Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lessons of Spirit

Me about 5 years old
I have been taking classes in studying my chakras. I completed two so far: my fifth (the throat) and sixth (the "third eye"). There are seven basic chakras in our bodies, but I am also learning there are lots more. Information about these latter chakras will come later. For now, I'm satisfied with learning the basics. I have been learning about chakras for decades now, but have never taken an actual class about it. It is a very good way to be connected with like-minded women in a spiritual way. I have been craving a spiritual connection lately, and these classes have been a very good vehicle for connecting with my Divine Self again.

I was raised Catholic. I let go of the church when I was eighteen years old. Actually, when I was seventeen, I began questioning everything, including church doctrine. It was the first time I felt confident enough to even ask questions. I wasn't getting any answers to those questions that I could live with, so I began to let go. I have many bad memories associated with my religious upbringing.  I have been psychologically and emotionally scarred by priests and nuns so deeply, that I continue my healing process to this day. In fact, my only pleasant memories of being Catholic are about my love of ceremony, incense, bells, and music. When I attended St. Catherine's Elementary School in Norwood, Massachusetts, I learned to sing the Mass in Latin. Those classes were my favorites. I love sacred music and singing it even now. In fact, this coming weekend, I will enjoy my first choral concert of hymnals and spirituals as a performer in the Greater Tiverton Community Chorus. I am very excited about it. The harmony moves me like it did as a child singing in church with my school class.

These particular chakra classes use art therapy as a very effective medium to express images, ideas, thoughts or revelations revealed to us through meditation and guided visualization exercises. The classes are taught by Barbara, a mature woman, who is a licensed psychotherapist. She began her long career as an R.N., and found both paths unsatisfying. She discovered a course taught at Salve Regina University; graduated from it, and is now also a mentor for new students in it. The women I am meeting in these classes are my age or older. One was younger and is one of Barbara's students. It is fun for me to see these women and other people I am meeting at the gym, for example, around town. Seeing people I know, who Larry doesn't know, makes me feel like I am becoming a "local" in Tiverton. It's a nice feeling.

I learned about these classes from my new massage therapist, Linda, who happens to be Barbara's daughter. Linda and Barbara share the same space in an office "strip mall" next door to my new Primary Care Physician. My new doctor introduced me to Linda. I love small towns because everybody knows everybody else, and a new resident can make very good connections just by asking. I also found my new dentist by asking the women working behind the registration desk at my new PCP's office. "Ask and Thou Shalt Receive." It works!

The throat chakra relates to communication, creativity and self-expression. Glands  involved are the thyroid and parathyroid. Other body parts included are the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, tongue and ears. Associated animals are the elephant, bull, lion, and the spider. Chief goals of this chakra are achieving harmony with others, self-knowledge and creativity. It's life lesson is the power of choice and personal expression. It's color is a clear, bright blue. Singing was highly encouraged. Joining the Tiverton Chorus around the same time I began this class was very a propos.

The "third eye" chakra relates to intuition and wisdom. The life lesson is emotional intelligence. Its goals are to achieve the ability to "see" other than with the eyes. It is associated with the sixth sense. Associated body parts are the pituitary gland, eyes and the base of the skull. Its color is indigo and is located above and between the eyebrows. It's animal is the dragonfly. We worked a lot with dreams in this class. I actively kept a dream journal.

Chakras all have a front and back side. They rotate in a conical shape. We experiented with the back side by having each of us in turn lie face-down on a massage table. We took turns holding a prism hung from a loop of what looked like fishing line over the place where the back side of the chakra resides. When we found it, in every case, the prism began moving. Sometimes it moved quickly at a diagnol angle; sometimes in a circle. With some it moved more quickly than others. When I saw this and felt it myself, I was amazed. To hold the prism and know I was not moving it in any way, watching it spin made my jaw drop. To have the prism held over me, that place on the back of my throat or head (in the case of the sixth chakra) felt very warm to hot. After it was done, I touched that place with my fingers and it indeed felt as warm as I felt it in my body.

