Coloured portrait

Coloured portrait

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Shalom - Peace, Well-Being and Health

The Hebrew language is interesting to explore. Words are based on a root, a number of consonants; add vowels, prefixes and suffixes to the root, and you get verbs, nouns, adjectives and attributes all related to the same root.

For example, take the word “Shalom” - Peace, which has its root Shin, Lamed, Mem. Let’s see what words and expressions share the same root as Shalom, and if we can find a common meaning.

Shalom = Peace

Shalem = Whole, intact; also, the verb “to pay” le-shalem.

Shulam = paid for

Lehashlim = to complete; also, in a conflict, to make up, to make peace.

Hashlama = completion

Mushlam = completed; perfect

Let’s look at some common expressions using this root:

  • Ma shlomcha? “How are you”, which is literally translated as “How is your peace”. The answer is either “Shlomi be seder” “My peace is in order”, meaning I am well, doing well; or “Shlomi lo kol-kach tov” - “My peace is not so well”, meaning I am not so well. Interesting to notice that your doctor won’t greet you asking about your health, which in Hebrew is “Briut”, but about your peace!

  • Ani shalem im atzmi - “I am at peace with myself” which is literally translated as “I am whole, or in integrity with myself”

  • Ani shalem im achlatati - “I am at peace (in integrity) with my decision. Or, the opposite, “Ani lo shalem I’m achlatati” meaning “I am not at peace / whole / in integrity with my decision”

It seems that peace, integrity, payment, completion and perfection all share the same root. What do you make of it?

Peace can be achieved when accounts are settled. To have peace there must be justice. When goods or services are offered in a transaction, they are offered for a just payment. When students attend their first level of Reiki classes, and learn about energy balance, they learn the importance of balancing giving and receiving, of replenishing one’s energy and receiving just payment for one’s service. 

When a wrongdoing has caused harm, it must be corrected. In English we talk about forgiveness, but forgiveness can only be granted with the making of amends - “paying back”.

What about peace in one’s body and mind? In several of his YouTube Dharma talks, mindfulness meditation teacher Shinzen Young mentions that body pain is an experience that hasn’t been fully experienced. It hasn’t been completed. The Grinberg-method-informed bodywork that I have trained in is based on the same principle: chronic pain and symptoms are in fact emotional unfinished businesses, and the intervention used to accomplish change and “Peace” - Shalom, requires the experiential, embodied completion of that unfinished business, which may involve movement of the body, breathing, the sound of one’s voice, and often, uttering the words that needed to be spoken and had been silenced for years! 

Bringing experiences to completion - lehashlim - in order to achieve peace - shalom - is a common principle in a number of healing methods that I work with: 

  • TIR - Trauma Incident Reduction requires the client to articulate an experience that still carries an emotional charge, going over the same story until peace is achieved and felt in the body. 

  • The bodywork that I do is inspired by the Grinberg method (holistic reflexology) and Vipassana (body-centred awareness). The healing student learns how to meet and touch upon an embodied experience, and bring it to completion in a cycle of feeling and expressing, reaching its climax, and then letting go and releasing.

  • In constellation work family members’ representatives say to each other meaningful words that needed to be said, in order to achieve peace.

  • In voice dialogue, a person’s ‘selves’, or sub-personalities, are given a voice in order to achieve a greater degree of integrity in the self. Shadow work, and integrating disowned parts of the psyche, is the journey from fragmentation to integrity, and thus, to peace.

  • Journaling is one of the most accessible practices of articulating and completing experiences.

One word root, one philosophy, and such profound life implications! When there is turbulence, war and disease, there is fragmentation, disconnect, imbalance between giving and receiving, between wrong-doing and payback, payments that haven’t been made, words that haven’t been spoken, feelings that haven’t been felt. Peace, balance, wholeness, integrity and (relative) perfection are different words depicting the same thing.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Fruit Fly Meditation

Managing a fruit fly invasion as a meditation on life. 

