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sitting in pain

hey! it happened! i’m officially flared up. My left hand is really big and my arms are under 50% functionality, with lots of motions causing searing pain. It’s making me cancel obligations, well, everything. Moving hurts, stillness only can last so long, and seriously, one wrong move and i want to cry. sometimes i do. just for a minute.

and yet, my job is to relax into it. so weird.

I’m not sure if relaxing into it changes the pain, but it definitely changes my relationship to the pain. THAT is interesting.

Yet, the nitty gritty of the pain game is mental. Why am i flaring up? what have i done wrong? what combination made it this way? i must not be as spiritually progressed as i thought. Boy, I sorta suck at stable health. probably i brought this on myself by getting my ‘surgery haircut’ so ‘in case my arms didn’t work, i wouldn’t have to ask someone to brush my hair.’ yeah, i will admit the haircut is coming in handy, but how much did it contribute to fulfilling the prophecy?

Yep, my mind could chew on that crap all day. thankfully, i’ve got a few practices that take me out of the mental game for at least a few breaths, and once you do that, it’s never as interesting as it was. Indeed, when i start thinking the stories are *really* interesting, that’s now a signal that i need to count to 20, or sit in meditation, or go for a walk – just get out of the thought stream for a spell.

Once out of the thought stream i try to shift to relaxing. Perhaps it’s because by body tenses up to protect painful joints, sometimes moving into relaxation is painful, but usually only for a second. sometimes it’s too much and i need to tense again. then I’ll go to another area – because i always have several areas with weird tension.

Even in the pain, while it does get old, i can still hold the idea that my body is on my side. I trust that it’s leading me somewhere and teaching me things. When i get a deep flare up like this, now my job goes from <anything else> to listening to my body and supporting its progress through the flare up. At my wisest, I immediately begin fasting (green juice (with fish oil), water, fermented beverage, bone broth, tea – – very nutrient dense fasting) but sometimes it takes me a couple of days (which I *always* regret). Because I drink so much and so often throughout the day, it’s not hard to fast at all.

Stillness is definitely a big strategy for dealing with pain, too, but oddly enough sometimes i need to get up. This is unusual for me, because if my body is not in pain, I could lay in bed for 17+ hours without getting up once. But horizontal just does not work sometimes when i’m flared up, so i’m honoring that (and using it as an opportunity to blog through pain even though my typing is very slow on the left, lol.)

I’ve been using all kinds of CBD, arthritis creams, specialized tinctures. sometimes they help. today, none is cutting it even a drop. ditto on compression gloves and even my last-resort castor oil heat wraps – they took the high notes out of the pain, but the areas I did are still big and swollen. i don’t mean to underestimate the castor oil pack, because those things do take the high notes out which is a very big deal.

Illness changed my life, and in so many ways dramatically for the better. I keep wanting to graduate. I keep wanting wellness to tell me I’ve finally figured it all out and now i will be in balance. Health would validate my general happiness as being in sync with Nature. meh. i am pretty happy. and i really care about nature and do a relatively solid job of regularly communing with Nature. so this health thing must have a different purpose for me. or something. but i really have no choice but to assume it’s leading me somewhere, and if ‘up until now’ is any indication, my body has been leading me into deeper integrity (what i eat, companies & concepts I support, how i spend my time) and more attentive listening – so i’ll go on whatever journey it takes me on. even when it is painful.

New practices!

I do a lot of stretching exercises. I need them. And I often count to 10 during each rep. But today it finally occurred to me to do attunements during the rep instead, and so i timed out some attunements from Paul Selig’s work and now I feel like i am going to ramp up my personal attunement while i stretch for the double win! So exciting. Why didn’t I do this ages ago?

About 2 weeks ago I added a 25 (slow) breath front forward bend to my routine morning and evening. adding 50 deep intentional breaths to the day really is a quantum addition. This is something I will probably continue counting with because i find it quite meditative and i stretch and straighten on the inhale, relax and drop my head on the exhale. it makes the counting really easy and fun. Often in my normal 25 breath practices (when I wake, before I sleep, and in activity through the day) the breath is an anchor, but i often get tangled in the rope. With the forward bend, the breath is an anchor and a support, it lifts me as much as it grounds me. A new favorite.

