The Coronavirus has changed the world as we know it. These are tough times right now and we are all living with incredible uncertainty. That uncertainty is causing an array of emotions -anger, fear, guilt, sadness and curiosity. This is all natural for us as humans. We feel incredibly threatened and have no true idea of what life will look like in the future. I think most of us would agree, life will never be the same. Hopefully this will not only be a challenging time but also a time for all of us to learn how to help each other and the universe. And humans are resilient-we will get through this!
If there was ever a time to call on your spiritual journey to carry you through it is now. A Course in Miracles teaches that we can’t change the world, but we can change our minds about the world. We are all going to see the world differently. We can’t control everything going on right now. All you can do is live every moment, follow common sense precautions like hand washing and social distancing. Taking normal precautions is a good thing but if we let our fear, guilt and anger overtake us, we will be no help to the world.
We can best help by keeping ourselves healthy so that those who really need the frontline care of our courageous doctors, nurses, and health care workers can get the proper care with the proper equipment. They are the boddhisatvas- a Buddhist term for one who stays around until everyone is healed before taking the final step into Nirvana.
Did you know that the sanskrit word for compassion is Karuna? I heard this on a Dharma talk the other day and I thought- “Wow” That doesn’t sound a whole lot different than Corona, which actually means crown. I’d like to think that rather than be afflicted with coronavirus, which they say we may all have a touch of, we could be afflicted with koruna – compassion for everyone right now. None of us are totally sure how to handle our lives right now so reach out with calm and kindness as much as possible.
Here are some other ways to balance the anxiety and stress of these uncertain times.
Meditate – Simply give your self time to sit, breathe, and allow whatever thoughts and feelings to come up-tears are good and so is laughter. See my post on meditation.
Yoga and Tai Chi or just meditative dance are all fun and relaxing. Put on some quiet music or a video and move through your favorite poses. Sometimes I just put on healing music and dance like I’m floating.
Take a break from television and social media. We can become oversaturated with newscasts and updates. It is good to stay abreast to directives for how to live and work right now, but not all day. I notice how emotional we can get when our fear takes over-that will just fry your immune system
Boost your Immune System. Keep your cells healthy. Check out my post https://themiddlewayhealth.com/our-internal-warrior-the-immune-system/on taking care of it by healthy eating and drinking but more importantly healthy doing and thinking.
Exercise-One of the best things you can do right now is to keep moving. Many people have worried about gaining weight while isolated. Easy to grab snacks and eat out of anxiety and boredom. Get out and walk, if you can. When I am on the phone (unless it is a coaching call) I walk inside my house-amazing how many steps on I can get this way. There are some great fitness videos and workouts on You Tube.
Cook and Plan healthy meals. I happen to love to cook but friends who have just been eating out in the past are now getting back to enjoying their kitchens and culinary creativity. Get out the cook books and have fun making nutritious and colorful foods.
CONTACT ME FOR MORE STRESS MANAGEMENT TIPS OR IF YOU WOULD LIKE COACHING IN MEDITATION AND WELLNESS
A friend of mine just turned 80, and was pleased to have passed his last physical exam with flying colors. He shared some of his lifestyle secrets. Besides getting plenty of enjoyable exercise, he enjoys “a fine, mellow, exquisite, small cigar to CELEBRATE LIFE…. at night, under the stars, on my deck…” but said that Above ALL: Thanks to my meditations I have NO stress, NO anxieties, No tension, No fears. How come? I simply drop it all, every night in deep meditation. It works like magic! “
So what is this magic? Meditation has several health benefits and positively affects our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Relaxing the mind actually relaxes the body, the blood vessels, the cells, and thus can lower blood pressure and stress hormones resulting in a sense of calm and the ability to focus, and more clearly manage life’s challenges with balance. Meditation is very healing, because when we quiet our mind, each cell in our body relaxes.
Spiritually, meditation is used as a time to simply be at peace with one’s definition of God, or empty one’s mind in order to connect to a higher power. It seems that when one desires this connection to be continuous, every moment could be a meditation, and life would flow in a way that would decrease our fears, worries, and tension. We would take life less seriously and enjoy it more.
Ideally you would stay mindful and relaxed as much as possible during the day. But most people live a very rushed, busy life, and are plagued with the human condition of “monkey mind” where our thoughts jump from place to place often disconnecting and leaving our mind overwhelmed and the body tired. And face it, many people find a quiet mind kind of boring.
