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Succumbing to Solstice Darkness

shutterstock 152960528 500 002The culture clash between winter solstice and Christmas is battling for my allegiance. On the one hand, the sun will set on the winter solstice today in Seattle at 4:20 p.m. This time of year, I am ready to pack up the day and begin my long winter’s nap by 7:00. On the other hand, that seems laughable. Who has time to go to bed at 7:00? This is the frenetic holiday season. Too much to do! Not enough time! Additionally, I find myself fighting the darkness. I sit in front of my light box as I work. In the evenings, I turn on all the lights and crank up the music to fend off a desire to hibernate while I push forward in accomplishing the items on my to-do list.

Yet my body refuses to be ignored. It is allying against me and siding with circadian rhythms that dictate darkness = rest. The busyness our culture calls us to now is diabolically opposed to what nature calls us to.

Every year I feel this same clash. In an effort to reduce the busyness, I consider the tasks and activities that are most meaningful to me during the holidays, prioritize them and cut out everything else. Decorate the house beyond a Christmas tree? Nope. Send out holiday cards? Gave that up a decade ago. Limit my kids to one present each plus stocking stuffers? My bank account thanks me. Bake Christmas cookies? A wholehearted yes! Even with being conscientious about what I spend my time on, I still find myself depleted and resenting the few “essentials” of the holiday season.

Last night, I succumbed to the darkness. It was about time. I turned my back on the to-do list, turned off the lights and music, and sat in front of the Christmas tree. Just sat and soaked up the beauty of tiny lights twinkling on fragrant evergreen boughs. I reflected on the tree’s meaning of everlasting life, symbolism that reaches as far back as ancient civilizations. I recognized my connection to the whole of the universe. It was the most peaceful, energizing thing I have done all week. Not only did it allow my body to rest, the quiet moments of contemplation filled a longing in my soul. It shifted my perspective to what is truly important—love. Love for ourselves, our families, neighbors, the web of humanity, nature and the divine. That love is far more satisfying than my beloved Christmas cookies.

On this winter solstice night, I will again let nature have its way and sink into the rest and peace of darkness, knowing this is what fills me with light and life, and brings joy to the tasks of the holiday season. May you also be filled with the gifts of this season.

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Savoring Summer’s Sweet Slowness

shutterstock 289586102 500In my last blog post, I shared that radical self-care is the only thing keeping me going through a difficult transition. Christine Valters Paintner, whose job title is “Online Abbess and Dancing Monk” of Abbey of the Arts, shared in a recent blog post her ideas for how to savor summer. Her suggestions and questions for reflection struck me as tangible applications of what I wrote about previously. Below is an excerpt from her article to spark your creative exploration of self-care. I will certainly add some of her recommendations to my regimen and look forward to savoring summer. To read the full piece, go to http://abbeyofthearts.com/blog/2016/07/17/savoring-summers-sweet-slowness-a-love-note-from-your-online-abbess/

Summer calls me to relish the gifts of slowness, attention, and wonder. The season immerses me in the sacramental imagination—the recognition that everything is holy, everything shimmers with the sacred presence if we only slow down enough to see.

Let's celebrate summer's gifts with a list of some things that should be done s-l-o-w-l-y:

  • Taking a long swim in the open water, feeling the stretch of your muscles
  • Eating fresh sweet berries and peaches letting the juice drip down your chin and fingers.
  • Cooking a meal with complete loving attention to each chop, sprinkle, and stir.
  • Napping in a patch of sunlight.
  • Hiking deep in the emerald woods.
  • Ordering a soft-serve cone from the ice cream truck and giggling as it melts down your hand.
  • Buy yourself a bouquet of peonies or sunflowers at the farmer's market.
  • Listening to the rhythms of the ocean until you discover your own heartbeat hidden there.
  • Rubbing a dog's belly.
  • Rolling in the grass.
  • Letting a piece of music wash over you and knit itself into your being until you find yourself dancing.
  • Listening. To a friend, a spouse, a stranger. To silence, to the holy presence.
  • Making love and being loved. Treasuring the sacred gift of touch.
  • Gazing upon a work of art or a sunset and really seeing it. Gazing upon a loved one and really seeing them.
  • Transformation: The long slow process of becoming who we really are.
  • Breathing. In. Out. In. Out.
  • Grieving. Experiencing the fullness of sorrow and loss.
  • Basking in gratitude for the simple joys of each day.
  • Lingering under the bone-white face of the moon as she blesses the night.
  • Allowing at least one moment each day when you release doing and simply are.

