WEEKLY STRETCH ~ 2-24-17 – On Gratitude

Last week I shared my fears with you. And I want to thank you for holding space for me as I moved through a time of tremendous uncertainty and emotional extremes. It was a rough one all around. Thankfully, after all that tumult, the answers came on Monday and I am finally on the mend.

What has followed is a sense of gratitude unlike any I can remember. I have made gratitude my spiritual practice for many years, using journaling as my love letter to God* and devoting my entries to saying Thank You. I’m no stranger to the concept. Right now, I feel more humbled and aware of my personal relationship with God than I have since my father passed away. I can feel the energy of angelic beings around me and right now they seem to be poking me playfully as if to say, “Told ya!”.

And then there are the angels on the ground; the ones I’ve encountered throughout this odyssey starting with my husband Bob, who has been my rock as always. My daughter Melissa who showed up without hesitation to help. My family whose support and love is unconditional and one of the greatest gifts of my life. My beloved friends who bless my life with their presence. Then there are the medical people who cared for me. These are so often the unsung heroes out in the “trenches” doing the hard work. The nurse at my doctor’s office who drew blood was kind and gentle and looked me in the eye with concern and reassurance knowing that blood draw is often a challenge for me. The ultrasound technician who at the crack of dawn greeted me with a big smile and a gentle hand. My gastroenterologist whose grandmotherly voice and amazing skill gave me confidence that I was safe and that she saw me and heard me. The woman at my gastroenterologist’s office who schedules tests who knew I was miserable and assured me that they were going “to make me feel better soon”. The people at the surgical center, every single one of them from the desk to the nurses to the anesthesiologist treated me like I was the only patient they had that day. And my pharmacist who runs his establishment like the mom and pop drugstores of my childhood, always on top of what we need, ready to serve with efficient and gentle care. These are only some of the angels who showed up for me. These are the ones God sent to help me move through the dark tunnel of illness and uncertainty. They were the ones carrying the light. They were the messengers of hope, kindness, compassion, and healing. They were and are the embodiment of Love.

What I know is that in every challenge the Angels show up, even when our fears are running the show, they show up. I also know that with every step Angels walk with us, in the seen and the unseen. In the unseen I can feel them, and sometimes I can hear them. In the seen, they are the waitress and the garbage man, the doctor and the grocery store clerk, everyone I encounter is an Angel on the ground sent from the Great Unseen to walk with me, whether for a moment in time or a lifetime. I am in a perpetual state of gratitude and my constant prayer is “Thank You”.

On another note, as I’ve searched the internet looking for ways to manage my current condition, I’ve read over and over that the American diet is often the cause of many of our ailments. Not news to some and not new to me, but after learning more about how our bodies are attacked by some of the choices we make I want to call attention to the need for us to make better, cleaner choices in the quality of the food we eat. We’ve become habituated to unhealthy habits and unconscious choices and our food isn’t always manufactured with our wellbeing in mind. It’s up to us to take the initiative to educate ourselves about clean food, read labels, ask questions about where our produce, meats and fish are coming from, and make choices that will keep our bodies running efficiently and for a long time. Good health is not guaranteed. We need to work at it. My soapbox moment for today.

STRETCH: Make a commitment to the practice of Gratitude. One way to accomplish this is to create a Gratitude Journal and each day write down three to five things for which you are grateful. Even in the darkest of times, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. Say Thank You for your blessings and expect more. The Universe is sending you blessings this moment. Open your heart and receive them.

*I use the word God here to name the Unnamable. There are many names for this energy and I embrace them all. Feel free to replace this word for your own word or feeling for this energy.

WEEKLY STRETCH 2-15-17 ~ Vulnerability & Humanness

It’s been a strange time for me these last three weeks. I’ve been grappling with an un-named, unidentified illness that has had me topsy-turvy every day. In last week’s entry I mentioned that my doc had done some testing with nothing conclusive reported. I was (and am) happy about that report, and yet my symptoms persist and at one point over the weekend become considerably worse, then improved dramatically, then returned somewhat, and on and on it goes. So, for now, until the next test on tomorrow, I continue to grapple with and manage my symptoms as well as possible. My husband, family and friends have been of tremendous support.

During this time, I’ve experienced some dramatic emotional ups, downs, and all arounds and have learned more about myself than I perhaps would like to know. One emotion that has shown itself in varying degrees is fear. Yes, the other “F” word. The unknown nature of this illness has stimulated my very active imagination and I’ve found myself in the proverbial abyss of worry and fearfulness that only such an active imagination can conger. I’ve gone from the depths of the range to the heights; from extreme terror to the height of relief, then back down into the depths until I now find myself somewhere in the middle, cautiously optimistic yet still in a place of not knowing what’s going on or how to fix it. Not very comfortable. A breeding ground for fear.