Hence the need for setting aside a regular time for practicing meditation and training our minds to focus on one thing; the breath, a candle, a prayer, a mantra, or as in Zen, absolutely nothing.
There are many definitions of meditation and many forms of practice. There are several great books on meditation. One of my favorites is The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. I love his teaching because the goal is not to have to sit at a certain time of the day, but to be mindful and pay attention to your breath, and to what your are doing and thinking throughout the day. When you wash dishes, you pay attention to washing dishes. When you eat, you pay attention to eating. Your everyday activities become the focus of your meditation.
The concept of mindfulness as meditation is quite magical, and with practice life becomes a joyful and blessed experience even in the midst of the most stressful situations. As my friend so clearly exemplifies, health comes from living a life of moderation in all things, celebrating life, and dropping our worries and fears by practicing the magic of meditation.
CONTACT ME IF YOU WOULD LIKE COACHING IN MEDITATION AND WELLNESS
Writing and Healing-Reflections
Putting your deepest feelings on paper or into a journal can be a journey into your own soul and a tool for self-discovery and inner peace. There are also some surprising health benefits. There is research that shows that writing what you feel may be a boost to the immune system and help prevent illness. James W. Pennebaker, a psychology professor, did a study where he asked people from all walks of life-prisoners to medical students to write about traumatic events in their life. The control group was asked to write superficial events of their life. The group that wrote the traumatic events had fewer doctor visits and showed a boosted immune response to hepatitis B Vaccine and the Epstein Barr virus. (Important – it seemed the writers used negative response words in the beginning and showed new incites about the incident by the end).
Another study was done at State University in New York, where 51 people with rheumatoid arthritis were either asked to be part of a group that wrote about traumatic events or a group that wrote about neutral events and again the group that wrote about the traumatic events reported less stiffness, swelling, pain, and fatigue than the group that wrote about neutral events. All of this is showing that in fact, writing your deepest feelings is every good for your health.
I started keeping a daily journal in 1985. My first journals were written on 3×5 cards. Eventually, I kept my journals in actual notebooks, and today, I have two bookshelves full of the writing I have done to record my life. Some days are simply – that -simple-what I did with my kids, how I felt, where I ate, traveled, etc. Other days the writing is deep-maybe a poem or reflections from a book I’m reading or feelings I would not necessarily want the world to read. Sometimes I think, “Who is that crazy person? Me!”
One of my goals is to go back and read my journals. I have begun the process, and it’s sometimes fun to look back and think about those early years as a Mom and an older college student pursuing a degree. Sometimes it’s hard to see how serious I was taking life and how many moments I missed worrying too much about things that today seem trivial. It will also be hard to review a time when my spiritual journey took me away from those day to day moments-maybe too much. Eventually, I had to come back to the middle way.
But regardless of how it feels to go back and self-reflect, I have always found the journaling process to be healing and an excellent tool for gaining inner peace. My journals are often my best friend.
My journal goes with me wherever I go as much as possible. There are days that I don’t take the time to journal, but I always go back to those days and add reflections on what I did or how I felt that day. Lately, I enjoy taping my daily newspaper horoscope in my journal and then write about what that could mean to me.
When I travel, I love to journal the sights, sounds, experiences, food, and people from my trips. At the beginning of the summer, we toured Eastern Europe with our Rabbi and Members of our Synagogue. This trip was structured around the history of Jews before, during, and after WWII. There were both painful and joyful moments filled with reminders of the Holocaust and the effects of the War in Eastern Europe and the Renewal of Jewish life today. I was the only one with a journal in my hands throughout the trip. I am currently transcribing those journals and my reflections and hope to include some of the 2500 photos I took while there. I plan to share some of this writing with you.
If you have ever thought of journaling, it is never too late to start. Just get yourself a notebook or writing journal and a good pen and start writing. Write as if no one will ever see it. It is your private conversation with yourself or a dear friend as in Dear Diary.
There are no rules for journaling. Do it your way-the way that feels most comfortable for you.
Here are a few tips to get started.
Choose your writing tools. The sky is the limit. You can use binders, notebooks, decorative journals, or even 3X5 cards.
Find a quiet place and time for writing. I can journal anywhere-at home, in restaurants, on airplanes, or doctor’s offices. But it is really comforting to journal with a cup of tea or glass of wine. Light a candle for an even sweeter effect.
