Saturday, October 5, 2013

Finding Life Purpose in What Already Exists

I don't know about you, but I feel like I am always seeking something.  I'm never quite sure what that "something" is though, which can be frustrating, because if I don't know what it is, how do I know when I have found it?

 If you glance over this blog, which I have come and gone from many times over the past several years, you might think that I am all over the place.  But if you look closer you can see a common theme of health, wellness and human behavior.  More interestingly though there is a clear progression of sorts, a journey that doesn't seem to have a road map or an end.

Up until recently I was really bothered by this.  Why am I never satisfied?  Why can't I stick with any one thing? But through my recent meditation practice and willingness to open myself to whatever the Universe has planned for me I had an awakening of sorts, and thus have chosen to "notice" this frustration without judgement and without trying to change it.  Rather I find myself looking into it a bit deeper, and perhaps reframing my basic belief around having to be "done".

If I was truly satisfied, what would be the fun in living?  If I stuck with just one thing, how would I continue to learn?  While noticing my frustration, and looking at what I am actually really frustrated with, I found that it was perhaps my uneasiness with not being able to label who I am and thus realize my life's purpose.  And then it became clear, I know exactly who I was there all along.

I am a Seeker.  I chose to follow this journey so that I can continue to learn and grow.  I am also a Teacher, while in my quest to learn and grow I get pleasure out of sharing my experiences and knowledge with others.  Last but not least, I am a Healer.  My path my be long and winding but the stops along the way are always the same.  To help people to grow, to change, and to heal.

Of course I am not "done", because if I was I would no longer be here.  Now I know, that I still have lots to do and the ability to identify who I truly am will allow me to stay the course.   So instead of spending my days feeling unsatisfied and frustrated, I look forward to the opportunities that are laid out in front of me that will further the journey and my life's purpose.

My message to others in all of this, is that if you find yourself constantly feeling unsatisfied, stuck or frustrated take the time to sit with the feeling and observe it with a "beginner's mind".  Examine it as if you have never seen it before, with curiosity and without judgment.  Open your mind to the idea that the answers you seek are already right in front of you and all you need is a bit of reframing to see them.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Travel, Exercise, and Staying Healthy - Guest Blogger

The following blog was written by a fellow fitness and healthy living enthusiast, Mike Manning.   Visit for more posts by Mike!

In the meantime, I love his ideas on how to continue a fitness regime while traveling...something that tends to be difficult, especially if you have kids!  The in-room yoga is a fabulous perk, and exercise bands are easy to pack!


Travel, Exercise, and Staying Healthy

Many aspects of travel can take a toll on your health. The crazy schedules and unfamiliar surroundings can make it difficult to stick to healthy routines you have established at home. Sadly, many frequent travelers experience serious health concerns, including obesity, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you take the time to plan and also maintain your self-awareness, you can perform your exercise and maintain your personal health no matter how much you travel.

Before you leave, learn about your destination. Find out what fitness amenities your hotel offers. If you can book your own accommodations, try to find a place to stay where you will have access to a well-equipped fitness center and other amenities that will encourage you to get some exercise during your visit. Some hotels have in-room yoga or fitness videos for guests. Others offer fitness sessions in the hotel gym or running trails on the premises. On a trip to Maui I was able to book a hotel with a phenomenal 24-hour gym, which allowed me to keep up my early morning workouts. I did this by scrolling through all of the Maui hotels on a travel site where I could see reviews and amenities offered.

When packing, remember everything you will need to get a good workout during your trip. Pack comfortable clothes and shoes for working out, and never leave home without a refillable water bottle to help you stay hydrated. Also, bring along portable workout equipment such as a simple workout band.

When flying, pay attention to exercise opportunities that present themselves. Walk around the airport terminals, or get some exercise in the Zen room, if your airport provides one. On the plane, be sure to stretch and do some in-flight exercises every hour or so. This will help alleviate common travel complaints such as cramping, stiffness and swelling.
Throughout your travels, remember to keep a realistic view of your personal fitness. You probably won’t be able to execute your usual exercise routine each day, but you will have time to get some exercise. In the morning, you may be able to get up early and go for a run or do some in-room yoga. If you have some time to relax by the pool in the evening, take the opportunity to get some exercise by hopping in and splashing around. If your schedule is particularly busy, get a little exercise during short breaks between or during meetings. You can get a great power workout in about 10 minutes using a chair and your exercise band.

