The main tool that we use when we are initially treating chronic pain and symptoms is learning to connect and feel the body as it is in the present moment. Most of the time chronic pain is so loud and overwhelming that all we want to do is get rid of it and not feel pain any more. That is totally understandable. We go to a doctor who gives us a diagnosis, which in most cases is just a description of symptoms, but not the cause of pain.
In order to do it effectively, to get to the root cause of the pain, we need to learn and develop the skill of body scanning. Learning how to feel and become aware of the underlying causes of pain are the important keys to effectively treat it.
Many times chronic and persistent pain is just a symptom of deeper issues and restrictions in our body. Expanding our awareness and sensing the body beyond and underneath the pain is the next step to properly connect with root issues.
We can do it in a standing position, sitting or initially the best approach is in lying down.
Developing the habit of doing it daily will help us to learn a new skill to connect with our body. Initially it may feel uncomfortable or like we are not sure if we are doing it correctly, but if you stick with it, it will become easier and more effective.
So just start first with lying down. Take a few, deep, cleansing breaths into your belly. Ask your mind to become quiet, simply allowing the attention to stay on the body and not engage in thinking or mind chatter.
Slowly start scanning the body from your feet, to your pelvis, into your belly, chest area, and all the way up towards the head. Stay non-judgmental and simply become curious.
Observe, breathe, take your time, notice.
As we are scanning the body, we want to become aware of symptoms, but also, and more importantly, pay attention in 7 areas:
Remember, we are not here to analyze why it is the way it is. All we need to become aware of is the difference, as this is a crucial part of healing.
So, happy body scanning and let us know your progress in establishing a better mind-body connection.
If you want to be guided through the process, Schedule an appointment and we will walk you through an inner awareness session.
I had the opportunity recently to see an old friend and share a nice, Turkish lunch. As we became comfortable and relaxed, we connected with each other, and started sharing our past, including a few not so pleasant life experiences . . . things that were disappointing, hurtful, painful, scary and some you might even call devastating.
As our stories were embraced with undivided attention, empathy, non-judgmental openness, curiosity and care - there was a sense of flow and easiness. As a result, I personally felt lighter in my heart, and in my being, as I realized that I gave my story room to breathe, to be, to flow, I did not hide it inside of my being. I felt SEEN and HEARD. It is a beautiful feeling. I realized that we all have those hard and painful stories and sharing them makes our human experience easier and lighter as we realize that we are not the only ones that have gone through challenging times.
We all want to live happy and healthy lives. Many times, in pursuing that, there can be a tendency to attach to and focus on only the positive aspects of life, and to want more pleasant experiences. Yet, it is healthier not to completely ignore your negative feelings and simply give them air to breathe and release.
Life is like a rainbow, it has many colors. The year has 4 seasons, not only summer. There is day and night, light and darkness.
Embracing and expressing all our experiences, feelings and emotions is vital to live a life that is whole, real and authentic. It brings lightness to our soul and relaxation to our bodies.
As humans we feel a tapestry of emotions as the result of situations that we are in.
Being true and authentic to yourself and your feelings is the highest form of self- care. It takes courage to speak your own truth:
The act of self-care may be to have that difficult conversation with your spouse about the big, pink elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about for decades.
We all want to be seen, heard, validated, and understood. So, let's have courage to open part of our hearts to one another, to share our story, to uncover the corner of our soul.
Is it scary?
You bet it is. It takes us out of our comfort zone. There is fear.
Fear to open-up.
Fear to ask for what we need or want from others.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of being ridiculed.
Fear of judgment.
Being authentic and real may feel quite difficult and not pleasant, and like the least thing you want to do or face. Being authentic is to love oneself unconditionally with all the good, bad and ugly.
But when we do it, we don't need to escape. We don't have to medicate or over-drink or over-eat.
Being authentic is like being your own hero in your life versus being a victim.
It is being at real peace with yourself every day, so you are enough to yourself.
It is so worth it. You are totally WORTHY of being your own hero!
That creates a sense of wholeness within your own being, your own heart.
That is the only real place from which you can give and offer love to another.