All of these practices support the kind of lifestyle my body requires of me, and as I listen to my body it also is beginning to discipline my mind. Unfortunately, part of disciplining my mind is tending to plenty of the poor behaviors my mind has been free to engage in through habit and culture and neglect/misunderstanding. As these things come up, do I remember all of the tools I’ve learned to meet them? sometimes. Luckily, my deepest practice has become going to  mantra when uncomfortable, so this more than anything else puts a halt on any wallowing (I’ve been extremely achy lately. there’s been a little wallowing) and puts me into a mindset that really any outer circumstance can be brought for acknowledgement and blessing, and frankly that’s the best possible use of my time. Often it helps, sometimes it doesn’t, but the simple act of turning to Life Itself, acknowledging it’s wisdom and my own limited vision, being willing to undertake what life asks of me, being curious about what that might be and why on earth it looks the way it does, but going back and resting in the mantra, in the knowledge of great wisdom, compassion and redemption – far greater souls than I (forgetting for a moment that we are all, each one of us, equal) have put their energy into mantra, I feel like i get to draw on an unlimited bank account that just keeps refilling. In the mantra space, it’s no longer a mental game, it’s a decision of being. The mantra opens up (or actually IS) a higher vibrational reality, and by deciding to go there and hang out for a while, I bring myself there. What a great idea!!

Maybe it would help if I demonstrate. If enough things pull at me and I become even a little out of alignment, my inner dialogue goes something like this: “why are things this way? what did i do wrong? why am i in pain? I’ve uncovered so much stuff and it has helped me get better, but why can’t i figure this out? what is wrong with me? what do i still have to learn? why is it so elusive? why won’t this release? could i DO anymore freaking practices?” (cap “DO” meant to imitate Chandler Bing).

Introduce mantra into that bouillabaisse of frustration and my inner dialogue goes something like this: “om tare tuttare ture soha” and occassional thoughts like “all of the great souls of history raised their energy to this and greater frequencies, and energy never dies. I humbly bow to the great souls, and I resolve to raise my own energy for the benefit of all, no matter what it looks like to my limited mind”

An improvement, wouldn’t you say? Then the pain, instead of being some judgement and sentence of my wrongness, is just a condition. A condition that I am tasked with and I am up to the task. And just like when my kids do something grumpily, I try to remind them that their contribution matters and is important to the people around them, the sun shines a ittle bit and we feel the warmth and having a little purpose and contribution goes a long way 🙂

Every rest counts

Relaxing the body doesn’t come naturally to me, even after these years of intentional body consciousness. I treasure every effort I make to deeply relax and I have yet to make the effort to relax and not have cascading muscle release throughout my whole body. Why I have been holding all of this weird tension I do not know, but I do know that I can retrain my way of being, albeit slowly, and that being in a state of alert relaxation is the posture I’d most like to be in most often.

It is downright comical to me now to see all of the areas I hold tension. So unnecessary. And seemingly developed over all of the years I spent “having to do x” and “wanting to be y” … this last month since my hip replacement I’ve had the luxury of really investigating the micro-movements in my daily habits. I have tension in almost all of them, from the way I reach an item in the cupboard, how I chop veg, … I’ve been working on slowing down my tooth brushing for years and it is still a challenge every. single. day.

I want to meet every baby in the world with a warm welcome and a download of QiGong or Tai Chi. Here, friend! You can harness the power of the universe within your own body, but it will take a deep trust (in millions of years of evolution, highly trustworthy), relaxation (which the whole world will try to jolt you out of, but ignore them!) and curiosity.

We have turned so much on its head since the Industrial Revolution. We went from lifestyles of Sense and Respond to Predict and Control – perhaps the worst trade-off ever. People barely know how to sense OR respond – even to their own thoughts and feelings, and this makes for a highly uptight culture, especially since predictions are usually wrong and control is an illusion, and a damaging one at that. I actually remember training myself out of sensing and responding – like many people (Catholic!) I was raised that the body was a source of sin and not to be trusted. Indeed, the desires and sensations of the body were what we’d spend our lives fighting against for purity or some such rot. What a weird tradition. What a shame.

