Monday, November 10, 2014

Schedule Mindfulness

We are bombarded with stressors on almost a constant basis. Both external and internal, these stressors have a profound affect on us - physically, psychologically, cognitively, and emotionally. We often think of stressors as major issues - illness, financial problems, family problems. However, those stressors awaken more natural, proper responses in our bodies. We take appropriate steps to act upon those situations. Even major illnesses demand that we re-think our lives, what we do, and how we can best augment our own healing.

But, what about the tiny stressors? The ones that we don't even consider? E-Mail, phone, text, online, calendars, appointments, everyday tasks. Our time, our energies, our focus are regularly being sidetracked. We receive a text and a stress is created in our bodies. Our natural tendency is to want to respond, to take action, to get the job done.

Think back just five years. Were demands placed on your time, bit by bit, at all times of the day, the way that they are not? Probably not. We text while we eat, in the movies, and, horribly, in the car.

We need to take care of ourselves on a daily basis, maintaining our centers despite the continuous disturbances. There are simple, meaningful ways to do this.

Read more about stress at Dr. Weil.

We have very little control over what happens externally, but DO have a great deal of control over what happens inside. The interplay among our bodies, minds, and emotions is always present, and we often do not pay attention to that interplay. Refocusing, becoming more aware, and cultivating that awareness helps us recognize the stressors and what they are doing to us.

Our energy is easily depleted, but it can also be easily replenished. The first step is awareness, or mindfulness. Scheduling mindfulness into our already full days starts out as a seemingly unimportant chore, and morphs into a necessity that we cannot do without.

Start simply. Set a timer for every 30 minutes. 
  • First Ring of Timer:
    Stop whatever you're doing (unless you're driving) and just SIT. Close your eyes and breathe, feeling each inhale and each exhale. Notice where the tightness resides in your body. Use each exhalation to focus on one tight spot, and consciously relax that spot. Keep doing that until you feel your entire body in a more relaxed state. When our bodies are tight, our energy cannot flow smoothly. Getting rid of the tightness not only allows our chi to flow more smoothly and openly, but also gives us an immediate feeling of peace, calm, and focus. We find that we work more efficiently, and the ups and downs of our days do not rock our boats in the way that they used to.

    Practice breathing with Dr. Weil.

    Take about 5 minutes to do this.
  • Second Ring of Timer:
    STAND UP. Notice your posture and bring your head, neck, spine, and hips into alignment. Raise your arms above your head, interlock your fingers, and turn your palms to face the ceiling. Breathe in.

    Breathe out and stretch your whole body and your arms, pressing your palms more towards the ceiling. Breathe in and relax the stretch.

    Breathe out
    again. Gently stretch your body over to one side. Breathe in and come back up. Breathe out, and stretch toward the other side. Breathe in and come back up.

    Breathe out
    and twist to one side, then breathe in and untwist. Breathe out and twist to the other side, then breathe in and untwist. Breathe out and relax your arms down, back to your sides.

    That's just 5 in/out pairs. You have the time!
  • Third Ring of Timer:
    . Check your posture again.

    Stretch your arms out in front of you and focus on a spot ahead of you, but a bit below eye level. Breathe in. Breathe out, keep your spine straight and bend your knees. How far? As far as you can without raising your heels and without feeling pain in your knees.

    Breathe in. Raise your body by pushing into the floor with your legs rather than by lifting up from your back. Breathe out and release your arms. Do this three times.
  • Fourth Ring of Timer: Do the same thing that you did on the First Ring
This is 4 half-hour-interval mindfulness practices, coupled with some good stretching for your body. Two hours of your day have passed, and you've taken great steps towards calming yourself, focusing your mind, and keeping your body strong and supple. None of the steps takes longer than 6 or 7 minutes. The stretches take less than that, but you'll find that the breathing practice is the greatest challenge.

Take this time for yourself. Gauge how you feel as the days go by. Congratulate yourself for these simple steps toward changing your life.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Art Of Healing

"The most divine art is that of healing.
If the healing art is most divine,
It must occupy itself with the spirit
As well as with the body -
For no creature can be so sound
So long as the higher part is sickly."

Appolonius of Tyana

What does it mean to heal? For most of us, healing is an external process - visiting someone who is an expert in the particular area in which we feel pain or discomfort. We put our bodies and hearts into trusting these experts, hoping that their knowledge and experience will relieve our problems.

We know that something in our bodies is amiss, and with the experts'  guidance, follow a regimen which takes us from illness to health. An operation, procedure, and medication are our weapons against the challenge that we face.

