Narrative Medicine and the Wild Woman Archetype

This month, I am focusing my creative energy on writing, exploring the connections between how I journal and tell my stories and the Wild Woman within me.  Last summer, I bought the book Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I read the beginning and it fed my soul in new ways. Because of life and the swirling of time, it got misplaced behind other books while I dove into skills labs. It remained hidden until recently when my friend played audio of Dr. Pinkola Estés during our writing group. She chose to share the rendering of La Loba, a story from the book. It was so beautiful. I immediately went home in search for it. When my hands finally touched it, I felt sparks.

This book anchors me to the book that’s inside of me, yearning to spill onto a page, and it is sparking in me this desire to share the importance of narrative medicine.

So this week, I want to discuss the nature of how we are being in our stories. She says:

To further our kinship with the instinctual nature, it assists greatly if we understand stories as though we are inside them, rather than as though they are outside of us. We enter into a story through the door of inner hearing. The spoken story touches the auditory nerve, which runs across the floor of the skull into brainstem just below the pons. There, auditory impulses are relayed upward to the consciousness or else, it is said, to the soul… depending on the attitude with which one listens.

Ancient Dissectionists spoke of the auditory nerve being divided into three or more pathways deep in the brain. They surmised that the ear was meant, therefore, to hear at all three different levels. One pathway is said to hear the mundane conversations of the world. A second pathway apprehended learning and art. And the third pathway existed so the soul itself might hear guidance and gain knowledge while here on earth.

Listen then with the soul-hearing now, for that is the mission of the story. 

It is worth my sharing of this entire passage, because I believe she asking us to explore story on at least two levels. Where are we in relationship with the story and how can we understand the ways our body can hear the story?

As I reflect on what I have journaled and think about what I will write in the future, I gain the following perspective: I am not only the story teller but I am also there to witness my own story. And the way I do that will have an impact on my path.

I am given freedom, permission, connection to the Wild Woman to write out from another part of myself. The way I hear my own story from my soul or just merely as a conversation I had with myself as a woman in pain, as a confused woman.  How profound a difference might this make? It changes the outcome of understanding my health history and the the lessons I learn in order to change and grow in strength. In order to feel my way into my feminine and embrace the woman I am instead of letting the voice get lost in a sea of mundane. Instead of letting myself get swallowed up into how hard the journey was/is, I can let it led me to my strength.

She continues to tell us how this listening from the soul is a connection to the Wild Woman, a gateway:

Bone by bone, hair by hair, Wild Woman comes back. Through night dreams, through events half understood and half remembered, Wild Woman comes back. She comes back through story.

I am reminded of the way I tried to write my story out for doctors when I was seeking treatment and help. It was chronology based: this doctor said this, I said that… and of course parts were missing. Our perception of real events changes and is altered over time.  I compare this to my journal or generative writing written in real time with my group. The generative pieces are filled with more fire, filled with more grace, filled with more suffering. This contrast is very useful as I set out to develop an outline for my book.

These entries are the seat of the soul, where sometimes I am reflecting on something from childhood or a journey home, those events half understood and half remembered, when surrounded with the present moment in my journal, have much more context and so many more pieces of a feminine and honest me than the ones I wrote to bring into yet another doctor’s office. In that monologue, I am desperately trying to get every detail out correctly, to not miss a thing, to present myself as not crazy, to validate my abdominal pain instead of just accepting it, being mad at it, or letting it exist just because it does.  Instead of allowing them to dismiss it.

In my journal, no one  dismisses the pain (and therefore me), and when I listen to these pieces from my soul, I see how I started to become whole again, and I see that young girl scared and trapped inside me begin to bloom and come out and join me.  And I understand why.  So, tell me, where is your Wild Woman?

Where does it take you? How do you reflect on your writing and your own story when you imagine that you are writing for the soul? For the connection to the Wild Woman?

 

From the jacket:

Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species. For though the gifts of wildish nature belong to us at birth, society’s attempt to “civilize” us into rigid roles has muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls.

