on nature relation,
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telling my life stories
The Liminality of Grief: Befriending The Unknown through Radical Rest, Self-care & Forgiveness
This past year has been filled with unknowns and the deepest grief I've ever experienced. It's been an extremely challenging time of much inner and outer growth, bringing surprises, life-affirming gifts and transformation. This year has been a culmination; the end of a story; the story of my parent's lives in Oregon for the past 20 years. This time has also marked for me an end and a new beginning for myself. This ending and new beginning is something I still am melding and moving through. So, I'll use one of my most potent self-care tools and do what I do; I'll write it and I'll edit it for hours and days until I've sculpted the story and etched it energetically in my heart, mind and soul.
For decades, writing has been a love of mine and my passion for teaching and for self-care has launched me on a path as a Healer and Wellness Educator. I love writing about my life and work. Over the years through my own healing path, I have fully embraced nature and energy practices as potent tools for wellness. When my work came to a sudden halt during The Pandemic, so did much of my writing spark. In early 2020 the day the state of Oregon locked down, my elderly parents moved into a nearby retirement community. With Covid regulations, it was months before I could enter their apartment. My focus was managing their connection to the outside world and their medical needs such as trips to the emergency room, falls or a sudden collapse which became common for them when medical access was suddenly limited. One day early in The Pandemic my dad's doctor actually walked over to the parking lot of their retirement community and in the back seat of my car palpated my father's lower abdomen. For my dad, it seemed it had come down to getting his medical care in the backseat of a 2007 Honda Fit.
With my parents many needs and my work suddenly on pause, I pieced together a new life. Besides stepping into a role as caregiver for my parents, I prioritized tending to my own needs for stress regulation as I grieved the loss of my work, the state of humanity and the planet. At that time when the planes were grounded and the roads were empty, I actually rejoiced in the quiet streets, the silent, clear blue skies and the gentle life of the forest, suddenly reclaimed by residents of The More Than Human World. There were few humans to be found in the woods then. I still smile with memories of squirrels and ducks pattering along the many trails, long used by humans. They seemed to know we humans were taking a pause.
In the past years, in Southern Oregon, the severe drought has intensified and summer and fall wild fires have become the new normal. On September 8, 2020, The Almeda Fire which started a mile from my home, raced through our valley destroying close to 3000 structures, leaving thousands homeless. Our community stress levels skyrocketed with high anxiety, overwhelm and PTSD from evacuation and loss of homes and livelihood. It was terribly frightening. Many have since relocated. I have relocated twice since 2019 in reaction to the climate disaster here and each time have ended up like a boomerang, back to my "village" of Ashland. My community ties of 40 years are so strong it's been almost impossible to leave my people and the land I love as well as my then, aging parents. During The Almeda Fire they too were evacuated and quite traumatized. One year later after another summer of extreme heat and smoke, I relocated to Portland in September 2021 and traveled to Ashland every month to tend to my parent's needs. I finally gave it up and came home after 4 months. I acknowledged that Southern Oregon for now is truly home, even with the environmental disasters.
My parents were managing well, even with my mom's dementia and had moved to an assisted living apartment in 2021. I made the move back from Portland in time for my mom's 90th birthday last January. Ten days later my dad reported not feeling well. After blood work and an echo cardiogram, it was clear that his heart failure had progressed to a new level. I somehow had received an intuitive call to return from Portland even before this news. The cardiologist told me and my sister's he'd never seen a heart so bad in a patient who was still alive. My dad who was convinced at age 94 that he would live to be at least 110, reluctantly signed the intake forms to go on Hospice in early March. We thought he might have a month left. My parents stayed in their apartment with the facility staff, private care givers and help from me as well as Hospice. My dad was very concerned for my mother since he was her anchor and first line caregiver. My mom fully depended on him. During my dad's Hospice journey, though he mostly slept, his presence alone anchored my mom. I was with them often. As my dad's condition progressed, they both needed more care. My dad was so stubborn and so convinced he'd never die that he almost convinced me and his friends as well.
"Once my dad woke up when his Hospice nurse arrived and spoke with her about the light he was seeing as he looked out their sliding door. Dad said, "It feels like this light is here now to stay." At the same visit my dad described to Molly how he had felt like he was dying the previous night. I asked him how it felt and in his Iowa inflection, he said, "Pretty good." This was all happening to a man who had been terrified of death and had described it for years as, "Nothing but blackness." Now on his Hospice journey my dad was discovering a new reality with open curiosity and trust."
My father had no spiritual beliefs though he was culturally Jewish. He had mainly attended synagogue services at my mom's behest or for the socializing and food. He had been terrified of death for as long as I can remember. Knowing this, I was quite surprised when he was gifted with a very unusual 3.5 month Hospice journey.
Increasingly, my dad spent much time in deep sleeps-sometimes in bed with my mom or both of them awake, chatting and cuddling and most often in his recliner during the day. Many times I arrived as they were both waking up around noon and my dad was sharing with my mom where he had been and who he had seen during his "sleep." He would wake during the day after a long sleep, saying, "I'm not sure if I'm dead or alive." My dad shared these experiences with me, describing what I think of as journeying, in rich and vivid detail. It was different than his waking reality and by no means a typical dream. It was so real that he remembered and described the details for weeks. Many times when his Hospice nurse, Molly, visited, he shared these experiences with her. After this happened the first few times, Molly said, "Maynard, it sounds like you may be traveling between worlds." My dad said, "I think I am." He shared about our ancestors who were communicating with him. Often he described his mother and his brothers and sister being present or having spoken to them. Sometimes he would talk to me and my mother thinking my mom was his mother. My mom was not happy about that. My dad was often disoriented during this time, not knowing where he was. Once he told me it seemed like the furniture in their apartment didn't belong to them and that it felt like we were in a store of some kind. More than once he recounted how he almost fell but the most beautiful, shining and loving woman he'd ever seen stopped his fall. My dad was very impressed by her, stating he had never felt so much love. Many times he talked to me and my mom about "the train" he was seeing out the back window, saying, "It feels like we're in a train station." or "It feels like we should be leaving soon." or "Do you see the building across the courtyard? It looks like a moving train." In the midst of these episodes my dad seemed perfectly lucid. He was open to sharing these experiences which he seemed in awe of. It was beautiful to be a witness to this. Once my dad woke up when his Hospice nurse arrived and spoke with her about the light he was seeing as he looked out their sliding door. Dad said, "It feels like this light is here now to stay." At the same visit my dad described to Molly how he had felt like he was dying the previous night. I asked him how it felt and in his Iowa inflection, he said, "Pretty good." This was all happening to a man who had been terrified of death and had described it for years as, "Nothing but blackness." Now on his Hospice journey my dad was discovering a new reality with open curiosity and trust..