Consider making a list of the summer gifts you love and then letting your summer practice be to enjoy one slowly each day. What are the things worth savoring? What might happen if you slowed down enough to hear deeply the God who speaks in sheer silence? What is being whispered to you there?

May each of your journeys unfold with a thousand delightful surprises these summer days. May the sun bring you the gift of illumination. May the sweetness of summer elicit a long sigh of surrender from the deepest places of your being.

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Radical Self-care

shutterstock 322985951 500For years I have been writing about the importance of self-care. I have also been practicing what I preach—most of the time. I have the basics covered such as eating healthfully, exercising regularly, meditating daily and allowing sufficient time for sleep—usually. Except when life gets busy and I take short cuts. The problem with short cuts in self-care is that you really do “get out what you put in.”

Currently, I am going through a challenging life transition that will upend almost every aspect of my life. I have clung to my own self-care advice like never before and have practiced it fervently during this unsettling time.

And guess what? Self-care really works!

Exercising hard five to six times a week rids my body of the physiological impacts of stress. Meditating clears my mind so I can think straight. Avoiding sugar keeps my moods more even. That last one is not easy for a self-proclaimed sugar addict. But the difference between adhering to these self-care activities and taking short cuts is so substantial, I cannot imagine cheating right now. It is the difference between having enough creativity to problem solve and enough love to be generous, or going over the deep end.

Deeply caring for myself allows me to walk through these uncertain days with the grace and strength I strive for every day. Trust me, not every day is perfect. But in those moments of fear, I fall back on my tool bag of self-care tricks to get through it, like deep breathing or going outside to soak up nature’s healing energy for a few minutes.

This experience is a reminder that when this all passes, as it eventually will, self-care is a powerful tool for everyday living as well. Once life settles and I am not directing energy toward coping, I will remember this wellspring of life force that can be directed toward positive, productive endeavors. I will be unstoppable!

For tools to support your self-care, go to the Downloads tab above. 

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Boundaries

shutterstock 124776217By Guest Writer Holli Brown, BSEE, LMP-NCTMB, HTCP

I recently returned from an advanced training class in energy medicine. I learned many new techniques and new aspects of the chakras and energy field that increased my awareness and understanding of how we hold and manifest dis-ease in our lives. Do you know that saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”? My personal philosophy is: when the student is ready, the information, situation, client, opportunity, challenge appears to help that student consciously evolve. “Teachers” often come to me in different forms. “They” are not always a person, but as of late, a concept of self, a holding that needs release, a belief that needs healing.

 

The beauty of taking healing courses with other practitioners is that I get to learn new things from the teacher and other students as well as get to work on my own issues as part of the hand-on learning. The depth of work can be moving, challenging and so liberating! In my recent class, I was personally working on issues around boundaries, speaking my truth and being heard, and my personal power. Many issues for my clients, as well as my own, are rooted in family of origin. What a powerful situation we manifest in our lives – being born into a specific family with its bounty of lessons. Soon after returning from my class, the Universe (bless you) bestowed on me the perfect challenge to hold the energy shift I had uncovered and was learning about. I was ready! I was up for the challenge! And in my ability to be clear, speak my truth, and stand in my own power, release and growth was realized.

Personal growth doesn’t happen in a straight line for any of us. I believe it is a magnificent spiral, and as we grow and change, we travel around the spiral, upwards towards consciousness (perhaps some call this enlightenment). I again found myself on the spiral, not on the same loop however, upwards, but again in the same spot/issue. Now on a new level, I looked at the issue from a different perspective. My boundaries were clearer, my voice was easier to find, and my personal power came much more naturally. Do I think this issue is now completed? No. I do recognize I have more work to do. Uncovering the root (so to speak) of my issue around boundaries is a gift and every loop upwards on the spiral enables me to be clearer. I do anticipate the day when this issue can be released to the Universe with a kiss and a wave. Until then, upwards I go!

Reprinted with permission from http://heartlighthealingtouch.com/blog/

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Following the Unexpected Path

shutterstock 169037579 3It is shocking that I am an energy medicine practitioner. At least, to me it is. Five years ago, I would never have imagined that I would open my own energy healing business. Even sitting in the Level 1 Healing Touch class I could not have imagined it. Within ten minutes of class starting, the instructor explained the energy system: the chakras and auras. I sat there thinking, “What the heck am I doing here?! I have no idea what to think about chakras and auras!” It sounded so woo-woo and I struggled not to roll my eyes and heave deep sighs. But sometimes we are led down unexpected paths, and this was all Universal Energy/Source/God’s doing. On the surface, nothing about my previous experience prepared me for this change of career. I started in theatre administration, then moved to human services and finally stayed home for a number of years to raise my boys. But an undercurrent through it all was my contemplative practice.

