Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Did Pooh ever use the word 'holistic'?"

"Did Pooh ever use the word 'holistic'?"

How's that for an opening statement?! That was a reply to a post of mine on the Facebook page of a girlfriend who is suffering a lingering, nasty recovery from swine flu...current incarnation, bronchitis. I posted earlier with one of my favorite standby quotes of, "Think, think, think," said Pooh, "wondering what we can do from a holistic perspective to blast that out of you?" The second part of the quote is my own ad lib, but the beginning is pure Pooh.

I was delighted with the follow up inquiry about Pooh's possible use, or non-use of such a word as holistic, and thus, a blog was born. I am a firm believer that Pooh and all his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood are much deeper than we see at first glance. Pooh was born out of inspiration from A.A. Milne's son, Christopher Robin's stuffed animal collection (yes, my friends, there really is a real Christopher Robin!) and grew into a worldwide, beloved storyline. I suspect that many Pooh-isms were also inspired by A.A. Milne's little boy, as they speak with childlike clarity and wisdom we often lose as we grow up.

So, back to this holistic Pooh business. Has anyone recently looked up some Pooh quotes? If you haven't, I strongly suggest you give it a whirl. Just type "Winnie the Pooh quotes" into your search engine and prepare to laugh, feel warm inside, maybe get choked up here and there.

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday."*


"Some people care too much; I think its called love."*


"Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known."*

Methinks that A.A. Milne was a crafty soul who possibly chose to slip very deep messages and thoughts into the world of Pooh, perhaps to touch young hearts in a positive manner and hope they would take those thoughts with them into adulthood. Fast forward to today and here I sit, typing away about Pooh and holistic health. Okay, no, Milne didn't write the word "holistic" in any of his works about Pooh, but as a child, Pooh captured my mind with his unique way of thinking, and clearly it stuck with me. I still think Pooh, if I could sit down and talk with him for a spell, would have very deep thoughts to share on holistic health! That's my take on it....

*all Winnie the Pooh quotes taken from http://www.great-inspirational-quotes.com/winnie-the-pooh-quotes.html

To edit, or not to edit...that is the question

My last post on music and the healing properties therein was written this morning around 5:00 am, EST. As anyone following this blog already knows, it was an especially epic post! I find it rather humorous that in a recent post, I had talked about the art of brevity and then proceeded to completely ignore my own advice! Do I expect everyone following my blog to read every single post? No. I'm happy if people check in from time to time and read a snippet here and there. I certainly hope that people are interested enough in what I write to take time occasionally to read every post, but that's a fond wish.

A fellow blogger and I both agree that the longer the post, the higher the potential to lose your audience in blogging format. I get that completely. I do it myself when faced with a very long, prosy blog entry. I am immediately faced with the decision to keep reading, scan through and hit just the highlights, or abandon the whole thing and move on to the next task. With social media being such a growing aspect of life, the hours in the day get eaten up all too quickly, attending to regular email, Facebook and email with that application, Twitter (which I have yet to embrace) and all the other myriad applications out there.

So! All of the above being said, and recognizing that I do need to exercise some restraint with my blog entries, I am challenging myself to post at least the next three entries in much tighter, brief format. That doesn't include this post, because that would make it too easy! Let's see how I do....

Expressing the inexpressible

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." ~ Aldous Huxley

That quote is one of my favorites. I am, first and foremost, a writer. Learning to read at a very early age, I can remember very clearly being constantly captivated by words, what they meant, how they sounded, how they were spelled, how they communicated. Little wonder, then, that eventually I became equally captivated by music and lyrics wound together. I have worked in many places over the years where music was part of the overall environment and it never failed to amaze me how many co-workers went about their daily existence completely numbed out and unaware of the music. I have learned over the years another curious thing - that many people don't tend to really pay much attention to lyrics. They listen more to the melody or the beat of the song, echoing the old words of American Bandstand's Rate The Song, "it has a good beat and is easy to dance to." This isn't so much an important thing; not all music contains lyrics to catch the ear on a deeper level. And no, I don't believe that I enjoy music more deeply or better than others; I just think I experience it in a different manner. Those differences, as always, prompted me to start thinking, then start researching....

