Grumpy Self, Wise Mind (Today’s Daily Presence)

I’m feeling highly irritable today. My thinking mind wants to attribute what I’m feeling to the extremes of injustice and ineptitude to which I’m bearing witness every day in how my country is handling the pandemic. As I sit with how I’m feeling for a longer period of time, my body mind–the part of me that is aware of my physical state and rhythm–is conscious of signs that there are shifts in my hormone levels and how much my emotions tend to swing as a result. In my inner wisdom, I’m noticing how much I focus on analyzing the cause of my emotions as well as how to regulate them (mostly, how to turn them off).

What would happen if I let them be without intervention? Thinking mind worries that I would become consumed by them. Body mind feels like I might collapse under the weight of them. My wisdom instructs me that they would pass; they are ephemeral no matter how granite-like I perceive them to be. It is rare that I grant myself even this small clearing to acknowledge and give voice to what I’m feeling, much less to try less rather than more to do something about it. It feels like grace. What is your thinking mind focused on today? Your body mind? Your inner wisdom?

Mindfully Attending to Eating Patterns (Today’s Daily Presence)

I ordered fresh fruit for delivery this week, as well as a box of “healthy” pre-packaged foods. It has been a while since I ate anything that wasn’t made from scratch and I found my body’s response to be quite surprising. Everything tasted either over-salted or excessively sweet. All of the chips and such seemed overly artificially-flavored, even though it was from natural ingredients.

I wish I could give all the credit for the shift I’ve undergone in my tastes to adhering to my “home-made foods” diet so thoroughly, but the other factor that’s made a decided difference is being on low-dose T. Since starting T, I rarely crave carbs, salt or sugar. I cannot believe how boring a bag of pretzels tastes now; in the past, I could consume a large portion easily in one sitting. I’m primarily interested in eating meat and fruit now, but I would say overall my food drive has lessened.

I am only today starting to settle down from my efforts to get my job transitioned to online work (there might unfortunately be additional developments on this front), so I haven’t been cooking more than the bare minimum to keep myself fed. I am anticipating some exciting meal prep once my homegrown mushrooms and micro-greens and so forth are finished growing. What’s the last homemade meal you created? Have you ever experienced a significant shift in the types of foods you enjoy?

Natural Emotions (Today’s Daily Presence)

I am in a bad mood today. Thoughts of “I hate my life” and “I can’t stand (fill in person’s name)” are going through my head. I decided to move towards rather than away from my feelings by considering how they might be represented by each element.

Air

It is windy outside today and that feels fitting for my interior life right now. I want a cold wind to blow through my life and disrupt all the complacency and stagnation to which I bear witness. Wind scatters but it also gathers dried leaves in hollows; I want only want that which is worth having to remain in its place.

Water

I am having difficulty connecting how I feel with a water-based representation. It is easier for me to relate to it in terms of what might soothe my nerves. I imagine myself floating in a pool of warm water in the summer sunshine, and I feel a loosening of my inner turmoil.

Fire

I feel ablaze and unable to contain my fire. I want to remake the contours of the emotional landscape in which I find myself, but I know to set it alight means to burn more than I intend. I wish I knew how to quell my inner rage and where to direct the sense of indignant injustice that never goes out but only turns at times to simmer in me.

Earth

My mind immediately leapt to visualizing an earthquake when I wrote the word “earth.” I am not sure why all my imaginings are so intense and violent today. I see the green grass of a field shaking, slowly at first and then building until a fissure appears, extending into the bedrock.

I found this exercise to be immensely helpful in giving voice to what I am feeling in a way that takes me out of my language-centric abstract thinking realm into an arena of imagining and visualization. What I learned is that I am desperate to experience real change, to see dynamics shift and people get their comeuppance or their restitution.

There is an energy fueling me now that was previously inaccessible. It feels very difficult to contain or control. I believe I need to meet the beast and befriend it, rather than to assume something is wrong in me when others’ actions upset me. What are you feeling today? How would you describe it in terms of the four elements I’ve listed? What message does it have for you?

A Softening Warmth (Today’s Daily Presence)

The weather the last few hours where I live has undergone a dramatic shift, with a cold breeze relaxing into warmer skies. I am always surprised and delighted at the breaks of pleasant weather that happen when winter begins to yield to spring; it’s as though warm weather was a myth I’d heard about as a child, stored deep in my unconscious, but inaccessible until the next season arrives. Walking outside without the immediate contraction of my limbs together to fight off the chill not only loosens my muscles but also perks up my spirits.