Sometimes adversity comes not as a one big impactful event, but a swarm of little things which on their own would be harmless, like one single fruit fly, but together they can be annoying and stressful. Don't worry though, I've got them under control!

Another thought is, if life's events are externalizations of the mind, this swarm of tiny pests might represent the cloud of small mental worries, obsessions, doubts and resentments. Neither is harmful on its own, but the lot of them swarming back and forth on one's mind, contaminates, annoys, and stresses. 

Sitting in meditation this morning, I've noticed my body contracting as images of tiny flies flew in front of my mind's eye. Thoughts racing back and forth, shoulders up, pelvic floor squeezed tight - what am I doing? Noticing the noising inside and outside, reflecting on the "Who am I?" meditation, realizing that noise is noise regardless whether it is inside or outside, smiling to the realization and softening to the warmth of awareness. 

Time for clarity, don't you think?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Life Purpose

Adversity poses obstacles. To overcome adversity, tools are needed.

But before tools, one must have a reason - a WHY - to fight the fight.

Self-preservation is rarely enough. Overcoming adversity requires a leverage as something greater and more meaningful than the self: one's circle of care, perhaps family, friends, loved ones, children, animals, community. 

The greater the adversity faced, the stronger the sense of belonging one must have in order to gather the strength to cope, overcome, and triumph. Coming out of dark times and adversity myself, and after having brushed with death, I wondered what has kept me going (besides caring for my dog Kinook). I never gave up even when I had thoughts of suicide. I don't have children to raise, or other dependents. The only sense of belonging has been the greater sense of spiritual connection of all things, that I am a drop of water in the sea. The only purpose that made my personal fight worth fighting during impossible times was the thought and the drive to turn my own overcoming and triumph into service, which is why I am writing, teaching and facilitating. 

Mild adversity, such as boredom, is as dangerous as any other kind when living without purpose and meaning. An aimless soul will try to fill the void with empty distractions, stuff one's body with useless foods and substance, and flood one's mind with useless information.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Scenic Road to Well-Being: Reading the Signs of How You Are

Reading the Signs of Well-Being

Taking the scenic road to well-being means that I use therapies and practices which take time, some of which are short-term, and some of which are long-term; some methods bring immediate results, while other methods work like a snowball effect, with noticeable changes occurring much later in time. Some methods work synergistically with each other; other methods overlap and thus some become superfluous. And as with anything we do, some methods are more effective than others. 

When I relied solely on medical science for my well-being, things were simple: take the pill, watch the effect. End of story. It helped or it didn’t. The holistic approach is a complex world view with complex choices and outcomes. Looking at all the subjective, objective, individual and collective factors at play in health and well-being demands taking actions that cover all the bases, according to priorities and the available resources. The holistic methods are not institutionalized - how can they - even if more organizations and disciplines are becoming integrative. The ultimate responsibility befalls on you: you decide what methods, practitioners and practices to engage, and you monitor your health and well-being to see what works and what doesn’t. 

Part of being less than well is a dissociation from the body. Some jargon calls this being “ungrounded”, others describe a feeling of being spaced-out. A disembodied lifestyle, living from the neck up, as well as unresolved trauma, cause disassociation - a lack of awareness of one’s own body and feelings. When you are unaware, you don’t know that you don’t know how you are doing - it’s very much like being drunk. So you need sign-posts to point towards your current state of being - like the time when I threw away the kitchen sink strainer together with the garbage immediately after an accident that gave a blow to my head.

Here are some of my sign posts that I look at on my own personal journey to well-being. The list is not a set of instructions to adopt and follow; nor is it a complete list of possibilities. It is what has been guiding me, according to my personal subjective preferences and sensitivities, and objective circumstances and resources. I hope this gives you an idea where to look as you navigate your own scenic road to well-being.

