Getting Grounded

My college major was in speech and language pathology.  In voice science classes, I was always the bad example.  The professor was always telling me to breathe deeply with my diaphragm, to relax my muscles, to relax.  She often included a guided relaxation exercise which I now recognize as very similar to yoga class’ savasana  and guided meditation.

Did it work?  I learned to give the appearance of calm, but in truth, let’s just say I am still a work in progress.

In retirement — my children grown and independent, no daily commitments dictated by anyone but myself, and a comfortable life style — why would I feel anything but blissful equanimity?

HA!

Those early relaxation experiences did lead to a life long interest in yoga and meditation though.  Now that I am retired and on my own, I have time to indulge those interests.  So I am starting to notice more when I need to deepen my breath, to slow down and smell the roses, to be mindful.  Still a work in progress.

Recently I visited an intuitive healer who told me I was not grounded — as though I were floating above the ground.  Not so surprising since I think the transition back to Vermont life was bumpy this year.  I was feeling unsettled and a bit lost/lonely — cranky and out of sorts, free floating anxiety.  It really did seem as though my internal organs were rising out of position — acid reflux, shallow breathing, fatigue for no good reason.

Well, I am working on my root chakra*:

  1. Sit with feet flat on floor, notice the support of the chair seat and back, cross arms over chest and tap shoulder (first one then the other).  This is supposed to calm the nerves.
  2.  Yoga mountain pose
    • Stand up straight, with your feet together.
    • Spread your toes wide and grip the ground.
    • Roll your inner thighs back and draw the tailbone down.
    • Move your chin down and draw your shoulder blades together, place arms at your sides with hands facing outward.
    • Focus on the feeling of your feet rooting into the earth. Feel every inch of your foot: your toes and arches. Notice how the ground is solid and supportive.
    • Send the breath downward; your energy moves down the body into your deeply rooted feet. Now you might start to feel “grounded.”

    When we do this, even if only for a moment, we’re paying attention to the energy in the lower extremities instead of the head. We can rest the energy of the mind.

  3. Using ginger and eating other root vegetables.
  4. Using essential oil of cedar wood in my infuser.

*I think the whole notion of chakras make a convincing metaphor for healthy living. And none of efforts have any side effects beyond making me feel better.

Mind-Body Connection

 

Not that anyone needs to know this, but I have been suffering for a while now from persistent acid reflux.

I reached the point of popping antacids like tic-tacs. I have been up in the middle of the night with a gut on fire. Cutting out the known triggers — citrus, tomatoes, chocolate, wine, coffee — has not had a beneficial effect. Not to mention that cutting out those known triggers makes one wonder is life worth living?

It’s been going on for months now. I have thought about making an appointment with my doctor but then I play out that scenario in my head. A subscription for some more powerful antacid. Obnoxious tests involving chalky cocktails to find out that nothing conclusive can be found. Come back in four to six months. Not interested.

A friend told me that GERD is an auto-immune disorder and recommends a gut repairing protocol and adoption of a paleo diet. She is big time into that. Again, I ask is such a life worth living? I am willing to make life style changes and do a cleanse, but the caveman thing as a way of living is not interesting to me either.

Neither approach was interesting to me because I did not feel they addressed what is really going on for me. But I could not quite put my finger on exactly what is going on. My intuition is alive and kicking but not always so specific in its message.

So I went to see an intuitive healer who has helped me in the past. She reset energy centers using Jin Shin Shytsu and gave me grounding and deep breathing exercises to continue as follow-up.

Her diagnosis in a nutshell:

I suffer from Trump angst myself and have absorbed the angst of people around me. I should have known that myself. The problem started last November and has gotten steadily worse.

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This morning I watched the video of “the leader of the free world” push and shove his way to the front of a NATO photo opportunity. He is an embarrassment and he makes it most difficult to include him in a meditation on loving kindness. I guess I was being pretty dense not to remember that mental anguish can affect the body.

But I will continue to wish him happiness, healing, and peace. He is badly broken. I figure we need to hope for an end to the suffering of such broken people. Maybe then they will not feel the need to make everyone else suffer along with them.

Finding Wisdom in Myth

Mythology is an example of the evolved traits of creative and deductive thinking in humans.   (Robert O’Connell 1999: Evolutions of Myths)

 

I have always enjoyed myths and stories, particularly those of female deities, goddesses.

