Are You A Tourist or a Pilgrim?

            I was asked by a Buddhist monk,”Are you awake?”

My initial response was “Huh? What?” and “Not sure what you mean?”

            He smiled and simply asked again, “Are you awake?”

 This of course clarified nothing, so as not to appear rude I answered, “Well, no, no, I am awake, I think.”

            He smiled again, I smiled back and we both knew my answer – like I said twice was “no” and “no”.

            This question continued to run through my mind for a few days and I began questioning myself.

 AM I awake?

  I, like many others, hold an expectation that as long as my eyes are open, I am awake – but the reality is there are times when I am on ‘auto-pilot’, not really asleep, but not really awake either.  How many times have I caught myself smiling and nodding while someone else is explaining something only to be missing what they are saying while I formulate a response to what I heard them say earlier?

            Setting an intention to be awake makes us pilgrims as we travel through our lives.  “A tourist journeys with expectations, a pilgrim journeys with intention,” said Jim Curtain, internationally known spiritual director.

 Mindfulness and meditation practices are being implemented in many healthcare and hospital-based programs these days.  We are recognizing the imperative to treat the whole person – body, mind and spirit.  Mindfulness and meditation practices touch on all three of these areas.

            By focusing our attention on our physical being, we can “drop into our bodies” and develop an awareness that can help us detect issues of strain before they become debilitating.  Bringing our mind to our mind can help us focus on those thoughts and beliefs that no longer work for us and begin to change old often negative belief patterns.

            And lastly, mindfulness and meditation practices can bring us back to a sense of divinity and a life’s purpose larger than ourselves.

 If we can set our intention on life’s journey rather than expecting life to be a certain way, then we can be more empowered in our pilgrimage through life.

Dialogue of the Heart

A common topic in CranioSacral and Somatoemotional Release Technique study group discussions is the technique of dialoguing.  “I am so uncomfortable with dialoguing” is often what I hear from students and practitioners of these therapies.

I have to admit I have always felt pretty comfortable with the technique.  It helped having a degree in counseling psychology with many years of practice in the cognitive field.  My studies of Rogerian Therapy made dialoguing in SER sessions seem easy.  Reflective response minus the emphasis on reframing the verbal images of the patient was second nature for me.  Of course in my time as a psychotherapist I was not allowed to touch my patients, so as a student and practitioner of bodywork therapies, I have focused on developing my kinesthetic and visual abilities.  Since 1995 I have developed the “ears” of my hands along with the sensitivity of my sight and hearing.

So when I was asked to assist in an advanced level CST/SER class for thirteen Russian therapists, I had no idea I would be developing the skill of listening with my heart.  I was assured there would be an interpreter.   Being that I had very little experience working with non-English speaking individuals, the instructor being from the Netherlands helped me relax into preparing for this cultural experience in Jupiter, Florida.

The night before the class, the instructor, the interpreter and I met to discuss the potential dynamics of the next five days.  I was told a majority of the class had little ability to speak English, although I found out most of them had much more understanding of English than I did of Russian.  I also learned that all of the students were not only medical doctors but also doctors of osteopathy.  The first day of class I learned that most of the doctors had two or more medical specialties.  In most classes I have assisted or taught, to have one or two medical doctors were considered special.

As class began the next morning with introductions, I felt my anxiety levels rise as I questioned my own intellectual abilities compared to these exquisitely educated students.  At the first break, after dealing with some class logistics, I went out to the hotel balcony to regroup.

I engaged in my personal breathing and grounding exercises and there discovered the path I was being guided to travel.  This journey was to take me out of my head and into my body – specifically my heart.  It is a journey I encourage my patients to take every time they lay down on my table.  It is a journey I take daily in my own meditation and healing.  I was now being given the opportunity to do this same journey in this educational setting.

My anxiety turned to joy and anticipation as I could release myself from my own rigid judgments of “who” I should be and truly experience these people in their processes.

