21 Day Yoga Girl Challenge Day 2: Meditate #yogagirlchallenge

IMG_4594.JPG

Elements of Meditation:
1. Closed eyes
2. Nostril breathing
3. Observation of bodily sensations
4. Letting go of thoughts

I first learned about meditation when I took a Buddhism class in college in 1988. We met for group meditation and tea in addition to classes. It was a little awkward and uncomfortable at first. It was hard to sit still with my eyes shut without feeling self-conscious.

Since then, I’ve mainly meditated during yoga classes. I also try to incorporate it into my life by doing lying down meditation before bed and taking advantage of the peace and quiet in the sauna and steam room at the gym to find some meditative moments.

Going along with this challenge and my experience at the yoga retreat in Aruba last week, I am working on keeping my morning yoga habit and ending it with seated meditation. It’s a peaceful, calming way to start the day.

IMG_4603.JPG

Buddha sat under a bodhi tree until he reached enlightenment.

IMG_4605.JPG

To do seated meditation, cross the legs and put the hands on the knees. Hands can be in an upward position for receiving or in a downward position for grounding. Or the hands can make a mudra or shape of some kind. Quiet the mind. Let go of thoughts without judgement. Bring attention to the breath. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly. Repeat a mantra, count breaths, or think of nothing like still water. As thoughts enter the mind, let them go like ripples in the water until the water is still again. Or let thoughts go like clouds drifting across the sky. No judgements, just acknowledgement and detachment. Stay silent and still for a few minutes to start then increase over time.

There are many benefits of meditation. It calms the nervous system and helps develop a sense of inner peace. It helps balance our active lives and allows us to be present in the moment, not in the past, not worry about what’s happening next, fully present in the moment. Meditation connects us to the energy in the universe and allows us to open up chakras, energy centers, in our bodies.

IMG_4602.JPG

IMG_4596.JPG

IMG_4598.JPG

Thinking about not thinking is a paradoxical practice that leads to a healthy, happy , calm, zen mindset. Meditation helps us find our center and be grounded. It’s a useful exercise every day and prepares us to handle stress in our lives.

IMG_4606.JPG
Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

IMG_4607-0.JPG

Advertisements

I love DC

You can take Susanne out of Virginia, but you can’t take Virginia out of Susanne.  I do love traveling, discovering different areas, but it’s nice to go home sometimes too.  Time and time again, I’ve left for various reasons and returned to the DC area for various reasons.

Grew up in northern Virginia from 1972-1986.

Lived in Roanoke and Lexington my first two years of college, 1986-1988. Lived in Virginia Beach summer 1987.  Worked for Greenpeace in DC summer and fall 1988.

Moved to Wyoming to complete Spring Semester in the Rockies (WY, CO, UT) 1989.  Click here to read about it.

Moved away to Colorado in 1989 (Boulder, Telluride, Durango).  Click here to read more about life in beautiful places.

Finished college in Prescott, Arizona 1993.

Moved back to Virginia with my oldest daughter and went through a divorce 1994.

Worked for Greenpeace in DC 1994-1996.

Got my master’s degree 1998.

Moved away to Nevada 1998-2001. Taught sixth grade.  Remarried 1999. Had another daughter 2000 and son 2004.

Moved back 2001-2004 so my husband could attend law school while I taught sixth grade gifted/talented.  Click here to read more about that.

Moved away to Texas in 2006, visited Virginia in 2008 for a high school anniversary reunion, for a short weekend wedding this summer, and again last week to help my mom through a single mastectomy.

Cancer brought me home this time.  It changes everything and puts everything into perspective.  Cancer runs in my family.  My father had kidney cancer and then liver cancer. He died from bleeding complications during surgery.  It was a surprise to all of us because we knew about the previous kidney cancer but did not know that it had spread to his liver.  Knowing my mom was facing it alone, I did what I could to help.