In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and stories, many from her own traditions, in order to help women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature. Through the stories and commentaries in this remarkable book, we retrieve, examine, love, and understand the Wild Woman, and hold her against our deep psyches as one who is both magic and medicine.

Dr. Estés has created a new lexicon for describing the female psyche. Fertile and life-giving, it is a psychology of women in the truest sense, a knowing of the soul.

Estés, Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. Rider, 1998.

Five Reasons You Should Practice a Body Scan Ritual

The biggest part of my journey to become a coach was pain transformation. Many things contributed to that transformation and one of them was being able to be comfortable inside my body. To achieve this comfort, one tool I used was a body scan.  

I offer my general body-scan audio as a suggestion for you to try; it’s on YouTube so anyone can access it!  It helps us bring more awareness to our body in safe, guided ways. If any of the following scenarios apply to you, it’s a great time to begin this ritual:

One: If you’re looking for an intro to meditation and need a place to start.

Two: The body scan can be used for relaxation alone, and incorporates some nice deep breathing. I recommend it for those that simply need an easy way to maintain stress levels and grow self- awareness.

Three: If you have mild to severe chronic pain, this can help your mind to accept that area of your body with the pain instead of being angry or ashamed of it. It’s really hard to heal when we’re at war with ourselves or when all we try to do is numb the pain or band-aid it. This was my experience, please read my deep-dive blog post if you relate! I share a lot more insights on how it works and why it is a great tool.

Four: If you’re feeling really wound up, or tight in your body. This can be a signal that a chronic condition is preventable if you take action. If you’re starting to notice some occasional body pain (headaches, stomach upset, etc.), this can be a great way to help nip it in the bud before it becomes a chronic condition, especially if it’s related to stress. It’s free and only takes about 20 minutes a day. If you find it resonates with you, I would do this for two weeks straight and then drop to 3x per week. It will restore the energy you have recently felt waning.

Five: Advanced meditators that are experiencing pain related to stress in their bodies and need assistance navigating it can benefit. Listen to the audio once or twice and take it from there. The audio I made also ties in with the chakras, so you can visualize them as you do the body scan. It includes front body and back body chakras. I will have a post about chakras, and about how I purposefully made this body scan different than others to include them.

If you like what you hear, I also offer personalized audios. If you enjoy this journey and there’s a specific area of the body you want to spend more time exploring and loving, that part of the body scan can be extended to give you a deeper experience. This experience will help you feel like you can take your time. You won’t be rushed through your pain points or have to pause the recording to dive deeper.  Connect with me if that sparks your interest!

 

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to treat, prevent, or cure any disease. The statements within are opinions of the author and are not to be used in place of a medical providers care. If you have a pain, please contact your medical provider. Please find a licensed medical professional that will support you on your healing journey.

Deep Dive into Body Scans for Healing

Today, I posted a brief article about the five different reasons you might want to bring body scans into your daily ritual, focusing on who the practice would benefit. If you missed it, you can read it here. You can also listen now, on YouTube.

If you related with topic number three, I am glad you are here. 

As a tool to help heal chronic pain, the body scan can really help us by breaking the cycle of escaping from the pain enabling us to use our minds to start the healing process.

By recognizing sensations of pain, we can start to understand why they are happening and not waging a war on the pain, which is also waging war on our body, spirit, and mind. This type of relaxation offers supportive guidance and encourages us to relax tight and guarded areas. It allows healing to begin in three ways:

  1. restricted blood flow finally makes it to the area that is tight and the body can start its natural healing process
  2. relaxation techniques are proven to reduce stress which reduces cortisol in the system and promotes a healing state
  3. new pathways in the brain are formed, and we begin loving our whole selves

It took four years for me to get a diagnosed with what was causing my pain. The pelvic region is very complex. I was in physical therapy when it was determined I might have to get surgery to repair the small tear I kept aggravating, that they finally found with a lot of scans.  It’s important to work with your medical provider if you have pain. It’s important to not give up. I understand that habits form very easily while trying to treat and diagnose pain. I want to help you have healthy habits that feel true to you.

