Looking for the Rainbow

by Ann Zimmerman, L.Ac.
 
For many years, I have kept a strict agreement that I will stop what I am doing if the weather conditions are nearing for a rainbow. The brilliant combination of the rain and the sun bursting through the clouds creates the perfect lighting. Stopping to notice this beauty feels critical to my soul.

The luxurious rain storms in June on multiple occasions hurried me from the kitchen cutting board and into the garden. My exit from the kitchen could be abrupt and even surprise my 6-year-old daughter who is often in the clouds herself. I usually yell “rainbow weather!” and then
run out our screen door into the garden to gaze at the mountainsides,
carefully studying the dark part of the sky.

The rainbow’s majestic colors and density fluctuations always draw
me in completely. Upon spotting a rainbow, I will let out a long pleased
exhale and then search for anyone nearby to come and witness this
miracle. I can feel every cell in my body smiling with the reminder of life’s divine nature. It’s almost like being in front of the ocean, where you can actually feel a direct experience of healing happening. However, rainbows are much more elusive than the ocean. No roads can be taken to rainbows and you can’t live close to them–we never know when they will show themselves.

And of course rainbows serve as amazing metaphors for life’s journey: in our personal storms of life (sickness, relationship fallout, financial woes, global pandemic, etc), is there not also a rainbow? A place where the weather pattern breaks, a moment when it’s not JUST storming and all falling apart.

Stopping and taking delight in the shift of weather patterns is how we begin to integrate, heal, and gain insight on what actually happened during the storm. To take notice of your life’s shifting patterns puts you in direct contact with the universal truth that everything is always changing.

To directly experience this moment you have to be willing to let go of believing you are the chatter in your mind. Our personal insights are born from being in the present moment. Simply put, being mindful is the attentive witnessing of your life from moment to moment. It turns down the loudest voice in the room, your chatty mind. The
practice gives you a choice about how you respond to change. It gives you the superpower of being adaptable.

It’s as if you left Talent, and went to the top of Wagner Butte, looking down you see how you move about in the course of an ordinary day. You see your route to work, how you go shopping, the main streets, your daily routine, and you’re seeing it all from the top of the mountain. Then you return to Talent. But now when you are moving
around town, there’s a part of you that always recalls the perspective from above. As you go through a day, you’re still watching it all from the mountaintop–a broader awareness while still being in the moment. Living during these rapidly changing times offers the perfect conditions to either adapt or suffer. You get to choose. Do you find new ways to respond to the shifting weather of a pandemic? Can you take moments throughout your day to be mindful of shifting patterns within yourself, to be in awe of nature or another person’s kindness? Can you also be aware of the good while also holding the suffering personally and globally? Mindfulness will not take away the storms of life, but it will help you notice your resistance to them and help you to notice your incredible resiliency.

We each have the capacity to hold the paradox of life.

Mindfulness helps us to not get lost in one story–to not get polarized by prejudice, upbringing, and personal agenda. The space between the thoughts–the quiet between the noise–allows us to experience the magic. It allows us to see and feel the rainbow between the shifting weather patterns of our days.

Cheers to being adaptive, resilient, and mindful!
Check out our mindfulness meditation classes at middlewaymedicine.com

Disempowerment and Anger

by Ryder Johanson, L.Ac.

                In the past few weeks, I’ve talked to a lot of people with strong opinions on the protests that have followed the killing of George Floyd and other black men and women by police.  As a white guy, I don’t feel like it’s my place to mansplain the police brutality/structural racism/Black Lives Matter situation and how people should be responding.  But I just keep thinking about what it would take to get me emotionally to where many protestors now are.

How angry would I have to be to line up against a line of police in riot gear?  What kind of experiences and suffering would have to happen for me to risk my health, safety, and freedom like many of the protestors are doing?  How much would I have to suffer first?  What would it feel like to feel like there was no other way to have my voice heard?

Anger is probably the most vilified of emotions—and I can see why.  It’s the emotion driving some of the worst crimes and unkindnesses humans inflict upon each other.  People who are angry are likely to lose control and do things that disturb the peace in our households and our communities.  Most of us learn early on that it’s not OK to be angry.

But in my experience, anger is often a cover emotion for significant past wounds underneath.  It’s the Protector aspect of ourselves that’s standing up for the wounded, scared Inner Child.  Maybe a big, scary display of our outrage can prevent us from getting hurt the same way again.  With sadness and fear we feel disempowered and even hopeless.  Anger, in contrast, is a huge rush of energy and a sense of empowerment.

To borrow a term from one of my favorite spiritual teachers, anger arises when we feel like a situation is “unworkable”: we feel like we deserve better than we’ve got and it doesn’t look like there’s any way for us to get it.  And so we think that maybe a big show of aggressive energy will be able to make a shift in a stuck, unworkable situation.

