Monday, September 19, 2011

Homage

Brian Andreas: poet, father, simple genius.

"I can imagine it working out perfectly, I said. I can't, she said & I said no wonder you're so stressed"

"This is a creature on fire with love, but it's still scary since most people think love only looks like one thing, instead of the whole world"

"Impossible yoga position but she likes to have goals that no one else can imagine, so they'll shut up about how they understand exactly what she's going through."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Something Bright Rising

There is something about driving alone, at night, fast, with everything you own, to a brand new place. It's a kind of high off of self-sufficiency, maybe adrenaline surging at the frontier of doubt. But doubt intersects with great potential and so this fast-driving-leave-everything-behind-rush springs forth from the interplay and the elusive balance between risk and reward. And I risk raising cetain mentalities with such language, the language of finance, becauae the risks and rewards in the car going 90mph are inherently very different from the risks and rewards typically included in your metaphorical (or literal) pro/con list.

You go over it in your head one hundred times. All of the possibilities, the potential for fuck-ups, for fame, the fairy-tale and the nightmare - because of course there is no other way it could go. It's always all or nothing. Then there's the decision. This could be instant, or it could be drawn out and meticulous, but one way or another, the choice is made. And it always comes down to this: to stay, or to go. We're constantly walking away from something, always stumbling into something new. We may close the door behind us, or we may double back, bridges might be burned, but we are always entering into new territory. With these seemingly "big" decisions, the territory we leave or discover may be more obvious and it can be a daunting decision to make. Should I stay or should I go?

You measure out the excitement of newness against the security of routine. "Change is good," you tell yourself, but then again, all of the images you've ever seen of success and happiness depend upon the notion of stability and predictability. Opportunities lie in your connections, and breaking away from that means not only creating a clean slate, but it also means... creating a clean slate- you have to start from scratch. And just as Traci Chapman's brilliant song Fast Car illustrates, sometimes change isn't really change. Sometimes, no matter how many times you start over, or take a risk, enter new territory or close a chapter of your life, life isn't discrete; things overflow, overlap, and follow you even against your bidding. Sometimes moving on is really running away.

So then what?

Well, you take a chance, that's what, it's as simple as that. You figure out along the way where the tipping point is and how you measure worth. If you're lucky, you learn earlier on how to distinguish your values from the ones that society has forced on you, how to own your choices and deal with the hand you're dealt. There is a learning curve though, and I think our generation is bending that curve in our favor. A key point here is mindfullness- being as acutely aware as you can be of when your values shift or the situation changes negatively, and being strong enough in your resolve to adjust or abandon ship. There are two historical accounts of the Battle of Troy. One, Homer's famous account tells the story of glorious victory. The other, less glamorous and thus less well known account is that of soldiers retreating; running away. And the author celebrates this, he says, "there is a time to fight and a time to retreat; it is a wise man (or woman) who knows the difference." althohgh he didn't say it in so many words. And while our culture is one that celebrates almost blind dedication, sometimes the occasion calls for a different tactic.

As for now, I'm moving on, trudging through a field of doubt, and holding onto a glimpse on the horizon of something bright rising. Change is always hard, but the sunrise is always beautiful.



May your path be illuminated.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

As Above, So Below. Part 2

Girls as young as six years old have indicated having a greater fear of being fat than of nuclear war, cancer, or losing a parent. When faced with the ultimatum, the majority of people responded that they would rather lose a hand than gain 100 pounds and one third of American adults are classified as obese. It is clear that we have been on an increasing trend towards bigger waistlines and the culprit is both the adjective and the noun: fat.

We equate the cellulite on thighs, the love handles and the belly rolls with butter, oil, whole milk and other foods classified as having high fat contents. It's a rather simple, linear equation; fat goes in, fat gets put on. The body, however, is far from simple, and such an uncomplicated representation of it's function is bound to be not only incomplete and untrue, but also dangerous.

What does fat do? Well, in more visibly obvious terms, it provides protection-cushion, if you will, both for bones and joints but also for internal organs. Body fat, mostly subcutaneous (below the skin) also serves as insulation from the harsh elements. Less visibly obvious, fat stores in the body called visceral are found surrounding the organs in protection. These fat stores have a great job to do beyond simple cushioning though. Subcutaneous fat is energy storage and manufacture units for important messenger chemicals like leptin, which helps to regulate hunger cues. Stores of fat in the body are also involved in the production of sex hormones, necessary for normal development and healthy functioning of an adult body. Plus, butter makes food taste good.

So why have we become so fat-phobic? One reason often cited is that large studies have shown a correlation between high fat diets and disease risk (cardiac implications are most often the focus, but others have Bren suggested as well). What HASNT been taken into account in these studies until relatively recently, is the TYPE of fat. More recent and comprehensive studies have found that the correlation stands for saturated fat (animal fat mostly, and some plant based fats) more than for unsaturated fat, like olive oil, and so plant-based diets and low-fat options for milk and yogurt, "lean cuts" of red meat and a preference for white meat, poultry and fish have been touted as the keys for optimum health by a number of doctors as well as diet "gurus." But this also is incomplete information. The body NEEDS all kinds of fat (except trans) for proper and optimum functioning. While reducing carbohydrate sources of energy in the body forces the body into ketosis, a highly inefficient and liver-stressing process of breaking down fat and protein into sources of sugar sources of e nervy that the brain can use, limiting dietary fat intake poses a number of important concerns. For one, there is no way of obtaining fat-soluble vitamins without consuming wholesome fats in proper quantities. Vitamins A, D, E and K aid in vision, immunity, calcium absorption and usage and number of other important functions in the body. Taking these vitamins in supplement form can help, but they won't reabsorbed (compromised bioavailability) as well as if they came from food, and they are expensive. Fats also insulate neural pathways and so inadequate fat intake readily alters brain function and is needed to build serotonin. Low dietary fat has thus been linked with depression (more on this and it's effect on eating disorders from Dr. Greenblatt). Further, when low fat intake yields depressive tendencies, one's body image and self perception will be negatively impacted, and often causes a person to further limit either one or both calories and fat, simply perpetuating this vicious cycle.

I myself grew up on 2% reduced fat milk, and then switched to "skim" milk in middle school. It wasn't until this year that I started drinking (raw) whole milk for the first time since being a toddler. The reason for my switch, in the midst of many people around me making the switch in the opposite direction, is due to the processing of the milk. Another big secret is that Big Dairy adds skim milk powder to skim milk. Here’s an excerpt from “Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry” from the Weston A. Price Website:

"A note on the production of skim milk powder: liquid milk is forced through a tiny hole at high pressure, and then blown out into the air. This causes a lot of nitrates to form and the cholesterol in the milk is oxidized. Those of you who are familiar with my work know that cholesterol is your best friend; you don’t have to worry about natural cholesterol in your food; however, you do not want to eat oxidized cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, to atherosclerosis. So when you drink reduced-fat milk thinking that it will help you avoid heart disease, you are actually consuming oxidized cholesterol, which initiates the process of heart disease."


