Friday, June 19, 2009

Looking for Non-attachment

With my continuing back problems, I feel like I have a unique opportunity for the practices of non-attachment and renouncing the fruits of action. And yet, I am not doing well at this practice. I am impatient at every stage. I wanted the pain to stop. When I was no longer in daily pain, I was impatient to be able to return to normal activities like dusting and carrying without risking recurring pain. Now that I can once again perform those normal tasks I am impatient to return to a cardio and strength training fitness routine. Want, want, want! I am never satisfied!

But the body is never limitless; it always imposes limits on activities. Accepting this fact of human existence is one of the biggest lessons of the life, I think. It is why the yogis say that Corpse Pose is the most important pose to practice. We must learn the humility that there are limits to what we can achieve, and to the length of our existence.

My body has given me such a great opportunity to explore this knowledge for myself, yet I have felt that I am squandering that opportunity with my desire and impatience to return to health.

During my meditation Wednesday night I asked to accept my body as it is. I asked that I let go of the impatience and frustration, and be at peace with my body.

As soon as the meditation was over I found myself looking through the Cosmic Healing; book and found new healing meditations to try.  And yesterday I made an appointment for an acupuncture treatment next week. I made a promise to myself to schedule some sort of bodywork treatment (massage, acupuncture, etc.) for myself every Thursday for at least the next month. Understood in that promise is a commitment to stop feeling apologetic for the sensitivity of my muscles.*

So I am already making positive steps. On the other hand, I haven't stopped complaining about the roundness of my belly or the tightness of my clothes yet. So I guess I have more work to do on accepting my body as it currently is. 

I include, as a reminder to myself:
Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight;
Empty and be full;
Wear out and be new;
Have little and gain;
Have much and be confused.

~ Tao Te Ching 22

*Massage therapists, as well as my chiropractor, are prone to exclaim "What did you do to yourself!" when they feel how tight my muscles are. This tends to make me feel like I should do extra stretching and relaxation before I feel like I can let myself get a massage. I have to accept that my muscles are simply sensitive and prone to tightness.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An excess of Yang, apparently

The qigong exercises I have been doing for the upper back and neck have made a huge difference, and I am rarely experiencing pain or tightness in the upper back. Now, however, my lower back is tight and achey. Dr. K says my spine is stabilizing, but the muscles still seem to be touchy and become sore easily. I did go ahead and order the accompanying video for lower back pain. I arrived yesterday, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet.

With my recent renewed interest in Taoist exercise and meditation, I felt drawn yesterday to look through Mantak Chia's book Cosmic Healing, which I first read a couple of years ago. I have been doing some of his Taoist energy meditation techniques in my meditations lately, and I wanted to review them. And besides, it is nice to flip through the book every now and then. Chia packs a lot of information in a few pages and you never know when something will strike you as useful.

I came to a page that discussing two pairs of chi routes that run along the front (yin channel) and back (yang channel) of the body. Apparently the symptoms I have--backache, headache, and joint swelling (arthritis)--can indicate that the yin channels are blocked, creating an excess of yang energy.

Huh. I have known for years that I had underlying back issues that should probably have been treated, but the problems only became acute after I spent last year doing hatha yoga nearly every day. Hatha yoga is pretty yang. Maybe the yoga I did strongly activated my yang energy, but wasn't as effective in opening the yin channels on the front of the body. That would explain why I have been having so much success with yin yoga and qigong, both of which strive to gently open the chi routes and balance energy.

Cosmic Healing gives several qigong visualizations designed to open both the yin and yang chi routes that I will begin adding to my morning routine. Mantak Chia's website also has several
free videos. I am particularly interested in this Tao Yin exercise that looks like it would be very good for lower back pain.

Along with the Lee Holden lower back qigong video I just got, these practices will hopefully unblock my yin and bring as much mobility to my lower back as the upper body qigong practices have done for my upper back.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A promise

My elderly kitty, whose diabetes has been controlled for years with a special diet, now has a blood sugar sufficiently high that she has to go on insulin. The vet discovered this because she was drinking a lot of water while she was being boarded over Memorial Day weekend.  Last week was busy with several visits to the vet, a special trip to a pharmacy to buy (expensive!) insulin, and getting used to giving injections. And worrying over her health.

She has to receive injections twice a day, as close to 12 hours apart as possible. This means I can't stay late in town to attend my usual meditation class, but instead have to get home so I can give my kitty her injection. I am teaching my partner to give the injections, but until he's comfortable giving them, I don't feel I can really leave him with the task.

This means I have had to miss my meditation class two weeks in a row now.  I can meditate at home, but I haven't made it a habit to do so regularly, preferring instead the experience of meditating with other people at my weekly class. Why is it that when we most need to meditate, those very stresses of life that create the need seem to conspire to keep us from the practice?

I have been able to keep up a yin yoga and qigong practice to some extent, and that helps, but isn't a substitution for meditation.

I may not be able to go to meditation class tonight, but I promise myself that I will make time for an hour of meditation this evening. I truly need that quiet space for myself, especially now.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Return to health

Towards the end of April I did some house cleaning in preparation for having a few friends over. I straightend and dusted a couple of rooms, working for about an hour and a half.  Just that little bit of work exhausted me, and left my shoulder and upper back muslces in pain for several days.  It was then I realized that, while the rehab exercises the chiropractor had given me, and I had been faithfully doing twice a week for months, had done their work in strengthening my arms, legs, and lower- and mid-back, they hadn't targeted my upper back, leaving those muscles (mainly the upper fibers of the trapezius), vulnerable. Less than two hours of house cleaning and I was out of commission for two days! Yikes!

I immediately added stretches for the upper back into my daily stretching routine. I also began searching YouTube for gentle exercise for the the upper back. I wanted something similar to the yin yoga I have been doing that has been so much help to my middle and lower back.

I stumbled a video of Qi Gong for the Upper Back and ordered it. I have been working with this video several times a week for the past three weeks, and I have found it to be gentle enough for my underused muscles not to cause me pain. I have liked it so well that I think I may get his qi gong workout for the lower back, too.

But has my new qi gong and stretching routine strengthened my shoulders enough to allow me to return to normal activities? YES! Last weekend I was able to complete a pretty heavy reorganization of my closets. It was fairly vigorous work that took hours to complete. I had been wanting to do this reorganization for months but couldn't because of my back pain. My shoulders were a bit sore for the next couple of days, but nothing worse than typical muscle soreness (DOMS).

It has been a long road (six months since I started chiropractic), but I am so glad to finally be able to do normal activities again!