About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Category: Wellness

The doctor is within

Inner Healer

This is the SoulCollage card I made today to represent my Inner Healer–and yours.

Whether it’s firing a surgeon who won’t listen and doesn’t value your opinion, doing your physical therapy or energy medicine homework, releasing your own toxic bitterness, or noticing whether a treatment is actually beneficial to you or not, I believe you yourself are the most important agent of your own healing.

I once had a surgeon who wanted me to take a drug used to treat both genders by cutting off hormone production. In my case, it would have put my body into an immediate temporary menopause–something that doesn’t occur in nature, where menopause is a gradual process. Some women have such severe symptoms that this treatment comes as a real relief. Post-surgery, I had no symptoms, and my symptoms had never been debilitating, so I strongly suspected the cure would be worse than the disease. And that wasn’t counting the real possibility of permanent cognitive side effects.

Additionally, nothing I read agreed with what my doctor said the drug would do for me. To the contrary, everything I read indicated that what he was saying was impossible–that it was, in fact, magical thinking.

When I went back for my followup appointment, I told him I had researched the drug as he requested, and that my thoughts were that I didn’t want to take it, or any risk at all to my cognitive ability, on which my livelihood depends. He pointed out a medical model in the exam room that had been supplied by “those nice Lupron people,” and seemed to imply that my lack of compliance with his advice was ungrateful. He also said he’d only ever had one patient who’d had a problem with the drug–and strongly implied that she was the sort of difficult person who would naturally have those kinds of problems. Well, perhaps I would be too–but I had no intention of finding out.

He was an excellent surgeon, but it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to accept my decision with grace, so within a matter of months, I had a new doctor. I’d asked my internist for a referral to a doctor who would consider me an equal partner in my healthcare. I thought it was telling that he referred me to a woman. Nearly 15 years later, I still see her at least annually.

Right now, I’m working at least three times a day to permanently shift an apparently deeply-rooted energy pattern to a more stable pattern that will better support me. Doing this has given me a strong sense of being my own healer.

Is there something in your body, or in your life, that requires healing today? Is there something you’ve been accepting that you don’t actually have to accept? How can you act as your own healer today?

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Inner Healer.


Grounded in Mother Earth


In the days before my last visit to my energy medicine practitioner, I suddenly felt stuck and utterly unmotivated. My instinct was to rest. I also noticed while doing my usual chakra clearing meditation that I couldn’t visualize my root chakra.

When I told my practitioner about this, she immediately expressed concern that if I couldn’t contact my root chakra, I might not be grounded–and that turned out to be true. Yikes! (If you’re a little bit psychic, or a lot, the very last thing you need is to lose your grounding.) She later sent me a list of symptoms of not being grounded, and I was fascinated to see that feeling stuck was on the list. I’d never thought to associate the two. She also clarified for me that the root chakra feeds all the others (in the case of a woman–the crown chakra is the equivalent for a man), so being ungrounded (that is, disconnected from life-sustaining energy at the root chakra) starves a woman’s entire chakra system. Not good, right?

Here’s the list of symptoms she sent me. You might not be grounded if you’re feeling

  • Anxious
  • “Spacey” or lightheaded
  • General discomfort
  • Unable to relate to others or the environment
  • Stuck

Or if you’re having trouble with

  • Listening, learning, or focusing
  • Walking or balancing
  • Not feeling emotionally supported
  • “Picking up” too much energy from others

After my visit, it became clear to me that I need to be more proactive about making sure I’m grounded. I looked for some grounding meditations, and tried several, but many of them used imagery that didn’t make sense to me. For example, a couple had me imagining myself as a tree–so far, so good–but then had me eliminate negativity through my roots, which as far as I know is not the primary function of a tree’s roots. A tree draws nourishment from its roots, and breathes much like we do through its foliage, yes?

When I asked her what causes a person to lose grounding, one of the things she mentioned was wearing rubber-soled shoes. Hmm, like the garden clogs I typically wear outside in the garden …

I decided to get very literal with my grounding. I’ve been spending several minutes barefoot on my front lawn on a daily basis, feeling the blades of St. Augustine (and the ground) under my feet–sometimes cool, damp, and crisp, other times warm and soft. I imagine the energy of Mother Earth flowing up into my feet and legs, feeling that energy like a rhythmic electrical pulse. I feel gratitude for Mother Earth sharing her energy with us all, and me in particular, and ask for inspiration and guidance about additional ways I can return the favor.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Elephant + Root chakra totem. The jewels represent some of the colors of my root chakra. The elephant pictured drinking was 49-year-old Igor, slaughtered by poachers for his ivory in 2009, two years after this photograph was taken.

