Friday, February 26, 2016

Immersed In Sunset

I am on a plane, headed west. The sun started setting as we climbed above the clouds. Listening to relaxing sounds I watched the warm peach, pink and gold tones fill my window. Soothed, my eyes closed. A half an hour later, I was surprised to notice the clouds colors were just as strong. I began to watch, taking breaks to let emotions go, to see them glide like little weeks through the window next to me and into that breathtakingly vast beauty. I thought of friends, letting go of all the frustrations from what I can't change in their lives. I took time to think of their gifts: shared memories, moments, and wisdom. Time passed slowly as it does in the sky.

In my meditation I stood on the wing of the plane, watching the dark little birds gracefully vanish from my heart into the light. I felt the coolness of the rose and gold tinted clouds. The wind went through me, cooling and refreshing.

I did not look back. I looked forward. I remembered how far I have come. The scars I have earned are badges of bravery, foolishness, pride and fear. I acknowledged them. I let them go as well, unravelling like a ribbon back into the darkness, eventually tumbling away.

The sunset lasted over two full hours. Golden, pink, vibrant and full of beauty. I was amazed how few looked out and saw. Most people were wrapped up in phones, laptops, tablets or books. It was like being alone on an island in the sky.

I shed silent tears when emotions came strong. I let them be, just be. Like letting an agitated cat run until it tires and you can calm it. I focused on them. The positive, the negative I just felt for a while. They grew faint, and after I acknowledged them and heeded their communication I shared memories with them that gave them reason to calm. Like a child in a fairy tale singing a feisty Dragon to sleep. Quietly, discretely I tended my heart. The plane was full of people, focused on their worlds while I appreciated the gift sunset was and worked on my inner world.

They say mastering your mind is the hardest task. I disagree. I think for some handling the heart and irrational feelings is far more challenging. Others struggle with being in tune with their spirit, discomforted by the enigmatic, powerful aspect that motivates us to see beyond our own existence: to be aware and consider the wellbeing of others as well as our environment and our connection to it.

Two and a half hours, periwinkle has joined the sunset circle, confident yet shyly hiding the terrain below. Music, binaural tones, nature calls blended together with the sunset colors. My last focus: on everyone below. To be grateful for you, for how far you have come with the burdens you have chosen to carry, to send out the hope and prayer that you have what you need, that you have laughter, friendship and health. I sent up prayers that whatever you all believe, that you all treat each other as human and worthy of respect and compassion.

The next time you are caught enraptured by an incredible moment, I entreat you to live it fully. Appreciate it. Let what is retune you, and return you to yourself.

The pink is almost gone, sky mostly blue grey now. Three hour sunset. What a sight! The plane is slowly descending, shortly we will be on the ground. I will be able to curl up at home tonight, content with my significant other. I will be able to hear my cat do his squeaky purr and wrestle with him. I will hear Gracie make her little night noises. I will hear the coyotes at night, the quail, doves, and myriad of other birds that come to visit Bruce and eat the seeds he offers them in the morning. Tomorrow I will see and hear friends. I live in today, not yesterday. I'm excited about tomorrow but today- today is always when I am! What are you looking forward to? What makes you smile now? Do you have goals or accomplishments to energize you?

Unexpectedly, I found the second I missed New Years. That second was a sunset that lingered for three hours.  Happy New Years everyone! May your year from here forward be full of unexpectedly amazing moments. May you appreciate and share each one.

Who Feeds Your Monsters?

There is a Native American parable about two wolves, asking which wolf is stronger. Which is stronger, fear or courage? The one you feed.

Our minds are virtual worlds we dwell within. On the outside there may be little or no sign of what is really going on in that inner world. There can be great beauty, serenity and healthy forests as well as vibrant gardens. There can be tome after tome of experience and knowledge that we've gathered. Our emotions dwell as ephemeral creatures there. Pure, incredible and each completely different. Elation moves like a feather on a gentle breeze becoming sometimes a leaping deer excited by the freedom to run or a pack of coyotes excited by the anticipation of a tasty meal. Not everything is tranquil. There are places it is better not to tread without the right gear.

There can be scars leaving vast deserts, dangerous shale cliffs that look impressive but may slide us back into scar country. There are monsters as well, darker emotions and thoughts that stalk beneath the sand and water of day to day waiting for the right moment to lash out and reopen wounds we've worked to heal. These monsters in your head are disheartening and exhausting to face. You do your best not to feed them, you build trust with others to let the light in, to weaken their influence through forgiveness, compassion, and love.

You do your best to be aware of them without triggering them, handling them like an old crate of dynamite which has come to life. Part of you feels shame that you can't simply get rid of the damn beasts. You think you've shooed them out, cried them out, fought them out, forgave them out but they spring back to life like a vampire in a B movie. You don't always know how they got there, you can't undo or unlive the scarring that drew them in to feed. You didn't know you were feeding them, until you got older and wiser.

You may have stopped feeding them.

Then they come back. Who is feeding the monsters in your head? It is important to be aware of who you allow in, who you allow to influence your heart, your mind and your body.

