramatic way, trying to keep my composure.   I think the moment got the best of me.  I was tired and started to feel symptoms of this weird condition that has been controlling my life in a way.  I missed everyone and so, the perfect storm brought me to tears.

That said, after I got off the phone, I was back feeling a bit happier.  The rest of the weekend went something the same.  Good times, weird symptoms, self doubt.  Maybe for me the weirdest was Saturday night when I was suddenly struck by severe fatigue.  I noticed myself nodding out that night while we were out to dinner; it was 5:30pm!  When we got home, I passed out at 7pm and slept 3 hours in the family room as everyone sat around, watched TV, and hung out.  My sleep was desperate and not restful as I had electrical shocks running down my legs which made me moan aloud.

At 10pm, I awoke, a bit more conscious this time, and felt that ever powerful zest for life.  It is part of who I am and for that - I am thankful.  What I didn't mention is that I got my second tattoo this weekend! Woot!  I've wanted one for quite some time; finally answered my requests.  The tattoo is there to remind me that life is so much bigger than who we are.  And there is balance and cycles, light and dark, night and day.  I look at my tattoo and feel the strength of that tree in the center, standing tall and I breath this into my core self.

I'm home today- I was supposed to be at work.  You'd think after a long weekend, I'd be able to work.  Not in my case.  Had to call out today.  I spent all night awake last night.  It started yesterday as I was out running some errands.  First I had an urgency to pee, which left my in pain.  Although I rarely practice this, I stopped at a convenience store and used the public restroom. From there I head to the one store I planned to go to that day- The Kennedy Bros.  The store is closing in 3 days so I wanted to make one last pilgrimage.  Within the first 15 minutes of browsing, an incredibly debilitating pain attacked my lower back.  I'm not sure I even noticed it at first.  What I noticed was that the left side of my body started feeling numbed and more work for me to move.  When you have a zest for life, it is sometimes hard to identify when your body is attacking you.  My drive is sometimes stronger that I give it credit for.  But realizing something was off, I paused from my shopping and became mindful of the pain.  I just stood still mid-aisle and breathed into and with my body.  Bingo!  The pain located itself immediately- lower back, maybe muscle contractions?  My back pains turned to front pains as my intestines started to feel tight.  The gurgling is fairly familiar so I didn't pay it any mind.

For those of you who suffer, you know the pain of bedtime at this point.  I wanted to sleep so badly.  My eyes tired and closed, but my body so pained I couldn't.  At 12:30am I retreated to the family room with a glass of seltzer and a 1/4 cup of dry cereal.  The snack was intended to clear up the severe nausea I was plagued with.   I was able to nod in and out of sleep with several breaks for runs to the bathroom- either to pee or in fear of vomiting.

I don't intend to write this blog to upset you, in fact, quite the opposite, to enlighten you on your own path.  After calling out of work, too dizzy and fluid to stand in a classroom with teenagers all day, I slept for an hour and got that zest pumping again.  I'm coming to terms with my being and starting to think about alternative ways to support myself as I struggle with symptoms that are undiagnosed and something debilitating.

Those with similar stories, please share.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Chaos We Call Life

One thing is for sure, putting it out there in the Universe gives hope.

Having finally accepted that my body is calling for assistance, I put a call in to two recommended Chinese Medicine Practioners. Both returned my calls with calm, competent responses; I already felt lighter. This was a pleasant surprise after the last few visits with my allopathic practioner left me crying in the waiting room. I accept these situations as the results of insensitive people making meager attempts to 'lighten up' the mood when they feel insufficient by not knowing what your problem is and therefore, believing you're the problem.

But our point here is to look ahead and that's what I've done. It looks like my 3 week episode is subsiding. Before the weekend I was so sensitive; fluorescent lights, the changes with the equinox, any energies around me. I took the weekend in stride. Then Sunday, feeling refreshed after a good night of sleep, my husband, daughter and I took a hike up the Hog Back Mountains (right off my street). It was a challenge for sure. My legs sometimes seemed to send a message up saying 'That's it!' but I kept going.  The view was worth it as we looked out onto our valley and the Adirondacks in the distance. The feeling of accomplishment was fulfilling too.

I recommend acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for any who suffer.  Similar to my experiences with Reiki, a sense of peace and nurturing take place on such a intuitive level - it nourishes the soul.  Physical pain is relieved as well.  After my first appointment, I felt nearly euphoric for several hours following my appointment.  Although this feeling did not last forever, its memory left me feeling like it was worth it.  Again today I visited with my acupuncturist.  We spoke as she checked my pulses and jotted notes.  She asked me questions about how I was feeling, good and bad.  I showed her my tongue upon request.  She then led me through an ancient old treatment to help heal my body.  I'll continue with one more visit and a tincture therapy.