I believe that music touches us all on a very elemental level. Think about your memories of growing up and invariably, a song comes to mind. Hear an old song playing on the radio and I am willing to bet you can remember the year it played, the fashions worn, where you lived, who you loved and other astonishingly tiny details of life at that particular moment....all prompted by a song. We make memories with music, of this, I am certain.

The next interesting point is the growing presence of the use of music for therapeutic purposes. On a very mundane note, if you have ever had your heart broken, you know this truth - every sad song you hear on the radio seems to be speaking directly to your poor broken heart. I believe that scientists and therapists have only scratched the surface of the concept of using music as a healing device, but occasionally I will run across some fascinating research being done on the subject.

Years ago, around the time that the Human Genome Project was being completed, I remember watching an episode of what I think may have been 20/20. A young scientist had painstakingly spent time mapping the human DNA/RNA strands and matching them up in some obscure manner to the musical scale. He then fed all of this data into a computer program along with all the great works of classical music. Applying yet one more layer of coding into his program to identify a wide range of medical maladies, his results were fascinating. He found that certain noted classical music compositions matched up identically with the genetic makeup of certain cancers. The one that I remember specifically was that Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," was the perfect genetic match musically to a virulent, deadly strain of cancer. This scientist's hypothesis was that the great composers somehow inherently keyed into these harmonics and produced musical works that would someday become tools for healing on a vibrational level. How fascinating is that?!

I remember sitting there, just spellbound by this concept. From just a general musing, perhaps one might think that the correct music to rid the body of an aggressive type of cancer would need to be an equally aggressive composition. Something warlike and full of pounding drums, crashing cymbals and intense rhythms. "Moonlight Sonata" actually begins the First Movement with a slow, haunting melody that is so gentle and soft it forces the listener to become still and pay attention. The Second and Third Movements pick up tempo and do become more forceful, but the overall tone of this composition is very slow, soft and gentle. Perhaps the therapeutic value is some vibrational manner of slowing our breathing down in response to the music, eliciting a light hypnotic or meditative state that then shifts inward on a cellular level? My own musings entirely, but it makes sense to me in a strange way.

I wondered at the inspiration for this unutterably beautiful piece of music and did some research. It turns out the original title of the composition was "Almost A Fantasy" and was written as an ode of love to one of Beethoven's students. He later proposed marriage to this lady, but her father refused his permission. How curiously apropo that so many years later, modern science could cobble together the fact that this beautiful musical work of art could, just possibly, be successfully applied to heal a dread disease in the human body. Music written to express love being capable of curing illness. What a concept! Now, mind you, this isn't anything I can document - it is strictly my memories of a 20/20 episode many, many years ago, but it has stuck in my head over the years.

I became a massage therapist in the mid-1990's and had a strong affinity to the overall concept of healing arts. While I no longer work as a massage therapist, that training deepened my interest in medical issues, concepts and applications and how they can be complemented by esoteric, Eastern based philosophies. I find that the more I search, the more that modern medicine, modern science and alternative healing therapies are becoming interchangable and recognized to be beneficial when married together. Perhaps one day in the not-too-distant future, the work of that young scientist will resurface and musical therapy will become commonplace. I see many lightworkers in the healing arts who are using music therapy in their practices now, although it is still a little known concept. It makes complete sense to me that it should, and can work.

How lucky are we to be born into a world full of complex textures, sites and sounds that fill up our senses in myriad ways? Music, then, becomes a part of who we are.

Thomas Carlyle said, "If you look deep enough, you will see music; the heart of nature being everywhere music."