Twenty years ago, as I learned a contemplative prayer practice, my hands seemed to catch fire while in contemplation. It was downright uncomfortable and when I asked my spiritual director about it, he said, “Someday you’ll be a healer.” I had no idea what he was talking about so I filed that comment in the back of my mind and forgot about it. Until about five years ago. The initial burning in my hands had faded after a couple of years, but five years ago, it came back—with a vengeance. It all came to a head one day when I chanced upon a page on the website of a local retreat center that featured the work of a Healing Touch practitioner. My hands caught on fire like never before. I had never heard of Healing Touch, but it was clear I needed to learn more. One episode of synchronicity followed another and the rest, as they say, is history.

If we allow ourselves to be led, we can land in the most unexpected places. Sometimes we get there through dramatic experiences like burning hands. Other times, the nudges are much quieter—a string of events that point in a particular direction, someone says something that sends our heart aflutter and ignites our passion, a longing that grows to the point that we cannot ignore it anymore.

The New Year invites us into reflection about our lives—to take stock of the past year and dream of unexplored paths in the New Year. The essential key is to pay attention. What is tugging at the corners of your awareness? Following the path that presents itself with openness and curiosity can lead to the most life changing and unexpected, yet delightful destinations.

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Parking Karma

shutterstock 127209596 350I have an amazing gift. I can find a parking place in front of wherever I am going probably 75% of the time. I live in a big city where parking is a major issue. I say out loud, “All right parking karma, I want a spot right in front!” It is truly amazing how often I get what I ask for. It has become a bit of a joke. People want to take me with them just so I can land them a good parking place.

A prevailing belief in the Energy Medicine, quantum physics and self-help worlds is that we shape our realities with our thoughts. I wonder, what would happen if I asked with such confidence and clarity for other things? Jan Engels-Smith writes about prayer in the latest issue of Energy Magazine and defines it as simply being “focused energy with strong intent.” If you have ever done any of the “energy experiments” in Pam Grout’s bestselling books E2 and E3, you know this is exactly what she is talking about as well. I have tried the experiments, most of which are frivolous and fun, with mixed success.

Maybe I have such success with parking places because I have built up the confidence needed to ask with assurance (strong intent) and because I am very, very clear about what I want in that moment (focused energy). While parking places are trivial, our clients’ challenges are not. As a Healing Touch Certified Practitioner, I’ve learned the techniques of the Healing Touch Program. I know where to put my hands and in what order. I know how to set my intention and ground myself. But as I go deeper into the work, it is becoming even clearer how important this “focused energy with strong intent” is. It is everything. It is the mechanism that initiates healing.

In order to know what to focus on, we need to listen carefully, both to our clients and our intuition. In this way, we get clear about what specifically to ask for. Asking for pain to reduce from 7 to 0 on a pain scale or for infection to leave the body is powerful. I have started restating out loud the goals my clients and I set in the intake once they are settled on the table. This helps not only me as a practitioner, but also my clients. After all, all healing is self-healing, so reminding clients what they are asking for engages their thought processes and their innate ability to shape their own reality. It is the same as me sitting in my car shouting my request at “parking karma.” The only difference is that our clients’ health and well-being are far more significant. 

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Rejuvenation

shutterstock 196781330 350Summer has ended. Most of us are saying good-bye to the vacation season and easing (or some of us are being thrown) into the new fall rhythm—school, refreshed energy for work projects, activities that resume once everyone is back in town from far-flung adventures. But how many of us truly rejuvenated during this summer season? After my family’s epic road trip (see previous blog post: The Epic American Road Trip), I was exhausted, cranky and in need of space to myself. So I took it. It felt like a matter of survival—not just for me but for members of my family as well. As the saying goes, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

I squeezed in three days to myself. It’s a funny thing, going off on your own with idyllic dreams of recharging and rediscovering your best self again. Reality usually hits me in the face the minute I step through the doorway into my retreat.

What do I do now?

I can feel the anxiety I was trying to escape creep up. I’m supposed to be relaxing, but I’m not relaxing. I’m here, I’m ready and I’m also fidgety and restless. Where is that Zen state of mind?

If only it were that easy.

I have found over the years that I have to ease into relaxation in order to withstand the withdrawal symptoms of exiting regular life. So many of us live in a wound up state all the time. We’re addicted to our electronic devices and the rush we get from the influx of constant information. What happens when we do stop? It’s difficult. When we disconnect, we fear we might miss something. The roles we play are stripped away, leaving us as…well, who?

