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Cracks in the Earth

by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

Years ago while traveling in Tibet, I was amazed by the dryness of the climate.  Though the mountains were covered with snow, and the rivers were raging torrents, the ground was largely a dusty wasteland.  There were sporadic fields, where the people grew barley, but much of the land reminded me of stories I had heard about the great dustbowl from the 1930’s. Growing up in the Midwest, I was a stranger to dry air.  The humidity  was so dense that it seems to saturate the skin and soak the spaces inside your bones.  There was a general heaviness in the summer air that felt oppressive at times.  

When life dries out, things begin to harden.  Leaves and stems become brittle; the ground mimics concrete.  In my 17 years in southern Oregon, I have begun to grow accustomed to the cyclical drying out of the land in summer.  What winter and spring have given, summer takes away.  Things grow in the summer, but there is a sense that everything is living on borrowed time.  As the season progresses, the ground loses its give and hardens into a protective shell.  This has a way of locking in the moisture that the ground still holds, but it comes at a cost.  Not only does the hardness in the soil keep some of the water in, it also prevents water from soaking into the ground when a big rain comes.  If you look at the ground when the first big storm comes in the late summer or early fall, you are likely to see a lot of the water running off into the creeks and rivers, instead of down into the earth.  It usually takes a bit of consistent precipitation to loosen up the ground so it can receive the water. 

With the ongoing drought in the west, I have noticed that the ground doesn’t just harden in the summer anymore, it has increasingly begun to crack.  It more closely resembles a desert than the forest floor that I am used to in western Oregon.  There is a sadness that I notice when I think of how much things are drying out, but I am also reminded of one of life’s truths:  When things are pushed to a breaking point, new opportunities arise.  The cracks in the soil allow the healing waters to more easily enter the soil, so not as much runs to the streams.  I witnessed this during the rain we had last week.  The soil had become so dry that it had broken open….it was ready to receive.  

It reminds me of how the past couple of years have broken most of us open.  We keep bending, withstanding, until we tend to harden up to minimize any further pain.  Yet, life has continued to push us even farther.  Most of us feel that we have been pushed beyond our limits.  The hardness of our shells has begun to crack, just as the dry ground beneath our feet has opened.  This splitting apart has created more space to receive life’s grace.

“The wound is where the light enters you.”

Rumi

The poet Rumi knew this truth.  That often we must completely crack open to heal.  We must truly fall apart to know authentic wholeness.  As I continue to do my healing work in the community, I am struck by the immensity of the suffering that have all endured the past couple of years.  I am also in awe of how that suffering can lead to profound change and acceptance.  People are still struggling, but new shoots of growth and understanding are sprouting.  We are coming back to find what is really important, what truly matters.  All we have to do is be willing to let life continue to crack us open and to have the faith that it is leading us somewhere better than we can imagine.  Then the light will enter our lives and illuminate our souls; the rain will nourish and soften our weary bodies.

Be well.

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.

SPEED

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

After finding our farm truck with a dead battery due to a lack of use. I started reflecting on the balance point between resting (not too much or the battery dies) and resting enough to get a full charge on our life battery.  

The hallmark of today’s culture is Speed–do more things at a faster pace. We often don’t rest until our batteries run out, or we get sick.  Chinese medicine gives us the poetic language to describe this as a need for YIN. YIN is the restorative, quiet, still part of life.  YIN is the night, and YIN is the winter time of year. We crave what is reflected in nature. And right now nature is underground, hibernating, and recharging her battery.

After this busy holiday time when we are having some of the longest nights of the year, how can we each honor our yin more? How can we take more time to rest deeply and to luxuriate in the stillness. To willingly sit still and let the pace of our culture pass us by while we choose to rest.

If more than 90% of illness is caused by stress, we can safely assume much of this is due to the  SPEED of our culture and our addiction to doing things.  I invite you to do less. Give yourself permission to take advantage of this quiet part of the year. 

10 ideas for slowing down

1. Go to bed earlier

2. Have a nightly curfew for your phones/screens/media….off by 8 pm for example

3. Limit your phone use in time and frequency…check it 3x per day–max

4. Schedule less social engagements

5. Spend 20 minutes daily in a stillness practice

6. Exercise regularly, but less vigorously

7. Less caffeine and sugar

8. Sleep-in later

9. Take tonic herbs for your immune system

10. Use candle light, aroma therapy, body oils, and hot baths for restoration

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