Awakening, Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Mindset, Pain, Trauma

Choose Your Own Adventure

How much control do we have over our lives, really?  Is our life dictated by our circumstances – our DNA, our families, where we were born, how much money our parents have?  Or is our life dictated by our thoughts, feelings, and actions – which are all based on choices we can consciously make?
 
I love The Life Coach School podcast by Brooke Castillo.  The podcast is full of mind-bending resets that help me see the world a little differently, at least for a little bit.  In this podcast on handling adversity, Brooke talks about how we NEED adversity to get stronger.  If we stay in our comfort zone, never pushing ourselves, never challenging ourselves, we never grow or get stronger.  We actually get weaker, and our world gets smaller. 
 
We have this innate capacity to blow our own mind with what we can create, but our stories and our desire for comfort and the safety of the known can keep us confined.
 
UNLESS
 
Unless we consciously CHOOSE DISCOMFORT.  If we start to take the harder path, the path with more challenge, the path that forces us to try something different and to learn from it – then we can break out of the comfort bubble (which starts to become stifling and uncomfortable eventually anyway!) and see for ourselves what we are capable of.
 
Here is my crude drawing, trying to illustrate how, by being the Boss of our choices and consciously choosing to pursue challenge, we can touch into that realm of possibility and start to realize just how powerful we really are. 



We don’t have to make massive shifts – just make a slightly different choice.  For example, instead of veering towards ease (watching another episode of Hart of Dixie), veer just a bit towards struggle (which might mean just sitting for 2 minutes noticing how hard it is to resist the urge to watch another episode of Hart of Dixie).
 
While I was out walking and listening to this podcast this morning, the idea of this drawing struck me, and it seemed brilliant.  In execution, well, it may not be AMAZE-BALLS, but it’s out of my comfort zone, so I’m at least heading in the right direction.  POSSIBILITY, HERE I COME!! 😛
 
There will be no blog post next week, as I will be in Module 3 of my Somatic Experiencing class Thursday – Sunday.  I hope you all have a fabulous couple of weeks!  If you get bored and need something to read, you can find prior newsletters here.  😊
 
Space to be Human Lab

  • If you are experiencing pain in your body and want some help unwinding it, you can book a bodywork session here.
  • I am doing market research!  If you could break out of your comfort bubble and lean into challenge, assured that by doing so you would become MORE YOU – more of who you know you can be, more of who you WANT to be, what actions would you take?  What moves would you make?  And what support would you need to have the courage to take that harder and more rewarding path?  If you care to share your thoughts, please respond to this email. <3

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Awakening, Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Mindset, Pain

The Poetic Principle

I’m no expert on quantum physics.  Well, really I know very little about quantum physics, But what I gather, is that basically all potentialities exist, and only once something is observed, does it settle into being one thing over another.  So everything around us is kind of EVERYTHING all at once until we look at it, and then it becomes a can of Waterloo, an iPhone, a book, a dark chocolate caramel cream.  It kinda makes reality get a bit wonky and shifty and slippery.  So maybe my understanding is wrong.  Or maybe it isn’t.  Or maybe me believing that this is what quantum physics IS makes quantum physics work that way in MY world. 
 
I was reminded of this weirdness in quantum physics as I dove into the Week 4 reading for my coaching certification.  I have a deep crush on two books in my class:  Appreciative Coaching and Motivational Interviewing.  Both of these books teach us that we can become masterful in our lives.  We are not “problems to be solved but miracles and mysteries to be appreciated.”  We are not slaves to the past.  Small changes can lead to big differences in our life. And this:
 
THE ACT OF ASKING QUESTIONS INFLUENCES THE INDIVIDUAL
(much like how, in quantum physics, being observed changes what’s being observed).
 
Just by asking a question, worlds can shift. 
 
I’ve experienced this many time with my coaches.  They’ll ask a question, and BAM!  I sheepishly realize that I was seeing the situation with blinders on – only seeing the one negative interpretation when literally countless options of reality exist in which I can put my belief.  With that one question, my world view shifted. 
 
Appreciative Coaching introduced me to “The Poetic Principle,” which “suggests that life stories can be rewritten to better fit how clients see themselves in their present or future.”  A person can take poetic license to reframe their story.  We can re-imagine what our life experiences mean. 
 
For example, for many years I was embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t get my bachelor’s degree right after high school like “normal” people.  I went to community college for a bit, got married, worked part-time as a teller, became an admin assistant, then decided I needed to get a 4-year degree, so I went to college at night while working full-time.  Then since all my coworkers were getting their MBAs, I decided I should get one too.  I was already in school-mode, so why not just keep going?  But I really felt as if I didn’t belong with everyone else in that program.  They all had these college experiences of playing sports, living in dorms, partying, being involved in sororities and making amazing life-long friendships.  I sorely regretted that I didn’t have that experience.
 