Otherwise, we risk operating from a place of emptiness, lack or need.
As a physical and myofascial release therapist, I try to lead by example and relate to my clients as the authentic me. Since healing begins with an honest relationship and understanding of yourself, both physically and mentally, I also teach how to help my clients relate better to their bodies and help themselves. In our hands-on sessions, we may discover places in your body where you are holding yourself back, release tight muscles and fascia related to pain, and suggest ways to manage the return to an authentic state of well-being!
The mind and body cannot be separated.
Since 1991, the Heart-Math Institute has researched heart-brain communication and its relationship to managing stress, increasing internal body harmony and deepening our connection with others and ourselves. Based on their studies, it is safe to say that our heart radiates a much greater electromagnetic field around us versus our brain.
It is there that I recently attended a seminar with a friend of mine that was about self-love and connection to our own heart. Since I practiced that skill for many years now, it was easy for me, but my friend asked very legitimate questions after the class was done; What does it mean to connect to the heart? How do you do that?
So, for the beginners, just sit or lie comfortably, relax your body by breathing gently, allow your mind to be quiet from all the chatter, place your hand or hands on the area of your chest and breathe into your chest, keeping your attention on that area. Give yourself about 5 minutes a day to do just that. In that simple way, you will start connecting with your own heart space. As you do that, allow the sensations, feelings, and emotions to surface naturally. This is the easiest and most gentle way for you to be in touch with your own feelings.
Some of you may know that I lost someone very close and special to me 6 months ago due to sudden death following extended physical illness. Going though the process of grieving and allowing myself to feel all the emotions associated with such a loss is not easy.
There have been days that feeling that pain, loss, grief, and anguish felt like an unbearable ordeal to go through. When it happened, I allowed myself to feel it fully down to the bones. When I felt like I could not take it anymore, I asked Spirit/ God to help me. Peace and deeper serenity came after I allowed all of my pain to simply go through my heart. It is a process, and at some point, it gets easier and easier. You don't want to bottle it all up in your body.
We have such a strong emphasis in our culture that we are supposed to only have good times. It is normal and natural to gravitate towards pleasant experiences, but human life encompasses the wholeness of feelings. No matter if we go through pleasant or painful parts of our lives, feeling it fully and letting it go through our hearts is the healthiest way of living. The bottom line is to fully feel it and let it pass, without clinging to the pleasant times and repressing or resisting the unpleasant times, all without judgment. This is the very best definition of acceptance.
We can't have a rainbow without the rain and the storm. When it comes to our emotions, pain and unpleasant feelings are as part of the wholeness of our human heart as are joy, laughter and fun. Allow yourself to fully feel it without running away from those feelings. Oftentimes in our culture we are trained to mask the pain with drugs, alcohol, and different distractions. I believe that feeling our own hearts is both scary and brave at the same time.
It does take courage to live from the heart space, and to fully love yourself and others. It is OK to be fully you. If you grieve, love the one who grieves. If you are upset, love the one who is upset, YOU. If you are angry, that is OK, love the one who is angry. Just love and accept your own emotions without blaming anyone for causing them.
Own them. Oftentimes we put such a pressure on ourselves, looking back with regret on how we acted or what we felt. Our goal is to always get into a higher level of harmony and balance within ourselves, and, in the process of doing that, rebuild our heart space to again radiate joy and love to others.
Open your heart to yourself and others. Be vulnerable. Feel life. The best way to keep your heart open and enjoy the ecstasy of life is to never close your heart, no matter what life brings you. Bask in the sunshine of unconditional happiness.
What if heaven is not a place where we go, but the state we are in? What if heaven is the way we think and feel in relation to ourselves? A slight change in perception may change our experience in life. We can all define our purpose of living by answering the question Who am I? But, I believe, and many will agree, that our purpose is to be happy and healthy in life, right? Is not the essence of life the journey itself, not the destination?
For me to work with people, serve and heal, first of all, I need to take care of myself. Otherwise, I am not helping anyone. Isn't it true about all of us? Who is responsible for your happiness? Nobody, but you!
