Toxic/Not Toxic

This is toxic:

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This is not toxic:

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And that’s why I don’t use the word ‘detox’. Yes, it’s time for my yearly campaign to ban the word ‘detox’ and any associated eating plan that encourages us to either eliminate entire classes of macronutrients, requires a blood test before we meal plan or encourages us to subsist on lemon, cayenne and honey.

Why don’t we call what most of us are about to embark on in a few days’ time what it actually is: an opportunity to practice mindful eating.

The problem with a ‘detox’ program – or any strictly defined and limiting diet that promises more than it can deliver – is that it is finite. The rules and edges are so sharply defined that we are almost guaranteed to fail.

If instead we reframe our efforts as an opportunity to slow down and to consider our food choices, we allow ourselves room to explore, to try something new, to reset and – most importantly – to change our relationship to food, our bodies and the intentions we hold when we eat.

 


Me, too.

CIMG2733The hashtag ‘me, too’ isn’t enough and I am not man-bashing. I’m asking the question, “when are boys taught that certain behaviors towards girls are all right and who does the teaching?”

As a girl I was taught to be either flattered, to shrug it off because ‘boys will be boys’ or to wonder what I did wrong. And now I’m asking the question, “when are girls taught that being objectified by a boy is something to aspire to and who does the teaching?”

I was taught by observing my mother and my older sister, their behavior with men and the behavior of the men they chose to have in their lives. But I was also taught by what I watched on television, by the books I read, and by the screaming silence.

How can we teach our children? By no longer being silent.

I’ve decided to share seven experiences that shaped my life.

  1. When I was a pre-teen my first step-father liked to wrestle with me. We wrestled on his and my mother’s bed. He always pulled on my training bra until it opened.
  2. When I was a teenager my second-step father told me I had nice breasts.
  3. Around that same time, a local boy told me he needed help with is homework and asked if I would come to his house. When I arrived he talked me into crawling through the hay bale tunnel he had built with a friend. The friend was waiting in the fort, trapping me in the middle. I managed to talk them out of whatever they planned to do, came home and took a bath.
  4. When I was a senior in high school, a member of the football team stopped me in the hallway to the gym and asked me to unbutton my blouse. I remember thinking how stupid his request was and called his bluff. He was disappointed I was wearing a bra.
  5. When I was a college freshman a plumber who was at my apartment to fix a radiator finished the job and then thought it was appropriate to hug me and grab my bottom.
  6. Several years ago I was in an psychologically abusive relationship. I was called ugly. I was called stupid and told I would amount to nothing. My words and opinions were laughed at. Why didn’t I leave? I was beginning to believe him and I was afraid of his reaction if I began to pack my bags.
  7. A few months ago I was in a local hardware store having a key made. A man working there thought it was all right for him to lean his body against my body and pull me uncomfortably close.

I know that it goes both ways. Women are capable of questionable behavior and sexual predation, too. But I can tell you that in my fifty-nine years I have never wrestled with a boy to feel him up. I’ve never told a man he has a nice package. I have never trapped a boy in a hay bale fort nor have I ever asked a boy to pull down his pants. I have never hugged a plumber so that I could grab his bottom. I’ve never frightened a man until he believed there was no hope. I have never leaned my body against a stranger in order to pull him close.

There are moments in my life when I made poor choices. So let’s teach our children about making choices. Let’s teach our children. Let’s not be silent anymore.


Vision, Clarity and Cataracts

A few hours after surgery.

A few hours after surgery.

For the twenty-four months that I was in graduate school I struggled to complete reading assignments. I labeled myself lazy. I was convinced I lacked discipline when it felt impossible to read more than three or four pages at a time.

The truth was I struggled to complete reading assignments because I was struggling to see.

Over twenty million Americans over the age of forty have cataracts and in 2015 approximately three million will have cataract surgery. I am one of those three million. Two weeks ago the vision in my left eye hovered around 20/400. Today my distance vision in the same eye is 20/20. In a few months I’ll have the cataract in my right eye removed. I hope for the same sparkling results.