Now I look back on that time, and with my poetic license, I feel impressed with my drive and tenacity.  I got my bachelor’s and my master’s while working full-time; I graduated with distinction, and I finished school with minimal student debt, as the bank I worked for offered tuition reimbursement.  I kicked off a habit of life-long learning that has kept my mind active and which has taken me on journeys around the county and introduced me to so many brilliant people.  I took the path less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
 
How would you re-write your story, to draw out and highlight your strengths?  How can you discover and celebrate your successes?   You could ask yourself some tough questions about your standard life story –  Is that true?  How do you know it’s true?  What if the opposite was true?  Who would you be if you believed in a different truth?  (For more info on these types of questions, you can check out Byron Kate.).
 
And with that, I’m signing off.  I need to baby myself a bit today because the time change has messed with my temporal existence, and I don’t know if it’s time to go to bed or time to go to lunch (and yes, I realize this is a story I’m telling myself about DST!!).
 
Happy Sunday My Peeps!
 
Space to be Human Lab

  • If you would like to get your body moving better and feeling better before getting inundated with sweets, treats, and visitors, you can book a session here.
  • I am doing market research!  I’m looking for people who have a gap between where they are and where they want to be.  I am curious about what has gotten in your way in the past, what kind of help you would want from a coach, and what life would look like to you if you were flourishing.  If you are interested in sharing your thoughts with me, reply to this email with the words, “I want to chat,” and I’ll contact you with more details.

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Awakening, Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Mindset, Pain, Productivity

Getting more bang for your Thinking Buck

The human brain is a funny thing.  In Dr. Betsy Rippentrop’s Yoga for the Mind class, I learned something that massively shifted my perspective.  The human brain is like Teflon for the good stuff and Velcro for the bad stuff.  The good flows right on by, and the bad just sits there and festers.  This is a handy feature when the bad stuff can kill you, but in modern times, that “bad stuff” is often comprised of less deadly things such as your computer re-booting while you’re in the middle of crafting a nasty ol’ spreadsheet with lots of formulas and data that you have not yet saved, or getting (what you think) is a frustrated look from your boss in a meeting, or making a post on Instagram and getting only crickets in return. Yet, our mind fixates on those things, and we can quickly spin off into stories about how the world is crumbling and everyone and everything sucks, especially us.
 
So, what to do?
 
We must consciously focus on what is going well.  Recognize that our brains have this tendency to catastrophize, so intentionally pro-tastrophize or opportunitize or miracalize.  I cannot find an antonym to catastrophize, so I’m just making words up.  But you get the picture. 
 
Spend time thinking about what DID go right, what COULD go right, what IS going right in our day, in our body, in our life.  Our body is constantly releasing a slew of chemicals in response to our thoughts that changes the soup in which our cells live, and that soup determines what our cells do and what genes are activated within them.  We are not at the total mercy of the genes we carry.  The genes that get activated are determined by the signals they get from their environment.
 
Want some proof of the importance of mindset?  Check out this study: Mind-set Matters; Exercise and the Placebo Effect. Here’s a quote form the Abstract (underlining is mine):
 
In a study testing whether the relationship between exercise and health is moderated by one’s mindset, 84 female room attendants working in seven different hotels were measured on physiological health variables affected by exercise. Those in the informed condition were told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle. Examples of how their work was exercise were provided. Subjects in the control group were not given this information. Although actual behavior did not change, 4 weeks after the intervention, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.
 
What the??  If we BELIEVE that what we are doing is good for us, our physiology changes to make it so!!!  This is mind-blowing. Let’s say you are a person who feels as if you never get enough exercise.  However, every morning, you walk down the stairs to brush your teeth, you bend over to get coffee out of the cupboard, you reach up to get a coffee cup, you let the dog out in the yard and toss the ball a few times and maybe chase the dog when it won’t give you the ball back.  You walk back inside and go upstairs to get dressed, reaching to the top shelf in your closet for your sweater and squatting down to get the socks out of the bottom drawer.
 
Well, look at that. You actually got in a lot of movement – shoulder stretches, squats, a little cardio, some incline and declines.  What if you started noticing all the ways you DO get enough exercise instead of telling yourself you are failing because you don’t go to the gym a few times a week.  How would your body change?
 
What other stories could you tell yourself differently to shift how your body reacts to them?  As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been working with a coach, Ariel Kiley. I email her my Wins whenever I think of them (e.g. I am winning at Sober October because I haven’t had a drink yet, or I am FULLY BOOKED this week, or my body told me to quit obsessing about WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE and just take a bath (which I did)).  This is helping me counteract that negativity bias, and it’s also providing an electronic, searchable record of my Wins, so that I can pull them up when I feel poorly about myself.  SO HELPFUL.
 
I hope you are having a great day!!  If you need a Miracalize or Opportunize Partner, feel free to shoot me an email when you get a Win. <3
 
Space to be Human Lab

  • Curious about Cranial Sacral Therapy?  Get $15 off for the month of October (use code CRANIAL) when you book your session.

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Awakening, Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Mindset, Pain, Trauma

Post-Traumatic Growth

Do you ever feel as if you’re not good enough?
 
Do you feel as if you don’t have enough?
 
