Pain

It is normal to have little sensitive points in our body. These points tell us about how the body is functioning. They are sore or sensitive not to tell us how we have failed. They are not there as a form of punishment. Making the pain along these points stop hurting is not our objective.  It’s not that we can be healthier if they don’t hurt.  I think sore points are our body’s way of saying This needs attention. There is a story here, and it wants to be told. And “this” is not just a point on your leg.  “This” is a point on a map – the map which is possibly on a meridian line that runs through the gall bladder and up into the jaw, and that that point of pain is like a little push pin.  It’s like a little light blinking, saying: HERE.  THIS IS HOW YOU CAN CARE FOR YOURSELF, BY NOTING THIS, BY BEING CURIOUS ABOUT THIS, BY SLOWING DOWN, ASKING FOR HELP AND APPLYING THE INFORMATION YOU RECEIVE.

Pain Really

Pain is when I’m simultaneously reaching for something and smacking myself back for reaching for it.

I’d like to open up a conversation about talking about pain, talking about our pain with other people.  Gosh, where to start?  All kinds of feelings of shame and embarrassment come up for me whenever I am telling people these days about the most exciting and the most fascinating project that I’ve been working on, which is correcting my bite, so that my body functions like it was intended to function, and I am not chronically defended or clenched and body parts are not cut off from my awareness.  And with some people I can approach the subject more easily.  But with other people, they have this reflexive response to the mere mention of pain (you included, maybe).  They think it is their responsibility to do something about it, when all I really want is to see if this is anything similar to what they experience.  I mention that I’ve had pain and chronic clenching, and for me that is progress – cause for celebration, actually.  But they reflexively wince, and apologize for my experience, which they are not in any way responsible for.  I am learning about the pain from my childhood and how to put words on it and share my ideas with other people because my numbness is parting (subsiding).  I am having moments of feedback from my body which is what I want, which is possibly what you want, too.  So what I’m talking about when I say “pain” is not anything approaching suffering.  Suffering is akin to victimhood…it’s got an element of powerlessness to it that makes it inescapable, possibly helpless.  So for you right now, suffering might be the ongoing barrage of information about how you are not living up to some expectation that you or some other person put on you, or a chronic resistance to the changes that are going on in your world, or a non-acceptance of something that life has offered you (emotions included).  Or it is you unknowingly fighting against yourself.  So you just suffer (tolerate, and cope in whatever way you can) it.  

I am thinking and talking about the pain in my neck or discovering from some therapist or another that this is happening in my body because of something I reflexively did to cope with my emotions as a child, and the last thing I want is to be that person who is obsessing about their pain, wallowing in discomfort – the person who talks about themselves incessantly.  But I am longing to share my ideas with other people because this is such a vast topic and I really don’t think I’m the only person doing this, and I think it is incumbent upon us all to take responsibility for bringing our unconscious pain to awareness so we can properly care for ourselves and move past the pain and suffering; to move into the fully-lived embodied present.  And we cannot do that alone.

Retreat from Pain

 

What is pain anyway, but information.  It’s upsetting to me when I tell my dentist that my tooth doesn’t feel right.  The tooth feels like it is being pushed out, I tell her.  I feel frustration when even talking about what’s happening with my tooth because it doesn’t “hurt.”  It is holding frustration.  It feels like it is being pushed out by my body.  When the dentist tries to pin me down for a better explanation, and she goes about tapping it to determine whether it “hurts” or not, I’m just like, “It doesn’t hurt, but if you don’t stop that I AM GOING TO SMACK YOU.”  That’s NOT physical pain. It’s a flavor of sensation (frustration? despair?).  Nuance.  It is information wanting to be acknowledged, to be put into words.  Heard.  

For me, pain, right now, is information.  It is necessary, it is desirable.  I want to know about my body. 

I notice that when I cop to having sensations I don’t have shame.  But when I cop to being in pain or having been in pain for a long time or having chronically tensed muscles (against some numbed-out historical stressor), I’m slipping over into another territory, which people interpret as “suffering” and the moment people do that, I want to just retreat into my solitude because I don’t want to be that person.