Shortly after World War II, Americans started to abandon butter and cream because of the belief that saturated fat was linked to the growing number of heart disease cases in America. However, atherosclerosis was virtually unknown prior to the mid 1920′s when Americans drowned everything in cream and butter. Something else had been introduced into the food supply of the time that was causing this worrisome increase in heart disease. Of course, this “something” is partially hydrogenated fats which were introduced around 1921. These hydrogenated oils and trans fats, heavily present in processed and fast food is the ONLY fat I ever worry about anymore. As for the rest, I opt for the foods that are closest to their sources: grass fed, local, organic, raw (or as many of those as I can, when I can... $$). While you don't want to GORGE yourself on fats, you certainly don't need to obsess over counting grams as long as you have variety and are mindful about your eating patterns. You're better off eating more satisfying and wholesome fat than you are eating empty calories and processed carbohydrates. Plus, it's about time that we start migrating back to that happy medium, accepting the curves of our bodies and enjoying pleasures in moderation.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

As Above, So Below. Part 1

I used to hold fast to the idea that you are what you eat, and that mentality wreaked havoc on my health, both physically and emotionally. I, and many people involved in various diet plans as well as those struggling with eating disorders categorize foods into "good" and "bad," labels that are often in tandem with particular categories of macronutients, i.e. carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. For individuals with eating disorders, and also commonly in popular fad diets, the "bad" foods are designated by their membership in a particular macronutrient family, i.e. the nearly national fear of fat and/or avoidance of carbs. The most common rehabilitation protocol for individuals with eating disorders is fairly straightforward and consists of cognitive behavioral counseling in conjunction with nutritional rehabilitation. The typical nutritional rehabilitation is hallmarked by it's emphasis on caloric intake and specific percentages of macronutrient makeup in the diet. It is a rigid sdiet structure with little to no room for individual considerations, depending of course on the particular rehabilitation program. The focus on adequate intake of those food groups is undoubtedly of vital importance particularly in severely undernourished patients as is typical of an Eating Disorder Unit at a hospital or a rehabilitation facility, however, the energy contained in those food groups in the form of calories is not going to be absorbed for optimal function in the body without various micronutrients. This is particularly true for malnourished patients, again, as is always the case for eating disordered patients. The distinction between undernourished and malnourished is a subtle, but important one. Undernourishment refers specifically to quantity, while malnourishment refers specifically to quality, both factors of vital importance in one's health.

So let's go over some basic chemistry. Carbon is the cornerstone element of life. A carbon atom can make 4 bonds and is happiest when it is making those 4 bonds. Hydrogen is also pretty ubiquitous. Hydrogen is what we call a diatomic element because it is most often found bonded to another hydrogen atom- designated as H2. Now, back to carbon. Carbon will happily bond to itself and readily creates carbon chains. The electrons that are not participating in a bond with another carbon will readily bond to hydrogen, creating what we call hydrocarbons.

Carbohydrates are chains of carbon bonded to hydrogen and oxygen (another, very obviously vital element for life) with hydrogen and oxygen existing in a 2:1 ratio. There are various designations within the overarching macronutrient group of carbohydrates, however, that you may be familiar with with the common diet lingo of "good carbs," and "bad carbs." These labels refer to the carbohydrate categories of monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides, aka, simple sugars, and complex carbs. Recently, simple sugars have gotten a bit of a bad rep, but studies haves shown that overall, there is no significant difference between the two categories in terms of their effect on blood sugar and insulin. What we know, is that the more slowly digested a food is, the more stable blood sugar and insulin levels remain and the longer satiety lingers. Some simple sugars are digested slowly, and others more quickly. The same is true for complex carbohydrates. The glycemic index (G.I.) is a measurement of a foods effect on blood sugar and insulin levels in the blood as an indicator of digestion speed in comparison to pure glucose. (By th way, blood sugar spikes are followed by a release in insulin to transport the glucose. High levels of exposure to insulin in the body are linked to the development of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.) High glycemic index foods are digested more quickly, have a more rapid and destabilizing effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, and tend not to produce long lasting satiety, and vice versa for low glycemic index foods. Nutritionally speaking we want to include more low G.I. foods and less high G.I. foods. However, because of the methodology of measuring G.I., certain foods are classified as high G.I. when their effect on blood sugar is fast and destabilizing, but only when eaten in large quantities. The carrot and beet, for example are classified as high G.I. foods, but you would have to eat about 1-1.5 POUNDS of them to actually achieve the negative and destabilizing effects on blood sugar and insulin levels. In short, don't cut out beets and carrots just because they are labeled as high G.I. foods, there are always other considerations to be made. One good rule of thumb, however, is to eat minimally processed, whole, and carbohydrates that are closer to the earth rather than the factory or processing plant.

One good example of this is wheat, the staple crop for those of us with European ancestry. If we look at two loaves of bread sitting side by side on the same shelf at the grocery store, we can find remarkable differences. One is a package of sliced, white bread, and the other is a loaf of whole ground wheat bread. For one, the white bread has had to bleach the flour, strip the wheat of the germ and seed (where all of the protein and fat of the plant are found), and mill the wheat into very fine particles of flour under high heat and pressure, thereby destroying any enzymes held within the wheat that would help us to digest it, along with, of course, any bacteria that might harm us. Additionally, because this bread has been stripped of the natural antioxidants from the germ and seed, and will therefore break down faster, the bread company has to introduce preservatives into the bread to increase shelf life. (Several major studies show academic performance increased and disciplinary problems decreased in large non-ADD student populations when artificial ingredients, including preservatives were eliminated from school food programs.) The whole ground wheat bread uses the whole wheat, meaning, the germ and seed, and therefore cannot mill the flour as finely or under such high heat or pressure, which results in a heartier, doughier bread with more enzymatic activity.
Which bread do you choose?

These considerations are often not made in EDUs or other rehabilitation sites for those struggling with eating disorders and can aggregate the already difficult and painful process of refeeding. When the gut flora has been disturbed, as is almost always the case in both under- and malnourished patients, it is of utmost importance to reintroduce whole, intact foods that will encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria to aid in digestion, reduce bloating (a ubiquitous complain for refeeding patients), and support optimal assimilation of nutrients.

Furthermore, this information is almost completely invisible to the mass population. While it is, admittedly, incomplete information, and we are constantly learning new things in the field of health and nutrition, changes can and should be made in homes, in school food programs, and in governmental nutrition aid programs, to reflect the most up to date information about optimum nutrition for ALL. Good nutrition should not be a priviledge.


A post on fats and a post on proteins will be coming soon!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The National Eating Disorder

The National Eating Disorder Association estimates that nearly 11 million people are struggling with recognized eating disorders in the United States. According to the CDC, one third of adults in the US and approximately 17% of children are clinically considered obese. The millions in between these two extremes on the energy spectrum undoubtedly have countless body-image issues, fad diet influences, media manipulation that distracts from internal wisdom guiding nutrition, as well as increasingly prevalent unrecognized eating disorders such as orthorexia, binge eating and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). Additionally, the NIMH states that approximately 26% of adults in the US population are dealing with depression; 22% of those cases are considered "severe," and 46% of 13-18 year olds are diagnosed with depression with 21% of those cases being considered "severe."

Michael Pollan discusses in his book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, our "national eating disorder;" the chasm between us and where our food comes from, the processes of growing, cultivating and harvesting, or genetically engineering, processing, importing and preparing food has created the space for uncertainty, insecurity, and manipulation, in the best of cases. Extremism and obsession, illness and imbalance and ultimately untimely and/or painful deaths are becoming ever more prevalent and can all be traced back to malnourishment.

While it is impossible to prove causation, especially in the context of the complicated and intricate human body, it is clear that the effects of diet impact both our physical well-being and our mental well-being, and it is being increasingly recognized that our mental well-being is linked to physical health.

