Loving You As You Age

Dear —

I know right now you’re going through a lot of changes and they can’t be easy for you; things that you used to do before are now more difficult. They take more energy, they take more thought, they even may take more skill than you have right now. And I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry that the process of aging strips us from so much. We lose friends over time. We lose a job that we’ve done all our lives and therefore much of our identity that went along with that job. We start to feel that the world doesn’t need us anymore. That what we have to offer, to teach, to share, just doesn’t mean anything and that has got to be strangely isolating and scary and I would think from time to time that you might be wondering so what’s next.

I feel that pain and though I don’t know what it’s like to be older and aging or losing my capacity for doing things I’ve done all my life, I do know what fear and change and chaos I’ll feel like. I know what it’s like to have the feeling of not being needed or that your voice doesn’t matter, or even that you don’t matter. I know what it feels like to have someone tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about or that your ideas are outdated. As I sit and watch you, I wonder if maybe you’re having those feelings right now?

My heart opens and I can feel sadness for what’s going on right now. It’s not easy to be compassionate for ourselves when we’re feeling so bad. It’s not easy to be compassionate to one another when every day hassles seem to become bigger and more difficult to cope with. But instead of frustration or fear, I propose that we handle these things with love.

You know, maybe the kind of love that we were never given as kids. Maybe the kind of love we never found in our life. Or maybe the kind of love we’re not even sure we are capable of giving. But just love and acceptance for what’s going on and compassion for any pain that there might be, whether it be physical or mental or emotional or even spiritual.

Let today be the day that this gets turned around, that we give more love and more patience, more deep breaths, and even more sighs, if they’re able to bring into the here now and be present to each other.

So starting now I vow to give you more love than I feel like I ever received from you.

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What Do You Think?

th

I read time and time again, “The Body Heals Itself”.  What do you think about that?  Do you believe that the body is wise and eventually under the right circumstances rights itself and moves back to a state of healing?

Do you believe that we are born perfect and with time, wear and tear, and age, grow less perfect and more diseased and aged?

Do you believe that we are born with potential and grow and thrive?

Are we talking about the body anymore or are we talking about the whole of human existence?

Can we be healed but not cured?  Can we be unhealthy in body but stellar in mind and spirit?

If we have an affliction of the body, are mind and spirit automatically affected?

If any part of us, mind, body, or spirit is affected, can we be whole, healthy, perfect or perfectly good?

Do certain parts of your body hold certain emotions or messages for you?

Do we hold stress or fear or other strong emotions in our body or are our bodies a reflection of our psycho-spiritual state?

I’ll be honest.  I am not sure what I believe anymore.  My training was to believe that under the right circumstances, people moved toward healing.  With support in place, a container to maintain their needs, a safe space to explore, people healed that which was ill and that it was the lack of these things that created dis-ease in their lives.  But I’m not sure.

I’ve come off a time in my life, well, a “past life” so to speak, where I saw the worst in people.  I saw everyone hustling, playing the system, you know, working it.  I saw people always taking the path of least resistance and sometimes actually running away from opportunities for growth or nurturance.  It shattered all my beliefs, all that I had come to hold true and dear.  If you’ve read other posts, you know I’m on a search and creating a new life.  Part of that new life is looking at what I believe and throwing out what doesn’t work anymore and reconnecting with truths that still hit me in my core.

So I’m asking you, what do you believe?  Are we innately wise beings that find our way to healing?  Are we created in the image of something divine and whole and no matter what we are in this world, we are whole and perfect in another world?  Do you believe that we’re dealt a hand of cards and we are nothing more than muscle, tissue, synapses?

Until the next blog post,

May you be healthy and thriving.

May you be filled with light and joy.

May you reconnect with the little things that bring you great happiness.

May you have peace of mind and be on solid ground.

May you love and be compassionate while being loved and shown great forgiveness.

May you be at ease and at peace.  

 

Holding

Since my doctor took me off of a medication I’ve been on for the past 20 years, one that I feel like has contributed to a lot of pain I’ve experienced, I have found new insights and had a shift in my body awareness.

I don’t have the same level of chronically tightened muscles. In the past, I’ve had horrible muscle tension in my traps, shoulders, upper neck, jaw, temples, and occipital area. My muscles feel more pliable and relaxed unless I am having an issue with a migraine. Then my body tightens up but seems to better relax when I have the occasional day without pain. And I still have referred pain and trigger points but again, they don’t seem to be as intense all the time.