Being Vulnerable Has Been Dangerous

So maybe that is why we have healers.  Because good healers are naturally curious about the kinds of sensations we are getting because that’s what they work with.  That is their medium.  And when we talk to other people about our journey with pain (physical or emotional); our experience, and we are reaching for understanding; we are reaching for more information to help us emerge and know ourselves and overcome suffering, it’s scary maybe because being vulnerable has been dangerous for us in the past.

Dear Diary

2/13/19  Thoughts Today

I went to visit my sister Tracy yesterday and while I was at her house I was really grateful to have her in town so I could just go to her house, sit on her bed and do what I wanted to do.  Yesterday I pulled my Spanish homework out of my bag and I just started reading.  She was on deadline, and she waved me to her room, told me to make myself comfortable.   She had a very comfortable bed and she also had some construction going on in her house. I was happy it was not my problem.   The landlord and her plumber were there and had the bathroom torn apart.  “The toilet is chupando agua,” I heard one of them say  (sucking water).  Maybe there is some kind of leak so they told her she can’t use it until it’s fixed.  They told her she could go downstairs and use the one in the apartment that is being renovated on the ground level. 

I was noticing some feelings: Admiration and also a little envy.  Tracy’s house is amazing. She has started to develop some really healthy routines and self-care strategies.  She has developed what seem to be some really healthy friendships in her neighborhood and she kind of “lights up” when she talks about them.  She brought me some nettle tea, I ate some grapefruit I had packed in my bag, and when she was able to take a break, she invited me to the kitchen so we could prepare some lunch.  She was so excited.  I noticed that when I was trying to talk to her I was having trouble finding my words.  I was stumbling, groping, grasping.  Place names.  People names.  They just weren’t coming.  And I wanted to share with her so much.  I wanted to be big and social and important like her.  And I also noticed that she was very attentive and very (as usual) very good at advocating for herself (a bit differently  this time, maybe), but really attuning to me and demonstrating her care and loyalty to me, regardless of my inability to express myself as fluidly as her. 

Digesting later, what that experience was like, I noticed some negative thought patterns that come up and tell me that she’s doing it better, that I should be different – that I’m behind.  All those things definitely irrational today (relics from her being 6 when I was 2, probably).  But they helped me identify the feelings.

When I give such negative thought patterns my time and attention I can see that I’m exactly where I should be.  I have so so so much support: human support, economic support, emotional support, physical support, divine support.  I have what I need and I have permission to ask for more.

I talk to myself gently: My house is simple and uncluttered because visually I need that.  My life is spacious because that is what I’m asking for.  My systems are still under construction.  I’m still developing systems because my whole structure is rearranging – with my diet – requiring things that are soft to eat.  Exploring – feeling my way through that whole process and having extra appointments to support the physical reconstruction and anatomical adjustments that are being made to correct my bite.  I’m grateful for exactly where I am right now.  There are so many things I’m looking forward to and the project I’m working on right now (which may not look that exciting; that doesn’t vibrate at such a social level), but is mine to do right now: fixing my bite so that I’m not in pain all the time!  And that is a project that has an end point to it.  I will be completing those physical things – the re-patterning of my muscle memory.  The fixing of my molars so that I can eat without pain and the application of my braces so that my teeth actually look like they have been cared for and that I have the means to take care of myself well.  And maybe even opening up my avenue of expression so that I can more easily and fluidly and confidently express my thoughts and ideas.

I think about why this was not taken care of before, in the “developed” United States, where I grew up and lived for so long.  More feelings.  And understanding.  Compassion for myself and for my parents.  I mean, how could I have taken care of all of this in the US?  A single mom with no insurance for dental care?  Making barely enough to get by?  How could my parents have taken care of this with nine children, aversion to credit and boot-strap values?  They couldn’t have.  And I couldn’t have while I was raising children either.  But that’s another topic.  That is what I’m thinking about today.

