Laughing and crying, you know it's the same release. Joni Mitchell

Laughing and crying, you know it's the same release. Joni Mitchell

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Follow Your Bliss or The Devil Made Me Do It!

The Devil
I celebrated my birthday last week - a New Year, a New Beginning. Since the past year was pretty crappy, it can only get better, right? Still, I wanted to know: Where do I go from here? And the Universe answered: Follow your bliss! I happened to meet with my Dream Circle on my actual birthday (I brought delicious vegan, gluten-free cupcakes made from Pamela's chocolate cake mix). Since the majority of us have June birthdays, we decided to pull tarot cards as a portent of the year ahead for each of us. We used the Thoth tarot cards, a beautiful deck with multi-layered, cross-cultural symbols. I held my intention in my mind (where do I go from here?) as I chose a card from the deck. I pulled The Devil! The central image on the card was a smirking goat with long, curly horns and a third eye. We passed the card around the circle and each person gave me her impressions from the images on the card. But I still wasn't sure how The Devil pertained to me and where to go in the year ahead.

So when I got home, I consulted a reference book on the Thoth deck by Angeles Arrien called The Tarot Handbook. Arrien's interpretation of The Devil is: Mirth/humor at what "Bedevils" us. The smirking goat is also a symbol of Pan, that cheeky Greek God of Merriment and Sensuality, who unfortunately was demonized when monotheism took over paganism in the Middle Ages, thus becoming the Devil. He represents the "need to hold onto mirth, stability and centeredness to face our problems so we won't be thrown off balance."

Well, I've certainly faced plenty of things that bedeviled me this past year, and it has definitely thrown me off balance. I lost part of myself in the process as well as lost track of who I really am - a creative, vibrant, powerful woman! Luckily, there's another clue on The Devil card to help me regain that balance. Underneath the smirking goat are two testicles/ovaries that represent the "creative power within us that wants to be expressed with mirth and tangibility." It is important to follow what we are drawn toward or what inspires us in order to evoke unlimited creative energies within us that want to be expressed. Which reminded me of reconnecting with one of my favorite aritsts, Wolf Kahn, during my visit to Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers. After my trip, I pulled a book of his postcards off my shelf that had just been gathering dust. I decided to frame them and hang them on the wall where I can be inspired by the lusciousness of his colors and the peace of his joyful landscapes. Being inspired and surrounded by Kahn's art will stir the creative energies within me to be able to express my own art!

Arrien says that The Devil represents "the reclamation of joy and the recommittment to that which inspires and uplifts us." Well, I am reclaiming Joy, both myself - Joy with a capitol "J" - and my happiness - joy with a small "j" - and I am recommitting myself to all that inspires and uplifts me.

So, when you are bedeviled by something, remember the smirking goat and try to find the humor in the situation. And if you do get thrown off balance, just follow your bliss and you will regain yourself once again.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Dreaded of the Dreaded

Illustration of an HLA-DR (Human MHC class II)...Image via Wikipedia
Illustration of an HLA-DR antigen receptor
with bound antigen

At my third follow up appointment with Dr. Rothfeld at The Rothfeld Center, I found out why I'm more susceptible to getting ill and have more difficulty in getting well.  It's all encoded in my genetic make-up for immune system function.

It's a little bit confusing with all the "alphabet soup" but I'll try to keep it simple. The human leukocyte antigen system (HLA) contains a large number of genes related to human immune system function. HLA-DR is involved in disease susceptibility and disease resistance and there are several combinations of gene sequences in the HLA-DR complex. According to Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, author of Mold Warriors, there are two patterns in the alpha-chain, 4-3-53 and 11(12)-3-52B, that make the body very susceptible to biotoxins which he calls "The Dreaded." AND I HAVE BOTH - a double whammy! One sequence from one parent and one sequence from the other. There are also several patterns in the beta-chain that Dr. Shoemaker calls "The Dreaded of the Dreaded" which means it "tends to be difficult to get well." AND I HAVE THAT, TOO - a triple whammy!

The Genetic Fates dealt me not only The Dreaded, but The Dreaded of the Dreaded as well!

The good news is that I didn't have any abnormal levels of heavy metals - except for gadolinium which is used in the contrast for MRI's. Dr. Rothfeld said that they always see elevated levels in anyone whose had an MRI. However, no one knows if high levels of gadolinium are bad or not except for patients with kidney disorders. Given the uncertainty, Dr. Rothfeld endorsed my bi-annual MRI's in order to follow up on my previous benign brain tumor and make sure it doesn't come back. Okay, I'll take the risk there.