Taking small steps toward fitness during your travels will help you make great strides in your overall health. When you pay attention and take advantage of fitness opportunities, you will find yourself more energized. Travel will be less stressful for you, and you will be better able to return to healthy routines when you arrive back home.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Meditating with a Carpenter Bee

This past Saturday, as I made my way to the shed with the intention of  fishing through some old boxes, I found myself pausing to admire the beauty of our backyard.  Although our yard is not much to look at (other than the well cared for grass that my husband tends to each year), I could feel the warmth in the air and the rays of the sun as they kissed the earth.  The smell of fresh cut grass was pleasantly overwhelming and for some reason always takes me back to 8th grade typing class with Mr. Klick in the late afternoons of a May school day.  The sound of the birds and lawn mowers in the distance grazed my ears and a smile played across my lips as I embraced the moment.

Halfway to my destination I realized that I had stopped, although not sure as to why, I turned around and made my way to the play structure that took up a large bit of landscape in the yard.  I climbed to the platform and sat cross legged with the sun beating down on my back.  I closed my eyes, somewhat aware that neighbors could probably see me over the fence, and settled somewhat hesitantly into my breath.  Grateful for a moment of silence and the opportunity to be still in the midst of a busy day I slowly released my anxiety and turned my attention inward.

As I began to drop in, I became acutely aware of a large carpenter bee buzzing nearby.  Anyone who has a wooden play structure knows what I mean.  Come early spring, just when the children actually want to use the swings again, the carpenter bees swarm the structure, dancing around the slide and the monkey bars with their loud buzzing and impressive size.  They often scare us off, forcing us to vacate that area of the yard until the summer heat settles in and the bees find a new home.

I decided however, in this moment, not to react.  Rather, I found myself noticing.  With my eyes closed I could only hear the bee as it whirled around me, coming in and out of my awareness as it made it's presence known and then flew off again.   Once I muscled past the urge to open my eyes and/or move away, I was amazed at how easily I was able to observe my body's response to what I perceived to be the bee's antagonistic behavior.  As the buzzing grew louder, I knew the bee was closer and acutely felt my body tense and my heart quickly accelerate as if in unison with the growing intensity of the bee's buzz.  Then, as the bee flew away, I was simply left with the sound of my heart beat vibrating through my body and hastening my breath.  Noticing, just noticing.  Tuning in again, to my breath I purposely inhaled just a bit deeper and exhaled just a bit longer, effectively slowing my heart rate and coming back to calm.... no sooner would I drop in and the bee would be back.

As if it was actively engaging in this game with me, the bee would approach and retreat, sometimes staying longer, other times a quick buzz and it was gone.  This dance went on for quite a while, and after a time I realized that the bee was not antagonizing me anymore, although it's behavior had not changed.  In fact I welcomed it's approach, and felt pride in how it's presence pushed me beyond my normal limits.  Rather than reacting, I noticed, I observed and I controlled what I could.  I wish I could say that eventually I could sit with the bee without bodily response, perhaps if I had lasted another hour or two it might have happened.  What did happen though, is that with each pass the bee made I was able to come back to center quicker and easier. 

And this is where the story begins, because in real life bees happen all the time.  How often do we find ourselves reacting to events, people, stress or trauma without noticing and observing?  Our lizard brain response takes over and we fight, flee or freeze, reacting from a place of fear because that is what our body is telling us to do.  Although useful when in serious danger, more often than not there is space to come back to center, if only we were able to stop and just notice.  And maybe, just maybe we would realize that sometimes the bees are not really antagonizing, they are just simply being.  We could then respond, or not, from a place of calm and love instead of fear.

I will try to remember this experience the next time my kids are fighting, or someone cuts me off in traffic or someone's anger is coming toward me.  I now know that I have complete control over how I feel and I am able to choose how I will react to the bees in my world.  Hopefully with practice I will reach a place where I stay close to my center and respond from the place I found on top of the play set while meditating with a carpenter bee!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Trauma is, as Trauma does. My birth story after 9 years.

Timing is such a funny thing.  Last week a friend sent me this article on PTSD related to traumatic birth experiences.  I either hadn't noticed it, or didn't read it right away for some other reason.  It wasn't until after I went to a doctors appointment at the hospital where my first son was born (which I have done twice a year for the last nine years) and I was telling this same friend that I still experience mild PTSD symptoms as I approach the building that he asked me if I had read the article.

