January 26, 2010

Change: Friend or Foe?

We have seen the end of the first decade of a brand new millennium. From its beginning, this new millennium has brought us change, much of it disturbing because of the way it overturned our worldview and created new fears. Change continues whether we agree with it or not. If we are wise, we roll with it and accept that it is what we can depend on the most in life.

I believe one of our tasks as human beings is to overcome the useless fears that pervade our modern lives. One of the big fears is about change. I think fear restricts the body, mind, and spirit, shrinking one’s life experience into an uncomfortable little box. Yet, there is so much focus on it, I wonder why human beings would want to create this type of constriction for themselves.

One means to overcome fear is to develop a sense of trust and faith in something greater than oneself, such as a belief that there is something beyond our ordinary mundane lives. World religions and philosophies have sought to provide this for people, but many of them have fallen short of actually teaching a person how to be free from useless fears.

I was thinking about the movie detailing a catastrophic 2012. Many of you know about the prophecies associated with that year, including it being the end year of the Mayan calendar. People have created all sorts of fear-based stories around this, such as it being the end of days where horrible things are going to happen to us before we all burn in a ball of fiery hell. Then Hollywood makes a movie so thousands of folks can sit and stare at it, allowing horrific images to burn into the collective psyche.

I suspect it is partly the addiction to adrenalin that makes trauma, drama, blood, and guts intriguing to people. But also it is a refusal on the part of many to harness one’s mind for the sake of good. To get into the director’s chair of one’s own mind means to take responsibility for one’s personal fears. Uh-oh. Too scary! Some would say, “How can I take responsibility for the fears I experience? Life just gets thrown my way and I have to deal with it somehow!”

Although you have to deal with it you do have a choice! You can grow your fears or live every moment of your life as if it were sacred. Even the worst of times can be your life’s most deeply healing and enriching, bringing you to an entirely new place of wisdom. On the other hand, your fears increase and grow stronger when you think about them and give them a place at the dinner table. Your fears multiply when you watch the news and agree with the newscasters that things are really, really bad. Naturally they increase when you share your fears with others and convince them that it is true, it’s a quite scary place, this planet earth, and we all might die someday. Or, at the very least, we might not get what we want. Humph!

Just for fun, listen to a conversation about 2012 between Fear and Non-fear. “Oh boy, we better get ready to hang on because the earth is going to rumble. We are going to have earthquakes, tsunamis, maybe even nuclear war.” So? “Well, our houses will all be smashed and under water! Or worse, there could be horrible explosions!” So? “We might lose everything! People could die!” So? “We don’t want that!” Why not? “Because we don’t!” Why not? “Because everything would be ruined!” So? “We could die!” So? “We don’t want that!” Ok, we don’t want that. What do we want? “We want life to go on as it is, with very little change!” Ok. “And we don’t want calamity and upset!” You are right, we don’t. What do you suppose you will be doing in 2013? “Fearing something else!” From a house that is under water? “Well, it will probably not be under water.” How do you know? “I don’t! But we are in the midst of great change and we need to prepare for it.” Would you be willing to change your mind? “Change my mind? About what?” About how awful the future could be? “After all I’ve been through? Now I have to change my mind? Oh, I can’t take all this…” Ok. Get back to me if you change your mind.

Silly isn’t it? When we have fear that is not related to the type necessary to crank up the body’s defenses for physical survival, it is an indication that the mind is in a circular cycle, stuck. The way to overcome the fear is to change the mind. It is imperative to learn to accept change, to not fear it, and to welcome it. When we allow change to make way for something new, we allow our lives to roll forward. We allow ourselves to grow. The more we can flow with change in life and allow our minds to be free, the easier it is to live in the moment and enjoy this life, this day, this minute, right now.

January 12, 2010

Encourage Healthy Breasts with Self Breast Massage

Breast cancer and how to prevent it is a concern for us all. I've noticed there is very little focus on what we can do to help prevent it. Rather the focus is on finding a cure by funding pharmaceutical companies. I hope someday a cure is actually revealed, but in the meantime, let's talk about the things you can do for yourself so you can actively contribute to your own health and well-being.

One topic I never hear discussed in the media is stagnation in the breast tissue. The people that discuss this are those well-educated in Chinese Medicine. These folks are few, but I can help get the word out on their behalf, and so can you.

Stagnation in the breast tissue can occur when there is little movement in and around the breasts. Various factors can contribute to it, many of which we don't ordinarily consider. For example, did you know that breast tissue collects debris and toxins from cosmetics, including deodorant and antiperspirant? Other culprits are calcium deposits, scar tissue from trauma, tight chest, neck, and back muscles, the side effects of radiation exposure, and sluggish qi flow, or "energy.” Each of these can reduce the healthy flow of blood and lymph through your breasts. They can also create low levels of oxygen in breast tissue.

