Archive | spirituality RSS feed for this section

The New Health Insurance: Heading Off A Crisis

25 Jul

As I mentioned in my last post, health insurance is gambling: I’ll pay this insurance company to save me from a health crisis, hoping I’ll never have to use their services! Nobody wants to get sick; we would like to envision ourselves as oldsters, still healthy in mind and body, playing golf or swimming at the rec center, taking classes in ancient Greek, etc.

There’s another way to insure your health, and like health insurance from an insurance company, it requires a monthly (or more frequent) investment. As it turns out, in order to maximize the possibility of that beautiful picture of old age, we need to start when we’re young.  By the time we’re old, we’ve already made those bad decisions, had those accidents, experienced all that stress…it’s harder to turn our bodies around at that time.  However as younger people, we have a choice to help ourselves attain the best health possible.

There are many, many ways to take care of yourself and increase your chance of aging gracefully. The following are the practices that help me the most, and why I value them.

Visceral Manipulation: VM as taught at the Barral Institute is a hands-on modality that entails sensing restrictions in the web of connective tissue within the body. Also known as fascia, connective tissue surrounds and supports our organs, arteries and veins, muscles, bones, nerves…everything! Physical trauma and emotional upheaval can cause the connective fibers to draw up into “knots”.  These restrictions can keep our bodies from functioning well, and often cause secondary problems. For example, a car accident causes a head injury, which causes a restriction in the connective tissue, which travels down to the bladder, causing a secondary problem of incontinence. I love Visceral Manipulation; it’s very gentle and non-invasive, and not only helps existing and obvious problems, but also can prevent problems from occurring. I also receive VM to help me process emotional issues- don’t forget that when we don’t express our strong emotions, we often store them in our bodies, where they can start that process of restricting the connective tissue and turning into physical ailments.  Don’t go there, address your emotions sooner rather than later!

Massage: Because we store both physical and emotional stress in our bodies, it’s a great idea to let off that steam so it doesn’t accumulate, wouldn’t you agree? Massage feels good, helps get rid of mental and physical knots, and boosts your immune system. I get massage or another form of bodywork once every two weeks, or more often when I’m under a lot of stress. It helps immensely!

Meditation: Ever hear of your “small, still voice”? Mine often beckons me to sit and meditate, or do a walking meditation. “Slow down! Breathe…” , it says. Meditation helps us to observe our thoughts; when you can do that, you stop becoming a slave to them. You can say, “Oh, that’s a thought about fear…let me sit with that a little. Ah, I’m fearful because what he said reminded me of that thing that happened 20 years ago…I guess I don’t have to react this way…I guess I’ll breathe first.” Breathing leads me to another wonderful practice…

Yoga: It’s important to both stretch and strengthen your body; yoga does both! If your muscles are warmed up and stretched out, they’ll react better to falls and other accidents than tight muscles would. Yoga also encourages you to breathe, which according to Andrew Weil, M.D. and health guru, is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health. Expand your belly, then your middle, then the top of your lungs on your inhale; reverse that order on your exhale. Try it, you’ll oxygenate your cells and feel and think better!

Chi Gung: There are subtle, vibrational aspects of the human body and mind that should not be ignored- they make up who we are, just as our “grosser” body parts do.  Chi gung (or qi gong) is an easy way to channel and improve the flow of energy in our bodies, through slow and graceful movements. These movements have cool names, like “Bamboo Waves on Mountain”, so that in itself should encourage you to try Chi Gung!

Journaling, dancing: …and other expressive arts. When we express ourselves fully, we live fully. That doesn’t mean say whatever you want and have no filters in place!  It means, live your life beautifully, let your thoughts and movement flow. Someone once said to me, “Don’t be a God dam”, meaning don’t dam up the energy that wants to flow through my life. Flow and movement are essential to good health.