Do you often compare yourselves to others and judge yourself (or them) harshly as a result?
 
Do you berate yourself in your own head because you have these thoughts, but you feel as if you shouldn’t think or feel these things?
 
Do you want to know why these thoughts incessantly loop through your head?
 
BECAUSE YOU ARE HUMAN
 
In the 7th century AD, yogi’s identified 3 main thoughts (and related feelings) that are endemic to all humans:I am not enough, which leads to feelings of shame and unworthiness.  This is felt in the heart center and leads us to disconnect from Self and others.I am separate from others.  This is felt in the head space, and it leads us to compare ourselves to others, leading to feelings of anger and bitterness.I don’t have enough.  This is felt in the pelvis and leads us to shut down or work too much, leading to feelings of anxiety.When I learned this information (from Dr. Betsy Rippentrop’s ReMIND course), I felt such a sense of relief.  Oh my God.  There is nothing WRONG with me.  I’m just human.  I’m having human thoughts. I’m having a human experience. Just like everyone else.  I can stop feeling bad about feeling bad.  Ahhhhh.
 
There is another super impactful piece of knowledge that was a catalyst for developing self-compassion – learning about the ACE study. The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study is “one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being.” (The Enlightened Marriage by Jed Diamond, PhD).  The study found a strong link between childhood trauma and disease:
 
The CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Studyuncovered a stunning link between childhood trauma and the chronic diseases people develop as adults, as well as social and emotional problems. This includes heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and many autoimmune diseases, as well as depression, violence, being a victim of violence, and suicide. (https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/)
 
What is really interesting is the “traumas” that they researched are things that many of us have gone through – things that are just a part of life in this point and time in the world:  Getting slapped/spanked, parents getting divorced/separated, having an alcoholic parent, having a member of the family be depressed, etc..  You can see the full list of ACEs here: https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/.
 
For me, learning this information and getting my ACEs score helped me develop more kindness towards myself.  I had never really considered myself as having undergone “Capital T Trauma” like severe abuse or a car accident or being orphaned, but when I learned this information I realized, “Oh Yeah.  Little Heather did have to deal with some heavy stuff that she wasn’t ready for.  She was just doing the best she could.” 
 
I think it’s important for people to realize how these seemingly minor/commonplace things that we just write off as “part of being a kid” can have a big impact on our bodies, our minds, and our overall wellbeing.  Once we have awareness of that, we can start to recognize the effects of trauma in our lives, give ourselves some grace, and then start figuring out what we need to do to heal the trauma.
 
Many experts, (Dr. Peter Levine and Scott Barry Kaufman PhD to name two) note that processing trauma can be a huge catalyst for growth and self-actualization – a concept called “Post-Traumatic Growth.”  In Kaufman’s new workbook, “Choose Growth – A Workbook for Transcending Trauma, Fear, and Self-Doubt” he shares this quote from C.S. Lewis:
 
“Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.”
 

I love the promise of that quote!
 
If any of this resonates with you, and you want to start to process trauma, I invite you to explore one or several avenues out there to help heal trauma – mental health therapy, trauma-informed bodywork, journaling, talking to a trust friend who will just LISTEN and give you space. I have tried ALL of these methods; I’ve worked with a few different therapists, I’m working with a Somatic Experiencing Transformational Coach (and I’m in training to become a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner), I’m working through the Choose Growth workbook, I’m practicing listening to my body. 

What I’ve found is that unwinding the effects of trauma takes time and patience, along with a big dose of self-acceptance, non-judgement, and curiosity.  But subtly and surely, you will start to notice less constriction and more space, less fear and more curiosity, less rushing and more lingering.  And more belief that you are on your way to an “extraordinary destiny”!
 
As I mentioned last week, I went to cranial sacral therapy (CST) training this week.  If you’re a client of mine, you’ve likely experienced my cranial work, but this CST work is different.  It involves a MUCH lighter touch. It’s a method of just sitting with the body, allowing two nervous systems to communicate, providing a listening presence and enabling the body to unwind what and when it wants.  It can be a gentle way to start to process some of the trauma recorded in the body.  If you are interested in doing a CST session, you can use the code “CRANIAL” for $15 off a session in October.  Just book a Bodywork Session here.
 
If you have any questions or comments on any of this, don’t hesitate to reach out.  I also offer free 15-minute consults if you want to chat about working together.
 
Space to be Human Lab
– Curious about Cranial?  Get $15 off for the month of October (use code CRANIAL) when you book your session for the month of October.
– Remember that Meditation Medley class I was offering?  Well, if you would like to check out a few different types of meditation (a tool that can also be helpful for processing trauma), as well as get some tips for developing your own practice, check out the recordings here

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Awakening, Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Mindset, Pain, Yoga

Letting People Be Who They Are (and letting You be Who You Are)

Have you ever heard of the book “Codependent No More:  How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself”?  I think anyone who has grown up around addiction (overdrinking, overeating, any compulsive disorder), anyone who is an empath or highly sensitive person, or anyone who grew up within an oppressive religion would find this book fascinating. I’m only about ½ the way through, and it’s already brought so much light to many of my unconscious behaviors.
 