Dr. Greenblatt is an authority in the field of integrative medicine who has treated patients with mood disorders and complex eating disorders since 1988 with an extensive understanding of biology, genetics, psychology and nutrition. In his book, Answers to Anorexia, Greenblatt discusses the role in mental health of several micronutrients including zinc, magnesium, folic acid and the complex of B vitamins. In one of his radio lectures, Greenblatt drew a connection between the stripping of these minerals (zinc, in particular) from our soil (from monocultures!) and thus from our grain and food supply, and the increase in diagnosis of eating disorders. Further, research supports that patients with eating disorders have significantly lower serum levels of these vitamins and minerals. There are a few promising controlled clinical trials including zinc supplements as an adjuvant therapy in nutritional rehabilitation and psychoactive intervention in the treatment of anorexia. It is a young field of research, and there is much to be done, but it seems clear that the relationships between our food system and the health of our whole selves is of vital importance.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chemistry of the Body... and the Land

I have an incessant need to rip and bite and pick apart my finger and toenails, the cuticles and the skin on knuckles. These are the parts of my body that enable me to act in this world- to reach out, step forward and carve my place in the world, and even when I've broken the habit a number of times of destroying my fingers, I can't seem to kick the toes. My feet are my foundation- my connection to the Earth. Perhaps this self-mutilation is a representation of my disconnection with my feet- my standing- that which supports me- the Earth, but I'm not the only one who has severed that relationship. And I'm not the only one trying to rebuild it.

Our agroindustrial-military complex stems from byproducts and excess raw materials of bombs from WWII that gave rise to chemical fertilizer and the government subsidies of the corn plant (not the farmer) and it wields the sword that has severed that connection between my feet and the Earth. We no longer walk on soil on farms, and the soil is no longer rich enough to supply the food it grows OR the vital nutrients that keep us healthy. Rather, monocultures, a mentality of "bigger, stronger, faster," and measuring the productivity of a farm (agribusiness) in yield-per-acre, along with the federal guarantee to protect corn from market pressures as well as environmental changes are the forces at work to strip value from the soil, diminish our health and break the connection between earth, plant, and human.

Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Why Some Like it Hot, discusses the role of place in our nutrition, and the relationship between our genes, culture and nutrition. These three factors influence the whole person in their development, mantainance, or destruction of health. Based on the evolution of our ancestors from hunter/gatherer societies to agricultural cultures with a settled sense of place and connection to local lands, plants and foodstuffs, the genes of our predecessors were shaped by the nutrient availablity in that place- be it Moldova, Italy, Greece, Peru, or the Americas. Where our families came from makes a difference in what we need, what we are susceptible to and what may be toxic for us.

For example, Nabhan looks in depth at the susceptibility of members of many Native American Indian tribes to alcoholism and diabetes. One major facet of the traditional Native diet includes a number of what are referred to as slow-starches, or complex carbohydrates that metabolize slowly and thus avoid creating a spike in blood-glucose levels typical of simple sugars (often processed, white sugars and flours, i.e. pastries, pasta etc.). Nabhan asserts that the regular consumption of these foods provided a kind of protection from the genetic predisposition of Native Peoples to insulin resistance (a pre-diabetic symptom) and alcohol sensitivity. When Native Peoples no longer had access to these traditional foods (being forced off of their own land and being made to rely on the US government for food and commodities on reservations), they were no longer protected from their genetic predispositions and thus experience highly processed sugars differently than do people whose ancestral genetic evolution did not include those sensitivities. Additionally, the advent of lactose TOLERANCE is a fairly new development in human genetics and nutrition and co-evolved with the domestication and use of animals as livestock. It became more efficient to contain the cows as livestock and harvest milk, butter and cheese from them than it did to follow the herds and hunt them for meat. This was simultaneous with the settling of groups of people in a single place and hence the development of a relationship with the place and the land. With milk available as a continuous source of fat and protein from the cows, gradually, some human genetics evolved to continue to produce lactase (the enzyme to break down the protein found in milk) into adulthood instead of slowly "turning off" that gene with aging. This coevolution of cow, place and human genetics, however, did not occur at the same time in all groups of people. Many Native American Indians were still engaging in hunter/gathering while other tribes and colonizers had already settled into place and habits of milk-drinking. This is an explanation for the many lactose-intolerant individuals, especially those of Native American Indian descent.

So there is this dialogue constantly happening between the places we've been (ancestrally speaking), the place in which we are, what our ancestors ate, and what we eat. That dialogue is written in our genes, and in the chemistry of our bodies- the constant flux and flow of biochemical interactions between our nutrition, our genes and our culture (which includes ways of thinking about food, bodies, history, and place- more on this in the next post!)

Long story short: There's a lot more involved in the health of our bodies and the health of the land- but it comes down to the relationship between those two.

Monday, July 4, 2011

contemplate THIS.

will post soon.

for now- check out the new poetry uploads on the poetry page --->


peace.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lessons from the Sheets

Things I've learned from sleeping with people:
  1.  Sleeping with someone could be just as, if not more intimate than "sleeping with" someone.
  2. Rough sex doesn’t have to be “mean” sex- intention and respect are key (see Holy Trinity).
  3. I have power: over my own decisions, over my body, over others- not to be misused, but to be wielded appropriately.
  4. Men want women to orgasm (which is to say, there are men who do)
  5. Instructions not included; but required.
  6. There is potential for pleasure in receiving oral sex. Who knew?
  7. If you're open to it, and can stay present with the process, there is potential for insight into your own psyche. I've learned about fears and insecurities of which I wasn't readily acutely aware and am now able to see how those fears play out daily. Change happens slowly.
  8. Kissing should NOT be filler or fluff. If you kiss to avoid talking: stop kissing, and talk.
  9. Intermittent conversation throughout sex doesn’t have to be awkward or forced.
  10. Penetration not mandatory. We don’t even have to cum to enjoy ourselves- BOTH OF US.
  11. The Holy Trinity: Communication, Relaxation, and Lubrication. (credit where it's due; a good friend of mine)
  12. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. (Neither do you.)
  13. Saying “no,” and “stop,” is 100% OK. I don’t have to endure anything. (Again, neither do you).
  14. Sure, it’s annoying to get aroused and not cum, but the fear of “blue balls” is ridiculous- you can handle it.
  15. Teeth.
  16. Just because men get hard at the drop of a hat, does NOT mean that women are aroused and ready at their will. That being said, it is up to us, women, to slow things down and ensure that both partners are on the same page. Take the reins.
  17. There is a certain level of honesty, rawness, vulnerability that must be present in order to “experiment,” or “explore,” sexually. There is no room for judgment (of self, or of partners).
  18. Love and/or loving is not about hierarchy. Don't put your lover on a pedestal; recognize your power as equally valued to his/hers. Re #3: I have power, force, I can dominate, and I am strong.
  19. I am attractive, i.e. to people other than my committed partner: I am not owned by anyone.
  20. If I didn’t know where my clitoris is, I’d be screwed. (No pun intended)
  21. There is this fairy-tale narrative of what it looks like to be in love, to be in a relationship, or to have sex with someone- and it is utter nonsense, chuck it.
  22. So much of what we learn and so much of our reasons for doing things are inexpressible in words.
  23. Love does not need to be directed to anyone in particular. It now blankets all of my experience. I hold everything and everyone in my life in a net of love.
  24. I love Alexander King-
  25. Even more than I did before.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

One Love: part three

Just a quick quote that relates to the transitions of love and Love in my life right now.

From Osho:
"Love is a state of being; it has nothing to do with anybody else. One is not in love, one is love. And of course when one is love, one is in love — but that is an outcome, a by-product, that is not the source. The source is that one is love."