I created, and turned into habits, chunks of time that are devoted to cultivating that sense of feeling peaceful, loving, blissful, warm, and at ease with total comfort. Those moments when I find my piece of heaven simply by cultivated quality time with my physical myself, my higher self, God or Higher Intelligence (whatever word resonates with you).
I love my daily routines which I call morning infusions of joy. I set aside 30 min of my time. I prepare my warm water with lemon, nice cup of French press coffee with a favorite Hazelnut creamer. I sit comfortably, being fully present with myself, breathing into the body, keeping it more and more relaxed and soft.
I may take this time to pray, meditate, journal or simply being with myself. Sometimes I put on some music that makes me feel good,or diffuse an essential oil that stimulates my sense of smell in a pleasant way. Or I cover my body in a cozy and warm blanket to give me that sense of love and nurturing.
When I am consistent with my routines, I feel grounded, balanced, centered, and happier, and so I bring that part of me to the world. So, what is your Heaven? What brings you joy and peace? What is your passion? Make it unconditional about you, not people in your life. Perhaps unbelievably, it is not dependent on anyone else.
It is good to be learning baby steps toward unconditional happiness. Although, when it comes down to it, do you want to be happy and live a life of heaven on earth or not? It is a choice of saying to yourself that NOTHING is important enough to diminish your sense of well-being. Stuff happens all the time, some trivial and others, serious, mind challenging events. But is ANY of it worth your personal joy of life? Practice acceptance, which is the art of letting events pass through you, bad ones without resistance, and good ones without clinging.
When you learn to feel happy inside yourself, there is a sense if relaxation and ease in the body. This allows the body to start healing and return to equilibrium. Your body has tremendous wisdom inside, and all you need to do it to align with that by being easy and gentle with yourself. The more you cultivate the feelings of peace, compassion, and joy within yourself, the more your body will respond to those elevated feelings.
What is your heaven? It is not outside of you. It is always inside of you. Only you can find it, or even better, only you can create it, cultivate it and anchor it inside as yours.
In trying to relate more personally to the topic of self-love, one of the loves of my life came to mind . . . dance. I continue to dance as an expression of my joy of life, as something enjoyable that I do, without a lot of reflection, but realize, in this moment, that dance has become part of my being. When dancing, it consumes my awareness, as it takes discipline and concentration to perfect moves on the dance floor, and it comes with unavoidable pain, mostly associated with a leg pull, ankle turn or overstretched muscle.
Like dance, self-love takes discipline and concentration, and if you love yourself enough, you learn to perform through pain by letting it go. While the 7 Steps to Self-Love, as outlined in October's BLOG, are important, the transition to practicing self-love as a way of life also requires Acceptance, Awareness and Inner Strength.
So how do we maintain the practice of loving ourselves?
Many of us grew up in a culture and families where a healthy relationship with one-self was not cultivated and many times diminished, not even taken into consideration or even ridiculed. We all have a tendency to think that we have relationships with others. In reality, the most important relationship we will ever have in our life is the relationship with ourselves. Everything in our life, from health, success, and self -esteem, to how other people treat and trust us, starts with what kind of relationship we have with ourselves.
One of the popular phrases that we hear when we leave the company of others is the saying " Take care of yourself"... a nice and kind thought, but what does it really mean?
On a physical level it means to take good care of one's body and provide it with nutritious food, an adequate quantity of sleep, a proper exercise program, hydration etc.
When I ask my clients the simple question "do you love yourself"?, it is often responded to with a surprise or laughter, or as if there is something strange with that statement. Yet, unconditional self-love and acceptance are very crucial ingredients for a better and healthier quality of life.
How can we get there?
If we spend some time every day cultivating one or more of these 7 steps, day by day we will be walking a path filled with more unconditional self-love, fulfillment, a greater sense of overall well-being and love towards others. The only way to live that way is to reconnect with our true- self. I hope my thoughts inspire you to connect with your heart and live a life that is authentic. There is no better time to start than NOW.
Most of us probably heard it before that everything we truly want and look for is already inside of us. That includes your health and well-being. Yes . . . your health and your well-being.