When we extract ourselves from all the noise, we are faced with our unfulfilled longings and desires, the disappointments, the ways in which our life doesn’t measure up. And this was supposed to be a nice getaway. How awkward.

I usually start by finding a broom and begin sweeping. It’s a little quirk of mine. It’s still productive, so I’m not plunging headlong into “lollygagging" (my wound-up self’s word) right out of the gate. But it’s also a way for me to sink into mindfulness: the swishing sound, the feel of the broom handle in my hands, watching the dirt collect in a pile, the sense of completion when I’m done.

Maybe my unconscious mind recognizes this metaphor. Maybe it also is cleaning house of the busy thoughts that keep me distracted so I can open up to the present moment. After all, it’s only in the present that we find our true self. Our past self is just a memory and our future self is either a longing or a fear. But when confronted with our present self, we find grace. We find everything is okay. Not perfect, maybe. But okay. This last retreat, I was even able to experience the joy that lives at the center of all of us. That joy is what rejuvenates us, gives us hope and energizes us for the work ahead. That is a true vacation.

 

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The Epic American Road Trip

shutterstock 229434985 300It’s a part of our American culture: loading the kids and all manner of gear into the car and then setting off down the winding road in search of adventure, family memories and hopefully really good ice cream. We succumbed to the madness this year, filling the car’s rooftop cargo carrier so full that our 11-year-old had to sit on it to close it. As if that weren’t enough stuff, we couldn’t see out the back window due to the piles of camping gear. The goal was a 2300-mile loop from Seattle through Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, Hells Canyon in Idaho and home again.

We found adventure. We created family memories. We even ate good ice cream. What we didn’t do was have a vacation. By vacation, I mean a time to let go of stress and the chance to rest and rejuvenate. It was quite the opposite, in fact. It was stressful (questioning if the rain flies on the tents would keep out the thunderstorms, a kid throwing up). It was exhausting (sleeping on an air mattress that deflated during the night, snoring neighbors in the campsite next to us). It was draining (hours and hours of driving almost every day). Not to mention all the bickering in the back seat.

I needed a vacation from our vacation when we returned.

Now, before I sound terribly ungrateful for such an opportunity, let me state that there were great times had in the adventure, family time and certainly the ice cream. This is why we go on these epic adventures. If I had the chance to go back and do it over, I might do a few things differently to slow down the pace of our trip. But I would definitely still do it. We gave our kids (and ourselves) the chance to experience a truly awe-inspiring and gorgeous part of our country. Check. We can now cross Yellowstone and surrounds off our list.

What my deeper self is truly craving, however, is peace. Life with two boys is lively and fun—and so very, very busy. My two 20-minute meditations a day aren’t enough to sustain me over the long haul. For me, meditation is a necessary start at achieving balance in everyday life. But every once in a while, I need extended time when I am not responsible for anything or anyone else. In order to regain my inner equilibrium, I need to take a step back, not charge forward. I need to get quiet. Really, really quiet. To be in a place where I can let go and not worry about the next moment. To soak up the beauty of nature, not rush by while snapping pictures out the car window.

Selfish? No. This is self-care. This is the foundation of being able to offer our life’s work. As stated in the Energy Magazine Self-care Tool Kit, “Only when we effectively take care of ourselves can we live a vibrant and joyful life. Filling ourselves up first allows us to fully offer our gifts and talents to the world, creating meaning and a sense of purpose for our lives.” (Find the Self-care Tool Kit in “Downloads” on the menu bar above.)

What I’ve realized is that I need two vacations: the family adventure and a retreat that allows me to rest, rejuvenate and connect with my deeper self. I’ve already started repacking my bag.

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The Drudgery (and Lessons) of Waiting

shutterstock 198405680 KarinI hate waiting. I also hate to admit it. Despite years of meditating and attempting to live in the moment, despite my best efforts to be countercultural in the face of a “hurry” society, I have become a product of our instant gratification culture. Right now, it feels like I am about to die from waiting. I’m waiting for the seeds in my back yard and on my window sill to sprout into the gorgeous array of colors, textures and fragrances I have planned for my first-ever flower garden.

Forces outside my control seem to be plotting against me. I have replanted the seeds three times now, both inside and out. The neighborhood cat scratched up the bachelor button starts while leaving a gift I neither needed nor appreciated. Birds plucked up the Chianti sunflower seedlings. Rambunctious boys playing a game involving soccer balls and scooters decimated my calla lilies. I forgot to water the inside seeds. Several times. Okay, I admit that was within my control. In any case, I am waiting with gritted teeth for my beautiful vision to come to fruition.

