JOURNEY TO WELLNESS
    September 2019                                                                                                                              

   "Awaken the medicine within, and restore the natural self-healing capacity of body, mind, and spirit."
                                                                                                Dr. Roger Jahnke in THE HEALER WITHIN
       ________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Arrivederci, sayonara, au revoir,
auf wierdersehen, so long, goodbye . . . for now

I have been counseling mostly people who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for 20+ years, and I have always known that I would somehow know when it was time to give it up. I now have my answer . . . NOW IS THE TIME!  

I have always written about: 

THINGS I KNOW FOR SURE: 

·       No one else has your answers but you.
·      
Our answers are always inside of us.
·      
We just need to go inside and find them.
·      
The secret – if there is one – is learning to listen, really listen, to our internal voice.
·      
It works for everyone and anyone, all the time.
·      
Your belief is the foundation for achieving your desired results.
·       It matters not what our diagnosis may be.
·      
ALL healing requires the same techniques. 

Any wisdom I have to share can be found in my little books. I intentionally wrote them in very simple, easy to understand language, that is applicable to all. They should be read and reread until one really “gets” the nuggets of wisdom. Michael and Me contains all the wisdom I know. Sometimes it seems easier to look for something more, rather than doing the work on ourselves that is necessary for healing. 

While the "what" to do is really very simple, the "how” you accomplish your what is the challenge.  Over the many years I have worked with people who have been diagnosed with MS, I have heard many, many reasons why one cannot get themselves on a self-healing program. Please remember that if you are having a problem achieving your what, you need to work on your "why." 

If you have specific questions, re-read Michael and Me. If you are still having problems, put them in an email and I’ll attempt to respond. My wish for you is that you find that healing wisdom inside yourself. Remember . . . YOUR ANSWERS ARE ALWAYS INSIDE OF YOU. 

Since I so strongly believe that meditation is the key to unlocking our body's wisdom, I wrote the following as a parting gift for all of you.
 

MEDITATION 101 - What, Why, How, When, and Where 

The practice of meditation has always seemed to me to be a little like a weight reduction diet. There is no right or wrong way to do either.  One can meditate anytime, anywhere. But when one is just learning to meditate, guidance is essential. That is the purpose of this discussion. If you are like me, and you always want to know all the details, then I hope this simple presentation will help you get off to an educated start, or to re-start your practice.  

I have recently renewed my own study of meditation. I have been seriously committed to daily meditation for over 25 years now. If you have been subscribed to this newsletter for very long, you know that I credit much of the fact that I walk and live a relatively normal life today to my daily meditation practice. 

However, I have discovered that from time to time over the years I have needed to look at the fact that my daily practice was becoming boring. As soon as I became aware of that insight, I began a search for how to rejuvenate my daily meditation routine. And over the 25+ years I have been meditating, I have renewed my own practice a lot of times. 

When I first began to meditate I thought it was a very simple process. Do I still believe that? Well, yes and no. I now know that it is - or can be - much more complex than I had realized. Think of developing your relationship with meditation as being much like developing a muscle when you exercise. 

As I'm sure you all know, there is no shortage of information about meditation. So I purchased books and listened to lots of lectures by so-called experts. In recent issues of Journey to Wellness I have shared one source, the newly published Emily Fletcher book Stress Less, Accomplish More. I had first heard Emily interviewed by Dr. Mark Hyman prior to the publication of her book. I pre-ordered the book, and found Emily's approach to meditation very interesting and a very effective way to de-stress. 

Please hear me. Meditation is simply deep relaxation. It is not some mysterious woo woo experience, nor does it have anything to do with religion of any kind.  

When I first learned to meditate I followed the approach taught by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Wayne Dyer. Both have their roots in ©Transcendental Meditation which became popular in the 80s and 90s. In the T.M. approach one simply focused on a short, silent "mantra." That is, a word or short phrase repeated silently, in order to help still the mind chatter we all have. Stress Less, Accomplish More is a version of T.M. 

Another approach to meditation is called "mindfulness." First we must look at the meaning of mindful, or mindfulness.   

We all have five senses: hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell. Being mindful is being aware of what we are sensing. Oh that we could all be mindful of all our feelings all the time. Mindful eating is a good example.  Instead of just shoveling our food in, if we savor the taste and the aroma, while noticing the feeling of the food in our mouth, etc., there would be little need for weight loss food plans. Learning to eat mindfully can be very enlightening. 

However, at its most basic, mindful meditating simply means concentrating on our breath and how it feels as we breathe in and out. Most often recommended by psychologists, mindfulness includes learning to be aware of what we are feeling at any given time. Mindful meditation includes conscious consideration of how our breath feels as we inhale through the nostrils, and then how it feels when we exhale through the mouth.  

As we gain experience in mindful meditating, we will learn to analyze what we are experiencing in various parts of our body. We may experience anxiety or tension in our abdomen, or perhaps in the chest area. These include how and where we feel anxiety or tension, as well as pain and other discomforts.  Once we become aware of them, we can consciously relax them.  This is a classic example of how our body "communicates" with and to us. 

