A short magazine article has stuck in my mind. It is really quite stuck.
We are conscious about the magazines we offer in our office for people to read if they have to wait for an appointment. We want the reading to be on the same calming, meditative wavelength that our treatments provide. One of our commonly carried magazines is Spirituality and Health.
I try and read our magazines when I have a spare moment. I am one of those readers that is REALLY ENGAGED with anything well-written or interesting.
Well, at least while I'm reading it.
Unless I take notes or discuss with someone else, my mind instantly moves on and forgets to file memories from what I read, regardless of how engaging it was.
And this is why this article's stickiness has impressed me. I so enjoyed parts of it that I copied it for a patient. I forced Jason to listen to me read it out loud. I'm thinking about it now as I decide to share parts of it in this blog.
The article, written by Zen Buddhist teacher Karen Maezen Miller is titled "Lessons from a Zen Garden." Miller uses the analogy of her lovely flower garden to illustrate the fleeting beauty of our lives. She discusses what love and relationships mean:
"...one thing that troubles people about Buddhism is the concept of nonattachment. That's because we think attachment means love, and we think love means I can't live without you. We are always hung up on our self-serving notions--what I need, what I want, what I like, what I think, what is best, what is right--and that's the cause of suffering. We attach to those ideas as though they were life itself..."
Miller's message comes at the right time (as messages always do). So many people coming in the doors of our clinic are going through some kind of big transformation in their lives right now. Confronting deaths of loved ones, having major changes in life path or career, working out of old habits that are no longer in line with old ways of thinking.
The difficulty doesn't ultimately come from the event. It comes from how we respond to it, how we resist change. Miller goes on to quote the Buddhist Four Noble Truths:
"1. Life is suffering. Things change.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment. It hurts when things change.
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable. Accept that things change.
4. There is a way out of suffering. By changing yourself."
With our acupuncture, massage, reiki, etc, we treat many physical ailments. Sometimes these are purely structural imbalances or physical degenerations, but more often physical ailments are intertwined with emotional stress, old traumatic baggage, and negative thought processes.
There is profound relaxation to be found in letting go. Drop the need for control. Don't resist change. And stop judging everything and everyone around you.
"Maezumi, my teacher, introduced me to a dimension of love that we do not often experience... His kindness was the profound kindness of seeing a person or thing completely, without judgement. I learned two things by this: that it is rare to be seen and that seeing without judging is an act of love.
Zen practice is facing yourself as you are. And by facing yourself, you come to accept everything. Self-consciousness dissolves and separation disappears. Free of deception, you are no longer afraid to be yourself. You are no longer afraid of much of anything. There is nothing to hide; no self-image to defend; nothing to assemble, control or avoid. It's simply a matter of taking care of what appears in front of you."
Judging a situation or person, for any reason, may lead to a desire to change it. Need for control stems from fear. Drop the judgement and let go of your illusion of control, and the fear dissipates along with it.
I believe the reason this article stuck with me is not that it was so wonderfully written, nor was it a message I have not heard before, but that it is needed. For most everyone. Repeatedly.
Even in the midst of a beautiful summer, full of fun and friends, there can be dark times. But life is much too short to spend our limited hours wrapped in self-made stress over any situation that we cannot control.
The only thing you can control in a stressful situation is your reaction to it; choose to love life in non-judgement, peace and joy.
Fly forward into a healthy spring with some educational, empowering and inspiring health workshops from Radiant Family this March. Our workshops will be given at the Merging Rivers Zen Center on three Saturdays. See the flier below for more information.
We have tried to keep our workshops low cost in order to share this information with as much of the community as possible, so please share this flier with anyone you think would benefit! We hope to see you there.
We really underestimate the impact that light has on our bodies. This time of year in the Northern hemisphere brings less exposure to daylight. It is cold/rainy/windy, so we avoid spending time outdoors in the daytime. Most people spend their waking day indoors in their workplace. And due to the shorter days, it is less likely that any of us really encounter much daylight outside before or after work.
But we get plenty of light inside from light bulbs, though. Or from computer screens, phones, e-books, and other electronic devices. This light is less bright than natural sunlight, but much brighter than moonlight. So, let's call this artificial light "medium light."
The body reacts to light all of the time.
Our body produces melatonin and cortisol to create our "circadian rhythm", our cycle of being asleep and being awake. High melatonin levels at night help induce sleep. High cortisol levels in the morning induce wakefulness.
If we lived outside as the animals we are, we would be exposed to much daylight during the day, and only moonlight at night. In our cozy buildings, however, we get this "medium" light consistently throughout the day. This means not enough daylight during the day and too much light in the evening.
During the day, when our cortisol levels are prone to be their highest, we should be exposed to a great amount of light. In particular, the blue spectrum of light (short wavelength), like those obnoxiously bright headlights you see on cars from time to time. If we are exposed to this spectrum of light from 7am to noon, we produce as much as 50% more of the "awake hormone" at this time than we would without this bright light exposure. (1)
Can you imagine being 50% more awake in the morning? Doesn't that sound great?
But exposure to light at night has a negative effect. Exposure to this blue spectrum light in the evening results in a dramatic drop in melatonin production, even in small amounts of light exposure. This means more difficulty getting to sleep, a hard time staying asleep, or lower quality of sleep. (1)
Interestingly, exposure to light in the red spectrum (long wavelength) does not suppress melatonin production like blue light does. According to the research, there is no statistical difference between red light and darkness when it comes to affecting our melatonin levels. (1)
For a wakeful, energetic morning:
For a deeper rest at night:
I have met very few people that don't have any difficulty with sleep AND also feel energetic in the morning. So please don't take light for granted. Some very simple changes in light exposure can make significant changes to your health, especially during the darker months.