It’s true. The world, through my left eye, sparkles. I’m shocked by the clarity and crisp edges, the color and the detail. How did I not know what I was missing?

I guess cataracts sneak up on us. The diminishing light isn’t noticed. It’s not until an ophthalmologist sees the clouding of the lens and says, “Oh! You have a cataract!” that we realize we’ve been missing out. We’ve not been able to see all that this beautiful world has to offer.

In that way, cataracts are a bit like habits we ignore until we can no longer notice the impact they have on our lives.

I have some habits, some cycles I go through, that diminish the quality of my life in the same way that pesky cataract diminished my vision. The patterns that I bump into again and again dull my spirit. They include disparaging thought loops and actions that I know are harmful. They include choices that do not support health and wellness and spoken words that weaken the positive energy I wish to carry into the studio classes I teach, my work with individual clients and the loving relationships I’m blessed to have in my life.

Becoming aware of the patterns that make it difficult to live our best and brightest life and then taking action to bring about a return to clarity reminds us that we all hold a vision in our hearts.

This simple procedure to repair my broken vision has led me to ask myself once again, “How do I want to walk through this life?”

For now, at least, I can see that walk a little more clearly.

 

 

 


It’s True. I am Practically Twisted.

Photo 188I left home for five days at the last week of January to attend a closing seminar that celebrated the end of my first year in the master’s program at ITP/Sofia and the beginning of my second.  I left home believing in one version of me, and returned embracing another.

One of the irritations of being a student of ITP/Sofia is having friends not affiliated with the school ask you (in some cases, repeatedly) So, Mimm, what is it exactly you’ll be able to do with this when you’re done?

How should I know?  The school, after all, is decidedly left-of-center.  Physically little more than two industrial sized single-story buildings in a doublewide parking lot, in truth the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now Sofia University) is filled with individuals who have chosen to study the spiritual heart of the psyche.  I’ve met young PhD candidates leaning toward a career in research and Pagans in the master’s program destined for academia.  I know graduates who a decade later continue to quietly counsel clients struggling to make sense of their lives and shiny new students walking a path deeply entrenched in the search for a higher consciousness.  Somehow they’ve found ITP/Sofia but even here, they stand out in their choice to initiate a journey leading them further from the mainstream.

When I enrolled, my only intention was to find a course of study that would deepen my practice.  And when I chose my second-year specialization, Transformation Life Coaching, I wanted a practical translation of my deepening practice that I could take out into the world.  I wanted to choose a reasonable course.  A safe journey. Something that might lead to a comfortable retirement plan.

I should have known better.  Right or wrong, I’ve never considered a comfortable retirement plan a high priority even though the thought of not having one can, from time to time, induce a pulse quickening panic attack.

It was Day Three of the seminar when I stood in line for a cup of green tea and felt it coming on.  There was a quivering around my heart. Change is something I like to ease into.  I prefer a slow graceful curve to a hairpin turn.  What I was beginning to feel in my heart was neither slow nor graceful. I took my mug into the assembly room and sat by John.  John has been a long distance anchor and older brother to me this past year.  John, I said, I chose the wrong specialization.  And I already bought all the textbooks.

John didn’t hesitate.

Mimm, he shrugged and said, everyone needs more books.

It was as simple as that.  Spending a little extra money (even money that I don’t have) on a few more books is better than being tied to a specialization that was chosen simply so that I could answer the question everyone but me needed an answer to:  What is it you’ll be able to do when all this is done?

We’re heard it before.  That we’re to follow our bliss and let our heart sing.  It sounds so sweet, doesn’t it?  So easy.  But of course anyone who has committed to a life melody based on the song in their heart knows that, in truth, this journey, like all journeys, has moments of difficulty.  Along the way we’re going to hit a few bum notes.