I am not a scholar of mythology nor religion, but I am aware that there are similarities of stories across  history and  across cultures.  Stories changed over time as cultures clashed or combined.  Stories ended up in different times with different characters, but the similarities, differences, and general provenance can be traced to some extent. Traces of ancient myths are still evident in world religions today.

Everything changes.  I was reminded when I recently attended a funeral Mass at a Catholic church.  It has been a very long time so I was surprised to see that a woman was allowed at the altar.  Mostly, she performed “woman’s work” of setting the table and wiping the chalice. but she did also participate in handing out the communion.  Progress, in a way.

Women, of course, give birth and attended to the sick and the dying.  It does not seem out of the realm of possibility that there were indeed ancient societies that revered the feminine and saw great power in their feminine deities.

Everything changes and the pendulum swings. There is always reason for hope.

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Triple goddess symbol (echoed in the Christian concept of trinity, perhaps?)

Loving Kindness

I practiced meditation with a group over the past several months.  We usually sat for meditation, did some Qigong exercises, had a discussion of some aspect of the Buddha’s teachings, and concluded with a meditation on loving kindness.

I found this expanded version of the loving kindness:

In order that I may be skilled in discerning what is good, in order that I may understand the path to peace,

Let me be able, upright, and straightforward, of good speech, gentle, and free from pride;

Let me be contented, easily satisfied, having few duties, living simply, of controlled senses, prudent, without pride and without attachment to nation, race, or other groups.

Let me not do the slightest thing for which the wise might rebuke me. Instead let me think:

“May all beings be well and safe, may they be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be, whether moving or standing still, without exception, whether large, great, middling, or small, whether tiny or substantial,

Whether seen or unseen, whether living near or far,

Born or unborn; may all beings be happy.

Let none deceive or despise another anywhere. Let none wish harm to another, in anger or in hate.”

Just as a mother would guard her child, her only child, with her own life, even so let me cultivate a boundless mind for all beings in the world.

Let me cultivate a boundless love for all beings in the world, above, below, and across, unhindered, without ill will or enmity.

Standing, walking, seated, or lying down, free from torpor, let me as far as possible fix my attention on this recollection. This, they say, is the divine life right here.

Translated and adapted by Bodhipaksa from the Pali Metta Sutta.

Just thinking it would be nice for the entire world to get on board…

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Pilates and Other Exercise

I have been aware of Pilates as an exercise phenomenon for some time.  Several years ago, I took a free class at the local Y, but I did not follow up.  Not because I did not enjoy the class, but because the local Y is in the city where there is only street parking and the class was at night.  I did not want to be walking city streets after dark by myself.

The class I took at the  Vermont Y was a mat class.  The method was developed by Joseph Pilates as a rehabilitation method for injured athletes and was made popular by dancers who embraced its core strengthening results.

At the nearby Y in Florida, there was a Pilates room filled with all kinds of equipment.  I took yoga classes at that Y but never ventured into the Pilates room.  It looked like a torture chamber out of the Middle Ages.

While in Florida this past winter, I discovered a small studio near my home that offered “standing Pilates.”  The touted benefit was improved balance so I signed right up. I have found similar routines on YouTube under “Barre Pilates.”

I enjoyed the class, but I went right back to my favorite yoga studio now that I am back in Vermont.  I will do the Pilates on my own still.  It really helped with an achy hip, and it does reinforce the body-mind connection.  But, in the end, I pick yoga for its mind-body-spirit connections.

I am walking for exercise as well.  This is always a rude shock upon return to Vermont.  Every single year, I forget how the body adjusts to walking at sea level.  Lungs get used to the easy flow of air and scream about the need for greater efficiency at higher elevations.

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Life Tips

I went out with friends on Saturday night to hear a band play at a bar in Sarasota. It has been a long long time since I did something like that. The band was great.

What I noticed that made me realize time has marched on was the number of cell phones in evidence.  I told you it had been a long time since I have been to a bar to see a band. People were snapping pictures of the band with their phones and that was kind of cool.

The woman sitting at the table next to me was snapping selfies, lots of them. I could see her posing this way and that and snapping away.  I might pose like that in the privacy of my bathroom mirror while putting on make-up, but I would be far to embarrassed to do that in public.

I looked around to find that there were plenty of people swiping and texting away on there phone, eyes on the screens — not the band, not the people they were with. It took a lot of the fun out of people watching.