And this, from a friend of mine, on his blog:
"Examine what being “in love” really means. Look at it from the perspective of living in love based on the understanding that love is our essential effortless nature. To be in love is to understand the essence of your being, to understand that we do not need anything external of ourselves to love. To BE in love is to live in our own love, not to outsource our love onto another person. When two people are truly in love, it means they are relating to each other from their own respective sources of love, arising from the center of themselves, their own hearts."

That's all for now.
Yet again- more later.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One Love: part two point five

Several weeks ago, as I was sitting at my desk in the dorm I no longer live in on campus, a ladybug landed on my finger. My window wasn't open, and I had no plants in the room at the time. Where had she come from? I felt compelled to research a bit about symbolism and messages from ladybugs. Multiple sources informed me that the myth of ladybugs in Asian tradition is thus:
"if caught and then released, the Ladybug will faithfully fly to your true love and whisper your name in his/her ear. Upon hearing the Ladybug's message your true love will hurry his/her way to your side."
While my Love and I have been separated by distance for the last few months, I was excited by this story and went to release Ladybug and fulfill the prophecy. I held my hand out the window and waited. And waited. And shook my finger a little bit and whispered, "go!" Ladybug was settling on my finger and I blew a little wind onto her back hoping to incite her wings to fly, but to no avail. I stood with my hand out the window for a few more minutes until she flew off and I was content.

Last week, during my trip down to San Francisco and back up, after quite a bit of emotional turmoil, some shifts in my relationships, and car trouble, I saw Ladybug. I was sitting outside of the Les Schwab, waiting for my tires to be replaced and trying to focus on my breathing after a particularly cathartic cry session, and I looked down at the plant next to me. Lo and behold, Ladybug was there. She had indeed flown to my true love. Me.


I'm going to let that sound self-centered and narcissistic for about a minute before returning to the statement I made in my last post about capital-l Love and the arrows pointing inwards. I can't possibly love anything or anyone else fully or purely unless the love is sourced internally- a well that flows in abundance and covers everything in the water of capital-l Love. I have to be the first to get wet. (excuse the dirty pun).

More later

Sunday, June 12, 2011

One Love: part two

"blame the Truth for how dark it gets."


When I was 13, I developed a mental and physical disorder- anorexia- which I've talked about before on this blog. I was admitted into a hospital program when I was 15 to confront the psychological undercurrents of that illness. Shortly after I left the hospital program, I entered into a relationship with a boy. I was 16 when he and I started dating. Let's call him George*. George and I dated for almost two years. A week after George and I broke up, I had a date with another boy. Let's call him Jake*. Jake and I were together for about two months before I realized that I was still in love with George. George and I ended up secretly spending time together without actually taking the roles of a serious relationship. Then, once that had run its course, I was with Mike* for two weeks before I left for the west coast for college. One week into the first semester, I met Andrew*. Andrew and I were whatever we were for a little over two months before I set my eyes on Matt*. After a few months of courting, Matt and I spent about a year and a half together before deciding to take a "break," which has opened a space for exploration with Chris*.

* Every single name has been changed in respect for the privacy of my past partners.

So, I haven't been single since I was 15. And, if you think about it, for quite a while, my companion was my eating illness. So, really, I haven't spent any time alone with myself since I was 13. Seven years.

How can I claim to know much of anything about myself if I've never spent the time alone with myself to find out?

Well, I can vouch for the fact that in every relationship I engage in, be it sexual, friendly, professional or what-have-you, I learn something about myself. Sometimes that lesson is fixed within the context of that relationship. Usually, though, it extends into other areas of  my life.

Let that not diminish the value of introspection. Ultimately, you are the only person you have.
---

When I frame my past relationships as being something akin to distractions from myself, that's not accurate, nor is it fair. My intention is more to change my own perspective of the loves I have had and currently have. The love I've had for George, for Jake, Mike, Andrew, Matt, and Chris are all different forms springing from one single source. As water flows from a spring and travels down the curves of a mountain into the sea, evaporates into the air and returns as rain and as snow, it is always water. It just evolves.
Perhaps the reason for heartache and heartbreak is that we tend to view separations or "break-ups" as a harsh and distinct, discrete ending of love as opposed to a shift in form of that single-source Love.

So the loves I have had for these lovers have not been clear-cut or distinct from one another in essence. In form and in detail, yes- they have been wildly different both in time and space, in sexual personality, and in relating characteristics. Each relationship has had its defining idiosyncrasies, its particular specificities of boundary and bonding- but ultimately, these relationships have been beads on the string of Love (which is not to diminish the immense capacity for transformation nor the beauty inherent and different within each love). Capital-l Love, like capital-t Truth is beyond the form it takes in our lives, beyond the words we use to describe it. Words like (lower-case-l) love and lover, boyfriend, girlfriend (etc.) are just arrows we use to point to the capital-l Love, capital-t Truth. I think more often than not, we get stuck looking at and holding onto the arrows and forget to look where it points.

I can't profess to know exactly where the arrows point. I presume that it is invariably different for each individual, but my best guess is that for each of us, the arrows point inwards. All else springs forth.

More later.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

One Love: part one

We know that we don't know what we have until it's gone, but we often overlook the fact that we sometimes don't know what we need until someone shows us.



Love is painful. Love exists in the space between a broken heart and the stitches to sew it back together. There is beauty in the pain because it is raw. It is Truth.



more later.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Free Refill

I sat beside a woman on a plane once who had two coupons from the airline for free refills of mixed drinks. She offered me one of the coupons, and I politely declined, thinking to myself, "I already have infinite free refills of mixed emotions."

---

Leaning against the wall at the bus station yesterday morning, eating an apple and reading my book, I was interrupted by a young man somewhere in his mid-twenties.
"Excuse me, what's your name?" (arm extended to shake my hand)
"Sorry?"
"Excuse me, I'm Eric, what's your name?" (arm still extended)
"...I'm Sophie.." (arms crossed over my body)
"Hi Sophie, I just wanted to tell you that you have one of the most amazing bodies I've ever seen."
"......" (he walks away) "..thank you?"

The emotional response in my body was conflicting. "Mixed emotion," as they say. I was flattered and uplifted: a reflexive response to what I have been socially conditioned to accept as a compliment, this reaction required zero brain involvement, it has been so hard-wired into my nervous system that my critical and analytical skills of an educated and thoughtful brain have nothing to do with that emotional response. In fact, the critical and analytical thoughtful brain comes up with a very different response. Indignation. Shock. Disgust.

I've been catcalled, checked-out in a less than discrete manner, even hit on, but none of my previous experiences had prepared me for such a personally objectifying confrontation. This is my body, and what makes this boy think that I'm in the least bit concerned about anyone's opinion of it besides my own? How did I, in any way, ask for approval or welcome this interaction? After working for years to own and accept, and appreciate my body for it's incredible internal mechanics, I was offended by this guy's chutzpa to make this objective appraisal of my body.

The very fact that the incident took place speaks volumes to the ways in which our society defines and values women, as well as the expectation that women are to derive not only pleasure but worth from the evaluation of our physical appearance by men- and we should be grateful for their generous opinions of us.

In my interaction with the stranger, it seemed an assumption of his that I wanted to hear his review of my body, that I welcomed it. I did not. However, because it has been so ingrained into social custom that such a remark is to be considered praise or acclaim, my body was flooded simultaneously with the reflexive pleasure and the thoughtful disgrace and was left in his wake to sort through these mixed emotions. I could not then, at the moment of the interaction counter his declaration with some powerful feminist retaliation.