Ripple Effect in My Body

I feel like I have been following a trail of breadcrumbs to the diagnosis of TMD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, which I received with a huge sense of relief in November.  I followed one un-ignorable breadcrumb to another: the inability to chew because of pain and sensitivity, months and even years after getting dental work on several molars; developing what seemed like tendonitis in my right arm; chronic, never abating pain in the neck; one chronically constricted muscle along the right margin of my spine; the inability to sit for very long before experiencing back pain; difficulty standing without slumping.  My massage therapist and others had mentioned mouth guards, and how well they worked for a lot of people.  My chiropractor noticed that the pattern of lock-up I experience seemed to originate somewhere around my right neck/shoulder.  My CranioSacral therapist said that there was an irritated nerve in my molar, but that the tooth was healthy enough.  An iridologist in Missouri said that there was something significant going on in my jaw/shoulder area.  I clearly had a problem.  Now the breadcrumbs had finally led me to a solution.

Since I’ve been seeing a specialist recommended by my dentist, and have been wearing a mouth guard, I have been slowly recognizing that for many years I had been unconsciously clenching – not just in my jaw, and jutting it forward, but other places in my body as well.  Little by little I bring consciousness to places in my body where I had been unknowingly tightening my muscles.  And I am learning, slowly, how to direct my attention toward those places with love and care.  And even more slowly, I am learning what it feels like when I am truly relaxed.  As I do, the pain is going away as if by magic. 

I have been instructed to wear my mouth guard night and day.  Wearing it during the night was helping, but not enough.  Dr. Citlali, my specialist, explained that my jaw is so habituated to being in a forward position, that I will need some time to train it to be where it is supposed to be.  After having the guard and using it night and day (when I’m not eating), when I take it out, I notice that my teeth come together differently.  Now it feels a little odd because it will take a while for me to get used to having it in the right place after having it forward all these years (maybe +50?).

This makes me think about how that misalignment must have been impacting my teeth.  When I was always chewing using my molars in a way that they were not designed to be used, with the jaw jutted forward, they just didn’t line up right, which caused undue wear and tear on them.  They served me as best they could under the circumstances, but with time, they wore down, chipped and cracked.  Now I understand why I have always needed so much dental work on my molars.  Before this treatment is said and done, I’m going to need to raise the height of the molars themselves because form follows function; my teeth have changed to accommodate my jaw movement patterns over time.  As a result of my jaw being relaxed and in the right place, many muscles (that I had no idea I was clenching) begin to relax.  This one little thing has had an impact throughout my entire body. 

The good news is that in response to the treatment (ongoing work with Dr. Citlali via the mouth guard) my body is relaxing and settling into its new normal.  I am noticing a ripple effect.  My arm (I couldn’t use that arm without pain) is back to normal.  My back feels somewhat improved, but it’s all the way back there and I still can’t really tell for sure.  The brittle feeling I was having in my feet and ankles is gone, and I sense my feet as newly supple and responsive to the demands I put on them.

With ongoing care scheduled (I have an appointment with the kinesiologist and two massages with my favorite massage therapist in the next couple weeks), I hope to bring even more awareness to those places so that my new normal will be relaxed, stronger and even more resilient than before. 

With this kind of care, education and support, I can learn to notice when I am clenching or drawing in, and anytime I tune in, I will more easily and automatically be able to return to a healthy, relaxed state. 

Through my healing process, I am bringing loving, conscious attention to obviously affected places, and my body in general, and am definitely feeling results.  Over the years, my legs did not really seem to be part of me, and it felt precarious to move through life in a fluid and grounded way.  By comparison, I can look back at times when it felt as though I was walking on tree stumps.  What I experience now is so much more fluid and integrated.  Like my right leg – my shins – my heels.  They are now parts of me.  I walk with more connectedness/awareness, more fully inhabiting my feet and lower legs. 

So, the journey continues.  I am super excited about this, and I am interested to see what happens next!

Anxiety as a Substitute for Grief

Anxiety and Repetitive Repeating/Looping Neurotic Thoughts.

These are coping mechanisms designed to protect you from pain – Deep. Terrifying. Buried. Pain.  So it’s really a very adaptive coping mechanism whenever you’re a child and you don’t have a parent or older mentor you know you can go to for help or support.  Whenever you are a small one, dealing with the pain of facing the world and your emotions is just too much to do alone, when you don’t have adequate support.  But as adults, we can begin to see that these repetitive/looping thoughts as they really are when we are all grown up.  They are just lies.  With just a little guidance, we can do the work of exhuming these buried hurt feelings and letting ourselves put words to them.  Then they can become harmless stories.  By reconstructing the stories, we can gather all the pieces together in one place, so it’s no longer in the shadow, and when it’s not in the shadow, it’s not so scary anymore.   Feeling grief is work, but it’s quite do-able for an adult.