Nice and sweet concept but what does it really mean and how do I connect or attune with it? We often hear that we are giving our energy and our power away. As interesting as it sounds to many of us, it may appear as an enigmatic statement and what does it all really mean?
Everything in our Universe is composed of matter and energy. Matter is everything that we can perceive with our 5 senses (what we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch). So, people, bodies, building, trees, objects, our body, animals, stars, moon, really everything that is visible to our senses.
Energy cannot be perceived, and it exists beyond our 5 senses, but energy can be sensed and felt with our awareness and consciousness. I am sure that most people can walk into the room of others, and sense if the energy in the air is happy, light, or tense and uncomfortable, right?
So, you cannot touch or smell or see your thoughts, feelings or emotions, but you can become fully conscious of them and know that they exist when you pay more attention to them.
So, the key is the ability to Pay Attention! Paying kind attention, on purpose, and in the moment, is a skill . . . like learning how to tie your shoes, or learning how to walk. Initially it is hard and clumsy, but eventually you can learn it, become better at it and master it.
The ability to pay attention is a very important skill because where you put your attention is where your energy goes. This is very important so I repeat it again.
WHERE YOU PUT YOUR ATTENTION IS WHERE YOUR ENERGY GOES
Most of humanity lives entrenched with everything that is external to them. So, the moment we wake up our attention, it is mostly focused towards the outside . . . to people, situations, Facebook, problems, children, friends, work, spouses, partners, in-laws, money, news, , government, the world, even enemies. . . don't forget your enemies :) . . . and our energy goes to the past, regretting, thinking about the past, and fear and anxiety of the future . . . I am sure you get the idea.
All that precious, mental energy that goes away from YOU, every day, day after day . . . it all becomes a program that runs you. That program can largely consist of simple survival, where the hormones of stress like cortisol and adrenaline are released into the body and we seemingly have no choice but go into the familiar reaction of hide, fight or flight, and simply be victims of our chemistry.
So, if we live like this, day by day, we simply give our energy, which is our power away. When we give our energy and power away, we have no energy for us to heal our body or to create our life the way we want. The body, in a natural way, starts to degenerate and becomes ill, as we are lowering our energy within. We are doing it to ourselves.
Pay attention to where your attention goes, bring it back into you and into the present moment. Meditation is an outstanding tool to learn and teach all of us how to stay present and how to keep your energy inside YOU. Then you can have a chance to heal your body and feel better.
It is so worth it.
Most of you on this email list know me, possibly read a few of my BLOGs, and have benefited from my understanding of the mind-body connection during therapy. Those of you who have embraced mindfulness have commonly reduced your pain and rejected suffering.
In June's BLOG I addressed Our-potential-for-self-awareness, and in May I advised to Let-go-of-pain and in April discussed our Quest-for-the-truth. These were important BLOG topics, each with their own merit, but now we stand on the edge of a Paradigm Shift. What used to be an understanding of illness as strictly cause and effect has grown to changing our way of thinking to affecting the cause through an appreciation of the oneness of the body and mind.
As humans, we are very comfortable with the known and familiar. New information that throughout our history, enters the mainstream, is initially resisted, criticized, and condemned until later, when it is fully understood, accepted as the truth, and a new set of rules is established, creating a new view on reality.
Galileo and Copernicus proved that the earth is not the center of the Universe, but is orbiting around Sun, that new information was not trusted and heavily condemned. It took over 200 years until that truth was fully accepted by people and considered a fact. Can you imagine thinking now that the earth is flat? Nobody would think that today . . .
It feels very antiquated to us now, but at some point, in our history, a flat earth was the perceived truth. Both Copernicus and Galileo were ahead of their time. They helped to shift our awareness to a new reality, it was a paradigm shift from a certain view of the Universe to a new, expanded view of how things really are.
Our predominant model of reality of medicine, our physical body, disease, and aging is based on 17th-centery science. Most medical and dental schools are based on the science, that views physical body as a mindless machine that is composed of chemicals, tissues, organs, and systems, genes that are destined for disease and illness and not influenced by the power of thoughts and feelings. Why is that?