Not surprisingly, this is the perfect metaphor for my healing practice. I am also waiting for the seeds of my Healing Touch business to shoot up and bloom. They say it takes two years for a new business to gain its footing and become financially viable.  I haven’t reached that landmark yet and the waiting is getting to me.

I tell myself this is an opportunity to practice patience and persistence, to breathe into the frustration and grow spiritually. My inner teenager rolls her eyes and groans. My inner sage knows it’s true. We can’t sit on our meditation cushions visualizing our perfect practice and expect it to manifest all by itself. While we wait, we also need to be proactive. Not a crazy, frenetic kind of proactive that loses all sense of grounding. But a centered, open proactive that listens to the stirrings of synchronicity and inner whisperings, and follows their lead.

I received an unexpected invitation to join a networking group. A doctor friend is exploring renting out her space in the evenings to integrative care practitioners and I’m first in line. A friend of the sister of my old roommate emailed out of the blue to learn more about my practice. While these aren’t paying clients pounding down my door, these connections are steps in the right direction.

When I stop pouting and accept what is being offered with gratitude, things change. I have noticed there is a connection between gratefully opening to what the universe brings and the frequency of those gifts—the more I’m open, the more gifts arrive. Then buoyed by gratitude, I take further action and the cycle continues. Some would say I’m raising my vibration and experiencing the Law of Attraction. That’s fine. I would also call it a good way to build a business—as long as I can just wait long enough to see it come to fruition. Just like the flowers in my garden.

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Shameless Self Promotion

shameless2I choked the other day. Not literally on food. I choked on my words. They were on the tip of my tongue, mostly formed. But they sounded so self-promoting that I couldn’t get them out. I had given a free Healing Touch session to the receptionist at the integrative health center where I have my practice. This receptionist doesn’t work for me, but she sits at the front desk three days a week, greeting everyone who comes through the door.

My intention in giving the free session wasn’t altruistic. My intention was that she understand what I offer so that if ever the topic came up in conversation with clients of the center, she could point to my business cards and with authority tell the person how fabulous my work is. That’s great marketing, building up your referral base. However, I’m not sure the receptionist was even aware of the partner-in-crime role I assigned her because I choked on my words. We parted ways after that session without me asking for referrals. Thankfully, I see her every week and was more proactive the next time I saw her. She enthusiastically agreed to let people know about the benefits of a Healing Touch session with me.

This marketing story had a happy ending. But what about all the other conversations in which I have choked and didn’t have the opportunity to rewind and replay? I know I’m not alone. In a women’s entrepreneur class I’m taking, all of us choked during role plays about discussing our fees and asking if our partner wanted to hire us. Why is this so hard? The information is straightforward: we charge X amount for a particular service and we have these specific times available. It should be so simple. Is it our taboo against discussing money? Is it a lack of confidence that our work is worth the price? Is it the fear that we won’t be taken seriously because we’re energy medicine practitioners? Role playing the conversation in my class was enormously helpful because it uncovered all those nasty doubts we harbor but never examine in the clear light of day.shameless1

I admire practitioners who come right out and say it. No shame, no hemming and hawing or apologies, just direct and clear. There is power in that, an assertion of worth that’s not pushy. That’s how I want to be, so I am pledging to tell the next person who asks about my business what my fees are in addition to all the benefits that come with energy medicine. And the next person, and the next person after that. No more choking, only shameless self-promotion. 

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Barefoot Labyrinth

labyrinth 500Mud squished cold between my toes in the shade, but iridescent green moss that had warmed in the sun eased the chill as I weaved my way barefoot through the labyrinth. I had retreated to a small island off the coast of Washington state to find my grounding again. The rush of life had depleted my energy to the point that I truly was not fit for anyone else’s company anymore. Time to take a break and recharge.

The labyrinth is laid in beach stones in a small clearing surrounded by wild rose, Douglas fir and alder trees. It is as beautiful a sanctuary as any great cathedral. Mother Nature seemed to be thumbing her nose at my calendar which indicated it was the beginning of March. She was cavorting as if it were mid-spring, not still winter. She dared me to take off my shoes and socks and walk the labyrinth barefoot. I had never done this before (note “mud” in the first sentence), but her invitation was too tempting. I’ve become intrigued with the idea of “Earthing” which suggests that we are healthier when we are directly connected to the earth’s surface, and therefore its energy field, through our bare feet.  (Visit the Earthing Institute’s website to learn more by clicking here.)