I’m madly in love with exploring the world from a position of wholeness, curiosity and relationship. I’m only able to fully do it from time to time, and I’m a bit sad to say that even some of my nearest and dearest challenge “wholeness” all the time. Another remnant from a paradigm that says we’re all flawed (while we are all imperfect, I disagree it is a flaw) and any real humility would acknowledge that and feeling whole is both delusional and arrogant.

Feeling whole is even more counter-culture than slowing down, but just as tricky to practice. Like so many of the juiciest aspects of life, we’ve got a bit of a paradox – just like slowing down seems to make me far more productive, feeling whole allows me to explore things I’d like to add into my life – but without the “this will fix me” or “I need this to be whole” that always drove my curiosity before.

How can I relax into this? This is the question that is feeding everything from physical pain to emotional turmoil, and as I embrace it I can feel the tension leave. Then, my unconscious habits re-engage the tension which patiently waits for me to release it again. Some things are unwinding through this dance, some require the intervention of a practice (such as Bodytalk or tapping) to stop automatically reengaging tension, some may take new techniques, but it is the decision to lead a life assuming that life itself knew what it was doing (and I can therefore trust, rest, and relax) that makes all the difference.

every choice counts

I subscribe to the belief that we are all here anchoring love. *that’s* what our job is, know it or not. Everything else we do is sorta like what’s going on at the local park. Those kids are having all kinds of dramas and scenarios, but really, just being is the job. Just being is teaching them all kinds of fine and gross motor controls, social interactions. Just being is more than enough.

I also think of it sometimes as walking through a meadow wondering if the drama that plays out beneath the ground looks like human drama: the fight for resources, the posturing about who/what is most important. I used to fear the flowers/roots might be bickering (when my life had more bickering in it). Now I’m pretty certain there is a symphony going on, a beautiful dance of resource request and allocation, sometimes denial, beginnings and endings, stopping and starting again, all of it being “ok” — all of it contributing to the expression of life itself, new in each moment.

I read “the secret life of trees” by an old-growth forest manager, talking about respiration, communication, even emotion displayed in the forest. So uplifting. That was the shift in my metaphor, from wondering if the beautiful meadow was secretly a neurotic, grasping mess (a lot like I viewed society) to knowing the beautiful meadow is also a complex exchange working in harmony, or more accurately the constant dance of creation, expression and destruction. It’s a much nicer way to feel/think/put it.

Things are swirling in my life today, so many facets it doesn’t make sense to list them. One key factor is the passing of my mother-in-law, God rest her soul. I have a lot of appreciation for my mother in law because I love my husband. Credit where credit is due, and some is due to her. The last decade she declined deeper and deeper into dementia which was sad, but makes her passing a blessing in many respects. But, no matter how evident the blessing, the death of a parent is complicated and brings emotional upheaval to even the most balanced individuals. It’s a moment in time, in between realities.

I never really got along with my mother in law, and she held the strings to my father in law, whom I loved, so I never really got to have much of a relationship as I’d like to have had with him. But what I did have was really a treasure. I have an image in my head of a relationship that might have been possible with them, but it never panned out though i doggedly spent the first 10 years trying to get them/her to discuss what she needed for us to be OK. I now understand that it was so deep seeded that she didn’t have words for it. It was reaching into a primal need and not only was I not filling it, I seemed by my very mentioning of it to be assailing it.  It was tough, on all of us, but between geography and illness we didn’t see each other much and so the last 8 or so years were marked by more empathy and less exposure. Best we could have hoped for, realistically.

My insistence on talking about the elephant in the room has served me enormously countless times and allows me peace between my ears, but it has a pretty high price as well. Key relationships that could be better if we just agreed to <some subtly different reality> … Honestly, I don’t think I could keep them straight if I didn’t believe in them, so it’s probably best I opted out of those charades. And we can always pray for each other, even if we disagree and/or don’t interact. It’s an interesting study on what I truly value and why.