EMDR: or other subconscious healing of thought patterns. When we experience difficulty or trauma, our minds sometimes store the event as a pattern in our subconscious, where it can drive our actions and reactions without us knowing it. EMDR brings subconsciously-stored trauma to the conscious mind (without making us live through it again), allowing us to discharge the “juice” associated with it, and letting us be in charge of how we react to events in our lives.

What all these practices have in common: love yourself enough to take care of yourself; know yourself well enough to know what you need; do the necessary work on a subtle level;  let the energy flow!

Advertisements

The answer to everything? Loving yourself.

12 Jun

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I do misguided things, and why I sometimes get it right: say the right thing, do the right thing, etc. You may have run across “The Eight-fold Path” in Buddhism: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration (check out these principles at  http://thebigview.com/buddhism/eightfoldpath.html ).  It seems to me that we can unpack those tenants of Buddhism further and boil them down, to find the elusive user manual for life!

If you approach every decision you make- whether to speak or not, what to say, what to eat and when, etc., etc., it becomes clear that there are decisions that support you, and decisions that sabotage you. Regardless of your religion or moral persuasion, each decision can be made in relation to how it loves you, so to speak. Here’s a real-time, concrete example: I’m sitting here, typing this in my office.  I’m hungry, so I’m eating a cereal snack mix that’s not satisfying me.  I also know that I promised my son I’d bring my computer work to do at home during the summer, instead of sitting here away from him in the office. So, I could continue to feed my body food that’s meant for emergencies (like having no time to eat in between clients) instead of feeding it healthy, satisfying lunch; and I could continue to break my word to my son. Or, I could decide to love myself through right action, right mindfulness and right concentration.

Hey, wait!  Sitting here doesn’t sound like loving myself!  Ok, I’ll continue this discussion at home, after lunch and after I say “hi” to Harry!

(Harry decided to sequester himself in his room…but at least I’m in the dining room, typing and available! Quesadilla with apples and kale and homemade tomato sauce for lunch, by the way).

Of course, there’s the question of other people in our lives- we don’t live in a vacuum. And it’s usually in relationships that we screw up, because there isn’t anything we do or say that doesn’t effect people around us!  Here’s a recent example of something I did that illustrates pretty well how I disregarded the Eight-Fold Path stunningly well:

I received via email a request to edit someone’s letter which was attached. As I read her letter, I thought to myself, “This is not going to appeal to its audience; it’s too wordy”, etc. I spent a good hour going over the letter, rearranging phrases and deleting whole sections to make it into a succinct, one-page letter that I felt conveyed the message, while honoring the style of the author, which was very unlike my style.  I felt I had done her a service; indeed, I patted myself on the back, reflecting that I had dedicated an entire hour of my time to this request for editing.

When she responded in outrage that I had denuded her letter from its original spirit and had chopped up something she had spent six hours writing, I had a rude awakening.  In my zeal to “help”, I had instead hurt someone. I had not listened to the real need for editing; I hadn’t taken into consideration the personality of the person involved; and I had launched into this effort, which was not joyful as “right effort” should be, but which was rather based on my need to be right or superior.  True, I wouldn’t have written a letter like that.  True, I still think it was too wordy.  But the fact remains that this person has a right to express herself differently than I do. Someone I respect recently told me, “Christina, you don’t always know.”  In short, I needed to be more loving and respectful toward the letter-writer.

Ok, so what does all this have to do with loving oneself? Well, another concept of Buddhism is that we are not really individuals, separate from one another. We are one and the same: ” I am he and you are he as you are me and we are one together”, as the Beatles said in “I am the Walrus.”  Another way to look at it is that we are all strings in a web of interconnectedness; when I pull my string, the whole web is affected; the important lesson is to see to it that whenever we pull our strings, we do so with the whole web in mind. When I hurt someone else, I hurt myself. I affect the whole web, ultimately.  If I can look at other people as extensions of myself, and that I am an extension of them, it seems pretty clear that we’re all in this day together- shouldn’t I try to love myself (you, him, her, them) to make it a great day?

I have a sneaking feeling that this lesson is going to be my next deepening experience- here’s hoping I can absorb it well!