                Figuring out if and when and where and how to express anger is a bigger subject than I’m going to try to tackle here, but I think it’s important that we understand that someone who is very angry is usually very hurt underneath.  Moreover, anger can be a powerful tool to motivate us to stand up for ourselves and set good boundaries.  Very often, some of the biggest changes I see in my patients suffering with autoimmune diseases come after they start speaking up to their family members or their employers about the things that are bothering them.

                Most of the time we use coping mechanisms to distract ourselves from our anger.  We all know about coping mechanisms like mind-altering substances, comfort eating, TV, playing with our phones too much, but even “healthy” activities like extreme exercise and spiritual practice can be used to distract ourselves from the emotional pain in our minds and bodies.  But that anger is going to keep coming back until we take the time to heal our past wounds and find a way to feel more empowered going forward.

                I know personally it can be a big relief to have an angry outburst and get something I’ve been bottling up out in the open.  But I’ve felt even better, more lasting relief when I’ve realized that the angry parts of me are just trying to stand up for the sad, scared, disempowered parts of me. Moreover, it’s made it easier for me to see that same dynamic playing out over and over in our society and have compassion for other people.

Ryder Johanson treats autoimmune and other chronic diseases with Traditional Chinese Medicine at Middleway Medicine in Talent.

Pests as the precursors of change

by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

One of the first things that my wife and I did when we moved to our mountain home was to cancel the pest exterminator services.  The previous owners had used the exterminator for years with “great success, “ as evidenced by the lack of bugs around the house.  Since my wife and I are organic gardeners, we were uneasy with the idea of spraying the entire exterior of the house with substances that would not only kill the pests, but other creatures as well.  The first year there wasn’t a noticeable increase in the pest population, but the second year was a different story.  Suddenly we had an explosion of bugs of all sorts, both inside the house and outside in the newly established gardens.  We used small amounts of natural pest sprays in very specific places, but the bugs kept coming.  We wondered if we had made a mistake, and briefly considered  calling the exterminator back in to help.  But we chose to wait it out another year.  Our patience paid off in the the following year when an amazing thing began to happen:  That is when the lizards began to arrive.  They were beautiful, iridescent and colorful new inhabitants of the landscape.  The frogs were next to arrive, serenading us with nightly choruses.   The lizards and frogs couldn’t show up until the insects that they feed on became plentiful. What initially felt like a potential mistake in letting the insects run wild actually became an invitation to other forms of life to arrive and begin to make the ecosystem more whole, more alive.

So often we have agendas.  We prefer that things go the way we think that they should.  We don’t want to be inconvenienced by pests.  We are conditioned by our society to try to root out anything that gets in the way of our comfort or plans.  But seeing the world this way doesn’t allow us to enjoy the true fullness of life.  At first glance things don’t always demonstrate their value, but when we can attend to the things that we are given with patience and curiosity, we begin to notice that things begin to transform.  This is true of the pests in the garden that invite the lizards and ladybugs;  it is true of the mice that invite the owls that call to us in the nighttime.  The challenging part to all of this is that typically the difficulty shows itself first, and we often have to wait for the gift to arrive. 

I have been considering this truth a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are all aware of the many challenges that the pandemic presents, whether we have lost a job, are worried about our health, or are separated from people we love.  But we haven’t had enough time to experience the fullness of the gifts yet.  I keep wondering what new ideas or realizations will come from this difficult time.  The problems are evident at this stage of the game, but the gifts remain somewhat hidden.  We are being forced to reevaluate our priorities, our relationships, and our careers.  We are still early in the process though.  It is as if we are all aware of the insects that are nibbling on our lettuce, but for now they are dining alone.  They will inevitably be followed by the other characters that they attract.  The lizards, birds and beneficial insects that all add song and color to the landscape.  It can be tricky to wait for a difficult issue to begin to show its gift.  Often, like the bugs in our garden, we are tempted to go for a quick fix. We don’t want to linger in the discomfort. 

When we try to kill or sanitize an unsavory situation before we understand the gift that it is calling in, it may make our lives seem cleaner and more controlled, but it can also make our lives less alive.  Life is a complex matrix of seemingly incongruent forces and situations.   When we think of life as something to be controlled or conquered, we commit to a more short-sighted understanding of things.  We begin to focus on control more than coexistence, on directives more than curiosity.  This encourages us to falsely assume that we know more about things than we really do.  If we can’t weather the discomfort or the pests, we don’t get to enjoy the unknown fruits that they eventually bear.  When they say that it takes both clouds and sun to make a rainbow, they often forget to mention that sometimes the clouds last for awhile, and the rainbow doesn’t appear until the storm begins to break.  So now is the time to believe that there is a larger story at play.  Now is the time to practice patience and to practice faith.  Now is the time to be curious about what changes will be arriving in our garden.  Just like the lizards in my garden, sometimes we just have to wait for them.

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