We were required to create a final project for each class. Throughout the eight weeks of each class, one exercise we had as homework every week was to color mandalas. At first, all this coloring just felt time-consuming and useless. As time went on, I discovered that taking time to sit and color is very calming, relaxing and meditative. I found I enjoy it very much and asked for a book to continue to color them after the class ended. We were given such a book as a final gift by Barbara. In fact, at the end of each class, we had a lovely ceremony where she gave us a gift bag themed after the color, animal and function of each chakra. We received mineral stones with a little bag to hold them in, a candle, a book or two, more useful information to use later, and a little chatzke, like an Willow Tree angel and a hand-carved heart-shaped stone by women in Haiti of Haiti stone as a way to support them. Each gift group was just lovely; very generous and thoughtful.

Here is the personal mandala I created for my final project on the throat chakra. It includes musical notes, a saxaphone (which came to me in a visualization as an instrument I had some affinity with), feathers, flowers and vines. I have a very strong connection to birds and flowers, so I adorned much of my mandala with these images. When completed, I felt it needed another dimension, especially after experiencing the back side of my chakra, so I added blue ribbon flowing in a spiral from the center.

I have always scribbled and dabbled with painting or drawing, but in these classes I felt that my artistic skills were defective. I found I needed lots of permission to experiment with messy mediums, like watercolor paints, for example, or pastel chalks. Now, at the end of my second class, I am drawn to both more than gel pens, crayons or markers. I discovered that some images require one type more than another. In the sixth chakra class, I took more time to just experiment with painting. We had homework one week to just sit with "beauty" for its own sake and create a piece of art. Here's what I came up with sitting in the sun in front of my spring garden.

I had lots of dreams about being "in the resistance" in wars. I attribute this to my fight for my own emotional and psychological independence from the expectations of others. They also included lots of magic and sorcerers. One dream included visiting Mozambique. I was being escorted by a male friend there. One place he took me was an old palace now in ruin. I had been watching an episode of "No Reservations" with Anthony Bourdain that night, so I'm sure this is where my dream originated.

But there was a panel in the tiled floor that we stood in front of. Someone else took a hammer and broke the glass panel. When the glass shattered and fell into the hole, the person said, "The veil is broken." All I saw was a smokey, swirling indigo darkness. I knew I was supposed to just jump in, so we did. I did, without hesitation. We floated down through the indigo haze until we reached a place with a maze of rooms using flowing curtains for doors. I never actually touched bottom, but floated around from room to room. In one room, people were smoking dope. Others were just empty. What I felt was that this was a peaceful place that I could return to anytime if I wanted. Here is the entrance I painted.

My final project for the sixth chakra was the most difficult for me. Instructions were to decide what my life's dream is. I was very upset because I realized I didn't have a dream. My life has been about creating and achieving many dreams so far. But, I realized that at this phase of my life, I don't really have a dream. Everything I thought I would be doing: becoming a published author for one, is no longer very desirable. Blogging has helped my need for immediate gratification on that score. But, Barbara helped me to see that having a dream doesn't have to be about my own accomplishments.

I realized with her help that my dream is to have the strongest body I can; to be as healthy as I can right now. My dream is to be as strong and healthy as I can with as much energy as I need to be with the grandchildren I hope to have one day. I want to have as much energy as I require to bring them along on all the new adventures we can imagine; having as much fun as we can stand along the way.

I learned that a white-tailed deer is the animal totem protecting my third eye. This totem means I am "entering into a time of plenty, but the path to get there has not been without sacrifices.."  I read that if I am in a phase of my life where I am wandering about without a clear sense of direction, which I am,  I can go ahead and just enjoy it. I have such a sense of guilt about not being productive enough. But, I can let all that guilt go and just relax and enjoy my life exactly as it is. I can appreciate the blessings I have received without the need to feel guilty or to justify it to anybody, let alone my Self. I deserve everything I have. I made good choices to get me here. I will continue to learn how to just relax and enjoy them. This drawing with real bird feathers showed me that my heart chakra is unbalanced and out of alignment. I know that once it is balanced and healed (hopefully when I take that class or before on my own), my inner Light can fully shine. Until that day, I will do the best I can, one day at a time. Sometimes one moment at a time.
My Ethereal Spirit Self

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Feel Good!