One measure of privilege is the ability to be ignorant of your privilege. That boy has most likely long forgotten my "amazing body," much less his statement; he needn't spend 48 hours, as I have, working through the confusion that arises out of co-existing anger and gratification from the same statement. It goes without saying that I lead a hugely privileged life, and there are injustices far worse than anything I have or will ever endure, but sexism and the objectification of women in the US are issues no less valid. And we must open our eyes to these forms of oppression here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I'm an Open Book

This body is the vehicle of my spirit, the physical manifestation of the movement of the cosmos within me. It is the only connection “I” have to this world, and it allows me to interact with others and with my environment. I know this, and yet, after all the years I’ve spent on the psychologist’s couch, I still lose track of sensing what I’m used to calling myself, by which I mean, my body.

Over the last four weeks, I’ve dedicated a considerable time more than I had been on reading my body. From David L. Ulin’s The Lost Art of Reading, we know that reading is an interactive process, unlike most media forms. Bette Lemont, Developmental Movement Therapist, said that when we read to children, they often request to hear the stories over and over again because they need repetition to create a mental image of the story. They soon start to act out the plot- making it their own. Television, on the other hand, is a closed-loop system, meaning there is no room for a child to jump in, enter the story and experience it creatively. So, in reading my body, I am allowing myself the opportunity to jump back in, to experience my life creatively and with deliberate intention, in contrast to the numbness of letting my life play out before me like a movie.

Sitting in the reclining chair, needles in my skin, I feel a sensation that washes over my body like a wave, a heaviness that invites a deep awareness of the internal dance constantly moving beneath the edges of my body. I can feel energy unleashing and coursing through me, tiny spasms of muscle, oxygen crossing through the membranes of the alveolar sacs beneath my ribs, and tension releasing in my forehead. The shunyataesque feeling of focus/relaxation dissolves my sense of time and two hours pass in the chair without notice. It is as if I am walking in on a dialogue that has been going on without my knowing it, and all of a sudden I’ve become privy to the conversation.

Tapping into this conversation is an act of resistance on two levels. It is an act of resistance within my self, and a resistance against the systematized numbness that has grown out of our over stimulation as a society. My personal resistance is due to the confrontation of the moment- the now, with the internal wall I’ve built up of expectations, judgments and notions of who or what I am. This resistance slowly yet steadily dismantles both of fear and guilt of knowing “myself”; perhaps internalized social mores, the wall is broken down in this reading.

The very format in which I am engaging this conversation is in itself a resistance to the larger social institutional pressures. Community acupuncture is done in a group setting, dismantling notions of a “self” separate from others right from the start. It is a healing method based on a no-questions-asked, sliding scale payment method, which is a novel opposition to the unsustainable, inequitable, inaccessible and ultimately detrimental health care system in the States. Furthermore, the format of community based healing blurs the line between healer and healed, reinstating the innate healing capacities within ourselves that we had outsourced to white coats.

This type of healing conversation with the body requires a conscious decision to step off of the merry-go-round, the ever-spinning and highly distracting ride of life. It requires instead, the decision to focus. Ulin discusses at length some of the studies of multi-tasking, an unfortunate (or fortunate?) result of our media-saturated lives. The effects of splitting our attention have been hot topics in research, with results showing opposing viewpoints. Both improved speed and number of neural connections, as well as diminished capacity for concentration and deeper level thought and feeling have been shown to stem from our stimulus-saturated lifestyles. The ability to think and respond quickly to stimuli is an important adaptation for primal survival, however our ability to think deeply, experience emotion and empathize is the basis for our social capacities and one of the main differences between humans and nonhuman animals. While it is impossible to tell which capability evolution will ultimately favor, my sense is that we must be able to at least balance them.

Drawing attention back into the body, learning to read the body, is a door that opens into a more mindful life with space for deliberation about where exactly I want to expend energy; mental or physical. Reading, indeed conversing with the body affords us greater health, a deeper connection to the now, and a vehicle more fit for implementing intention in the world.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Remedy

At the risk of sounding like a new age quantum neo-hippie, I will proceed in this post with the premise that we are all composed of energy.

There is a quote from a Native woman, that I have tried to no avail to find, where she says something along the lines of this:
"If you come because you think you can help me, you're wasting your time. If you come because you realize that my fate is entwined with yours, then let us walk together."
The health of the planet and the health of each of us individually are all interdependent. To think otherwise is delusion. The quote above was in regards to white men people coming to this Native woman's land, with the best of intentions, to help them- to economize, industrialize, and civilize them. The quote can, however, also be applied in a doctor/patient relationship.

Lisa Rohleder, author of The Remedy: Integrating Acupuncture into American Health Care, discusses the traditional use of acupuncture in ancient and modern China. Acupuncture is, essentially "applied Taoism," "the millenia-old practice of inserting fine needles at specific points in the body for the purpose of cultivating health or alleviating symptoms." The procedure operates on the meridians of energy throughout the body, which may get stuck from time to time, or flow excessively. The traditional practice of acupuncture is done in a group setting. This may come as a bit of a shock to most people in the "Western" world. The thought of having medical treatment in the presence of others- even the idea of talking openly about most medical problems makes people uneasy. We have been raised in a society based on the value of the individual versus the group. American culture silences the masses in favor of single "representatives," and competition is encouraged while collaboration is termed "cheating." We're taught to be obsessed with "beating the Jones's" and "one-upmanship." Sacrifice for the greater good is reserved for martyrs- which has become a bad word.

We've gotten so caught up in ourselves, we forget our context- our community, the web in which we're spun. Community acupuncture is a humbling and uplifting experience. It empowers patients to recognize that we are not alone in our struggles, whether they may be with back pain, diabetes, or athlete's foot. Words like "depression," or "cancer," are welcomed in volumes outside of the range of whisper, and allows for a community of healing to emerge.

But that's not all community acupuncture does...
The format of community based healing is an important resistance to the unsustainable, inequitable, inaccessible and ultimately detrimental health care system in the States. Rohleder states, "If American health care were a patient, it would be suffering from a systemic infection of greed and bureaucracy. Its prognosis is not good." From the time we are born (depending on the circumstances of the birth; from natural home and/or water births, to mainstream medical intervention, to caesarian sections), we outsource our health to a doctor. We devalue the innate healing capacities of our bodies by placing more trust in a white coat- which ultimately leads to dependence on medical intervention from prescription drugs to surgeries, and financial hardship. Community based acupuncture, which operates on a sliding scale depending on your income (no questions asked), makes healthcare affordable and sustainable.

After one of my recent community acupuncture treatments, I was talking with the acupuncturists, thanking her for her work. She responded by telling me,
"All I do is put the needles in and walk out, it's the room and you who do all the work."
Community based healing blurs the line between healer and healed, and while I think it definitely takes a special kind of healthcare practitioner to confront his/her ego, I would say that wouldn't be a bad thing for the healthcare industry either.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Unalienable Rights

Why every time I go grocery shopping, I numb myself in protection of the anxiety and panic of confronting my own mortality, face-to-face with self-preservation.

"I have a right to be here."

The very fact, however, that I am here, is proof from the universe itself that I have a right to be here. If I didn't have a right to be here... I wouldn't be here. Bottom-up.

I can say it 'till I'm blue in the face, but it won't make a smidgen of a difference until I believe it.

