I read this blog post called Could Female Self-Hatred Be The Real Cause Of Autoimmune Disease? It's definitely worth a read. Sarah Wilson, who suffers from autoimmune disease has tried lots of remedies for her symptoms, and has realized that there's something else... something underneath the flare ups. Self-hatred. Tension. Anxiety. Not enough.
I often have clients who exhibit symptoms of autoimmune disease. A few have been diagnosed. And I'd posit that it's not unique to women, and that there's a second piece of the puzzle.
So... women. Yes, approximately 80% of the people diagnosed with autoimmune disease are women. This could be due to the differences in the immune system of men and women. It could also be that men and women will be found to have different symptoms of autoimmune disease. That remains to be seen. I suspect that men are going to be found to exhibit more neurological symptoms and nerve problems, whereas women have more inflammatory issues. That's just a guess based on a few male clients... so don't quote me on that. Besides, I'm not a doctor.
When I work with clients, we delve into their cellular function. We ask questions of the Whole Body Wisdom about what is happening there. And people with autoimmune disease often register as having a secondary infection... of pathogens that do not actively infect human tissues, but lay dormant, waiting for bacteria or viruses that they CAN infect to come by. These dormant colonies are the ones causing the inflammatory response, and yet they are not registered by the immune system because they are not virulent to humans. So, the conundrum... the body can see the EFFECTS of these things, but cannot locate them directly. Some days are good days when the colonies are very quiet, and other days they start communicating with one another to see if there has been an influx of cells that they can infect... and there's a "flare up".
Now, I can't diagnose, so when I'm with a client I stress that this is metaphorical. There are parallels between the body and the mind and the emotions... and the environment that shows up in one is likely to show up in another. That's how stress causes physical damage with or without an autoimmune issue.
As the writer of the article points out, it can be very difficult to clear these thought patterns that we're not good enough, that we're unlovable, and that we're not measuring up... because we can always find evidence for it due to human imperfection. And yet, I find, that it's relatively easy to address that same pattern when it shows up in the cellular function. When we move into the cells, we leave behind the story about WHY we're not good enough. And, in absence of the story that we use to anchor our beliefs about our worthiness or lovability, it's easier to clear those patterns.
It is about believing... that we are more powerful than anyone has ever told us. Actually, the placebo effect proves it. When we believe, we can make things happen. Choosing to believe is the key. I remember moving from my academic biology work into the healing realm. Sometimes I just had to go with what I had experienced, rather than what I could logically explain.
You have nothing to lose by believing that you are powerful. You have nothing to lose by believing that you hold the possibility of healing yourself. Find the root of the thought that you aren't enough, and ask yourself if you really, truly, in your heart, believe that. I don't believe it about me. And I don't believe it about you.
Today's installment of exploring Stress and Resilience through fairy tales leads us to The Beast.
An evil fairy or witch puts a spell on a young prince when he refuses her what she is asking (the details differ across versions). The spell makes the prince look like a monster, though he has a good heart. When Belle comes to live with him in exchange for her father, the Beast has to choose how he is going to behave with Belle. He can act like his outer shell, a monster, or he can try to show her his true heart. In the tale (as opposed to the movie) Belle has a recurring dream of a prince, and becomes convinced this prince is being kept within the castle walls. She does not recognize this prince as The Beast in his true form.
In a series of kindnesses by The Beast, and the magic mirror's ability to show her his heartbreak over her departure, she returns to him realizing that his behavior is true to who he is. As she cries over him he is released from the spell and regains his form of prince.
What does this tell us about resilience? That the magic lies in living true to who we are, no matter what we appear to others and what stories they tell themselves about us. Happiness comes because we honor ourselves and our true hearts, not from having wealth, possessions, or beauty. Beauty and love come to us because we live our hearts, because we behave as is true to our hearts, not because we do something for someone else.
The key to persistence while we're living our hearts and whatever it is that we desire is flitting around not noticing us? Strength. Strength of character, of truth. I don't mean truth like some universal principle that is true for everyone... but your heart truth... your essential truth.