Let go of obstacles that get in the way. If you are worried about someone reading your journal, find a private place to keep them-your secret place. You can even buy lock and key diaries, but they are bulky. A journal is for you. They can also be used if you are writing a memoir or autobiography and wish to share some of your story with others.
Let go of your inner critic. Most important is to let go of an inner critic and editor. Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation. Just write. Later if you want to share your story, you can worry about editing.
Use prompts to get you started and keep you going. As I said, I sometimes cut out my daily horoscope as a prompt for writing about my day or life.
Write the good, the bad, the ugly. Write when you’re happy and when you’re sad. Write when your grateful. Get it all out in your journals. Just Write.
I love to travel, but until my suitcase is packed, I have a hard time getting excited. So I have come up with a plan for packing that keeps the joy in the upcoming journey.
Make a List–I use a master list that I bought as a pad of packing sheets. This sheet guides me prior to packing and also stays in my suitcase when I am packing from my destination to go home. Here is an image.
At the top of my list I write where I am going, how long and the expected weather outlook. Knowing your destination climate is so important so that you pack clothes that will keep you comfortable. Also you can prepare for cold evenings or rainy days where you need an umbrella etc.
Give yourself lots of time. I begin packing at least a week ahead of time. Sometimes I have my suitcase open and ready for clothes two weeks ahead of time. That way I have time to change my mind about my vacation wardrobe.
Carry On – As much as possible avoid having to check a bag. There are many ways to keep the size of your packing to a minimum. For one thing, roll your clothes instead of folding. This allows you to fit clothes in corners of the suitcase and use every bit of room in your bag. You can take two bags. One can be your carry on size suitcase-be careful to keep it within the parameters designated by the airline. Make your other bag an expandable shopping bag. For women you can put your purse inside this bag. You can also put a brief case inside a larger shopping bag.
“He who would travel happily must travel light.” -Antoine de St. Exupery
Soft Shoes-My favorite travel shoes are Mary Jane looking flats. I have both Keens and recently bought a pair of Campers flats. I can walk miles in these shoes and they pack without taking much room in your suitcase. You can wear a bulkier pair of comfy shoes or boots to the airport. Other comfy flexible shoes that pack well are Toms. I also pack a comfortable pear of walking sandals.
Color coordinate-pack light. Pick a color and coordinate around it so that you can mix and match outfits. I also pack with layers. Vests, skirts, and leggings take up little room but are very versatile wardrobe pieces that can help you interchange outfits.
Chargers and Electronics Accessories–If you are like most people, you will be taking your cell phone and possibly a camera. Chargers are very important. I keep a small accessory bag for electronic chargers and accessories. If you go to a country outside the United States you will need electric outlet adapters. We have a kit that has a variety of adapters for a variety of countries.
Download tourist books-We went to Paris this fall and I really wanted to take several tourist guides. Some of them were small books that could easily be packed, but one that I thought would be especially useful was Rick Steve’s Paris. This book is over 3000 pages. Not a practical pack on. I purchased the book on I-books and it was downloaded to my I-phone and I-Pad. Voila-Rick could go with us easily as we traversed the streets and museums of Paris.
Prepack toiletries– Have two of everything so you can have most of your toiletries in your suitcase ready to go. Travel size toothpaste, hair gel, and moisturizer, packed with a new toothbrush. That way you don’t have to throw in toiletries at the last minute.
Medication and Supplements are trickier. What I do is sort my vitamins and put enough in a container for the days I will be gone. If you take daily medication, do the same. Pack enough of your daily meds for the days you will be away. Also have a copy of your prescription, in case you run out of medication or lose some pills.
I take Metamucil every day and while I was on a vacation in Germany, I dropped my whole container of Metamucil on the bathroom floor of the bed and breakfast. Trying to find Metamucil or the equivalent in Germany was tough. Finally I did find psyllium powder in a German pharmacia, so my recommendation is to take extra.
Glasses. Make sure you have both your regular glasses and a pair of sunglasses.
Travel documents –make copies of all your important documents and leave a copy with someone back home. Pack a copy.
Plastic bags-Put extra bags in your suitcase. I pack both quart size and travel size zip lock bags. You can use these bags for snacks, packed liquids, and the bigger bags are good for shoes, and for smaller dirty items.
