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.

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.

How to Meditate Your Emotions Away

by Ryder Johanson, L.Ac

There’s a growing awareness in our society that stress can wreak havoc on your health.  I’d be surprised to find a single health care provider of any flavor that wouldn’t suggest stress management is an important part of maintaining good health.

Meditation is something I’m seeing more and more health experts recommend as a potent tool for relieving stress.  Many people are aware that it’s hard to beat meditation when it comes to stress relief, but there’s often a hang-up when I suggest that someone try meditation.  The most common response I hear is something along the lines of: “There’s no way I could meditate—my mind is just way too busy.”  Many of these people have even tried meditation before and found it an amazingly frustrating experience because their minds just won’t shut up and the harder they try, the worse it gets.  I can understand, then, why meditation doesn’t seem like the most appealing tool for stress relief.

The funny thing is that that’s kind of the point of meditation: all of your baggage, the things you’ve been avoiding, your suppressed emotions are going to come bubbling up. 

That has definitely been my experience.  When I discovered meditation and was convinced of all the wonderful benefits and experiences that it could open up, I jumped in with both feet and meditated as much as I could.   I thought meditation was a tool I could use to escape all the stressful emotions in my life.  I experienced sublime periods of relaxation and moments when I forgot all my stresses.  And that relaxation often translated into the rest of my day.

But after that initial “honeymoon” period things got a lot harder.  It became more difficult to reach the places in meditation that had come much more effortlessly before.  And the anxiety and agitation bouncing around in my mind seemed to be harder to quiet down—maybe it was growing or maybe I was just becoming more aware of it.  My plan to meditate all my emotions away wasn’t going so well.

I came to realize that the only real way to release stressful emotions was to let myself fully feel them and even express them.  I started to let myself experience the anxiety and frustration of not being able to quiet my mind.  That would lead to memories of other things in my life that would bring up anxiety and frustration.  It started to become easier to express to people in my life the things that were frustrating me.  With that came relief—the relief of getting the weight off my chest—and a sense of empowerment: it was OK for me to stand up for myself and set my boundaries. 

After a while I started to realize that there was more than suppressed anger that was agitating my mind.  Underneath my angry, teenage self was a sad, fearful, ashamed childhood version of myself—some would call it my “inner child”.  And it was wounded.  I always knew it was there, but it was something I had rejected because it was too painful to experience. 

I was blown away at how powerful it was to let myself remember and re-experience all those childhood traumas and have it be OK that I was afraid and hurt.  And despite what I had previously expected, I didn’t wallow in depression and self-pity for weeks on end.  Letting myself fully experience those painful emotions started to neutralize the “charge” they had in my mind.

I’ve learned that this is a common experience among meditators.  After the initial peaceful and even blissful experiences in meditation, there comes a time when all of the painful thoughts and emotions you’ve suppressed come up to be felt and integrated into the new “you” you’re becoming.  St. John of the Cross called it the “dark night of the soul.”

Meditation didn’t turn out to be the totally relaxing and blissed-out experience I expected, but it’s also turned out to be better than I expected.  More and more I’m finding relief from stress not by avoiding it or through coping mechanisms (which even some forms of meditation can be), but by addressing the thoughts and the emotions underlying the stress.  It’s part of what people are talking about when they say there’s “no way around your problems but through them.”

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