Month: April 2020

Meditation for Beginners

Meditation Blog Pic

As the pandemic continues, a lot of talk has turned to mental health. How are we faring at home, void of social contact, stripped of our normal routines, off balance and isolated? How is our anxiety level as we contemplate our financial future, our careers, the safety of our re-entry into the world? Although we are resting, spending quality time with our families, eating well and spending less, many of us are struggling to stay positive and keep our minds on a healthy trajectory. The length and uncertainty of the situation is wearing and there are days that it is hard to hold up the positive.

I have been doing well for the most part. However, there are times when the anxiety creeps in and there are nights that I do not sleep soundly. There is also the added pressure I am putting on myself to be productive, to use this time wisely and find ways of bettering myself. I have been working towards strengthening my ability to put positive thinking to work, to attract what I really want from my life. My belief in the “law of attraction”  is unwavering. However, it is only as good as the vision itself and I have also been seeking ways to get more in touch with my life’s purpose.

All of this searching has led me to consider the benefits of meditation.

According to a report published by the Mayo Clinic on April 22, 2020, meditation has numerous benefits, ranging from the reduction of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain to the increase of imagination, creativity, patience and self-awareness. 

Full article: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858)

I have known about these claims for years and have wanted to integrate meditation practices into my life. However, creating a consistent routine has not happened and it is only through the current crisis that I have realized now is as good a time as any to give it a try.

Through my research I am finding that there are many forms of meditation and it can be easy, simple, and fun. It can be done anywhere for any length of time and can be tailored to your individual taste and lifestyle. For example, some may find a form of meditation while participating in a challenging physical activity, learning a difficult piece of music, walking in nature, or staring into the flame of a favorite candle. Once we become more practiced, we can bring meditation into the daily workings of our life and use it to achieve more mindfulness and peace.

In her book, Meditation: Easy Techniques to Help You Relax and Focus, Jan Purser outlines different types of meditation such as breath-watching, visualization, mantra, music, walking, and object focus. She gives the reader different options for posture and breathing and exercises to get your practice started. She describes how some may want to use music as a way to still the mind while others may be attracted to the use of color, crystals, or essential oils. 

Whatever method you chose, the results are sure to prove valuable. Like most things, if you set the intention and then show up, you’ll experience the desired outcome. It can be that simple.

I plan to practice meditation for at least one month starting today. I’m excited to try the various suggestions presented by Purser as well as to create a few of my own. I also plan to keep track of any changes I notice through journaling (which is a daily practice I already have underway) to note how my anxiety levels, sleep, and connection to my inner self may be affected. I encourage you to do the same. After all, if even a few of the benefits shown in the studies prove true, it may be just the panacea we’ve needed all along.

 

Adapting to Change

Roadblock

Covid-19 is changing the world. No doubt about that, but how will I need to change along with it?

I recently came upon a quote by Confucius who said, “the key to success is often the ability to adapt.” 

Humans are resilient by nature and I am beginning to notice in increasing numbers the creative adaptations happening around me. 

For example, the local General Store recently started offering weekly produce boxes for curbside pickup as demand for this service grows. My daughter’s gym created an online component whereby members can take classes even when they are traveling or unable to make it to the gym physically (like now). It is a comprehensive program which will continue as part of the membership benefit even after they reopen. Groupon recently had a promotion with the header, “Add Flair to Your Virtual Happy Hour” which offered fun glassware and links to wine and beer delivery services with pandemic specials.

Last night’s 60 minutes (April 26, 2020) featured Ford Motor Company and GMC, highlighting their ingenuity and ability to transform massive auto manufacturing plants into producers of respirators in a matter of weeks, as well as walking the viewer through several innovative processes which would allow workers to stay safe and protected. One such protocol requires employees to wear a watch equipped with an app that alerts participants when they come within 6 feet of another person. The watch not only helps with social distancing but it also tracks who the wearer has been in contact with and when. This feature has the added benefit of tracing the potential spread of the virus. 

On a personal level, people have created the new “drive by birthday” in which a convoy of cars decorated with signs and balloons parades by the recipients house honking horns and chanting well wishes. Virtual get-togethers are a regular thing and guided workouts have become the norm.

I have been thinking a lot about how I can adapt. 