My parents many friends came to visit when there was a chance my mom and dad might be awake, but mostly, from mid-April into late June, they both spent hours each day sleeping opposite one another on their chairs in the living room. For my mom, sleeping was a symptom of her dementia. Just before Father's Day my dad started into his active dying phase-sleeping most of the night and day, eating little and very disoriented. On Father's Day he took his last walk with me through their building. He later listened to "Morning Has Broken" by Cat Stevens on his Alexa while looking at a card from my younger sister which contained the song lyrics. My dad listened and looked up at my mother, smiling and extremely out of breath and in a slurred voice said, "Those are great songs." I knew in that moment that my dad would soon be gone. Tears streamed down my cheeks with Cat Stevens voice and my dad's smile tucked away in my heart.
The next day, resting in his recliner, my dad slipped into a coma; his "death sleep", accompanied by severe atrial fibrillation. My mother stood beside her husband of 71 years all night, holding his hand, saying, "I don't think dad will make it this time." She was able to track that he was dying, even with her Alzheimer's. Throughout my dad's Hospice journey my mother said, "What a horrible time to have memory problems when my husband is dying!" She would wake up each day once again discovering as if for the first time that her husband was dying. She knew just by looking at him. My heart was breaking.
The hospital bed arrived the next morning. It was Tuesday and my dad didn't get up again. My sister's arrived the following afternoon. Since Tuesday dad's heart had been racing at 200 beats a minute. The comfort medications Hospice provided barely calmed his heart rate. Though dad couldn't speak we knew it was extremely intense for him. It looked like his heart was jumping out of his chest. Amazingly, a few hours before he died on Thursday evening, my dad, who was known for his side-splitting jokes, pulled himself from his death sleep, and forced his eyes open to mere slits and almost inaudibly whispered his last joke to his beloved Hospice nurse, Molly, her ear next to his mouth. By evening, my dad's heart finally slowed and finally at peace, with my older sister by his side, he took his last breath. My sister's had gone to bed and I quietly sat with my dad's body, waiting for the funeral home to come for him. I thought my mom was asleep as she'd gone to bed just before he died. Once they had taken my father, my mom, still awake, called me into her room and I lay in bed with her. She said, "Dad's dead isn't he?" I told her yes and we lay quietly together holding one another.
My dad's death and loss caused my mom's dementia to spiral out of control. Without her anchor, she could no longer stay in assisted living, even with private caregivers. Within three weeks of my dad's death my mom was in a memory care facility near my older sister in Montana, and has since rapidly declined and is now on Hospice.
My father who had been mentally vibrant up until the end was now gone and my mother too was suddenly gone. Her rushed move was totally out of my control and at the same time necessary. None of us were prepared for how the move played out. At this point my mom has few if any memories of my dad, how many children or grandchildren she has and little understanding of where she is.
My grief dropped me into anxiety, despair, disorientation and exhaustion. It was partially triggered by my dad's death and partially from very painful family dynamics with my sisters, related to the circumstances of my mom's sudden move. My cortisol was rushing and my body felt out of my control. I was taking 1-2 naps a day and waking each night about 3 am, struggling to return to sleep. I have always been a good sleeper but my body clock and metabolism were suddenly out of control. I cried for weeks and let the tears bring me back to balance. Though physically weak I would slowly walk the 2.5 miles to my sit-spot at Ashland Creek as many days a week as possible. I'd sit on my rock and drop into my senses, sinking my feet and calves in the ice cold creek for long periods. After an hour or so, I walked down the trail once again, very slowly. Each time I left my sit-spot I felt a little more alive, more whole and a lot more human. As I walked the trail home I noticed the people I passed gently turning away from my red swollen eyes, offering me privacy and maybe protecting themselves from my grief.
I gathered every self-care tool I had to regain my balance and energy. Self-Care has become an integral part of my daily life following a health crisis which flattened me in 2013. These practices have been a lifeline for my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Over the past 9 years I have integrated numerous practices into my day for grounding and balance. Self-Reiki, The Wim Hof Method-breath work & cold water immersion, skin brushing, Medical Qigong, Forest Bathing/Nature Immersion, EcoNIDRA and Gratitude are all core to my self-care.
To manage my energy and grief and regulate my nervous system, I streamlined my daily self-care practices to wherever I felt most drawn. In the morning before rising I typically did Self Reiki and Wim Hof Method Breathing followed by a hot shower ending with 2 minutes of cold. Before breakfast, Jinjing Qigong helped get my body moving and energy flowing. In the cool of the morning, I often followed breakfast with an aerobic walk to the park. After about 20 minutes I gently slowed down to a slow meander as I transitioned to Forest Bathing. I dropped into my senses, letting my attention go where it was pulled and ditching any mental concepts of where I should be or what I should be doing. I eventually arrived at my sit-spot, a place in nature where I'd simply sit and experience nature through my senses. I sat and noticed and sat and felt and sat and noticed. Here I felt safe and present enough to cry and release whatever wanted out. Another practice which helped me through this time, was EcoNIDRA™, a nature-based form of the ancient practice of Yoga Nidra. I'd choose one of my many EcoNIDRA™ recordings and rest on my bed in late afternoon, facilitated through a 3 stage journey- through my senses, my body and The Earth for about 50 minutes. This practice offered radical rest for my body and nervous system while doing absolutely nothing; drifting between a state of waking and sleep. Mid-afternoon and evening allowed me time to ground and focus on my remote work. Lastly, before turning my light out, I'd write in my gratitude journal-the best thing from my day; the worst thing and a list of all I was grateful for.