What is codependency?  Essentially, to quote the book, it’s “losing oneself in the name of helping another.”  Does that sound familiar?  For all my “healer” friends out there – what do you make of that??
 
Here are a few of the quotes that had me (a woman who has done a LOT of self-examination, therapy, shadow work, and coaching) squirming:

  •  Note: In these quotes, the author, Melody Beattie, is describing the people she worked with in a support group for wives of addicts (interestingly, Ms. Beattie recognized many of these behaviors in herself too, and all of this was written without judgement):
  • “In my group, I saw people who felt responsible for the entire world, but they refused to take responsibility for leading and living their own lives.”
  • “I saw people who constantly gave to others but didn’t know how to receive.”
  • “Yet these codependents who had such great insight into others couldn’t see themselves.  They didn’t know what they were feeling.  They weren’t sure what they thought.”
  • “I saw people who manipulated because manipulation appeared to be the only way to get anything done.  I worked with people who were indirect because the systems they lived in seemed incapable of tolerating honesty.”
  • “The codependents felt responsible for so much because the people around them felt responsible for so little; they were just taking up the slack.”
  • And here’s a quote that might strike home to fellow empaths or highly sensitive persons, “If my husband is happy, and I feel responsible for that, then I’m happy.  If he’s upset, I feel responsible for that too.  I’m anxious, uncomfortable, and upset until he feels better.  I try to MAKE him feel better.”
  • “This book is about your most important and probably most neglected responsibility; taking care of yourself.  It’s about what you can do to start feeling better.”

And it’s that last sentence that holds so much promise – even people who have lost themselves in taking care of others can feel joy and pleasure, they can find meaning and purpose, and they can reconnect with Self again. We need to start taking care of ourselves to find ourselves again.  And how do we do that?
 
Here are a few concepts that struck me:

  • Let others to BE WHO THEY ARE (stop trying to control others – even if it’s with people-pleasing and niceness).
  • Let yourself be who YOU are.
  • I am responsible for myself.
  • I am responsible for identifying and meeting my needs.
  • Don’t say Yes when you mean No.
  • Trust your feelings.
  • Build awareness around codependent behaviors, accept them without judgement (they helped you survive!), then you can work on letting go of the ones that aren’t in your best interests anymore.
  • Have gratitude for that which is good.

I’m a massage therapist.  So why I am writing about codependency?  Because of this:
“We may have started reacting and responding urgently and compulsively in patterns that hurt us.  Just feeling urgent and compulsive is enough to hurt us.  We keep ourselves in a crisis state – adrenaline flowing and muscles tensed, ready to react to emergencies that usually aren’t emergencies.”

TENSION IN THE MUSCLES CAN BE A DIRECT RESULT OF HABITUAL PATTERNS OF THINKING, REACTING, BEHAVING.

Since, as a codependent-in-recovery, I found this info so helpful, I wanted to share it with others.  There IS hope for us!  We can give ourselves more space and grace and in the process start to enjoy life again!  We can start to disentangle ourselves and let others be who they are, and LET OURSELVES BE WHO WE ARE.  That latter concept is what really grabs my attention.  This is what so many of the wisdom traditions teach – the secret to a well-lived life is authenticity – saying what we mean, meaning what we say, doing what lights us up instead of what we think we “should” do.

Learning to get to know ourselves – our true Self – is one of the foundational goals of Somatic Experiencing.  To help myself practice what I preach, I recently started working with Ariel Kiley, who is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner.  Embodying this work is SO different than intellectualizing it.  I’ve read so many books and listened to so many experts on trauma, but in two sessions with Ariel, I can FEEL what the books were trying SAY.

Last week we did a boundary exercise where Ariel had me tell her how close or how far away to get from the camera.  I assumed I would like her to be closer to me, so I had her walk towards the camera.  Then, just to experiment, I had her walk to one side, back to center, and then backwards.  As she backed away, I noticed a palpable shift.  I felt more calm, more at ease when she was a bit further away from the camera.  It surprised the hell out of me – 1) That I actually FELT a somatic response to her distance in my body and 2) That my body had a different story to tell than my mind.  She guided me to explore the sensations I was feeling – how did I KNOW that I was more comfortable with her at that distance?  As I slowed down and let myself settle into my somatic experience, I noted a subtle pulsing around my solar plexus – the seat of power in the body. 

Whoa.  I’ve never felt that before.  I felt power WITHIN MYSELF.  Instead of searching outward to see what the situation or the other person needs from me, I was able to settle in myself and see what I need.

It blew me away that such a simple exercise could be so powerful.

This story is just to show you that you CAN discover yourself. It takes work. It’s uncomfortable.  You won’t be good at it to start.  But it’s worth it!