In my many years of teaching, I have understood this concept, but until now, I have not allowed myself to drop down into my heart and experience education from there.  I told myself I was maintaining a sort of level of “academic objectivity” in contrast to my process of being a student and practitioner where being in my heart space was imperative.

I returned to the classroom with a different sense of myself.  I felt myself in the chair, grounded into the earth and expanded, from my center, into the room.  My heart “heard” what my ears could not and the process became more clear and organic for me as it never has been before.  I felt myself deeper than I ever thought possible.  Somehow a connection was being made within me changing the dynamics of how I work and relate to my world.

I listened with my heart and when I was allowed into a session, I could “dialogue” with my whole self.  What was “said” or “done” was not as important as just being.  The words Don Ash shared came back to me.  He said to be a good therapist one must be neutral, nonjudgmental, ego subordinate, and unconditionally present.

I continued to work with these most gracious and loving people in Russia and the Baltic States. Despite the slow learner I am with the Russian language, I came to rely heavily on the language skills of my heart and the compassionate receptivity of those doctors and the people I had the wonderful opportunity to treat.

Dialoguing?  It’s a technique to be sure.  It can also be a journey if we choose to go down its path and listen with our hearts.  This is true not only in doing therapy, but in everyday conversation with friends and family.

Chronic Dehydration and Your Health

          In the past few weeks we have heard stories of the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, having health issues that have led to her hospitalization and treatment for a blood clot.  What was told to the public was that she had suffered dehydration due to having influenza, fainted, hit her head causing a concussion and then was found to have a blood clot.  It was unclear, yet implied by many of the reports that the blood clot was due to the concussion.

           As I looked at the whole story, it seemed to me her development of the blood clot was more a case of ‘a perfect storm’ with the physical issue of dehydration being a strong underlying contributor.

          In my work, I often ask my clients about how much water they drink.  Most of the time I hear about coffee and pop or soda drinking, but not water.  Of course by now we all know caffeinated drinks are not the best choices when it comes to hydrating our bodies.

          So what is considered dehydration when it comes to the body?  Although there are a wide variety of body types and compositions, the fluid portion of the average human adult is 55 to 60%.  The regulation of these fluids is vital to ensure the health of the body.

          In a typical day, the adult body processes about 169 ounces of fluids.  To maintain a healthy balance the body needs to take in 84.5 ounces of water because it loses 84.5 ounces of water through the kidneys, skin, lungs and GI tract.  To replace this water our body needs we have to add 84.5 ounces of water to our system.  Our body naturally produces just under 7 ounces of the 84.5 ounces of water naturally with minimal effort on our part – this is called metabolic water.

            The food we eat should provide 23.7 ounces of water every day, leaving us just over 54 ounces to come from our conscious effort of drinking water.

           These are averages.  Should you weigh more than average, exercise more than 30 minutes 5 times a week, suffer from an illness of carry a fever, you will be losing more fluids than “average” therefore needing to add more fluid to your body for it to maintain healthy hydration levels.

          So, dehydration happens when water loss is greater than water gain.  Most people I see fall into the range of mild to moderate dehydration on a daily basis to severe chronic dehydration.  Overtime, chronic dehydration causes blood to flow slower and thicken.  Any condition leading to dehydration increases the chances of blood clot formation.

      How much is enough when it comes to our daily intake of water?  Some simple ‘rules of thumb’ include the following:

  • Drink 8 ounces of water every two hours while awake.
  • Divide your weight in half and drink that amount, in ounces, every day.  So if you weigh 150 pounds, try to drink 75 ounces of water every day.
  • If you smoke, you need to ingest more water than the average person who does not smoke.
  • If you are ill or running a fever, drink more water than you would on a normal day.
  • Engage in movement activities 30 to 60 minutes 5 times per week.
  • Drink 8 ounces of water ½ hour before every meal to aid in digestion and hydration.

           Consider a higher fiber and lower fat diet to enhance your body’s ability to maintain proper hydration levels.  Individuals who cannot move around well, need to drink sufficient amount of water to help keep their blood flow healthy thereby reducing the formation of clots.

