Throwback Thursday – Integration

This week’s Throwback Thursday is an edited piece from November 2017. It sent a chill down my spine thinking about how far I have come in that time, in writing through these changes in my life. So grateful that this blog has allowed an exploration toward the next part of my path.

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As I was sitting in savasana today at my morning yoga class, a concept kept arising into consciousness. It was Integration.

I wonder if my search for balance and equilibrium is actually a search for integration. Bringing together my personal and professional lives, uniting my body, mind and spirit, accepting the positives and the negatives. It is all part of one rich and fulfilling life, after all.

Why do I find it challenging? Perhaps my scientific training works against me here. I strive to isolate variables, to design proper controls, to decrease “confounding factors.” It is a noble pursuit, when we want to understand a mechanism for a system.

I then consider another concept from a similar root: Integrity. These concepts both relate to a state of being whole. Stemming from a similar Latin root, these words express what I seek.

Yin Yang Wikipedia image

It is not so much about work/life balance, which always reminds me of a seesaw. It is more about bringing it all together, not having to isolate parts of myself in certain  contexts, but rather bringing my whole self to every situation. I like the yin/yang concept, and the idea that we have complementary parts within us. I have written about this before.  Perhaps that is what this blog is about, to integrate the “mexi” and the “minnesotana” parts more meaningfully, in every part of my life.

What if we viewed the entire natural sphere as an integrated whole, all part of some vast and intricate web? Everything, everyone and all of the in between is connected. We are not binary – one against another, us against them. We are all part of this vast universal story, ever changing, ever growing, ever recycling the parts that need to evolve to something new.

This brings so much peace to me, embracing both my darkness and my light. It means acceptance of what I am, where I am today in my journey, not chiding myself that I am not further along. Change unfolds gradually and when I “push” instead of allowing, it often sets me back. I am eager to know what is next, to see around the next corner. But I need not worry.

My soul works and plays at integrating. It seems to do this better without the fretting of my ego or mind. When I pay attention to the ease and the grace that comes from sitting still or small movements, I can feel integration physically. At the same time, I notice myself acting with greater integrity in the world. This feels like a true definition of success for me.

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cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – judgment vs acceptance

Once in a while I find myself tempted to tell other people how they should live. I get all “judgy” about what they should do, or what I would do in their situation. You don’t do that, do you?

Oh, who am I kidding? Many of us spend our lives judging other people. This is human, perhaps. I must extend myself compassion for the tendency to insert my opinion into other people’s business. One of my favorite wise teachers, Brené Brown, talks about how good it can feel to judge other people. It’s like a pig rolling in mud, she explains in one of her audio books. “Doesn’t it just feel so good?”

Our need to judge and criticize other people comes from our desire to mask some type of shame about the way we feel about ourselves. If we feel bad about our inability to keep our space clean at home, it is SO easy to become judgmental about some other person’s difficulty. We think: “Sheesh, how can they live like that? Do they have a hoarding disorder? Narcissism? (insert criticism here)” We may be bad, but at least we feel we are better than someone else.

While I feel embarrassed to admit how often I judge people, I want to come clean here for the sake of exploring this tendency and understanding what this judgment says about me.

When I first learned to meditate, I was astonished at the thoughts that seemed to flow rather continuously through my fevered brain. Now I react with more curiosity rather than with admonishment or shame. Thoughts appear. Then we react to them, or just observe them and let them go. It takes a lot of practice not to judge ourselves, or judge and evaluate our thoughts, but just to observe them with curiosity instead. I am far from perfect at this, and I’ve been practicing for 556 days in a row.

Judge Judy
TV personality Judge Judy – photo credit link

I realize that holding space for people, particularly those that you love, or those who can easily push your buttons, can be a sacred act of mindfulness as well. It is difficult to withhold judgment and just meet people where they are. It requires great compassion and self-awareness of our own internal critic and the ways in which we constantly compare ourselves to others.

In the case of family, friends or people we care about, sometimes we long to give advice to “help”. But often our best option is to listen, to care and to ask if we can be of service, rather than to offer unsolicited advice how to solve the problem.

If we simply tell people what to do, they often sense our judgment and discomfort. If our advice comes from a place of love and compassion, they may be able to hear it. If not, I think it is best for us to “clean up” our thoughts before launching into our opinions about the issue. Often we gossip to others about what these people should do instead of confronting the issue directly. That is not a good idea either.

Adults can behave however they wish, and we cannot control them. This is a radical idea for some of us. But we can only control our own thoughts and emotions. Trying to control other people is typically a recipe for disaster. While we can sometimes have a positive influence, typically we must lead by example rather than judging, condemning and shaming.

This is a lesson I write to remind myself. I have learned and re-learned it many times. When I focus on things I can control, my own actions and results (and generally the preceding thoughts and emotions), I have more peace, freedom and equanimity.