How to release unhelpful cell memories

hand energy

Tonight my neck and right shoulder are feeling remarkably relaxed–and I want to tell you why!

There is a medical “reason” for the trouble I often have in this area of my body. At the same time, I’ve been aware for many years that I “store stress” in my neck and shoulder area. I now have a new understanding of what that means.

Yesterday I participated in a guided meditation with a group where we were instructed to scan our bodies head to toe, and stop where we felt pain, tightness, or tension.

I wasn’t in any pain, but neither was I surprised to find some tightness in my neck and shoulder area.

We were then asked to name the emotion present in this area. Immediately “resentment” popped into my head. How very interesting! I’d never thought of it quite that way before, but there it was. The truth.

We were then asked to release it if we wanted to–or we could put it off till tomorrow, or some later date. (What was that about? Heck yeah I want to let it go right now!!)

Next I felt a physical sensation of something–resentment I think it would be fair to say–leaving my shoulder at about 8-10 different points. It wasn’t painful, but it was clear and distinct.

What I was thinking was along these lines: Wow. Didn’t know I could do this for myself!

The way my shoulder feels right now is different, looser, than I remember it feeling in the past. Different, and good. I also noticed when I was getting ready this morning that the knot that’s sometimes visible isn’t there today.

This meditation experience reminded me of a time about 15 years ago when this same area was so troubled that I had limited mobility of my head and neck, and therefore difficulty driving. I got myself to work one morning, and eventually made my way upstairs to see a coworker who was also a massage therapist–and, as it turned out, psychic. As she worked on my shoulder, she started talking to me about my father, whom I hadn’t spoken to in years. My shoulder was telling her the truth.

I also remembered that my neck and shoulder had felt quite stiff before I went to see my energy medicine practitioner a couple of weeks ago. She cleared my chakras, and did several other things, none of which directly concerned my neck and shoulder as far as I know–but afterwards I was surprised how much better they felt.

I drew this conclusion from my meditation experience yesterday: You can release resentment from your mind and heart, but you also have to explicitly release it (or whatever other negative emotion may be plaguing you) from wherever you may have stockpiled it in your body at any point during your life. (Actually, my understanding is that we can bring cell memories in with us as well … so it’s possible we might need to release something that isn’t from this lifetime, but from a previous one.)

If you’d like to try this at home … well, please do!

After writing the steps below, I thought I’d test them myself to be sure they worked, and so I scanned myself again. This time I worked specifically on my neck. “Stubbornness” is what I got. (Hard to believe, right? But it sure does give all those biblical references to “stiff-necked people” a whole new meaning!) Again I felt an energetic release, different this time, and physical relief.

  1. Sit comfortably upright in a chair with your feet on the floor.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Spend several minutes in the awareness of inhabiting your body. Feel yourself inhabiting all of your body–head, arms, hands, torso, legs, feet, and so on.
  4. Taking your time, scan your body head to toe for pain, tension, or tightness. If you find multiple areas fitting this description, you can work on the first one you find, or you can rank them in order of importance.
  5. Return to the area you’ve decided to work on, and acquaint yourself with how it feels.
  6. Name the emotion that’s behind the pain, tension, or tightness you identified.
  7. When you’re ready, release this emotion from your body. If you like, you can visualize a destination for the energy you’re releasing. Sometimes I use a Dumpster in clearing visualizations. While I was working on my neck, I opened an imaginary crevasse, let everything I was releasing flow into it, and then closed it when I was finished.
  8. When the process is complete (no more negative energy to release), feel yourself inhabiting your whole body again, including the area you cleared. Notice how everything feels–perhaps more spacious or relaxed.
  9. When you’re ready, open your eyes.

As I mentioned, there is a physical “reason” for the pain in my neck and shoulder (scoliosis, a C-curvature in my lower back, and resulting disc issues in my neck). But what I’ve found is, in some cases anyway, that it’s possible to have a chronic condition or a chronic disease and be quite symptom-free, if you’re reasonably in balance. I think it also helps to refuse to allow yourself to be defined by any diagnosis. After all, this body I inhabit now, which I appreciate and am grateful for, can never adequately define who I am–so how could any mere medical diagnosis of it? We are far more than our bodies, and certainly far more than any dysfunction they may exhibit at any given time.