  • Mood

How often do you laugh? How do you wake up in the morning? I know that I am doing well when I wake up with a reflexive stretch and a smile on my face. How is the quality of your dreams - pleasant or unpleasant? When I laugh in my dreams, I know that I am doing very well!

  • Stamina and endurance

How much of your “to do” list are you able to accomplish on a daily basis? Do you workout or practice some kind of embodied practice? And if you do, do you force yourself do it because you should, or do you look forward moving because you have all this energy that prompts you to? How long can you be active before you rest - take a nap, or even sit down? For me this last question is quite relevant to my current levels of stamina.

  • Balance, Coordination and Agility

What I can and cannot do on the yoga mat is highly illustrative of the state of well-being: can I balance myself on one foot and stay relaxed, without wobbling? There are days when I can, and days when I can’t. 

  • Sexual drive

It’s as simple as that: your libido is your vitality. An unusually low sex drive compared to what you know your normal to be indicates a decline in well-being. Your drive is high, and the juices flow? You’re doing pretty well!

  • The mirror

Bad hair days are in fact “unwell” days. Look at your face in the mirror, and watch for the shine and shape of your hair - is it dull and frizzy, or shiny and smooth? Are your eyes dull or bright? Is your skin pale, or is there colour indicating good blood flow? Are your lips dry and chapped or moist? 

  • Spaciousness and mobility

Chronic contraction of the body leaves the joints stiff and painful, the movements clunky and rigid, and the breath shallow and confined. I find my own breathing to be speaking clearly about how well or unwell I am: if it’s rapid and shallow while at rest, I am not so well. If my breathing is full, slow and soft on the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale, I am doing well!

  • Creativity and Intuition

I like doing things with my hands: painting, drawing, cooking, doing crafts. And I like writing. When I sit in front of my computer screen and nothing comes out of my fingertips resting on the keyboards, or when I sit in front of a canvas or paper, and nothing shapes up that I like, I know I am off balance, off centre, and doing not so well. Creativity comes spontaneously and compels expression - when you’re well, you write, dance, cook, paint, create and innovate new ideas and things because a compelling creative drive from within you.

Intuition is “knowing things without knowing how you know them” - it’s the gut feeling that steers you towards what’s nourishing and sustaining for you and that which you love. Both intuition and creativity require clarity of the nervous system.

  • Relationships with people and pets

There is a saying in Romanian, my native language: “When two people tell you that you’re drunk, go take a nap!”. Your interpersonal interactions will mirror your state of well-being to you: is there a flow of harmony between you and others, or conflict? Pets reflect this even more truthfully: my dog was an easy, sweet-tempered girl, with just a touch of stubbornness. It didn’t take much for me to lead her, but I had to be balanced. If I called her and she didn’t respond, I knew I something was not quite right with me. In my good days, she’d happily come to me and follow. 

  • Decisiveness

This is an easy sign post to observe first thing in the morning, when you decide what to wear! My difficult days would find me standing in front of my wardrobe, doors open, clueless about what I wanted to wear that day. I find decisiveness to go hand-on-hand with creativity and intuition: easily accessed when balanced, centred and well, and blocked when unwell.

  • Flow

Can you think of times when bad things seem to come all at once? That’s when you are not centred or well, and that series of mishaps are telling you about it. 

Can you think of times when everything seems to flow for you, and one good thing leads to another, and another? Everything that you do seems to go easily and naturally, sometimes synchronistically - and when that happens, you know that you are “in a good place” - you are well.

Whenever I adopt a new practice or engage in a new therapeutic method for my well-being, I look for the changes that follow the practice of therapy sessions. Sometimes there is a worsening of symptoms, like the homeopathic aggravation or a healing crisis. A healing crisis is usually intense and short-lived. If it lasts long, it points towards a worsening of the state of well-being and flashes the alarm towards something going wrong. 