But oh, sometimes judgment is so very tempting…

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

How Does Writing Help Us Heal?

via How Does Writing Help Us Heal?

Okay, this blog is somewhat self-promoting, because Julie de Rohan mentions me in her post. But the topic is so relevant and I agree so strongly with the the concept that I want to share it with my readers as well.

Julie de Rohan
Photo cribbed directly from Julie’s blog 

Julie is a psychotherapist in the U.K. who works with clients who struggle with overeating issues. As this is a struggle I have faced (and also probably 70% of the women I know) I always find her writing and insights to be right on target.

I have recently re-listened to a favorite resource on this topic, an Audible book by Geneen Roth called Women, Food and God. Every time I explore another layer of this issue, I realize how much relationship with food is a microcosm of my beliefs about the world. But not until I excavated this issue in my writing and my meditations did I start feeling peace toward it.

Thanks so much for exploring this issue, Julie. You write about it (and many other topics we share in common) in such an accessible way.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – Forgiveness

How easy do you find it to forgive people? 

How easily do you forgive yourself when you make a mistake or do something wrong? 

I just finished reading Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, and I found the premise fascinating. She believes that what we think about ourselves becomes the truth for us. What we give out, we get back. The only thing we are ever dealing with is a thought, and thoughts can be changed. We can change our attitude toward the past. To release the past, we must be willing to forgive. Also, she claims that “all dis-ease” comes from a state of unforgiveness.

She goes on to explain that forgiveness is not about condoning the behavior. It is just letting the whole things go. I agree that there are few advantages to holding resentment against someone for past actions. The past is over, and the more we time we spend on holding onto that resentment, the worse our health seems to be.

An article from Hopkins Medicine explains that unresolved conflict or chronic anger can put you in fight-or-flight mode, which results in changes in heart rate, blood pressure and the immune system. These changes increase risks of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.

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Photo credit link –  Mindful.org: Forgive Your Imperfections

Forgiveness is an active process in which we make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not. Karen Swartz, M.D. director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, says forgiveness is a choice. “You are choosing to offer compassion and empathy to the person who wronged you.”

Even if the person never apologizes, and you simply resolve this by journaling or through your own reflection, by letting go of expectations, you will not feel disappointed. When you start to acknowledge the fact that nobody is perfect, and that the action probably had nothing to do with you, and rather is a reflection of the other person’s capacity (or lack thereof) for love, you can move on.

While it is not easy, forgiveness will help you heal and move on with your life. Sometimes talking with a therapist or a trusted friend to receive a “caring witness” to your pain can help. But at some point, then it is time to let the past go. Remember: you are not hurting the other person in refusing to forgive, you are only hurting yourself by carrying that negative energy into your future.

A quote I love from Louise Hay’s book is:

Love is always the answer to healing of any sort. And the pathway to love is forgiveness.

Give it a try and watch your overall health improve as you develop a regular practice of forgiveness. Check out “You Can Heal Your Life” if you want exercises and affirmations to support this process of letting go.

cristy@meximinnesota.com

 

 

Wellness Wednesday – your priority

What are your priorities? 

I asked myself this during the late afternoon when I noticed *hours* had slipped by this afternoon while I was working, and it was nearly past the time I usually leave. I suddenly realized it was a gorgeous Minnesota day, about 80F without humidity.

Immediately I realized I should not be lingering at work, and that my husband and I had the opportunity to spend time out on a lovely patio somewhere in the neighborhood. But this realization and choice came about when I considered my priorities, or rather my priority for that moment.

While I know work is important, my more important priority is my relationship with my husband. Other relationships are important too, and I reminded myself the other day to schedule some time with friends I have not yet seen this summer. We plan to see a play and spend time together next week.

Willy, my cat, just gave me a LOUD MEOW to indicate that HE is a priority too, and he did not appreciate my husband and I lingering over live music on the patio tonight. Okay buddy, point taken.

Relationships are an important priority in our lives. Several recent studies have touted the benefits of social relationships on one’s overall health status. This does not mean we are all good at prioritizing our relationships, however. I have struggled in the past with making time to nurture my friendships, sometimes getting wrapped up in personal projects or professional goals, and neglecting to reach out as often as I would like.

Lions Tavern
Hot air balloons outside on Tuesday night while hubby and I listened to live music on the patio of Lion’s Tavern.

I start feeling “out of balance” when I do not get enough hubby time, or kitty time or time with good friends that make me laugh. There is something about spending time with people who love you, people you care about, and those who bring meaning to your life.

And if you feel lonely? Maybe you live far from friends, or do not have family in your area. Please reach out to someone to connect. Make an effort to form relationships that sustain you. If making new friends is difficult for you, realize that it can be difficult for all of us as adults. You are not alone in feeling like this.