On Monday, the owner of my gym asked me if I was losing weight. "Not really," I replied. "Well, you look like it. You must be losing inches. You're getting a waist back." He was right. I have noticed my waist looking more defined. I also noticed little bumps on my biceps when I pull down sixty pounds. I feel good. I feel more solid. I can wear my pants at the waistband instead of pulling them up over my waist. When I suck in my stomach muscles, my stomach moves in! I am very encouraged.

For the first time in my life, I look forward to an hour of lifting weights and thirty minutes of interval training on the cross-trainer. I've worked with my trainer, Eric, twice a week since January. Now, I am going there just to get in the cardio workout on off-trainer days. I have to get my thirty minutes in today or my day will not feel complete. Walking is not enough anymore. Is this me talking? Never thought I'd hear myself say these things. "I feel good. Da, da, da, da, da, da, da!"

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Hunger Games

After spending two hard-working days at Chris and Jen's building new steps on their deck, Larry and I took Sunday to rest and go on a movie date. I just finished reading The Hunger Games book, and started the second book of the trilogy. I was determine not to see the movie until I finished the book. I was glad I did.

We enjoyed the movie. It was entertaining enough and had a great soundtrack. Jennifer Lawrence does a good job as Katniss Everdeen. She is the main reason I wanted to see this movie. I love strong female characters, and the book created a very powerful young woman in Katniss. Jennifer's performance was believable, but the chemistry between her and Peeta portrayed by Josh Hutcherson lacked the same flair as the book. Is any movie really as good as the book? The hype of this trio including Liam Hemsworth as Katniss' best friend, Gale, was just that: hype. Liam's role in the movie was minimal at best and gave us no clue about the friendship. What information was given was sparce and bland. Again, the book's details offered so much more "meat".

I love Stanley Tucci. He is fabulous as the "MC" of the "Games": Caesar Flickerman. I hope this movie gets a nod for Best Costume and Best Set at the Oscars. The movie does a decent job recreating characters and scenes of "The Capitol". The characters looked like the clowns I expected from descriptions in the book. The special effects were decent as well: not too many; just enough to make the movie interesting.

The film was shot in North Carolina, and all the forest scenes were just lovely. I plan to buy some of the songs from the soundtrack. Taylor Swift creates some very nice music and her voice is the best I've heard. Songs at the end of the movie during the credits reminded me of the folk music sung by "The Trio": Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstadt and Emmie Lou Harris. It was eery and very Appalachian-esque.

 Donald Sutherland plays President Snow. He can be so creepy and was an excellent choice for this character. I see in the second installment that he will play a larger role, and can't wait for that movie to come out. I assume Hollywood will make a trilogy of movies to follow each book, like the Twilight Saga, so I look forward to seeing each one.

I am hooked on these books. The story is engrossing with great imaging and depth of character development. It portrays society at its worst, as do many of the "tween" books these days. But I can't resist a survival story, and this is a really good one. Check it out.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Happy Spring!

I just adore this time of year. It is truly my favorite. When I let the dogs out this morning, a robin was sitting on our neighbor's fence singing. It was beautiful. The crocus have passed, but the daffodils, hyacinth, and grape hyacinth are beautiful. My tulips are getting ready to bloom too. "How lovely is the silence of growing things". I don't know who coined this phrase, but my friend, Barbara, etched it on a stone that's in my garden. It's so true.

This morning, I came downstairs after getting dressed for the gym, to see a line of six beautiful, white swans swimming in single file up river. What a gorgeous sight. I scrambled for the camera.

Recently, Larry snapped a hawk launching from the cherry tree next door. Beautiful bird.

