My lesson about letting go

27 Dec

Sometimes I think it would be better to be a cat: as far as I know, my cat lives truly in the moment, and doesn’t show any sign of clinging or aversion the way we humans do. This could be a sample of how the mind of my cat works: “I am hungry. Give me my food now. I’m waiting for my food. Petting is good. Yes. I’m hungry. Give me my food now. I’m smelling my food- smells good, eat it!”

The following is a true scenario that illustrates how I am not like my cat. This is an example of how my mind works: “WAIT! I came to my dad’s house to cut some boughs for decorating my house for Christmas like I have for years, only to find that dad had the lower boughs of his 50 foot tall spruce tree cut off. Now I can’t cut any boughs, like I ALWAYS have!” (Pause to feel the enormity of this reality). (Pause to pout like a little girl whose daddy should be there to take care of all her needs and wants). (Pause to remember that Mom, who died in July, ALWAYS let me do this- and who would NEVER have cut those lower limbs off her tree! But- she’s no longer here). What I actually say to my dad: “Oh. That’s right; you had the lower limbs trimmed off your tree. I’d forgotten. Oh well, things change.” (Experience extended mental struggle, and grief over how things used to be). (Experience the dawning realization that it’s hard to let go of what’s familiar and comfortable. Engage in self-talk: It’s ok, Christina. Things do change, and that’s ok. This is a year of big changes, and how you experience them depends on how you view them).

What’s amazing to me is that the above thought process and concomitant emotions took only several seconds to happen; and the echoes of those emotions and thoughts continued for many days afterwards. Letting go doesn’t seem to be something that happens immediately, but is rather a process of refinement and maturation. Here is where Thich Nhat Han’s method of addressing our emotions can come in handy: “Hello, my little grief; hello, my little anger.” Then when you have problems sleeping, or with your digestion, or your skin breaks out, you understand that you’re literally processing your emotions, through your body, and you can have some compassion and appreciation for that!

When we acknowledge our emotions, they have less of a hold on us. As life continues to throw events at us, and we gain more and more experience dealing with them, that refinement process gets faster and faster, until we encounter a difficulty and…seemingly shrug it off. At least, that’s my theory- I have yet to embody that ability!

Back to my cat; perhaps she’s not so different after all. When she encounters a difficult change in her life, she has stomach and elimination upsets, sometimes on the carpet, sometimes on the wood floor. At least she knows how to relax and take care of herself by eating well (voles and mice) and doing her daily yoga!


What will we do, now that Trump is President???????

9 Nov

This is something I’m hearing despairing people say a lot, the day after the election. Some people voted for Trump because they agree with him, a lot or a little. Some people voted for him because they didn’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton. And some people voted for him to make a statement, assuming he wouldn’t win. And voila, here he is, President Elect of the United States of America.

So, what will we do now? Personally, I’m going to redouble my efforts- not to incite revolution, or say things that put ‘those Trump voters’ in their place- but rather to practice the principles that I hold dear. Let’s face it, it’s time for a revolution of kindness here in the grassroots arena! A revolution of kindness; love; truly listening to each other, even when we disagree; seeking to understand the other person. A revolution of being kind to ourselves, recognizing our feelings when they come up, and taking responsibility for them without using other people as a target for our anger.

What were some of the comments Trump made, that made your blood boil? Was it his misogynist comments, or his comments about muslims? How about his wish to build a wall to keep out ‘bad hombres’ from Mexico? It could have been how he incited his supporters to violence, or his disregard for what you consider sound environmental policy.

What do you believe is important in life? Is it the Golden Rule? Is it based in your religion, your life philosophy, how you were raised?  What gives you joy?

Ok, then- this is the time to put your principles into practice! Wherever you may be, do something to counteract a Trumpism. Volunteer at a women’s shelter. Read the Q’ran, and learn something about Islam. Volunteer to teach English as a Second Language to a person from Mexico. Join a Dances of Universal Peace group, and learn to express yourself peacefully! Support Environment Colorado, or some other environmental group. Take the negative behavior Trump exhibits, and use it as a ‘mindfulness bell’, as the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh would say: every time Trump says something awful, there is the bell telling you to act in a positive way to benefit your society!

