Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Slow Paths Through the Storm

 My last blog post was made as a "grand opening" to my developing view of practice. Slow Paths is my name for learning to live life your way, which requires time to learn who you are (as opposed to who you think you're "supposed to be") and to learn how to properly care for yourself.

Just after I published the previous  blog post, some chronic pain I've had for a long time worsened. And worsened some more. After various false starts at diagnosis, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer, had a hysterectomy, and just finished my first round of chemotherapy last week.

Finding out you have the Big C gives anyone, even someone who had gotten a little pleased with their mindfulness skills, a need to pause. So I did. I took time to learn what was going on, as much as possible. I took time to process--that's ongoing. And I took time to decide what I want for the rest of my life, however long that ends up being.

Some of my conclusions were joyful. I want to be with my darling husband as much as possible. I want to continue my work. I want to live each day with even more gratitude. Some conclusions require resolution. I want to speak honestly and forthrightly, even when I feel like the little person in the hospital gown while the big people with medical garb tell me what my life will be. I also want to be better at being the person in the medical garb in my practice. I've had wonderful doctors, nurses, and staff at the offices I've visited. I want to take their clear communication, positive way of speaking, and careful stating my rights as a patient into my own practice more clearly than I have in the past. In spite of everyone's best intentions, I have felt small, vulnerable, and like a piece of meat frequently in the past few weeks. While I don't think anyone can completely eliminate that feeling, I can be aware of it, and do everything I can to give my patients the certainty that I understand their freedom to be in charge of their health and their life.

The Slow Paths outlook has helped me. I've been Team Me as much as I know how to be. I've worked really hard to Feel My Feelings (and learned I shut down in extreme stress in ways I didn't recognize before). I've Loved my Limits in energy, time, and what I allow to happen to me in appointments. I've Committed to being Curious in a kind-hearted way to what my body and mind are trying to tell me as I navigate this health crisis, and learned more about myself and how I don't always recognize how wonderful my friends are. And I've reminded myself I don't need to hurry. Not to get this blog post out, not to learn everything I can about what may be happening to me, not to try to figure out the future for me, my practice, and my family. Have I been perfect? No more than anyone else would be. But I've been walking the Slow Path I've come to believe in. And it feels a lot better than the anxious darting to and fro I've done in the past when a crisis hit.

I will need your patience for at least the next year as the limits I try to love affect my ability to be as present for my work as I would wish. I continue to be committed to practicing a gentle, natural medicine that is flexible and honors each person’s need for time and space to grow and change and heal.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Slow Paths Manifesto

What a crazy year 2020 is for everyone on earth! My life is no different. After a lot of thought, I've moved, renamed, and revamped my practice. My office is now at 201 N. Washington Highway, Suite 204, in the SoNa Bank building in Ashland. My new name, as you can see, is Slow Paths Wellness. And the revamping?

For years, I've slowly moved to the idea that life is improved in tiny doses. Tiny, friendly, honest, filled-with-curiosity-and-compassion-towards-self-and-others. These tiny doses danced around in my head and became are becoming the Slow Paths Manifesto. I believe it will be an evolving outlook, but for now, here's the basis for my practice:

1. Be Team YOU You are the only person you can change or grow, and if you don't care for yourself, learn to like yourself, and care for your interests, you can't live the meaning you want for your life.  Having a good sense of and care of self strengthens the Earth Element, which also deals with digestion and energy levels.

2. Feel Your Feelings Over several years, I've spent hundreds of hours on books, podcasts, classes, blogs, videos, and just listening to people I found wise on various aspects of health. As I learned in school for Asian medicine, every illness is effected by your emotional state. And emotional states generally only cause problems when something keeps you from processing your feelings. Learning to feel your feelings rather than work / exercise / eat / otherwise-distract-yourself-from-them is a skill that will bring more vibrancy, resilience, and calm to your life. Not having stuck feelings helps your Wood Element function correctly, which helps mood, deals with pain, proper hormonal function, sleep, and healthy muscles and tendons.