Spring is the time of renewal and new beginnings. It's also a time I use for reflection. When I see the beauty of God's creations all around me, I just breathe it in and say a silent, "Thank you." I am so grateful every day for all my blessings. I have a wonderful husband and family, adorable puppies; a beautiful house and area to live in, excellent health and good friends. I am very fortunate indeed. Whenever I can, I make sure to keep the positive energy flowing my way by sharing my blessings as much as possible. I always have. We "reap what we sow" in life. I firmly believe this. As long as I keep sowing positive actions, as much as I possibly can; speak with love and compassion, taking full responsibility for both, I believe these are the keys to my charmed life. I believe in the "Power of Attraction": you attract what you put out into the Universe. I must be doing something right, because I couldn't be happier. I have learned to "receive" as well as "give". Finally.

I am sending Love to all of you this Easter and Passover season. May the Spring of 2012 bring you nothing but Joy, Happiness and Abundance, as well as good health. Namaste.

Making Progress

After my little heart attack scare, I brought a note from the cardiologist back to Eric at Four Corners Fitness and resumed my workouts. The doctor was sure I had not had a heart attack. Instead, the tightness I felt in my chest was probably a result of reflux. Prilosec is now my friend, at least for fourteen days. After that, I'll probably switch to DGL (deglycerized licorice); a more natural way to spell r-e-l-i-e-f.

The thought of losing two months and reverting back to "square one" was just impossible for me to consider. I insisted the cardiologist call me and write the note, because the delay in scheduling a stress test until the end of April is on their end, not mine. I refused to be penalized for their busy schedule. The doctor left instruction I was not to exert myself until after the stress test, but in the hospital he said the likelihood I was having a heart attack was virtually nil. Larry and I will be heading to our home in South Carolina on May 7th. I'll miss that whole month, so losing April too was not to be tolerated. I've already decided to look for a place like Planet Fitness down there, so I can at least get to a gym while I'm away. I understand there is no long-term commitment required at Planet Fitness. I also found out my brother-in-law down there joined one, but there might not be one close to us in the "boonies". So, onward and upward.

I got back to work this morning, and was so happy to be there. So was Eric. He missed me! We talked about how much progress I've made and how well I'm doing. Last week he up'd my weights, and I loved how strong I felt. I felt the same way this morning. It's so great to look in the mirror and see bulges forming in all the right places. I pulled down sixty pounds on one of the machines! That's a first for me. It felt great. I'm pumping 12.5 lb. weights overhead, and I can feel that my left arm is weaker than my right. This will change in time. I love that I look forward to doing weights. I have never felt this motivated about exercise in my life. Cardio exercise just doesn't feel like enough anymore.

That said, I did another thirty minutes on the elliptical machine after my weight workout. I love watching the Travel Channel's "Fantasy Vacation Homes" show while I work out. After getting through the first fifteen minutes, I can just go away to those fantasy homes and the time flies by. Before I know it, my thirty minutes is up. For the second time, after I stretched out, I left the room to find I was all alone in the studio. I also love working out in a small, local place where the owner trusts me to shut off all the lights and leave whenever I'm done. Luckily, the owner lives right across the street, so he can also keep an eye on the place, but being trusted to stay as long as I like is a very nice feeling.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Aloha -- More about Oahu

Oahu is a very pretty island. One of the things that struck us driving around it is the beauty of  "beach parks". I asked a local man about public versus private beaches, and he said, "There are no private beaches in Hawaii." We found that amazing and wonderful. Imagine: nobody can "own" a beach there. Now, Larry and I pay big bucks to have beachfront property in Rhode Island, and I have to admit I get annoyed when "invaders" come by boat to use it at low tide. One of the benefits we get is privacy at the beach. We own to the "high water mark". We don't get much else for our property tax dollar here. But, on an island where the shoreline is mostly lava rock, having beach parks, even in resort areas, as public is a very nice benefit.

 My personal passion is the beauty of flowers and the unique characteristics of birds. These two natural beauties thrive in abundance here. The myriad of colors, textures and varieties of plant life in a tropical environment is awe-inspiring. We pay lots of money for a "Bird of Paradise" bloom arrangement, for example. Here, they grow wild. I love that.

