The Sticky Stuff

by Clark Zimmerman, L.Ac.

 

The other morning I took a hike with my dogs in the mountains.  The sun had not yet crested the mountain next to the trail, so the trail was still in the morning shadows.  As I walked through a narrow spot on the trail, I ran face-first into a spiderweb that was between two trees.  It was quite a surprise to have the sticky web covering my face, as I hadn’t noticed it at all in the shadows of the morning.  Luckily, I didn’t feel a spider moving across my face.  I gently removed the web and continued on my walk, but it got me thinking about how spiderwebs can appear to be so different depending on the presence or absence of light.  Whether in the light or in the shadows, one thing is certain: webs are sticky.

I have always been fascinated with spiders.  They are master weavers who seem to spend so much time creating and maintaining their webs.  I feel a certain sort of guilt when I am cleaning and I have to remove a web from the corner of a room, as I think of all of the hard work that went into its creation.  Webs are works of art, but when they stick to you, they become a nuisance.  It is amazing how they can remain hidden in the absence of direct light, but in the presence of sunlight, they take on a life of their own.  They become dramatically radiant in the light.  Sometimes in the early morning, they are covered with dew that glistens like jewels when the sun catches them just right.  But the stickiness of a web is remarkable.  It reminds me of how sticky it can be to live as a human being. 

We all have parts of ourselves that can be quite sticky:  our judgments, our emotions, our desires, can all grab our attention and dominate a moment.  Some of the time we are aware of the things that get in the way of us being present.  Other times they can remain hidden from us.  It is like we are walking through the forest in the early morning and suddenly, seemingly without warning, our face is covered with a web.  Awareness is an amazing tool that is like inviting the sunlight into the moment.  When we practice awareness, we suddenly become noticeably conscious of the sticky webs that lie in our path.  What before was hiding in the shadows of our lives, can become quite obvious in the light of awareness.  Our hidden personality patterns, our habits, our addictions all start to show themselves as glowing works of art in our lives.  We might not think about such difficult things as works of art, but these things are what show us where we are stuck in our evolution as human being.  They point to the areas where we can improve and become more open and free.  They are crafted by years of experience. 

When we shine the light of awareness onto the path that we walk on, these places where we can get stuck become something to be fascinated by.  They become something to be curious about.  We may ask ourselves:  “How was this made?”  “What are the threads composed of?”  Once we begin to see the places where we get stuck in the light of awareness, these things can become great sources of growth.  They can catalyze huge change in the things that have been holding us back for much of our lives. 

Awareness practices come in many forms.  Some of the more common ones include meditation, self-inquiry, and therapy.  There are many forms of meditation that promote awareness.  When we meditate, we sit with the intention to simply watch all of our experience.  We watch our thoughts, feeling, emotions and the sensations in our body without the intention to control or judge them.  In watching these things, they begin to soften and show more of the underlying stories that feed them.  There is also the tool of self-inquiry, which is consciously playing with a pattern with curiosity as the driving principle.  When we sit with a riddle that seems to complicate our lives with the intention of understanding it, rather than judging it, we shine a ray of sunlight into the sticky places in life.  We can more clearly witness our patterns and the impact that they have on our thoughts and beliefs and on our relationships with others.  We can see the beauty of those parts of ourselves that have been hidden and use them to become a more whole person, a better version of ourselves.  Another helpful tool to increase awareness is therapy or group work.  Therapy allows someone else to reflect light into our blind spots in an effort to illuminate the hidden stories that can dominate our lives.

Whatever tool or tools we choose to work with, it is incredibly valuable to find ways to bring more awareness into our lives.  With more awareness, we can see a bigger, clearer view of the path that we call life.  We can see the beauty in the sticky parts, without getting so stuck.

Summer turns to autumn

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

 

After spending the day at Talent Harvest Fest,  my heart was warmed by community and my body was exhausted. The festival happened on a perfect sunny day following our first stretch of cool rainy weather. Everyone was so happy to be savoring the last days of summer. I chatted with many people about how they just wanted to be outside; prolong going home to laundry, work related projects, and making dinner. It felt like as a community we were eager to harvest every drop of “fun” from summer, yet there was a tangible taste of fall in the air.  After the festival, I realized my heart  was in summer and my body was ready to rest in Autumn.  

My personal experience speaks to why the change of season tends to make our health unstable.  Switching from the “expansive” spirit of summer (think travel, going out more, and staying up late), to autumn a more “contractive” time of  going inward, being at home, and sleeping more can be a challenge.  Adjusting our lifestyles to the changing needs of the season is something most people do not consider, it simply is no part of our cultural consciousness. However, learning to honor the changing needs of your health in relationship to the season is a wise way to improve your health.