This morning I read a piece from the Washington Post about the recent international TED talks that included the following: Face-to-face social interaction leads to a longer life. Apparently, actually looking someone in the eyes release neurochemicals that act as a protective vaccine, leaving one physically and emotionally healthier, contributing to longevity.

I am not advocating giving up our smart phones, by any means, but I was glad to be out with my friends and just be with them having a good time.  Let’s face it, the rest of the world is not all that interested in a minute by minute update on my life’s activities. And now I have feel good hormones still coursing through my bloodstream.

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Vernal Equinox

Vernal Equinox

The earth in its journey
tilts back and forth,
tipping its hat to the sun,

only twice on its path
standing straight in salute,
the time of equal night.

Autumn — harbinger of dark,
shortened days, a time of pulling in,
settling homeward, sleeping.

But Spring — Spring heralds
the coming of the light,
new hope and life renewed.

The festival of colors begins:
green shoots, purple crocus,
brilliant dance of daffodils,

dogwood buds bursting open,
leaving showers of petals
both pink and white on softened ground.

And in the rustic barn
with its sweet smell of hay,
sheep go about their lambing.

Olga Hebert
2017

Controversy of Conscience

I belong to a Unitarian-Universalist Congregation where I attend during my winter stay in Florida.  Recently the annual meeting of the congregation was held and ratification of the following declaration was on the agenda.  The declaration was sent by the U-U Association, the central organization of the U-U churches throughout the country.

Declaration of Conscience

At this extraordinary time in our nation’s history, we are called to affirm our profound commitment to the fundamental principles of justice, equity and compassion, to truth and core values of American society.

In the face of looming threats to immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and the LGBTQ community and the rise of hate speech, harassment and hate crimes, we affirm our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

In opposition to any steps to undermine the right of every citizen to vote or to turn back advances in access to health care and reproductive rights, we affirm our commitment to justice and compassion in human relations.

And against actions to weaken or eliminate initiatives to address the threat of climate change – actions that would threaten not only our country but the entire planet – we affirm our unyielding commitment to protect the interdependent web of all existence.

We will oppose any and all unjust government actions to deport, register, discriminate, or despoil.

As people of conscience, we declare our commitment to translate our values into action as we stand on the side of love with the most vulnerable among us.

We welcome and invite all to join in this commitment for justice.
The time is now.

Not many among us were opposed to the words, although one person was distressed that the document took a negative stance — opposing rather than affirming.  I understand that, but it does not seem important enough an issue to send it back to committee for deliberation and rewriting.

Some objected to the political/partisan nature of the document. I suppose that is fair as well.  However, I would have to say I would favor actions to affirm the worth and dignity of all, to maintain equity in human rights, to protect the environment under any political climate.  Those are things I believe in.  My efforts may be different in religious community versus political activities, but believing in those principles are part of my being in this world.

There were a number of people who felt they could sign as individuals, but who were opposed to ratifying the declaration as a congregation.  Some felt very strongly that congregational ratification (by majority vote) was forcing them as individuals to sign something they were not comfortable signing.  I have to respect those strong feelings although I really don’t understand the reasoning behind them.

Democracy is messy.

The Declaration of Conscience was ratified.

Salvation

I was reading about salvation.  Somehow it is a concept I am having a great deal of difficulty in grasping.

The simple definition is a protection from some kind of danger or harm.  In Christian theology, however, the danger or harm has to do with deliverance from sin by following the teachings of Jesus — so we will be united with God in heaven.

Islam teaches that salvation is achieved through good deeds (but at the same time don’t mess with Allah, who may not be impressed by death bed repentance.

Jews believe that salvation comes through following the rules and living a righteous life.

Hindus view salvation as an ever changing concept.

(Please not that my understanding of religious traditions and beliefs is far, far from any scholarly understanding.)

But what all that means to me — you treat others the same way you would want to be treated, that you take care of the less fortunate, treat all living things with caring and compassion, be nice and express gratitude that life itself is enough.  Wouldn’t that be a good life?  One might even be inclined to say heaven right here and now?

The whole “deliverance from sin” aspect seems like a totally unnecessary complication to me.

And, okay, my real problem is the word nerd in me. The word is derived from Latin salvus,  meaning “sound” in the sense of “whole” and “healthy.” Salvus sis,  may you be well.  The goddess Salus was the giver of health.  I like the classic meaning.