You already have what it takes to parent yourself well.  Check out my online course if you’d like more information on how to parent yourself as an adult.

What is Embodiment, Anyway?

People ask me what I mean when I say embodiment, and it’s a subtle thing, really.  If you are busy all the time, you run the risk of missing it – that is, until you are faced with debilitating pain, chronic aches, or unexplained disorders.  But that is really not what I’ve come here to talk about.  For me it’s much more fun to talk about what I’m experiencing in this process, which is more like watching grass grow than going to a doctor for a prescription and a more sadly standard cure.  My way, of course, is worlds more empowering and fulfilling.  There are so many dimensions to what I want to talk about, so it’s hard to know where to begin, and like I said before, it’s subtle but life changing – winding but profound – when you commit yourself to it as a way of life.

Mammals lick their young.  Watch a mother lion lick its cub.  This activity is nothing like what happens when a stressed-out working mother bathes or otherwise cares for her young.  When a mammal in nature cares for her young she is relaxed herself.  The motion almost a meditation.

When I was on the roof the other morning, just before sunrise, I thought of her in that warm meditative place, as I rolled an empty olive oil bottle around on the knotted and burning fibers of my muscles and ligaments and attachments, along the length of my lower leg.  As the sky had turned from twinkling stars to glimmering-on-the-rim to rosy and then bright, I rested in my quiet place inside.  As the hardness of the green glass met the various places on the leg I adjusted my motion so as to appropriately meet each complaint, each whimper, each outcry of rage for having been neglected and taken for granted for so long with not so much as an ounce of consideration for its never failing loyalty and devotion.  Imagining the mother, adjusting the pressure of her tongue so as to have the desired effect…the seemingly compulsive motion of the tongue designed to work out the knots, soften the stressed and defended places and render the tiny thing completely undefended…never having to ask for warmth, closeness, connection, or attention to its needs.

Since I took up the practice of bringing the bottle with me to the roof, originally for the purpose of rolling my feet, I notice that I walk on cobblestones a lot easier and with a whole lot more grace and agility.  Since I have been working on my quads and lower legs, I have begun to build a relationship with my legs.  They tell me where they hurt, but only if I ask.  They tell me how much pressure to use, but only if I’m present.  They tell me what they want, but only if I’m unhurried.  And, despite some old fear that their needs can never be met and that giving them attention will be a colossal mistake, they soften.  The pain subsides and I discover more about my legs that I never knew before.  No-touch zones turn to touch-with-care zones.  Touch-with-care zones turn to burning-like-fire zones.  Burning-like-fire zones turn to boy-that-feels-good zones, and on and on it goes.

Along with this relationship I’m building with my legs I am making connections about various parts of my body and how they work together.  For example, I had a bodywork session with a German friend (who worked with my shoulder blades, asking me to engage muscles I had no idea I could operate), who left me with an increased ability to – might I say delight in – lowering my shoulder blades, pulling them down against the contracted and chronically tense and indistinguishable muscle mass around my neck and shoulders.  With her help, I made some progress, and with the next bodywork session I expect to reclaim another formerly estranged and exiled body part.

I noticed, the other day, a sweet sensation of delight after pulling up some leg warmers over my leggings.  A sensation I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before.  I wonder in astonishment.  How have I gotten to be this age without knowing how the various parts of my body relate to one another in a kinesthetic way?  I’ve taken the anatomy classes and I’ve memorized a lot of anatomic terms, but it’s the finding of them in my body that’s always alluded me.  It’s the knowing of them sensually that I’ve tragically missed.  And in re-membering each one – slowly, tentatively – I understand why I cut them off in the first place.  There is so much information stored there!

This morning, for example, tending to my leg, and all those burning sensations, I begin to make connections in my mind.  This is about an old story that started when I was 15 or 16.  Wanting to run but can’t run, my inner 16-year-old tells me.  Wanting to run but can’t run wanting to run but can’t run.  My life depends on it, and I can’t run, but needing to run.  It burns.