Doves are definitely in abundance here, but are smaller than we see in the East. Other very colorful birds are everywhere. I didn't learn their names, but I certainly appreciated their fearlessness. They just walked around us, and virtually posed for pictures. It was very funny.

Majestic views are everywhere. Trying to capture a waterfall cascading down a mountain while driving by is challenging. Dramatic cloud formations over those mountains are easier to capture, and very humbling to the soul.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

At this age...

I had my first heart attack scare yesterday. I spent eleven hours in both the ER and a Cardio Observation room. I'm fine. Everything is normal. Thank goodness for enzyme tests. But, I now have a Cardiologist. Although the barrage of blood tests and EKG readings demonstrated I am in excellent health, hearing the nurses and doctors say, "At this age...", pick an issue, made me feel old. I don't feel old at all. Others remind me of my age. In my own head, I'm still young.

At least four to five times this last week and a half, I had been experiencing tightening in my chest between my breasts. It was right over my Schatzki Ring, so I thought it was just indigestion. I took Tums to relieve it. In most cases, the Tums worked fine. It seems most things give me indigestion or heartburn these days. It must be my age. Anyway, on Wednesday, I woke up with this tightening sensation again. I thought about it being something other than indigestion, but pushed that thought out of my head. The discomfort went away after about a half hour. But, the idea wouldn't leave my head because it had been about the third time that week that I felt it, so while I drove to my sister, Jeanne's, house to finish cleaning her yard, I called my brand new doctor's office from the road. I got angry with her because instead of making this simple, her office said she didn't have time in the next day or two to see me and advised me to go to the ER. I said, "No. All I want is a few minutes for her to listen to my chest and maybe put me on a EKG machine to make sure. I told them going to the ER wasn't going to happen. I wasn't going to spend the entire day in a hospital. I had things to do." The office called me back about fifteen minutes later to insist that my doctor wanted me to go to the ER. I said, "Maybe I will after I do what I want to do today," and hung up thanking them, but feeling very annoyed. Maybe I made the wrong choice in doctors. Maybe I should go see my old doctor while I'm in the area, and if necessary, I can go to the New Wellesley Hospital ER. I'm more comfortable with our family hospital, the one I grew up going to, anyway.

I finished Jeanne's yard and felt great. I went to the gym the next day and had the best workout ever. I sweat my ass off, and again, felt great. Friday I ran errands all day, and felt perfectly normal. See? I told myself, it was just heartburn again. We went out to eat at a new restaurant that night, and maybe I overate. I was full, but not stuffed, so I didn't think much of it. When I woke up at 3:30 a.m. with the tightening sensation again, I began to think differently. I got up at 3:45 a.m., took Tums and an aspirin, just in case, and went back to bed. I wrestled with the discomfort that now seemed to radiate sideways and through my back  for another few minutes, afraid to wake up Larry unnecessarily. I truly felt like I did when at twenty as an unwed mother in labor and living with my parents. I was afraid to wake them up for fear that it was a false alarm. My sister, Jeanne, found me like that and told my parents for me. We went to the hospital, and Chris was born two hours later. What if this is a mistake, I thought? I don't want to inconvenience anybody, especially when they're sleeping. I couldn't believe I felt the exact same way yesterday, forty-two years later. It's funny how those memories come flooding back in, and the Life spiral that brings back the concomitant feelings that are so similar, but get triggered in very different life events. Larry was awake anyway. "Honey? I'm feeling this tightening thing again. Do you think I'm being foolish and stubborn? I don't want to be stupid about it. My doctor wanted me to go to the ER Wednesday. I think maybe we should go now just to be sure. What do you think?" Wow. I became the patient, and not the caregiver: a very different role for sure.