I know that whatever I am doing for well-being is effective and useful when I can easily name a noticeable change in my mood, stamina, balance, libido, aesthetics, mobility, clarity, decisiveness, relationships and flow. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reiki and Unconditional Love

Reiki training and practice was a major crossroad in my life. The days and weeks following my first attunement brought about experiences that left me in awe: spontaneous cessation of addictive behaviour (cigarette smoking and drinking coffee); unexpected resuming of artistic creativity; mending broken relationships; closing debts; and knowing things without knowing how I knew them (intuition).

One remarkable experience that marked me, and possibly the most important one, was the experience of unconditional love. And I know exactly when I first encountered it.

As soon as I was initiated and trained to be a Reiki practitioner of the first two levels of Reiki, I (finally, at the age of 38) knew what I wanted to do with my life: healing! I laid my hands on everyone who would let me, and watch in awe headaches disappear, moods lifting up, and a variety of such other changes that fascinated my mind and challenged my Inner Skeptic. 

One person who came to my home for a few Reiki sessions was an older gentleman who suffered with diabetes. He was a difficult man, cranky and displeased with everything. I lived in a modest apartment building, and he complained about the messy staircase leading to my apartment. I would normally get defensive in the face of such complaints and respond with resentment. But something really unusual happened while this man was lying on my treatment table, while I touched him with Reiki hands: I felt a kind of benevolence towards this man, a felt emotion which resembled the affection I knew and had towards my mother, when I was a child, and towards my dogs. I wanted to hug this man and I wished him healing and happiness, and I felt all this moving inside me. This feeling was in stark contrast with my regard of the man’s personality: I wanted nothing from him, and it didn’t matter to me whether I would see him again or not. I felt the same benevolence towards my friends and family members whom I treated with Reiki, but I attributed my feeling to my relationship with them, which was already based on affinity and intimate connection. 

This body-felt benevolence towards a man whose personality was unpleasant surprised me and left me in awe. Some people discover unconditional love after years of sustained spiritual practice. I had Love drop on my lap just like that, with Reiki practice. It surprised me, it moved me, and it informed my drives and motives. I wanted to do good, to help and contribute to the well-being and happiness of people (and animals, and plants!). It was different than the romantic love that I had sought so far: in seeking the “perfect” romantic love, I sought, in fact, fulfilment of my needs. Romantic love was about having my emotional, sexual, sensual, and social needs met, it was really about me. This Reiki-induced love had me orient towards another - the person on my treatment table - and there were no questions asked, no needs to be met, nothing requested or required. 

The old man left my practice mumbling and muttering things about my building’s messy staircase, and I doubt that I helped him cure the diabetes. And I was touched nonetheless, and left to explore, grow, lose and reconnect again with a kind of love that gives colour and purpose to life, making it strong, and making it worth it; a love that brings all living things closer together, with no condition, no questions asked.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Why Affirmations Don't Work and When Do They

Language reflects one of the four mental faculties:

1- Remembering
2- Planning
3- Fantasizing
4- Noticing

Remembering is recalling sounds, images and feelings from past events.

Planning is placing one’s thinking efforts towards the future. 

Fantasizing is making things up using imagination.

Noticing is paying attention to what is real in the present moment.

Of course, the four faculties are building upon each other. You can plan for the future based on what you remember from the past, and on what you are aware of in the present. Fantasizing is also using mental memories or things noticed in the present. In order to imagine a blue flying giraffe with yellow polka dots, you must have seen what a giraffe looks like, the colour blue, the colour yellow, polka dots and flying things / animals.

Planning for the future is based on one’s values, desires, needs, drives, urges and impulses, on memories of the past and on envisioning what is possible through fantasizing. Planning begins with intention: what are you seeking to create, and what are you intending to do towards your future. Intention gives direction to your actions. 

Prayers are an upgraded version of intention: they open a door for that which is generated from beyond the conscious mind and decisions. Prayers are either petitionary, addressed to a deity in second person perspective “Please dear [Deity] restore my health!” Or they are uttered as a neutral way to open doors for favourable possibilities: “May I recover fully and restore my health”! I personally tend to favour the latter.