I am such a hypocrite

…just like everyone else. and it’s a learning experience. The question is: how quickly can i integrate the lesson?

Today, my friend wanted to recreate the sense of anxiety she was feeling during a certain story so that I could understand how she felt so I could fully honor how stressed she was and why her responses were as they were. She was wanting to confide in a friend and have that kindred sense of “i feel where you are coming from”

I got all, “of all of the moments of that situation, we’re going to re-create and focus on the moment that had all the stress chemicals coming through your body? Can we please focus on the ‘handled it’ part?” We know that the body doesn’t perceive the difference between a real or perceived threat. Why do we re-create the moment of terror? Is that really the energetic field we want to share – because the anxiety of the story was palpable. as her voice rose and “here’s the situation, but wait, there’s more and it’s even worse” — my body is super sensitive to these things. I don’t want that chemical bath. and I get that you want me to understand your point of view. But I’m really bored with the past. There are very few moments I’m interesting in re-creating when the present moment is so replete with things to be fascinated about. I have a hard time going back to watch recordings of *really interesting interviews* because what is new in my life is

So, we talked about tools, and knowledge, and we know these things, and why reinjure ourselves with the trauma instead of processing it and allowing the charge to dissipate (instead of reinforcing the charge with every telling)… and how we don’t use tools because we “understand them” but understanding a hammer does not hang a picture on the wall. Emotional and mental hygiene require practices like brushing our teeth. Without those practices, it.just.keeps.building.up. no matter how well you understand the value of it not being so. Knowledge is not the goal (gasp!) – experience is where the juice is, and experience that is created by the deliberate and skilled introduction of nurturing actions that cannot help but evolve the situation. Else we just keep it active. . do we want it to be active? Usually not (although we do want to explain ourselves). the *application* of introducing healing practices works to dispel the energy. without actual application of the healing practice, you can “know” all you want but the trigger remains perfectly intact. They key is in doing the homework.

Then, rather than come into my house and spend a few minutes engaged in mental hygiene before interacting with my family, I went ahead and re-created the phone call much like she had re-created the moment of anxiety. I talked about the physical reaction while giving my husband a similar ‘palpable sense’ of the problem to justify my reacting the way I did. As in, exactly the same action and intention (justifying myself). Thankfully, much like I pointed it out to her, my husband pointed it out to me. And it is through the sharing of our experience in the moment that we can draw each other back into the moment. And as we are back in the moment we can feel into what we need to do to release the charge. What practice, what tool. Sometimes it’s just the noticing – that is enough for today. Sometimes real catharsis can happen, even if the offending incident was minor. But it’s in relationship with each other that we can see these things in ourselves (and truly, when we see it in another, put on your seatbelt because often our own pattern of it is about to get the spotlight). Being in that space, and being receptive to a new POV even when we’re “very justified in what we are feeling/doing” (spoiler alert: we’re always justified in whatever we do. It’s still a choice.) lets us open up to new ways of being. Not repeating old patterns, or freaky moments, or whatever nostalgia seems so dear.

I have a “disappointment panda” way of being – the person who sortof matter-of-factly tells people the somewhat obvious truths they don’t want to hear. I wonder if I am really a scourge until someone boldly and kindly holds a mirror up and is my disappointment panda, and I am so grateful for the reflection. For one thing, it reminds me that we are all works-in-progress and as much as I have gotten to ‘peace between my ears’ here is another opportunity to *develop* peace *through my choices* which right now are being co-opted by the justifying, defensive part of myself that wants to validate my way of being in a crazy world. I mean, that’s a perfectly normal and justified way to live on this earth, but it’s not the one I spend so much time talking about wanting to create: the fluid, flowing presence to the moment-by-moment unfoldment of Life Itself expressing through everything that is.

It also shows me how dependent I am on those around me to be part of the flow of life and energy and information, and to be mindful of the energy we live in and share. I really do have energetic and thereby hormonal releases when my nervous system is excited. I think being able to maintain my own energy field during moments like that is a really important step for me – so that i can access it without experiencing it. or something like that. we’ll see.