Hands on massage is out of the question right now, so I have been experimenting with distance energy healing and tarot readings. I am planning to take some online classes and learn about dream counseling, an area I’ve been interested in for quite some time and would love to add to my list of services. I’ve been working with the Zoom app and connecting with friends and family virtually. I’ve been cooking more and focusing on my health, and I’ve taken up mountain biking (which I have come to love). All of these practices will move with me as I re-open in the new world.

It’s stressful to change, but it can also be an opportunity for creativity and movement.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I’ve been following Mike Dooley and his strategies for “playing the matrix” to manifest the life you want. His analogy to a GPS suggests that we create a destination, a visual of the place we want to be, and then put our “car” into gear and begin moving towards the end point, even if we’re not sure of the best way to proceed. The action, any action, is a key. 

Dooley emphasizes that it is equally as important not to get caught up in the details. We may be asked to make a turn or change course at any point  (while still moving towards the goal), and it is our willingness to adapt that will determine our success.

The recent pandemic is a roadblock. It is forcing us to stop and to forge a new path. It is not asking us to change our destination, only to take another route. 

We may feel the urge to resist. We may feel the grief of having to leave the road we’ve been on, and we may be uncertain about the new direction and how it will all work out. These are all normal reactions. 

I believe, however, like Mike Dooley, that the quicker we accept the situation and allow ourselves to be redirected, the faster we’ll be back on the road to our ultimate destination. It can be fun and inspirational to create new ways of being. We just need to keep our eye on the goal and trust that we’ll arrive via a different, perhaps more sustainable path.

When Enough is Enough

Vision Board

We have been sheltering in place for over a month and while at first it was nice to get the rest, focus on friends and nature walks, have extra time to catch up on neglected projects, and reduce work hours, enough is enough. Our closets have been cleaned out, the puzzles completed, yards raked and mulched, trails hiked and books read.  We are ready to return to our normal lives.

Not just yet, I’m afraid.

The pandemic continues to grow and the curve of fatalities and those infected with Covid-19 is still rising in many locations. We are not even close to getting the situation under control and returning to life in any safe fashion seems months away at best. We need to stay strong and dig deep, and despite the mental and emotional challenges that most of us are facing, we still need to stay home in order to save lives. 

I am a proponent of positive thinking. I believe that our thoughts create reality and as Shakespeare so eloquently put it in his play Hamlet, “ There is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so.”  I work regularly to direct my mind towards the good, while keeping negativity and fear at bay.  In the case of the current pandemic, I believe there are blessings and hardships and where we place our focus will not only affect our approach but also the outcome. 

Easier said than done. 

There are days when I feel sad, defeated, and fearful. In an article published in the Harvard Business Review (March 23, 2020), Scott Berinato states that part of what we are feeling is grief. There is the “loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection,” not to mention the collective grief we are facing due to the staggering death toll that surrounds us daily.

Berinato believes we are also suffering from anticipatory grief which is “that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain.” He offers us some ways to manage the grief such as “finding balance in the things we’re thinking, coming into the present, letting go of what we can’t control, and stocking up on compassion.”

Full Article: https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

Feeling grief is normal and we need to allow time and space to honor it. However, sometimes it is hard to pick ourselves up and get back on the positivity track, especially now as we are faced with growing and sustained challenges.

One way to shift our focus is to put our energies into dreaming and creating visions of what we’d like our lives to be when this is all over (or at least over enough that we are able to go back into the world). If we could have anything we want, what would it look like? 

Pam Grout has a weekly blog and offers a course in Manifesting Magic and Miracles (which I had the great fortune of attending at the Omega Institute in New York several years ago and which literally changed my life). In the course, Pam encourages us to explore what it is we really want and then gives us techniques for manifesting it. Her book, E-Squared, offers several real life experiments which she asks the reader to try as a way to experience how it all works.

Pam’s Website: https://pamgrout.com/

In addition to Pam Grout, I recently stumbled upon Mike Dooley, whose book, Playing the Matrix, outlines a method for achieving all that we could dream of or imagine for our lives. He compares the process to a GPS system whereby you put in the vision or end result as the destination and then shift the car into gear. As you begin to drive (taking steps no matter how small or uncertain), you will be guided down the pathways and roads that will best lead you to your goal. Dooley emphasizes that we should keep our focus on the end point and not get caught up in the details of the journey. He says we should be open to changing course along the way and not get stuck on the “hows.” 