I want to share that this process took time for me. It’s only one piece of my healing journey but it’s a part I found so important its worth sharing with everyone that might be suffering from pain. Plus, I absolutely love body scans.

After I heard I might need surgery, I happened to find a neurology-focused chiropractor. She supported me for the next year of my healing journey, along with discoveries I made about my health in my health-coaching program and other self-care practices.

I have to admit, I was dedicated to getting better, and I know that mindset of perseverance, being open to new things, and being in action about the healing journey are all important, because without those elements, I would have never found the body-scan meditation to begin with. If this sounds like you, keep reading.

At first, I couldn’t do the body scan, but the more time I spent, the further I was able to move down into my legs without just skipping over my abdomen, or getting stuck there all together. I spent daily sessions for over three months in awareness of my painful area. You will need to have patience, but if you stick with it, this can help you move the pain needle down and teach you more about yourself.

I am a firm believer that emotional and mental struggles manifest in our bodies, and just the same, when we have an injury or physiological issue causing pain, it can manifest painfully in our minds and hearts. And I believe that’s why this works.

 

Many times, the anger or sadness we feel towards our area of pain makes it very hard to heal, because we are tense. When we promote and allow the opposite–relaxation–we are giving ourselves freedom to heal. We can find ways to relax and bring love and acceptance in, it feels different and scary at first, but we must also consider the alternative, often times we have already been struggling in pain for years and what we’ve been doing is not working, even with the support of a licensed practitioner. Our quality of life is low.

This is an opportunity to allow healing to come in. So, if this meditation feels uncomfortable, work with it. Change can be uncomfortable inside at first, but transforming pain is rewarding and will help you in the future if other things come up.

It helps me, I still use this tool for stress maintenance and I know now that relaxing and bringing awareness to my pain actually supports my healing process, it lets me know something is off inside and gives me a chance to redirect  and heal before it turns into a chronic condition. It helps me be more aware of my body and the signals. That’s one of the beautiful things about meditation and why I am telling you all this in a blog post.  Meditation is inside us already and that shouldn’t cost anything.

If you have suffered for a long time it might be really scary to be in the area that hurts. That’s okay and it’s normal. Simply skip over that body part for awhile, or lighten your awareness of it until you’re ready.  

My body scan meditation is available on YouTube. It’s slightly longer than the one I used when I was healing for a few reasons, one being that I really wanted to break the torso down more according to our chakras (energy centers). Although I don’t mention chakras in the audio, if you are familiar, you can always bring them in to the meditation as you like. The second thing I wanted to pay attention to is way the earth has the ability to support us, so just think of a happy cat or dog, or any contented animal you’re familiar with. Think of the way they sleep or nap, or when you pick them up, how they might become dead weight in your arms, trusting and relaxing on the full support beneath.  We can do this as well, and I teach you how in the video.

Even with all of this, I didn’t want to make it too long, because I know time can sometimes challenge us, so it’s under 20 minutes!

Feeling ready? Relax into your body today. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

To further support you, I make customized audio files that focus on your particular area of pain. Book an appointment with me and it will take about 15 minutes to ask you some questions so I can customize the recording. The reason I am offering this is because I often had to pause the recording I used in order to spend more time exploring my abdomen, you might feel you want that for your area. And I can offer that additional guidance. The recording will be between 8-20 minutes, depending on what your unique relationship is with meditation and your daily routine.

The other 30 minutes you will also have an opportunity to ask questions about the support I had during my time with chronic abdominal pain, how I healed, and know that you’re not alone in your own personal struggle with pain. Sometimes it just feels good to talk about it with someone new that has had a similar experience.

The total is $30 for this 45 minute session and the recording. Please consider that this is for the time it takes to make the recording and for the coaching in the call.  I will give you everything I have to offer during your session and that time is what I am charging for.  There are no obligations to purchase anything else, in fact, unless you ask, we won’t even discuss my other services. Please book with me if you would like to dive deeper!

Listen to my free session now for an introduction!

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to treat, prevent, or cure any disease. The statements within are opinions of the author and are not to be used in place of a medical providers care. If you have a pain, please contact your medical provider. Please find a licensed medical professional that will support you on your healing journey.