Now I’m going to go meditate. I probably should’ve done it before I created the weird energetic field this post holds, you know, to be mindful of what I’m sharing and what we’re creating. mental hygiene *after the fact* is better than not at all, but probably best in the moment and thoroughly, so as to not bring the carryover into our new moments.

stretching is changing…

I loved yoga and I loved stretching, but i never understood it until today. About 3 years into my yoga practice I had a teacher that finally got me to viscerally understand elongating and stretching on the inhale and releasing and collapsing on the exhale. It absolutely changed my practice, made it deeper and more fun. kept me at the edge but not beyond it. But still it brought some struggle, some lapse in capability or desire to do a more perfect version of the posture. Sadly, usually there was judgment. positive or negative, but a semi-constant barrage of it, like joan rivers on a red carpet.

yoga’s been off my list for a while now, and tai chi hasn’t afforded me the physical adeptness to facilitate mental wandering – ha, that’s just what i’m telling myself. as i consider it, i have plenty of the inner commentator – although now with this qi gong, i’m feeling more successful just feeling into it instead of “trying to do it”

I haven’t been able to touch my toes in a long time, it simply wasn’t available with the hip shape. A couple of days ago, I put into my morning PT a 25 breath standing forward fold morning and night, and 6 minutes of hamstring stretch between the two legs and together. What a difference 80 or so hours makes, with just a couple of minutes of gentle, gentle stretches 2x per day. I think I probably just crossed 1 collective hour, but i’m about 5 inches closer to the floor than I started, or at the end of the first day. And in those first 50 or so minutes, the stretch hurt. it was an uncomfortable place to hold. no wonder people don’t exercise, this sucks. And when i would actually release and relax my head in standing forward bend, YIKES! Why would I relax my head if it feels this bad? Oh, because the tension hurts worse, I just have it turned “off”  (so i don’t sense what it’s making me avoid, and where it is forced to express itself as headaches or other inflammation).

So crossing this threshold has brought me just a fraction of a caliber of energy shy of “pain” and really into relaxed stretch. What a difference. Instead of the stretching be a few moments of my routine of mini-terror, which getting to my edge has always been (because in my anxious attachment style i’d always try just a smidge too hard) it really is a moment or 10 in relaxation. It’s like I raised my meditation time exponentially – and my meditation *experience* of relaxation and being. in. my. body. and gently. relaxed. Letting the cells release the tension they needlessly carry around. Setting a baseline of stillness and wholeness that can support fearlessness and trust in the face of movement (without the “preparing for battle” dynamic I think i’ve tended to wrap it up in).

About a year ago I knew I wanted to be talking about slowing down, waking up, god, life and love because i need to be talking about them, keeping them active and real in my life. This evolution of my relationship to my body and relaxing has been very rewarding here in retrospect. I’m certainly in a different place (i hadn’t even considered surgery and wouldn’t have quickly) and i have much more available to me. As I turn my attention to “relaxing into” what is available to me instead of trying to harness and exploit it, the happier I feel, literally.

And there’s the rub. i kept trying to use my mind and tension to create the conditions that might finally create a feeling of wellness when it’s really FEELing, not a mental process at all. a physical process. and a physical process that frees the mental process to be responsive and creative instead of predicting, trying to control, and judging. And a certain amount of time spent feeling and evenutally it dawns on you that relaxing is really the best play here. and once the relaxing takes hold, watch out!  relaxing really does create time for itself. Like with the ‘every breath counts’ my philosophy is that if you commit to 1 deep intentional breath per day, it will bring friends. it will draw more of itself onto itself. and so far it’s really been true in my practice. in so many ways, but today in 25 breaths, 2x per day, right after brushing my teeth. It’s the kind of stuff I never would have made time for without the luxury of this period after the surgery and the active job of developing practices that support the body and wellness.

how to change…

Change is hard. things we already know feel easy. change not only requires more effort than that, the effort is into the unknown. even when the goal is known, the gap between here and there feels too damned hard. and who knows, fate might just blow it into our lap if we sit here long enough.