1. Mariana G. Figueiro and Mark S. Rea. The Effects of Red and Blue Lights on Circadian Variations in Cortisol, Alpha Amylase, and Melatonin. 2 March 2010. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2010/829351/
I have two categories for my patients. There are those who want to feel better, and want to come in the office, let me do my thing, and then leave until their next appointment. We make progress, but their healing time is limited to their office visits. This is what works best for many people, and that is just fine.
But then there is my other group of patients.
This is the group that wants to feel better, and wants to know every possible thing they could be doing to help themselves feel better faster.
This group is dear to my heart, because this is how I would be as a patient. If I was unwell, I would want to do everything possible on my own to recover. Not that I don't love a good acupuncture treatment, but I'd much rather get well faster and perhaps not have to come back in for more visits. So, contrary to conventional medical business models, I like to focus on what I can do to empower my patients to help themselves get better and perhaps not be my patients anymore.
The field of physical therapy uniquely requires that the practitioners provide tools for recovery to their patients. Having repeatedly given this sort of information to her patients for so many years, Doranne is quite practiced at sharing this information.
Our bodies can be our tools to get around in the world, they can be an impediment, or most likely both. Keeping these tools sharp and well-oiled is essential for a healthy existence. We are bound to strain our physique through poor posture, stress and injury.
Having a useful method to help us prevent and manage aches, pains, and structural imbalance allows us to take charge of our health in a way that is very difficult to do on our own.
I'm so grateful to Doranne for sharing her years of wisdom in the concise version of a handbook.
Doranne has created Your Body Book, which is literally the handbook for taking care of your body. I adore her book, and am pleased that she was willing to answer some of my questions about her work and the resource she has created.
Miranda: What made you decide to write Your Body Book?
Doranne: While working as a physical therapist for more than 30 years, I realized I had been scribbling illegible instructions and drawing child-like stick figures on easily-lost pieces of paper for clients for years. So at the end of each work day, for about a year, I compiled the information and exercises I normally share with my patients, resulting in the creation of Your Body Book Guide to Better Body Motion with Less Pain. This self-help health care book empowers people to take responsibility to successfully manage their health. I am passionate about helping others physically, as well as mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Miranda: How is Your Body Book best used as a tool by any of us with pain, injuries, or structural imbalances? (Aka ALL OF US!)
Doranne: The more you know, the better you can help your body and mind heal with time, by managing pain, improving blood flow, eating right, getting adequate sleep, and minimizing fear, worry, anxiety, and stress. It is easy to become fearful, especially when in pain. Mental and/or emotional stress can lead to physical problems such as causing muscles to tighten and increase pain. Stress and anxiety can decrease sleep, which slows healing and increases pain. Worry, especially about things out of our control, can be overwhelming.
The more you know, the more tools you can use well. Tools to decrease physical pain include: ice packs, heat, including hot showers and baths, pools, pillows for support and positioning, breathing, gentle exercise, and sleep. Give your body and brain plenty of water and good nutrition.
The good news is the body does its best to mend, especially with injuries involving bones, joints, and muscles. Give your body time to heal; generally for every “down” day, it may take two to three days to recover.
Miranda: What is one of the most common questions you get as a physical therapist?
Doranne: One question I am frequently asked, is when to use ice or heat to decrease pain. The bottom line--both ice and heat increase circulation; improved blood flow helps the body heal. Ice is best immediately after an injury, with really sharp pain, muscle spasm, or inflammation (hot, red, swollen). Heat is better with more chronic conditions, low-grade pain, or when the area is more stiff than painful.
Miranda: Any favorite tips or advice you would care to share?
Doranne: Rice socks. I recommend making rice socks by pouring about two pounds of uncooked rice into a long sock. Tie/sew to close. Place in microwave for about two minutes or until comfortably warm. A second rice sock can be kept in the freezer and used as an ice pack.
Thank you so much to Doranne for taking the time to share some of her knowledge with us. So many years of experience is a valuable gift to share, and Your Body Book is such a convenient form!
Doranne currently works as an on-call physical therapist. She is very willing to answer questions via e-mail or phone, and is also available for public speaking and teaching.
Go to www.YourBodyBook.com for more information, including upcoming presentations. Your Body Book is available on Amazon, at the local Grants Pass, Oregon bookstores including Aquarius, The Book Lore, The Herb Shop, and Oregon Books. It is also available locally at Dr. Kahn’s office, and from Kay Nielson, PTA, LMT, in Selma, Oregon.
Thank you for reading. Even though I am trained as a physical therapist, I am passionate about not only helping people physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; to help them be whole in their soul. With 32 years of hands-on experience, I currently work as an on-call physical therapist. Please don't hesitate to contact me.
P.O. Box 5735 • Grants Pass, OR 97527 • 541-643-9289 cell 541-955-3209 fax • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.yourbodybook.com
Staying healthy has been a challenge over recent months. Starting a business is a full-time affair. Like some kind of inanimate baby, it demands all of our time, our finances, and our loving care.
Jason and I are constantly evolving our commitment to health, each day coming closer to practicing everything we preach. We're still human and slip backward from time to time, but being fully immersed in our passion for health and happy living has led us to learning what habits have made the greatest overall impact on our health.
On to the 8 habits (in no particular order):
Today I was the unwanted victim of someone's anger and frustration. Just a few hours ago, actually. She was a woman under the influence of....
You may be knowingly nodding your head right now because we are all familiar with this. What is it about being behind the wheel that often leaves us so prone to unnecessary impatience and anger?
Back to the story.
I should set the scene.