Having said all that, there are still indications of inflammation in my system as well as low reserves of a methylating enzyme (VIP) to fight that inflammation. So, Dr. Rothfeld put me on a protocol for removing toxins from my system. Because of my genetic predispostions, he also said that if I am exposed to toxins in the future that I should go back on this protocol right away:
  • NaproRella: a little green pill made from an algae that binds neurotoxins
  • FolaPro: a supplement to bypass the faulty methylating enzyme
  • Wellchol: this is actually a prescription cholesterol medication in a class called bile acid-binding resins. It works by removing bile acid from the body, causing the liver to make more bile by using cholesterol, which reduces cholesterol in the blood and lowers blood sugar. In my case, acid-binding resins will bind with the toxins and allow my body to eliminate them. A side benefit should be lowered cholesterol and blood sugar levels!
An added bonus was that my husband came to my appointment with me to hear first-hand about my test results, learn about my treatment plan, and meet my doctor. I hope the experience makes it easier for him to understand my situation and how I'm dealing with it. I know it can be hard for family members to cope with chronic illness in a loved one. It takes a lot of hard work and love to maintain supportive relationships!
    Enhanced by Zemanta

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    My Dream Literally Came True!

    My "dream" studio under construction in the real world!
    Have you ever had something from your dream life become manifest in your waking life? That's what happened to me a few weeks ago after my Tai Chi class. The hospital that hosts our class is building a new Health and Wellness Center, including a studio with a mirror for Tai Chi and QiGong classes. Our class was invited to check out the new center which was still under construction, so I did. There was a nice reception area with a hallway back to the conference rooms and classrooms. I found a studio with a full mirror on one wall so I knew it was the place. I walked in and saw a room that looked exactly like a studio I had dreamed about! I was so amazed that I snapped a few photos with my cell phone to capture the scene. I shared the photos with my Dream Circle, and they were amazed at how prophetic my dream had been.

    Let me back up a little bit and share the sequence of dreams that led to my "dream" studio. On March 17, 2011 I had a dream that I titled "Making Room." In the dream, I'm staying in a ritzy hotel suite and my parents are in the suite next door. I want to move the wall forward by three feet, so the manager comes to my room to look at the wall. I tell her that if we move the wall there will be a space between the rooms. The manager opens a door on the wall that reveals a space that already exists between the two suites. It's a dark, interior space and I can see the framing behind the walls. I tell my mom, "You know, by the time they even start working on moving the wall, we'll be gone."

    I was curious about that dark, hidden, womb-like space. It seemed connected to my interior life, my creative life, which I've been wanting to expand (perhaps by three feet?). On March 26, I woke at 4:00 a.m. and decided to find out more. I closed my eyes and put myself into the dark, hidden space between the two rooms and asked some direct questions:

    Q: What am I supposed to do in here?

    A: It's not about doing, it's about being.

    Q: Then what am I supposed to be in here?

    A: I saw a quick flash of another interior room that felt like an artist's basement studio. There was a sink and cabinets on the back wall and a window on the right. It was furnished with a table and chairs on one side and a sitting area on the other. I got up and jotted down the floor plan - which, lo and behold, looks exactly like the new Tai Chi studio! I was especially struck with the wall of cabinets (see photo below) that was arranged exactly like my dream with the sink on the left, cabinets overhead, a floor-to-ceiling cabinet on the right, and a window on the perpendicular wall. All the real room needed was some furniture to be a direct match with my dream studio.

    This is the room all about "being" and not "doing" just as my Higher Self instructed me. Here I will practice Tai Chi, the goal of which is to be in the moment and become "nothing." This is the state most conducive to creativity and well-being. A message my Dream Source was wise to send me! As far as my creative life, I've decided to just "let it be." When the time is right, it will come back in full force, better than before.

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Strolling of the Heifers Kicks Ass!

    Future farmers at the Strolling of the Heifers
    Brattleboro, VT

    For a kinder, gentler version of Spain's Running of the Bulls, head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers where cute young cows with flowers around their necks stroll down Main Street. That's what I did this weekend and it was a lot of fun, especially since the weather cooperated and we had a stellar, summer day. I met my friend, Elizabeth, who lives in Vermont and attended the Slow Living Summit prior to the parade of cows. The fact that my friend also has fibromyalgia was one of the reasons I was able to enjoy the event so much. She understood that I needed to take things slow with lots of breaks in between events. Only someone with fibro can really know what it's like to deal with it. To be able to continue to live life but with lots of modifications in order to avoid flare-ups and other painful episodes.