Food Alternatives

Hello and thank you for joining me! Last week we discussed Spring Cleaning for the pantry and fridge and discussed eliminating items with 14 different ingredients.

One reason why it’s important to make these changes is to decrease the impact of chemical and biological stress in the body. Our bodies and hormones are very sensitive and low-level chronic stress can cause long-term damage and make it harder for us to recover from illnesses. Making a few of these changes that feel comfortable to you this Spring will help reduce stress inside the body, providing you with a clearer mind and less fatigue.

Let’s discuss the alternatives so we can get a fresh start this Spring.  To make it easier to break down on your shopping list, I divided these up into three catagories: Sugars, Additives, and Oils.

 

SUGARS

  • Sugar and (High Fructose) Corn Syrup, Sucralose, and Aspartame:
    • Substitute fruits with a low glycemic index (especially berries, cherries, apples, and pears) for dessert.
    • Eat bread that’s really chewy and grainy instead of white breads or very fine breads,
    • Chose sprucing up your water with fruit and herbs and drinking herbal tea instead of soda or other drinks. It’s also cheaper and the possibilities are endless.
    • Read labels and avoid buying anything with added sugar or corn syrup or the artificial sweeteners, like aspartame.
  • Low-Fat or Fat-Free Products: Always check labels to find out how much sugar has been added to make the food taste better. There are about 15 different names of sugars, so checking the grams of sugar per serving will help a lot if you’re new to labels. Science shows healthy fat is really important for brain development, so taking the fat out can be a double whammy on our health if they’re adding in sugar and we’re not getting the fats our brains need. Eating a low-fat diet isn’t one size-fits-all fats!

ADDITIVES

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and Table Salt/Sodium Chloride: MSG is found in many restaurants, so find out ahead of time if they use this ingredient and avoid that place. It will help you honor your fullness when you’re eating out. Many sauces and premixed seasonings contain MSG so be on the lookout for this ingredient when selecting your seasonings. It’s best to use sea, Himalayan, or Kosher salt. See how salt is made at:
  • Soy/Soy Lecithin: Soy Lecithin is in a lot of chocolate and packaged foods. So read labels and chose the foods without added soy. It’s such a popular filler, you will be very surprised at how much of it we’re eating when you start seeing it everywhere.
    • The best way to eat soy is whole AND organic soy products.
    • You can use Tamari Sauce to avoid soy and it tastes the same, that’s best for people with any thyroid challenges.
    • Reach for non-sweetened nut milks instead of soy milk if you have a thyroid imbalance.
  • Potassium Sorbate, Polysorbate 80, Artificial Flavors, Artificial Coloring: Choosing whole, organic foods (like vegetables and fruits) reduces the risks of us having any of these man-made ingredients in our foods. Humans are amazing at science, and often make amazing things because we can, without asking if we should. Just because something exists, doesn’t mean we should eat it! Most whole foods are found on the perimeter of the grocery stores.

OILS

  • Hydrogenated or Fractionated Oils AND Canola oil/Vegetable oil: Be mindful in selecting oils. Many oils break down and transform when heated to high temperatures and we can’t process them in their new forms.When cooking oils are exposed to heat in the presence of air, they break down into toxic by-products called polar compounds that have been linked to the development of serious health problems including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Oils are also extracted from the plant using chemicals and many of the crops they are made from are heavily treated with pesticides.

We should reduce or eliminate fried foods, and we can also sauté in a safe, non-stick pan with no oil. However, many recipes call for oil and it’s good for our brains!

What are the healthy oils we should choose instead to maintain the health benefits?

  • Medium-Chain Triglycerides are processed very well by the body! The best source for that is coconut oil. You can get a light variety and it doesn’t have much taste and is tolerant to high heat.
  • Extra-Virgin Olive oil: Best raw but also good for cooking.
  • Avocado oil is next runner up!

Read Dr Weil’s article.  