Its all about living with peace.  Whatever it takes to make your path more genuine, do it.  Care for thyself.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Practice Activities

Today I'll share one of the simplest forms of healing we can practice daily.  Whether we have an illness, 7 children running around the house, a blessed life, or one pained with struggles - we all could use peace in our lives.  Actually many ethnic cultures have sustained traditions that lend themselves to human wellness.  Big family gatherings around a table full of nourishing food, quiet thoughtful Sabbath days shared with like-minded peers, elders whose roles were to be mentors to the young, you get the idea.  And rituals were part of our earliest cultural history.   Thus we celebrated with feasts, fasts, parties, and quiet gatherings.  We toast our glasses or kisses each others' cheeks. Regardless of the specifics, we all were more connected to ourselves, our surroundings, our place in this grand Universe.  Part of the evolutionary benefit to this was that humans intuitive selves' seemed more apparent and closer to the surface.  Survival depended on that.

But with modern times and convenient ways, we've unknowingly moved away from those basic necessities that nourish our bodies and souls.  Especially us Americans!  We're so successful with our modern technological advances.  And yet, many of us are so separate from taking care of ourselves.

That's why I'm grateful today.  I'm grateful for being able to cultivate my spirit and help heal my body.  Some of the simplest things, I am learning, are the keys to happiness, peace, and connectedness.

Let's start with the pause (before we even get to the breath).  Even in the middle of the busiest day, a pause is possible.  Literally this can be a millisecond so no excuses that you just don't have time to squeeze something else in.  The pause is exactly what it says: a pause.  The phone rings; typically I jump to get it.  Not much thought behind my actions.  Some people hear the phone and immediately make a choice to not answer.  Whatever your experience quite often the alarm of a telephone ring alerts us to a change in our environment that we must reaction to.  For me, it happens like this:  The phone rings, my heart beats faster, I pick it up.  I talk.  React later.  What if we just tried the pause whenever the phone rang.  Imagine it:  the phone rings, you sit and pause, just wait for a moment, then go over and get the phone or make a choice to ignore it.  What have you done?   A lot of people might think- nothing.  Or did you just create a shift in your own reality?  You just gave your body a moment to center, stop and not have to react to outside stimuli unintentionally.  Your mind is useful as a protective, preventative, supportive angel of your body.  And your body will  react better for that.  Now, when outside stimuli are present (the phone rings), you pause and center.  There isn't an immediate reaction without thought or intention,  --- your physical body does not react.  Now, release the pause and intentionally make a choice as to your next move.  The telephone stimuli didn't make your next choice in life, YOU DID!  Seems so simple but feels amazing.

The pause is so important to my physical and mental well being.  I sometimes experience pain and confusion.  Those of you who have any kind of pain know that sometimes it can be all encompassing.  Its all you can think about.  And the more you think it, the more it is present.  And the more it is present, the more it bothers you.  Now add into that formula, family, career, responsibilities, life.  If can become overwhelming.  That's why by integrating the pause, I now am able to help my body, in a sense, save itself from unneeded aggravation, even if just for a moment, before I respond to my world around me.  If you suffer from pain, I challenge you to try this experiment:

Integrate at least one pause a day in your life.  Do this for a week.  (You may find that journaling about the pause each day can help you be more insightful about the experiences.)  You'll find that as you train yourself to pause, you will begin pausing more throughout the day.  And as pause becomes a part of you, you become more at peace.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Another Beautiful Day...

...and just as one crappy day ends, another beautiful awakens.  November mornings in Vermont don't make big headlines.  Shumlin for Governor or Dems Hold Onto the Senate are more likely.  However, if my family wrote the news then this morning's headlines would have been all about the beauty we encountered in Vermont this morning. Even my nine year old daughter found the beauty in it herself.  Imagine my surprise when, as we're driving to her parent-teacher conference this morning at 7am, she stops me from my mindless babble about things we may or may not be discussing at her conference, she stops me and suggests I look over to the right at the sky, "Its beautiful mom. Pink, purple, shades of blue."  Pause.     Breath in.     This is life.