Feeding myself is a direct response to acknowledging my mortality, realizing "I am human: this body, and this life is impermanent," and that recognition means accepting the transience of my life, my actions and their repercussions as well as the lives of those I love. And that is scary.

Tich Naht Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk teaches mindful consumption:
"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical, and mental for myself, my family and society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness and in the collective consciousness of my family and society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial to self-transformation and for the transformation of society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant, or to ingest food or other items that contain toxins, such as certain television programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion, in myself and in society by practicing mindful eating for myself and for society."
This pushes me to think differently about what it means to feed myself. How do I feed my eyes, my mind, my spirit? It gives a whole new meaning to the idea of food, which for so long I have believed I didn't deserve, shouldn't have, or didn't need. There are many aspects of myself that need to be fed, nourished, sustained.
But in the end, it's all impermanent.

Still, "I have a right to be here."

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Everything Ever.

"If you want to think about consciousness, perplexity is necessary—mind-boggling, brain-hurting, I-can't-bear-to-think-about-this-stupid-problem-anymore perplexity...if you do not wish your brain to hurt stop reading now or choose a more tractable problem to study." - Susan Blackmore
Good. Excedrin on the ready, and here I go...

A few days ago, I heard two lectures given by Zen Buddhist teacher and author, David R. Loy. I'd read and enjoyed his book, Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution, and was eagerly looking forward to his presentation, and the opportunity for a Q&A session.
This book addresses the three "poisons," or "unwholesome roots," in Buddhist terms, of "evil," in Western terms. These are defined in Buddhism as; 1) greed, 2) ill-will, and 3) delusion. Basically, these are the forces that cause suffering (or dukha, in Buddhist terms). This is a fundamentally radical difference from the way we, in western society, have been taught to understand the cause of suffering: the understanding that we are victims to our environment and that suffering is some part of our circumstance that is unpleasant, and over which we have power to change. However, the fundamental problem, or challenge, is not something outside of ourselves, as Loy says, "the nature of an unawakened mind is to be bothered by something."

Buddhist teaching outlines three different forms of dukha; 1) physical and mental suffering, 2) impermanence and, 3) conditioned states, or the "constructedness of all our experience, including the experience of self." This is referring to the realization that what we call self, is no more than a collection of habits; the ways we tend to feel, think, act, motivate, etc., and all of those things are shaped by societal forces and change. We think of the self as something that has thoughts and does things, when in reality, the self is constructed in the process of creating the neural pathways of those thoughts and actions. Thus, they are not what is essential about ourselves. This sense of self creates a world-view in which I am something separate and independent from you and the rest of the world. I am inside me, and the world is outside there. Us vs. Them. Good vs. Evil. => Duality.

According to Buddhist tradition, this is an illusion, and further, it is the greatest delusion. Loy says that the problem is not that there is a sense of self, Buddhism isn't saying to get rid of the self, or the sense of self. The problem is that we believe in the illusion of a separate self, we try to make that self more real, we get attached to it. Buddhism is urging us to see through that sense of separation, realize it's constructedness and move beyond it.

And here's the really cool part. If the sense of self is a construct (if the Buddhist theory holds true), then it can be reconstructed. We can change.

Part of this reconstruction requires that we engage in a process of deconstruction, and Buddhist thought foretells that this process of deconstruction (meditation), results, ideally, in the realization of shunyata, "derive[d] from the root shu, which means "swollen" in both sense: not only the swollenness of a blown-up balloon, but also the swollenness of an expectant woman, pregnant with possibility. So a more accurate translation of shunyata would be: emptiness/fullness."

Okay, now hold that thought.

Today, I went to a workshop in what is called Developmental Movement Therapy (DMT). This is a therapy based on research that shows that reflexes and early childhood movement (including everything from the birthing process, to crawling to play) have a vital part to play in neurological development. Further, it is known in psychology, biology, and neuroscience that the development of the brain, the reinforcement of neural synapses, creates and shapes who we are. That is to say, the collection of habitual ways of thinking, feeling, perceiving and being are defined by those neural connections. In DMT, a trained professional assesses an individual client based on a complete history starting from in utero, and conducts a battery of tests focusing on mobility, language skills, manual dexterity, visual and auditory development and tactile experiences. These would lead to some program regimen to be practiced daily by the client to fully recover perhaps lost skills (from injury or illness), or even to recover skills that hadn't yet been able to develop (as from birthing or early trauma). Bette Lamont, a DMT practitioner since 1986 said, "we are whole by nature, and if we become less than whole, we can recreate our wholeness."

Okay. Remember that thought from way up there^?

We are, by nature, whole (or empty (but it doesn't matter which word we use because it's all the same!)) And we have the capacity to recreate our "selves," because the self is nonexistent. With me? Now, as we said earlier, we don't want to get rid of the self, we just need to move beyond our attachment to it. If we can recognize that while I am not different from you, the concept of self-hood is important because it allows me to go to my job, take care of my body, drive my car, sleep with my boyfriend- not yours, and thus keeps us safely operating within other social constructs that are important for the smooth operation of society as a whole.

Additionally, DMT addresses the context of a self: literally the environment into which we are born, the social attitudes in which we are raised, child-raising practices utilized, beliefs that develop over the course of a lifetime, injuries and illnesses- all effect neurological development, and thus the creation of self- it dictates what kind of self we develop.
There are numbers upon numbers of examples Bette gave throughout the workshop (that is continuing tomorrow and two weeks from now- EXCITED!) about the multidimensional recoveries of clients (aged 3 months-90 years) of physical abilities and emotional capacities.

The basis of DMT operates on the observations that reflexes are useful in certain stages of development, and once they are no longer useful they are diminished, or integrated in the central nervous system (CNS). If, due to some trauma or interruption, the reflexes are prevented from completion, or integration, then the reflexes remain and impair further physical, and neurological development. What has also been observed, is that certain emotional milestones coincide with the completion and integration of these reflexes and neurological synapses. Thus, if the reflex is interrupted, not only are the physical and neurological processes impeded, but the emotional development is impaired.

So, what have we learned?
The self is nonexistent. The self is a construct. The self is an important construct. The self can be reconstructed. We can intentionally reconstruct the self through movement. Reconstructing the self recovers physical and emotional skills. Reconstructing the self liberates the soul.

Yep, it's all connected.. my head hurts.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Healing Dimension

Healing involves a cooperation of multiple aspects of reality. The physical (the body, the so-called "real-world" restraints like jobs, family obligations, schedules etc.), emotional content, and cognitive processes (including belief systems, expectations, and thought patterns) are all implicated in periods of dis-ease or illness. There may be certain exercises or drugs that help to alleviate some of the expressions of illness that are most easily observable, and often the most pertinent to people; things like pain, fever, distracting thoughts or imagery (often in the case of depression, PTSD, OCD, Eating Disorders, or other primarily mental/emotional ailments) can, and in many cases, I would argue, should be attended to in a medical approach. I certainly would not be where I am today without the help I was afforded with medical intervention.

However, this should not, and let me clarify, cannot be the only treatment method, if the goal is healing for true health. Without a holistic approach of health, healing, and illness, mainstream medical treatments only serve to push health further from reach; out of sight, out of mind. The aspects of illness and disease that are treated in the medical field are the symptoms of bigger issues; they are the messengers telling us that something is wrong. Simply ameliorating the symptom, is just muting the messenger before the message is spoken.