The truth is, change is the most natural thing in the world, even if uncomfortable sometimes. Everything is changing. it actually takes us a LOT of effort and energy to habituate things and try to make them consistent and repeatable. Mastery is good, but mastery is broader than efficient repeating of something shown to work before. Trying to do all the right things in all the right order, or keep the tried and true as the active way of handling <everything/anything> – these things expend a lot of energy.

Life is going to change in thousands of ways, and even any of our current habits may un-intentionally or intentionally shift, and all of nature works that way, so that’s the good news: life is unfolding. we influence all of it, we control none of it (try as we may).

How do we weild our influence to grow in what we care about and contribute to the wholeness of all? Well, some bits are obvious: work on ourselves first. And noticing what is creating a sense of “i’d prefer it if I <insert complaint or aspiration here>” in the world our just in our own mind. What is the underlying value that represents? Security? Wholeness? Ease? There are lots of wonderful things we’d very much like to feel. Whatever we want to change, we want it so that we can live that value. Sounds noble.

Meditation teachers will rightly suggest tapping into the sense of that value already being complete within you. Soaking in that energetic field of “it is done.” It’s a nice exercise, and the more you do it the happier you’ll be. Will your dreams come true? What’s true? In those moments, they *are* true. Seriously, go soak in that field.

But habits – we have to contend with the literally hundreds of habits that make up our days and lives. Some of them are awesome. Some are neutral. Some might be killing us. Most of them are just automatic. Some of them need to change.

Noticing is the first step. Noticing that you even want it to change is such a huge part of the process.

Noticing when you engage in the behaviour is also a big step. typically this happens hours later at first. but eventually you notice it in the moment it is happening, and not long after that you can begin to exercise choice, even if a limited percentage of the time. That’s fine. It’ll grow. It’s a process. Rush will not help. As Eric Klein at Wisdom Heart says (and probably plenty before him, I don’t know) this all happens “at the pace of integration.” There’s no control in integration – it’s naturally a state of rest, of activity becoming rest. That which was outside and new becoming inside and known. Curiosity to Comfort.

Right now, the habit may feel like there’s no choice. that’s how it has to happen. OK. Now we look for things we can add to it or take away from it that change the game. If the macro-level doesn’t allow choice, the micro-level must (and usually will lead to the macro choice as well. because there is always choice, we just resist it).

Noticing moments of choice and recognizing them as moments of choice, even if you still act in the habitual manner, is a huge step. Don’t be mad at yourself for making the wrong choice! We have directional progress here of a magnitude that’s hard to describe, but some people gve up because they failed the first few times they were tested. Noticing choice points is HUGE.

The next step is to remember that value you identified earlier during the moment of choice. Asking the question at that recognized moment of choice “towards what end?” When you remember what you value, you get some gravity towards the choice that will support it. Physical support, for real. When, at that moment of noticing, you can connect with the value you want to feel, and you listen to your physical response – it’s practically a yellow brick road. The end is sure.

i’ve met someone new…

only kindof. An online qi gong course. I have been studying Tai Chi with Gene Golden for 20 months and I love it. Mostly. The not loving it part comes from not being particularly good at it, but Gene is fascinating and Tai Chi is infinitely more fascinating than Gene, so I think I can say I love it. But, several steps in Yang style short form require me to move in ways my hip surgeon has cautioned me not to. What’s a girl to do?

Gene is expensiveAF and worth every penny, but this Qi Gong online course (which cost 2 of Gene’s lessons) is probably what I should’ve started with. I was digging Gene’s esoteric knowledge but struggling to find the simplicity of the form. This course is chock full of simplicity and I am REALLY LOVING IT. I can feel it is the beginning of something. So exciting.

The idea of personal instruction from a master being better than online instruction at home seems to me a relatively easy judgment. But, it’s just that. A judgment. And a whole bunch of those have been unraveling in my head. Articles of “fact” that are not facts at all. I can release these things, especially when I don’t want to. Remembering *then* is a really advanced practice.