As one who teaches others to use the power of their thoughts to effectively make change and realize their dreams, right now I’m not a great example. I admit that I’m having a hell of a time harnessing my wayward thoughts for long periods since my symptoms are erratic – just as I begin to feel better, here it comes again. Fear, with its many faces, keeps making itself known to me and try as I may, it seems to have decided to hang out for a while, or at least until I have some substantial information about what is going on in my body. So back and forth I go, using the power of my mind when I can to envision balance and perfect health, vitality and return to my daily life’s activities all the while feeling the hot breath of fear down the back of my neck doing its best, and sometimes succeeding, to pull me back in.

I hear so much about the idea of resisting fear and keeping it at bay by simply keeping thoughts positive. This philosophy works. And yet it has its flaws. Yes, stepping into the places that scare us is an act of trust and even valor. And often our fears are unfounded and when we face them head on we usually discover there was nothing to fear after all. And frankly, that’s what I’m envisioning today – that my fears are unfounded and that whatever is happening in my body will be resolved with ease. But in this time of unknown and feeling pretty lousy, I have decided to embrace my fear and give it space. I have voiced my fears aloud to my husband, I have spoken to God, and I have given fear a wide berth. I’ve asked my higher energies to take over and guide me forth. I’ve invited the angels and the spirit guides, and John, Paul, George, and Ringo to help. Everyone is invited to hold the space for this healing. I’m allowing the back and forth to happen and when the tears come I let them. To be honest, I don’t really know what else to do but bring to bear all the lessons my years of study and wisdom-seeking have wrought. Included in those teachings is the idea of surrendering to what is and for now that is this place of unknowing, a place that is in equal measure fearful and fearless.

During a particularly difficult time during my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease a wise friend told me that humans can hold the extremes of great love and joy in the same moment as they hold great fear, grief and sadness. I remember being stunned by that reality because that was exactly what I was experiencing. In some ways that is the case now. While I am not in “great” fear, I am feeling apprehensive, and yet I have a powerful sense that all is well and I have nothing at all to fear. Within this “unknowing” I feel an even more powerful “knowing” that I am safe, protected, and loved beyond measure. I have tremendous confidence in my doctors and in my own ability to heal. And I have the most amazing support system anyone can imagine.

So, today I am in a place that scares me. In Pema Chodron’s book, “The Places That Scare You” she asks us to be gentle with ourselves as we come to terms with our vulnerability and our humanness. I am working on that and doing my best to be present in each of these wild and crazy moments. I humbly ask for your prayers and I offer mine to you for we are all only a breath away from such a place as we navigate this amazing adventure of life.

STRETCH: Being human means being vulnerable. Life is a great gift that allows us to experience a variety of emotions from one extreme to another. Make space for it all. It means you are alive.

WEEKLY STRETCH 2-8-17 ~ FROM STRESSED TO REST

Yesterday in a discussion with my instructor after painting class, we were speaking about the issues of the day (imagine that!), sharing our frustrations and concerns, and I found myself on the usual emotional rollercoaster ride that accompanies these discussions. The conversation started with him asking why I had missed class last week. I was ill with the awful stomach virus that has been making the rounds everywhere and had to leave class abruptly to get myself home to bed. The virus took over my life for about a week and had me quite concerned when it seemed to be back with a vengeance four days after it began. My concern took me to the doctor on Monday who ordered some tests which, I’m happy to say, showed nothing of any significance and we concluded that it is just a very unpleasant virus that seems to like hanging around for a long time.

Back to my conversation with my instructor, we were noticing that this winter seems to be effecting people’s health dramatically; more than any winter in recent memory. As a holistic health practitioner, this observation has me thinking that the phenomenon is the result of extreme stress most people have been experiencing for many months. Stress is a notorious culprit in compromising the immune system. My theory is that stress has made many people more vulnerable to whatever cooties are floating about.

In thinking about the stress our current climate has created and how it has effected health, specifically mine, I have concluded that I need to take some measures to coax my immune system back to its optimal state.

1. I am meditating – that’s my first step. I am stopping myself from moving, from thinking (well, as best I can anyway), from doing, and I’m allowing myself to be still.
2. Now that I can eat normally again (that was fun) I am eating a clean and conscious diet and drinking a lot of water and healthy teas.
3. I am limiting exposure to the toxicity of our current environment (something we’ve discussed before) and I’m paying attention to simple things that give me joy.
4. I’m also taking some herbs and supplements designed for managing stress,
5. Using essential oils,
6. Having massage and energy work,
7. Getting outdoors and taking walks,
8. Watching my thoughts and shifting them as soon as I realize they’ve meandered once again to the “dark side” – wearing my red “Thoughts Become Things” bracelet that reminds me to “Choose The Good Ones”.
9. I’m reading a great book that is tremendously uplifting,
10.And anything else I can find that will help me shift my perspective from stress to rest.