Between the Reiki; breath work; cold water; qigong; walking; forest bathing; EcoNIDRA™ and Gratitude, my nervous system began to calm and I began returning to myself. I returned to a whole self with a broad perspective of all that had happened after my dad's death and a much clearer understanding of who I was. Life felt new in many ways. My father had died; my mother was physically gone with her mind rapidly going. Through profound grief I had summoned the strength and determination to complete the passage, having pulled myself out of a deep hole. Everything felt new. The grief process helped me let go of how I previously perceived my life. It was a time for release, deep integration and rest. I was Alice on her journey through The Looking Glass, stepping into liminal space. I realized my only way through was to make peace with the unknown; with all that showed up and cross the threshold that had been waiting for me all along - a path to freedom and new life.
I learned that grief takes its own unique course for each person. Before my father's death, I imagined grief as deep sadness and sense of loss. I had lost close friends and older family members but this was my first time losing parents. I discovered grief as much more than profound sadness and loss. The disorientation; exhaustion; fear; anxiety; disrupted sleep; inability to focus or work, along with a sudden loss of my natural social ease was extreme. I would see someone I knew in public and quickly turn a corner to avoid conversation. I screened my calls and sometimes couldn't respond to messages or emails or initiate contact for weeks. The exhaustion scared me and painfully brought back the experience when I collapsed with Meniere's Disease 9 years earlier; when my adrenal glands crashed and it took years to regain my energy. I feared this state would last and I'd be stuck in this new reality. But, contrary to my health crisis 9 years ago, I now had a potent self-care tool kit I'd pieced together over the last decade and I understood how resilient our energy body is. I was confident this would be temporary; that I had the patience, strength and stamina; the tools and emotional and mental capacity to move through this. I knew that nothing would change until I allowed myself to be present with the experience and feel the pain. Through experience I knew one of my most potent allies and self-care tools was my ability to cry and feel my feelings.
Two months after my dad's death I was still really struggling at which time I read a book by a forgiveness educator named, Ana Holub, called, "Forgive and Be Free." I realized in this period that I had much work to do related to long time painful family issues and dysfunctional patterns with my sisters and parents. I have heard it is common that loss within a family can bring up trauma and painful family dynamics. The instant my dad took his last breath, all the dysfunction in our sister dynamic exploded from the shadows. For a time there was no contact between us. At the same time I was blocked from contact with my mother. Ana's book saved my life as I used her method of working each incident from my present and past where I'd felt wronged or felt I had wronged others. Ten days after beginning this work and after shedding a river of tears, I miraculously heard from my older sister. That call launched us both onto a profound path of deep repair and healing of our broken relationship of decades. It began with one phone call, from my sister, "I'm calling to apologize and ask your forgiveness." We were both blessed to dive into forgiveness work together and through facilitation as well. This work has been life changing. I have done so much over the years to try and fix the brokenness in our sister relationship and nothing touched it until now. I am more than grateful for everything that has happened since my dad's death. It was extremely painful and set off a chain of events comparable to a slow fuse sparking for years and finally detonating through our whole family constellation. I had lost my father and mother and through the grief process and forgiveness work, I found myself and I found a true sister for the first time since we were children. I also learned about the vital importance of letting go of relationships that serve no one and only prolong pain and suffering. The forgiveness work opened new doors and sparked a renewed life energy that infused each day. At this same time, a long-time friend and I happened to reconnect over the summer. He too had been going through his own process of loss and grief and like magic our path's merged as we began holding space for each other around our separate experiences. Our connection has slowly grown into a beautiful friendship which we are both cherishing like a newly discovered rare and delicate seed.
My friend Sarah Marshank, founder of Selfistry, recently wrote a piece titled, "Death is Weird." The gist of it is that we each experience the death of a loved one in our own unique way. and how can we know what anyone's experience really is.
Sarah writes, "When we find ourselves about to say we know how it is for others, let’s pause, bite our tongue, turn off our autopilot, and offer an inquiry instead – a wondering. Like this: "How is it for you, your mother’s dying?"
I grew up thinking that death was painfully sad and frightening. It can be for some but perhaps not for everyone. Each death, just like each birth is a unique passage; its own journey. My father's death and what immediately followed, catalyzed healing and transformation, creating a profound opening for new life, filled with goodness, peace and love. It cracked me wide open, leaving light, love, peace, wholeness, new life and hope. The waves of grief still wash through me, unannounced, accompanied many times by tears. I never know when one may hit. What I do know is, as long as I embrace the unknown, I'll continue to move through life in peace and remain whole.
Wild Wellness Guide
.Hello Dear Community,
I am incredibly grateful for the gift of clear, clean air for these past two days. I have spent hours in nature since yesterday, connecting to the natural world with all of my senses. My olfactory function is quickly returning. It is such a gift to notice and differentiate scents of nature after weeks of smelling smoke and the inside of a sweaty mask. I hope those of you experiencing the summer fire season are finding ways for self-care; getting away at times if possible and getting outfitted with good masks and air purifiers of some kind. We all understand how challenging the fires have been. Unfortunately, I have had to cancel all of my Forest Bathing Walks since early July and have been unable to schedule any in August due to the unpredictability of the smoke. I am praying for early rains this year to fully snuff the last of the fires and allow us all back to the outdoors. The good news is that I have a great air purifier. The clean air has made my Reiki sessions a doubly blissful and relaxing escape from the stress of the smoke.
I am very happy and grateful to announce that in July, I completed my 6-month practicum through The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy and am now Certified as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide. This certification feels like an essential coming together of the circle of my healing and teaching work that I have been building and refining over the past many years. I am so excited to bring Nature and Forest Therapy into my practice as a Whole Health Educator™ and add it to my facilitation of Mind-Body Stress Regulation as well as my Reiki Energy Healing and teaching.