When I go back to visit, it feels like home. The city, the suburbs, the culture and history are all a part of who I’ve become. Landing and taking off over the monuments and seeing Washington, DC by air reminds me of so many parts of my past there. It’s where I grew up, and it’s still intertwined with my life in Texas. Back home in Texas where I am comfortable with my family and it’s another beautiful sunny day, I appreciate both places for what they offer and know that Virginia/DC will always be my home. Texas is my second home, a place where we can spread out and my kids can grow up and call home. This is where I’m growing roots after transplanting from the east coast.

20131127-143041.jpg

This is a picture of the house where I grew up in Northern Virginia. My mom bought it and we moved in during 1972. She is still there today. There used to be a big pine tree in front of the left side of the house. I used to climb it as a child and sit high up in the branches, sticky with sap, looking over the neighborhood at roof tops and trees. Those moments were times I would steal away, sit back, and observe life around me. I remember doing roundoff-backhandsprings all over the front and back yards and wonder today how I did it when I see how sloped the front yard was. There were birthdays, homecomings, proms, Halloweens and Christmases in this house. Years upon years of memories, both good and bad reside here. What a trip to go back as an adult and re-experience it from another perspective.

This is truly the “house that built me.”

20131127-143057.jpg

This is where I went to take a walk while my mom saw her lawyer to get her will in place. It’s a familiar park near my house where I used to go all the time when I lived there. It was a heavy day emotionally, writing her advanced medical directive and discussing her wishes just in case anything went wrong in surgery. I lost my dad to complications from his surgery for liver cancer and didn’t know he was having surgery or that he had liver cancer, so this experience with my mom was the exact opposite. I did get to contemplate in advance what would happen if she didn’t come out of surgery ok.

Driving into Lake Accotink Park in Virginia, the road meanders through a secluded forest in the middle of suburbia. Tall trees line the road, and the speed limit slows to a pace where it’s impossible not to appreciate the surroundings. During any season, this is a beautiful drive into a pretty piece of nature where you’d least expect it. It’s a man-made reservoir, but it is a beautiful lake with trails around it. It’s a perfect park for picnics, bike rides, runs along the trail, boating, and parties at the facilities. As a kid, I used to ride my bike all around the park and had fun rope-swinging into the muddy water with friends. I loved getting out in nature. As an adult, I ran the dirt trail around the lake and rode single track mountain bike trails off the beaten path.  One of my favorite mountain biking memories is from riding single track at Accotink in the rain.  The trail was really muddy, and I got soaking wet but it was a fantastic time!

20131127-143116.jpg

I took a long walk and did some yoga in a secluded flat spot by the lake. Afterwards, I laid down on a bench for a while to let the sun’s rays caress my skin while my body relaxed. Lying in the sun is one of my favorite things to do; plus vitamin d is good for us (the sun is the only natural source of vitamin d).  The fall air was crisp, and the sun was warm, warmer than I expected and warmer that day than the rest of the week. I opened my eyes, looked up and saw this beautiful view of a tree with spectacular fall colors. The striking orange against the clear blue sky reflected a calm yet vibrant spirit within. I truly loved taking in my surroundings at that moment. Pale tree trunks reflected the loveliness of the place with initials inscribed surrounded in hearts with arrows. It was obviously a place where many others sat to enjoy the moment.

20131125-144404.jpg

In the final moments before my flight back to Texas, this was my view outside the airplane window. It was a beautiful morning at the end of a special week. My mom survived breast cancer surgery and was in good hands with friends, family, and a home health nurse. I was able to support her through a difficult experience. We mended fences and forgave each other for the past, and I focused on a zen mindset of being calm.

Dream Board 2013

Dream Board 2013

I also got a chance to reconnect with old friends and family members I haven’t seen in years. I appreciated my time there despite the circumstances. I felt reconnected with the place I’ve left so many times.

20131125-144306.jpg
US Capitol Building as we began our ascent out of Reagan National Airport.

20131125-144317.jpg
Washington Monument, Tidal Basin, and Jefferson Memorial

20131125-144327.jpg
Washington Monument, National Mall, and US Capitol Building

20131125-144338.jpg
Lincoln Memorial

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

Pain is a Pain

I suffer from chronic pain and have seen all kinds of practitioners over the years without much relief. I am addressing the problem from every possible angle including alternative medicine. I go to PT and workout at the gym on a regular basis, but over the years my gym activities have changed to accommodate my need for low impact, low resistance exercises. I’m trying to find that fine line between resting and strengthening without injury.