As soon as I walked in the door and said, "I just want to make sure I'm not having a heart attack." Before the full sentence left my mouth, a young woman was moving to meet me and escort me into a back area. She immediately brought me a "johnny" and told me to lay flat. She put EKG machine plugs on my chest before even taking my name. I was very impressed. I know that going to the ER on a weekend is not a great time to go, but we thought that a very early morning visit may be less busy. It sure was. There was only one other woman who walked in just ahead of me. A man was brought in by police officers shortly after me. We thought he may have been drunk. I never saw him. A nurse (I feel compelled to say, male, here because I so rarely see them, but don't want to appear sexist) came in and took my information, along with four other females doing the same thing within an hour; some nurses, some technicians. I felt so cared for. Larry joked I was just vying for attention as a nurse wheeled me to a curtained "room" past many handsome EMT's and police officers standing around. I echoed the joke.

In the next hour, I was put on a heart monitor and oxygen by Jean, a nurse who also drew blood samples, and was thrilled to tell us that at 65, she was finally going to retire in thirty days. We had wonderful conversations with her about how she'll love retirement, and she was just lovely. She had been working the night-shift for over twenty years, and was so done with it. She couldn't wait to have time to play with her grandchildren and walk her dog. She told us she was tired of working holidays, and missing Saturday weddings. She assured me that coming in was a good idea. I kept needing that reassurement.

The floor doctor came to see me. I told him I felt fine and a little silly because I didn't want to waste anyone's time. He said, "Oh, you're one of those. That's fine until they bring you in here dead. You should have listened to your doctor." "But she's new," I said, "all I've had with her is an introductory meeting. I haven't even had a physical with her yet." This statement seemed to justify why I couldn't trust her judgement, and had to listen to my own body. He wasn't joking, and I got the message. He told me I was at risk for arterial disease. Ok then. Never mind.

Within another hour, I was wheeled to an "Observation Room", a wing that was built in 1993. A very nice nurse, Pat, took care of me. A phlebotomist, Diane, took blood from me in two four-hour intervals, and also gave me two more cardiograms. I had fun joking with the two of them during the course of my stay. I became their "supply monitor" because my room was where they kept the supplies. I also counselled Diane, who had been divorced for twenty-two years and was ready to marry again and "be taken care of". I mentioned getting married late in life and being able to retire early because of it. She was ready for that. I told her to keep hope alive, her eyes open and get herself "back out there". It was fun! Plus, they fed me a not-so-awful breakfast and lunch.

Then, Dr. Farber, the Cardiologist came to see me. Pat explained that when my heart muscles are injured from anything, heart attack or disease, they emit enzymes that show up in blood tests. My new Cardiologist said that without other symptoms, he believed the chances I had been having heart attacks this past week and a half were pretty nil. My having a good session at the gym without symptoms was especially poignant for his preliminary diagnosis. He said if I had a heart attack on Wednesday, the enzymes would have shown up, and my first test was negative. Certainly if I was having a heart attack, enzymes would show up. "Let's wait to see what the rest of the blood tests show, but if they are negative, you can go home." They were and by 3:30 p.m., I was outta theyah.

He advised me that perhaps I was experiencing some reflux spasms, and put me on a daily dose of Prilosec. He also advised I take one full (coated) aspirin daily from now on, and his office will call on Monday to arrange a stress test, just to be sure. He also told me I cannot overly exert myself until after the stress test, so I had to cancel my peronal training sessions this week. Now I also have to bring in a doctor's note when I return to the gym. It's ok, though. As Eric said, "Maybe he has instructions for me too." I love positive people. I'll just walk the dogs every day until I can go back. Pat said that would be ok, but was adamant I should obey the doctor's orders not to exert myself. I promised to be good.

The pups were really thrown when Larry and I left the house at 4:00 a.m. to head to the Charlton Hospital Emergency Room, and were so happy to see me when we got home after 4:00 p.m. We stopped at CVS on the way home to get my Prilosec, and today begins a new day. I am much more heart conscious than I ever was, and will be more aware of how much I eat at any given meal. Portion control can be a problem sometimes. I eat pretty healthily in general, although my sweet tooth has kicked in again. Yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. "Shut up and just do it!" OKAY! I acted just like my father: stubborn and in complete denial. The day he got out of the hospital after his heart attack, he went home and built a shed by hand, by himself. I judged him for it; now I get it. Geez. I'm glad I listened to my heart.