Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Dealing with a pain in the neck.

So, how many of you have had a literal pain in the neck? I am not talking about the jokes we make about our children or parents, or work. I am talking literal. Pain. On a scale of 1 − 10 an 11. In the neck. I am sure you can relate?

That was me, yesterday. I had been having some off an on neck pain, and yesterday it was just debilitating. I was so uncomfortable it seemed to emanate throughout my entire being. And so throughout the course of the day I was less and less pleasant in myself. I was agitated, I could not get comfortable - no amount of stretching or self massage helped. I was impatient and eventually exhausted. I was also super fun to be around - as you can imagine!

I also had this gnawing thought process happening over the course of the weekend and into yesterday. An interaction over the weekend had really set me off; I was equally agitated and frustrated. I was replaying the conversation over and over in my head. I was telling Matt and my family about it - complaining, trying to sort it all out. On Sunday evening, instead of running to my computer to write an email, I determined it was best to sleep on it, knowing that sleep can be the wisest thing when I am working through something. I did not want to be impulsive, I did not want to address the issue from a place of ego. So, I went to bed.

I did feel more settled in my mind upon waking, for sure. And, I had this awful, terrible pain. Amidst the pain, I was quite clear about one thing...while I was not sure at all what to do for my neck (no heating pad could save the day this time), I was very sure that I had something that I needed to speak out about. I knew, from a deep place within me, that I had to respond powerfully about the weekend interaction.

I finally made it to my computer around 11 p.m. (yes ideally this is when I want to be sleeping) and I sat down and wrote my letter. I was clear in my mind about what I needed to speak. I was clear about how I wanted to represent myself. I was clear that I needed to speak from my heart. And I did. Then I hit send.

And then, I moved my arms, and my head and I felt the pain in my neck dissipating. It was fading quickly and I was elated. I moved around more - now instead of searing pain I had the sensation of empty soreness - like that "feels good" kind of pain after a good work out at the gym.

AHA! The moment, the moment when I realized that as much thinking through and breathing and etc. as I had done around the issue of the unpleasant interaction - it was no match for how I was holding it in my body. There was no competition, my body was winning "the battle" over how to handle the situation. My entire being needed me to take effective action and speak from my heart. Once I did, all of the stagnation from the pain and upset began to move.

Amazing, aren't we?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Living between birth and death

One of our teachers once stated something along the lines of, "You will truly understand what it is to be a practitioner when your first patient passes away." While I might not have the quotation exactly, it is the sentiment that made the impression for me.

Last night, an individual who I had the honor and privilege of caring for as part of a patient care program at school passed away. This person, for me, was someone who when I think of them, warms my heart - makes me smile - and reminds me about what this work is really about. And that is finding a way to be with life, as it shows up, no matter what and be at ease - because it is really about the journey of being between birth and death.

Supporting this individual with care meant that no matter what the path - whether it was to fully recover from an ailment, or not, that this time in life be as comfortable and rich as possible.

You see, I do not get to decide about death; it will happen - when it happens. Maybe I have some input? Maybe a greater power seeks my consult on when or how life will go? I am not sure. What I do get to decide is how I live, while I am living.

I am starting to understand now, what my teacher meant about truly being a practitioner once a patient has passed away. Because it is my charge to be with a person, and support them in the best way I possibly can, so that while they are here, breathing, life can be experienced with some ease. And, to know that I am not God and I do not get to decide, to cure, to heal or to fix anything. And so, it is my privilege to be with the person, just be with them, and support them, so that they can heal themselves. And healing may not mean living forever immortally, in fact, it might mean becoming more peaceful with dying.

And I understand that it is me who must become more peaceful with dying, the reality that someday my life will too pass. If I can find a way to have peace in that, knowing that each moment is a gift and passing is inevitable - and that it is OK that this life will come to an end...then, I can support others in doing the same. And that, that is living with ease.

In honor of my patient, and the family and friends that she loves and who love her.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Can you feel it?

Can you feel it? The descend into the autumn, the downward energy pulling you closer to the ground beneath you? Can you feel the desire to sleep a little bit more? Or the yearning to open the windows, sit in stillness and just breath in the breeze? Can you feel the crispness in the air paired with a slightly slower step in your stride?

I do continue to write about the autumn, and it might be because I am feeling inspired by it. In Chinese medicine, our ability to be inspired and inspire others is a gift given and governed by this very season.

Today I came home from classes and took a nap. I had eaten a filling meal before hand and all I wanted to do was lie down and close my eyes. And I did. I woke up feeling a bit more at ease with the slower pace that I know I need to take moving forward throughout the autumn and into the winter. Just like the bears that hibernate, we humans too really do benefit from slowing down, sleeping more, eating warm foods and taking advantage of the cooler seasons to replenish our resevoirs.

And it is difficult for some of us. The autumn brings with it a variety of major events - holidays, sports, school assignments... For some reason, despite that the sun is setting earlier we seem to have a lot more to accomplish during the fall.

It's the little things though, that might make a difference.