          Drinking water is one of the most easy and inexpensive ways to keep healthy.  Next time you think you feel hungry or have a craving for a snack, try drinking 4 to 8 ounces of water.  The ‘hunger center’ of your brain is really close to the ‘thirst center’.  Maybe you were really thirsty….if after 20 minutes you still want that cookie, muffin, or bag-o-chips, go ahead and eat.  You may find that after your glass of water however, you forget about wanting a snack?

I may be that you have been ‘thirsty’ longer than you thought, so drink up some water and be healthy!

To Change or Not To Change

 

                I asked a friend the other day about their 2013 resolutions.  “I don’t do change,” was his response.  He said it as a funny one-liner, but we have probably all used it or heard it at one time or another with some serious intent behind it.  ‘I don’t do change’ has become a sort of modern mantra in response to our perceived fast paced lives.

                Other mantras I hear are:

                “I’m just keeping my head above water”

                “I’m dancing as fast as I can here!”

                And my favorite: “Just when I think I have all the answers, someone changes all of the questions!”

                So what is it about change we seem to be uncomfortable with?  Why is our response to change typically one of resistance?  Why is being on ‘automatic pilot’ the most comfortable pattern for us?

                Change requires us to become conscious.

                “I’ve always done it that way” is what we tell ourselves.  “That’s how I was raised” and “that’s the way life is” are all responses we use when we resist change.  How do we change these stifling responses when change has to be made….when our beliefs and behaviors no longer benefit or serve us?

                The first step we must commit to is becoming conscious to what is happening right now.  Change cannot happen unless we are first conscious about the need for change.

                And this is not simply an act of acknowledgement (i.e. “sigh…I need to lose weight….sigh”).  Consciousness implies a humbling recognition of the absolute need to change (i.e. “my health is being compromised by my inability to make the commitment to exercise”).

                “Human beings come to consciousness by struggle”, says Father Richard Rohr.  “We largely remain unconscious if we avoid all conflicts, dilemmas, paradoxes, inconsistencies or contradictions.”

                We have created automatic quick answers to avoid change.  Perhaps we could become humble seekers and ultimately become the change we wish to see in our lives.  End results seldom ‘fall into your lap’.  Seeing the need for a struggle, conflict, dilemma, or paradox with all of the inconsistencies and contradictions causes us to hesitate often choosing the path of least resistance, our old patterns and beliefs.

                Embracing change and loving that which truly is can start us on the path of exploring life’s Divine potentials. Changing others is not our job, beginning with ourselves is really the only option we have.  So, how about changing that mantra to, “Yes, I am becoming the change I wish to see in the world”

Setting up a new space with a sense of the Sacred

I had the opportunity to facilitate the first session in my new space today.  Even though I have worked out of this space some years ago, with all of the changes I have experienced in the last few years, it felt like a “coming home” in many ways other than the obvious that I am literally “at home”!

The most obvious sense I experienced as I worked was the feeling of sacredness that has never left me as I enter into working with people on such a deep level.  It occurred to me after the session how Sacredness is not so much created as it is recognized in the moment.  I found the space I have created may lend itself more easily to this recognition, but ultimately it is the process of being open to the Sacred that establishes its reality.

 

Moving into the New Year

January 2013 will bring a new location for Integrative Somatics Institute and the Interfaith Contemplative Program to 33 Hull Street in Coldwater, Michigan.
Please feel free to contact Lauri Rowe at laurijean.rowe@gmail.com or 517.227.0475
More information and weekly blogs are being planned for the new year.  Keep an eye on this website and on our Integrative Somatics Institute Facebook page for more information after the first of next year.
Have a safe and healthy end of 2012!

Meditation

One of my favorite cartoons depicts a larger, middle-aged man sitting in a lotus position, legs knotted together in a pretzel fashion, hands resting on his knees with the middle fingers and thumbs touching. His mantra is “OWWWWWW!”