By no means does this mean I am disengaging from my own brand of staying awake and aware. It means that I am making it my business to manage my day in ways that keep me healthy as well. It takes practice.

This morning I awoke after a much needed and very rare night of long deep sleep. My first thought was “Thank You” and I took the moment to speak with Creator and offer gratitude for the rest I so needed. I made my way downstairs to start the coffee and as it began to drip and the aroma filled my kitchen I stopped and breathed in the simple pleasure of appreciating the rich smell that I love so much – the smell that means home, and safety, and comfort. I allowed myself to enjoy that simple pleasure and I will do the same when I take that first delicious sip. I am setting the intention to pay close attention to these simple pleasures. When I do I feel present, my breathing is easy, my heartrate is smooth, my senses are alive and my awareness is sharpened. My immune system likes it and right now it needs all the loving de-stressing it can get.

At this moment, my dog is curling up beside me making her little “nest”. I can feel the warmth of her sweet little body next to mine and that makes me feel happy. I’m going to cuddle Sophie and take my first sip of coffee, the taste of which I will savor and enjoy to the fullest. I will notice all the gifts embedded in the simplicity of those things. Then I will move into my day bringing the intention of good health, vitality, and peace along with me. I invite you to do the same.

STRETCH: Where are the simple pleasures in your life? What gives you a feeling of comfort, of home, of safety, of peace? An aroma, a vision, a song, a favorite piece of clothing, a hug – it can be anything that feels good. Pay attention. Look for the simple pleasures that enrich your day. Breathe into them and allow yourself the simplicity of enjoyment.

WEEKLY STRETCH 2-3-17 ~ ON HUMOR AND LAUGHTER

Times have been pretty crazy around these parts lately, wouldn’t you agree? Every day is an adventure. I find that every morning when I awaken I take a deep breath and steel myself for the next wild thing. It’s a little bit like being on a carnival ride. You never know what sort of twist or turn is coming next. There’s screaming and yelling and gnashing of teeth – and you’d better be strapped in and holding on tight. One thing for certain – we are never bored!

We’ve seen people coming together to demonstrate, to make calls, write letters, sign petitions and make their voices heard. We’ve had shock and awe and all sorts of emotional upheaval. It’s been a rip-roaring time and in my heart of hearts I believe we are at the apex of major change and that we will land upright.

What I’ve also noticed is the emergence of humor – dark, slapstick, corny, silly, sarcastic humor. I must say that I’ve enjoyed the sense of relief it brings when I see or hear a sharply clever comment in response to something I can barely tolerate that suddenly turns the situation on its head and makes me laugh out loud. I’ve noticed that some of my friends and family are even funnier than I thought (I have a LOT of funny people in my life) and when they get a zinger off I burst out in belly laughter. The word satire is defined as, “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” I don’t think I’ve ever known a better time for this phenomenon.

Humor is an amazing thing. We usually look to professionals for this sort of relief. I would imagine the comedy clubs are making a fortune right now. We desperately need to laugh. Psychology Today says, “Laughter just might be the most contagious of all emotional experiences. What’s more, it is a full-on collaboration between mind and body. Although laughter is one of the distinguishing features of human beings, little is known about the mechanisms behind it. Scientists do know that laughter is a highly sophisticated social signaling system, helping people bond and even negotiate. Interestingly, most social laughter does not result from any obvious joke. Laughter is not limited to communicating mirth. Although laughter is not generally under voluntary control, yukking it up has numerous health benefits: It releases tension, lowers anxiety, boosts the immune system, and aids circulation.” I would add that it is a welcome release when the news of the day creates fear and worry.

There are so many issues up for review, and our situation is very serious indeed. For the most part, none of it is funny per se. And yet, when we use our sense of humor as a tool to navigate this rocky terrain we lift our energy and we come together in yet another way. As the quote from Psychology Today noted, it helps us to bond. And right now, I’m all about finding ways for us to bond.

So, here’s to the laughter. Here’s to finding ways to have fun. Here’s to using satire in a way that releases tension and fear without meanness or cruelty. Here’s to my dear ones who make me laugh every day and remind me that there is more going on in our lives than the daily news.

STRETCH: Find a way to have fun. Watch a funny movie or TV show. Go to a comedy club. Let your body enjoy the sensation of giggling and laughing out loud. You need it. I need it. We all need it.