Pip Waller discusses in her book, Holistic Anatomy, the dangers of treating mild fevers in children on the basis that the fever, in most cases, is a message, and using Tylenol or Asprin as a "treatment" for the cold, is hugely detrimental for the child in the long run.

Any therapy or technique that claims to "cure" any ailment without a holistic philosophy that incorporates the physical, emotional, and mental integration strikes me as a hoax- it's just not that easy.

Robert Waggoner, President-elect of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) and a graduate of Drake University with a degree in psychology, who has done incredible scholarly work in the area of lucid dreaming, lectured today at my school. One of the many incredible stories he told today left me both in awe, and a bit uneasy. Waggoner recounted the story of a woman who had been admitted into the hospital for open heart surgery due to mitral valve failure. However, the surgery had caused a significant amount of draining around her heart, and she lay in a hospital bed for 10 days with hoses in her chest channeling the drainage out of her heart cavity. After the 10th day, she had a dream in which she become consciously aware of being in a dream state (ie, lucid dreaming). It is at this point, that she lucidly makes the decision to heal herself. Here is the woman's own description of her dream: (http://luciddreamingrobertwaggoner.blogspot.com/)
“I look down at my dream body and pull the hospital gown open. There are the four tubes, and I can see the fluid draining out of them into my “briefcase”[drainage collection device] beside the bed . . . I concentrate on the tubes and slowly the draining fluid starts turning into different colored flowers. The tubes pull out of the briefcase and wave slowly back and forth in the air in front of me, like octopus tentacles. Then flowers are pouring out of them, floating gently in the air, until I am surrounded by color and soft flower petals. Other colorful things flow from the tubes, like hearts and balloons and ribbons. I laugh and smile and enjoy the show."
The next morning, to the surprise of the doctors, the drainage had stopped, the tubes were removed, and the woman was discharged.

There are many, many more stories like this. I was amazed, having heard stories of energetic healing, having experienced psychosomatic healing, but never to such an effect as this or in such a short time frame. I was simultaneously baffled. How did the physiological changes take place? How did she access the interface between waking reality and dream reality? And why did it work? It seemed too easy.

Despite the fact that I cannot personally and thoroughly explain the physiological changes outside some limited knowledge of anatomy and the processes of cellular and tissue repair, I can draw on my understanding of the relationship between our beliefs and the physical structure of our cells to help piece together how this healing process may have more to it than it may seem at first.

First of all, this woman was a practicing lucid dreamer, meaning she had trained herself to recognize when she was dreaming, and stopped the automatic reactions we often have in dreams and engaged, instead, in being critically aware of her dream-state. In that state, she was able to direct her dreams and access an alternative realm of consciousness, outside of the confines of space and time as we know them. In order to do this, she must have made the initial "leap of faith" in believing that she could, that it was possible to access that realm of consciousness. Waggoner spoke about the requirements for lucid dreaming; stating that it is important to be able to control one's emotions after becoming lucid so as not to "shake oneself out of the dream," to maintain focus on being in a dream so as not to simply fall back to passive dreaming, and to express the intent of your lucid dreaming; what do you want to accomplish, do, or learn? In order to achieve a successful lucid dream, this woman had to have the emotional control, the focus, and the intent to heal herself all operating against the flow of passive dreaming.

It is in the process of achieving the level of skill in lucid dreaming to be able to affect healing for herself that the cognitive and emotional aspects of healing come into play, and with the strength of those skills, she was able to transform her physical reality. We know, based on the physics and quantum physics of biochemistry that thoughts and beliefs can and do impact the physical structure of our cells. Bruce Lipton's Biology of Belief goes into detail about the means of these processes. By the power of the emotional and mental effort of this woman, she was able to drastically change her physical state of health through her lucid dream. No doubt there will be future work for her to continue to nourish, challenge, and balance herself physically, mentally and emotionally to maintain her holistic health.

I wonder if this realm of consciousness of the dream-state is a potential foundation for true healing- a platform we all have the capacity to achieve. To take a conscious and critically aware stance in this dream-state realm may open more doors and windows into the nature of consciousness and reality than we could foresee.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

DOC: Charting the Course

Today was my second excursion into “the real world” for my community based learning aspect of my project. I am volunteering at the Natural Health Clinic of Olympia, which is an office of naturopathic physicians, massage therapists and acupuncturists. The naturopathic physicians are primary care providers, and so, like any doctor’s office, there are file cabinets full of paper work: Charts.

I had never seen a “chart” before. At least, not in the medical sense. In fact, I’d always imagined they were gridded… you know, like charts… If you are unfamiliar, as I was, with charts- they are more akin to a manila folder of sorts, with papers organized in various ways; prescriptions here, insurance/billing info here, lab work here, etc.

Seeing them, organizing and filing them for an hour and a half opened the door to understanding the medical world and the health industry just a little bit more. And, allowed me to link this with literacy in two ways:

1) One can be “chart illiterate”- and I won’t venture (yet) to say that I’m not.

2) If a condition goes undiagnosed (i.e. WRITTEN down), it is not accepted, and further, if a prescription or diagnosis is missing from your chart, it is not a part of your “self,” in the Dr.’s perspective certainly, and most likely, not in your perspective, either, considering the pedestal upon which we place Dr.s so frequently, and how physically they shape our existence.

Lesson of the day: Charts are not on graphing paper.

Monday, April 18, 2011

You're Full of It

I walked through the forest and onto the shore of the Puget Sound by moonlight, and through the trees, I could see the moon, shining in all Her glory just on the rim of a cloud. Light shone humbly through the trees, gently guiding my footsteps through the mud. And as I stepped onto the beach, I saw the water, calm and peacefully offering me a reflection of Her. I looked up at the moon. She is big tonight, powerful and enchanting. I almost could not bear to move my eyes away from Her. And I thought, how much I'd love to take your hand and walk through this forest, to guide you to the shore and sleep beneath the moon. I thought, Her beauty and her force in the universe drives me forward, and it drives me to you. Her power is something beyond words- this lack of words is a feeling I'm becoming ever more familiar with.

Love, too, is a powerful force.

Thank the god and the goddess for the moon, for love, and for the words that never give up in trying to express those things which are beyond form.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Orissi, Polka, Hora, Tango- whatever...

"Hard times require furious dancing."

There are billions of cells in the human body, constantly adapting to the temperature changes, the changes in acidity, the pains that come and go, the memories that flood the body, the sensory stimuli, and all manner of things going on throughout the body, mind, spirit, and external environment. We are constantly engaging with new experiences, be it internally or externally. We experience our environment through our bodies; sounds through the ears, visual stimuli through the eyes, taste through the tongue, etc. All these
stimuli are perceived by chemical and electrical signals in the body from one cell to the next- from sense organ to brain. Now, let's make a distinction here between mind and brain (and you know how much I hate distinctions). The brain refers to the anatomical, physiological gobbley-gook of neurons that looks like gray spaghetti. There is a general consensus in the scientific community that the brain is one of the most complex areas of study in the human body. The mind, however, is not as simple. There is an old story in Zen tradition where a student tells his master that he has no peace of mind. His master responds by saying, "Point and show me your mind and I will pacify it for you." Confused, with one finger extended, his student, doesn't know where to point, and says, "I can't find it!" He realizes that the mind is intangible, the master responds, "Then it is already pacified."