Traditional Chinese Medicine associates autumn with the metal element and the Lungs. This season governs organization, setting limits, and protecting  boundaries.  The energy of the lungs is “letting go”,  autumn is a perfect time to let go of anything that you may be holding on to. Special attention is given to Lung health as they are the most vulnerable during this season. Emotionally, the lungs coincide with feelings of grief and sadness. Unresolved grief, sadness, and difficulty with letting go will stagnate the lung meridian and make one more susceptible to illness, often causing symptoms of chest tightness, cough, or low immunity.

Awareness is the first step in making changes to your health. 

The practice of cultivating  awareness that your lifestyle needs to adapt to the change of seasons is a huge step for your wellness and quite intuitive when given attention.

5 ways to stay healthy this Autumn

1. Breathe deeply

-take the time to breath deeply and fully exhale…letting go all the way of the breath. Come back to deep breaths all day long.

2. Forgiveness 

-take advantage of Autumn’s energy of letting go to forgive others and yourself

3. Purge /Give away

-purge what you do not need in your closet, shed, heart…relocate things to friends. Make room for  your inward work.

4.Sleep 

-the ultimate letting go. Aim for 1 more hour of sleep per night.

5. Take immune tonics

-Recommit and stock up on your immune tonics; Vitamin C, D, Tonic herbs, medicinal mushrooms, etc.

Cheers to gracefully transitioning from an external to a internal focus, to letting go of what you don’t need anymore, and to embracing Autumn.

Good Neighbors

by Clark Zimmerman, L.Ac.

When my wife and I moved to Talent 13 years ago, we came seeking a slower and more relaxed life.  After growing up in Indianapolis and then living in Portland for many years, I was more accustomed to the pace of city living.  I had a lot to learn about what slowing down really meant.  

One day I was running a little late to work so I started to speed.  I quickly caught up to another car and began tailgating it.  After feeling frustrated because I was getting to work late, I decided that there was no safe way to pass the car in front of me, so I slowed down a bit and accepted the situation.  

When I got settled in my office and opened the door to greet my first patient, he said “It looks like you were running a little late to work this morning.”  I was a little perplexed with his statement until he immediately followed with “that was me you were tailgating.”  I felt quite uncomfortable. Then he smiled and said “Let me give you some friendly advice: You aren’t living in the city anymore and this valley is smaller than you think.  Just pretend that everyone is your neighbor.  That way you will think a little more about the things that you do.”  His smile told me that I was forgiven, but the advice he shared has stuck with me.

As the world becomes busier and we connect more online, we seem to have less contact with the people around us.  Fewer people know their neighbors, fewer people shop at the corner store, and fewer people move around without their eyes glued to their phones.  We are becoming more isolated, even though so many of these tools promise to make feel more connected.  We may be more networked, but we are becoming less connected.   When we get our information about people from a social media feed, or we get our products through the mail, we don’t always realize the true cost.  

There are a lot of positives that come from connecting with people in person.  Rather than living in sound bites or snippets, we get to have a more complete experience.  We get to see all of a person when we are physically with them:  their gestures, their expressions, their eyes.  Often times when we can’t see all of a person, we start to fill in our own ideas of who they are.  This is a less authentic picture that is often full of inaccuracies.  The less we know someone, the more likely we are to misjudge, mistreat, or fear them.  One of the reasons that people have such a fear of clowns is because when they are wearing all of that makeup, you can’t see their true face.  When we don’t really see people we are more likely to fear them.  We make up stories about how they are different and thus not entitled to the same respect and love as the people in our family or “tribe.”

Many of us put on our best face if we are around friends or neighbors.  We realize the importance of keeping the peace with people we have regular contact with, or those we may depend on in difficult times.  We tend to behave differently when we are anonymous.  Whether we are driving down a busy road or leaving comments on an online forum, being anonymous can lead people to behave in ways that are less considerate and less patient.  We can get so caught up in our own experience and challenges that we lose sight of the impact of our words and actions.  This seems to be becoming more common these days.  As the world gets more crowded and the pace of life picks up, it can be challenging to see the people around us as people, rather than as a faceless crowd of “others”.  We can have less capacity for tolerance.  

If however, we imagine everyone around us as a dear friend or neighbor, a daughter or a grandson, something seems to change.  We see them more as people, and less as interference.  We see the cars on the road less as traffic, and more as people that are stuck in cars just like we are.  We have a little more patience and care to give to situations because we are all in it together.  With this in mind, I think one of the greatest things that we can do to help the world is to lift up our heads and connect with people face to face. Not just people who are like us, but people we come across everyday.  The more we are willing to meet different kinds of people, and spend a little uninterrupted time with them, the more we begin to realize that we are all pretty similar, even though we have differences.  This begins to widen our circles of who we consider to be neighbors, of who we consider to worthy of our love and respect. 

I leave a little earlier for work these days.  I enjoy the ride more thanks to the patience and advice of my good neighbor.

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