Often, without realizing it, people feed the monsters in each other's heads. Some people become living caricatures of their inner inner demons losing themselves rather than fighting. Others disconnect in various ways to maintain stability in their uncertain inner world.

Do your friends and loved ones communicate with you out of love? Do they honor you? What motivates the friendship you have, is it healthy or destructive? Is it real? Do they feed your monsters? Do they even know you well enough to know what you face? Do you know their monsters, do you help them resist and neutralize them or do you feed them?

Which wolf is stronger? The one you feed. The one that our perception of circumstances and the influence of verbal and nonverbal communication combine to feed.

Real, healthy friendships help us face these thoughts and feelings with compassion rather than recriminations or negativity. Believe me, we know how frustrating and disheartening it is to have them rear their heads. It's worse than peeing your pants as a small child in front of a group of people. Humiliation only feeds the monsters. If you want to help, to be a strong, healthy friend, be honest and aware. Be aware of body language, words, and of triggers. The most amazing thing you can do, feed our strengths, feed the thoughts and feelings that combat the monsters. Feed our love, self esteem, self worth, our trust. Affirm what is or what we can heal and grow into being.

The worst thing someone you trust can do is use your monsters for their own agenda or be insensitive to our struggles. Imagine being injured while the people you love and trust do not seem to notice. How would you feel?

Today, consider your friendships, consider the quality of relationship you have with those around you.

Are you feeding their monsters, are you manipulating them into a place where old behavior and thought patterns reemerge wreaking harm?

Are you feeding their inner hero and guardian? Are you planting seeds for a beautiful, healthy person tomorrow? There is nothing as powerful as a truly caring friend in that inner world.

Many people struggle with their monsters  inside without ever giving a word to those around them when they need support. They fight and feed, get exhausted then just feed the monsters in a spiral of self destructive judgements. Be aware, be attentive, and be forgiving, take the time- real friends are worth it.

Today, I ask, who feeds the monsters in your head? Communicate. Express how you feel and what you perceive. If you don't, your friends may not realize they fuel an inner hell. The hard part is, you care for friends and family but they may wound you deeper than anyone else because you open up to them, they may not even be aware of the damage they do- so caught up in their own day to day inner worlds.


You are beautiful. You are strong. The past is past. You won before, you can again. Mistakes are accidents we can learn from. You CAN pick who you allow into your inner world, choose wisely.

Focus on how far you've come. Plan actions to heal you, reach out and do what brings a smile back. Even if it starts out weak and tentative. Find something to laugh about. Come up with your own inner mantra, words and images you can use to pick what your emotions feed. Forgive yourself. Get outside your head.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

When you sit in a waiting room your mind runs through a thousand possibilities. Emotions like waves try to pull you in different directions on a vast ocean under a gray sky. Kristi and Melissa spent the day with me, helping me stay calm and keeping my mind distracted while Danny was wheeled away for his ablation.

The last two weeks have been waiting, waiting, waiting. Focusing on low sodium diet, beet juice and calming calls from friends done randomly to boost his mood and lower his blood pressure.

Two weeks ago I was driving in LA traffic completing contract work, our thoughts had been to have me home for Danny's recovery as it was going to be his third ablation. Like falling off a log, until Danny called with a blood pressure reading too high for surgery. He sounded frazzled, pained, frustrated and I would have given up the contracts to fly home except I'd had a fender bender the night I'd arrived.
For twelve hours his words played through my head like warning thunder. He didn't feel good. They'd mainlined nitro and then morphine and he didn't feel good, didn't have a good feeling and he was headed to sleep.

Twelve hours of restless waiting, waiting, waiting. No word. No call.
Finally I had called him to see if I could get a nurse on the line. Danny had just woken up. They were sending him home. Blood pressure had to come down. Waiting and reschedule.

Back to yesterday, we walked up and down the block to a nearby pizza place. Kristi and Melissa talked with me, keeping things light, and just being there.
As the hours passed they didn't take the girls pager away even though I sat shaking it as if that would make it go off, sometimes squeezing It as if it would pinch someone somewhere into some kind of indication of how things were going.  I kept thinking. I used to work in a hospital doing social work. I used to talk people through stressful medical issues and offer emotional support to their loved ones.
Four hours later. The pager still wasn't broken although I'd certainly squeezed, pinched and shaken it enough. We had even started the superstitious game of if we take turns walking to the bathroom, surely it will go off. A half an hour later it finally lit up and started doing an excited tremble. We were told the doctor would meet with us. Nothing more.

At this point, my blood pressure was probably high enough to map satellite locations. We went to meet the doctor. I focused on breathing. Why hadn't they said anything about how he was doing? Why so terse and enigmatic? I've always preferred casual communication rather than formalized scheduled appointments.

We waited again. Dr Makkar came out several minutes later. Those minutes were long. He described Danny's condition. He was in recovery, would be waking up soon. He was in normal rhythm. It was solid, they'd checked and made sure they thoroughly addressed his atrial fibrillation. His heart stayed in rhythm even when they tried pushing it out. He'd start waking up in about twenty minutes and we could see him then.

Relief was a wave rushing through.