And they lived happily ever after... which means... they kept holding truth as a path, a way of living, with no arrival. They went on forever and ever finding their truth and embracing it.
Further exploration of how fairy tales can show us the path to the life we most want to live can be had in the Moving From Stress to Resilience e-course.
Alice falls into the rabbit hole into a realm of chaos. Initially she's interested in finding the white rabbit, she's following her curiosity. It takes a bit of time to realize that she doesn't really seem to fit in here, that this land is full of "nonsense".
The Cheshire Cat is the first to suggest that Alice might benefit from getting clear about where she would like to be going. In fact, this very advice, from a parent coach when my children were little, changed my life. I had been trying to get away from what I didn't want in my life, but didn't have a solid sense of direction about where I was going... what I wanted to cultivate in my life. This is a critical step for building resilience. It provides a beacon... something we're moving TOWARD.
Alice, as a character, shows us that while she goes through many emotions, sometimes treats others badly, and is sometimes nurturing and kind... it is how she sees herself that colors the story (this is a dream, after all). The moment that we get some inkling about how to get out of this chaos, is when we meet the Queen of Hearts, who suggests to us that the answer lies within us, not within our logic (or illogic, as the case may be). Confronting the Queen forces Alice to decide what she believes to be true, and Alice decides that the soldiers are simply playing cards, and therefore have no power over her.
While the story ends rather ambiguously (don't ours too?)... it does tell us that those moments when we are consumed by chaos, are moments of deciding what we truly believe and are about, in order to assert ourselves and walk forward with strength and purpose... to get ourselves home.
Interested in going deep with fairy tales? Intrigued by the possibility that these entertaining tales can provide us with a map to ourselves? We can have fun while we dive deep, developing awareness, self-compassion, and resilience as we go. Doing our inner work can be highly rewarding personally, and in relationship with family, friends, and colleagues. And it doesn't have to be serious and curmudgeonly. Join me for Moving From Stress To Resilience online beginning November 17th!
Funny things have happened lately... the self-doubts have been creeping in again. I'm hearing other people talk about how they're experiencing it too. Not sure if it's the celestial goings on... or just that we all cycle through moments of stability and ease, to some sort of discomfort, and back again. I think it's called "growth" or "life".
Some say that we go through our lives constantly being pulled toward our "true purpose". They say we came to this life for a reason... to share a gift of who we are. But how do we know if we're showing up in the fullness and richness of who we are? We only know it in the place in which doubt doesn't exist. Because as soon as we doubt, we don't know anymore.
How to grapple with doubt? Whoa. Not sure I have an answer for you there right now. I'll keep playing with it and I'll get back to you. I suspect, that doubt, like fear, just points to places that we carry conflicting ideas. Like... "should I go this way?" or "should I go that way?"... because one belief supports one way... and another belief supports another way.
I'm going to throw out the possibility that the way through doubt is to look for the beliefs that support each possibility... then consciously choose the direction that is supported by the belief structure that you most want to cultivate in your life. Choose... then shelf the doubt. Yes? No?
I do know that when I make choices with clarity, I'm much happier... it's easier to keep moving forward... the doubt is less likely to keep hounding me. I know WHY I choose what I do... and that makes me stand taller (which is no small feat! :) I'm not terribly tall!). What is doubt like for you? How do you deal with it? Are you in it right now? What's your next step?
Did you know that in medieval times books were written on animal skin? And there was a deep association between stories and skin?
This is the kind of stuff I absorb from listening to NPR on my way back from grocery shopping.
But it made me think... what stories are written on my skin? Stretch marks, wrinkles around my eyes, the freckles on my arms, callouses on my feet, and surgery scars... and the mind kindles the stories that go with them.
I have to be honest... that my body is often a difficult spot for me... I've always been highly critical of my body and it's caused a great deal of emotional pain. I even admit that recently I was thinking of having surgery... getting rid of this funny lump here... and the wideness there. I'm not sure how serious I was... and I certainly don't judge anyone who does this... but this idea of looking at my body as a story... it changed that a bit.