The morning was amazing.  I jolted from a deep sleep at 6am this morning; no alarm clock, no light, no baby crying.  Simply time for my body to start.  Kind of a strange experience after 7 days of not like feeling yourself.  So when I popped up out of bed, I decided to just go with it.  The physical self is separate from the spiritual soul.  And this morning, though my physical self still feels battered and beaten by some unknown cause, the spiritual self inside of me glowes with energy.  I feel alive, bright, and how ironic that it was pitch black outside and fairly chilly indoors.

Communal living has its rewards (did I mention my family and my sister's family co-habit- wonderful, challenging thing we can discuss at another time ).  I came downstairs a little dazed, here I am waking, walking, getting ready to go out into this dark cold world I had just retreated from.  As I came downstairs, I was greeted by one of those communal living rewards:  my little sister (and house mate) Tatiana, stoked a warn, toasty fire.  In Vermont this time of year, everything is dark at 6:30am.  The sun has not reared her head even though the animals are waking from their slumber.  This morning in our house was no different: children buzzing around, adults trying to nourish the children and themselves, dogs circling for their breakfast, then loafing around us as we try to hussle ourselves out the door.  I saw each of us trying to set a tone, a mood, maybe it was a vibe - for the day - like a surfer focusing to catch his big wave, ride it well and with pride and safely arrive to the shore.  As humans, this could be a visualization for our mornings.  Setting the intention to start the day off well.. awaken, nourish, and pamper ourselves go out and to ride our proverbial surfboards through the day, looking calm, cool, collected and return ashore avoiding strife or harm.

Not sure how a surfer ended up in an analogy to mornings in Vermont.  To redirect your focus, let's get back to today, Wednesday, November 3, 2010 here in Vermont or maybe not.  One of the benefits, as I see it - to living in a communal home, is the opportunity to help each other just by being near.  My 18 month old nephew's zest for life makes having his diaper changed trying at times.  And zest for life he has.  He wants to see and touch and know everything that he can; most babies do at this age.  Its an awesome experience to be a part of; such zeal for the simplest things, we as adults sometimes just forget to appreciate.  So I plop myself down in his room to socialize during this first diaper change of the day.

His vocabulary includes sounds like: ma ma, da da, bobble, dog dog.  So you can imagine my surprise during his diaper change this morning when he referred to today as Tuesday.  Seemingly immediately, as if a response to the question  I just posed to my sister. "Today's Wednesday, right?"  "Tuesday", the baby replies, clear as day, laying there on the floor between us with his diaper off, legs high in the air, his fingers aimlessly and intentionally stroking his own skin, as if new to it, gurgling.  My sister and I look at each other, not quite sure what we're thinking and we smile, because we like it.  "Tuesday, maybe" I respond.

The temperature outside today is somewhere close to 22 degrees.  The sun slowly creeps up, as it has done every morning we know, and it allows just a bit of light for us to see our own surroundings, we are overwhelmed with the landscape's beauty.  Although colorful leaves are dwindling and fields of green are now brown and desolate, flowers droop and vegetable gardens are now of past, -- the cool, crisp air, with its sweet sound, breezes by my face as if to gently say "Hello again friend, good morning."  Intuitively I'm comforted knowing that my old friend winter stopped by for a visit.  The earth glistens with icy decor.  Everything, it seems, is covered in a thin layer of frosty ice.   I'm suddenly struck by my conscious awareness of peace in my life.  My husband, Jim, stands at the window in awe of the crescent moon and the stars still visible to our naked eyes.

We bundle up and head outdoors as our day begins.  The chickens are eager to roam in their coup, no regards for dark or cold.  They peck away at the frozen earth as we bid our farewells.  There is something verystill and secure here in Vermont on November mornings like this one.  Mornings that are dark and cold and quiet and yet, our souls are alive and conscious of the natural beauty and invigorated to go out and start our day.

As we drove to school, I recalled all of the little things that happened in my life that had meaning this morning.  Each of them special and beautiful in their own way.  The frozen earth surrounded me and my thoughts comforted me.  Wow, life is good.  Look, even a cold fall morning in Vermont, where the sun isn't up, and we're on the rode at 7am... As then I bring myself back down and say "Athena we're probably going to talk about your math class.  You know, just do your best..."   It is then when I am interrupted by the most amazing little girl, my baby girl - she gently suggests I stop talking and just look at the sky.  Its beautiful.

Have another beautiful day.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Finding Peace in Each Moment

I never really understood the Buddhist ideas around viewing life as a journey and being with it no matter what we're experiencing.  Even in pain we, as humans, intelligent beings can be still and move through with less suffering.  Life is funny how it manifests.  As I delve deeper into my soul, loving myself unconditionally, I am learning so much.