If you try this meditation, I’d love to know how it works for you–I hope you enjoy it in good health!

How to get unstuck


By chance are you feeling stuck today? Perhaps you know what you need to do, but you’re unsure of the next step. Or perhaps you know the next step, but can’t seem to take it. Maybe you just have an aimless feeling, like your sense of purpose has gone AWOL. Maybe you feel like you’ve been in a rut forever, and don’t know how to get out. Perhaps you find yourself in a liminal stage between an ending and a new beginning, and things aren’t flowing as you’d like. Whatever your level of stuckness, here are some ideas to get you moving in the right direction …

  1. Write down some intentions about what you want your life to look like. Get out your journal–or, if you don’t have one, take a quick trip to the bookstore and treat yourself to a lovely new one in a favorite color. Then open your journal to a blank page, and let your intuition guide you as you write a title. It could be “My intentions for …” or “What I want my life to look like.” Your title could relate to how you feel stuck, or it could relate to something seemingly different. Thoughts about your list may come to you over a few days. Fine-tune it until it really expresses what you want (you may want to copy it out again once you’re done), and then read through it every so often. I like to read through mine before I meditate.
  2. Check your energy flow, and correct it if necessary.
  3. If you’re feeling stuck, you might not be grounded.
  4. Fix something that’s bugging you. WD-40 the creaky door. Pull the weeds you’ve been eyeing. Is a tree seedling or some noxious weed (devil vine is the bane of my existence) sprouting from a seam in your driveway or sidewalk? Boil the teakettle and put a stop to that. (Sometimes it takes more than once, but boiling water always wins.) Kick something ugly to the curb. Say no to something you’ve been asked to do that doesn’t feel right for you. (Don’t you feel better already?)
  5. Clear some clutter. This is a fantastic way to power through a barrier. You’ll get the biggest bang from clearing old and/or negative clutter (i.e., clutter with negative associations for you). Bonus points for clearing clutter directly related to an area where you feel stuck. You may want to identify an area where you can make a significant impact in a reasonable amount of time–an area where you’ve already made a decision about what needs to happen, or where you can make that decision right now.
  6. Try something new today–and if you don’t try new things regularly, begin to make it a habit. (This one step can easily change your whole outlook on life.) Have lunch or dinner at a new restaurant that’s getting good reviews. Try a food or cuisine you’ve never tried before, or a new recipe. Call a friend and have an impromptu picnic, or take a walk, in a park or public garden that’s new to you. Stop in a store that’s caught your eye. Go see that museum exhibit that looks so interesting. Take a weekend road trip to someplace you’ve never been. Take a workshop and learn how to do something you’ve never done before. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, take that first step today. Always wanted to play the piano? Find a teacher and book a lesson. If you’re deciding whether or not to do something, and the no feels like unjustified fear–say yes.
  7. Look around your home for things that belong to someone you used to be. Are there textbooks from the student you used to be? (You’ll never need to know more about the accounting methods of 20 years ago.) Shelves of novels when you’ve stopped reading fiction? Magazines about hobbies you don’t do anymore? A whole wardrobe? Love letters (or hate letters)? What baggage could you release today in order to create space for the you you’re becoming?
  8. Look around your office at work. What’s out of date? What project is every bit as extinct as the dinosaur, but you still have all the paperwork? (Maybe you can let go of all the files for Project Dinosaur, if there’s no company policy that mandates keeping them.) Do you see any paper that’s actually yellowed? This may be a clue.
  9. Add something to your life that will guarantee change, like a new friend, or a new pet.
  10. Slough off your old skin quite literally. Go shopping for a body scrub that smells wonderful, and use it. (Fresh has some lovely products.) Get a pedicure, facial, or massage. Get a haircut. Get your teeth cleaned (it’s good feng shui!).
  11. What do you have that’s expired, past its use-by date? Check the cupboards and medicine cabinet. Find a prescription take-back program (your city or pharmacy may have one), and take advantage of it.
  12. If you’re still not sure what your next step is, ask yourself the question, and go to sleep. See if you don’t wake up with new insight.


Adding love and courage

Becoming II

The SoulCollage card I made last weekend is the first I’ve made that I found viscerally disturbing. Monday night, as I was driving home from a visit to my energy medicine practitioner, having had a professional chakra clearing and vortex revival, not to mention many kisses from her dog Lily, I decided that this collage needed to be strengthened.