I have not always had the presence of mind, the inclination, the patience or the curiosity to explore that sensation I called pain and shoved aside with disgust.  I was stronger than that.  No self-respecting person admitted to pain, much less indulged in giving it attention.

But my attention and curiosity turns any pain into an important piece of information I can use to take care of myself.  Pain, as it turns out, is not better ignored.  It is better used to tend to real needs and real wounds, which with a little care and attention, eventually melt into pure consciousness, connectedness and bliss.

Now I am not afraid of becoming a slave to my old wounds and pain.  I stroke and caress.  I tease out the knots.  I soothe the burning muscles into submission.  Now, as I do this, I know that as my body relaxes, as I care for it and become better acquainted with its nooks and crannies, a million tiny connections are made, sending signals to my brain that I am okay, that I am worthy of attention, that I deserve care, that my needs are not too much, and that there is nothing wrong with my body that a little TLC can’t make right.

Meet Mariana

Mariana is my Spanish teacher, my friend, my translator and now my publisher.  Here she describes her publishing house, Ban Pang – Casa de Harina Editorial.

Thanks to Mariana, my book is going to be available to speakers of Spanish anywhere in the world.  Being In My Body (Estar en mi Cuerpo) is now available in Spanish as a PDF.  Read more about the book here.  You can get your copy here.  By August 18 it will also be available in paperback!

Photo Shoot – Being In My Body (Estar En Mi Cuerpo)

This is what emotional work can look like!

This past couple days has been so interesting, as I wrestle with my body’s terror about being the center of attention and knee-jerk reactions to staying present in situations where resources are coming from others to me, specifically.  It’s really stretching my mind and my understanding and challenges the wiring of my brain.  Not always fun, and not always comfortable, but always held in love and gentleness and so much kindness and creativity.

Hope you like my photo collection!  Watch for more photos from the shoot which will be appearing on Facebook and other forms of social media over the next couple months.  They will make up the launch for Estar En Mi Cuerpo, but they will be professional photographs by Kitzia, who I am sure you are going to love.  For those of you who don’t know, Estar En Mi Cuerpo is the Spanish title for Being In My Body, What You Might Not Have Known About Trauma, Dissociation, & The Brain.  The other women in the photos are so dear to my heart – my translator, Mariana and her sister, Margarita.

Margarita, setting the tone for Day 1

Mariana, Shoot Director, Translator and Publisher

Kitzia, Photographer

Kitzia, Mariana, Margarita, at Bicycle Snack Station

Bicycle wheel table and reading the coffee grounds

Juice and coffee stop

Kitzia loves this pup

Photograph the photographer – What a love

It just doesn’t get any sweeter than this.

Aren’t I photogenic?

The Crew – Day 2

Breaking Free

I was at Unity Center in Portland on New Year’s Eve – The last day of 2017.  These two weeks I have been visiting my sister Trina and her family has been such a blessing, and stepping into the Unity Center here I immediately felt the warmth, beauty, inspiration, and safety that I’ve always felt at the Unity Center back in Columbia Missouri.  I jotted down some notes that the speaker was sharing, and I’ll record them here, for you to see if you’re interested…and for my own future reference.

Moving into this new year, I am being asked to expand.  Do I believe that real change is possible?  This year is about breaking free of the prison of my old programming, my beliefs, my limitations.  I am being supported in living as if the chains that have held me are breaking and falling away.
I am so much larger than my doubts and fears.
There is so much more for me to do.
I am at the very brink of finding a larger picture of myself and my world.
What would I like to feel in 2018?
Here I am.  Move through me, Spirit.

Since that service on Sunday, I have been writing short paragraphs in my journal that begin like this:  I am thinking about how it will feel when/to…..

And each paragraph gives a sweet, detailed snapshot into an aspect of my new life.  Spend some time doing this.  Take time to savor and review and revise your writings for the next week or so, noticing how it feels when you imagine your new, desired life.

Give it a try!  Take a chance; get clear on what you want more of and ask for it!

I am thinking about how it will feel when/to…..

 

Too Much On Your To-Do List?