I have changed my practice name to "Wild Wellness Guide" from Forest Bathing Ashland. My practice has been a work in progress and since early June, "Wild Wellness Guide" has been has been strongly speaking to me. I feel it aptly describes me and my practice as I guide others on their path to wellness through facilitation, education and healing. The "Wild" world of nature is where I am deeply connected and a central core of my wellness work.
My work as a Whole Health Educator focuses on whole person wellness and disease prevention. It integrates evidence-based practices for physical, emotional, nutritional, environmental and spiritual wellness. In my practice, through my own experience and those of my clients, I have discovered as science now demonstrates, that the stress of modern life leads to much of the disease in our society. Research is showing that stress is increased from sedentary time spent indoors; screen time and being cut-off from our roots in the natural world.
At the core of my work is calming the sympathetic nervous system to regulate stress. I am so excited to be able to offer Forest Therapy, Mind-Body Stress Regulation and Reiki Healing to help my clients develop a personal practice to manage stress levels for optimum wellness.
Nature and Forest Therapy, (also called Shinrin Yoku/Forest Bathing), is a facilitated, mindful sensory immersion in nature, for slowing down, deeply letting go of stress, unplugging and connecting to the natural world, oneself and to others in a new way. Once practiced with facilitation, it can be easily integrated into one's life as a regular practice. Forest Therapy is offered for public groups, private groups and for individuals and couples.
Mind-Body Stress Regulation includes Guided Sensory-Nature Imagery, Breathwork, Gratitude Practice, Mind-Body Techniques and Nature Immersion. It includes "Body Hacks" (practices) to help support the Vagus Nerve, one of the cranial nerves which connects the brainstem to the body, linking the neck, heart, lungs, and the abdomen to the brain. A balanced Vagus Nerve supports a healthy parasympathetic nervous system. I offer this work in individual sessions as well as sessions combined with Reiki.
Reiki Energy Healing is a very calming form of energy work which deeply relaxes the sympathetic nervous system. It helps support stress levels, mood, pain, sleep and anxiety. When the sympathetic nervous system calms down, the physical, emotional and energy body is able to relax and come back into balance. Besides individual healing sessions, I offer classes for Usui Reiki, Levels 1,2 & 3 and a half-day class called, "Reiki for Self-Care."
(Updated info here for 2019) I look forward to seeing you in the foresta and Parks in beautiful Boise, Idaho where I relocated to in February. I sold my home and said goodbye to my longtime home in Oregon, heading for new adventures. Call or contact me through my website to schedule Forest Therapy Walks, Stress Regulation Facilitation and Reiki sessions or Classes.
Be Well, Sari
Spring Energy Tune-Up, Part Two
Gratitude Practice and Qigong Shaking
Last month, I shared practices for reducing stress, increasing and moving stagnant energy and balancing mood. In Part Two of this series, I offer two very simple and powerful practices for increasing mood, calming your nervous system and releasing stagnant energy and stuck emotions. In Part-One, I shared Dry Skin Brushing, Contrast Showers Vagus nerve Stimulation. In this post, I share Gratitude Practice and Qigong Shaking.
When I began this practice 5 years ago I had no idea what I was getting into. A teacher of mine suggested a simple practice of "Thanks" and asking for "Help". Each day, I began following my meditation practice with a verbal practice of "Thanks" and "Help"." Vocalizing opens the throat chakra and can allow one to dislodge stuck energy in that energy center which needs to move.
In doing the practice, I begin very simply with my "thank you's". It is not as if I am searching for something new each day to be thankful for- the object of my gratitude makes itself very apparent. My daily gratitude is typically for many of the same things- over and over. The more I consciously express my gratitude, I seem to develop ever-increasing awareness for all the gifts in my life. Every time I offer gratitude it is like I have voiced it for the very first time, experiencing new realizations and emotion connected to the feeling. I could go on for hours during my practice as there is so much to be grateful for.
Next, I ask for "Help". I verbally ask for help in great detail regarding my personal situation, for family, friends and painful situations on the planet. As I have developed my practice, the more it flows through with ease, connecting me to a deeply emotional place. In my experience, tears often flow and I have found it essential to fully allow for crying and sobbing; letting go of whatever needs to release. Keep a box of tissues nearby. Crying clears out old, stagnant emotions and energy, allowing for healing on the deepest of levels. After 5 years of this practice, I often still find myself deeply moved to tears and I have made friends with this aspect of my emotional self. I LOVE feeling my feelings. After crying, when I finish my practice, I feel peaceful, energized and ready to begin my day.
Soon after beginning this practice, I noticed a dramatic lift in my daily mood and experienced a powerful sense of well-being. Evidence-based research on gratitude practice demonstrates its powerful mood-lifting effect.
Throughout the day, the practice takes on a life of its own; showing up in every situation, conversation and interaction. When I experience difficult people or frustrating situations, I step into my place of "grateful heart-mind". Here I open my heart and stretch deeply and think, "I am so grateful you are here, on the planet; you have so much to teach me." When I do this, I can breathe; my Sympathetic Nervous System calms and imagined separation dissolves; my "grateful heart-mind" guides me to connection, understanding and acceptance of what is, as I let go of judgment- no matter how challenging the person or the situation. It is a sacred gift to move into this place of peace; remain present and do the work that so necessary to heal and repair what is broken, inside and out.
Ways to Cultivate Gratitude as a Practice
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.
Verbal Gratitude Practice. Verbalize all the things you are thankful for, followed by asking for help for yourself or for others. ( From Anne Lamott- "Help, Thanks, Wow- Three Essential Prayers"
Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Perhaps pick a number — such as three to five things — that you identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Try writing at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).
Qigong (pronounced chee gung) is a traditional Chinese energy medicine practice which combines breathing, movement, and meditation. The origins of Qigong in China go back over 4000 years. When in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, it is common to see people of all ages, especially many elderly, practicing early in the morning in the public parks.