The difficulties we face, however, on a journey that begins from the heart, seem easier somehow.  They feel less like psychic tsunamis and more like rogue waves.  The difficulties we face on journeys begun from the heart are more easily navigated.

It was not my intention to be a full-time student at fifty-five.  But here I am.  And it feels good.  I know I’m not alone on this road and I know I haven’t made the most practical choice.  But I’m all right with that.  My new specialization is Spiritual Psychology.

You’re probably wondering, what will she be able to do with that when she’s done?

Watch this space.


Reflexology – A Treat for the Feet

Português:

I’ve been an ITEC Certified Reflexologist for ten years.  The modality is a treat for anyone but especially perfect if you are in recovery from illness or surgery or simply have difficulty navigating the climb onto a massage table.  Reflexology can be done in your home from the comfort of your favorite chair.  A version of this article was published in Yoga Living Magazine in 2010.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been delighted to accept new Reflexology clients and for them I happily re-post this article.

My Feet Are Killing Me!

Really?  Maybe it’s the other way around.  Let’s face it.  Our feet are underappreciated.  They carry the weight of our bodies with nary a complaint.  We smoosh them into poorly fitted shoes that force our little phalanges into unnatural shapes. And then we stand on them for hours. We depend on our feet to keep us moving from home to work and then, at the end of the day, we increase the massive force of each footfall by slipping on a pair of running shoes and going for a jog on hard concrete.

And what thanks do they get?

Nada.

If they’re lucky we’ll give our toes a wee wiggle before bed.  Our feet deserve more.  Pedicures are pretty, but I’m talking about deep healing.  I’m talking about maintaining the health of our feet while supporting health and healing throughout the entire body.  I’m talking Reflexology.

Reflexology to the Rescue

Reflexology is a massage and pressure point technique applied to the sole of the foot similar in theory to acupressure massage and acupuncture.

I know – I bet you think you’re too ticklish. Who hasn’t suffered under the hands of an older sibling who, at some point during our childhood, took cruel delight in torturing us by tickling our toes, home to thousands of nerve endings?

But stimulating these nerve endings – with a firm and not ticklish touch – sends messages to corresponding areas of the body.  Reflexology calms the nervous system and supports our body in a way that restores equilibrium by stimulating sluggish energetic pathways while settling pathways that are overactive, thus providing an opportunity for the body to begin the healing process. Reflexology builds and sustains our reserves and enables us to cope with day-to-day stress triggers.  Regular reflexology treatments may also shorten our recovery time from major life upsets or illness.

A Brief History

Eastern cultures noticed the link between the health of our feet and general wellness thousands of years ago.  They didn’t call their work reflexology, and they hadn’t mapped out the foot reflexes, but they knew that regular massage and an appreciation for the feet supported overall vitality.

Reflexology as we know it today arrived more recently in the West – during the early part of the twentieth century – when Eunice Ingham developed the reflex ‘maps’ therapists are familiar with today.

The popularity of reflexology is on the rise as therapists and clients discover the intense effects working on the soles of the feet have on the rest of the body.  Reflexology is a gentle way for clients who are not comfortable disrobing for a full-body massage to receive the stress relieving benefits of touch therapy.

In the Zone

Reflexology divides the foot into ten vertical zones and three horizontal zones.  The zones act like a guide for the reflexologist – a ‘foot map’ of sorts.  In theory a blockage in one part of a zone correlates to a particular organ but also influences everything else in that zone.  Working the appropriate and specific foot reflex within the zone will stimulate subtle muscular contraction or release throughout the zone.

The zones of the feet are similar to the meridians used in acupuncture and acupressure.

As with acupuncture and acupressure, reflexology is a therapy that demonstrates the interrelationship between the different physiological systems as well as the mind, body and spirit.