Bonus Tip! Shopping like this doesn’t have to be expensive and many more discount grocery stores are adding produce aisles and organic/natural food sections and choices! For example, Grocery Outlet carries an avocado/olive oil blend.

 

Spring Cleaning your Pantry and Kitchen!

As we dive into spring cleaning, I want to bring attention to spring cleaning the kitchen and pantry. It’s a great time to start with a natural slate!

What does natural mean to you? Perhaps, it means eating organic and non-GMO, choosing natural house-hold cleaners or body-care products. It might be a combination of things in the food you eat to what you use on your garden.

With the contstant inventions man makes, it’s not strange, but it is interesting that we are surrounded by a lot of artificial things.

Only you can decide what feels best to you in the quest to limit toxic or artificial things in your life, but the first step is always knowledge that can help us make informed decisions and become aware of the available options.

If you’re looking for ideas, I have compiled a list of Food Labels and Ingredients and what they are so that you can choose if you want to include them in your diet. Next week we will discuss alternatives to these 12 items and then we will move on to household products!

Let’s begin!

Food Labels/Ingredients to Avoid

There are many ingredients on food labels that are best to avoid.  By staying away from these ingredients, your body will thank you by running smoothly and performing all the normal bodily functions with ease.  All of these items are best kept to a minimum to maintain a healthy body that can heal from the inside and that has a better chance of bouncing back when our health shifts.

Here are twelve ingredients to consider when cleaning out your pantry; if you’re replacing foods that expired, choose foods without these ingredients going forward:

  1. Sugar: Sugar is in almost every single processed food you can buy today. Such a massive intake of sugar can influence an irregular metabolism, high blood pressure and eventually have a negative impact on the liver.
  2. High Fructose Corn Syrup: High fructose corn syrup can be found in just about any sweet processed food. Aside from it being made from genetically modified corn, high fructose corn syrup can cause accelerated weight gain, insulin resistance and even diabetes when consumed in large quantities over a long period of time.
  3. Low-Fat or Fat-Free Products: Low-fat or fat-free products are not the healthy items they appear to be. Manufactures compensated for flavor by adding massive amounts of sugars and artificial sweeteners to give the taste of a full-fat food. Check the labels for these other ingredients because you might find them there!
  4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): MSG is commonly found in all processe foods, everything from canned goods to potato chips. When you ingest MSG it sparks your appetite, causing you to eat more. (MSG is found in many restaurants, so find out ahead of time if they use this ingredient and avoid that place. It will help you honor your fullness when you’re eating out).
  5. Hydrogenated or Fractionated Oils: These oils are man-made or so severely changed from their original form, there is nothing natural about them. It’s basically eating plastic… so yuck.
  6. Canola oil/Vegetable oil: Be mindful in selecting oils. We will talk more about the healthiest oils for cooking foods next week.
  7. Sucralose: Sucralose is a not a good choice. Also called chlorinated sugar—sucralose contains chlorine, which is prevalent in bleach and disinfectants.
  8. Soy/Soy Lecithin: Soy can disturb estrogen in women and it interferes with the uptake of thyroid hormones. Most soy is genetically modified and therefore not natural, but pesticides are another huge concern. Soy is in so very many products, that we just have too much in our diets. The only soy that is good to consume is organic fermented and whole organic soy products (those with thyroid imbalance should only chose fermented like tempeh to reduce the interaction with the hormone replacement they take).
  9. Table Salt/Sodium Chloride: This becomes a man-made ingredient after processing. Know what’s in your salt and how it’s drastically changed from the source!
  10. Aspartame: While aspartame is 200 times sweeter than conventional sugar and only has four calories per gram, it is man-made in a lab.
  11. Artificial Flavors: Found in a majority of foods today, artificial flavors are just that, artificial!
  12. Artificial Coloring: Remember that candy scare in the eighties? Well, need I say more?

 

 

 

 

 

The Body-Scan Meditation

True-to-you Tuesday!

If you haven’t already, please join me in my Facebook Group! A closed group where I post True-to-you Tuesdays: self-care routines that can be adapted to your authentic lifestyle. And Venus Day, a day to launch you on a science experiment with your own body!