I would like to propose that on days we are feeling down or stuck or shut in or hopeless, we get out a piece of paper and begin planning our future. I suggest we make it as outrageously fantastic as our imaginations will allow. We can add pictures or drawings or whatever it takes to add inspiration and joy. We should dream big and begin to move in some direction, any direction, while keeping the end vision in mind. We don’t need to understand how we will get there, we just need to believe that we will.

What We Do Not See

Mtn Bike

Have you ever walked down a hallway in your home, one that you have traversed a million times, and noticed the details of a picture hanging on the wall for the first time? You may have known the picture was there (or not). Yet, until that moment, you had not seen it in full. 

I’ve had this experience from time to time and it always amazes me how much I overlook in my daily surroundings, how often I create patterns in my life that I repeat over and over, like a groove in a vinyl record, never jumping the tracks or looking for something new. I am surprised by how much I don’t see.

Since we’ve been quarantined (about a month now), my partner and I have taken up mountain biking. We do this almost daily and are having a blast. It not only gets us outside, provides us with a few adrenaline rushes and offers an intense workout, but it also allows us to explore the acres of forest and woods that surround our Massachusetts home. We are loving it. It is one of the amazing gifts that have come out of this pandemic. 

During our excursions, we have been awed and inspired by a number of things, one of which is the many acres of trails (literally in our backyard) that we had never noticed before. Over the 20 plus years we have lived in this area, it appears we have only been skimming the surface. 

This got me thinking. It seems that in any given moment, we can choose from an infinite number of possible realities. What we focus on becomes our experience and the remaining options fade into the background, often dissolving into the abyss never to be seen again.

There is a theory in quantum physics called “Collapsing the Wave” which is explained brilliantly by Mel Schwartz in his article, Collapsing the Wave:  Creating New Realities (Psychology Today, Sept. 29, 2011). 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shift-mind/201109/collapsing-the-wave-creating-new-realities

Schwarts states that when “the light photon is not being observed it exists in waveform but at the moment of observation, the wave collapses and becomes a particle.” When we apply this theory to our thoughts, it suggests that there is infinite potential rumbling around us always and the minute our mind focuses on it, the wave collapses and becomes our reality. 

There are many people who have touted this belief. Some of my favorites are Rhonda Byrne (The Secret), Esther and Jerry Hicks (The Law of Attraction) , Pam Grout (E-Squared), and Mike Dooley (Playing the Matrix). All worth a read.

Once we open our minds to the belief that there are infinite options at any given moment and we can create our reality by focusing on what we want, our lives will change. We’ll begin to notice the trails that we have never hiked, the pictures hanging from our walls, the value of our friendships, the dreams within our reach, the abundance at our fingertips. We’ll realize how much potential and wonder surround us in every moment. We’ll see that we have a choice in the manifestation of our realities and we’ll begin to live a more peaceful and full life. 

What Animal Totems Tell Us About the Current Pandemic

Animal Totems

For most of my life, I have been attracted to Animal Totems and the beautiful energy that they offer. The theory is that every animal (usually wild) has a powerful spirit defined through certain characteristics, talents, and habits. When we look at these unique attributes, we can understand the medicine or message being brought forth. 

Many people have one or two animals as Totems which they carry with them throughout their lives. These animals bring messages and themes that help guide them spiritually and practically. We do not choose our spirit animal. They choose us and come into our lives in a variety of ways if we are open.

I have had several animal totems throughout my life. Most recently, I have developed a relationship with the spirit of the hawk. It appeared in my life several years ago as I began contemplating some major life changes. I would see it flying overhead as I drove down the road or perched on a mailbox nearby as I waited at a stop sign. It seemed to be following me and would come to my consciousness at opportune times as if to tell me where I needed to shift my focus. 

According to Ted Andrews in his book, Animal Speak, the hawk will appear as a totem “at that point in your life where you begin to move toward your soul purpose more dynamically.” “It awakens our vision and inspires us to a creative life purpose.” These were themes I had been contemplating for years and it felt like the hawk appeared in my life to reinforce that the time to take action was nearing. 

The hawk led me through a difficult divorce and reassured me whenever I began to question my motives. On the day our family house sold and I removed my final belongings, I stumbled over a hawk’s feather, standing upright in my path as if to say, “Congratulations, you made it.”

In addition to a life or situation themed totem, I also like to receive the messages offered with each animal encounter. Whenever a fox crosses my path or I come face to face with an owl, I look to the possible meaning and message that it may have for my life at the time. It always speaks to something current. 

