Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take a Yoga Break

Yoga has been around for 5,000 years and is now practiced in many different settings. While yoga can improve strength and flexibility, it can also decrease stress, improve sleep and can even be beneficial in controlling the side effects of chemotherapy.

There are many different forms of yoga, ranging from Power Yoga, also known as “gym yoga” as my friend Jude calls it to restorative yoga. The latter is very relaxing and calming. Using a variety of props (pillows, blankets, towels, chairs, walls etc.) the body is fully supporting allowing for a deeper sense of relaxation in the various poses.

While classes are a great way to practice yoga, this isn’t always possible. Thanks to the internet, you can learn about the different types of yoga, and practice it, even if it’s only for five minutes at a time.

Kripalu Yoga Break

Video: Yoga for Stress Management from the Mayo Clinic

Yoga Journal’s Yoga Poses

Free Downloads of Yoga classes from Yoga Journal 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Keeping People Informed: Free Patient Websites

How are you doing? Is there anything I can do to help? You had surgery? I talked to Jane last week and she said….

When people are sick, about to undergo surgery, or chemotherapy, one of the areas that can be the most difficult to manage is keeping people informed with accurate and timely information. Answering phone calls, letters and e-mails about “how things are going” can be overwhelming. As one person noted recently, “there was a plan in place to keep people informed while I was undergoing surgery, but when the surgeon came out to talk to my family, everything changed.”

Thanks to several families, who have had similar experiences, free websites are now available to those who want to share their story, and build a support network, without spending countless hours doing it. Because these websites require a password to enter, you control who has access to the information, and it is up to you to decide who should write and when. You can post pictures, specify what you need, thank people for their help, and reduce rumors by providing accurate information. In turn, people can leave messages of support. They can also be alerted by e-mail each time you post a message.

A number of hospitals and medical centers have agreements with organizations providing these services, so you can get some help in setting up the site, particularly important if you don’t have a computer in your home. Keep in mind that most medical facilities offer computer access to patients and their support team. Because these sites are password protected, you can go on-line and add new information from the hospital, just as easily as you can at home.

If you don’t have a computer at home, there are many places in the community that offer free internet access including public libraries, schools, churches, community centers, and community based organizations.

Below is information about two of the oldest sites offering free websites to patients:

CarePages was founded by Eric and Sharon Langshur in 2000, when their son, needed heart surgery. As a way to help keep people informed, Sharon’s brother set up the first CarePages patient website. Carepages offers the following note to those dealing with chronic conditions. CarePages is an online community of millions of people coming together to share the challenges, hopes and triumphs of anyone facing a life-changing health event. CarePages helps members and their families connect during and after hospitalization for illnesses ranging from cancer, spinal cord injury, stroke, heart disease to premature birth. It is also the place to be for patients with chronic conditions who want to journal their experience or connect with others facing similar circumstances. Some of these life-changing conditions include diabetes, Alzheimer's and fibromyalgia.

Caring Bridge In 1997, founder Sona Mehring’s close friend suffered a life-threatening pregnancy. To keep family and friends informed about the critical situation, Sona and friends created a website. The site allowed family members to communicate information to a wide circle of people without disturbing the mother’s need for rest or placing additional demands on hospital staff. While the baby did not survive, her death prompted an outpouring of loving messages to the family. They immediately understood that other patients dealing with the birth of a premature baby, childhood cancer or other critical illness would benefit from the same web resources. A memorial fund created in the child’s memory was the beginning of Caring Bridge.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Take a Break: Walk a Labyrinth

This post is dedicated to K, who is in the process of healing from a very rare form of cancer. Our conversation yesterday was a reminder of the twists and turns life provides in order to put us on track with what we should be doing, not what we think we should be doing.

Labyrinths have been in existence for at least 5,000 years, and appear in many cultures. While the terms have been interchangeable, labyrinths are different than mazes, as they have a point of entry and exit, with the participant following a defined path.

Many meanings have been attached to labyrinths. Today they are being used for mediation, spiritual awakening, stress reduction, and a way to focus energy. Veriditas a non-profit organization founded to “pepper the world with labyrinths,” looks at the labyrinth as a personal practice for healing and growth, a tool for community building, an agent for global peace and a metaphor for life.

The labyrinth reminds me of the Ying/Yang symbol as it is very balanced. You don’t do more to the right or to the left. There are no tricks to it and no dead ends. It has a single circuitous path that winds its way into the center. The person walking it uses the same path to return from the center and the entrance then becomes the exit. The path is in full view, which allows a person to be quiet and focus internally. It is a good reminder K, that just as we give, we should be open to receive. All things in balance.

Labyrinths can be found all over the world in medical centers, spas, memorial gardens, churches, parks and private back yards. They can be laid out on a beach, to be washed away with the tide. Many hospitals have portable ones, so they can be moved to different units. Temporary labyrinths are set up in the basement of churches, while others are constructed of rock, or even string, in the woods.

Not everyone can walk a labyrinth. You can obtain the same benefit by “finger walking,” drawing one, or even making a labyrinth out of clay, and “walking” whenever you want.

So take a break today (or tomorrow) and “walk” a labyrinth. Below are resources to help you:

Types of Labyrinths

Labyrinth Locator

Download a Labyrinth that you can print and finger walk

Make a labyrinth

Finger walk a labyrinth on-line Veritias

Make a clay labyrinth

Draw a labyrinth video

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Follow your bliss Take I

Joseph Campbell is famous for his quote “Follow your bliss,” as well as his many books on mythology. He is perhaps best known because of the Bill Moyer ‘s interview, “The Power of Myth” on PBS.

