Sunday, November 24, 2013

My New Adventures in Yoga

"You must never doubt your ability to achieve anything, become anything, overcome anything and inspire everything."

-  Tasha Hoggatt

In February I start my first yoga teacher training program with Three Trees Yoga in Federal Way. I have been doing research for years on the different programs in the area because this has been a passion of mine for a while. I decided that there is never really a right time for things so as far as I was concerned the right time is now. At a certain point in your life you realize you need to follow your heart. Your mind can only lead you so far. They are both important but without heart you will be without passion. And I believe we are lacking some passion in this world today. 

I picked up my books today. Since I get my first series of injections in my back next week I will be laid down for a bit so what better time to get started on some reading. It looks like I have plenty of it. My training program will go until November 2014. I am very excited. This will not only help me better care for others and help them change their lives like I have but it will also help me better care for myself and continue to grow in my journey. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

"If you change your thoughts,
You change your life,
And you change the world."

Imagine you are a zebra and a lion has just leapt out and ripped your stomach open. You've managed to get away and now you have to spend the next hour evading the lion as it continues to stalk you. Or perhaps imagine you are the lion, half starved, and you had better be able to sprint across the savanna at top speed and grab something to eat or you won't survive.  

As humans we can experience wildly strong emotions from mere thoughts, provoking our body into an accompanying uproar. Two people can sit facing each other doing doing nothing more physically strenuous than moving little pieces of wood now and then, yet this can be an emotionally taxing event such as the chess grand masters. During this tournament it can place metabolic demands on their bodies that begin to approach those of athletes during the peak of a competitive event. 

So if you are a zebra running for your life, or a lion sprinting for your meal, your body's physiological response mechanisms are superbly adapted for dealing with such short term physical emergencies. For the vast majority of beasts on this planet, stress is about short term crisis, after which its either over with or your over with. When we sit around wording about stressful things, we turn on the same physiological responses - but they are potentially a disaster when provoked chronically. A large body of evidence suggests that stress-related disease emerges, predominantly, out of the fact that we so often activate a physiological system that has evolved for responding to acute physical emergencies, but we turn it on for months on end, worrying about mortgages, relationships, and promotions. 

Let's think of the idea of homeostasis for a minute. Homeostasis is the ability or tendency of an organism or cell to maintain internal equilibrium by adjusting its physiological processes. Such maintaining ideal levels if oxygen, acidity, temperature and so on. And a stressor is anything in the outside world that knocks you out of homeostatic balance. A stress response is what your body does to reestablish homeostasis. 

Now of course I personally believe that our lives are completely different from a zebra in one way but of course I know that these are some great concepts and that it is completely unnecessary to worry about as many things as we do. Treating everything as an emergency. Living in a state of emergency creates stress in our lives and when you live in a state of constant stress it causes physical and mental illness and unhappiness. Now it seems almost all the stress created is within our own mind. How we perceive things. The expectations we have for ourselves and one another. Thinking that you know how things should be will leave you in an almost constant state of disappointment vs. just accepting them as they are. 
Most of this information came from the book: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers written by Robert M. Sapolsky. A fantastic book about how the the body reacts to stress. 

The Mountain Just Sits

In our life we can learn a lot from a mountain. Mountains are known for their presence and stillness. Picture in your mind the most beautiful mountain you can imagine. One that speaks personally to you. Imagining its shape, size, character and qualities. Imagine you are the mountain. Your head is it's lofty peak; your shoulders and arms are the side of the mountain; your buttocks and legs the solid base rooted to floor or on your chair. Experience in your body the sense of uplift, the elevated quality of the mountain deep in your own spine. Imagine you are a breathing mountain, unwavering in your stillness, completely what you are -- beyond words and thought, a centered, rooted, unmoving presence. 

Throughout the day, the mountain just sits. The light, shadows and colors are changing virtually moment to moment in the mountains adamantine stillness. As the light changes, day by day and night by night, the mountain just sits, simply being itself. It remains still as the seasons flow, as the weather changes, moment by moment, day by day. The mountain remains in calmness abiding all change. Even when enshrouded by clouds or fog, or pelted by freezing rain. Being unable to be seen by others at times but to the mountain it's all the same. Seen or unseen, in the sun or clouds, broiling or frigid, the mountain just sits, being itself. At times visited by violent storms, snow and rain and winds of unthinkable magnitude, through it all the mountain sits. Spring comes, the birds sing in the trees once again, the leaves return to the trees which lost them, flowers bloom in the high meadows and on the slopes, streams overflow with waters of melting snow. Through it all, the mountain continues to sit, unmoved by the weather, by what happens on the surface, by the world of appearances. 