Most people I have met have tried to relax using meditation and often get caught up in forms which are far from relaxing. They see pictures of gurus sitting for hours at a time in positions which for most of us would be painful to attempt much less to maintain. How often do we get caught up in the form of a practice and lose touch with reality of the practice itself?

CNN News recently ran a health story about cholesterol which had experts saying diet, exercise and meditation should be tried before taking drugs to lower cholesterol. Dr. Deepak Chopra, of The Chopra Center for Well Being in LaJolla, California, promotes meditation as a fundamental part of healthcare like brushing one’s teeth or taking a shower. Researcher and author Lawrence LeShan says there are two common results reported by meditators the world over. One is a greater efficiency and enthusiasm in everyday life. The other is an enhanced comprehension of a different view of reality than the one they ordinarily used.

Although meditation has been wrapped in an aura of mysticism for many centuries, at its core lays this extremely practical and unmystical process of quieting the mind. It may be one of the surest ways to open a channel of healing.

In the past three decades, particularly in the U.S., there have been more than one thousand laboratory studies of meditation reported in scientific journals, books and graduate thesis in the English language alone. These tests, which included the use of EEG’s, brain scans, blood and hormonal samplings, and other cutting-edge scientific research methods, have provided incontestable evidence of meditation’s benefits. These same studies showed meditation produced important cardiovascular, cortical, hormonal and metabolic benefits. Several positive behavioral effects and significant beneficial alterations of interior experience, perception, and self image have also been documented.

Research goes on to report meditating just 20 minutes a day can improve health and eliminate symptoms of some serious illnesses. For instance, it boosts energy, increases stamina, speeds recovery, and lessens the frequency and severity of asthmatic attacks. It has been shown to reduce allergic reactions, significantly lower blood pressure,  reduce the stress response in stress-related illnesses like heart disease, hypertension, and insomnia. Regular meditation helps in alleviating present-moment and chronic physical pain from arthritis, back injury and other causes of pain. Finally it has been shown to improve response time, motor skills, coordination, and other physical responses.

This does not even reflect the research in psychology which reports many of the positive effects 20 minutes a day of meditation can have on one’s psychological well-being and mental performance. It makes perfect sense if one feels better about one’s emotional status, they are more likely to feel better physically.

For such a simple thing, meditation seems to be one of the hardest to implement in today’s busy lifestyle. Most teachers of meditation suggest 20 minutes twice a day, once in the morning upon rising and again in the late afternoon before dinner. Doing meditation late in the evening can cause insomnia as it has a tendency to refresh the body.

If part of your hesitation to try meditation is because of religious beliefs you hold, you should be aware many traditions of religious thought have embraced meditation for centuries. Sects of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism have longstanding practices of meditation specific to their callings. Whatever your spiritual leanings, you will have no problems finding support for your particular kind of meditative practice. I encourage you to meet with a leader in your specific denomination for more information.

For health purposes, meditation involves a quieting of the mind and body to a point of silence. Meditation is not forcing your mind to be quiet; it’s finding the quiet which is already there. Meditation is effortless. Philosopher and German poet Heinrich Heine eloquently states, “Silence is the essential condition of happiness.”

I talked with a good friend and long time meditator Fanchette Stewart of Coldwater about her 40 year meditation practice. Fanchette has taught many classes locally on meditation for hospice workers, adult education classes at Franklin High School and at the state prison in Coldwater for inmates. She, like I, feel meditation to be a staple in life which fosters a deeper sense of peace and well-being.

When I asked her what is the essence of meditation, she summarized by saying   “meditation is the bridge between the personality and ego of the person to the divine being within that person. It can show us who we truly are.”

I feel like this bridge of meditation is the key in maintaining our health and total well-being. Taking time to just be in silence refreshes and renews not only my body and mind, but also what I call my spirit and soul. What can be more helpful in maintaining good health than that?