Tell Me More…

A reflexology treatment lasts between forty-five minutes and an hour.  Unlike a full-body massage you’ll remain – except for your feet of course – fully clothed.  The therapist will begin by ‘greeting’ both feet, looking for any abnormalities, calluses or injuries.  It’s better to skip the toenail polish on the day of your treatment – your therapist will want to note any discoloration in the nail bed.  Finally, she’ll take a whiff.  An odor coming from the feet may point to a kidney or liver imbalance – but remember, reflexology is not a diagnostic tool.  An imbalance could indicate a temporary increase in life stress, an immune response to a virus or bacterium, or even a simple lack of attention to the diet.

So Far So Good – Then What Happens?

After several minutes of warming up, when you’re therapist has you floating in that wonderful place between sleep and bliss the real work begins.

Most reflexologists work one foot at a time, beginning with the right, although techniques will vary.  Some therapists have a light touch; others work more deeply. Both techniques are effective.

The reflexologist divides the foot into regions and systematically ‘thumb walks’ over each section.   The technique, where the outer edge of the thumb pad presses on the surface of the foot, allows the therapist to feel one small area at a time. The therapist can be very specific with her touch, stimulating reflex points with precision.

During this time she may feel a change in texture.  Sometimes areas that need work are indicated by small nodules beneath the skin that feel a little bit like grains of sand.  These are not harbingers of doom – they simply reflect a possible weakness. Your therapist will note these areas and either work on them immediately or go back to them toward the end of the treatment.

For example, if your immune system is compromised – if you’re coming down with a cold – your spleen reflex may feel a bit spongy or rough. She may work the area with more pressure or press additional ‘helper’ reflexes in order to soften or break up the nodule before moving on to another area of the foot.  She might also suggest aftercare – possibly including yoga asana – to strengthen a depleted immune system.

What Does it Feel Like?

The opening sequence of a treatment will feel very much like a typical foot massage. Your therapist may incorporate a few gentle stretches and joint manipulations that are beneficial to the circulatory system and conducive to relaxation. When the more specific aspects of the reflexology treatment begin you’ll feel the light pressure of thumb walking along a specific pathway on the foot. When your therapist finds an area of imbalance you may experience tenderness or irritation at that reflex point.

Some therapists will prefer to keep your head elevated.  This allows them to watch for the subtle changes in your expression as you respond to the treatment.  It’s important to communicate with your therapist – to tell her if something hurts, or if her touch is too strong – but sometimes during the treatment you’ll be too relaxed to speak.  Keeping your head elevated is the therapist’s way of keeping the lines of communication open.

General Aftercare

You will be encouraged to rest and relax following your treatment.  Find a quiet, still environment and sip water or herbal tea.  Allow the transition between your treatment and the return to ‘real’ life to be as gentle and easy as possible.

Reflexology is profoundly relaxing.  It soothes the nervous system and relieves stress.  While it does not offer a cure or a diagnosis, you can consider reflexology a conduit for greater healing.

While most treatments support general well being, a good therapist will be able to design a program that addresses specific concerns and conditions.  For instance, reflexology is excellent for digestive issues and sleep disturbances. It can also be of benefit for anyone suffering from chronic headaches and has been shown to provide relief from fibromyalgia. The truth is, reflexology has a positive effect on many chronic problems.  And while it isn’t a substitute for medical treatment, it is a powerful complement to an allopathic approach to illness.

A Home Treatment for Feet:

Use a golf ball to stimulate meridians and reflex points in the soles of the feet.  Soaking the feet in warm, scented water only adds to the treatment.

  • Place the golf ball on a folded towel (this will help keep it from rolling away from you).
  • Begin by resting the right foot on the ball at your diaphragm/solar plexus reflex.  This point is just below the ball of the foot, close to the midline.
  • Curling the toes down will stretch the top of the foot.
  • Hold this position for a few breaths.
  • When that feels complete, begin running the ball slowly up and down the foot, from the inside to the out.  Use firm but not painful pressure. Linger at any areas that may feel sensitive.  You can repeat this pattern as often as you like.
  • And then run the ball from side to side, working from the toes to the heel.  Again, stop and linger at any sensitive areas.
  • Repeat with the left foot.