Physically, my body has been through a lot. Sixteen surgeries, including five on my abdomen and seven on my right leg have resulted in weakness and dysfunction in many areas. I’ve had three children and am turning forty-five this year. I know I have a lot to be grateful for including the fact that my body has produced three kids, and I can walk, swim and do yoga. I do miss the old days when I was strong enough to hike, mountain bike, rock climb, ski, run, and jump. Those days seem like forever ago. But I appreciate the memories of many adventures.

Working out can cause pain flare ups. Rest causes weakness and stiffness. Every day, I work on stretching and some kind of light activity. All I can do is take things one at a time.

I’ve always been a fan of massages and get them at least monthly to decrease muscle spasms. I discovered a place in town that provides Chinese foot reflexology and full body massages. The therapist told me my channels are blocked and that I think/worry too much. The idea is that if the brain is over active, it overloads the nervous system, and the body breaks down on many levels.

I’m becoming increasingly interested in alternative medicine like acupuncture. I first tried it in 1989 for pelvic pain. It didn’t help because I had a dermoid tumor the size of a grapefruit. I had surgery to have it removed.

My new acupuncturist told me my chi (energy) was blocked too. She opened up some chakras (energy centers) and has been using both needles and cupping to help increase circulation and remove toxins. I’ve never tried cupping before, but I thought it was interesting how my left shoulder area left lots of dark marks, and the right didn’t. The dark marks indicate where there are more toxins, and my left shoulder area has been flared up for weeks now after hurting it somehow doing side planks at PT.

20130130-201636.jpg

20130130-201658.jpg

I first started seeing the acupuncturist more than a year ago on a referral from my ankle surgeon. I had two ankle surgeries, and there is a lot of scar tissue. I saw her for a while and then returned this month to follow up on back pain. She’s awesome! Check her out at… http://www.points4health.com

In Chinese medicine, they study the tongue. Check out this picture and see what tongue matches yours.

20130130-201915.jpg

Last year, I had the Yin deficiency tongue. I’ve focused on adding more yin to my life since then. I go to yin yoga class at the gym every week and love the inward focus and calming effects. This year, I have the Qi deficiency tongue (teeth marks and everything). It goes with being tired all the time and not having a good chi flow.

And by the way, can I say that tongues are weird?! Have you ever stopped to examine your tongue? They are weird. And they are always in motion. Just try to make yours hold still.

Anyway, at PT this week, my therapist asked if I have ever had my hormones checked. I didn’t know hormones could affect pain. I had hormone testing once in 2000 when I had spinal fractures and was diagnosed with osteopenia (low bone density). All my hormone levels were fine then. But I’m a lot older now, so it’s something to consider I guess.

I saw a chiropractor today and failed his applied kinesiology tests for adrenal function. I did a little Internet research and fit the description pretty well. Apparently the adrenal glands are what our bodies use to respond to stress. And he said I need cortisol testing. Cortisol is a hormone that’s produced in excess when we are stressed. And it causes widespread inflammation. So, I made an appointment for hormone testing including cortisol. He also told me to take these supplements.

20130130-202853.jpg

Vitamin B-12
Adrenacalm
Fish oil
Bamboo powder (to calm down my reactions to food sensitivities).

Check out these beads he put on my ears too.

20130130-203138.jpg

20130130-203150.jpg

My right eat has two sets of beads; one for my back and one for my knee. And my left ear has one set of beads for my shoulder. They are accu-beads placed on acupuncture spots with clear tape on top. I’m supposed to leave them there until they fall off (1-2 weeks). They are a bit tender, but they said if they are tender they are working and to leave them there!

I’ve also been focusing more on meditation and calming my energy. After getting feedback that I think and worry too much, I learned I need to spend less time thinking about the past and worrying about the future. I strive to find calm energy and live in the moment. It helps.

20130130-203606.jpg

Thanks for reading. Peace out.