A Body-Scan is a meditation technique that can be done in many different ways and situations. It is very adaptable to suit your personality and lifestyle. They can last from anywhere between a minute to an hour. The average is about 5-20 minutes. If it’s your first time, I recommend choosing a guided one. I have placed two links in the comments, one 5 minutes and one 12 minutes. There are many others available on YouTube, and some are built into relaxing stories, such as The Waterfall on the Calm app.

In practice:

  • Move through the body with curiosity.
  • Feel from the inside.
  • Try not to use your eyes to visualize as that can cause tension.
  • If you find a place that needs more time, explore different lengths of guided meditations on YouTube, make your own, or have one customized for you. (Let me know if you’re interested. I will create one for you!)
  • If you find you are skipping over a body part or can’t get past it to other body parts, take gentle note. What does that part of you need? Place your hand there and send it messages of what is needed. Love, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance are four common themes.
  • It might help to imagine an animal, such as a cat, in sleep their body is completely supported by what they are resting on.
  • Note that the scan can be done in any amount of time you have (learn how to create your own scan below).
  • Consider breathing a certain color of light into each part of the body as you scan it.
  • Fast scans are good for grounding, especially with two feet placed flat outside on the earth.
  • Long scans are best in your most comfortable, relaxed position, so you can note that the surface you are on is completely supporting you.

Benefits:

  • Reduces stress
  • Takes you into the present moment
  • Allows you to grow awareness to where your body needs nourishment or places to take it easy
  • Allows you gentle access to places that have chronic pain and opportunities to reconnect to those places
  • Teaches us to accept our bodies
  • Brings focus to the breath
  • Provides a quick grounding moment
  • Is a good beginning or advanced meditation

Framework to create your own:

  1. Choose if you will lie down or sit up. Consider the length of time with this choice.
  2. Start with your breath and where that is felt in the body, the chest, stomach, throat, shoulders?
  3. Begin the scan at the head, move to each part of the head, including the face, then neck, shoulders, arms, fingers
  4. You can choose to explore your limbs simultaneously or separately, or mix it up
  5. Be specific and linger longer on places you experience regular or occasional pain.  
  6. Move through all torso parts, ribs, abdomen, pelvis, any organs you want to include
  7. Scan all parts of the leg,
  8. Scan the parts of your feet
  9. Feel into your awareness of the body as a whole
  10. Return to the room with senses one at a time, taste, smell, hearing, texture under fingers
  11. Feel points of contact on your skin, what you’re resting on, your clothing.
  12. Wiggle fingers, toes
  13.  Incorporate sight: open eyes

Thank you for stopping by for True-to-you Tuesday!

The Dose

Every person’s depression and thyroid-disease story is different. And if you have been impacted by thyroid disease, you might be able to relate that there’s not really a beginning, middle, and end:

I have made a lot of slow, but perfectly beautiful changes in my health over the last nine months and, well, as I like to say, “little hinges swing big doors.” These changes have culminated into decreasing my needed thyroid medication by 38 mcg and maybe more still. I don’t have a thyroid gland and was placed on medication in infancy—at seven months.

So there begins a long list of symptoms if we have too much or too little. My biggest personal struggles: fluctuating estrogen hormones, depression, and slow bowels, dopamine, cortisol, escapism. I am petite so weight gain for me takes a while for anyone to notice, but my body will begin to suffer with just 5-8 lbs extra—too little T4 and my bowels are in a standstill, my metabolism crashing. Add inadequate stress management with fast-paced, no-room-for-error jobs and you likely have a recipe for pain and grief.

One of my noted beginnings was as a teen with shifting hormones. When I was thirteen a doctor suggested I didn’t need the Synthroid. I was too “normal”, he said. This was based off of his training, I didn’t fit the hypothyroid description. Synthroid worked really well for me as a child. They took me off of it and about two weeks later I battled sliding into a coma for a few days. While this ended up being a really good lesson in what would happen to me if I didn’t take my medication, it was also the instagator of major depression and a waking nightmare for my family when soon after this event, I became suicidal. I learned how to get help when it got bad, but I had lurking suicidal thoughts until the year of my 40th birthday—the year I finally fell in love with myself and suddenly, whole-heartedly, could live forever.