I decided to spend a few moments meditating in the sunshine on my porch. My dog is on a chipmunk-hunting kick so I had to leave him inside as his response to sitting next to me on the porch is hysterical barking and pulling. I have no doubt he WILL end the chipmunk if he gets it! Anyways, after shutting my eyes, my first sense that responded was that of hearing, in that I immediately realized how many birds were in song. I felt the softness of the breeze against my skin, coupled with the warmth of the sunlight. There was an indistinguishable earthy smell, as though my surroundings had been pulled out from a damp closet and were being aired out. As I opened my eyes, all I could absorb was heightened activity: my neighbor carrying groceries and robins hopping about my yard. The aliveness of it all sat well with me.

What do you like most about the promise and the arrival of warm weather? How does the shift of seasons sit with you? Are things coming alive or going to sleep where you live?

Energy Balancing Body Scan (Today’s Daily Presence)

Today I am feeling highly energized with nowhere to direct my anxieties. It is raining out so my daily run isn’t going to happen, but I needed a way to better balance what I’m feeling as well as to reconnect with my sense of my body. I brought myself into present moment awareness with a visual and breathing-centered meditation.

The meditation practice in which I engaged has a relationship with a Tibetan Buddhist practice I learned several years ago, but I have unfortunately lost my knowledge of its name and origins in the time since. If you know what I’m referencing, please let me know in the comments!

I started by imagining my body’s stale, negative energy gathering in the form of grey smoke in my fingers, toes and edges of my head. As I took deep breaths, I saw it moving towards the center of my body, and, in breathing out a deep breath through my mouth, saw it release and float away. I repeated this process, noticing and concentrating on areas of my body which felt compressed, tight or stuck. I imagined a negative pressure developing, drawing out the trapped energy to itself where it could be exhaled. I saw my body lengthening and loosening as this occurred.

I then moved into a state of reception, where I breathed in clear, healing energy and transmitted it from the core of my body down my torso, into my fingers and toes. It also coursed from my neck into the reaches of my head and ears. As I inhaled, the energy woke up areas that felt tired, warming those that needed to be warmed, and cooling those that felt inflamed.

I then engaged in stretching exercises to further open and release as well as soothe and calm my body. There was more of a sense of a need to balance than I have had in the past. With being on T, I finally feel that I have enough energy, which is a totally new experience to me. Determining how to keep it flowing without spilling over is still a series of trial and error.

If you try the meditation, what was your experience with it? Is it easier to send out spent energy or to draw in renewed energy? How does your body balance?

Sciatica Self-Care (Today’s Daily Presence)

I’ve been under so much mental stress that I’ve begun to lose track of my body state. I’ve noticed on and off for the past week that the outside of my right calf feels odd. When I tried to follow in a brief stretching video today, my entire leg began to cramp uncontrollably and go numb. The overall pattern of pain and discomfort suggests to me my sciatic nerve is irritated, possibly at multiple points. So, I spent my energy on finding instructions specific to soothing this area of my body.

This website had a few stretches I’d forgotten about. I found the sitting pigeon stretch to be the most accessible, as the forward pigeon stretch was what I was doing when the leg cramping and numbness flared up. I am also going to try some heat therapy and possibly even my TENS machine if I can get it charged. My body feels locked up in a way that makes me want to crank the unit up the whole way for maximum effect! If you have sciatic pain, what have you found to be helpful? What is your favorite stretch? What types of exercises or treatments work best?

Appreciating Health (Today’s Daily Presence)

Well, I just typed and lost an entire post for the first time so here goes a re-write!

As I noted yesterday, I am feeling under the weather with some sort of respiratory illness. I’m coughing a lot and my voice sounds as though a frog is trapped in my larynx. I selected the teeth and jaw card from my Daily Presence deck, and was shocked to realize these areas of my body are feeling better than they normally do.

I’ve been diagnosed with both TMJ and trigeminal neuralgia. My trigeminal neuralgia has gotten better after having a tooth extracted last year, but a recent visit to the dentist showed me it is still active. She merely manipulated my jaw in her evaluation (no cleaning or dental work) and my pain starting spiking on my drive home.

Today, though, my jaw feels loose and my teeth do not hurt. Simply noticing this feels like a sign that I am living with more awareness. It has been easy for me to focus all of my attention instead on what is going wrong with my body. There are of course times where my pain becomes so severe that I cannot ignore it and during which I need to use additional resources to help myself cope. For me, living with chronic pain has been about learning to work with my body as much as I can.

As I grow to fully inhabit the landscape of my body, my attention has widen and my care for parts that are healthy has improved. This awareness has increased rather than diminished my ability to respond to what my body needs when it is ill. Which parts or body systems are working well for you today? How is your jaw and tooth health? How do you balance responding to your body’s needs alongside appreciating what is working well for it?