I began practicing Qigong more than four years ago, eventually learning forms from three different lineages. Many forms of Qigong include a warm-up practice of "Shaking."
Shaking is a movement that almost everyone can do, anytime and anyplace. It costs no money and requires no special equipment. Shaking helps ease stress, anxiety and an overactive mind. It helps move your body's energy and prevents it from becoming stuck and stagnant in your physical as well as your energetic body. Qigong shaking also supports the movement of bodily fluids and detoxification.
Shaking can address stagnant energy which can contribute to many health issues, including: sore muscles, inflamed joints, digestive issues, anxiety, fluid retention, stress, mood imbalance and immune issues. qigong shaking is a simple and very powerful method to get energy flowing, calm your nervous system and to energize.
How to Shake
To begin, pull up onto your toes and as is comfortable for you, begin moving heels of feet up and down. Next, move your arms out and begin shaking your hands back and forth and allow the movement to travel up your arms into your shoulders, relaxing and loosening the muscles as you shake. Let the movement move down into your chest, waist hips and knees. Shake out any tightness and feel as if your skin and muscles are gliding over your organs and bones. As you shake, feel free to let out any vocal sounds that are wanting to release. Sense the feeling of energy moving through your moving body and vocalizations. Feel the release of tension, stuck thoughts and feelings. Remember to stay loose and relaxed as you shake. I typically shake for about 10 minutes each day, but initially you may want to shake for 3-6 minutes and gradually increase. Some people may only desire is 3-6 minutes at a time. Others prefer a good long shake of about 12-15 minutes to energize, move the body and release stuck energy. Remember to breathe with ease and vocalize as you desire.
The goal of qigong shaking is to move every part of your body to get energy moving. Once you get in the flow, shaking is quite invigorating and calming at the same time. If any area of your body feels painful or uncomfortable while shaking, slow down into a gentler shake. If you have mobility issues, shake the body parts that work for you.
To finish your shaking practice, come to a gentle stop; plant you feet on the ground (or floor) about shoulder width apart; let your arms hang; feel your breathing settle and your energy calm. Take notice how you are feeling after the practice as compared to before. Once you begin this daily practice, you may discover you don't ever want to stop.
Many Blessings for Happiness, Balanced Energy and Vitality- Sari
Do you feel yourself dragging and fatigued even though you work-out, eat healthy and try stay in balance? Perhaps your energy body needs a jump-start.
The Energy Body
An NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) article, written in 2005, titled, "The Scientific Basis of Integrative Medicine", states, "According to Eastern medical systems, the body contains channels through which flows an invisible but nutritive energy called chi (or Qi), loosely translated to mean vital energy or life force. Furthermore, there is a purported energy surrounding the body, referred to as subtle energy. Subtle energy both informs and transcends the faculties of the five senses. It is taken into the body via openings, called chakras, and translated into a form of energy that the body can use, literally use, at the cellular level. Just as the pineal (gland) is the energy transducer for environmental information, the chakras are the energy transducers for subtle energy and are integrally connected to the body's endocrine system. Subtle energy is a healing energy that anyone can learn to perceive and utilize. It is a crucial, but often missing, component in health care."
Furthermore, the article refers to subtle energy as, "The foundation of integral physiology" which supported by evidence-based research, "steps beyond the so-called body-mind connection to recognize the importance of experiences traditionally called intuitive or spiritual." Combining the important contributions of Western medicine with the knowledge of ancient energy systems, such as chakra and meridian systems, used for centuries in Classical Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine, the theory of integral physiology is a forerunner to the solid science beginning to emerge around the human energy system. Basically, science is now researching the "non-physical" aspects of healing, which seems to be the next frontier in medical research.
As a Reiki Practitioner, I have first-hand experience working with the energy body which we each live with 24/7. Reiki can be done on yourself or given to you by a practitioner. Besides Reiki and several other forms of hands-on energy healing work, there are many simple practices available to us all to help awaken, balance and move stuck or stagnant energy. Could energetic practices for those who have been dealing with years of fatigue and health issues with no resolution, potentially be the missing link?
Spring is here and many use this time to clean out the old stagnant glup and schmutz on many levels. There are several simple, yet powerful practices I use in my daily practice of "Energy Hygiene". In this blog, I offer the beginnings of a long list of practices and will share more in upcoming blogs.
1. Dry Skin Brushing
Your skin is your largest organ and works to protect your body from environmental exposure, including many toxins. Dry skin brushing done daily, before showering, energizes, awakens and stimulates the body, increases circulation, removes dead skin cells, softens and cleans the skin and stimulates the lymphatic system to remove cellular waste. As well as promoting lymph drainage, dry skin brushing also stimulates the production of collagen, helping to tighten skin and decrease formation of cellulite.
The Tools: Long-handled natural bristle brushes are available in the body care section of natural food stores, spas or online. There are special brushes and loofah sponges specifically for the tender skin on your face. Check out these brands- Earth Therapeutics loofah facial exfoliating pads and long-handled brushes and Yerba Prima Tampico brushes. Yerba Prima bristles are harder than the softer Earth Therapeutic bristles.
The Technique: This can be done while standing in the tub before your shower. Using the brush, always begin at the feet, moving up the body toward the heart (be gentle around tender skin, such as breasts, nipples and face). Use circular motions as you move up the body. When brushing the arms, begin at the fingertips and brush up toward the shoulders. Facial skin is tender, so it can be gently brushed or loofah'd a few of times a week. After brushing, during your shower, make sure to only use natural, chemical-free soaps. Though our skin, our body's largest organ, serves to protect us, it can absorb toxic chemicals, so best to use gentle, organic soaps.
2. Contrast Showers (Alternating Hot & Cold Shower)
Follow your skin brushing with an invigorating Contrast Shower. I was prescribed this practice 3 years ago by a physician who was treating me for adrenal fatigue.
This routine is simple, invigorating and addicting. Even on cold winter days, early in the morning in my chilly bathroom, I am driven to do it. What exactly am I doing? I do my ritual shampooing, soaping up and rinsing in hot water and then I bring on the contrast.