It's over a week since his surgery. He's healing. Now the frustration is just waiting. Waiting for the healing to finish. Waiting for his energy levels to bounce back. Waiting for the frustration of dealing with a hopefully resolved medical condition and the lingering effects of living with that condition for several years to pass.

What are we waiting for? Waiting for Danny to feel good. Waiting to climb mountains, canoe lakes, hike to beautiful places, to perform magic.

While we wait, we focus on reasons to smile, ways to face down anxiety, uncertainty, and on doing what we can.

Friday, February 5, 2016

It's Not About Sex

What has more power than words? What can calm fear, relieve pain, improve mood, and enhance healing?
I'm not hinting at a drug.
Touch. Human touch.
Yet we have so much difficulty reaching out and touching each other. Our society somehow seems confused about touch, certain that it must be sexual. It isn't and doesn't.

Pushing myself too hard results on pain. Migraines knock me down and remind me I have real limitations. Wednesday I drove almost ten hours and did three intensive gigs. The math is easy. Migraine. It grew on the drive back, I breathed, worked at my neck as I could, drank water, slathered tiger balm and pinched points on my hands to reduce the severity. My eyes watered, Rosemary, riding with me could keep me calm and breathing until we got home. Once there I knew it was bad. My eyes watered, my speech was slow, thoughts like glaciers in a river of lava pushing through my skull. I went through options in my head.

Rosemary, skilled and amazing massage therapist said "Now, I can be in the proper position to address this." She gestured at the chair in front of her. I sat. She worked. Her fingers worked through pressure point patterns and cranial sacral work that no pill, no physician could have done. She silently unravelled something that would normally drop me for twelve hours or more. She made short work of the headache. The only side effect: gratitude and elation.

The next day, free from the prison sentence of pain by Rosemary's touch we headed to King's Sauna and Spa in Dallas. The reason I had pushed so hard: I'd wanted to get there to relax the night before and instead incapacitated myself.
I was still post migraine, nerves still raw and thinking about flaring because once angry the Dragon doesn't go down easily.
At the Spa they advertise scrubs, accupressure massage and other health enhancing treatments. I usually just use the sauna rooms and spend about twelve to sixteen hours soaking in herbal baths, steam rooms, and meditating. Sending out my thoughts and love, intentions of healing to all of my friends and family. Finding and undoing some of the barriers in my own heart and head.
This time, exhausted, I thought of what Danny would say and does say. Take care of yourself. I signed up for a scrub, not knowing I signed up for a truly healing experience.

Haimi smiled and retrieved me from the baths when it was time. Yes, I was nude. I laid down on her table face up. She scrubbed me from foot to neck, her hands in scrubbing mitts. They were like blood hounds rooting out every tight muscle, every area of dried skin. Her hands moved so fast piano players would be jealous. My tension flowed away. Emotional knots unravelled. This sweet, smiling, healing spirit worked as if it was effortless. She worked on each side then sent me to rinse off in the showers. She came and got me, amused because I followed habit and soaked up and had to rinse off again. Then she worked a peppermint oil into my scalp, working and releasing muscles there. She put a towel on my back, climbed up and did accupressure massage. My spine popped into place without a chiropractor, with the muscle work she did. She loosened tendons from head to foot, she found and dealt with trouble areas I hadn't known existed.
She put a collagen mask on my face after she gently massaged the muscles there.
Each touch calmed, released and healed. There was nothing sexual about it.
I found myself wondering why our society is so set on obsessing on touch being sexual. Why touch is so hard and taboo, when in reality it is easy and effective?
Danny's blood pressure goes up or he feels down, I don't even think about it I reach out and touch and massage.
How much anxiety, depression, pain would we suffer if we resorted to touch first rather than last?

Why not be brave enough to try it?
Haimi finished by peeling of the mask, working on my back and neck a little more and smiling. My happy ending was being free of any residual nerve inflammation and being full of peace and gratitude. The experience was far more profound, intimate and nurturing than sex. My muscles and nerves calmed and relaxed, I heard them as they said "Touch. We want touch like flowers want Sun. Need Sun. Need touch." Danny massaged me daily at home, we work on each other. Touch, constant and nurturing that improves mood, calms fears, enhances resiliency, releases stress, helps injuries heal and it is as necessary as vitamins.

My mind went back to a study in psychology done in Russian orphanages. There were babies dying without apparent cause. They were fed, they were kept clean. They were never held and rarely touched. They died. The psychological impact of too little physical contact was the death of them. By changing care and adding time each day for staff to hold the babies the death rate dropped. Held, not anything fancier than that.

Think about how often you touch others physically. How often do they touch you?
Consider times you've felt wonderful, during those times was there more physical contact with others, more trust?

The next time you are sore, pained, heavy hearted, anxious consider trading a simple hug or holding the hand of a friend, a platonic backrub, or if you have some cash or something to trade a professional massage.

Thank the massage therapists and body workers you meet for not being afraid to reach beyond society's screwed up over sexed obsessions to get down to the muscles and tendons, down to the accupressure points to truly heal one massage, one person at a time.

Thank you healers. Always. Thank you Rosemary and Haimi. Thank you.