Two famous people started shaping our current Western model of reality in the 17th- century. One of them was French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes, who invented the mind-body split. He started the belief system that imposed the duality between the concepts of mind and matter. The second one is Sir Isaac Newton, English mathematician and scientist, who not only solidified the concept of the Universe as a machine, but he also produced a set of laws starting that human beings could precisely determine, calculate and predict how the orderly ways in which the physical world, and the physical body would operate.
About 200 years after Newton, Albert Einstein produced his famous equation E=mc2, demonstrating that energy (which are our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs) and matter (our physical body) are so fundamentally related that they are one and the same. It was over 100 years ago that Einstein's work proved that matter (our body) and energy (our thoughts, feelings, beliefs) are completely interchangeable. Einstein was also ahead of his time, with his work and further research becoming more and more understood, bringing us to the edge of an expanded Paradigm Shift.
The last 20-30 years of research by new bright scientists in the fields of neuroscience, neurophysiology, epigenetics, quantum physics, brain chemistry proves to us that atoms (the very building blocks of our bodies) are mostly empty space; that atoms are energy, and we are built of atoms. Everything that we perceive physical in our life (our body, objects, trees, flowers, animals), is not just solid matter - rather, each is a field of energy or frequency, patterns of information.
This is a very, very exciting time for us to live as we are entering an expanded paradigm of mind-body medicine, where we are NOT just victims of our genes or heredity, when we can learn new ways of thinking, being and feeling to create a new body and reality for ourselves.
We can evolve and be more mindful, teaching our brains new neural responses and realizing the potential of our higher being
Unlike most species in the Animal Kingdom, human beings have the potential for self-awareness. This is so easily forgotten about in the heat of the moment, when anger, for instance, might emotionally override the fact that we as humans have self-awareness as a choice.
Most of us operate on what can be referred to as autopilot, just letting the mind wander into thoughts that require little in the way of conscious guidance. These thoughts are taken from the past or consist of future expectations, but, in an all-consuming way, tend to occupy our current moment. Because of this, often it is not easy to choose mindfulness as we are so accustomed to reacting to the world, to the environment and people or certain situations as an email autoresponder would send the same message to each similar inquiry.
Our behaviors, thoughts, thinking, impulses and feelings are simply downloaded to us through our early conditioning by our caregivers, society, school and various institutions. Many of us, react to everyday situations and triggers in the same conditioned way, as our neurological system is hard wired after years and years of repetitions.
Another aspect that differentiates us from others in the Animal Kingdom is that we store pain, trauma and negative emotions in our body like an emotional memory library. Often, that old pain or trauma, triggered many times, has not much to do with the present situation, and it is hard for us to differentiate what is happening now and what is really being activated in our body from the past. If we repeatedly react in the same way, the brain forms synaptic connections and chemicals in the body. After a while the body and brain acts on your behalf unless YOU choose to stop that same old behavior and chose a better one.
As humans, we have our highly developed frontal lobe of our brain, which is responsible for logic, reasoning, and the ability to choose thoughts, actions, and behaviors, which, in turn, can produce better and healthier outcomes and results. Next time, when the same situation presents itself (and trust me it will, until we learn), and the same old trigger is activated in our body, step back, take a big breath, and ask yourself; What is a better way to respond to this situation? What would be more healthy or mature way of handing this? What would be a response that would be a win-win for everyone involved?
Becoming mindful of every moment, connecting with the breath, slowing down the train of old, conditioned thoughts and beliefs, gives us the power and space to really be in the present moment, to respond in any given situation from the empowered choice. Mindful living needs daily practice and it really takes a commitment to live from a more aware, grounded and empowered state of mind. When we do it consistently, we can hugely enhance the quality, peacefulness and joy in our lives.
We can evolve and be more mindful, teaching our brains new neural responses and realizing the potential of our higher being. We can change our behavior through thoughtful reflection and learn to live better through the power of moment-to-moment awareness.
We all create our own lives as we go along ...and we always have a choice. Astoundingly, recent science proves that there exists a high level of neuroplasticity in the brain, which means we can change the ways in which our brains respond by practicing mindfulness. Not only do we interrupt old ways, but we create new neurological connections through mindful awareness.
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