Since I can’t take Gene’s class I searched high and low for a local Qi Gong teacher and fell short. Really? there are like 3 million people in Orange County, and a significant Asian population. I thought we’d be able to find someone. The online search was a last resort, and really only investigated to be able to suggest ideas for online practice to Gene. Good to know I’ve found people doing it what I believe to be quite well.

It’s funny sometimes how you can’t see something until you can see it. And even then, sometimes you mistake it at first. Life is so full of mystery and paradox, it’s funny we even pretend to be writing the story. I mean we are, but we also very much are not. And walking that razor’s edge seems to be the tightrope of life. Luckily, we also have a net.

The thing I like the most about this (Energy Arts Dragon and Tiger) Qi Gong course is that it is simple. He says, “don’t worry about what you think you should be feeling, think about what you do actually feel, even if it has nothing to do with Qi or what you expect it should feel like.” Embrace the right now. It’s enough. Now, put your focus on cultivating the energy life offers, earth offers, the body offers. Bring it alive simply with your attention to it. This is the kind of present moment practice that *really* appeals to me right now.

No doubt it will, when I can return to Tai Chi, improve my skills overall. But my Tai Chi practice has been frustrating (frustration is welcome, don’t get me wrong) and I know I have a long way to go to really embody and work the energy. This course is like, “even if you do it poorly, it’s really benefiting your body” and I am very much like “sign me up.”

not what I expected, but …

When preparing for the hip surgery, I decided to receive any pain I experienced as an experiment. How would the strategies I’d developed with prior experiences of pain apply to this new pain? Wanting curiosity to run the show, intellectualizing it in this way (I would argue “reframing it”) allowed me an “out” for anticipating pain – one of the worst parts of pain (but not THE worst part. i think THE worst part is not knowing if it might last forever). But, for my first two weeks, I experienced little if any pain. Certainly nothing of note.

Until Friday. Friday I woke up with a neck, shoulder, arm pain that if it reached a certain point in the breath or movement was decidedly notable. By far the worst pain I’ve had in – well, over a year. My hip was still healing like a champ, but the upper body was having none of it. At first I thought maybe I slept funny (and maybe I did) but as I used the cane to walk it REALLY took off, so i now think it had more to do with the way I’ve used my upper body with the instruments (even though I was *sortof* aware, i often caught myself jarring the cane to the ground and then limping around that planted stick instead of putting significant weight on the hip). I’ve gotten the all-clear to walk without a cane (since I seem to be injuring myself with it) and in the last 36 hours have made decided progress in that, so here, at the 3 week mark, I am finally on the other side of “My Worst Day.” (and hugely lucky how many good days I had. acknowledged.)

I had prepared myself for pain in my hip, so when it showed up in my torso, i sortof forgot i had a strategy. i was just bummed. at first i was curious what had happened, and then i was mad at myself for how it happened, and i wished it away and tried to avoid it for over a day. that did not help: it just kept getting worse. then, as I went to bed Sunday evening I remembered my whole pain experiment idea and i began to relax into the pain. breathe around it, not out of fear but out of respect. i worked to hold the curiosity and glean what i could from the relaxing into it…

Monday I woke up and it was far worse. That’s when PT said to quit using the cane. But I decided to keep the curiosity experiment up and increase it to include some gentle (and i mean gentle) stretching. Just to the hint of pain without going too much deeper. this required a jazz riff in my breathing, feeling into the allowed inhale or exhale amount to keep me in a zone without spikes in pain. It was fascinating, and it got me to sleep a whole bunch of times. And, as I’ve practiced walking without the cane, I’m getting quite good at it and it’s waking up the sensation in the leg, which i can get curious about, too. It’s super fascinating because I feel the incision ask for ice, and during icing the body really directs how to place the bag… so i feel like I am developing some modicum of body communication.