A Zen master visiting New York City goes up to a hot dog vendor and says, “Make me one with everything.”
The hot dog vendor fixes a hot dog and hands it to the Zen master, who pays with a $20 bill.
The vendor puts the bill in the cash box and closes it. “Excuse me, but where’s my change?” asks the Zen master.
The vendor responds, “Change must come from within.”

The hot dog vendor is right- change does come from within. Your kind thoughts, words and actions do have a positive effect on those around you, and on yourself. Change your society for the better through serving it. As the great Indian poet and writer Rabindranath Tagore said:

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”


Look up!

2 Dec

Dear Reader,

I want to share with you a short technique to bring perspective to your life- look up.

My mind is often somewhere in the future, or in the past, and rarely in the present. It’s usually fixated on something; and when I say fixated, I should perhaps say, ‘fixed’, as in ‘not budging’. “I can’t believe she said that to me!” (past thought), or “How am I possibly going to be able to do everything on my list?” (future thought), etc. Or, my mind is scattered, going a mile a minute and everywhere at once.

Sometimes, breathing is enough to bring me to this moment, but sometimes I need something visual and metaphorical- like moving clouds.  Looking up, I see fluffy, white clouds in a bright, blue sky. They look down on me and, compassionately witnessing my struggle with myself,  seem to say, ‘It’s ok. You’re ok. You’re part of us, the clouds!’ It stops me in my tracks, and I take a big breath, and for one small moment, I’m in the present as well as I can be. I’m connected with everything on the Earth, and I smile!

Give this a try- it’s fun! I’ll be you find that it changes your moment, too.

The Walking Tree

9 Apr

I recently took a lovely walk along a new (for me) trail, located right outside of a subdivision. The countryside was similar to that I grew up in: yellow, dry grasses, rolling, dusty hills, meadowlarks perched on survey stakes, calling out in their impossibly complex song. I love the meadowlark- every time I hear one sing, I grin and my heart sighs, remembering that beautiful sound from the halcyon days of my childhood in the country! I don’t hear meadowlarks much, living in the city as I do- they are birds whose habitat is the field.

The longer I walked, and listened to the sounds around me as well as the rhythmic sound of my own footfalls, the more I experienced the feeling of walking without moving: like when you’re at the airport on one of those moving walkways, and your pace is the same speed as the walkway- people outside the walkway speed by as you walk, and you feel as if you’re almost standing still. I found myself waxing poetic; I felt like I was a tree, rooted in the ground and centered in my own body, and I created this poem to express how I felt, and to remind myself how great it feels to truly feel at home in my body.

The Walking Tree-  by Christina Hildebrandt

As I walk forward, my mind says, “Do this!”, “Accomplish that!”

It lives forward in time and place, like a dog eager for his walk and half out the door.

But my heart pleads, Stay here; stay in this moment, in this body.

Smell the aromas around you; stay in this body.

See the things around you; stay here now.

Be like a walking tree.

A tree is vertical; it occupies its space gently. Rooted to the ground, yet flexible, it bows to the wind when necessary,

Seeing everything around it, breathing the air (inhale, exhale).

When you walk, walk without moving, like a tree.

You may go forward, your steps walking on the path,

But like walking on a moving walkway, it seems as if you remain still

And the terrain, and time, and people, pass by.

Remain in your heart- in your center. Watch things as they arise, and observe them to pass away.

Remain in your body, like a tree: rooted and centered.

Remain in your smile, as you live each moment, as you experience every sensation, observe every thought

And smile!

Be like a walking tree.

MindBody BodyMind, let’s call the whole thing- AMAZING!

20 Nov

This may be the shortest blog I’ve written, and the laziest: please click here ( to read a great NY Times article about psychotherapy, body therapy, and how they are the same thing under the right hands!