I have walked the labyrinth many times during past visits to this sleepy island. It is a ritual that helps me to return to my center. But on this winter day in March, I tried combining Earthing with walking the labyrinth. I could feel the energy flowing through my body. At various points on the path, energetic congestion bubbled up from some unknown place within me and released. Earth energy and labyrinth energy seemed to be a powerful combination. Consciously letting go of old energy in this place where so many people had previously brought their devotion, intentions and love was freeing. I felt lighter, as if I really could lay down my burdens and leave them there.Sacred Garden labyrinth

I had been re-energized and returned home as much better company. The question became, how could I make this a regular practice in the midst of everyday life? Escaping to the island is not always possible, of course. But I had discovered a way to return to my center that was immediate and powerful—I wanted to continue this sense of well-being and peace.

The weather hasn’t cooperated entirely since I returned home. And there aren’t any public labyrinths close to my house. But on the sunny days when I work at home, I eat lunch sitting on the front porch steps with my bare feet on the ground. It’s a start. As the weather warms up and dries out, maybe I’ll draw my own simple labyrinth with sidewalk chalk. It won’t have the same wild beauty as on the island. But thankfully, when we get creative and take the time, we can connect to Mother Nature and our own center anywhere, even in the midst of everyday city life.

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Saint Valentine, the Healer

hearthands 376If you’re like most Americans, the words “Valentine’s Day” conjure up images of red and pink hearts decked out in lace. Or chocolate. Or flowers. While I love Valentine’s Day as much as the next romantic, the trappings of our modern Valentine’s Day hardly reflect the original story, except for love notes.

Mists of legend surround St. Valentine, clouding who he was and what he did. We know he was a priest. We know he lived in Rome in the third century under the rule of the cruel emperor Claudius II. Beyond this, myth becomes stronger than fact. But it’s at this point that I become charmed by his story. One version claims he was a healer, using herbs and salves along with prayer. Because of his Christian beliefs, he healed in secret—the penalty for being a Christian in Rome at that time was death. A prison guard brought his young, blind daughter to St. Valentine in the hopes that he could heal her. They became friends and when St. Valentine was arrested by the Roman authorities and taken to prison, he sent a note to the girl. Her father read the note to her which said, “From your Valentine.” It was then that her sight was restored. Shortly thereafter, St. Valentine was beheaded on February 14, around the year 270 A.D. We will never know the true details of St. Valentine’s story, but I am inspired by his courage and commitment to heal those who suffered, even under the threat of death.

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About Those New Year's Resolutions...

Self care kit first pageSo. It’s February. We are one month into 2015. Do you remember your New Year’s resolutions? Frankly, I don’t. I think they had something to do with losing the weight I put on over the holidays (should have followed my own advice in the blog post below entitled “The Holiday Food Battle”). But really, does it matter? The point is that we reflect on what we want and need in life, and then work toward it. We can do that anytime. As an energy medicine practitioner, assessing what I need to stay healthy and well is a necessity on a daily basis, not just annually. Energy Magazine has created a Self-Care Kit to encourage us in caring for ourselves and keeping track of our progress. It’s free. Just click on the Downloads tab in the menu above. It contains a mandala-embellished weekly planner, suggestions for self-care, affirmations, and tools for self-assessment. Whatever your hopes and needs are in 2015, the Self-Care Kit can help you on your journey to actualizing them.

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Of One Energy

handsworld 500On a rare sunny, winter day in Seattle, I was walking in my neighborhood, practicing a core belief of the Healing Touch Program. The core belief is that we are all one—individually unique, but made of the same divine energy of the universe that connects all living beings. My neighborhood is a great place to practice this belief because of its diversity. Our mixed-income community shelters public housing renters alongside home owners in an effort to diminish the ravages of urban poverty. At first glance, the differences seem vast. Income, education, language, race, religion, cultural norms, clothing, family structures and gender roles all differ tremendously. Community signs are posted in nine languages. We are a true melting pot. But as we Americans know, while there is exquisite beauty in melting pots, they are also full of tension as competing values, histories and perceptions collide in our everyday lives. As I walk, I practice recognizing our shared divine energy. I look at each person I encounter and remind myself that our core selves are one.

Make no mistake. This is not about holding hands, singing Kumbaya and having a Hallmark greeting card moment. Sometimes while I’m walking, fear of “the other” rises up in me, fueled by a lifetime exposure to the prejudices and stereotypes our society perpetuates. This is tough work, the dismantling of untruths. I must first recognize the source of that fear: the thoughts that hide in my subconscious. Then I must look “the other” in the eye, let go of the fear and remind myself of the truth: we are one. Smiles and greetings flow naturally and authentically in that moment of shared humanity. The differences don’t disappear. They will still clash at times. But with awareness and practice, we can move beyond the false perceptions to something greater, something that inspires us to care for one another. Something that allows us to truly be a healing presence in our messy and beautiful melting pot. 