As the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread, along with the rumors of its origin in bats, I was naturally drawn to the bat spirit and the possible messages that were coming forth. I pulled out my reference books and this is what I discovered.

The bat is symbolic of rebirth and transition. According to Jamie Sams and David Carson in their book, Medicine Cards, the bat “symbolizes a new truth being awakened” and “promise amidst the sometimes chaotic energies of change.” The book also states that bat medicine suggests,  “We will not only be able to fly as a result of the change, but we will be able to see the world from an entirely new perspective.”  I believe, through this pandemic, we will be faced with shedding old habits that no longer serve us and emerging with a new, healthier and more loving approach to life on earth.

The healing energy of the bat also addresses facing our fears and the need to make peace within ourselves. Andrews points out that many cultures, including the Shamans, performed initiation rituals around bat energy which mentally and physically challenged a person to face their fears by spending a night alone, partially buried in the earth, until they were ready to re-emerge with a new perspective. Like the Shaman initiates, the pandemic is offering us a chance to come to terms with our fears (which like a virus can “spread, uninhibited, eventually permeating our system and creating a kind of madness within our lives”) and re-emerge with new insight and perspective.

Bat energy is powerful, and if we choose to embrace its message, it will help us understand and accept the magnitude of change occurring around us. It will assure us that facing our fears will lead to freedom and the opportunity for rebirth, and it will offer us a better tomorrow, one that focuses on humanity, care and respect for the earth, conservation, and love. 

Staying Balanced at Home

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I am a massage therapist and healer by trade, and since Covid-19 arrived, I have been unable to see clients in person, to soothe their muscles on the massage table, to work out the knots that prevent them from moving, to reduce their anxiety and stress. 

I imagine that most are seeking opportunities to heal on their own through walks in nature, getting more sleep, cooking healthy meals, reaching out to loved ones, exercising regularly, and spending more time engaged in relaxing activities. I appreciate all that people are doing to keep the focus on the positive, to embrace the healing that is coming from all of this.

I am advocating that we take it one step further by implementing therapeutic services at home. Of course, it’s not quite the same as going to a hands-on studio, but it is surprising how much can be done on your own (or with a partner) from the comfort of your own home.

For those who are interested, I did some research and found a few Youtube links to get you started. 

Self Massage with a Foam Roller 

This video offers a full body routine and covers most of the main muscle groups. It will leave you feeling like you just got a professional full body massage (well, almost). There is also a link to purchase a foam roller if you are interested and don’t already have one. I would highly recommend this technique as it is also a perfect complement to regular professional massage and can be continued once you return to your regular therapist.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu-rVZVSzxs

Self Massage with a Tennis Ball

If you don’t have a foam roller or want to get to more specific areas of the muscles, tennis balls are a wonderful option. This video will give you some basic ideas. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yY-7CXAHxfY

Couples Massage for Beginners

This is a gentle and easy-to-follow guide for couples. If you are lucky enough to be quarantined with someone you like (at least a little :-), give this a try. I guarantee it will be a practice you carry forward even after the pandemic has passed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aliKjIcDMQ0

And if you don’t have a massage table and want an idea for creating one on the floor, you might like this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKSsAs_GMpM

Once you’ve loosened your muscles and slipped into a relaxed state, you may want to continue the treatment by giving yourself a facial, taking a warm bath, lighting some candles, diffusing essential oils, and hydrating your skin with a cream of your choice. There are plenty of products out there to get you going. I have decided to clean out my drawers and use up all the creams and serums I’ve collected over the years (including samples). It’s been a fun way to try new products while clearing space.

There are many ways to set up a home healing space and I hope you delve into it with a creative and playful approach.

Feel free to contact me at wsaydah@gmail.com with any questions related to the at home techniques. I am sending you all continued love and light during this difficult time and reminding everyone that the more love and care you put into yourself and those around you, the less room there will be for anything harmful to get in. 

 

Bearing Witness to a “God Wink.”

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I woke up this morning to a beautiful Amaryllis bloom. It had been holding back for months. Yet, in recent weeks, it seemed to have made a decision to come forward and burst into the miracle that it was meant to be, a gorgeous sculpture of deep red and intricate design, taking shape before my eyes.

Every Christmas I plant some sort of bulb in the hopes that it will bloom alongside the holiday. If the timing is right, the petals open just as the magical day arrives. I do this for a number of reasons. 