Occupy Yourself!

11 Nov

I was just sitting in my living room this morning, meditating. When I say meditating, I mean sitting cross-legged on a pillow on the floor, doing abdominal breathing, feeling the energy in my body and the thoughts racing through my mind, both of them wanting me to get up and do the things I’m thinking about! I find that when I’m feeling good and have a lot of energy, it’s challenging to sit quietly, even though my whole being craves that space of non-doing!

We all struggle with that, I think: even for those who don’t have a meditation practice at all, there must be that “small, still voice” that begs us to pause at least for a moment! Instead of rushing about, fulfilling our “duties” and what we think others need from us, we could sit still for the space of three breaths: inhale…… suspend the breath……exhale….sit with the nadir of that exhale, before inhaling again. Breathing is a vital tool for me to deal with life, especially with stressful situations.

You know what causes most of my stress, though? It’s not all those annoying people and circumstances that seemingly try to chip away at my facade of control! It’s me. How I perceive and interpret what happens around me (I won’t say “to me”) creates my stress. I’m cursed and blessed with the need to try to help people- making the assumption, of course, that I know what’s best for everyone! So, I try to bring people to see things my way: you should make amends with that person, you should stop doing that thing I don’t like, you should do things in a way that I can relate to and not in that way that I really can’t begin to understand! (It reminds me of the comedy skit by Liam Kyle Sullivan, in which his mom complains, “These people are speaking a language that I don’t understand, and that makes me very angry!”)

So I’ve begun experimenting with Occupying Myself. Occupying my own space. Being with my feelings as they occur, recognizing them, owning them, and letting them go so I can listen to the other person better. It’s an interesting and sometimes amazing feeling to be in your own body! Most of the time, my thoughts are in the future or the past: I’m scared of what will happen! I’m resentful of what already happened! But what about what’s happening right now? The only thing that can anchor me to this moment is my breath.

Part of why I’m living in other people, so to speak, is because I love them and want to help them. But part of it is control over my surroundings. And, of course, we don’t control anything (think about that for a while!!) except our own actions. Hence my newest and most favorite reminder by way of Jack Kornfield’s meditation: “Your actions create your own happiness and misery, and not my wishes for you.” The other reason I’d like to control other people is because it’s a lot easier than looking deeply at my own stuff! There’s some evidence through the centuries that other folks have struggled with this same issue. Just look at all these sayings: “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye?”, “Mind your own business”, “Counting other peoples’ sins does not make you a saint”, “Row, row, row your boat (not someone else’s!), gently down the stream…”

But how do we join the Occupy Movement and Occupy Ourselves? Here’s how I do it, and it seems to work well, although I have to choose to do it over and over and over and over again: sit comfortably with your feet on the floor, or sit on the floor with your hands on your thighs or touching the floor. It’s important that your spine is relaxed, aligned and erect, no slumping! Use pillows if you have to. Use essential oils or incense, if that helps you take deeper breaths, and start to breathe slowly, as described in the second paragraph above. As you breathe, with your eyes closed or almost closed, put a tiny smile on your lips and mentally lean into the middle of your body. I usually have to lean back (because I’ve been in the future with my thoughts), but you may find you have to lean forward. Now, mentally scan all along the spine, right in the middle of your body: is there a spot that feels good to rest in? For me, today, it’s right above my solar plexus, and it feels like a disc bisecting my body, as if someone threw an LP record and it lodged in my midriff! In a good way, of course. That place becomes my anchor point of safety for the day; and when I encounter something or someone who triggers stress in me, I breathe, lean back a little into that spot, and recite my newest mantra: “Your actions create your own happiness and misery, and not my wishes for you.”

When I do this, it’s about staying in my own space. And guess what? When I stay in my own space, and Occupy Myself, I create space for others to move into- it allows for possibilities that weren’t present when I was taking up all the room! Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream!

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!