Oxygen in our breast tissue is an important consideration. Cancer cells tend to collect around dead cells and areas with little oxygen. They don’t survive in a highly-oxygenated environment. To encourage healthier breast tissue, it is wise to get movement through the breasts and motion through sluggish tissue.

One way to encourage this movement is with breast massage. I think this can be done instead of your monthly self-exam. Is the current way women are taught to examine their breasts ideal? Searching for cancer and suspicious lumps is not where I want to focus my mind. For many women it triggers fear. That can't be helpful. When you do self-massage you become aware of the landscape of your breasts and how your breasts feel under the surface. If there is any change to what you know to be normal for yourself, you will know right away and can have it checked.

Weekly breast massage is a nurturing, sensible approach to breast health. It is done with the intention of healing and helps you become familiar with the landscape of your breasts. I believe this is a more effective way to keep aware of your body, rather than the approach of searching for unusual lumps.

There is a massage technique from Medical Qi Gong that is said to break the cycle of disease in the breasts as well as move the tissue and prevent it from stagnating. This is to simply massage both breasts in a circular manner 36 times inward followed by 36 times outward. This technique is further explained and demonstrated in a video called "Medical Qi Gong for Breast Health" by Jerry Alan Johnson, which can be found online.

I recommend using a breast balm or oil in your weekly massage. "Breast Balm" by MoonMaidBotanicals is designed for breast massage and contains poke root and calendula-infused organic olive oil with St. John’s Wort and cedar. These herbs are known to give relief to breast swelling and lumps. You can inquire about it at your natural food store or order it online. Meanwhile, I hope you will familiarize yourself with this very simple way to keep your own breast tissue flowing, fluid, and healthy.

January 4, 2010

Scrooge Brings on the Grief

Tears rolled down my cheeks faster than I could catch them. I believe that was the first time this happened for me at a stage play. I didn’t realize the musical production of Scrooge during the recent holidays would invoke my grief. I wasn’t the only one. I noted that the woman in front of me wiped her eyes as did the woman two seats to my left. Oh good, it wasn’t just me.

What might have been unique to me in this particular setting is that my tears just kept coming, beyond the scene that provoked them. I was unaware that the river behind my eyes was ready to flood its banks. I was unprepared for it to happen while I sat in darkness amongst a crowd of people in the brand new Crocker Theater at Cabrillo College.

I have that multi-talented cast to thank for allowing me to pretend that the ghost of Christmas past was real. And that Scrooge himself was real; indeed he walks among and through us at times. The scene was so well delivered that Scrooge’s grief at not having taken the opportunity to properly have, love, and hold his sister and later his fiancĂ© seemed plausible. So much so, it cracked open my own heart and tapped into all the times I too didn’t take the opportunity to love someone enough. Or maybe I did love them fully, but their time came to pass on from this life. And the grief of these experiences, all rolled up into one lazy river now, spilled the banks.

I’m sure what made part of this so significant was it tied to the sorrow I’ve tried to get beyond since the loss of my special friend Carmela six months ago. Oh, how I tried to say, “This is life, Christina. The older you get, the more people you will see die. We must just move along now, and let her go.” But it hasn’t quite turned out that way.

For some reason I believe I’ve had my fair share of losses in my lifetime and then some. Do all of you feel this way? Maybe we all do. It seems to have been a constant in my life. Some of the losses happened suddenly – my college roommate dying of carbon monoxide poisoning in our house. I was so young then and it was such a tremendous shock, and I didn’t get to properly say goodbye. Some of the losses happened slowly. In that same year, my best college friend died of cancer. I learned early on the practice of letting go, and to try to make some sense out of the fact that even the young ones can leave us when their lives have barely begun.

Even though I’m older now and think I’ve got a pretty good handle on this loss stuff, I discovered these past few months I’m still just a basic human being who has to grieve it on out just like everyone else, every time. Does it get easier? I think it does, and has. I don’t seem to be so surprised or shocked anymore by death. But the grieving process is still hard and takes its own sweet time. It doesn’t let me push it around or rush it along. No, it’s got its own ideas and won’t be managed by someone like me who doesn’t want to feel those feelings.

And so this is what occurred for me at the very end of 2009 as I sat at a lovely, perfectly conducted musical. I was reminded that we are the same in our hearts, even Scrooge and all those we know who possess some of his hard-hearted traits. Maybe it’s just the degree of how deeply we choose to feel what is in our hearts that makes us seem different to one another.

I’m certainly not in a position to critique another person for being what we might call “cold-hearted” toward another person. I think none of us want to feel that deep, cutting pain that comes with a personal loss. I can see the reasoning behind hardening a heart to avoid that pain. But if we do, what of life do we miss that might be extraordinary? The death of my friend Carmela last June has made me grateful for every moment of the 20 years I knew her that I loved her with an open heart. My soul friend and mentor, though I grieve now and have a river running just behind my eyes waiting to spill its banks at any unpredictable moment, I’d do it again. In fact, yes, if given the opportunity, I will.