The Method: I turn the water as hot as I can safely take it and alternate, letting the hot water hit different parts of my body for 50 seconds. Next, I adjust the water to as cold as I can take it for another 50 seconds, allowing the water to hit several different parts of my body. Repeat this for a total of 3 sets, ending with cold. The key is not to torture yourself with water so cold that you will never do this again. Try to go a little colder with each successive set. I often begin the first set with cool cold vs. cold cold and I never go ice cold. For many, cool cold may do the trick. Each body knows it's own capacity. You may find as you adjust to the practice, you choose to go colder and colder. This practice is a beautiful time to get your throat chakra open and sing, scream and shout out during the colds sets. This practice wakes up your body from the inside out, in the most invigorating way.
Health Benefits of Contrast Showers Include:
Improved Blood Circulation
Moves Stagnant Energy
Activates Brown Fat, resulting in an increase in energy and calories burned to keep your body warm.
Improved Endocrine and Lymphatic Function
Promotes Deep Breathing
Stimulates Vagus Nerve
When drying off, use the towel to deeply massage your skin. If desired, follow with gentle, organic oils or lotions. Some of my favorites include, Andalou, Alaffia or Acure Brands. You can also blend your own body oils with some added essential oils. My go to homemade blends are argan oil with essential rose and lavender for my face and neck and coconut oil for my body.
3. Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Stimulating The Vagus Nerve plays an essential role in reducing inflammation in the body. Inflammation can lead to many chronic health conditions, including fatigue, anxiety, depression, digestive disorders, loss of appetite, pain, sleep issues, low energy, and poor concentration. When the vagus nerve is not functioning properly health issues may result. The word vagus means “wanderer." The vagus nerve wanders throughout the body, connecting from the brain to neck, ears, tongue, larynx, pharynx, and esophagus. It connects to the stomach, intestines, lungs, heart, gallbladder, spleen, liver, pancreas, kidney, ureters and female reproductive organs.
Use your contrast shower to stimulate your vagus nerve, by letting the cold water splash on your face. Any exposure to sudden cold increases vagus nerve activation. Studies show that when your body adjusts to sudden cold, your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) calms down. This response is mediated by the vagus nerve. When this nerve is stimulated, it helps your whole system calm down and come into balance.
More Ways to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve:
Contrast Showers (cold water on face and body)
Slow Deep Breathing- The 4-7-8 Breathing Practice
The above practices make for a doable and powerful entrance into the world of nurturing your energy body, which in turn supports your Physical, Emotional, Nutritional, Environmental and Spiritual wellness.
Stayed tuned (up) for more energy tune-up practices.
Many Blessings, Sari
When was the last time you cried? Have you ever cried in public? When you feel the urge to cry, do you allow yourself the release or do you stuff your feelings?
For almost five years I have been doing a daily verbal gratitude practice. During my practice as I express what I am thankful for, I also ask for help where it is needed for myself, my family, friends, the planet, situations around the world and more. I typically do this practice in the privacy of my home, sitting at my meditation alter. On many days, as I speak my thank-you's, emotion wells up from deep within and tears and sobbing flow forth with wild abandon. These are not tears of sadness, but tears of emotional release accompanied by a deep sense of relief and joy. As a highly sensitive empath, tears offer me a way to let go of the energies, feelings and thoughts I pick up each day when my own energy boundaries are down or in a weakened place. Moving the fluid of the tears out of my body is a powerful cleansing; a detoxifying of what is not mine to hold. I love this practice and so value the resulting sense of balance, wholeness, happiness and the residing presence of deep connection with something much greater than myself.
Moving the fluid of the tears out of my body is a powerful cleansing; a detoxifying of what is not mine to hold. I love this practice and so value the resulting sense of balance, wholeness, happiness and the residing presence of deep connection with something much greater than myself.
This morning, I was near Lithia Park and decided to take a walk between rain showers. As I walked below the upper duck pond, I came to a curvy, moss-covered oak tree and decided to do my qigong practice under the tree's tangled branches. Once highly energized by my practice, I walked back up the trail along the rushing creek, and noticed as my daily gratitude began to pour from my lips. I felt the pulse of the forest; its root systems; heard the birds and rushing waters; saw the deep, dark mossy green and brown hues of the plants and trees and smelled the damp mustiness of the wet earth mixed with decomposing bark mulch. Gratitude continued to flow, and I asked for help where needed. Tears ran down my face and I felt their urgency as they washed away what needed to flush out of my system. I stepped onto an isolated bridge where two branches of the creek crossed with great roaring power. I cried full-on and let my tears blend with the creek. After a few minutes, my tears stopped and more gratitude poured from my lips. I soon felt full and whole in my prayer and letting go and headed down the trail.
When I cry, my eyes get puffy and my nose turns red like Rudolph's. I walked down the trail feeling quite uplifted and knew my face was still red and puffy. I usually make a point to say hello as I pass other's, especially when I am walking solo and not distracted by conversation with a friend. As I passed some walkers, I noticed they instantly looked down or away when they saw my red face. I'm guessing they either felt a need to give me respectful privacy or felt uncomfortable seeing a stranger who had obviously been crying. This happened with about 6 people I passed, but one elderly couple immediately made a point to smile, look me in the eyes and say hello. It was a lovely connection.
According to an article in The Medical Daily from May 2015, crying releases toxins, kills bacteria, improves vision and mood, relieves stress and boosts communication. Our society does not encourage this form of expression. Often those who cry are considered weak, depressed or unstable. In reality, healthy tears can help keep us strong, happy and balanced.
According to an article in The Medical Daily from May 2015, crying releases toxins, kills bacteria, improves vision and mood, relieves stress and boosts communication. Our society does not encourage this form of expression. Often those who cry are considered weak, depressed or unstable. In reality, healthy tears can help keep us strong, happy and balanced.
I invite you to make friends with your feelings; shedding your tears when called to do so, and holding loving space for others who have discovered this powerful modality for physical and mental health.