Whether music is a background enjoyment for you, or whether you are like I am and tend to climb right inside the lyrics and music and experience them on a different level, music speaks to us all. It lifts us up, it calms us down. It weeps with us in moments of deep sorrow. It celebrates life's best, brightest victories. And perhaps, it can, and does heal with the softest, melodic touch on our bodies, on a vibrational level that is painless. This is one to continue to ponder on my end, as well as to continue to research. If anyone reading this blog entry knows of details regarding that scientist's work I mentioned, I'd love to know more. For now, I leave you with yet another quote...

"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." ~ Victor Hugo

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Musings and Magical Creatures

This started out as Sunday musings, but I got sidetracked yesterday. The sidetracking occurred when I began my second round of fall cleaning of my apartment and the process overwhelmed me. That happens just about everytime I clean and organize - the overwhelming part, I mean. It seems that I wasn't born with the cleaning/organizing gene that some people have. I'm much better at creating clutter. Is this the sign of a creative mind? Some have claimed it to be a written in stone truth. Is it just me being lazy and not wanting to clean and organize? No, I can honestly say that's not the case - I want things clean and neat. I just don't want to be the one to make them that way! I'm not really sure what makes a person fall into one category or another. Is it nature versus nurture? Probably, to a large degree it is nurture, chased by a strong dose of nature.

For whatever reason, when things get to the stage of chaos, I start to freak out. "I'm never going to get this finished." "Oh no.....what have I done?!?" This is what invariably happens to me at some point. In order to clean and organize, part of the process is that you create chaos. I.e., you have the semblance of a bomb having exploded in your living room. That's the stage that makes me freak. I have no idea why. I know the sky hasn't fallen and that it is a temporary state, but all the same, I freak. And if I let myself, I find reasons to procrastinate and leave the detritus of that bomb strewn about until my freak out moment dies down and I can tackle the mess again. Sometimes I can work through that mental process quickly, sometimes it takes me longer.

What I have come to recognize, over a lifetime of wrestling with this particular part of my nature, is that we all have intrinsic gifts. Some of us can perform amazing mechanical repairs on car engines, or use power tools to create homes, furniture or works of art. Others are masters in the kitchen who can produce gastronomic beauty. Still others can tend a garden and create a fairyland of magical shapes, colors, textures and fragrances. And then there are the truly mystifying ones who can create order. I've met many of them and I stand in awe of their abilities.

They can walk into a space, glance around, and tell you within minutes where you're lacking order, where you can tweak the traffic flow into a more efficient pattern, and if you continue to stand there gaping mutely in befuddled wonder (that describes me), these amazing creatures simply roll up their sleeves, wade in and get to work. And they do this cheerfully. I don't know about you, but cleaning and organizing do not make me cheerful. That process, in fact, makes me downright cranky. That's why I put it off until I have no other choice, and it is also probably why the chaos stage becomes so large and overwhelming - I've put it off so long that the chaos has no other choice but to become pretty darned large and overwhelming. I accept this burden philosophically, because I'm the only person to blame. No one else created the clutter to begin with, obviously.

So, here I sit, at my computer, tapping out a blog entry, while the chaos awaits me downstairs. What I wouldn't give to have one of those orderly, organizing types available to whip me and my living room into shape, all tidy, neat and clutter-free. Okay, that's stretching it....some clutter is inevitable. This is me I'm talking about, after all. I'm comfortable with a few stacks of books, a basket of yarn and half-finished crochet projects, pairs of shoes downstairs that should be toted upstairs at some point. I would like to morph, for maybe one day, into that type of person who likes to clean and organize. I muse on that occasionally, what it must be like to have cleaning be a "happy place" for someone. Then I shake my head and admit that I'm never going to understand what makes a person like that tick. No matter, they probably wouldn't ever understand how sitting at the computer, creating a corporate newsletter and writing copy, or moving images fractions of an inch to create symmetry is my happy place. That's what makes all of us unique and beautiful....the myriad differences, talents and traits.