What I have become aware of is what I refer to as holding. I may be laying in bed, “relaxing” and find that I’ve braved my body. I may have my jaw clenched or have a part of my body stiffened. I can be laying there and realize that if I take a deep breath and exhale, I can sink into the bed or the pillows more fully.

I find I am more aware of this absent-minded behavior at a variety of times. I may be sitting at the kitchen table watching the birds. Or I may be laying on my yoga mat, sitting on the couch crocheting, etc. I’m not sure what originally caused me to do this — I’ve injured my spine several times, have been in several car accidents, and had some sort of chronic pain on and off for 30 years. Perhaps at first it was a positive adaptation? But it has long since lost its effectiveness and is contributing to my overall pain and suffering.

I find that simple breath work and I asking to myself, once I become aware of the tension seems to help. But I always try to change the situation in a mindful, thoughtful way so that I train my body that it’s overkill or exaggerated or unnecessary.

So, scan your body right now. Simply allow your mind to become aware of how your body feels starting with your head. Move this awareness down to your neck, shoulders, upper back, arms, etc. Do you feel any excessive “holding”, bracing, tightness, or do you even feel like you are holding your breath? If so, simply say to yourself “relax”, breath in, and consciously release the muscles and allow them to loosen up. Scan different parts of your body, initially scan large areas first. As you get comfortable with the practice, let your mindfulness get more specific. Over time, you will find you don’t even have to scan as much or you will see a pattern of where you chronically hold yourself and start there.

I dedicate the benefits of this new awareness to all those who are in pain and who are suffering. May the awareness that I have found be helpful to anyone suffering with chronic or acute pain.

After you have tried the exercise a time or two, please drop a note and let me know how it goes. Feel free to share any insight, changes, or experiences you have.

May you be free from suffering and the roots of suffering. May you be at ease and find comfort.

I’m back. . .

th

So sorry I’ve been away for a few days.  Where I live the barometer has been bouncing all over the place for the past 10 days and I’ve been in a lot of pain.  I’m pretty sure that it’s been the weather as I’ve had no stress at all.  I’ve been doing yoga, meditation, on two new meds for pain, doing some biofeedback, and really watching my food intake.  I could also tell because my mom, who has fibromyalgia, has been in horrible pain all week.

I’ve downloaded a number of things from Audible.com including:  Kum Nye Relaxation (several things from this) by Tarthang Tulku.  I downloaded You Are Not Your Pain by Danny Penman and Vidyamala Burch, Energy of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, and The World of Relaxation by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  I’m looking forward to checking this out.

One thing that I want to set up, before January is over, is a schedule for all of the things I’m doing:  meditation, yoga, biofeedback, etc.  And I want to schedule time each day to read and to write on the blog.  I have come to accept that I’m going to have times like this when I am down for the count for reasons beyond my control, like the weather.  I did all I could and still had a lot of pain.  Instead of getting ticked off or thinking that it will “always be that way”, I have to accept that it’s not a week or day or hour to read but maybe it’s the time to crochet or nap or do something else.  But it won’t last forever.  And I just have to have patience and wait for things to change.

Anyway, today I didn’t wait to get a migraine because I knew I had a dental appointment so I took my cycle breaker and went to the appointment.  Happily, I never got a headache and was in minimal pain today.  Yeah for the changing tides of weather. So we’ll see what my PA has to say.  I can’t be on a cycle breaker (meds that I take to break a cycle of migraines that has lasted for several days despite medication to abort it in its tracks) all the time so I’ll have to let her know that my preventative medication isn’t doing enough to counteract the weather fluctuations.

I’m doing everything else like I’m supposed… two meals a day, water, sleep, staying away from trigger foods, staying stress-free or with minimal stress, watching my BP with my new meds, etc.  So we’ll see what changes we’ll make medically and go from there.  I have to accept that I will have chronic pain, like my mom and my grandmother on each side of my family.  It is something that I have to live with but not be ruled by it.

If you are suffering from pain, living with HIV or cancer or some other disease, living with trauma or something else that shakes your mental health, know you are not alone.  Even when you do everything you are supposed to, you can still have bad days or suffering from illness and old age.  The one thing that you can learn from the Buddhist teachings is that we cannot escape illness, old age, and death.  We can put them off but never escape them.  And do you really want to live this life thinking the next one will be better so you just have to be patient?  No, you want to learn to live here and now and find some quality (spiritual, physical, psychological) in this life, in spite of what’s going on.

Here’s to much less pain in 2018 and seeking to fulfill dreams.