And every time you get bodywork, or you meditate, or you stay with a feeling or a sensation and don’t numb it, you are doing that hard work.  You are embarking on the journey of rediscovering who you are, what you feel, what you think, what you desire, and what you need.  And when you get those little pings – “Hmm, I feel like I need to take a break and put my feet in the grass for 2 minutes,” honor that ping and see what happens.  When you feel yourself reaching for some distraction, ask yourself, “What do I really need right now?”  And just see what comes up, if anything.

I hope you have STUPENDOUS SUNDAY!  We have visitors next week, so I won’t be sending a newsletter.  If you miss me terribly though, you can always find messages from me here. 😛

Space to be Human Lab

  • I’ve updated the description of my services on my booking site.  What used to be called “Massage Therapy/NST” is now called “Bodywork Session.”  A bodywork session can include massage therapy/NST, but it can also include yoga, mindful movement, self-massage, breath work, meditation.  All of these tools can help reduce pain and tension.  If any of these tools strikes your fancy, let me know, and during your next session, we can explore them. 

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

Mind Over Tension (aka Jedi Mind Tricks)

Hiya.  Care to get a little curious?

Where are you breathing right now?  Is the air coming in through your nose or your mouth?  What is the temperature of the air?  Where do you feel your body move with the inhale and the exhale – your shoulders, your ribcage, your shoulders, all of the above?  What happens if you just notice?  Just notice the breath coming in and going out, like ocean waves sliding up a sandy beach and slowly retreating back to the deep.  Perhaps you would like to start to slow down the breath, taking looooong sloooow sips of air.  What do you notice next?

I’m curious about your eyes. What happens if you take a pause from reading this, look up, and let your eyes gaze on something in the far distance – the furthest thing you can see without straining.  How does that feel?  If you invite your eyes to take in more of your surroundings – start to notice what arrives at your eyes from the periphery, how does that change your experience of your eyes?

And what about that belly?  I invite you to take a moment and just notice if you are holding your breath, holding your belly, bracing.  What shifts within you, if you allow yourself to soften in this area, maybe even inviting the breath to sink down low and expand the low belly?  How does that feel?

And the hands, and the fingers – are they clenched tightly around your phone as you read this, are they resting in little tight fists on your lap?  What if you tried to hold your phone with just the SKIN of your fingertips?  What would it be like to slowly uncurl each little bone of each long elegant finger and allow the fingers and palms to rest with ease on your thighs?  What is it like if you imagine bringing more space into the INSIDE of your hand, like inside the fingers and inside the palms?

How do you feel after a few minutes of exploring your inner world?  Did you notice a shift in your overall tension?  Your mood?  The pace of the hamster wheel of thought-generation?

We’ve been taught, since the time of Rene Descartes, that “I think, therefore I am,” insinuating that there is some sort of separateness between the mind and the rest of us.  We now know due to reams of research that the mind and body are not separate.  As human beings, we are a mindbody.  Our thoughts effect changes in our body, and our body effects changes in our thoughts.  Perhaps you noticed how your thoughts helped your body feel more calm, ease, and expansiveness?

Our minds have a documented “negativity bias” which means we are always scanning for the bad, what could go wrong, how things could fail.  This has kept humans alive so far, so it’s a vital predisposition, but it can make for a shitty lived experience!  We can consciously work with this negativity bias, by inviting in the opposite thought – give equal airtime (or maybe even MORE –  research recommends a 3:1 ratio) to scanning for the good, thinking about what could go right, how things could succeed.

How are your thoughts contributing to your tension?  How could they contribute to more ease, flow, and space instead?  Just some food for thought on this day of Rebirth.  Maybe we could give birth to a mindset that helps us find more Space to be Human.

Space to be Human Lab (where we invite in an attitude of exploration, experimentation, and curiosity)

  • NEW FACE CRADLE: The reviews are in “It’s so soft!”  “It’s so comfortable!” “My face isn’t smushed.”  Yay for the new cradle!
  • NEW LTAP ASSESSMENTS:     I am taking a 6 week online class on Locator Test Assessment Protocols (LTAP) to learn how to listen to the body and use its wisdom to guide treatment.  If this piques your interest, let me know.  During April I’ll add 10 minutes to your session at no charge, and we’ll see what the Assessments tell us about what your body needs.

And with that we are heading off to Armored Gardens for some lunchy poo.  Also, if you don’t currently get the Tap On It texts, I highly recommend it.  This week we got a coupon for BOGO draft beers at Armored Gardens.  I mean, I don’t drink beer (Hellllooo bloated belly), but that’s a really good coupon. J

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

Confessions of a Wounded Healer

Pain is weird.  In a nutshell, that is about all that Science and Experience (and my personal N=1 experiment) knows for sure.  This becomes especially true when you get into chronic pain territory, meaning if you have persistent pain that lasts longer than 3-6 months.

And guess what.

I have chronic pain.

I’ve had persistent low back pain for ages.  I remember going to physical therapy for it when I was working at HNI in Muscatine.  Let’s see, that was…15 years ago.  So, yup, I am in chronic pain territory.