Many Blessings, Sari
The essence of Whole Health Education is self-care. The true foundation of health is to know oneself and from that center, the desire for self-care is cultivated. Whole Health Coaching allows you to see and understand the aspects of your life which work together in either creating health and vitality or contributing to chronic illness and lack of energy. The Five Aspects of Health™, Physical, Emotional, Nutritional, Environmental and Spiritual, overlap. Awareness of how these aspects contribute to your wellness is the first step towards self-care.
Some good questions to ask yourself to see your picture more clearly:
"The true foundation of health is to know oneself and from that center, the desire for self-care is cultivated."
To know ourselves and see our own big picture, it is essential to develop practices to quiet our over-active minds. In my coaching practice, in addition to evidence-based health education, I facilitate you in centering, grounding, focusing and quieting your mind, to become present with yourself and deeply relax. Techniques include, Relaxation Breathing, Gratitude Practice, Guided Imagery, Mantra/Positive Affirmation, Meditation, Mind-Body Medicine techniques, Progressive Muscle Relaxation and energetic practices.
All the above practices are simple, yet powerful. Following initial facilitation, they easily integrate into your daily life. Through practice, you discover which technique(s) are a natural fit for your lifestyle. Another option I offer and have found to be a powerful tool for self-care is Self-Reiki. Imagine being able to use your hands wherever you are, to calm, de-stress and put yourself in a blissful state of relaxation. I originally became a Reiki practitioner with the intention of using this healing modality on others. I learned immediately, when practicing daily Self-Reiki, that I was soothing my over-activated Fight or Flight Response; giving my body deeply calming, healing energy. Self-Reiki allows you to center in the healing warmth of your own hands. As well, many of the other relaxation practices I use, such as gratitude, meditation, mantra and guided imagery tend to flow directly into and work synergystically with Self-Reiki. A simple 20-30 minutes upon waking or before bed, offer the gift of deep connection with self. In this "Reiki" time, I have been gifted with seeing a bigger picture of my life and have come to powerful realizations; finding the creative solutions I've been searching for.
As well as Reiki Healing Sessions and certification classes, I now offer half-day, "Reiki for Self-Healing" classes, with the focus on self-care, rather than treating clients. Additional benefits of Reiki include, immune, pain and sleep support; blood pressure regulation, easing medication side-effects, assisting in surgery recovery and healing; removing blocked energy and increased vitality.
Call me and check out my website to learn more about my Coaching Sessions, Reiki Healing Sessions and Reiki Classes.
Many Blessings for a beautiful, balanced and healthy 2017, Sari
New Class Offerings: First and Second Degree, One-Day, Reiki Certification Classes and Reiki for Selfcare
I am doing it- after hearing from several of you who want Reiki Certification training, but don't have the time for my 2-day workshops, I am now offering First and Second Degree Reiki Classes as a one-day immersion for 1-2 students. As well, I am offering, "Reiki for Self-Healing". This half-day class is for those whose goal is to become attuned to Reiki for their own self-healing. Not everyone is looking to work on others as a practitioner. This class is a gentle introduction to Reiki healing energy. You will learn about Reiki energy; become attuned to Reiki and learn hand positions to practice daily self-healing. Self-Reiki is a powerful tool for blissful relaxation, stress-reduction and sleep support. Used as a daily practice, Reiki is balancing, meditative and supports well-being on many levels. This half-day class is offered for 1-2 students.
Yesterday, I taught a Second Degree Class, with two awesome students/healers. We focused on the mental/emotional aspects of Reiki; worked on eachother, as well as learning Reiki Distance Healing. Second Degree Reiki training goes into more depth and specifics as to the chakras, the body organs, and their emotional counterparts. Further practice is offered with scanning, how to apply the symbols for personal healing, Distance Healing, and for manifesting, and even for creating your future. This knowledge enables the practitioner to address a vast array of conditions- physical, emotional, and mental for one’s self care, and for others.
Call me to schedule First or Second Degree Certification Training or to schedule a Reiki for Self-Care Class.
Many Blessings, Sari
P.S. Gift Certificates are now available. Call for more information, to gift family or friends with Reiki Sessions, Reiki Classes or Whole Health Coaching and Stress Reduction Sessions.
The holidays are upon us and the cold weather has arrived. Many of us are over-stressed and weary. We have just come through the most intense election season some have ever experienced. Holiday gatherings are scheduled and December can be a wonderful time of friends, family and warm connecting. It also may come with excess in terms of energy output; over indulgence with food and drink and often, a decrease in immune function. High stress levels are shown to contribute to daily and long-term health issues. Now is the perfect time to nourish and treat yourself with kindness, which in turn reduces stress and calms the sympathetic nervous system.
Reiki offers a bliss-filled way to melt your stress away and clear blocked energy which can result in illness. It supports deep relaxation, reduces anxiety, supports the immune system, restful sleep, increased vitality, pain relief; regulates blood pressure and helps to balance body, mind and spirit.
For the month of December, I am offering single, One-Hour Reiki sessions, for $55 (normally $65). As well, "Reiki Bliss-3" and "Reiki Bliss-6" Series, session bundled packages are available on an ongoing basis.
Gift certificates for the holidays are now available. Reiki, offers blissful, deep, healing relaxation and is a lovely offering to friends and family. Call me for details.
Happy Holidays and Many Blessings to All,
Qigong, Worms and Warming Red Curry
The Autumn chill has arrived in The Valley of The Rogue with heavy rains tempered by some days of honey-warm sunshine. The trees are shining Autumn jewels of red, orange, yellow, green and brown. Early today, I practiced Morning Medical Qigong with my Ashland Mogadao community. A few of us were barefoot in wet, cold grass. It turns out that a community of worms was invited by our warm feet and squeezed up for some morning toe Qi-cuddling. The worms were exceptionally long and fat. I know by now you may be very concerned and wondering, "What do worms have to do with a curry recipe?" It is about the connection of energy, heat and digestion. The worms rushed to the heat of our feet and to our moving bodies, as we created heat and moved energy through our Qigong forms. When our 60 minute practice was complete, I was energized, grounded (like a worm) and deeply connected to our beautiful circle. I arrived home and gave my feet a lovely, hot soak and felt a burning desire to make a large pot of warming red curry.