I see writ, not only in my skin, but my very cells... deep and archetypal stories... of hardship, triumph, valor, failure, and rebirth. Oh... the rebirth. How things can begin anew... even when we're sure the world is over. The gift of rebirth... the blessings of time continuing to march forward.
So, what is that story? It's a snapshot... a moment in time when one truth exists and we look at it from the perspective in which we are. And then, something else happens... and that story... it isn't what it used to be. I can't possibly express enough gratitude that life is as it is... always in motion... because some of the stories I conjured in the moment were painful. To be able to move out of pain... to grow out of it... means that we must be in the flow of life.
Surrender to the flow... that is how to ride life! When we hold and grasp, we try to keep things from shifting... which is their true nature... we resist life. We create tension and difficulty where surrender belongs.
I used to hate the word surrender. One of my best qualities is persistence... which used to feel in conflict with surrender... as if I should let things... even injustice... be as they are... and not stand for something better. However, I've come to see surrender differently in the last month or so. I see it as a way of dancing with something, not ignoring it. I see surrender as a flow, rather than trying to control the tide. And it is how I dance... with stories... with the events in my day... that determines what I lend my energy to... what I support and strive for... and always... that is to leave the world more true to itself than it was when I arrived.
It's not all in your mind. In fact, there's a good chance it's in your BODY.
You know those days when you find yourself in a constant state of irritation with the kids/husband/job/demands? The kind of irritability where you feel guilty because although your mind tells you it's not that big of a deal, but you feel like you could lose your cool at any moment?
First, you're not alone. It is a common experience to have that internal conflict where you WANT to do what's on your To Do list AND you have the sense that a storm is brewing within. While part of the irritating situation does exist outside of the body, the storm is happening because something that feels irritating is also happening INSIDE THE BODY. When hormones are out of balance, there is a cellular level of irritation, that is ADDED to what is happening around you... and when all the cells are irritated... that's what your stormy feelings reflect.
Once irritation settles into the body it becomes self-perpetuating. Irritation produces tension and inflammation in nerves and muscles. Blood flow is decreased by the tension, which in turn decreases oxygenation and pH begins to become more acidic. Low oxygen and high acidity are irritating to cells, and the cycle of tension and irritation is perpetuated.
So, how do we break into such an IRRITATING cycle? I have included two tips that are tried and tested, yet simple and easy to integrate into your daily life to create quick and long-lasting change. One word of caution: don't mistake simple for unimportant.
1. Take slow deep breaths.
Sounds simple enough, yes? It is, but most of us don't do it.
Most of us breathe too shallow. By not expanding the lower lungs, making the belly move when you breathe, you deliver a bare minimum of oxygen to the body and brain, signaling your body that you are in danger.
The effect of shallow breathing is that we CREATE a stress response when there is no danger!
In dangerous times the body doesn't do repair work, or digest food well, or mount an immune response. If you are in a constant state of shallow breathing and perceived danger, you are likely to get sick often, have sluggish or painful digestion, and eventually have general body breakdowns.
By taking nice full, slow breaths deep into the lungs, you signal your body to drop into relaxation... which also happens to be the mode in which we are able to do cellular repair and mount a sufficient immune response. This is why noticing the breath is part of nearly every wellness practice.
Coming in a close second to breathing is... RESTING. Rest is undervalued in our society, but our bodies CRAVE it! Much of our tension comes from forcing ourselves to do the things "we should be doing", instead of listening to the cries of our bodies for more rest. It doesn't have to be sleep, although that's good too, but it does need to be RESTORATIVE.
For myself and many of my clients, I'm finding that truly restorative rest involves a true break from doing things. So, it's not doing yoga, or exercise, or creative projects, which do have high value and provide clarity of mind... but when I say REST, I mean that the muscles are not working, the mind is not solving problems. REST is committed time to simply BE.
Rest is best done laying down, and the more you practice true REST, the more you will train your body to TAKE BREAKS from the doing mode. And through this practice you will bolster your physical resilience. Your To Do list will still be there after 5, or 10, or 20 minutes of rest... and you can pick it back up... but with a REST practice you can teach your body to return quickly and easily to cellular rejuvenation.