It’s embarrassing to admit that, as a massage therapist, yoga teacher, and studier of the human mindbody and condition, I have been unable to resolve my own main complaint.  I’ve seen PTs, chiropractors, the founder of neurosomatic therapy, myofascial release specialists, acupuncturists, functional medicine docs, yoga therapists, breath specialists.  You name it; I’ve likely tried it. 

Does it help?  Sometimes and for a little bit, yet the pain returns.  And I’m starting to get a sense of why.

  1. I don’t do my homework.  I don’t do my breath exercises, stretches, etc. consistently.
  2. While I KNOW that humans are multidimensional beings, made of physical bodies, but also energy bodies, mental bodies, and spiritual bodies, I still revert to a default belief in a biomechanical model and reliance on Someone Else needs to fix this.  This is amusing to my Higher Self, as my main driver/motivator in doing the work I do is because I want to help others realize their potential to heal themselves via a wholistic mindbody approach.  Oh – THE IRONY!!

And so, as I slowly start to examine my Shadow Self (the side of myself that I don’t REALLY want to look at too closely), I am beginning to realize the strong connection between the low grade low back pain that’s been my constant companion these 15 years, and my habit of living life at Speed.  This speedy living manifests in clenching – tightening up my shoulders, holding my breath while executing tasks, clenching my butt, and not processing feelings/emotions as they arise (I don’t have time to deal with this now; I’ll do it “later” when I “have more time”  and when it’s “more convenient” (meaning never)). 

It’s become evident to me that the reason none of these external therapies have worked is because my habits of daily life (daily clenching), immediately facilitate tension in my back.

I know the work I need to do to feel better.  I need to FEEL BETTER.  Meaning, I need to take the time to notice what is arising within my inner domain, turn toward it with openness, notice exactly WHERE I am feeling it and WHAT it feels like.  It looks something like this:

I feel a sensation like a ball in my throat.  As I watch it, it starts to shift up into the back of mouth and out toward my ears. I say “hi” to it and let it do what it wants to do.  I take a moment to breathe long, slow breaths and the feeling and I just hang out together for a bit.  Sometimes it stays, sometimes it moves on.

I think the secret to unwinding the tension in my back is in unwinding the tension in my emotional and mental layers.  I realize that can sound a bit woo-woo, but there is actual proof that this is true.  The biopsychosocial model of pain indicates that ALL of the following can contribute to our pain experience:

Injuries.  Hormones.  Metabolism.  Neurochemistry.  Nutrition.  Sleep.  Circulation.  Breathing.  Immune functioning.  Personality.  Behaviors.  Age.  Gender.  Race/ethnicity.  Socioeconomic status.  Social network/Relationships.  Life stress.  Treatment satisfaction.  Readiness to return to activities of daily life. Spiritual practices.  Meaning and purpose.  Autonomy/Self-management. Beliefs.  Thoughts.  Our ability to feel our inner state (interoception).

HOW does one go about doing the work of examining and processing their emotional and mental layers?   I work with a life coach, and I’ve also worked with mental health therapists in the past.  I also journal daily and get the stories out of my head and on to paper where they are more obvious and manageable. I meditate to build my “attention muscle,” so that I can get less triggered by my own thoughts.

If you would like to learn more about the different factors that could be contributing to YOUR pain, we can chat about that in your next session. Here are also a couple of interesting and helpful resources.

Space to be Human Updates

  • NEW FACE CRADLE: OMG.  I AM SO EXCITED!! Today my new cradle from Oakworks arrived.  It is a specially designed face cradle to reduce pressure on the eyes and sinuses and reduce congestion when you are face down.
  • NEW LTAP ASSESSMENTS:     I am taking a 6 week online class on Locator Test Assessment Protocols (LTAP) to learn how to listen to the body and use its wisdom to guide treatment.  If this piques your interest, let me know.  During April I’ll add 10 minutes to your session at no charge, and we’ll see what the Assessments tell us about what your body needs.

And with that, I’m signing off.  IT IS FINALLY SUNNY!!!!!!!  I hope you can spend some time in the sun and warmth today.

See ya next week, My Peeps!

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

The Golden Shadow; The Good We Hide from Ourselves

Last week we talked about getting to know your shadow.  The term “shadow” just inherently has a negative connotation to it.  Interesting aside – Huehue got spooked by my shadow this morning when I took him out at 4:15AM.  He kept looking intently under our neighbor’s deck, which was starting to really unnerve me, when I realized he was staring at the shadow of me, cast from our other neighbor’s floodlight.  My shadow IS pretty threatening in the wee hours of the morning.

ANYWAY – back to what I was saying, we default to thinking that our shadow is negative or bad. BUT, the shadow is composed of all the parts of ourselves that we didn’t feel safe to display.  And that means that the shadow also contains parts of us that are good and interesting and unique and special. Our “golden shadow” is made up of our gifts and talents and abilities that we suppressed because we were given the impression that they were NOT ok.  Maybe it was our exuberance and liveliness (“Can’t you just be quiet?/Why can’t you NOT set the shed on fire?/Why can’t you be behave?”).  Maybe it was our imagination (“Stop daydreaming.  You’re old enough to get your head down out of the clouds.  Start keeping both feet on the ground.”  Never Ending Story).  Maybe it was our unique perspective on life and God and why we are here (“We look to the Elders/Authorities to tell us what is right and good.  Who do you think you are to question that?  Thinking like that is dangerous”).  Many “positive” qualities can be dismissed, minimized, and rejected, depending on the circumstance we are in and the influential people in our lives.