Umbrella–Always pack a compact size umbrella. This way the weather will not get in the way of your plans
Returning Home and Unpacking-Take your time
When the vacation is over, it can be depressing to unpack. Don’t rush. Give yourself time to unpack and wash and put away your clothes. If you plan to travel again soon, start thinking of what you need for your next trip and start your list.
So often we look outside ourselves to find out who we truly are on the inside. We look for gurus, models, mentors, more experienced or more self-confident people who have more guts than we do to tell us what we need to do to get life right. Oprah Winfrey, Eckart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, and other popular gurus are put on pedestals, and yet, they are simply people who have stopped asking for permission to be who they are and now use their power to influence our decisions on how to live.
I do this a lot. I keep looking for the right book to tell me how to go forward-what to do next-how to tell my story. I recently spoke with a book editor/publisher who said-“stop listening to everyone else. You have a story. Only you will know how to tell it.”
Spell the word guru, and you have Gee You Are You. The greatest gurus point you back to yourself. Although there are billions of people, there is only one you and yet we are all connected. Sometimes it is helpful to seek advice or ask for guidance along the journey, because of this connectedness we sometimes need an outside opinion. But then it is important to do an inner check and see if it fits for us. Eventually, you have to listen to your inner voice. That’s the key.
I used to teach this in my yoga classes. I never wanted to be looked at as a guru or all-wise teacher. I taught what I wanted to learn-what I needed to hear. I had followed someone as my guru, and it almost took me took me away from the life I think ( I hope) – do you hear the self-doubt?) I was meant to lead.
Authenticity is hard to find when there are so many of us influenced by outside sources. I loved a little cartoon I saw recently where the first cell is beginning to divide, and now there are almost two and the one nucleus, the center of the cell, says to the other – It’s not you. It’s me. Who is it then? Is it Oprah or you? Is it you or your guru? Who are you? Pretend for a moment that there is no guide. There is no Oprah. There is no role model. There is no textbook. There is no Bible. There is nothing but you left to guide you.
This is a scary thought but also one that can free you to be yourself. I think we all have an inner Jiminy Cricket or Holy Spirit that guides us. We just need to make room for quiet time, whether it’s meditation, yoga, or simply sitting on a bench in the park. Then listen to what your inner voice is telling you.
Do you have the inner intelligence to move forward and know what to do next? What would you do if the world were up to you? What would you do if no one could tell you what to do? Who are you all by yourself? What would happen if we believed in ourselves and simply followed our hearts and our inner guide?
I feel like I am at a precipice. I am almost ready to tell you my story.
The problem is we don’t know how to listen or who to listen to anymore? I imagine myself waking up and just listening to my own voice and yet I am so full of everyone else’s thoughts and all the books and magazines and helpful hints I read.
I am listening and slowly finding my own voice. The hints I write for you come from my own life and experience.
Why can’t I just think of that or this? Why do I need someone else to tell me something that is right in front of my face?
And so it is with you-take the hints but see what fits in your life. Who are you and who are you meant to be?
It’s self-doubt. We grow up not believing in our own personal power. Our parents often tell us how to be, what to believe in and how to behave. As children, we look to them for advice and approval. We are human beings after all, and we need others to confirm who we are. We look at others for approval.
It is difficult to finally grow up and get in touch with the decision maker in you. I grew up very different than the way my own life has evolved. I hardly could tell my children how to to be or what to believe in. I was growing up with them. I had lost my parent’s approval long ago. As years went on I think they respected my inner growth.
As we grow up we continue to seek advice from books and approval from others. There comes a time when you need to stop reading, seeking, and asking and start believing in your own inner wisdom.
I teach what I want to learn.
You have the power to simply Be YOURSELF!
And so I hope you enjoy the me that shares more and more of my deeper self and story.
DON’T FORGET TO LAUGH
Laughter is a release, a bonding agent, a prescription for health, a weapon and more. When someone laughs at your jokes today-not a polite laugh but an honest-to-goodness “I get you” laugh — it feels like love. (From my daily horoscope)
When was the last time you had a real belly laugh? A laugh where tears are rolling down your face, and your whole body is moving. In that moment you forgot everything around you. This is very healing-very important.
The average adult laughs 17 times a day. Humans are one of the only species that laughs. Have you ever seen your cat or dog laugh? They kind of just look at you like your nuts or maybe wag their tail.