Does any of this musing accomplish getting my living room back into shape? Of course not. It is accomplishing me processing through my freaking out moment. I'll venture back downstairs in a bit, after I breathe through the panic and remind myself that I, too, can create order out of chaos. It just takes me longer than those mystifying, amazing organizing types. You all know who you are, so consider at some point, that there are those of us who think you possess magical abilities.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ongoing conversation with self

So...I talk a lot. No, really, I do....especially in written format. I was pondering that last night during a frenzy of inspiration with posting three blogs in rapid succession. As I read back through them, my first thoughts was, "Wow, I need to concentrate on restraint. That's a LOT of words going on."

Brevity. That can be a painful word for a writer, and particularly so for me. That is clear from the blunt LACK of brevity in my posts - I'm not good at practicing restraint. I dive into the written word and literally luxuriate in the endless possibilities, pulling words together, weaving them into endless variations of fabric. See? I'm doing it right now....going off on a tangent. Reel it back in, sister!

Most Eastern studies focus on the purity of restraint. Paring down the personal existence in order to clearly see, hear, feel, taste, touch and think...regard the reality of what is surrounding you. Is it possible to have that clarity if you engage in a constant feast of excess, even if that excess is focused on words? I think there is much to be said for both sides of that proverbial fence. I have read, many a time, a single sentence that struck me so powerfully, that was so dense and rich in emotion that it transported me. Conversely, I have read long epistles that were equally rich, informative and sure in taking me on a journey with lyrical wording of such depth that my soul was dancing gleefully in response.

Which critter do I wish to be? The needle sharp, brief statement that rockets into the brain of the reader and delivers a heart punch of sensation? Or the slow, steady build up of thoughtful prose that wraps around the same reader's mind and heart and communicates in a manner they had never pondered? I'm greedy - I want to be both. Can I be both? Of course I can. I am confident in my ability to write in any format. Have I accomplished brevity here, today in this post? Probably not, but I have thought about it!

One of my all-time favorite quotes is as follows:

"I am a man well blessed and content, for thank God, I can read." ~ William Butler Yeats

That is a beautiful example of brevity, and at the same time, it manages to speak eloquently, opening up vast expanses for the mind to contemplate. Perhaps it is true, that I am a long, newsy, chatty writer. I'm good with that about myself. It doesn't mean I can't benefit from self-editing, of course. And I'll get to that....eventually. It's an ongoing conversation I have with myself. Feel free to join in. Opinions are always welcome!

Let's talk reincarnation

Some will read the title above and immediately freak. Most likely the people who find my blog are already of a similar mindset, so I won't waste time explaining or proving the concept of reincarnation. You will either click to jump from my blog to something else that interests you, or you'll bide a wee here and keep reading.

I want to discuss Dr. Michael Newton's Life Between Lives regression therapy. About twelve years ago, I "accidentally" stumbled across Michael's books at my favorite place to be....a bookstore. I think it may have been Barnes & Noble, but can't say for sure. Any bookstore is a happy place for me. I was looking for something to pick up as a gift for a friend in the hospital and the rule there is, if I enter a bookstore to pick up a gift, I get one for myself as well. That keeps me from going hog wild and keeps the purchasing insanity to a minimum. So, there I was, poking around in the New Age section and that's where I discovered Michael Newton. He is a psychologist and a hypnotherapist who specializes in regression therapy - taking a subject back to a past life in order to heal issues existing in the current life. At some point in his practice, Michael inadvertently gave a "wrong" command to his client, and rather than taking that person back to a past life, he wound up taking them to Between Lives - that space we occupy after completing a lifetime and preparing for the next go 'round. I was hooked immediately and devoured that first book in record time, then went in search of the second book Michael had written. The titles are "Journey of Souls" and "Destiny of Souls" and can be found on Barnes & Noble or Amazon websites.