Over this last year I have had my labs tested every few months… I am grateful I have a doctor that understands how sensitive the endocrine system is.  The biggest shift is being able to feel my body. Since 2008, I have focused on natural choices in all areas of my life. I have always been a cook, rarely ate fast food, I cook a lot of veggies and pretty-close-to balanced dinners, learned about herbs, studied mindfulness and crystal healing, and all these are wonderful things… but I still had ground to cover in order to feel good mentally, physically, and emotionally.

For years my body had been overloaded with toxins from daily sugar, alcohol, eating too much, not eating enough greens, eb and flow of getting enough exercise, and a four-year span of chronic abdominal pain from inflammation and a not-so-great appendicitis recovery, plus a myriad of female organ issues.

I have been on a really high dose of thyroid (for my body weight) the last six years. Then in August, suddenly all my tests started coming back too high! When we started decreasing it, I was scared of becoming depressed and constipated, so this last time when the labs were still too high, I began to meditate with the intention of discovering why the decrease was happening. I was totally amazed by what my body said to me “It’s okay, Brandy, without all those toxins and inflammation, I can UPTAKE so much better.” And I immediately felt relief in the truth and wisdom of hearing my body talk. There was less interference.

Oh—that’s a new thing—my body has a few voices that were hiding behind coping mechanisms for a really long time. There’s another story about how I reduced toxins. It didn’t happen for me overnight, and I have a feeling there’s more change to come.

My thyroid journey will never end and menopause is only about ten years away, ready to add its very own dynamic. Thankfully, I know I should find a health coach when I get to that stage! I feel like I am finally on the right path. My plan to live with vitality until I’m 102 will succeed if I maintain the path I am on, listening to my body wisdom, slowing down, changing the way I handle stress, creating beautiful rituals of self-care, presence & planning, meditation, and loving and honoring myself.

With you in realizing, chasing, and achieving the dream,

Brandy Bell, CHC

Tiny Movement Session

Remember when we talked about stillness and stiffness? This is for those of us not moving around much because of low-level pain.

As we eek into the winter months walking and moving becomes even more important. Light a fire, turn on the electric baseboard, get cozy, letting  your muscles warm up and join me for a Tiny Movement Session.

Okay, let’s try an exercise (you might or might not want to be alone for this 😉

  1. Feel what the hamstring muscle feels like when you lift up your leg into a march.
  2. Okay, it moved, great! Put it down.
  3. If it moves without pain, continue the exercise. If not, evaluate your level of pain. If you’re on the scale over 5, I don’t recommend this exercise—yet. Work with your healer or physical health provider and come back to this later if they don’t teach you.
  4. If  your pain level is lower, let’s continue. Lift into a march again. You’re engaging. Focus on the muscle. Be in the muscle, but don’t overthink it. Okay. Put the leg down.
  5. Think of your foot. Look at that foot.
  6. Pretend you’re a dog for a moment, twitch your nose, sniff, paw the ground. Bark and whine. Really take a moment to act like that animal. Gently moving your hands and feet to pretend you’re running beneath the moon. (Pick any animal!)
  7. Now lift into a march again and think of your hamstring engaging. Feel it engage. Put it down, feeling.
  8. Stop focusing on it. Stop.
  9. Look at your foot.
  10. Be a dog.
  11. Repeat twice on each side.
  12. Do it a few times a week or every day.

In the future, when you’re just walking on your legs, (flipping your hair), you will occasionally notice the engagement of your muscle in your consciousness, and it won’t be tense, and it won’t just be your leg struggling to feel connected to your pelvis or all chill and just along for a shuffle. It will just feel good, and you will say, “Well done, Leg!”

