Monday, January 17, 2011

Motivation: Freedom from Pain

Six months after my bike accident I am dealing with new developments in healing.  If you are new to my blog, I was in an accident in May 2010 when trying to avoid a bus.  I don't know if the bus actually hit me, although the 911 caller said a bus hit a bicyclist.  I was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion, neck injury and serious bruises.  I am doing well considering.  My head injury doesn't affect me much anymore, headaches are mostly gone.  My typing skills are almost back to normal, although when fatigued I type some words with vowels reversed. I also sometimes have trouble getting the words out when I talk too much - so on long teaching days that shows up too.

The healing process is slowed by my scoliosis as I am also working on improving that with my chiropractor.  As my body unwinds and my nervous system repairs I sometimes feel more crooked than I did before the accident, although it is greater nervous system feedback I am experiencing - that's a good thing.  My lower back is currently the pain giver.

On Sunday I was practicing yoga and I seem to be getting much of my strength and balance back, but I cannot practice as long and hard as I used to.  So I am heading to the gym at Snap Fitness to walk on the treadmill and use the machine that is like an elliptical machine.  I put the setting on 12 minutes to warm up on the treadmill, then switch to the elliptical for 12 more minutes.  As I watch the timer count down (I set it on the strength training setting), I am experiencing pain in moving. I take it slow so that I can keep my movements symmetrical as possible.  This is a challenge with a twisted pelvis (from scoliosis).  I think about pain and how I tell my students that they needn't experience pain to make progress in a yoga practice.

I also think about the person next to me - she seems to be working hard & strong.  It is not easy for my ego.  My ego says I am going too slowly and I don't look so good (and I'm glad they don't know who I am - a yoga teacher!).

I realize that the pain I experience in this work must be experienced because it isn't the pain of over-doing.  It is the pain of getting the muscles to obey and re-learn smooth movement.  It is also discomfort - my body isn't used to working that hard right now.  It is from being out of shape.  So I work through it.  I keep going, I begin to feel warm, as my muscles warm up I experience more freedom of movement.

I fantasize running a race again.  I used to run 5K and 10K races, years ago before I was a regular yoga practitioner.  I realize that when you reach a certain level of fitness and are working the body aerobically, the muscles and organs are pumping with oxygenated blood and the brain begins to experience endorphins.  That is the pain relief I have been seeking.  The flush of healthy muscle, oxygen flowing into the body, sweat. 

It is an experience I have when practicing a more vigorous form of yoga: Ashtanga yoga.  Yet, I cannot yet practice that form of yoga fully because of my injuries.  I want to let everyone know how great it feels to really move the body.  I want to let everyone know that there is a point beyond the initial pain of starting to move like this - that you will experience a sense of euphoria - after you have worked through the "I don't want to move" part. 

I realize that we are all seeking freedom from pain.  Exercise can go a long way toward freedom from physical and emotional pain -  and this is a real way to achieve that - with no pain killers or anti-depression drugs.  Rest doesn't work all by itself.  Yoga isn't the cure-all.  I wish it was - it would be easier for me.  But healing isn't easy.  It's simple, not easy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Yoga Path, Christianity, Meditation

I don't know if most people realize that I began on the yogic path by way of Christianity.  I was one of those kids who went to Sunday school morning, church Sunday night and every Wednesday night too.  Every summer: Bible Camp and Backyard Bible School.  As a teen I taught "Backyard Bible-school" and had a blast with the other teens as we taught and acted out Bible stories for little kids in backyards.

I had a profound spiritual experience in Bible Camp, where we were taught about being "born again".  I was moved to tears by a man sharing about his experience with Jesus.  He was formerly an alcoholic and he prayed for help and had an experience of Jesus coming into his heart.  Well, it moved me to tears.  He quit drinking and dedicated his life to God and prayer.  I loved his story.

Later on, our church took a strange turn.  Us teens were being trained to bring other teens to our church.  There we would have overnight sleep-ins - -  they would keep these young people up very late into the night preaching to them - trying to get them to be born again - to turn their souls over to Jesus.  It occurred to me as kind of weird & creepy.  I didn't like that there was so much pressure - it just felt wrong.  I drifted away from that church after that - it was disturbing and looking back, it looked alot like brainwashing.

Drifting church-less, I began a search for 'the truth'.  I read the Bible-- every word.  I took many of the passages literally and did not like how some people interpreted it.  I kept coming across coincidences - a book here or there that was not a church-sanctioned book about Jesus, but even so, reading it with some trepidation, I couldn't find anything in the book that disagreed with the Bible - the book that I was told was the ultimate truth.  I began to think that - if God is all things, omnipotent, why did 'He' stop giving us 'His' word - what 600 or more years ago? 