First, it is a reminder of the magnificence of life and its inherent beauty. It suggests that there is a force and intelligence greater than humanity. It offers an opportunity to witness the cycle of birth, growth, and death which on its own is a true miracle. I also love the color and majesty of the amaryllis in particular which is an extreme contrast to the darkness and cold of a New England December. 

This year I was late in purchasing the bulb. By the time I got to the garden store, there were only a few left. The stragglers were clearly the runts and it was questionable whether or not they had enough energy in them to bloom at all. I decided it was worth a try, so I spent the $10 and went on my way.

The chaos of the holiday ensued and it wasn’t until early January that I actually got the bulb into a pot. By the time it made its way onto the window shelf, I was pretty sure it would be a dud. 

January passed and then February and nothing. I watered it occasionally with no response. 

March approached and with it the turn of events that would bring on the global crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic. My attention was focused on stocking up on food and other supplies, making sure my daughters were safe, and setting up camp for a quarantine that would last God knows how long. The bulb left my mind entirely.

Then, in the middle of March I noticed it beginning to sprout. The stalk was growing. It was going to give it a shot. 

I was surprised by the timing, as if the flower had decided to come forth now when the world was in such crisis to offer me hope. I watched the miracle unfold over a couple of weeks and today it opened its petals full force. 

Perfect timing.

Some people believe there is no such thing as a coincidence. I am one of them. 

In Squire Rushnell’s book, “When God Winks,” he describes a coincidence as “a sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged.” 

We’ve all experienced situations in which something or someone shows up at just the right time; we are led unknowingly down a road that ends exactly where we want to be or something unplanned happens which saves us from impending tragedy. 

When this occurs, we can feel it. It may be a serendipitous sequence of events, but more likely we are being led down a predetermined path by a power that is greater than ourselves. 

My amaryllis in full bloom is a testament to the miracle of life and to divine timing. It feels like a God wink and that brings me peace and makes me smile.

For more real life stories of how the power of coincidence guides your life (with a lot of humor thrown in), check out a copy of Squire Rushnell’s book. It will leave you laughing, comforted and maybe even a believer.

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Calming Our Fears

Fear Emerson

Even before Covid-19, I had been waging a personal battle with fear. We’ve all experienced it. It has a powerful grip that keeps us paralyzed, increases our anxiety, makes us angry and defensive, threatens our relationships, and extinguishes the flame of our passions. It attracts more of itself (our thoughts bring about our reality). What we focus on grows.

A while back, I discovered the power of Positive Affirmations. (to learn more, check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmations_(New_Age). I experimented with formulating and writing out statements (all positive) of how I wanted things to be and how I wanted to feel.  I began to find that the success rate was staggering. 

I specifically remember a time when I was afraid to fly for fear of a crash and death, and whenever the air got bumpy I went into a full out panic attack. It curbed my desire to travel and when I did, it made the experience much more stressful. 

I distinctly remember this happening one time when I was in my 30s. While in mid-air during a rough flight, I started creating negative scenarios in my head and panic ensued. I recalled the process of enlisting positive affirmations and began repeating in my head “I am safe. The flight is smooth and easy. We arrive without incident. All is well.” 

I immediately felt better. I’m not sure if anything changed externally, but my reality made a complete 180 degree turn.

After that experience on the plane, I began applying this strategy to other instances where fear would surface; singing in front of an audience for the first time, setting boundaries with a friend, taking on a new business venture, entering into a love relationship. The thing I remember most about all these situations is that it worked. Every time.

Today, I am faced with the plethora of possible fears surrounding the pandemic and it is scary. It is hitting us all on many levels (health, finance, relationships, career). What will our futures be? 

I try to keep the negative input to a minimum. I only watch the news once a day from a credible source. I make sure I am eating well and getting enough sleep. I exercise/meditate/do yoga at least once a day. I facetime or call loved ones. I get outside. I forgive myself when I don’t accomplish as much as I’d like, and I replace negative fear thoughts with positive affirmations when I am feeling stressed.

We are currently fighting Covid-19 in full throttle mode.  That is a fact, but there is also another, perhaps greater, enemy that deserves our attention. 

Fear.

It is the perfect time to begin practicing love and positivity as an anecdote. It is a daily challenge, especially now.  Yet, if it is the one thing that defeats most people over all else, as Emerson states, then mastering it will be the way to freedom and victory for us all.

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