In order to not spoil the lovely experience for you too much, I won't go into broad detail about each book. I will say that reading Michael's work was a life changing experience for me, personally. For those of you who pick up either book, I am going so far as to say that you also will be changed by reading the contents. Michael has compiled over 20 years of case studies of Life Between Lives (LBL) regressions that challenge the reader to embrace concepts that we are not raised to contemplate in the U.S. Reincarnation obviously flies in the face of most American theological beliefs and Michael's work is not different in that regard. You will read of concepts that dabble in quantum physics and the ability to split energy and "bi-locate" into more than one existence, or lifetime. You will learn of life contracts made prior to birth in your current life, of viewing chambers that "program" key moments, images and circumstances into your subconscious as a kind of migration instinct in order to connect with vital members of your Primary Soul Group, and many more concepts that I won't go into here. Search these two books out, read them, and shoot me a comment after.

I'm always fascinated to hear how other people are affected by this whole concept, and I regularly recommend both books to anyone who will listen. For those of you who then decide to seek out a hypnotherapist and experience a LBL session, there is a website available for you to search out a therapist trained in Michael's specific techniques. If you're interested, click here to go to the website for The Newton Institute. Michael is now semi-retired and rarely does LBL sessions these days, preferring to do the occasional lecture for large groups, as well as guest appearances at various hypnotherapy schools. I was fortunate enough to be able to correspond with Michael for several years and he has a very large, warm, healing energy, as you might imagine. I went on to have this type of regression session done after writing back and forth with Michael and being guided to a therapist he had trained personally. It was quite an experience, but that's a topic for another blog.

We come here to learn, that much is clear even if you don't embrace the concept of reincarnation. How fascinating, if...just IF, however, we really do come back again and again, and there are all these infinite layers, energies, stories, dramas and experiences to explore?

Pica cravings - borderline addiction process?

Have you heard of pica? Many would say it refers to a measurement of printer type, which is correct, but we’re discussing a health issue here today. Pica is a condition defined as craving an item that is not nutritive, or of no nutritional value. You may have heard old wives tales of women craving dirt, chalk or starch when pregnant. This is actually not myth-based. In fact, pica symptoms afflict a good 80% of the population of the United States, according to some studies. The cravings for these non-food items can range from dirt, chalk, clay, cornstarch, to downright dangerous items such as drywall, which can contain microfibers of asbestos, glass fragments and metal shavings.

After doing extensive research, I have found that most people afflicted with pica have one thing in common. They are iron deficient. Anemia seems to be the most often discussed health issue in chat rooms devoted to pica conditions. Doctors do blood work and then prescribe iron supplements. People suffering from pica then end up suffering from stomach pain, headaches and constipation from iron supplements. So, what is the remedy? It appears there isn’t a “magic bullet” for those suffering from pica. Each individual has to go on an odyssey of trial and error research to find what works for their specific symptoms and responses.

An interesting fact is that the most frequently consumed pica items that are discussed in chat rooms are cornstarch and chalk. There is also frequent discussion of the jittery, borderline feelings of panic when a pican doesn’t have their item of craving on hand to consume. I gave this one some thought and did some more digging. It appears, folks, that those out there suffering from pica aren’t too far separated from those suffering from other chemical addictions such as drugs and alcohol. Somewhere along the line, the anemia issue seems to trigger those cravings. People start consuming the non-food items such as cornstarch and chalk and note that they immediately experience a euphoric feeling that is chased by a feeling of calm. Ponder this with me – anemia prompts cravings, cravings become unbearable, person with cravings consumes a non-food item and feels euphoria. Something in this whole process is triggering what sounds like a serotonin dump in that person’s brain. I am not a doctor and don’t play one on television, but the logic here indicates that serotonin is key.

People who have addictions, from what I have read, have lower levels of serotonin production in their brains. Serotonin is the chemical our brain releases to regulate sleep patterns, produce a sense of calmness and peace, and is also responsible for that euphoria we feel when we first fall in love, or see a loved one after a long absence. I posit to you, then, that those who suffer from pica are also deficient in serotonin production. Is there a link between anemia and lower levels of serotonin production? I haven't run across it yet, but again, it stands to reason there must be. Think with me on this next point – starch and chalks are both carbohydrate based products. Serotonin can be triggered to release if we eat carbohydrate based foods like cookies, pasta, potatoes, etc. The result is a feeling of calm, and in some cases, euphoria. Pica cravings seem to follow this exact same cycle blueprint that people with chemical addictions go through. It would be interesting to get a group of scientists to study this concept and see where the research might lead.

