Morning Practices

 
by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.
 
How we start the day makes a huge impact in how we experience life. My ideal morning starts early, rising at 5:30 to meditate. I wake before the rest of my family to have “me time”. Time to rise slowly from the peace of sleep. Admittedly, I typically wake a little cranky, still wanting more sleep and to remain in the freedom of the night, without the responsibilities I hold by day. I have a 7 year old daughter, 2 dogs (1 of them an energetic puppy), multiple jobs, property to take care of, and all the chores/duties of an adult in American culture. Still I wake early to tend to me and have been for 25 years. My higher self knows that when I tend to my needs at the beginning of the day, I am able to bring my best self into the world. I often compare it to tuning an instrument before playing it. We know that the wisdom traditions around the world recognize the early morning as the most conducive for meditative endeavors. A wise qigong teacher of mine once shared that morning practices are more beneficial than sleep (a hard truth when the alarm goes off). There is a tangible shift in the tendency for martyrdom when personal needs are met before serving others.

After morning meditation, I drink tea while reading or writing, it’s my contemplation time. I use this time to indulge in the books that I do not have the bandwidth for after a long day or to write about my feelings in my journal. Having grown up in a Midwestern family that did not talk about their feelings, I learned early on that my journal was a place to explore my emotions and to uncover the messages they were communicating. This brings me to about 7am when my daughter wakes up. Next is one of my favorite times of the morning….snuggling. Typically she opens her bedroom door and loudly says, Mommy! I grab a blanket, greet her with enthusiasm and we snuggle in our breakfast nook. This is a precious time and fleeting, so I make it a high priority to indulge in the cuteness of holding her and smelling her hair as she mumbles into her awake time. At some point, the morning BM calls and it’s time to get my daughter breakfast. This gives way to my stretching practice and morning exercise. These days I alternate between a home video workout for 20 minutes and jogging with the dogs. Then on to breakfast and the business of the day.  I share my routine as one example of how a morning can go. After 16+ years of listening in the clinic, I am well aware that not everyone is a morning person or seeking such an elaborate routine.

However, I can say with conviction, that the manner in which someone awakes into their day matters. We are all familiar with the groggy wake up, shuffle to the coffee pot, and rush out the door version. This is a very common routine for many people and the thought of deviating from it seems radically impossible. The mere suggestion of creating more time for oneself in the morning is often met with resistance and a long list of reasons why this is absolutely not possible. I have come to challenge this in others. Really, there is no way you can make your life more easeful before your day starts? Sometimes a good place to start is by giving yourself an extra 20 minutes to just sit with your coffee or tea and stare out the window or meander around the garden. If doing morning dishes or chores brings you peace, then do it with ease and consider it your morning routine. One important recommendation is to avoid taking in the news and media until you are ready for the “doing” part of your day. Having the mindfulness before bed to put your phone/device on airplane mode and leaving it off until you consciously are ready to engage with the outside world is a huge relief and an often overlooked CHOICE you have. 

This inquiry here is to honestly evaluate how you start your day. Do you start out rushing and in resistance? What can you shift to allow for more ease?  Morning routines are an easy, free, and powerful way to enhance your health and state of wellbeing. I wish this gift for you.

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 impotenzastop.it.  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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