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Have you practiced gratitude yet today?

heart blog 500T’is the season to count our blessings. While Thanksgiving encourages us to give thanks on the fourth Thursday of November, counting our blessings throughout the year is a practice that enlivens us and fills us with joy.

Gratitude shifts our perspective from what we lack to the abundance we already have. Research demonstrates that gratitude makes us happier. Studies done by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami found that “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” Our thoughts and emotions influence our energy systems. Therefore, focusing on the things we are grateful for encourages a healthy energy system…

Read the entire article in the November/December issue of Energy Magazine. Not a subscriber? It’s FREE! Just click on "Subscribe" to the left. 

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The Holiday Food Battle

cookies 148012307I was standing in the grocery store aisle, surrounded by black and orange. All I needed was a gallon of milk. But in order to pick up a gallon of milk, I had to traverse through a maze of black and orange Halloween merchandise, including piles of candy. Despite my passionate embrace of healthy living and eating, I’m a sucker for chocolate Halloween candy. I sighed a deep, bone-shaking sigh, knowing the holiday food battle had begun.

Every year at this time, I have a little pep talk with myself about holiday eating. It generally goes like this:

“Remember to eat mindfully and enjoy your food.”

“Make sure half your plate is full of vegetables.”

“Treat yourself, but in moderation.”

“Stop when you are full.”

That’s great advice and when I follow it, I feel pretty good both physically and emotionally. Not choosing to follow my own advice and resist temptation is what trips me up. After all, I may not see another apple pie before next Thanksgiving.  And I certainly won’t make Christmas chocolate mint cloud cookies for another year. The present opportunity seems so urgent and fleeting!

Thankfully, there are others who have written inspiring, scientifically-based articles on healthy eating. Check out the newly-released article on holiday eating by Sharon Greenspan in the November/December issue of Energy Magazine. (Not a subscriber? It’s free! Click “Subscribe” in the left-hand sidebar.) You can find other articles about healthy eating written by Sharon Greenspan, Joan Borysenko and others in Energy Magazine’s article index by clicking here.

Holiday eating doesn’t have to be a battle of wills. I managed to pull myself away from the siren call of veggies 45633913the black and orange aisle in the grocery store. Once I got home, I dipped into the chocolate stash in the cupboard and thoroughly enjoyed it. I will definitely be tempted to overindulge before the holidays are over; but each time, I can choose. With mindfulness, holiday eating can be a time of celebration and connection to beloved traditions.

May victory be yours!

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My Healing Touch Journey

hearts-heartThis piece, submitted by Diana Wright, depicts her journey in the practice of Healing Touch.

By Diana O. Wright
One morning in late April 2013, I was lying still, barely awake, asking God what I, a retired English teacher, should do with my life in a new city. The phrase Healing Touch (HT) popped into my mind and refused to leave. I tried all day to push away those words, but they clung to me for dear life. Finally, I looked up the class calendar for this spiritual energy-therapy modality and emailed my friend Jean to ask about prerequisites, expecting—and fearing—that I would not qualify. Jean’s reply surprised me: “You need a compassionate heart, a willing spirit, and two hands—and you have all those.” I registered for the first Level 1 class that fit my schedule, which meant a wait until August. It was worse than waiting for Christmas when I was a child! I was eager to begin this new path, and August finally, finally arrived.

During the prior year, I had read a book here and an article there about qi gong, intuition, quantum physics, Emotional Freedom Techniques®, premonitions, The Emotion Code®, vitalism, higher-sense perception, and Matrix Energetics® so I could grasp the content of a project I was editing for a friend. However, I decided to go to class without reading books about HT to preserve the pure experience of beginning from scratch. Little did I know that tapping my intuitive side through the reading I had done had prepared me, surreptitiously, for studying HT. When Jean, my teacher, introduced studies about the Individual Energy Field and the Universal Energy Field, I was glad to have delved into that material! What I was hearing made perfect sense to my developing right-brain perception, whereas it would have escaped my former purely logical left-brain thinking. A year earlier, I would not have been ready to study HT. Now I was ready, but I doubted that I would be able or be allowed to sense a single thing or to effect healing. I was wrong! Virtually every experience in class amazed me, including breaking up a classmate’s sinus congestion with the first treatment technique I tried. I can’t count the times my jaw dropped in awe and wonder while my eyes lit with excitement that weekend. I had landed in the right place at the right time in my life! Old dog that I am, I discovered that I can learn new tricks.