Now is the time to be eating deeply warming foods, especially for those of us living in cooler climates. Our body's need heat. Alex Tan , a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner and educator, states it very well in this description taken from his piece about cooked vs. raw food-"The Chinese believe the catalyst for digestive transformation is heat and warmth. We are indeed warm-blooded creatures and optimal digestion occurs at a slightly higher temperature than body temperature 36.7°C. For this reason, most of the people, most of the time should eat mostly cooked and warming foods. This is also partly due to ‘civilized life’ where we do far less physical activity and more mental processing than our body was designed for – the energy is in our head rather than our digestive organs – the fire rises upwards, rather than staying down below where it should be fueling the furnace under the pot, down in the kidneys. If excessive amounts of cold or raw foods are eaten, the body has to waste valuable energy raising the temperature of the food to allow the digestive processes to work. Prolonged or excessive use of chilled or raw food weakens the ‘digestive fire’. In the West, nutritional information (about protein, fat, minerals, vitamins etc) is obtained in a laboratory by analyzing foods, separating them into their basic ingredients in a test tube, before they enter the body. In the East, food is described as acting on the body in a certain way (warming, cooling, salty, sour etc), by observing the energetic action inside the human body and the behavior of the body after a food has been consumed. The Chinese way of seeing the process of digestion is seen not so much in terms of gross revenue (raw nutrients) but much more about net profit (Qi and Blood)."
Feeling the chill of the morning, I was reminded of the solid nutritional advice from my acupuncturist, to eat warming foods as much as possible in cold weather. I needed to answer the call to make a big, steaming pot of warming curry and stoke my digestive fire. This curry is absolutely delightful and leaves one with a warm after-glow.
Warming Coconut Shitake, Red Chicken Curry
2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 large Yukon gold potato, sliced into small chunks
1 large carrot, sliced
1 # fresh green beans- cut into pieces
1 large red pepper- small pieces
2 heaping tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (Use any fresh basil if you don't have Thai basil)
2 tablespoons Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste (more curry paste as desired)
2 Cans Coconut Milk (full fat)
2 Organic boneless chicken breasts- halved length-wise and thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons Coconut Sugar - or to taste
Himalayan Sea Salt to taste
2 1/2 cups filtered water
Cooked Rice or Rice Stick Noodles- optional
In a large pot add shitake slices and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes while prepping the remaining veggies.
Next, add potato chunks to the pot as soon as they are cut, in order to cook well.
Add the coconut milk, ginger, basil and curry paste about 20 minutes from when water first came to a boil. Blend in the curry paste well with a fork or a small whisk. Continue simmering on low heat. When potatoes and shiitakes are nice and tender, add the carrots green beans, red pepper pieces and coconut sugar. When all veggies are tender and still colorful (do not overcook), add the sliced chicken and stir while simmering. The chicken will cook very fast. Once chicken is fully cooked, but still tender, salt to taste.
Serve either as a soup or with hot rice or rice stick noodles.
Serve steamy and hot in a bowls- slurp it up with a soup spoon in one hand and chop sticks in the other.
Makes 6 servings
Author's feet, Boulder, Colorado
The below testimonial is from a client I have been working with over a course of several treatments of Distant Reiki.
Although I understand the value of alternative therapies, and I have used them on occasion, I've always been skeptical. I am not certain how much is actual benefit and how much is placebo.
When I decided to try Reiki, out of desperation I might add, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I pretty much expected nothing. No effect whatsoever. I didn't even have Reiki in person. I arranged for two sessions of distance Reiki.
Eight months ago I suffered a severe Lisfranc injury to my right foot. At the time of the injury my medical doctor did not recommend any treatment, and despite the pain, I didn't understand just how severe these injuries are.
Over the past eight months I've experienced increasing pain which limits my activities and causes me much distress- both physically and emotionally as I cannot participate in the sports and outdoor activities I most enjoy. I recently learned that because the injury was not treated appropriately last year, it is becoming progressively worse and I'm developing arthritis in my foot.
I was given two options- surgery followed by three to six months of non-weight-bearing plus a full year's recovery, or a non-weight-bearing cast for two to three months with no guarantee of any improvement. In other words, I might wear the cast for three months, have it removed, step on the foot and be no better off than I was when the cast was applied.
I don't want surgery. The surgery is difficult and complications are not unusual. Right now a cast is not a good option as I'll be out of the country for a couple weeks. Out of desperation I decided to try Reiki.
As I said, I didn't know what to expect, especially with distance Reiki. I contacted Sari Telpner and we set up an appointment time. To be honest, during the thirty minute session I really wasn't paying much attention to my foot because I didn't expect to feel a thing. I assumed Reiki was hokum. It's that simple.
So what did I feel? And this was very unexpected- extremely relaxed, hungry, aroused senses, high and sleepy. I definitely felt something. Most important, my foot felt better. The pain did not entirely go away, but it felt better. When I went hiking the next day I was not in agony. And it continued to improve the following day.
I requested a second session. I have to be honest, again I barely paid attention to my foot. And yet I experienced a significant event during the Distant session. Suffice it to say, the day after the second treatment, my foot improved to the point where I forgot about it. I'd been living with severe pain (7-8 on a scale of 1-10) for months and I ran errands, went to the store, took a hike, and never thought about my foot because it didn't hurt!
Is the pain gone altogether? No. I still have some pain, but overall the pain is diminishing- overall the trend is positive. Despite my healthy skepticism I am improving. I was so impressed with Sari, I scheduled two more treatments and I'm now beginning foot massage - the pain was so severe before the Reiki treatments, I was terrified to have anyone manipulate my foot. I couldn't even bear to have a sheet or blanket touch my foot at night. Now I can have a gentle foot massage and it is not painful.
I'm still a skeptic. But I plan to continue Reiki with Sari Telpner. My experience has been quite remarkable. Heidi Barr, R.N.