Today I’ve had quite a headache. My normal mitigation techniques are not available to me, and so I laid there quite exacerbated by *that* kind of pain. It took me all day to realize I needed to apply the same approach: go toward it, quit avoiding it/wishing it away/trying to push it away. That going toward the headache was the most fascinating body communication experiment I’ve done yet. It took a decent amount of time to figure out how to relate to something i have such a long history of hating (i started getting migraines at 5 years old). But once i got in there, once curiosity trumped trying to escape, it felt like 10,000 miniature gnomes got to work untying knots throughout my face, head and neck. Each knot related to judgment, my unnecessary assessment of things and then holding on to those assessments as being in some way authoritative (you know, because I thought them). I felt like I was getting a massage, so I relaxed more. As I relaxed more, new areas of tension came online and the gnomes got to work. Of course, gnomes are a metaphor. But the strategy worked and the headache has subsided.

The experiment continues…. and I just hope i remain present enough to apply it to all forms of pain, all forms of things I’ve avoided or judged as “to be avoided.”

to a halt

Somehow, who knows how long ago, cooking went from a pleasure to a torture, with a few small reprieves here and there. Last New Year’s I noticed it was probably my most significant source of daily stress (maybe illness and parenting asside) – certainly the most changeable thing.

we hired a lady to come and help develop 3 or 4 5-day menus I could batch cook for once per week. It didn’t work. we stopped pursing it. and i simply stopped cooking. just, like, quit. From 3×7 to nada.

We survived.

We’re still in it. Had a great month when Blue Apron had Whole 30 foods, but since then it’s been less impressive. And I can’t really chop because my hands seize up. So it wasn’t pure laziness that pushed this decision. Anyway.

My brother in law is getting surgery next week and my sister doesn’t cook. I committed to a maybe 20 meal batch cook session. Something I haven’t done in a long time, and I’ve never done my own, I tried to batch cook someone else’s recipes a few times and it was hard. and frustrating.

but putting together this 5 day plan (with 3 or 4 meals for the freezer) is a blast. Well, mayb enot a blast but close to a blast. Making my favorite salads Whole 30 (which really just means taking out the cheese most of the time, and there are only a couple of salads that being without cheese completely kills. Anyway, so I’m having fun. It’s coming together. Everything sounds really good to me. Even the token fish (fish is such a fast cook, i don’t think it makes sense to batch cook). I’m excited.

The kids are all in, willing to help. i’m really excited to see how that goes because yesterday I went to chop something and my hand seized, and it’s such a drag. being able to clearly communicate each step for them, assign tasks, provide direction and workspace. I think it could be very good. My daughter is wanting to improve her diet so she’ll join us probably most of the time.

But, it took me coming to a complete stop to apparently touch bottom and now be free to ascend in my relationship with food and cooking. It has been a foggy, flailing slice of life and perhaps am I hearing the beginning bells of ease and creativity and inspired action? And sensitivity to lay out the process for people who want to help but don’t know what to do.

That is the super app we are all waiting for. the blueprint that will allow us to offer our gifts effectively to create the change societally we are creating through inner work that believes wholeness and evolution and ascension is possible for humankind.

Well, I don’t have that super app, but i do know every step involved in making 5 salads, 4 proteins+veg, 2 breakfasts & 1 dessert (6-8 servings). I’m putting the shopping list together. Next I’ll start the timing, then I’ll contemplate veg washing cadence and dressing creation. It might be my favorite project management task I’ve ever been assigned, but it took me this long to open to it in that way. it was the bane of my existence for a while. and it may be again. but back to my birthday present goal, i think i’ll have one set for batch cooking I’m really proud of. We’ll see.

But, yeah, it really did take me slowing down to a complete stop to get here. And it is taking  a total get-to-zero-and-look-up to break down the task and timing making the day and the kids’ contributions itemized and clear and in good order. I am a last-minute delegator, and that has worn on my ability to teach and model easy, organized action. What a gift. And it’s coming together. i’ve been trying to put these puzzle pieces together for a long time and it’s eluded me, but now i feel a glimpse of it coming into focus. and if i can use the timing i worked out for last thanksgiving, i think it could really sing. So cool.

It will involve a lot of chopping, tho.