I can’t really explain why that black skull felt so distasteful to me. I don’t feel afraid of death; I have felt only privileged to sit with loved ones in their last hours here. I helped my dog Honeycomb have a good death, which I think is a truly important contribution to the life of another being. For reasons I don’t understand, though, I am not at all fond of skull imagery, and particularly not the one I chose to use on this card.

My reading of the original card was purely positive, as they virtually always are, so it wasn’t that. In my reading, the Death symbol said (and I believe this):

I am one who cannot harm you. I can only push you into another phase–a better one.

Typically I keep the most recent cards I’ve made out where I can see them, but this one I didn’t want to look at, and put it away in the box where I keep my deck.

So when I had a few spare minutes, I pulled out my scissors, images, and glue stick, and prepared to alter a “finished” card for the first time. (Perhaps I was a little prescient in naming it Becoming!) Here you can see the results. I added totems representing courage (the tiger) and love (the bird). Now the Death symbol looks like his grimace might be in response to the tiger’s paw planted right in his face. I was going for an “O death, where is thy sting” look (I Cor 15:55).

I can’t say this card is my favorite, and I no doubt lessened its artistic impact by adding additional images, but it no longer hurts to look at it.

No doubt love and courage will see me through this liminal stage, as they always have. May they do the same for you.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Becoming II + The liminal stage.

The lovingkindness meditation


The limits of our goodwill form the ultimate boundaries of our peace of mind, for we cannot achieve peace while aversion is present. –Josh Korda

The lovingkindness meditation is a beautiful–and challenging–practice in which you offer lovingkindness first to yourself, and then to others … those who love you unconditionally, your loved ones, beloved pets, acquaintances, strangers, all sentient beings, relatives, and those who annoy you greatly. (These last two categories can overlap. OK, these last two categories do overlap.) I find it especially easy to offer lovingkindness to those who are now on the other side, as they are now even more purely loving than they were when they were here.

I’ve found in the past that serious resistance can arise to offering lovingkindness to those who seem to be doing their utmost to make my life difficult, or to those who’ve seemed to do so in the past. That’s why I’ve really enjoyed following Beth Terrence’s May is for Metta, which really eases into the lovingkindness practice, and helps build a strong foundation for it–to get in touch with your loving heart energy before you begin.

These are my favorite phrases to use during the meditation …

May I be safe.

May I be happy.

May I be at ease.

May I be peaceful.

May I be healthy and strong.

May I have a calm, clear mind, and a peaceful, loving heart.

May I experience love, joy, and wonder in this life just as it is.

And today may you experience love, joy, and wonder in this life–just as it is.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made to represent my 4th chakra companion, a joyful bird, and also to celebrate Hope, that thing with feathers.

How to be serene in the face of great provocation


Do you have someone in your life who irritates the living hell out of you? Someone who totally knows how to push your buttons? Someone you can’t ban from your life, or get away from, like a coworker? Or a relative who’s going through an awkward stage? Someone whose whole life, perhaps, is an awkward stage?

Your secret is safe with me.

I devised this little exercise, based on the work of Eckhart Tolle, a few years ago when I was in desperate need of it myself. It really made a difference for me, and I hope it will for you too.

  1. Find a quiet place that’s conducive to meditation.
  2. Visualize yourself in water … at one with the water, in your element, completely comfortable. Feel yourself weightless and transparent.
  3. Now visualize the person who irritates the living hell out of you tossing something unpleasant at you. It can be whatever you like–rotten tomatoes, hand grenades, cow patties, what have you.
  4. At first, despite the fact that you are now weightless and transparent, you’ll probably flinch, or feel some resistance, or both. That’s OK. Try again. The idea is to allow the unpleasant thing to pass right through you, making no impact whatsoever, not harming you in any way.
  5. Continue until you can allow the rotten tomato or what have you to pass through you without feeling any resistance. Excellent!
  6. Now, when you are with the person who formerly irritated the living hell out of you, call upon your new practice. Allow their unpleasant words to pass right through, while you remain serene and non-reactive. You can now respond effectively (or not–your choice), unhampered by anger.
  7. Tell me it doesn’t feel fabulous.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made tonight, Witness (one of the Transpersonal cards).

The strength of the soul

Soulmate journey

Friday I had lunch with a colleague, and was describing the benefits I now experience after years of meditation–including the ability to lower my blood pressure and a mind that is often spacious, rather than stuffed to bursting with thoughts. He and I have discussed this before. (You can lead a horse to water …) It’s clear to me that he could benefit tremendously from a meditation practice, but he’s very resistant to it (as was I for years).