  • Powering down 30 minutes earlier to get into bed just a bit ahead of time.
  • Putting some oatmeal in the slow cooker and cooking overnight so that breakfast is already made in the morning and its warm (1/3 − 1/2 cup of grains to 2 cups water)
  • Eating more soup and less salad
  • Adjusting our exercise schedules by swapping a day of running or spinning for yoga or a brisk walk. Maybe even taking it down by a day (e.g. 4 days of exercise to 3).
  • Wearing a scarf to protect our necks from the cooler air
  • Swapping out ice tea for hot tea
  • Taking a moment that is otherwise dedicated to making a phone call, or reading the paper and instead putting our feet on the floor and taking 5 − 10 deep breaths before hand
It's the little things really, that can make such a huge contribution to our wellbeing.

If you haven't "felt it" yet...just take a quick moment and check in with yourself. What is your body asking you for? Do you smell a difference in the season outside? Are you wanting to take a nap or a moment of stillness in the midst of running downstairs with the laundry basket?

Whatever it is for you, that lets you know that something is different than it was a few weeks ago. Find that little thing, the little signal that tells you the season has moved and teaches you how to move with it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: Immunity...!

Y'know how sometimes, just like we can catch a cold, virus or flu from another person, we can can also catch a case of the "my feelings are hurt's" or "why is everybody picking on me's?"

Well, I was thinking about it today while chatting with a buddy o' mine who is often offered unsolicited input on her love life...I said to her that maybe she could do something to build up her immunity to these inputs so that they don't get her down. The same way some of us work to build up our immunity so that we do not get sick...

Then, right after this, in class, we were discussing the Lung, which in Chinese medicine is a key player in not only how well we stave off the common cold but also how thick-skinned we are; in other words, how protected we are from comments etc. that may seem hurtful or intrusive.

The type of qi (pronounced chee), also known as energy, that is responsible for all of this in accordance with the lungs is called wei qi (pronounced way chee) translated to defensive qi.

And as I thought more about it, I created the phrase, "get-awei-from-me-qi." I cracked myself up to be honest! And I think this could be useful to me, not in an oppositional - feisty sort of way because opposition really won't get me anywhere. More as a fun-loving reminder of how to be with life when either I am facing a potential stomach flu or feelings hurt moment. Maybe, if I can call upon my wei qi - reminding myself with this funny little phrase, "get-awei-from-me-qi" which I am now declaring represents the power of my wei qi - I can reclaim my robustness and vitality in the face of the potential external pathogen coming my way....!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Where is the ritual in your life?

I wrote this entry a few weeks ago, and had not yet posted it. It is still pertinent to me, and I am choosing to share it with you now...

As we move into the autumn I keep thinking about ritual.

In Chinese medicine we look to nature for guidance about how to live in health and wellness, and how to fully live into everything that life has to offer. Sometimes, living fully into things includes experiencing fully our emotions - even the ones that are difficult to bear.

The autumn time reminds me (and us) about ritual, especially those that connect me with my greater self, my communities and maybe even spiritual or religious practices. The air is more misty in the autumn and the sky has a whiter hue. It feels different, it is easier to breath deeply and appreciate things deeply.

The autumn is also a teacher for letting go of the things in life that no longer serve. Just like the trees let go of their leaves.

There are a great many autumn rituals that happen (or happened in the past) for me in life, such as marching band, back to school photos (you know - that one on the front porch or driveway that some parental figure takes before the bus comes), new school supplies or clothes, spaghetti dinners before a cross country meet....now it's about the first butternut or acorn squash of the season, the first time I turn off the air conditioner and open the windows for the crisp air to rush through - some of those little things that are so lovely.

And, there are the ones that I share with a greater community like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (for my family at least), football season and so on.

I am about to embark on a really special ritual this week, a new one for me though one which has been in place for quite some time. It is a retreat that our entire acupuncture class will go on together, and it marks a special time of transition as well as a demarkation of our experience as students. The time when we move from classroom learning fully into a clinical setting. From what I hear from those who have come before us, it is a remarkable time for a class to spend a uniquely special time together, and things are different afterward. No one can put a definite word or phrase as to why it's different, or how, yet it is.

And this, for me is how I feel about rituals in general. A beautiful ritual is challenging to describe no matter how impressive a vocabulary.

Ritual can of course happen at any time of year, not just the autumn, and I find that no matter the time of year there is an energy that comes with a ritual that always feels a bit like that crisp air and deep breath I have in the autumn.

As I embark upon this special ritual this week, this one that other classes of students have been going on for years and years before me, I feel fortunate to carry on the tradition and I am so looking forward to spending this special time with my fellow classmates who have become such an essential and deeply loved part of my life.

I invite you to think about a ritual that you cherish in your life. Maybe it's a special dinner with old friends that happens annually, or some delicious dish that you share with loved ones during an athletic event....think of at least one thing you do that matters, that has ritual. Something that gives you a deep sense of gratitude for being in this life and fills you with that fresh and nutritious breath which a truly special moment brings.

And then maybe ask yourself, if every moment is a truly special moment...