One of the KEYS of true rest, though, is not letting your thoughts stress you out as you lay there! Breathing into the center of your head - between the temples and behind the eyes - is a practice that can keep you thoughts from taking over. This take practice... so if you notice a thought... just label it a thought... and go back to the breath and focussing on the center of the head. This is a very quiet space, and the more you practice going there, the easier and more restorative your rest periods will be.
As simple as these exercises may sound, they have changed my life and the lives of my clients. These tools offer your body significant shifts in the chemical processes available to it.
If you are noticing resistance to something so simple as part of your well-being plan... then ask yourself "Do I believe I have the capacity to change my situation?" and "Am I committed to my well-being and willing to take action?".
Consciously stepping out of the stress response to rest and rejuvenate mode can go a long way toward the body healing itself. If that's not enough, it may be necessary to take a holistic approach to unwinding the mental, emotional, and physical structures that hold the tension in place.
Here's to your well-being!
This is what is the matter with us: we are bleeding at the roots because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars. ~ DH Lawrence
Not only is the above quote is referencing ways humans fall short in the pursuit of love, I believe it applies to many parts of life. We have separated the meaning of our lives from nature, our very souls are isolated from our everyday focus and tasks.
It's no wonder this creates disharmony. Whether it shows up as adrenal stress, deep fatigue or hormone imbalance, the body suffers from this separation as it struggles to make ends meet. The repair of this disconnect, between our souls and nature, succeeds when we become aware of the beacon that guides us to our soul vision, through consistently honoring our personal beliefs and values.
Even after reconnecting with the soul, we may still struggle with the physical symptoms. Why? Because the physiology can get stuck. We can do everything "right"... eat well, sleep plenty, learn to occasionally say "no" to others so we can say "yes!" to ourselves. However the adrenal depletion, thyroid imbalance, symptoms of PMS and menopause can persist. This is how we are "bleeding from our roots", while everything seems fine at the surface (or according to your doctor), things don't feel fine.
Once the body responds to a stressful event, if that event is prolonged, or the brain perceives a constant need for vigilance, the body's pH can begin to decrease in susceptible areas in the body. This can become it's own stressor. Or, perhaps cells fall into disrepair due to persistent inflammation, compromising cell function, and therefore becoming yet another stressor. These situations, and others like them, fall into a place in which they are self-generated, persisting even when the original situation is removed, resulting in a frustrating and vicious cycle.
This is where the ability to dialogue with the body through muscle testing is very helpful. Only when each stressor, from cellular to whole body, can be identified and resolved SIMULTANEOUSLY, can the space for healing be opened.
This is my offering. I am a seasoned guide who can help you make the voyage into the cells, into the biochemistry, into the DNA, to relocate your inherent wellness plan.
Because this is an adventurous journey through an interdependent web of processes, I work in a series of session rather than a single session. This requires a positive commitment from both of us, to travel together into the physical body, freeing tensions that are in self-generating cycles, and to release you from a life of overwhelm and frustration.
Does this sound like you?
If so, grab a spot on my calendar to set up a free 30 minute Rejuvenation Session so we can explore the possibility of working together and talk about how to get you back on your feet and feeling GREAT!
I’m still knocking around with the effects of our pilgrimage back to Flagstaff where I set down the unfinished PhD I’d been carrying in my emotional baggage for years.
And here’s what’s happening now that I’m home.
I’m shedding… not just skin… not just layers… but a whole way of relating to the world.
I often think of myself in relation to nature, and I understand this relationship in terms of totem animals. I’ve been aware for more than a decade (no, it’s been almost 2 decades!) that I’ve been walking with Turtle. She has been a lovely companion providing me with safety, slowness, processing, and the ability to take my internal journey to my soul. I’ve been in and out of my shell for a loooonnnnggg time.
But, now it’s time for her to move into a secondary role. She has happily taken up residence in the north of my medicine wheel where she can be part of the foundation of truth, safety, and support for the gems I received on that interior journey.
I shed my shell… my too-tight jacket… in ritual with sisters recently. I am trusting that the tools that I have learned to protect my heart (that don’t involve shells) are working for me. I now have a capacity that once I did not. And that is empowering.