Take physical pain for instance.  As a Highly Sensitive Person, it feels pretty intense to me.  For years I have been randomly and infrequently plagued with weird physical symptoms.  More confusing were the heightened
outbursts of emotion.  And so I spent several years wading through the deep waters without clear understanding of what my life was.

Today I sit here and feel, well, a bit enlightened.  I'm in the middle of an episode.  My- are they uncomfortable.  A list of symptoms annoying and painful - I'll passon sharing for now.  I'm in a sort of pain, can't work for a few days.  But now that I have acknowledged that the symptoms are real - peace is setting in.  My soul feels light since I started believing in myself.  And now that I'm caring for myself with peace, I can continue journeying through life.  I accept the pain, discomfort, confusion, for I know they are only symptoms for an unbalanced,  possibly sick body.  My soul remains lit and strong.

I'm hopeful and grateful for a lot of reasons today.  Although Friday was a bit taxing and scary (especially for my husband), I saw the doctor and got a referral to a neurologist. I'm also having some labs run.  And I have an appointment with a Chinese Medicine professional tomorrow.  What empowerment comes from self acceptance!  Doubt and fear are very strong undercurrents and so ever prevalent in our society.  But fear not, we are communities of strong, open, mindful beings and are supporting each other in leading fulfilling lives.

I started documenting coincidences and my intuition.  Wow.  Pretty amazing if I may say so myself.  I'm here to share my story,  build my life, and help myself and others be well.  Until next time...peace.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why now?

Afternoon all,
So why now?  Today is the first day of the rest of our lives.  I've been struggling with depression and anxiety for years.  Now at age 35, I am starting to see my true colors, my true purpose, and the light that is within all of us.  But my journey hasn't been easy and I continue to struggle.  Luckily, with the help of therapists, healing and meditation masters, and the infusion of lifestyle practices, I am learning how to live my life.  Now I want to share my experience with others in an effort to help them (YOU) through anecdotal learning opportunities.  So join me on this adventure.

Today's experience was no different than many that have happened in the past.  Through my own healing journey, I've learned how to identify what I'm feeling and learned coping mechanisms.  My 'attack' actually started showing signs several days ago (as it usually does, I just started learning to identify symptoms earlier.)  It started with two consecutive nights of nightmares, night sweats, and finally abruptly waking mid-night and left with insomnia.  After 2 days of no restful sleep, my physical body began to feel the affects.  I have aches and pains all over, a constant headache, and a bout of constipation.  Hmm...and you wonder what else could go wrong?

Last night the depression reared its heavy head.  I held back, what felt like arbitrary tears, in front of my daughter and husband.  I often struggle with hiding my experiences from them as to save them from unnecessary pain.  Then this morning I awoke to the same emotional hindrance.  As usual, I tried to push the experience behind me and move forward with my daily routine.  I went to work and tried to change my thought-pattern.  I'm a high school teacher and this setting can prove trying on a sensitive individual.  My students were great (they seem to sense my being on these types of days and show a bit of empathy- an impressive task for teenagers).  A they did their work, I maintained my composure but I was unable to keep the emotional facade up.  I called in for a substitute and left before the day was done.

Once I was out of the school and freed to my own experiences, I broke down.  The sun was shining brightly, the sky blue with a few scattered white puffy clouds and I began to sob.  I felt so sad for the woman inside of me that was so overwhelmed and deflated and in need of solitude.  I drove myself home, sobbing and screaming, both in udder confusion and shear pain.  Embarrassment was also with me as I heard my mind's chatter question my senility.  As the hysterics subsided, I calmed myself down.  And here I am.

So why does this happen?  Idealists like myself are always asking why.  Yet, there may never be an answer for why.  What I do know is that if you experience episodes like the one described above, the first and most important task is to take care of oneself.  Going home from work on a day like today is the least I could do for myself.  Once home, I started regrouping with a simple nature meditation.  Putting myself out in the sun, surrounded by nature's energy and beauty, I took about 5 minutes to sit and clear my mind.  I breathed in with love and out with peace.  I watched the dogs frolic in the meadow. Then I ate a high protein lunch and treated myself to a small piece of TIRAMISU (In Italian this translates to 'pick me up'.)  I finished my self-healing experience by journaling the morning's events.

Is there a way to avoid this?  I don't have that answer and I don't intend to work towards one.  Instead I continue to develop my self-awareness.  As a highly sensitive person (HSP) there are times when I am in tune to outside energies and therefore at a higher risk for melt downs.  What I'd like to open the discussion up to is this:  how can we, as HSP, live productive, satisfying lives?