You work your tail off to get things done.  You find ways to do things efficiently (you have actually gotten really good at this) and you still have to put the sweat, blood, tears and hours in, and often it takes longer than you planned.  You end up feeling lousy because it “takes you so long to do things,” thinking that your aunt or your sister-in-law could have done it in half the time – right?  If you’re not criticizing yourself for not doing enough, then you disparage yourself for taking on too much – though you can’t imagine what you could possibly leave undone.  Especially during certain times of the year, or even certain years, or in certain phases there is just so much to do it can feel truly overwhelming.  Holiday time and extra travel can certainly leave me feeling this way.  Here is a secret trick I have learned that ALWAYS helps:

  1. Remind yourself that this phase is temporary.  Though it’s hard to see the end of it, there are certain things you can do that will help in the short run.
  2. Make a list of AAAAALLLLLL the things that have to be done right now.
  3. Re-write the list so that it is actually 2 lists:

A.  The things I can and will do today (or tomorrow)

B.  The rest

  1. Ask your spiritual helpers, your higher self and the Universe to help you with everything on the B list while you are working as hard as you can on the A list (some call this God).  They can, will, and are already, but you have to take these items off the A list and ask your helpers for this to work really well.
  2. Focus your attention on what you have decided that you can do today.
  3. Each day, appreciate yourself for the items that you were able to get off the A list, reassess what you will commit to completing during the next day or two (or hour or two), and in the process notice how some of the things on the B list are taking care of themselves or progressing in some way that you did not have to be involved in.
  4. Thank yourself for remembering that getting things done is actually of secondary importance.  Being a decent person and staying connected to yourself and your loved ones is of primary importance – always.
  5. Notice and appreciate the help you are receiving from the Universe and from others and marvel at the magic you can do when you let go and focus only on what you can control.
  6. Go easy on yourself. It never helps to chastise yourself for not having the help you need.
  7. There are things on that list that only you can and should do. There are other things on the list that will take care of themselves on their own.  Over time you may see things that you’d love to ask others to help you with. But when you solicit the help of others remember that they may also be feeling the stress of their own responsibilities, regardless of how it appears.
  8. Ask your helpers to send you someone who would benefit from helping you (truly helping, truly capable, bringing positivity into your life).
  9. Putting items in your B list is trusting that you can be truly and abundantly supported, and letting go of rigid ideas about how things will turn out. If you can loosen your grip on them, you may be surprised at how they turn out even better than you expected!

10 Pointers for Dealing With Emotions

Finding yourself easily irritated with people you care about?  Noticing that your emotions are much closer to the surface of your awareness than they usually are?  You’re not alone.

Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Regardless of how it feels, understand that your emotions are your friends.
  3. Breathe through the emotion (don’t act on it) and make a pledge to yourself that you will take some time to explore this emotion very soon.
  4. Keep your pledge. Make it a priority.  It is.
  5. When it’s possible, sit down in a quiet place with a journal and write it out. Chances are, the up-welling of emotion is telling you about an unmet need or a wound from the past.  Either way, naming your emotion, identifying what it’s telling you about your needs and/or making connections between the present and some past hurt or shock will go a long way in helping you to hold up your end in important relationships, and stay in integrity with yourself.
  6. After you have taken this time with yourself you will be more clear on what you need, what you are and aren’t willing to tolerate or settle for, and you may now be in a position to share what you have learned with the person you were interacting with when the emotion surfaced.
  7. Keep your eye on the prize. In your heart of hearts, what do you really want here?
  8. Remember that the other person is not responsible for the emotion. They may or may not need to know about the effect they had on you.  What you share is entirely up to you.
  9. If you want or need something that another person may be able to give you, ask them, remembering that a true request may be answered with a yes or a no. Be prepared for either.  Your desire or need is still valid whether that person can help you or not.  You may need to ask more than one person to help you meet important needs.  The process of asking helps you get clearer about what it is you are actually wanting and needing.  There is no shame in asking or receiving a no or a lukewarm yes.
  10. Often what you need is completely available to you without anyone else’s help. Take these steps for yourself and it may just be the first time in your memory that anyone has demonstrated to you that you are important and interesting enough for their time and attention.  Bringing curiosity and calm to the situation increases the odds that you will successfully find words to describe your experience in a kind and non-judgmental way, which is generally all that is needed to process an intense emotion.  Each time you do it your ability to use your emotions to inform and guide you will strengthen.