Laughter is the best medicine!! While you’re at the pharmacy picking up your $ 500 worth of drugs or while you’re at the health food store buying mega dollar’s worth of supplements pick up a bottle of humor. At the end of my mother-in-law’s life when she was very sick, her doctor wrote on a prescription pad-Laugh!
The study of laughter is called gelotology. It is actually a science.
What really makes us laugh? There are a number of theories about laughter.
Incongruity theory – Jokes- We anticipate the end, which usually is something stupid, or something illogical –doesn’t fit-or fits in an abnormal way –it’s just funny. Hits us as funny. A good joke can be very clean. Knock knock jokes etc.
Superiority theory– laughing at the expense of someone else or someone’s culture etc. Not really helpful and can just be a cover up for prejudice and anger – not healthy.
Relief theory- Jokes in the middle of tension – just need a humor break in the middle of stressful situations.
Tickling – but you can’t tickle yourself because tickling needs tension and surprise.
Laughter is the rhythmic, vocalized, expiratory, and involuntary response of the body. When someone tells a joke, you need the left brain to analyze the joke, the frontal lobe activates (social emotional response), the right brain helps you “get” the joke, the back of the brain sends nerve signals that make you react.
Damage to any of these areas can prevent someone from having a “sense of humor”.
When you laugh, many things are happening in your body. 15 facial muscles contract. The respiratory system is upset enough to make you gasp. If you laugh hard enough the tear ducts are activated. The mouth opens and closes so you get enough oxygen. The face becomes red and moist from increased circulation. We create all kinds of noises – some dainty and some very loud.
There are two types of sound in laughter – ha ha ha or ho ho ho or both. Laughter Yoga uses these sounds while teaching deep breathing and laughter. It’s wonderfully healing:)
Laughter is contagious.
John Morreal, a philosopher believes that the first time humans laughed was after danger passed and they shared the relief-like wow! That was a close one! Ha ha ha.
It is something we share with others and usually you laugh with others when you trust them and feel like you belong. People are 30 times more likely to laugh in a social setting than when alone.
I was at the book store one day and was reading a book. Across from me was a young woman reading a book and every few pages would burst out laughing as if nobody was around. She made me laugh!! It’s like The Wonky Donkey video -a grandma having the best laugh as she reads the book to her grandson.
We laugh at different things at different ages and get jokes more as we mature.
We laugh at the things that stress us out!
We may not laugh if we don’t get the joke or we don’t find the joke funny or if we just lack a sense of humor.
If the boss laughs you can laugh or if the one in power laughs it is okay to laugh – tribal.
Laughter is sometimes used to cover up anger or sadness or fear. Nervous laughter!! There is laughter in those tears or tears in the laughter. Helps to release emotions. That is why funny movies or comedy clubs are so popular.
There is scientific research that shows that humor reduces stress, increases your ability to tolerate pain or even to forget about chronic pain, and boosts your immune system
In the book, The Anatomy of an Illness , Norman Cousins describes how he healed from his chronic illness by watching funny movies and television skits. Carl Jung believed that all Illness is mental illness and all mental illness is a spiritual disconnection.
Don’t take things so seriously. Anything we take seriously can be made fun of!!!
Laughter decreases stress and stress hormones that cause disease. Increases killer cells that kill cancer and viruses. Can clear the respiratory tract by causing coughing or hiccupping
Laughing 100 times is equal to 10 minutes on a rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike. Lowers blood pressure. Increases vascular flow. Assists in healing.
And when there is no chance of avoiding the end of life, live in the moment. I can remember when my Mom had pancreatic cancer. She was dying but still managed to laugh. We kept her alive with humor, chocolate, high fiber Vitamix smoothies, and a powerful use of denial. We laughed a lot and also shared tears together.
The world is a crazy place. Not one of us will ever be able to figure it all out. We cannot possibly judge because we are limited humans and lack all the facts. All we can do is watch ourselves play our parts in the movie. Grab some popcorn and raisinets and laugh. You would not tear apart the movie screen so don’t take your life so serious. Sit back and observe yourself and your relationship with others.
Figure out what makes you laugh and do it! Read funny books or watch funny movies.
Surround yourself with funny people. Don’t waste your time worrying.
Develop your sense of humor. Be funny. Coco Chanel said – You only have one life to live you might as well be amusing.
Have fun!! Enjoy!! What is preventing you from laughing right now? Whatever it is……
It’s all a silly mad Idea don’t forget to laugh!!!! (A Course in Miracles)