For now, I leave those dealing with pica with this suggestion. Rather than immediately embracing your non-food pica item of choice when the cravings hit, why not try a carb based food first and see if that knocks the pica craving down a bit? Studies haven’t been done to show what negative long-term effects consuming pica items can have, but again, common sense prevails and indicates that it can’t be a healthy lifestyle to continue to lead. I say embrace those carbs and see if you have some success in “re-training” your trigger reactions. Can’t hurt to try!

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's a continuous journey...and a curious touch

We live in harried, hurried times. Racing to and froe on a daily basis, chasing the hours through the day, dropping off children at school, barreling through the business day, picking children up, perhaps buying groceries, picking up dry cleaning, fixing the evening meal, cleaning the kitchen, feeding the pets, helping with homework and finally falling into bed exhausted. This is, oddly, an overview of what might be called the American Dream. For many, it works. For others, it builds a nagging sense of dissatisfaction that the world is passing them by as they rush through their busy, eventful lives. Yet, in the midst of all this frenetic movement, there come moments of inspiration. That curious touch on the mind, that moment of wonderment that fires the imagination and gladdens the heart, spilling from lips opened in song, flowing from fingers applied to a keyboard or pen to paper, paintbrush to canvas, fingers gloriously messy in wet, glossy clay, all of which make the insane daily existence we sometimes lead, lighter and easier to shoulder.

At times, inspiration comes speeding towards us with all the power of a locomotive, the images highly charged and fraught with electricity, passion and fervor. Those moments might take the Wall Street executive from his daily existence in the city and lure him to hike in the mountains to physically express the inspiration that touches his mind in the confines of his office space. Standing on a mountain trail, breathing in the fresh air, becoming a part of nature brings that person an inestimable sense of peace, beauty and happiness that he then takes back to the city with him, allowing him to approach life, renewed and recharged.

Inspiration isn’t always a powerful sledgehammer blow. There are moments when it speaks gently, whisper soft, barely disturbing a busy mind, yet insistent as the eddies and ripples on a calm lake surface….nudging, lapping at the mind, repeatedly touching here and there until that moment of incredible beauty occurs. Suddenly, all comes together in that crystal clear flash that is no less stunning for the calm, quiet manner it was born.

Haven’t we all felt myriad moments of inspiration? Hearing an old story, watching a heroic moment on television, viewing a work of art in a museum, absorbing moments in nature such as a snowstorm or a single, perfect drop of water clinging, trembling, on the velvet petal of a flower…beauty and inspiration come cloaked in many forms. Rough hewn or pristine and elegant, the moments, sights and textures strike each of us differently.

That curious touch is what drives us, I believe, as human beings. We yearn, sometimes silently, other times with willful, vocal intent, to embrace inspiration, to feel it fill us up to overflowing. At some point the joy does, indeed, overflow to the point that we, in turn, become that same inspiration to another person. We underestimate ourselves in this regard, quite frequently, thinking that small gestures go unnoticed, unaware that we are impacting others greatly. Helen Hayes made a comment that, “We relish news of our heroes, forgetting that we are extraordinary to somebody too.” That statement, on its own, has provided inspiration to me countless times since the first moment I read it.

Inspiration, then, is the truest, most pure form of aspiring. We are born with such a capacity to aspire, to dream, to grow and these desires are the foundation for inspiration to take root, plant a seed, flourish and grow into something truly incredible, whether that something is a loud, large bang, or a small, delicate touch on that quiet lake. The ripples are the same, no matter the delivery…that curious touch goes on.