I have more recently purchased the book and app (for my iPhone and iPad) called 10% Happier by Dan Harris, the ABC TV Good Morning America and Nightline anchor newsman. Dan has assembled a very interesting group of experts in the field of meditation who not only talk with him about the various aspects of meditation, but who also lead a guided meditation demonstrating what they are teaching. I have found both to be very informative as well as sometimes entertaining. The 10% Happier approach utilizes mindfulness throughout. 

As a seasoned meditator I have discovered through my recent months of in depth study that I personally use a combination of all the above.  

I have learned: 

1.     One should not think of trying to still the mind chatter. That is an impossibility. Our mind is always chattering away! But once we recognize we have drifted back to the mind chatter, we just simply resume our concentration on our mantra or breath. THAT REALLY IS WHAT MEDITATION IS ALL ABOUT. Resuming and resuming; that is, just begin again.  

2.     When I first learned to meditate I did two half-hour meditations/day - morning and evening. After a couple of years I dropped the evening meditation and just practiced each morning. Emily Fletcher convinced me of the importance of twice a day meditation, and for the last several months I have returned to that practice and I can see how much more effective it is. Fletcher's approach utilizes two 15-minute periods each day. Dan Harris's approach suggests we fit it in however and whenever we can - even five or ten minutes at a time. The 10% Happier app video discussions help one learn how to fit mindfulness into our busy lives. 

3.     We must make meditation a priority. We are kidding ourselves if we think two or three times a week is advantageous. We must make it a habit, much like brushing our teeth. Automaticity is the goal. 

4.     A great, easy, and simple way to wake up our body energetically in the morning is a simple, easy, and anyone-can-do-it-exercise I like to call SHAKE IT! Just stand with feet about shoulder width apart and begin to shake your entire body. Shake your hands and arms, your legs and feet. Do this for about two minutes, and you will increase the blood flow all throughout your body. Notice how good it feels. This simple exercise comes from Qi Gong, the self-healing practice of easy movements from ancient Chinese medicine. Incidentally, the simple Shake It exercise can be very calming, as well as energizing. A true body energy equalizer. Follow with a couple minutes of deep breathing and you are ready for an energetic new day. 

A very important aspect of meditation that all forms emphasize is the breath. Why? Our breath connects our personal energy to the energy of the greater Universe. Remember physics teaches that everything and everyone is energetically connected. 

In analyzing meditation and considering the important role of the breath, it is critical to understand that first there are two kinds of breaths: unconscious and conscious. The unconscious breath is automatic from the moment we take our first breath when we are born, and is a function of our autonomic nervous system, as are all our body's automatic functions. The conscious breath, however, is a function of our mental direction. 

Miscellaneous tips I have collected include:  

The inhale breath is both cooling and relaxing, and it should be done through the nostrils. The exhale breath is warming and should be done through the mouth. 

The exhale breath should be twice as long as the inhale breath. Emily Fletcher calls this the 2x breath. It is the basic breath for de-stressing, relaxing, getting ready for sleep, etc. For instance:  

Inhale deeply for a slow count of 2, exhale for a count of 4.
Inhale deeply for a slow count of 3, exhale for a count of 6.
 

This 2x breath, or any breath pattern utilized in meditation, should not be "forced," but rather gently observed. This breathing pattern is a powerful tool for reducing anxiety, anytime, and may be done for five or six repetitions before returning to a slow, smooth breathing pattern. 

The easiest way I know to "automate" meditation is to do it within minutes of waking up in the morning. If you awake with an alarm, set your alarm 15-20 minutes earlier. After a few days you will automatically awaken at the earlier time. Automaticity is the goal, much like brushing your teeth. 

Perhaps the healthiest breath exercise I have learned is: 

On each inhale, begin by expanding the belly first, then the upper part of the lungs. As you inhale and expand your belly and lungs, lengthen your back and spine, as you raise your shoulders, allowing the maximum breath. 

On each exhale, allow the spine to float (contract) back to normal. Repeat for several breaths. 

This simple detail increases our relaxation response, and also the health and elasticity of our spine.  

PLEASE NOTE: For those who wish to seriously pursue meditation to a more advanced level, it is important to note that incredible experiences may be initiated by continued practice.  Examples include increased intuition and creativity. 

I hope you will continue to use the Amazon store link in order that I may continue to pay the hosting fees for the website. Thank you so much for remembering to do that. 

Although this is the last regular issue of Journey to Wellness, I am not going away.  I hope you will still connect with me on Facebook. I will still maintain my Betty's House website, and my mailing list will remain with Mail Chimp.  

 I thank you all from the bottom of a very grateful heart for being a meaningful part of my life for the last 23 years. Many of you have have shared much of your selves and your lives with me. Thank you so much for the trust you have placed in me. 

 From time to time, when the spirit moves me, I may communicate with a new newsletter. Meanwhile I wish you much happiness and radiant health. 

Love and hugs to all of you, 

Betty