About a week after my Level 1 class, a friend contacted me requesting prayer for his suicidal and bulimic teenaged daughter who had been hospitalized the night before. I promised to pray and asked for his permission, as her guardian, to treat her with HT. He said yes and asked me to treat him, too; he was worried, couldn’t sleep, and suffered stress headaches. These were distance treatments since the clients live in another state. (Remote HT intervention, like intercessory prayer, is highly effective.) The next day, my friend reported that he had slept deeply and that his daughter sounded much more like “herself,” although she faced a complicated recovery with help from mental-health specialists and medication. (HT never replaces medical treatment or counseling but is best employed with other necessary interventions.) He asked me to continue HT for her, so I treated her once every week or two for a while, based on updates he shared concerning her condition. Later, my friend informed me that his daughter was out of the hospital, was doing well in school, no longer obsessed about food, had recovered her bubbly and witty personality, and required infrequent counseling sessions.

There have been numerous occasions to treat friends and family members, and I remain amazed and grateful to hear reports of the benefits. Since I am not currently working in a clinical situation, most have been distance treatments. But the results have been as effective as with the hands-on cases. After I took the HT Level 2 class, friends volunteered for in-person treatment to allow me experience with physically present clients and managing paperwork, beyond the limited face-to-face training with fellow students during class. Now, I have completed Level 3 and will take Level 4 July 31-August 3. Then I will be a Healing Touch Practitioner Apprentice, required to complete 100 treatments before Level 5.

HT is a complementary healing modality, easily integrated with other health-care practices; it does not replace patient-to-professional relationships with physicians and/or other medical or alternative specialists. HT Students, Practitioner Apprentices, and Practitioners always ask permission to treat, from the guardian of a minor or from the adult client, and permission to apply light touch (which is, actually, optional). HT Students are volunteers who may accept donations toward tuition, while Practitioner Apprentices and Practitioners may set fees (subject to individual state laws).

The Healing Touch Program (HTP) expects practitioners to engage in regular physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual care. Suggestions include consuming a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, meditating and/or praying regularly, avoiding environmental toxins, maintaining appropriate health and dental care, practicing proper hygiene, seeking energy therapy (HT, massage, Reiki, etc.), exercising moderately, journaling, and practicing self-care with HT techniques. After the Level 1 class, I sealed a potentially annoying paper cut so fast, using two quick techniques, that I forgot it had happened until an unrelated event reminded me days later. Generally, I rely on Self Chakra Connection, a whole-body energy-balancing technique learned in Level 1. So far, my favorite is Self Spiral Meditation from Level 2, which I can use any time, but I especially love it if I toss and turn at night. I do Self Spiral Meditation, and the next thing I know (usually), I’m waking up the next morning. Clients, too, may learn techniques for practicing self-care after or between treatments.

I am humbly grateful to be allowed to become a conduit for others’ self-healing by eliciting a relaxation response through HT techniques. Sometimes, I have been surprised to be allowed to treat someone I expected to be skeptical. I’m learning to avoid such assumptions, trusting that the client’s receptivity of my offer to treat exists in a higher realm. Since I still have much to learn, if I need help determining the best interventions for an issue, I consult Jean, my teacher and mentor. She validates my intuitive treatment decisions and, if necessary, suggests adjustments or additional techniques and/or intentions. I have attended to these cases, so far, all with positive feedback: suicidal threats, behavior, plans; headache; backache; wrist pain; anxiety, nervousness, fear; mild concussion; pre-surgery preparation, post-surgery anesthesia clearing; clearing negative effects of chemotherapy; sinus congestion; sciatica; inferiority, shyness; stomach virus; menstrual cramps; leg cramps; faster wound healing; panic attacks; insomnia; tennis elbow; courage to speak; atrial fibrillation; negative emotions; jet lag; scratchy throat; relaxation; clarity concerning a major decision; heart palpitations. HT practitioners never diagnose health issues, never prescribe surgery or drugs, and never suggest changes to a client’s medical advice from a physician or other health-care professional. The clients self-identify their physical, emotional, and/or spiritual concerns, and HT treatments involve healing the energy centers and energy field.

“Healing Touch is an energy therapy in which practitioners consciously use their hands in a heart-centered and intentional way…to enhance wellness in themselves and the lives of people they care about by using the gift of energetic touch.” (HTP website) I thank God for the joy of serving God’s children by applying what I have learned and am learning through the Healing Touch Program. What a wonderful way to spend the golden years of my life!

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