But, we miss something important in this externalization. We forget, or perhaps never knew, our our own innate healing abilities.

There is an interplay in each of us - a balance - hot/cold, hard/soft, tense/relaxed. A thought in the mind affects a muscle in the body. A pain in the body creates fear in the heart. The fear in the heart sends the mind racing. It is a challenge to remain calm while we are feeling pain, a challenge to relax our bodies when our minds are shuffling through the myriad of possibilities - is it this, or that, or what?

Back and forth, brains strain bodies, bodies respond, emotions bound all over the place. We look around and see a variety of diseases and conditions, and wonder, "What's going on? Why are so many people getting sick?"

Even when "healing" is taking place, it comes from an external source, a drug, a procedure, a "fix." We have forgotten our own power and perhaps never even thought about it. Western culture spends precious little time nurturing and training us in personal power. Sure, we use the term, but it is associated with running a marathon or enduring a Tough Mudder.

We are all cells in one gigantic organism
In which you can’t draw an artificial boundary any more.
Between inside and outside, visible and invisible,
Between psychology, emotion, intent and even words and actions,
Because we affect each other, responsibilities follow.
Larry Dossey, MD

The REAL cultivation is both deep and subtle. As we practice, we barely notice. We ask, "What are we doing this for? How can this possibly make a difference? How will this help my heart/kidney/lung?"

Each of us is a universe. We are comprised of trillions of cells. Each cell is comprised of molecules, which are all comprised of atoms. Each atom is comprised of atomic particles.

So, how does your practice affect your heart/kidney/lung? What do you think they are made of? Are the electrons in your knee different from the ones in your stomach? Are the protons in your liver behaving differently than the ones in your esophagus?

I've moved from talking about the gross physical body to the subtle physical body. From muscle, to cell, to molecule, to particle. One thing is certain - Everything is Energy.

Let's heal at the energetic level. Each particle vibrates, and as they vibrate in unison, blood, nerves, hearts, brains, and all the rest, develop and evolve.Our healing must begin at the deepest level - energy transforms our bodies in their entirety - far more potent than just giving a pill to thin the blood.
This energy is called Chi, Ki, Lifeforce, Pneuma, Prana. Many cultures throughout history have recognized this energy, and based their healing practices on it. If we think of atomic particles, we realize that all energy, at its core, is the same. It is the arrangement that creates variety. It is our INTENT that brings purpose and creates action.

"If the art of shipbuilding were in the wood, then we would have ships by nature."

Healing begins with Intention, moves through Process, and manifests in Transformation and Restoration.When we are ill, our Chi is in a state of disarray. Practice that cultivates and balances Chi is the foundation for restoring improving overall health.

Don't discount those minutes of deep, mindful breathing. Don't scoff at the slow, graceful movements of your arms. Don't skip the weight-shifting practices, slow knee bends, and spine stretches.
  • Each time you engage in a practice, set a Healing Intention before you begin. Make the intention very clear and specific. If you are in good health, set an intention to be grateful for that health, and commit to doing everything to maintain it. If you are not feeling well, or are facing a a major health challenge, set a healing intention that is Specific, Concrete, and Observable.
"My knees are pain-free and supple."
"Arthritis is easing out of my body."
"Cancer cells are being released from my body each time I exhale."
  • Keep the Intention current - not "I will" but rather "It Is."
  • Breath move Chi - Chi moves the body. KNOW that each inhalation is an act of healing. KNOW that each exhalation is an act of cleansing.
  • Bring the inner Chi into alignment with Universal Chi. Begin to experience the easy flow of breath, and then go deeper. Concentrate on one organ at a time. Take 3 breaths for each organ, moving from one to another throughout the body. Then, concentrate on each system: nervous, circulatory, digestive, reproductive, excretory.
  • Experience your skin. Feel the air and your clothes touching it. Be fully aware of your face, the tension in the muscles, and begin to relax them.
  • Put yourself into a state of Already Healed. Bring a look of peace, contentment, and joy to your face. Feel strength, courage, and certainty in your heart.
This is vitally important, healing work. Don't skirt it. It is as necessary and valuable as any other obligation that you have.

Set aside 15 minutes twice each day for this. After one week, start to increase the duration by a few minutes, every few days, until you reach 30 minutes of sitting in Mindful Healing.

Click here for a simple, heart-centered meditation.

You think that you don't have 30 minutes?
We all drop minutes all over the place. E-Mail, Facebook, text messaging, family, job, chores...

Set Aside The Time
Turn Off The Phone
Be Away From The Computer

Mindful Healing. Every day.