Until the next time:

May you be free from suffering.  May you find the way out of suffering and the roots of suffering.  May you be happy and safe.  May you be compassionate and feel others’ compassion for you.  May you be loved and never take for granted how loved you are.  May you always know that you are not alone.

Peace.

Mind-Body-Psychological Health

I’ve started reading a new book, Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve, self-help exercises by Stanely Rosenberg.  Rosenberg has training in mind/body modalities such as craniosacral therapy and Rolfing and has worked in the field since 1983.  He has an interesting approach to dis-eases that we normally think of as purely psychological.

In the 30 some odd years I have lived with some sort of chronic pain, having been on multiple medications over the past 20 years to combat a specific aspect of my pain, I can tell you that any medication that you are put on from a cardiac medication to an antidepressant affect you on more levels than just what you are being treated for.    What do I mean?

Without going into the science and pharmacology behind it, cardiac meds can affect your stress level and outlook.  Psych meds like what are given for depression or bipolar affect you physically — either lowering or raising your blood pressure, causing constipation, dry mouth, headache, weight loss or gain, etc.  Medications can alter your perception, mood, and reality and after being on a med or two or dozen you come to realize that there is no such split as mind-body and you are the totality of your experiences in this life.

So I found it interesting that Rosenberg wrote this book.  What I like about his approach is that he looks at “psychological problems” from the stance of the central nervous system instead of brain chemistry which has been the norm for quite some time.  In his book, he looks at migraines, anxiety and panic attacks, phobias, domestic violence, PTSD, depression, etc by looking at dysfunction with nerves of the central nervous system.  And he uses the Polyvagal Theory by Porges as discussed in my blog post.  I was happy to find the book because although I knew about flight, fight, or freeze, I did not know about the whole theory or the wider implications of the Polyvagal Theory, the biggest implication is that there is not just one vagus nerve but multiple that all have different functions.  If you are old like I am, when you were in high school health class or biology or you were in Psychology 101, you learned about the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems that

The reason why I am writing a blog post on the book is because although I think the book is great, I found it to be really dense.  It didn’t seem like it was for practitioners when I bought it but having a background in mind-body medicine and psychology helped me to get through it.  (And admittedly, there were sections that were very physiological based that I skimmed over because they were certainly above my pay grade and my interest level).  So I thought I’d write a post about it because I think the information in it is important and the general public could really benefit from understanding the Polyvagal Theory given how many people in our country (and world) are plagued by what we continue to think of as mental health issues or worse character defects (which continues to be an unfair prejudice from mental health and physical health care practitioners and frustrated loved ones).

SO what did I learn?

 

Rosenberg describes a state of  “social engagement” is the term that Porges’ uses to describe a state that we used to describe as the parasympathetic nervous system.  Under the new theory, there is proper tone in the Ventral Vagal Nerve and it brings about the following:  a decrease in defensiveness and responses to triggers and

an increase in:

  • Digestion
  • Intestinal Motility
  • Resistance to Infection
  • Immune Response
  • Rest and Recouperation
  • Circulation to non-vital organs (skin, hands, legs, feet, arms)
  • Oxytocin (a neurotransmitter involved in social bonds like between a newborn and mother or other nurturing relationships)
  • Ability to relate and connect with others

With proper tone in the Ventral Vagal Nerve, a person is thought to be in “social engagement”.  They experience joy, groundedness, compassion, mindfulness, are open and curious, and are situated in the present moment.  This reminds me of the higher stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs where a person has their basic needs met and can focus on more than safety, food, shelter, and sex but focus on health, relationships, self-esteem, respect, intimacy, confidence, achievement, creativity, problem solving, etc.  That sounds like what we all long to achieve or are blessed to be experiencing already.

So what happens when there is dysfunction of the Spinal Sympathetic or Dorsal Vagal Systems?  Check back in the next few days when I will write about both.

Instead of questions to end this post, I will end it with a wish for everyone 2018:

May 2018 bring about great change in the world towards peace, equanimity, and growth. May the root of our problems be observable and be readily and easily changed.  May we be open to the support, love, and compassion of those around us.  May we understand that we suffer from trauma, grief, physical, psychological, and spiritual dis-ease and that the most compassionate thing we can do in the year to come is to take several deep breaths.  May we breathe deeply to change our nervous system and calm ourselves down.  May we breathe deeply and pause before we use hateful or hurtful speech.  May we breathe deeply and patiently and remember that we are all interconnected on this planet.

Wishing you gentle care, compassion, ease, and good health in the year to come.