3. Love Your Limits The more I read about living a fulfilling life with a minimum of resentment or disappointment, the more I see the word "boundaries." Boundaries are about more than telling people not to do things that annoy you or doing too much for other people. They are about learning who you are, who you are not, and making it easier to do the things you want to do in life. Boundaries help the Metal Element, which deals with your immune system, ability to grieve and let go of things, and has a big role in organization.

4. Commit to Curiosity Becoming yourself, looking at the situations in your life with an eye to moving towards what you want, and evaluating the information you come across--they will all work more easily if you let yourself be kindly curious. Curiosity can look like wondering if the pain you feel could change with diet, or being willing to go to the doctor for a test. It can be wondering why a person does an annoying behavior, and possibly asking them about it rather than making assumptions. It can be deciding to try something new (like acupuncture!) for a nagging problem. Curiosity takes some of the pressure off of your mind to need to always KNOW and answer. It allows you to see the nuance in life's circumstances, instead of looking at any issue as all or nothing. Often, that can make it easier to pivot when challenges come up. Curiosity nourishes the Fire Element, which also deals with thought, speech, vascular health, and your social interactions.

5. Take Your Time--It's Yours This may become the Slow Paths motto. Life takes time. Change takes time. Growth doesn't happen overnight, although insight can be instantaneous. Making time to have the life you want gets you off the hook of always feeling behind and rushed. Making time nourishes the Water Element, which also deals with genetic activity, being calm, creative thought, and brain and endocrine function.

Over the next few months, I will be talking more about each of these principles, how they relate to Asian medicine, and how incorporating them into your life will help you move towards what you want in life. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Life in the Time of Coronavirus

This year, I have been working behind the scenes on renewing my practice and and my philosophy of life. I have a slew of blog drafts, hoarded like toilet paper, that I've been working on.

Last week everything changed.

Covid-19, coronavirus--whatever we end up calling this bug in the future, it has been a wake up call for many, and has crystallized many ideas I've tossed around as I try to define my practice and my life. Here's what I've got so far:

  • It's not all about me. While I hope I've never looked at life in a self-centered way, we all do at times. But life is about connection, and about what we give. Everyone I've ever read who talked about finding meaning in life sees life as a gift you give to others. 
  • It's all about me (and it's all about you). As confusing as it sounds, the only way to be able to give to others is to do the work you need to do on yourself. The inner work I've done for the past 3 years has taught me a lot about what my unique gifts are, and had also reminded me that most people with health issues have a harder time dealing with the feelings and thoughts around the illness than the symptoms themselves. Fatigue is not as hard as feeling useless because you're tired. Pain is not as hard as feeling you're powerless to manage your own body. Self-work on how we think, and allowing ourselves to feel, are critical parts in healthcare. 
  • Slow is usually better. Life moves fast. The recent changes in North America associated with Covid-19 (that Asia and Europe have been experiencing for weeks before us) has left many of us feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and like we are behind and can't catch up on simple things like having food and income. Unless you are being chased by a lion, usually the best way to handle overwhelm is to slow down. Allow yourself space to look past the hysteria in yourself, the media, and others, and give your fight-or-flight response a chance to fade so you can look at life rationally and critically. Slower is how my practice runs, and it's how I encourage my patients to approach life, too.
  • Authenticity is all. If you aren't who you really are, or looking at what really is, you're lost when you have to deal with a challenge. Denial and hysteria are two sides of the same coin--they are turning away from reality. In our current situation, pretending this virus is not a serious health threat to thousands of people and not taking precautions for the sake of everyone is denial. Forgetting that for most people, this virus means a few weeks being cooped up at home, possibly with bad cold symptoms, is buying into hysteria. All of life has the denial and hysteria paths, and also the path of accepting reality, feeling what you feel about it, and dealing with what's at hand. In my practice, I use mindfulness as a path to authenticity.
As 2020 seems to roar on, each of us has the chance to make our life work our way, even in the face of challenges. Accepting that routines will change, and there will be problems as well as triumphs is part of authentic living. I hope you will find a path to balance, get to know yourself so you can give to others, slow down to enjoy life and face it calmly, and be the wonderful you that you really are.