Sure, our shadow self contains the negative traits we want to hide and ignore, but it also contains the positive traits that we find equally difficult to acknowledge and own.  This “golden shadow” needs to be met and integrated in order for us to return to wholeness.

“We see in others those positive traits which are our very own, but which, for whatever reason, we refuse to allow entry into our consciousness and are indiscernible to us.”  Meeting our Shadow.

Personally, I find it a lot easier to acknowledge and own up to my negative shadow traits than to boldly embrace my golden shadow.  Thinking negatively of oneself is oh so comfortable but oh so ruinous!!

Meeting our Shadow suggests listing the qualities we deeply admire in others and noticing what we think and feel when we use those qualities to describe ourselves.

I deeply admire:

  • People who stay very calm no matter what is blowing up around them.
  • People who try new things and are adventurous.
  • People who are experts in the field of mindbody flourishing.
  • People who don’t gossip about others.
  • People who are authentically generous and not self-centered.
  • People who write beautiful stuff.
  • People who put their energy into making a difference in the world.

And, yep, I feel so much resistance when I think about me emanating those qualities.  As my friend Angela says, “How fascinating!!”

How about you?  Is it easier to acknowledge and accept your dark shadow or your golden shadow?

Space to be Human Updates

  • NEW LOCATION: I am now at 2805 Eastern Avenue, Davenport IA, Office 232. The building is located at the corner of Eastern & 29th, to the east of the Annie Wittenmeyer pool. 
  • NEW LTAP ASSESSMENTS:     I have started a 6 week online class on Locator Test Assessment Protocols (LTAP).  This class is based on osteopathic and the Barral Institute techniques that teach the therapist how to listen to the body and use its wisdom to guide the therapist on where to start treatment. 

I am excited about this class as it will help me tune in to what your body really needs and use all the fun, interesting, “weird” stuff like visceral massage, cranial mobilizations, and neural resets to address pain in all areas of the body.  It sounds crazy, but sometimes just doing a breath technique can be the key to getting rid of that pain in your big toe!  According to my teacher, starting treatment in the right place is crucial to an effective treatment.

If this piques your interest, and you would like to embrace curiosity with me, let me know.  During April I’ll add 10 minutes to your session at no charge, and we’ll see what the Assessments tell us about what your body needs.

Happy Sunny Sunday!  I hope you can rest and recover.  Here is some inspiration from the Huehue-Monster.

With love,

Hlo

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Yoga

Meeting Your Shadow

It’s sunny and warm and summery out today, so in true yogic spirit, I’m bringing in a bit of the opposite – The Shadow.

I first was introduced to The Shadow when I took Dr. Betsy Rippentrop’s Yoga for the Mind course last year. Betsy is a psychologist and a yoga teacher, so she brings a really interesting, enlightening integrated perspective that combines yoga philosophy, scientific research, and psychology.  According to her notes, the “Human Self” is made up of the Ego, the Shadow Self, the Inner Child, and the Pain Body.  The Shadow Self is made up of parts we’ve repressed – unconscious parts of ourselves that we see as undesirable.  This is the Mr. Hyde to our Dr. Jekyll.

The Shadow Self seems like something we would want to avoid and push away, but turning the light of our attention to it is actually the key to elevating consciousness.  When we don’t look at what is contained in our shadow, we are not wise to its influence.  We unconsciously project what is hidden in the Shadow onto the people and circumstances around us – blaming others, blaming circumstances, blaming The Other for everything that is wrong in our lives, when in actuality, our perception is inaccurate due to the veil of the shadow through which we are unknowingly peering.

Creating a right relationship with our shadow self not only helps us gain more insight into “Who Am I, really?” but it also can “lead us back to our buried potentials.”  Through “shadow-work” we can develop more self-acceptance, as we are accepting who we really are, not just who we want to be or who we want others to think we are.  “…Only by making friends with the shadow do we gain the friends of the self.”  (Quotes are taken from Meeting the Shadow:  The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature)

Meeting the Shadow suggests an interesting exercise to help you start to get to know your shadow: describe a personality type that you find unbearable and impossible to get along with.    This produces a list of your own repressed qualities.  I did this exercise this morning, and it was quite uncomfortable.  Here is a snippet of my list of qualities I find really annoying:

  • She is confrontational.
  • She is unpredictable, unreliable.  You never know where you stand.
  • She willfully misunderstands.
  • She lacks confidence and needs constant validation.
  • She is sneaky.
  • She talks too much and should listen more.
  • She is a know-it-all.
  • She wants to be care of.