On further investigation, I learned that the books of the Bible themselves were chosen by a team of men - and there were actually some books that were considered, but not chosen.  I wondered - why?  One point of view I remember reading, said that they took out references to karma and rebirth - more Eastern philosophy, so that people had to depend on the Church for their salvation.  Hmm, I thought - rebirth - born again - is there a connection there?

Around this same time, my health had deteriorated.  I had been having recurring bladder infections.  After 8 years of these, it kept going into my kidneys and I was on antibiotics every other month by that 8th year.  My marriage wasn't working out so well either and I was very unhappy.  One night, I was feeling particularly alone, unhappy and unhealthy and I yelled out to God  in desperation..."help me - please!". 

More coincidences showed up then. . . the most important one - I became pregnant with my daughter Jasmine! When she was born, I fell in love and vowed I would be the best mom I could be.

I believe that coincidences - the little things that just happen to show up and be helpful to you, are God's way of guiding us or blessing us and that by paying attention to these, your life will go according to God's plan for you.

I had been working on finding the source of my bladder infections (with the help of a Naturopathic Doctor)with a food rotation diet, literally cleaning out my system, eating only very healthy foods and keeping a food diary.  I quit drinking beer when I found it was the trigger.  I kept eating that healthy diet, came across a yoga book and started reading it and practicing some of that yoga.  Over the span of a few years, I became a little bit healthier, and a voracious reader of spiritual books.  I had broken free of the brainwashing that said I could only read the Bible and any other spiritual books were "satanic".

The yoga I was practicing was pretty much one or two poses.  Usually a shoulder stand.  Ha ! That is probably not the first pose most anyone should try as it is considered a level 3 yoga pose.  The practice of these simple poses, had me become aware that I was making healthier choices for my body.  When my body felt better, I was a little happier.  The road to health was a very long one, however, my first guide to healing was. . . Jesus!  Jesus was a healer!  I knew he was a healer and also took something that he was quoted as saying - literally (again).  Anything I can do - so can you. (my paraphrasing).  So I held Jesus up as the ideal human potential.

I studied healing, spirituality, yoga.  This intensive studying took place throughout my marriage to my kids' Dad, Mike.  Looking back:   I am very grateful to him for traveling those years with me and the kids.  Without his support as a father and provider, I would not be where I am today.  Though I am remarried (very happily now), he and I are good friends now, another blessing in my life.

I realized at some point, that I had alot of information about nutrition but it was rather disorganized.  I found a study course I could do at home that was a 2 year home study in Natural Therapies.  I completed a certification in that in 1995.  After that, I found that I was missing some information and education in the mind.  I then enrolled to complete my bachelor degree in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin.  Receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in 1998. 

After all the science, I went back to my study of spirituality, Love in particular.   I also studied Reiki - an energy healing modality.  About the time I became a Reiki master, I decided to become certified in teaching yoga.  That is when I started practicing yoga daily.  I immersed myself in my yoga studies and became stronger, happier and more grounded in my self.  Before doing the yoga training, I also met Ishwar Puri, a master of meditation.  I was ready to commit to a spiritual life after meeting Ishwar.  He taught me how to meditate and now I practice that daily as well.  Ishwar said that you didn't need to leave your spiritual roots, the religion you grew up with to be on the spiritual path, and that meditation will only strengthen your faith.  I teach meditation now too.  My life is now nothing like it was before I started down this path. 

I view all religions as a form - a structure in which we can deepen our own connection to God or our higher Self.  Looking back to my Christian roots, I think about the stories of Jesus praying in the garden.  I realize that there is something beautiful there that all people can take, but in particular, those who, like me, were raised in the Christian tradition.

Here is a meditation Christians can use to learn to meditate.  Borrowing the Eastern tradition of using a mantra - words to keep the mind busy, so you can explore your higher consciousness.  A Christian mantra could be taking a verse out of the Bible - such as the Beautitudes - and repeating them over and over in your mind as you sit with eyes closed.  Before sitting, ask for guidance from the Master (Jesus).  You can also focus on something you would like help with - what you would like to understand or a problem that you would like to solve.  While repeating your mantra, just sit and listen and be at peace.  You can begin practicing this for 5 minutes, then 10, then keep adding time to your meditation.  The results will be amazing and I cannot tell you what those will be for you. 

Here are the Beatitudes: (from the website: )

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10