Sending Calming Signals (Today’s Daily Presence)

Today was filled with stress, albeit good stress because I was challenging myself in positive ways. Even though nothing went wrong and I didn’t feel triggered per se, my body is responding as though I am in danger. My heart is racing, I feel physically numb and my time perception is warped. This is a signal to me that my PTSD reactivity is on high alert, and that I need to spend some time reconnecting to my body. The easiest and simplest way I know to send it a sign that I am safe is to regulate my breathing.

Breathwork is not limited to breathing in and out slowly. For me, it starts by noticing my breath. The act of paying attention to my breath in and of itself soothes me. When I allow my breath to happen only on an unconscious level, I tend to breath in a very shallow and quick manner that leads my body to think it is danger (and which results from the perception of threat). Next, I invite my diaphragm to contract and relax at a slower pace. Finally, I allow for pauses between my in and out-breath.

A multitude of health benefits have been linked to slow breathing. Unhurried respiration eventually lowers my pulse rate. It may also help my heart to beat more efficiently and my oxygen exchange to be fuller. Six to ten breathes per minute is apparently what has been shown to lead to the best outcomes; I haven’t timed myself but ten per minute would likely be closer to where I’m at. Have you checked in with your breathing today? How does your body respond to you noticing your breath? How does slow breathing, if you are able to practice it, affect you?

Bodily Filtration (Today’s Daily Presence)

For today’s Daily Presence card, I chose the card focused on the lymphatic system. This is a body system I know little about in terms of how it actually functions. I’ve absorbed snippets of information, but, in investigating further, realized there is a lot I don’t fully understand. In order to pay mindful attention and honor an area of the body, I find more meaning when the biological processes involved are clear to me.

What I learned about the system is that it acts as a filtration setup for lymph, which in itself is a substance made of white blood cells that attack viruses and bacteria, as well as chyle which consists of fats from our small intestines. Lymph nodes are where the response to infections take place, so they swell when we are fighting off an infection because there are more white blood cells being produced. In addition, the lymph system helps to keep our body balanced in terms of fluids. Taken together, problems in these functions can spell trouble in terms of immune capacity as well as lymphedema (swelling) in affected areas of the body.

As I educated myself about how my lymphatic system functions, I found myself wondering how much it affects my experience of chronic pain and my general health and well-being. We can test our cardiovascular system with tools like a blood pressure cuff and pulsometer, but I am unaware of similar products to evaluate how well fluid is being drained or how well our lymph nodes are working to filter bodily invaders out. All I found in looking into this were “contrast MRI’s” and the like, although I’m sure basic bloodwork, with its white blood cell counts and all, gives some insight.

I also spent time looking into how to improve the function of my lymphatic system and was disappointed that there were few scientifically-reviewed practices available. One message I found repeated was the importance of drinking water to keep our bodies hydrated. If there are areas of poor lymph drainage, massage can be helpful but should be performed by someone certified in the process and only if a doctor recommends it based on a person’s medical status. Finally, the cardiovascular system is related to the lymphatic system, so improving cardiovascular health might help to reduce inflammation, which, in turn, may be beneficial to the lymphatic system.

All in all, I found myself both intrigued and frustrated by my exploration of the research on this topic as I do not feel as though I gained a full understanding of how it works or how to ensure I am doing what I can to improve its function. Whenever I get a professional massage, I feel queasy and odd for a few hours afterwards. I’m curious as to what my lymph systems “levels” look like after an experience like that. In thinking about my heart health, I will also consider now my immune system and how they interrelate. Finally, I find it highly relevant to how I work as a person to consider that our immune defense has a passive feel to it; to some extent, invaders are allowed to “flow” until they reach the filter, at which time all hell breaks loose and they get (hopefully) destroyed. To what extent do you bring conscious awareness to your lymphatic system? Does it represent anything on a spiritual or energetic level to you? Are there any actions you are taking to improve its function?

Time for Warmth (Today’s Daily Presence)

Today’s card chose me more than I chose it! I’ve been having severe neck and upper back pain, which intensifies when I lay down to the point where I am yelling in pain at slight movements. Giving that this issue seems to be persisting, I decided I needed to slow down and spend some time attempting to soothe my neck muscles.

I am someone who is overheated much more often than I am cold, so turning to warmth as a solution to discomfort isn’t my first instinct. I found, though, in using an electric heating pad on my upper back and neck muscles, that this helped the spasms to relax more than the various prescription medications I’ve been taking for the last few days. The most ridiculous part of my muscle dysfunction is that I think my drawing might be the cause of it as it is on the same side as my dominant hand and seems to get worse after an illustration session. Hopefully I can also add in some scalene stretches to mitigate any problems. What activities do you notice causing muscle tension? Which areas of your body are the most affected? Which home interventions work best to release any spasms and reduce your pain?