CranioSacral Therapy: My View

I received a call from a friend recently who had referred a patient to me for CranioSacral Therapy.  The new patient’s spouse came to watch the therapy and afterwards called my friend to complain about how it “looked like I was doing nothing”.

The spouse went on saying, “She asked a few questions, had him lie down on the table and then lightly placed her hands along his spine and head for an hour.  I think my husband was sleeping most of the time!”

My friend responded, “So how is his problem now?”

“Well,” she said, “of course we are going back, because the problem is gone and I want to know exactly WHAT SHE DID!”

Often when I teach CranioSacral Therapy I demonstrate the techniques with the warning it may seem like the students are watching paint dry or grass grow. What I feel under my hands as lots of movement may visually look like nothing. Sometimes the patient may not physically feel anything but a sense of relief or calmness during a session. Afterwards they may report alleviation of symptoms or changes of some sort.

CranioSacral Therapy is a mode of evaluation and treatment viewing the patient as a whole and integrated system having innate healing abilities. By focusing on this internal healing ability, let’s call it the patient’s inner wisdom, the therapist then becomes a facilitator in a process solely directed by the patient.

So how does it work?

There is a core rhythm in the body that is created by the system surrounding the brain and spinal cord – the craniosacral system. This rhythm is a result of the movement of cerebral spinal fluid and is translated throughout the entire body. This whole body rhythm shows the therapist where there are restrictions by a lack of or asymmetrical motion in a specific area.

In most cases, by tuning into this craniosacral rhythm, a therapist (or more accurately, the therapeutic facilitator), is better able to evaluate the cause of the problem rather than focusing on the symptoms.  I view this rhythm as the “voice” of the patient’s inner wisdom – a type of body intelligence.

It is when “listening” to this “voice” of the body, I can follow the body tissue and access problems as deep as the patient’s body dictates. What is most fascinating about this listening/facilitating technique is it can be effectively executed with five grams of pressure (the weight of a nickel)!

In my practice I have found CranioSacral Therapy to have some profound effects on people of all ages.  I have used these techniques on newborns to help with their transitions from an intrauterine environment to the outside world.  I have also been honored to be present on the other end-of-life spectrum with patients transitioning through death.

Other patients have come for CranioSacral treatments with migraines, post surgery issues, low back pain, vertigo and dizziness, respiratory issues such as emphysema or COPD, digestive problems, dyslexia, edema, pregnancy issues and many other “dis-eases”. Most experienced relief from their symptoms and regarded the therapy as instrumental in their pursuit of health. Some patients received insights into other areas of their body that needed balancing.

It is my belief, as well as the belief of many other CranioSacral therapists, that the body, or rather the innate wisdom of the body, has the goal of homeostasis. Simply put, it is looking for balance at all times in any given circumstance. My job as a facilitating therapist is to increase the body’s ability to achieve that balance in whatever way it chooses.  I “listen”, I “follow” the body tissue, and I “create” an atmosphere or environment where the body has the opportunity to balance (maybe even “heal”) itself.

My general statement to anyone pursuing CranioSacral Therapy with me is this; if they feel absolutely no difference in their bodies, not necessarily a relief of symptoms, within three treatments, then this form of therapy, facilitated by me, may not be what their body needs at this time.  Maybe another CranioSacral Therapist or another modality of treatment should be looked into in conjunction with continued CranioSacral Treatment. No one gets out of balance due to one event, be that an accident, exposure to a bacteria or virus, or a trauma. It usually is a combination of several issues coming together at an opportune time causing imbalance. It makes sense then to accept the idea that it may take a combination of therapies to access homeostasis and health.

Dr. John Upledger, a highly regarded authority in the field of CranioSacral Therapy, summarizes this technique as therapy that “…accesses the total human being’s self-corrective and self-healing process. Further, this therapeutic approach attempts to maximize patient responsibility for their overall well being.”

At best, I can tell my patient’s spouse, yes indeed I was “doing” something by simply “being” where her husband’s body “told” me to be. As for his problem being gone, he did that!

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