The mind is not a physical entity, it is without boundaries, and it is outside of the realm of space. The mind is the capacity for connection, it is the act of connecting image-to-image, image to feeling, person to person, and it is the network of those connections. The mind is the composite of maps made by the brain of images from our environments, signals and messages sent and received in the body and between body and environment. These maps incorporate the information of the raw stimulus, the way in which that stimulus was received, and the other maps with which this map overlaps.
The chemical and electrical signals that communicate the external world to the brain are simultaneously or sequentially being sent to the rest of the body. The body responds to these signals with alterations in cell structure, responsiveness, and release and/or absorption of certain specific chemicals. These cellular adjustments to the information of stimulus cause further adjustments in other cells, and etc, etc, until an equilibrium has been regained. The subjective experience of those cellular responses is the emotion. The emotion is drawn into the map of experience of that stimulus.

One of the things included in that map is the position of the body when stimulus struck. Now obviously
, for most experiences, that is not a static image (we move), and those movements, from the cellular level are mapped into the mind's image of our experiences. The cellular adjustments to stimuli also influence our body's physiology (tension in muscles, change in metabolic rate, temperature, etc., which are also mapped. So in the future, our mind can re-engage maps or parts of maps and does, all the time. However, in -re-engaging maps, we may also be re-engaging emotions, as well as physical tensions that become tendencies, and then become habits, and then become a part of our personalities. We develop chronic tightness in the shoulders, for instance, after a particularly traumatic experience that we keep reliving in various situations, until one day, with mindful awareness (and possibly under the guidance of a professional), we can slowly allow the tension to dissolve, as we rediscover the roots of the tension, and work towards a mental and emotional equilibrium. This is often referred to as the “memory of the body” (for more information seen The Body Remembers by Rothschild), and this kind of therapy is often engaged in somatic psychotherapy, and also in trauma therapies.

Alice Walker’s collection of poetry is titled, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing
, and in her recent work, Overcoming Speechlessness, she refers tells the story of working with CODEPINK and being in commu
nity with Palestinian women in 2006 on the Gaza Strip. She testifies to the stressful and heart-wrenching journey even to get there, and then she takes the reader through the pain, sorrow and incredible connection to women in tragedy. After sitting and listening to these women recount their suffering and supporting one another in the fact that they have survived it, all the women “went across the hall to a big common room where music was turned up full volume… Sitting didn’t last. Without preamble [Alice Walker] was pulled to [her] feet by several women at once, and the dance was on. Sorrow, loss, pain, suffering, all pounded into the floor for over an hour. Sweat flowing, wails and tears around the room. And then, the rising that always comes from such dancing; the sense of joy, unity, solidarity, and gratitude to be in the best place one could be on earth, with sisters who have experienced the full measure of disaster and have the heart to rise above it. The feeling of love was immense. The ecstasy, sublime. [Alice Walker] was conscious of exchanging and receiving Spirit in the dance… this Spirit that knows how to dance in the face of disaster, will never be crushed. It is as timeless as the wind. We think it is only inside our bodies, but we also inhabit it. Even when we are unaware of its presence internally, it wears us like a cloak.”

This is a testimony to the power of movement to awaken within us that Spirit which we inhabit, and that heals. It is the power to unlock the maps in the brain that allow for emotions of love to flow through the body, and which are a necessity in the exchange and in the receiving of Spirit.

We are constantly dancing. The cells within our bodies dancing with each other, with other substances, dancing in a balance with the maps of our minds, our minds dancing with the brain, the brain with the body, and body with environment. So really, all times require furious dancing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pacific Northwest: When it Rains, it Pours...

When I missed registration for classes when the quarter started, I went into freak-out mode big time. There were tears, there were moments I thought that if I didn't get a hold of my breathing, I would have a panic attack, there was the overarching umbrella of fear, uncertainty and despair. But there was also a dose of faith, small though it was, it was there.

That night, my dad recounted to me a quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a lesson in perspective: "...and as he drove on, the rain clouds dragged down the sky after him for, though he did not know it, Rob McKenna was a Rain God. All he knew was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of lousy holidays. All the clouds knew was that they loved him and wanted to be near him, to cherish him and to water him."
--
And now, two weeks into the quarter at school, I've been admitted into a program in which I didn't think there was space for me, and I've been assigned to a professor in another class who is more than willing to work with me on an independent project. Not only that, but I'd also hoped (before being admitted into the program I'm in) to take a Developmental Movement Therapy class and had approached several health clinics looking for volunteer opportunities- all to no avail. Until today- when the professor of the DMT class asked if I would be interested in taking (or auditing) the class, and the Natural Health Clinic contacted me about volunteering.

You know what they say about the Pacific Northwest...
When it rains, it pours!

although the weather has been looking brighter these days, too...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction

I've written about language in this blog before, but I'd like to revisit a thought;
The construction of communication begins with a sensation, a feeling or an experience; then whatever biases, previous experiences and emotional attachments shape the energy generated by that experience to then be translated into thoughts using whatever language we've happened to be exposed to. Then, it gets really crazy. Whomever we've been speaking to, then filters, subconsciously, what we've said using their own biases, previous experiences and emotional attachments to translate the words we've chosen into energy (a thought, or new belief) that is usually completely different from the sensation or belief we began with, and had wanted to share.
[I heard an expert on ancient Sanskrit texts speak the other day about how careful we must be to take responsibility for what we hear. He told us we did not have permission to quote him, we only had permission to say, "I heard Salvatore Zambito say..." because he had been confronted so many times with accusations of things he hadn't said, but had only been heard saying.]
An example:
My father used to encourage myself and my sister in making difficult moral choices by telling us, "The right thing is usually the thing that's hard to do." However, my sister and I had both, somewhere along the line, developed the belief pattern that we were undeserving of certain things, and that pleasure and joy were not intended for us. Thus, we translated my father's advice into the belief that the thing that is hard to do is the right thing to do.

One of the results of this, is that I've developed a very hard time reading fiction. Fiction to me, has felt like a waste of time, a luxury I can't afford, decadent and useless. I do, however, LOVE to read. I love to read books that inform me. Stories of made up people make me anxious, and it has felt to me, only a step or two above reality T.V.

Cut now, to the chase: I'm reading Mists of Avalon, the Arthurian myth. And it's great. But it is not of my own accord. The Mists is required reading for a course called, Dance of Consciousness, and at first I was wondering, "Why in the world are we reading THIS," but I'm beginning to see through self-awareness as I read, how my consciousness is altered. And although, I had taken great pride in my aversion to fiction, thinking myself too sophisticated for make-believe stories, (I remember laying at the beach with a friend who was reading the Gossip Girls series, while I read about the contributions of quantum physics to medicine in The Biology of Belief, by Bruce Lipton (a phenomenal read that changed the course of my life, by the way)) I find myself now, unable to put the Mists down.

I think, it has something to do with the book being required of me- my own value in education, trust in my professor, and my work ethic are all working against my aversion to fiction and, lo and behold- it has lead to my appreciate of it!

I have been reading for about a week now, and am about 250 pages deep. The first night I read, I was up until 2 in the morning- without having noticed it (and my friends have nicknamed me grandma for my early sleeping schedule!). Despite my usual habit of having background music play while I work, I felt compelled (after discussing with a friend the effects of multitasking on the brain) to read in silence, which, after several minutes of reading, was suddenly filled with the voice of my imagination, narrating the scenes, hearing the sounds of the story; it wasn't silent anymore.

And as I read the words that echo feminist thought twisted with white-supremacist tradition, the words whose shadows fall over centuries of telling and retelling, I could see the words' foreshadows into their future- my present moment, and the truths of this mythical world supposed to have existed millennia ago, seem to be true for me, now, too.