I think I got to the second paragraph before I broke down in tears, having to take multiple breaks to get through the rest of it.  My symptoms were not nearly as severe as what the woman in the article describes, but my experience was traumatizing....after all, I am reminded....I almost died.  Maybe it was because I didn't know it at the time, or because I was so sick for the first 3 months of my son's life, or there was so much hub-bub around "my condition" that I didn't even notice....trauma runs deep.

My story is long and complicated so I will try to keep it brief.  It starts right after my son was born.  My pregnancy itself was uneventful, and the delivery went fairly smooth.  In fact, I pushed for less than 15 minutes and my son was born healthy and strong.  I was so busy looking at him, that I didn't notice the fear in my doctor's face and didn't think to question why all of a sudden there were 10 people in the delivery room standing around me, thrusting their hands inside me and asking demanding that I push.   All I wanted was my baby, but they wouldn't let me have him.  Insisting my son was okay...fear turning to terror as people bustled around whispering to each other and pounding on my belly.

Turns out, my placenta wasn't budging.  For those who aren't in the know..once you deliver a baby, the placenta typically follows.  If it doesn't, your uterus does not contract and you hemorrhage.  In the rare situation in which this occurs (1 in 2500), a hysterectomy is the recommended course of treatment, the alternative is usually death.  My doctor refused.  I had a full placenta accreta (I called it placenta "creature") which is a condition in which the placenta abnormally implants into the uterine wall and does not release upon birth.

My doctor said, "This is your first baby and you are to young.  If you were my sister I would treat you the same."  So the cord was cut and stuck back in.  I won't go into detail about what followed, let's just say it involved a lot of blood....everywhere....and a lot of, "What do you mean you're placenta is still inside you?"  I went home with a hemoglobin level of 6 (normal is 12) and high risk for hemorrhaging.  Needless to say, I was back within 24 hours for a blood transfusion.  In the months that followed I was in severe pain and suffered from high fevers.  All the while waiting.  Waiting to bleed out.  Waiting for the placenta to detach.  Waiting to be normal again.   Eventually the fevers subsided and the pain dissipated.  The placenta was slowly absorbed by my body and life resumed some level of much as it can with a colicky infant.

Over the next 3 years I used whatever energy I had around my experience and funneled it, some would say compulsively, toward helping others (no big surprise there).  I started a message board for Placenta Accreta, I built a website and posted my story, I fielded emails from multiple women who were experiencing the same issue.  I started a life coaching business for expecting and new moms.  All of which I eventually let slide away.  I would check the message board every once in a while and there would be posts about how it wasn't well maintained.  I gave up on the coaching and quietly stopped attending mom focused groups and meetings.  At the time I chalked it up to not having the time or the energy, but the truth became to painful.  I realize now, that in my quest to "help others" in order to heal, I just kept re-traumatizing myself.

I'm not sure why I am coming to this realization now, although the article mentioned above certainly helped.  I feel anger, I feel cheated, I feel sad, yet I know I am blessed to have a healthy, smart, incredible son who truly touches my soul.  I also know from the work that I do, that everyone is in recovery from something and recovery is a very personal life long journey. I am in recovery from a traumatic birth experience.

One thing I cannot will not yet say is that I wouldn't change a thing.  All things being equal, I would rewrite the script for that day in a heartbeat.  But life doesn't work that way, and so we persevere, we integrate our experiences, and every once in a while something reminds us that we touched life's limits and managed to find our way back.

Written by me for my Boy on his 8th birthday

Eight years seems like a lifetime ago,
The line between life and death thinner than I know.
New breath is taken, innocence lost,
Fear on stranger's faces embossed.
Karma from lifetimes past,
Shadows from angels unknown are cast.
Eyes alert and gaze intense,
His imprint on this world to be immense.
He is my soul outside of me,
Happy 8th birthday Caby Baby!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Benefits of Physical Activity - Guest Blogger

Hey All!  The following is a guest post written by David Haas.   David Haas is a cancer support group and awareness program advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. In addition to researching many valuable programs, David often blogs about programs and campaigns underway at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, as well as creative fitness ideas for those dealing with cancer, while creating relationships with similar organizations.

