A new mantra from physical therapy

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Sitting on the exam table, I listened carefully as the physical therapist gave me instructions for the next exercise.

This one, a stretch.

I was to let my head to fall forward as far as it would go, take a deep breath in, and on the exhale allow the weight of my head to give a gentle pull and let it hang there for a moment before lifting it back up to neutral.

By about the third time, I started to notice that my neck was allowing my chin to go further and further with each exhale.  Breathing into it, relaxing deeper, and allowing encouraged my neck to let go so gravity could help out.

And just like that, a little bit at a time, my neck allowed my chin to get closer to my chest than it has in the last 13 months.

I marveled at the power of the breath, of relaxing, of allowing, and the results they created.

 

Not pushing.

Not forcing.

Not trying to MAKE it happen.

 

Breathing.

Relaxing.

Allowing.

 

THOSE were the things that made the progress possible.  Wow.  Pretty profound for physical therapy, huh?

I’m now doing my best to apply this in all aspects of my life and healing journey.  Here’s the mantra.

Breathe.  Relax.  Allow.

Namaste.

 

 

What living in gratitude is REALLY like

roses

 

Today is one of those days where it is hard to feel thankful.  Where my fingers ache as I try to type this, and the vibration-filled sound of the leaf blowers outside fill my whole body like I’m a human tuning fork getting tapped over and over without escape.

But that’s the point.  Gratitude isn’t always easy.  Seeing something to be thankful for when everything feels rotten takes work – a conscious effort.

And at a time when everything, literally everything, is physically harder than usual and requires substantial effort, I often wonder if I have enough energy left to dedicate to the cause.

It’s like being zoomed in so closely on the view of a rose that all you can see are the thorns and tangled mess of leaves.  And it’s only when you take a step back, and broaden your view, that you can see the petals coming together to form a delicate blossom.

So no matter how little energy there is to give, I offer what I have in each moment.

I’m thankful for the spirit of resilience within me that makes living in gratitude possible.  For it is the strength, the fuel, that keeps me looking for the good, no matter what it takes.

And each time I make the choice to give my best in this practice of thanksgiving, it allows me to discover something beautiful, a sometimes small but always generous reward.

When you zoom out, your view might still contain more thorns than petals, but whatever glimpse you have of the beauty, embrace it, treasure it, and allow it to be enough.  Allow it to bring you just the hope you need for this moment.

P.S. I’m also thankful that part of the way through typing this post, those people in charge of the leaf blowers decided to move on and now that I’ve finished, my fingers are feeling a bit more nimble.

Jailbird Dino

Jailbird Dino (3)

 

I sat out on the balcony this evening.

I sipped some tea, admired a pretty red tree, and soon found myself wincing at the sound of a neighbor’s loud music in the distance.

About to head inside, I decided to capture a moment.  I took a photo of Dino in one of his favorite spots – sticking his head through the balcony rails like a jailbird.

I’m so thankful we are captive here together, that it isn’t just me alone.  And I’m thankful for the many moments of entertainment he so generously provides.

Many thanks to you, my cute little jailbird.

DadClass 3: Stay in the Now.

Where are you?  Here.
What time is it?  Now.
What’s the most important thing?  This moment.

These are the three simple, yet profound questions my dad asked and answered for himself often.  It’s funny how simple some of the most profound things in life tend to be.
After reading Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, my dad became obsessed with “staying in the now,” as he called it.  It was equal parts illuminating and frustrating.

Yes, frustrating!  Imagine trying to make plans for dinner and instead of receiving suggestions, all you hear is, “I don’t know, I’m enjoying right now.”

Food doesn’t just appear.  Plans have to be made.  Action must be taken.

But yet…

I watched as this focus on living in the moment wrapped him gently in an invincible sense of peace throughout the most difficult circumstances I’ve ever seen anyone put through.  And it is only now, amidst my current challenges, that I’ve experienced this kind of peace and have a more concrete understanding of this lesson to carry with me on my life’s journey.

Illness has a way of making us realize that we can only do one thing at a time, and that the present moment is the only place where our attention can dwell in peace.