What’s the point? I’m asking you to connect with your muscle without thinking about the mechanics of it, just being in the body, feeling it work, make the movement and then letting go. Overthinking this action in the moment can make things go a bit awry. For example, though your ego is not your hamstrings, your brain still has important work to do—it sends signals to the body. We’re working to clear this pathway of fear and doubt. That’s why it’s so important to approach this with baby steps. First, we make the movement and observe we can do it, we test the waters. Second, we let the shield down (I can move!) And third, we do the exercise just a few times, engaging the muscle and then taking a break to something safe, something tangible: thought stopping: “There’s my foot.” And then a different tangible activity: dog. We’re slowly teaching our body and proving to the parts of ourselves that forgot that this pathway still exists, and we’re ready to make the connection. And we’re safe, it’s okay.

Keep making your nice movements into a little routine and before too long your body will surprise you.  Movement will feel like a whole new world and your blood vessels will be on parade with a light march that engages your hamstrings with purpose—not relaxed, yet not tense.

This is relevant for anyone who has been suffering from pain or stiffness, it’s surprising but our bodies need a little help getting in the saddle again—so to speak (but too soon for riding, getting on a horse is really rough on a very tight body that hasn’t been moving much). This is just one technique I learned that helped me ease into using this huge, awesome muscle group without injuring it while also encouraging my neurons to fire as they were meant to fire. You can use this technique on multiple muscles. Be curious and be gentle with yourself.

Our bodies are so strong, but we owe it to them to listen and be gentle, too. The healing process is important, and it is just that, a process. My expectations of my body are still very high, and though I am getting better, it’s still a challenge to shut my brain up and say “Whoa, Ego, you’re on break, I can’t sit here and write for hours—and I have to pee.”

 

 

Credit and Disclaimer: I adopted this method from the many treatments I have had for chronic pain in the last four years. The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, heal, or treat any health condition, disease, or injury. 

Stiffness, Stillness, and Movement

I just finished a month-long movement challenge. To me, making movement a part of my day has been less about an intense, fitness program and more about noticing what my body needs and wants. Am I tired? Am I tense? Stressed? Sore? Maybe dehydrated?

Movement can be anything from pacing when you’re on a phone call to working at a standing desk with an option to sit, from playing hopscotch to going for a walk, stretching, swimming, sex, painting, paddling, yardwork, yoga. It can be working on your posture while you watch your favorite show or read this article.

It wakes up your body and helps you get out of your head. It brings you oxygen and often reminds us to drink more water. It also helps you to be still.

Be still? Why is being still connected to movement? When you’re stuck on something, stillness enables you to think about it calmly without being restless to move onto something else or becoming consumed with resolving it to the point of anxiousness. Often, when we’re restless, it’s because our body needs to expel energy. To exchange old energy for new energy. But if we never give energy the chance to renew, restlessness can seep into many areas of our lives. Thus, practicing movement allows us to also practice stillness. We cannot have this stillness without movement.

Both are important for overall health. Consider a child who hasn’t played all day and is bouncing off the walls when you want them to settle down. Without movement, the child has all their energy buzzing with no outlet. This doesn’t change when we get older. Notice your partner furiously tapping their foot at dinner, or palming the side of the couch again and again with a trace of aggitation? Notice having an unpleasant night’s sleep and waking tangled in the sheets? As we age, we simply take on more responsibilities and create tons of energy inside our minds. Movement remains the most important way our bodies dispel all this extra energy, allowing us time to rest and heal.

Are you new to movement or recovering from a long-term injury or pelvic pain? Not moving for hours without the explicit purpose of sleep or mental rest is damaging to tissues, I refer to this as stiffness. As a result of stiffness, overstretching the body is very easy.

Here’s a tip if you feel stiff: ease into any movement (regardless how small it is) to prevent muscle tears. Our muscles are pretty delicate when they haven’t been moving because they are so tight. When you begin a movement routine, make your stretch only a fraction at the beginning. Add a little more as you go, without any bounce. We don’t want to be scared of moving, but I know that’s not always easy. Think of this as fun, be curious and patient. Be especially nice to your neck and hips. It’s probably not going to feel good if you lift really heavy things or get on a pogo stick or trampoline. Walk, it’s okay to go slow. You will gain speed at the perfect time for you.