Relieving Stress on the Road: 

A simple trick for calming down when stress attacks is finding the diaphragm/solar plexus point on the palm of your hand and applying a light pressure.  To find the point:

  • Relax the hand
  • Allow your left hand to fold gently and observe the creases in the palm.
  • They become well-defined and move towards one another.
  • The point where they are closest – just above the pad of the thumb and just below the space between the index and middle finger – that’s the general area of the solar plexus/diaphragm point.
  • Press into that spot gently with the pad of your right thumb.
  • Breathe in as you press.  Breathe out as you release.
  • Repeat several times, slowly and with self-awareness.
  • Repeat on the right side.

For more information about reflexology, or to find a reflexologist in your area visit these websites:

Reflexology Association of America: http://www.reflexology-usa.org/

American Reflexology Certification Board: www.arcb.net


Fessin’ Up and Clearing the Decks

My…ahem…tens of readers will know that over the past few months I’ve attempted to take a proactive approach to self-improvement.  Improving one’s ‘Self’ is unique to each individual.  Some folks want to abandon bad habits; others look to be more social.  If you read THIS post or THIS one, you’ll remember that I wanted to let go of my addiction to Hulu.  Having already given my television to Goodwill I had slipped into the bad habit of watching Hulu from bed with the laptop perched on my belly. I hoped the hours formerly spent glued to the boob tube would now be spent reading.  I went so far as to challenge myself to read one book per week.

I also wanted to create a meditation practice.

Now that winter has turned to spring, how am I doing?  Just fine.  Thanks for asking.

It took a bit of negotiation with my psyche and more than a little self-compassion, but I’m doing just fine.

My 21-hours per week television/Hulu addiction is down to about two or three hours per week (unless I’m house sitting – who can ignore a flat screen TV the size of a wall and surround sound???)

Did I read all the books I wanted to read?  No.  But I’m reading.  All the time.  But a little necessity called work prevented me from maintaining the breakneck pace I set for myself.

The meditation practice is blossoming.  Establishing a good habit is a process of repetition.  For several weeks I struggled to remember to practice.  But then the corner was turned and now I miss it when my practice slips.  And it does slip.

Last week was one of those weeks when I fell off the wagon.  Nothing prevented me from enjoying my regular daily mediation except the story I was spinning in my head about being overwhelmed and overworked.  A few days into my lapsed practice a friend turned to me and said, “You haven’t been meditating.”

How could he have noticed?  How could he not have noticed?

I slipped back into regular practice the next day.

We make choices about how we want to live our lives.  We set goals, we plot a course.  We hope.

And then life happens.  Extraordinary, brilliant, tragic, wonderful life.

Sometimes we fall.  Sometimes we need to change course.  But always we pick ourselves back up and head into the wind.  And then we soar.

And that’s how I’m doing.

ps…in my quest to crush my writer’s block I’ve given an old blog a new name:  Your Daily Prompt.  If you’re a writer – even if you’re not – take a look.


Home Sweet Home

House sitting is a little bit like grand parenting (not that I have any experience being a grandparent, but I can imagine).  What I mean is that I move into a home, look after the fine furnishings, the houseplants and the mail.  I lovingly care for the cat, dog, or Koi in question and then – after a few days or a few weeks – I hand it all back.

House sitting is also a bit discombobulating.

Returning home over the weekend after my last extended gig, I believe I felt as disoriented and jet-lagged as the homeowners.  I had grown accustomed to their lovely house, the big kitchen, and the shaded deck where I shared meals with my friend.

It became very comfortable.

And now I’m back in the apartment that I am of course very grateful for but I have to admit – it feels pretty small.  It’s taken me a few days to figure out how to live in the space again.  I can’t remember where my “things” are, and I can’t figure out why I have so much stuff crammed into 200-square-feet.

It’s time to clear the decks.

I want to peel back the layers of detritus – the physical and psychic debris that litters my path and slows the journey.