Turtle has joined, eagle in the east, coyote in the south, and spider in the west, to support me for the time being as a council. I don’t have a primary totem anymore, and not sure if I will get another or not. I’m learning how to take what I’ve learned on my interior journey and to apply it to my relationships with others. I’m learning how to speak my truth, my way of seeing and being in the world, and sharing it.
May each of you travel gently with your guides, may they support you in your journeys. May you find trust and help with them when you are struggling to see where to place your feet. The forest taught me that once upon a time… that you must trust from your heart that your steps are the right ones… and then go. Adjust later if you need to… but take that step.
And, if you want to take those steps with others, join us for the July Body Wisdom Healing Circle call (Sunday morning at 9am Pacific) where we’ll talk more about relating to others from your heart. You can sign up for the call number here.
I started a PhD program in Conservation Biology back in 2001... did all my classwork, all of my field work... but I never finished writing the dissertation. Last week my family and I went to visit Flagstaff, AZ where I had been working on said PhD. It's where my oldest daughter was born... and for her 10th birthday she wanted to go back... to see her roots. But so much happened for me while we were there.
We went to visit my field sites... the refreshing aspen stands where I spent many days alone, looking for nests.
But they were gone. Where there had been acres of aspen there are now only a few trees. The trees that are standing are sickly and sparse. Many have been cut down for firewood. My heart is broken. I grieved. Not only for the aspen... but... as it turns out... I grieved the unwritten dissertation.
Have you ever felt the loss and regret mingle in your blood and settle in your stomach? Yeah. That.
The aspen represented who I had been as an academic, and the visions and goals I'd had of my life at that time. What was staring me in the face was that it really was gone. Both who I was then AND the aspen stands themselves. The change left no room for anything but complete release. I couldn't pretend anymore that I'd ever go back and finish.
Things change. Always. They die. They are born. The life cycle itself drives change.
I was able to do a small releasing ceremony - burying a blank piece of paper (the unfinished dissertation) wrapped around a small stick (the forest) under the song of the plumbeous vireo (my favorite of the two species I studied).
Sometimes we're blindsided by how we've changed as we focused on the details of our lives. And, for me, even when I had consciously moved on years ago... at some level I still clung to that persona. We all have to move forward, embrace who we are becoming. That's not always easy... but it's a journey I've taken over and over. This is just the latest iteration.
How do you embrace change? Do you struggle? Or does it come easy for you?
Bit by bit I've shed who I thought I was, or who others told me I am, to become more truly myself. Today I will sing to the wild in me, the true in me! I celebrate the passing of the academic as the true and only me, in the same moment that I grieve it. I embrace me as I am. And that heals me because it heals the perception I had that I wasn't enough.
This is the moment... the expression moment. Can you feel it? Can you feel what your body is telling you? Can you hear the song your cells sing? Are you connected to your soul or spirit or essence? Our most important connection is to our own essence. It is the foundation on which all of our relationships and expressions are built... and the lens through which they are filtered.
What keeps you from your full expression? Fear of rejection? Fear of loss? Uncertainty? Old beliefs about what you are or aren't capable of? Do you trust yourself to be able to handle the backlash from others who want you to play particular roles for their comfort?
This month the Body Wisdom Healing Circle focus is on the heart... or more specifically... the pericardium, which is the soft and flexible sac that protects the heart muscle. The meridian that governs this tissue is the Circulation/Sex/Pericardium Meridian, and is part of the fire element. It is the place from which we decide how we will express ourselves to the outside world. How much of our true selves do we show? And to whom? What do we tell ourselves about who we really are?
Join me for the June Body Wisdom Healing Circle. We will talk about applying compassion, vulnerability, and forgiveness to ourselves as a basis for giving it to others. This is the ultimate in "healer, heal thyself". We're doing it on Sunday June 1st at 9am. It's a free call... there's nothing to lose... except the limitations to your authentic self!
I'm an explorer of inner realms, a pattern observer, and an invitation maker. I believe that healing the world starts within.
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