Yesterday he told me something very interesting–that he believes he can never have peace of mind because he’s too much his father’s son.

I responded that the soul is stronger than the body. While our relationships with the souls who inhabit the bodies of our relatives often transcend lifetimes, what we inhabit now is just one of many gene pools, one of many bodies.

The soul is capable of mastering the body–though it doesn’t always succeed.

In my own case, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that part of what I’m doing here this time around is learning to master a body with a tendency toward anger and resentment. Others are here to master a tendency toward addiction, or self-destruction. Many of us have accepted bodies that are challenging in one way or another. None of these tasks are easy, but they are essential to our growth.

Not only is it possible to master our bodies’ negative tendencies–it really is what we’re here for.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card The soulmate journey + Holding space.

How to look younger

Jacob's sheep

That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful. –Ninon de l’Enclos

Last weekend I had dinner with a group of foodie friends, including one I hadn’t seen in a few years, only once since he moved away. He immediately started trying to figure out why I looked different: “Your hair’s darker. [I denied it because it’s still its natural color, but he may well be right–hair does darken with age, and mine is less chestnut than it used to be.] You look younger!”

I immediately inquired what exactly he’d been smoking in New Orleans. I know for a fact that I haven’t been aging in reverse. In fact, it’s just in the past few years that I’ve gone from looking younger than my age, to … not.

But when someone else, who has seen me continuously over the past few years, said she’d also noticed I looked different, I wanted to know what it was they were seeing–and more importantly, why.

After dinner, when I stopped by the ladies’ room, I took the opportunity to consult the mirror. Indeed I did look younger. My face looked fuller, softer–relaxed. I realized the tension was gone from my face. What had I done, anyway?

Then I remembered.

My laptop had died the day before, and when I got home with my new laptop, I was looking for ways to enjoy its exponentially better Beats Audio sound. I decided to listen to both the evening and–for the first time, the next morning–the morning guided meditations on Doreen Virtue’s Chakra Clearing CD.

It turns out that while the evening meditation is great for winding down and processing a difficult day, the majority of the chakra clearing work happens in the morning meditation. Since time in the morning seems to be chronically short for those of us who don’t create our own schedules, I find a weekend morning is best for this meditation. (I like it so much, though, that I may well try to make time for it on certain weekday mornings. It’s about 25 minutes, slightly longer than the 15-20 minutes I normally meditate.)

I feel compelled to note that the meditations include a couple of moments that could be construed as cheesy, but I am all about what works. Considering how well these meditations work, I am completely willing to forgive those moments (and I’m certain cheesy is in the eye–or ear–of the beholder).

I listened to the meditations again last night and this morning, and today I found that doing the meditation really zapped the indefinable ‘crummy’ feeling I woke up with–I’m not sure of its source, perhaps the unpleasant storm that swept through with extremely high winds while I was still trying to sleep. The meditations had the same effect on my face as before.

I hope you’ll try these meditations for yourself. When you do, I think you’ll find yourself feeling better, more relaxed, and yes–looking younger.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Jacob’s sheep, some of whom are very young indeed.

The hare grows tortoise feet


When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time. –Creighton Abrams

When I was younger, I hopped on rabbit feet. Certain things came easily to me, and I generally did those things. In college, I’d write my papers overnight, usually starting around midnight when the dorm got quiet, and finishing around 5 am or so. I’d meet my roommate, a nursing student off to the early shift, as I went to bed.

I’m not sure if it’s a hare, a tortoise, or something else altogether that takes the path of least resistance. I remember being advised in my 20s that I should direct my passion toward work worth being passionate about. My view then was that there was no way I could abandon my investment in my career (a handful of years at that point) and start over–no way! Back then, making a decision out of fear seemed a wise and prudent thing to do. Or so, at any rate, I told myself.

In those days, I’d never have wanted to identify with the slow, steady tortoise of the fable. The hare had its issues, very true–but how much better to be quick! How fatal to be slow! I’m not sure I ever stopped to examine the finish line I was leaping towards, or the path I was on.

Lately I find myself taking comfort in the slow and steady accretion of my efforts. I may not be able to give hare-like, flat-out, all-or-nothing effort to everything I want to accomplish. (In fact, I’m not willing to give that kind of effort to anything nowadays, as that way lies burnout.) But a bit at a time, steadily and without fail, offered with unwavering commitment, will indeed get me where I want to go.

I wear my tortoise shell proudly.

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