Tremendous Benefits from Physical Activity – During and After Cancer Treatment

Regardless of whether you have completed treatment for cancer and are in remission, or are in the midst of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, you can benefit from physical activity.  Repeated studies have shown that exercise provides both emotional and physical benefits over the long term for people with cancer.

Physical Benefits

It has been known for a long time that almost anyone benefits from exercise and physical activity, no matter what their health status.  According to WebMD, people with cancer can especially benefit from integrating exercise into their health routine.  Not only does exercise help boost energy levels and stamina, but it also can contribute to long-term survival and overall health improvement.

Repeated studies have shown that even after finishing cancer treatment, individuals who continue exercising have lower rates of recurrence and improved heart and lung function.  In one study of patients with breast cancer, it was found that women who exercised just moderately on a regular basis had longer survival rates and better health outcomes than women who were sedentary and did not exercise.

Additional health benefits of exercising include weight loss and improved weight control, reduced fatigue and lower risk for cardiovascular problems and diabetes.

Emotional Benefits

The benefits from physical activity are not limited to the physical.  Most patients who begin to exercise report that they begin to feel better overall.  Depression and anxiety are very common experiences for cancer patients.  However, regular moderate exercise can result in improved mood and relief from depression and anxiety.

Another benefit from exercise is that many people experience a boost in their self-confidence.  As your body begins to get stronger, you feel more positive about the future.  You may find yourself celebrating major milestones as your body gets stronger and you are able to do more.

Talking to Your Doctor

When you sit down and talk to your mesothelioma doctor or oncologist, ask for recommendations about what types of exercise are most appropriate for starting a new exercise routine.  Depending on your stamina and strength, recommendations may range from simple stretching exercises to walking or swimming.  As your health improves, you may find that you want to add activities or change what you are doing.

Your doctor may also recommend that you work with an occupational or physical therapist initially.  They can help you develop a physical fitness routine of exercise that is not too strenuous and teach you how to exercise correctly.  You may also benefit from talking to a nutritionist to get recommendations about healthy foods you can eat to improve your stamina and overall health.

When you are fighting cancer, use every tool you can find to build your body into a fighting machine.  Even after you conquer the illness, continue the good health habits you develop to keep your body in fighting condition.  In the long run, you will benefit and feel better and happier.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My New Fitness Fun...finding your flow.

At the age of 40, I stepped outside of my fitness comfort zone and took a gymnastics class for the first time in at least 25 years. As I have mentioned previously, I was never one for team sports as a kid. Gymnastics was the only sport I really stuck with and enjoyed...until I dislocated my elbow for the second time when I was 11 years old while jumping over a pummel horse on the way to the water fountain.   Doh!

I have thought about revisiting this sport as an adult, but never saw any classes being offered anywhere....until I signed my son up for a class this fall. There it gymnastics.....offered the same time as my son's class. Could it get any more convenient? Why wouldn't I do it?!
Looks like fun doesn't it??

Well, I will tell you why....fear. Have you flipped into a foam pit lately? Or done straddle jumps and back handsprings on a tramp? When was the last time you kicked up into a handstand? Does the thought of it make your belly do flip flops? It did for me. No way can I get out there and do these things after so many years. So week after week, I brought my coffee and my iPad and I sat.

I watched other big people tumble on the floor, flip down the tumble track and do hip circles on the bar.  I always loved doing gymnastics and longed to be out there...but I thought I was to old, to rusty.  The last time I did a forward roll I was dizzy for hours!

And then something happened.

Someone died.

What does that have to do with anything? Well, it has to do with everything....because life is short, and opportunities WILL pass you by.

If you allow fear to rule you, you will never progress. Because change means risk and risk means flip flops in your belly.

The morning after I went to the funeral I showed up to gymnastics with my son as usual, prepared to sit, drink my coffee and read the new Steve Jobs book on my iPad (which, having now finished the book, is ironic in and of itself). Then I overheard a woman talking about taking the adult class. I heard her say, "I've never taken gymnastics before." and  I thought to myself..."if she is willing to give it a try...why wouldn't I?"

I did a quick check and realized that I had sweats on and an elastic around my wrist. $20.00 cash and I was IN. I refused to let myself over think fact I blocked it all together and just moved forward.....and all of a sudden there I was....doing straddle jumps and back handsprings on the tramp...tumbling across the floor and doing hip circles on the bar.

I came home that afternoon and told my older son and husband what I had done. "I took a gymnastics class!". I exclaimed. My son looked at my husband and said, "I've never seen Mom so happy about something!"