What are affirmations?

Affirmations are used in lieu of prayers, as a way to affirm the individual’s responsibility and part in creating a desired future. “I have fully recovered and I enjoy total health!” Affirmations are positive statements in the present tense, which are used to describe a desired outcome as if it is already happening. 

For affirmation to work, they have to be rooted in reality or a possibility. 

When do affirmations fail:

1- Affirmations describing factual events that do not depend on an individual’s behaviour. Examples: “It’s raining!” Or “The storm has already stopped” 
Unless you are an effective psychic and Expert Rainmaker, this type of affirmations are useless. If everyone were a powerful psychic, humanity would shape the world’s climate, stop hurricanes and tornadoes, make rain in the Sahara and make Ottawa tropical. 

2 - Affirmations describe personal traits or behaviours that are not true. “I’m blonde with blue eyes” or “I’m tall and thin”. These are blatant lies and apart from their entertaining value, uttering them has no purpose.

3 - Affirmations that describe future outcomes which are highly unlikely to happen. “I have become Queen of England” or (a favourite of the naive) “I won the lottery jackpot”. 

When do affirmations work:

1 - Affirmations are useful when they describe an individual’s trait or behaviour which is already true but not yet or currently expressed. By affirming a strength, one can shift the mental focus from a deficiency to a resource, change their mental and body state, and express it. 

As an example, think of two polarized traits that you know yourself to possess, like being mean (come on, admit it, we all know that you and I can be mean at times, so own it!) versus being compassionate. You want to cultivate and strengthen your kindness, which you already possess, otherwise you wouldn’t recognize it or value it; so you affirm it: “I am kind and compassionate!”

2 - Affirmations are useful when paired with the individual’s ability to sustain a vision for a desired future. If you can imagine yourself fully recovered, then the possibility for your recovery is real and alive within your imagination, and affirming it will help you connect with it. Hope is a glimpse into possibilities. When affirming something that you are truly and sincerely hopeful for,  which is possible and credible, it has a chance to work. This bit is often employed by effective healers. There is a video clip on YouTube depicting two Qi Gong practitioners performing healing on a woman who has a tumour (bladder or another organ, I don’t remember the details). There are two cameras, one inside the woman’s body, focusing on the tumour; the other camera focuses on the practitioners. The two men use body movement and chant something translatable as “It’s already gone!” The camera shows the tumour shrinking until it completely disappears. 

3 - For affirmations to work there is a need for congruence between the person’s body-mind state and the content of the affirmation. Movement, voice pitch and volume, breath and posture must be aligned with the declared words.

4 - It is easier to see results using affirmations which describe a relative process then an absolute outcome. A person who is recovering from illness is more likely to benefit from affirming: “I am getting stronger and more radiant each day” than saying: “I am strong and radiant”

To sum it up: affirmations are positive statements which are used in the present to create a desired future, engaging existing strengths that have not yet been expressed and towards an outcome which is envisioned as possible by the person who is practicing the affirmations.  Their effectiveness depends on truth, sustainable vision, and congruence.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Many Hats of Education

The many hats of EDUCATION:

A good Teacher tells you WHAT to do, pointing towards an ideal to aim for, and possibilities to consider. Teachers inspire you.

A good Instructor tells you HOW to do it, with clear, doable, easy-to-follow instructions. Instructors help you build skills.

A Role Model shows you how it’s done, and teaches you by example. A Role Model points towards which possibilities have already been embodied and enacted.

A good Trainer supports your practice, so that you get experienced at what you have been learning from the Instructor. Trainers help you refine your skills.

A good Coach will ask you well-directed questions which elicit your insights about the What of your ideals and possibilities, as well as about the How To’s. Coaches help you connect with your intuition and develop wisdom.

Anything you would add?