As we sit holding this image in our mind, we can embody the same unwavering stillness and rootedness in the face of everything that changes in our own lives over seconds, hours and years. In our lives we experience constantly the changing nature of the mind and body  and of the outer world. We experience periods of light and dark, vivid color and drab dullness. We experience storms of varying intensity and violence, in the outer world and in our own lives and minds. Buffeted by high winds, by cold and rain, we endure periods of darkness and pain as well as savor ing moments of joy and uplift. Even our appearance changes constantly, just like the mountains. By becoming the mountain in our own eye and mind, we can link up with its strength and stability, and adopt them for our own. We can use its energies to support our efforts to encounter each moment with mindfulness, equanimity, and clarity. The weather of our own lives is not to be ignored or denied. It is to be encountered, honored, felt, known for what it is, and held in high awareness. In holding it this way, we come to know a deeper silence and stillness and wisdom than we may have thought possible, right within the storms. Mountains have this to teach us, and more, if we can come to listen. We as human beings are far more interesting and complex than mountains. We are breathing, moving, dancing mountains. 

The birds have vanished into the sky,
And now the last cloud drains away.

We sit together, the mountain and me, 
until only the mountain remains.

I heard this meditation a while back but for some reason it resonates more with me now then ever before. In my mind I can't stop thinking "the mountain just sits". Thinking of the mountain and its unwavering through it all. No matter what happens, the mountain just sits. It just remains in the moment. Whatever the moment brings, the mountain just sits.

This meditation was written by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book, Wherever You Go There You Are.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

First attempt sweet potato pancakes

So during a recent trip to Florida I had my first introduction to sweet potato pancakes. 

I have been thinking about making them for a while but cooking is something that part of me is interested in but mostly it stresses me out. I much prefer to be cooked for then to be the one cooking. Unfortunately I haven't won the lottery so I can hire my own chef and housekeeper to clean up after. So it looks like I am on my own. 

After looking at a couple recipies I found a paleo recipe that was pretty simple. I pretty much took the idea and just threw some ingredients together on my own. I mixed it by hand as I can never seem to get the food processor to work. Who needs it when we can actually use our own strength anyway. 

I combined 1 large sweet potato, 3 eggs, 1 banana, some cinnamon, apple sauce and baking soda. Even though I have no idea what the baking soda was for other then thinking it had something to do with holding the ingredients together I just took that from another recipe thinking it had a purpose. 

So surprisingly enough it was successful!! I used olive oil instead of cocunut as I am too busy using all my cocunut oil as my skin moisturizer. It smelled like pancakes and even though it looked a little well done it didn't taste like it all all. Took a couple minutes and really a pretty healthy meal. Sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index and will not spike your blood sugar as much. They also have many other health benefits. So if you are trying to lose weight and need some extra carbs for your workout sweet potatoes are a great option. Remember just because you are trying to lose weight  doesn't mean you starve yourself. Eating enough but making the right choices is going to be your key to success. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My Journey to Recovery

Persistence wears down resistance.

-  William J. Federer

It has certainitly been a long journey so far since hurting my back over 4 months ago. It even sounds strange saying 4 months as it feels like a year already. I have seen so many doctors while being passed from one to the next as nobody really seems willing to look outside the box and figure out what is actually going on with me. I have been told that I wasn't having much pain even though I said I was. I have been told I will just be in pain forever and there is nothing to be done for me. The back doctor blamed my problems on my hips and the hip doctor blamed my problem on my back. My choices were to either listen to this nonsense or continue to move forward until I found something that worked. Until I found answers that made sense.  

I chose to move forward. I found a way to deal with the pain I have been experiencing by changing the way I thought of pain. By excepting it vs. fighting it. It really helps. And now I am starting to see results. I am experiencing a faster recovery time even though I am not really able to be anymore active without pain I will take what I can get. 

I am going to try a treatment called prolotherapy. This is an injection of an irritant in my iliolumbar ligament in my back. This creates a localized inflammatory response which triggers a wound healing cascade, resulting in the deposition of new collagen, the material that ligaments and tendons are made of. Which in turn helps rebuild and heal the ligament making it stronger. 

I was told by a doctor I met recently that this treatment is kind of like religion. Some people believe in it and some don't. I figure first of all I don't have much of a choice as I haven't been given a better option and also I would be crazy not to go with the doctor that thinks I can make a complete recovery vs. the doctor that pretty much told me my I had no hope of recovery at all. 

Being given hope helps me continue moving forward in my journey to happiness and health. Anything is possible if you just believe. Anything can be done if you put in the effort. Of course these statements probably only go so far and there are some things we can't control and can't conquer but we can control how we feel about them. We can control how we react to them. And going into a challenge with doubt or disbelief is not going to prepare you for victory.