And that was all I needed to hear.

My tummy still does flip flops on the Friday night before class leading all the way up until I get out there...but I refuse to over think it...and I keep moving forward...and by the end of every class I am totally in my flow.

You can check me out here. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Paleo out of curiosity. Gluten free out of necessity.

Funny how things happen sometimes.  You see a video, read a post or hear a conversation and something about it catches your interest.  You might think it is coincidence, but more often than not, if you really really think about it, you would realize that it's not.  It resonates with you for a reason, even if you are not completely aware of it at the time.

A few months ago a friend of a friend overheard me talking about the book Sex at Dawn.
Hi.  You may think I am a nut...but I'm not!
He stated that he was interested in the book and went on to explain how he had started this new way of eating called Paleo.  Hmmmm..being somewhat interested in diets and the way we choose to eat I was intrigued....especially in how it related to Sex at Dawn.  He went on the explain that basically the Paleo Diet is one in which you only eat what our paleolithic ancestors did.  This means no processed food, no dairy, no legumes and no grains.  You can eat meat, fruit, vegetables and nuts.  But not peanuts because they aren't really nuts, they are actually legumes...who knew?  The theory behind this diet being that we are not biologically meant to eat the way we do.

Shortly thereafter, another friend was praising the Paleo Diet, saying she has never felt better now that she has cut all the engineered stuff out of her diet.  My interest was peaked again so I started to research this Paleo Diet.  And..whoaa..turns out there is a whole Paleo lifestyle which includes an exercise "cult" called Cross Fit.  So this is pretty cool now....a back to the basics diet paired with a fitness regime guessed it....focuses on moves from back in the day (the paleolithic day I'm talking about).  Squats, rings, rope climbing, pushing, pulling....all bundled into a WOD (Workout of the Day) that is posted on the website.  Wait...this is just to perfect!!  Check out this funny video about it... really. 

So I figured...let me try this diet out for a few days....and maybe I will even try to do some WODs.  I think I lasted two weeks trying to eat like our ancestors....and I did not give up my yogurt and I ate a handful of pretzels every night...and wine...I definitely did not give up the wine.  This is called the 80/20 rule.  Yes it is a real rule...honest it is...which says you can follow the diet 80% of the time and still say you are "Paleo".   The WODs on the other hand....well I didn't even try, because let's be honest...they're kind of scary.

Not for nothing though.....I probably lost a few pounds due to cutting out a lot of carbs during that time but I really didn't feel any better....I actually felt pretty drained and ucky.  I guess I just need my carbs and grains.

Fast forward a couple of weeks....I get a call from my son's doctor.  We had taken him to CHOP for short stature...he is but a weeee little boy....with a very big presence...but that is another post all together.

Turns out he has Celiac Disease.  For those who aren't in the know, Celiac is an autoimmune disease in which the body destroys the villi in the small intestine in order to protect itself from gluten which is perceived to be a foreign substance.  With little to no villi, the small intestines are unable to absorb the nutrients we need to survive.  Why does this happen?  Well....maybe because for some of us...our bodies just haven't evolved enough to handle engineered food.

Although the main symptom of Celiac Disease was once thought to be gastrointestinal, they now know that is shows up in all forms, one of which is short stature. Hopefully within a few months the one who is little will be a bit bigger....maybe I will finally be able to pass on his 2T clothes to his 2 year old cousin who is probably taller than he is.

Treatment?  Easy...remove gluten from the diet.  Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye which means no bread, no pasta, no cake, no cookies...well you get the bagels.  Luckily going gluten free seems to be a trend these days, and the options are endless.  This does make things easier for the little guy and for us.  But it does take some foresight and more quick drive thrus or stopping at random pizza places for a pie on the way home.  Not that we did either of those things often...but not having it as an option anymore kind of stinks.

Thankfully my little guy has a lot of HEART.  He didn't even blink when I informed him, on the way to Trader Joe's to buy up all of their gluten free food, that he would have to change the way he eats.  As a matter of fact, he told everyone in the store that he can only eat gluten free food now.  That was three weeks ago and he is still a trooper, even when all of the other kids are making their own pizza at Pizzaria Uno and when I told him he couldn't play with the raw dough.  "Okay Mommy" he says..."because it isn't gluten free?"

The only thing he is asked of me throughout this whole thing is that I go gluten free with him.