But attempts to connect with others is almost always worth it. We may fear rejection, or believe others do not have much in common with us. But I believe it is a bigger risk NOT to connect, and not to allow ourselves to be a little vulnerable to build connection. Sure, they may reject us. But that is only a problem if we make it mean something about us. I like to think when people reject me, they don’t know what they are missing. 😉

It can be as easy as asking someone about themselves, and listening well. Or greeting someone with a smile and a friendly word can bring about a moment of connection, making us (and them) feel less alone, to feel seen and appreciated.

Human beings evolved as a social species. But we can feel lonely in our relationships sometimes, or we can feel lonely on our own. As an introvert, I enjoy being alone and seldom feel lonely. But even I have my limits in terms of “me time.” There is no substitute for being around people who accept me as I am. What a great gift. Let us not forget to be grateful for those kindred spirits when we find them, and to nurture and prioritize our relationships. 

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – watch your language

Do you ever notice what tone of voice you use with yourself when you make a mistake?

We all talk to ourselves (it is part of the human condition) though some people are not aware of what language they are using.

For example: you forgot to pick up your dry cleaning (again) and you wanted that clean shirt for tomorrow’s presentation. Do you say, “sheesh, you idiot, why did you do that again?” Or do you say, “Oh well, I guess I’ll wear a different shirt. I’d better put that reminder in my calendar next time.”

When you realize you did something you did not intend, do you have compassion for yourself?  Do you speak with yourself the way you would speak to a beloved friend? Or do you self-flagellate and add insult to injury?

It matters.

Quite simply, the way you treat yourself has a lot to do with how much compassion you can extend to others as well. If you realize we all make mistakes, that it is not a character flaw, and resolve to do it differently next time, you can learn. If you criticize yourself or use harsh words, you break down your relationship with yourself.

watch language
Photo credit link

Language can powerfully shape the way we think. If you speak to yourself with kind and loving words instead of harsh and blaming ones, you honor your being’s inherent tendency for growth and development. When you blame yourself or put yourself down (even if you do not intend, or if it is just habitual) it can erode the trust you have in your own wisdom.

It is interesting how I can observe family members or friends when they do this, but I didn’t realize when I was inadvertently doing this myself. I first discovered this during meditation. I used to “say” things like – oh dear, can you REALLY not concentrate for more than 30 seconds?”

Now when I meditate I say (to myself): hmm, how interesting that I’m thinking about X or Y. Then I gently pull myself back to my breath, or my body, whatever I am focusing on for the moment. Then 2 minutes later when I am planning my work for the day (while meditating), I say: “it’s okay, I know you are concerned about that. But it will be there when you are done meditating. Come back now.” It is a loving voice, gentle forgiving.

If you cannot access your thoughts through meditation, try a “thought download” – take a sheet of paper and just unload all of your thoughts for 5-10 minutes It might surprise you what is in there.

Curiosity and compassion will get you SO much further than blaming and shaming. 

Happy Wednesday, all.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Junk science and nutraceuticals

Lately I have received two completely separate solicitations from a friend and a family member for “nutra-ceutical” products that make claims that are fairly dubious. I am curious about why the information was sent to me, and I am following up to understand this. However, I feel the need to debunk bad science before it harms or scams people.

Terms like epigenetics, biohacking, and reducing oxidative stress are used to draw people into the pseudo-scientific claims they are making. It really upsets me, because the research that they link to their articles does not back up the claims they make. They also prey upon the lack of clinical research knowledge of ordinary people in order to try to sell them supplemental nutrition that we should be getting from real food.

LittleYellowPill.JPG
Promotional blurb from the Facebook ad, trying to capitalize on trusted brands in order to market a product with dubious claims.

It makes me so angry that I am going to go on a bit of a rant here. Pardon me for that, but I do not like to see my friends and family duped into buying or selling expensive products that are totally unnecessary. Because this industry is NOT regulated and does not have to go through FDA or other approvals to be released, I have serious safety and efficacy concerns about these products.

I support medicines or supplements that have been shown to have clinical benefits, as long as the side effects are non-existent or minor. Obviously, as a clinical researcher in the medical device industry for over a decade, I have seen the difference that proper therapy and intervention can make for patients.

But I see also the shady under-belly of an industry that is preying upon the worries and fears of people. There is probably a strong placebo effect in terms of people’s belief that these products may work for them. However, I think consumers waste money unnecessarily on non-proven and potentially dangerous supplements that have not been adequately evaluated.

I have healthy skepticism for the medical establishment. I realize that recommendations are not always in the long-term best interest of the patient. Incentives can be contradictory. I realize that presents a problem. But approval for medicines, devices or supplements should be made based on rigorous study design and tested via randomized controlled trials.

Please be careful when you see claims made that seem too good to be true. When a pill claims to reduce symptoms for Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, and dementia, and MS and a host of other conditions, be suspicious. Typically these claims are overblown and would never pass muster in terms of their scientific validity.

End of rant. This has been your weekly PSA from a concerned clinical researcher.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com