Campbell wrote the following about bliss.

The divine manifestation is ubiquitous,
Only our eyes are not open to it.
Awe is what moves us forward.

Live from your own center.
The divine lives within you.
The separateness apparent in the world is secondary.
Beyond the world of opposites is an unseen,
but experienced, unity and identity in us all.

Today the planet is the only proper “in group.”
Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.
We cannot cure the world of sorrows,
but we can choose to live in joy.

You must return with the bliss and integrate it.
The return is seeing the radiance is everywhere.
The world is a match for us.
We are a match for the world.
The spirit is the bouquet of nature.

Sanctify the place you are in.
Follow your bliss. . . .

This is a puzzling concept in some ways. How do you know if you found your bliss? How do you go about finding it if you don’t think you have it? Is it relevant at all stages of life, particularly if you are sick, struggling to help a sick spouse or overwhelmed with how to make ends meet? Is bliss an interchangeable term for happiness?

After having discussions on this topic with several friends, as well as reading different articles on this topic, I finally concluded that maybe the best way to think of bliss is something that Ekart Tolle wrote about. There are three ways in which consciousness can flow into what you do and thus through you into this world...The modalities of awakened doing are acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm...If you are not in the state of either acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm, look closely and you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others...Whatever you cannot enjoy doing, you can at least accept that this is what you have to do...Performing an action in the state of acceptance means you are at peace while you do it... The peace that comes with surrendered action turns to a sense of aliveness when you actually enjoy what you are doing...Joy is the dynamic aspect of Being... Joy does not come from what you do, it flows into what you do and thus into this world from deep within you...You will enjoy any activity in which you are fully present...The joy of Being is the joy of being conscious... Enthusiasm means there is deep enjoyment in what you do plus the added element of a goal or vision that you work towards...This is why Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, "Nothing great has ever been achieved without enthusiasm..."

For the moment, I think it’s important to be aware of whether one is accepting, joyful or enthusiastic. My thought is that if we focus on these three states of being, our purpose and bliss will naturally follow. So yes, bliss is relevant in all phases of our life.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Take an Art Break: Iris Folding

A week ago, I was looking for new projects for a workshop and came across Iris Folding. Developed by a Dutch photographer, using scraps of envelopes, in the early 1900’s, it's a very easy way to use left over bits of paper, ribbon, and fabric and create something beautiful. Following a pattern, folded paper is lined up on a pattern, with the result looking a bit like the closing lenses of a camera.

I've been experimenting with different designs available for free online. Not only is it very easy, but it’s a bit meditative as you place the pieces of paper on the pattern. While the one side looks like a mess, the right side pops the “wow!” factor.

Links to help you get started:
• How to do Iris Folding: Good video to explain how to Iris fold. Note that you can use regular tape throughout.  

• Simplicity of Iris Folding: Website offers a variety of free templates.  

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fear: How to Live With It

Fear can be as crippling, if not more so, than a disease or injury. It can keep you from calling the doctor when you have symptoms you haven’t experienced before, or cause sleepless nights worrying about upcoming x-rays or surgery, results of tests or recurrence of disease. Fear can grip you to the point where you can’t function and leave you drained and exhausted.

Not always a bad thing, fear does have its purpose. It can keep us from touching hot objects or making comments that we know are bound to get us into trouble. Some people enjoy the rush of fear, resulting from a scary movie or a ride on a giant roller coaster. However, fear is not helpful when it prevents us from getting the care we need, enjoying social opportunities, and living our lives to the fullest .

There is no doubt that learning of a life altering diagnosis or experiencing some type of traumatic event leaves us with lots of opportunities to be fearful. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have concerns about dying. However, left unchecked, fear can destroy our quality of life.

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross summed up our “fear or fears,” including illness, pain, loss and ultimately death, when she wrote, You will not grow if you sit in a beautiful flower garden, but you will grow if you are sick, if you are in pain, if you experience losses, and if you do not put your head in the sand, but take the pain as a gift to you with a very, very specific purpose. Instead, the goal of life becomes not to elude death – but, because one's fears do not center so much on it, rather to live in concert with it.

The following on-line resources provide ways to cope with fear: Dare to Change your Life: Overcoming Fears

Coping with Fear of Recurrence

Strategies for Coping with Fear after a Traumatic Event

Dealing with Fear (a Buddhist approach, which discusses fear of death)

Goosebumps: The Science of Fear

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation Includes a complete listing of her books, essays and other materials. Kubler-Ross was a Swiss born psychiatrist who worked and wrote about death and dying at a time when it was not openly discussed. In her book, “On Death and Dying,” she identified five stages of dying denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Take an Art Break: Make a potholder

When I was young, we spent hours making pot holders using a simple loom. Combining my interests in sustainable living and healing, what could be better, or easier, than making pot holders out of recycled t-shirts, old socks and other items you don't know what to do with? The Repurpose website has easy directions for making pot holders from many different types of recycled items. Looms can be easily made, or can be purchased at craft stores. Every now and then, the Dollar Store, will have them. You don't need anything fancy. I had one friend whose father made her a very nice loom using scrap wood and nails.