I then took this list and, and pulling a page from Byron Katie’s The Work, substitute “I” for “She.”

  • I need constant validation.
  • I willfully misunderstand
  • I am sneaky.
  • I lack confidence and need constant reassurance
  • I talk too much and should listen more.
  • I am unreliable.
  • I want to be taken care of.

Ugh.  Some of that hit very close to home.  I can see why I find these qualities so annoying, as these are things I least like about myself; the things I have tried to hide and ignore and pretend are not there.  But by bringing these qualities to light and examining them with compassionate acceptance, I can start to integrate my Shadow Self.  “Whatever has been repressed holds a tremendous amount of energy, with great positive potential.” (Meeting the Shadow).  Also, realizing that other people annoy me because of qualities I myself hold helps me be a little bit more patient and kind with them.

What personality type really annoys and frustrates you?  Is there some gold in there for you?

The need to examine The Shadow is a theme that keeps reappearing in a variety of different areas lately (books, Archetype cards, Instagram, podcasts), which usually means it’s a current that’s flowing through others’ minds as well, so I figured I would share this exercise, since I found it uncomfortably insightful.

Also, Huehue, with the advent of the full moon this week and his 9th week of life on this planet, has become the doggo version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  He is all sweetness and puppy kisses one moment, and then BAM – all shark teeth and barking zoomies the next.  It’s super bonkers.

To offset this slightly darker-than-usual post, I am going to share an amazing gluten-free cookie recipe with you:  Coconut Flour CookiesThese cookies are BETTER than the gluttony ones, IMHO, and they are super easy to make. I was going to take a picture of them so that you can see how tasty they look, but they look (and ARE) so tasty, that I ate them before I took the picture.  They are SO GOOD.

Space to be Human Updates

  • NEW LOCATION: I am now at 2805 Eastern Avenue, Davenport IA, Office 232. The building is located at the corner of Eastern & 29th, to the east of the Annie Wittenmeyer pool.   

Thanks for reading my friends!  If you discover any interesting insights as you do your own shadow work, and you care to share, I care to listen (I DO need to listen more!).

Awakening, Health & Fitness, Yoga

On Letting Things be Easy

Do you have anything in your life that you make harder than it has to be?

  • Do you hold your breath while responding to emails?
  • Do you walk super fast from your computer to the bathroom, pee really fast while thinking about the meeting you have coming up, and then speed walk back to your computer to check on the IMs and the emails you missed while you rushed to the bathroom?
  • When it’s cold outside, and you have a jacket and gloves and hat on, do you still hunch your shoulders and clench in an effort to ward of the briskness?
  • When you watch TV, do you also look at your phone, while you are also eating?
  • Do you often lament about how busy life is, and then make more plans, sign up for more classes, buy more books to read some day?

Hopefully this description of my neuroticism doesn’t scare you away.  I share this because I think it may resonate.  I’m not the only Rusher who likes to add some layers of unnecessary tension, must-get-it-done-as-quickly-as-possible-ness, and fabricated urgency to my day.

You know, when you hear the same message from multiple different sources, all within a short time frame, it’s usually a pretty good idea to listen.  The Universe REALLY wants you to take note.

A message that keeps bubbling up from the ether loud and clear is:

Let

It

Be

Easy

This first came up during my Somatic Experiencing training in early February, when our instructor said, “Trauma physiology means people are working really hard.  How do we take off some of that demand?  Consider the possibility of doing less.  Instead of working hard, trust that the information you need will find its way to you.  Let the sights, sounds, smells COME to you.  Allow yourself to receive.  You don’t have to work so hard to learn.”

What??  It doesn’t HAVE to be hard??

And then my coach, week after week, points out how, while I complain about things being hard, I actually set up situations to BE hard.  Being tense, working hard, and striving is my comfort discomfort zone.  She invites me to consider, “How can this be easy?”

  • Can I remember to sit back in my chair and breathe while I respond to emails?
  • Can I take 10 minutes out of my day to just sit and eat, without doing anything else?
  • Can I enjoy the walk from the office to the bathroom, enjoy the sensations of moving my body, enjoy the comfort of being in my home?
  • Can I do LESS instead of more and enjoy the LESS more?

This recommendation to find Ease was also mentioned by the Keynote speaker at the QC YogaCon on Friday night.  During the panel discussion he was asked if had a recommendation for the students for the weekend.  He summed it up in one word, “Ease.”  How can you invite ease into your learning, your practice, your presence with others?

How could you Make It Easier?  How would your life change if you invited in more ease, allowed yourself to receive, and unclenched just a little bit?

Space to be Human Updates

  • NEW LOCATION: I am still at Davenport Acupuncture for now, but starting 3/21/22 (HAPPY SPRING!!), I will be located at 2805 Eastern Avenue, Davenport IA, Office 232!  The building is located at the corner of Eastern & 29th, to the east of the Annie Wittenmeyer pool. 

Now it’s time for some ease (I’m reading Pride & Prejudice for about the 80th time) and sleep.  Hope you have a beautiful day!

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