This year, for the first 4th of July in many years, I fully appreciated were I was and what I was doing.  I allowed myself to experience the day just as it was.  Not wishing I could be somewhere else.  Not thinking it should be some other way.  Not imagining what would make it better.  Not dreaming up some pie in the sky notion of how it should be.

Not to say that I didn’t think of some other possibilities at all.  I mean, let’s be realistic…

I’m sick which made it impossible to participate in any of the traditional festivities, and I’m human (as my wise mom reminded me one day as I was fretting about not being able to stay in the moment as much as I’d like) which means I can’t do anything perfectly just like anyone else.

But as my mind wandered, the thoughts of things I wished I could do didn’t linger, and I didn’t dwell on them.  That’s the difference, I think.  It’s not about needing battle the thoughts or try to avoid them, but about simply acknowledging them when they appear and not allowing ourselves to get stuck in the sticky web they work so diligently to create.

Noticing the thoughts and kindly turning in a new direction, the direction of the present moment and the wonder it holds, created space for me to enjoy everything that made that 4th of July day feel special:  my brother’s company and the way he made me laugh, the delicious food he grilled with care, and the experiments we concocted for the only kind of childish fireworks (if you can even call them fireworks) that my sensory overloaded brain could stand.

We’re all physically in the moment, every minute of every day, whether we realize it or not.  And whether or not we do so consciously, we all get to answer these three simple questions for ourselves each day.  So why not ask and answer them today on purpose?

Where are you?  What time is it?  What’s the most important thing?

 

Thankful Thursday: An Irish Folksong

Walking up the stairs from taking Dino out for his evening bathroom break, music flowed out of my neighbors open window.  I was surprised to hear the tune of “The Parting Glass.”  I didn’t know other people my age even knew that song!

“But since it fell unto my lot, that I should rise, and you should not…I’ll gently rise, and softly call, goodnight and joy be to you all.”  My eyes well up with tears and  I sing the song quietly to myself as I enter my apartment.

Images begin to flow through my mind and I suddenly feel like I’m in three different places at once.

I’m cozy in the living room watching the end of the movie Waking Ned Devine with my family on the big red couch.

I’m wearing a black dress, sitting in a church pew at my dad’s memorial service, watching pictures of my beautiful family flash across the screen in a special slideshow.

I’m sitting in front of my computer listening to the song over and over, allowing it to help me grieve.

So today I’m thankful for this song and I’m thankful for music.  For the way it transports us, and the way it touches our souls, helping us express what we cannot articulate with words.

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And just in case you’re curious and now want to listen to the song on YouTube…

The Parting Glass

Thankful Thursday: Water Droplets

 

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It rained last week; poured, in fact.  Water droplets in unknowable quantities plummeted from the sky, cascading down toward the earth.

As a non-native Portlander, my reaction surprised me.  Instead of resisting or resenting the fact that it was raining, I welcomed it.

Rain.

Water.

Giver of life.

I found myself appreciating the scent that filled the air and the gentle sound of the droplets hitting the ground.

Gratitude welled up inside of me, thankful for the wave of calm that it seemed to bring me.

And with that, I add this memory to the handful of times that I’ve felt at peace with the rain, the collection of moments where the water droplets seem to capture and perfectly express the way I feel inside.

Thankful Thursday: This Little Dog

As I finish making my coffee (half-caff), I head over to sit in the navy chair that feels like home when I notice this little guy soaking up some sunshine out on the balcony.

I’m thankful for the way this makes me smile.

And I’m thankful for the way he convinces me to forgo my usual spot to sit next to him and get some fresh air.

Today I am thankful for this little dog, my one and only Dino.

Thankful Thursday: Massage Therapy

All you have to do is say the word “massage” and I feel myself start to melt.  In a good way, of course.  Not in a “witch who just got a bucket of water thrown on her” sort of way.

I’ve always enjoyed massages but in recent months they have become more of a necessity.  They are true therapy for my current health condition that involves neck, vestibular and sensory processing issues.  So much so that insurance even recognizes the need and covers part of the cost.

I’m thankful for the delicious tea I get to sip while I wait for my appointment.

I’m thankful for the compassion and encouragement of the massage therapist.

I’m thankful for the therapeutic touch that releases some of the tension my body carries from its constant state of dizziness and disequilibrium.

So today I’m thankful for massage and for the positive experience it brings to my life.