    After the parade we went back to our guesthouse to rest and eat. Then we walked to the town common to enjoy the Live Green Expo with green vendors, food, live music (I really enjoyed Groove Shoes Funk Orchestra), cheese village (it is Vermont after all!), live animals and rides for the kids. At the end of the expo we stopped at the Nature Spa booth and each had a 10-minute massage. We were both so relaxed by the massage that we headed back to our rooms for a little afternoon siesta. With all the resting and eating and taking things slowly, I was able to enjoy the whole event without killing myself.

    Vermont Alpacas
    Gaines Farm
    Guilford, VT
    On Sunday we went to Gaines Farm to help with the Tour de Heifer, a farm bike tour. Gaines Farm was a delightful Vermont farm with a baby animal barn for kids to encounter baby animals, an adorable cow train that was featured in the Strolling of the Heifers Parade, and a corn maze (in the fall). Bikers were treated to bagels and cream cheese, coffee, water bottles and t-shirts before starting their six-mile farm-to-farm family ride. Elizabeth and I reminisced about the days when we would have been able to participate in a six-mile bike ride, but no more. At this point, we had to be content with handing out water bottles and information about upcoming events, like the Tour de Farms, a bike tour of Addison County farms in the fall.

    We also found time to visit the BMAC, Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, and saw an interesting exhibit called In the Zone III featuring artists who live or work in the state of Vermont. My favorite was a Mexican artist named Marco Abarca who creates whimsical, surreal wooden sculptures based on folk tales or the artist's own tales. As a children's story teller, I was immediately attracted to his art. The exhibit provided paper and markers for kids to create their own stories based on Abarca's work. I'm not sure how an artist from Oaxaca, Mexico made it into an exhibit of Vermont artists, but I'm glad he did. I also found out that the museum is selling limited edition prints from three well-known Vermont artists, including Wolf Kahn, one of my favorite landscape artists. Kahn will personally autograph his print for the lucky buyer, and I'm seriously considering it!

    All in all, it was a lovely weekend visiting with my friend, communing with the cows and absorbing art.

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    The Cure for Fibromyalgia? Do Nothing!

    Dr. Ming Wu
    According to my Tai Chi instructor, Dr. Ming Wu, conditions like fibromyalgia, asthma, and chronic pain are all in your mind. That's not to say that these conditions are not real, or that they are psychosomatic, but rather that they are controlled by the brain. Dr. Wu said that an ailment of the body, like a broken leg, needs treatment by a doctor or hospital, but curing an ailment of the mind, like fibromyalgia, is easy - simply do nothing. When we are controlled by our minds, we are either obsessing about the past or worrying about the future. To do nothing means to live in the moment. To live in our bodies and not in our minds. To live effortlessly. An accomplished practitioner of Tai Chi, like Dr. Wu, can achieve all this. Tai Chi becomes a moving meditation in which the mind is disengaged and the body takes over. As Dr. Wu says, it's simple but not easy. It takes discipline and practice.

    Dr. Wu also introduced me to the concept of "monkey-mind," which Wikipedia describes as "a Buddhist term meaning 'unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable'." This is not the way to "do nothing."

    If you get out of your mind and into your body, the pain goes away.  ~ Dr. Ming Wu

    Dr. Wu used a few examples from the movie Kung Fu Panda.  After the Furious Five are defeated by their enemy, Master Shifu decides Po is ready to receive the Dragon Scroll, which is said to hold the secret to limitless power. But when Po unrolls the scroll he reveals nothing but a blank surface. The secret is "nothing!" 

     Dr. Wu also quoted Oogway, the wise master tortoise:
    "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift, and that is why it's called the present."
    I understand exactly what Dr. Wu means. When I'm writing or painting, I loose myself in the joy of it. I get into the zone and loose total track of time. And I'm certainly not thinking about my pain or how tired I am! Being in the moment is energizing and takes me away from my illness, even if it's just for a little while.

    One of my classmates in Tai Chi suggested a book called How To Be Sick--A Buddhist's Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers by Toni Bernhard. I haven't read it, but it sounds interesting. Bernhard has chronic fatigue syndrome and writes about dealing with a chronic condition from a Buddhist perspective.

    Touched by Lyme reviews How To Be Sick on Amazon:
    This book is not about how to get sick or how to stay sick. It's about how to "be" when you are sick. How to have a worthwhile existence, finding meaning, purpose and joy, even when chronic illness seems to have stolen your life away.
    Bernhard also uses a technique developed by Bryon Katie for re-framing negative thoughts called "The Work." Katie asks these four questions to "turnaround" negative thoughts:

    Step 1 Is it true?

    Step 2 Can you absolutely know that it's true?

    Step 3 How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

    Who would you be without the thought?

    That's a lot of information to digest: living in the moment; doing "nothing"; monkey mind; re-framing negative thoughts - but I hope it helps you get through another day!
    Enhanced by Zemanta