I Need You

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i want to say,
the light soothes
every wound,
all the shadows
 
i want to say,
groping in the dark
is the path, the gateway
to our happy future
 
i want to feel,
always, the presence
of sunlight streaming
onto my quivering skin
 
even as i cling,
even as i know i am,
to sneaky corners
immune to light
 
but the words hide.
the dance is not
always near, or
hopeful, or ecstatic.
 
instead i say,
let’s do this together
it might not be pretty,
or redemptive
 
but it is here
and i need you
and maybe you
need me too. – TS
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What heals

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i want to follow
you to the place
 
past what is broken
fallen in pieces
 
to where we can
soothe our memories
 
hold them in
nature’s arms
 
find our rest in
what lives so brightly
 
what heals we the
world with her bounty. – TS

10 Energy Healing Techniques for Daily Lightness. – by Ruth Lera and Tammy T. Stone

*This article was co-written by Ruth Lera, of Root Awakenings, and myself, and published on elephant journal. It was so much fun to collaborate on this piece, and to work with Ruth! We recently met through our various common writing activities, and have discovered we have much in common – this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship! Thank you, Ruth, for suggesting we work together!

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Energy work such as Reiki, Healing Touch or Cranio-Sacral isn’t something that needs to stay on the massage table.

Working with energy and using it for healing can easily become an everyday activity if we just let it.

All that this opportunity to bring energy healing tricks into our daily lives asks of us is to open our hearts and minds to see new ways to relate to ourselves and the world around us.

Below are stories from two professional energy workers and elephant journal writers about how they came to be involved in energy healing, the shift in perspective it has brought to their lives, and some suggestions for how anyone can incorporate this kind of healing into their daily lives.

Ruth:

I was 20 years old when I had my first experience with any type of energy healing work. I was heading out for a month-long kayaking trip in Alaska and I had this throbbing pain in my wrists that I wanted gone before I left. So I went to see a Cranio-Sacral practitioner I had heard great things about and in three sessions the pain was gone.

Forever.

I never thought I would do anything like that.

At 28 years old, I went to see a popular local Osteopath who energetically separated me from my parents and told me that life was easy—which had never even crossed my mind before.

This experience brought an incredible amount of bliss into my life.

But I never thought I would do anything like that.

And then about four years ago all of my friends starting taking these healing touch courses and raving about how much they were learning, so I followed along and signed up for Healing Touch level 1. My mind was blown.

Within hours I was feeling energy and healing people by manipulating energy. I thought that this was the most amazing investment of my life.

I saw that it was like investing in a first aid kit but in my hands. Suddenly, I could help with headaches and stress and tummy pains and all the bumps and scrapes that my family and friends are always having.

I still didn’t think this would become my career but it has and this is great. But what is more interesting to me is how we can bring this type of energy awareness into our daily lives.

Here are five things that I do on a regular basis:

1. Increase my personal vibration.

I draw energy from the center of the earth through my body. This visualization generates a kind of tingling or humming sensation in the body which in turn helps decrease stress and increase health in all situations.

2. I become aware of how other people’s energy fields are affecting me.

I notice if I suddenly feel anxious when I’m around a certain person or suddenly feel like I need to get away from a person. I don’t judge that other person. I just stay aware about how I am being energetically affected.

3. I place my hands on someone who is stressed or sad and raise my energy.

This is great for spouses, kids and close loved ones. It’s a practical way we can help them when they are down.

4. Send love and light wherever it seems needed.

This is a great tool when we see pain and suffering and feel helpless. We can imagine the person or situation surrounded in light while simultaneously paying attention to our personal vibration and giving it a little boost.

Will it cure everything? Probably not (if it does please let me know!) but it is something.

It really is something.

5. Being playful and experimental.

This morning I went for a walk in the woods. While walking I brought attention to my energy field, making it bigger and smaller while I walked (it felt amazing when it was big, intertwined with the entire forest).

Was I trying to get a certain result? Nope. I was just having an experience.

Life is an experience, not a cognitive construct. That is why energy awareness can be a daily practice, a daily, experiential practice.

Tammy:

I love what Ruth wrote about being told that life is easy. This has also been a profound realization for me, as someone who tends to overthink and overcomplicate things.

I came to energy healing by being introduced to Reiki twice, almost my chance. The first time, a friend pointed the way, saying, “I didn’t get much out of this, but it seems like your kind of thing.” It was! The practitioner told me almost on sight that my energy field was depleted.

I knew I felt like I had absolutely nothing left to give, but was amazed by her recognition of this.

The second time was during my travels in Southeast Asia, when a friend of mine suggested I get a Reiki treatment from a local healer. I felt soothed by her gentle touch, but was astounded when I started to have great trouble breathing and felt like I was going to have a panic attack.

I knew immediately there was something going on here.

When we talked afterward, one of the things I was told was that I was someone for whom life seems complicated, but that this was only my perspective; life does not have to be experienced that way.

I was hooked, and spent the next several months learning and practicing Reiki, along with several other healing modalities. Learning to be in the world with a sense of oneness and not solely through the filter of my ever-active mind, and being able to work with others to bring about healing and a sense of balance has been an enormously rewarding path.

We might over-dramatize what “healing” means, and reserve blocks of time to see therapists and the like, to “work on healing.” I believe that healing is, at a basic level, a commitment to being fully alive in the world, and this is an ongoing, daily practice of awakening to our energy. As Ruth suggests above, there are things we can do everyday to remain vibrant and strong in the present moment, so that we can also be a light for others.

Here are five things I enjoy doing to work with energy:

1. Ground myself.

Be a tree! Stand with your feet planted on the ground, and feel your legs firmly rooted to the ground, and the Earth’s energy filtering up through the body.

2. Protect myself.

There is a lot of “noise” out there, and it’s hard to have a clear mind and heart when there’s so much external traffic running through us. We can visualize a protective shield of sparkly white light around us, so that we can stay balanced throughout the day.

3. Breathe.

This is self-explanatory. Breath is life, and pausing during the day to allow long, deep breaths to run up and down the energy channels of the body is rejuvenating and essential.

4. Practice “Give and Take” meditation.

Here, we visualize someone in need, and breathe in their suffering, and and breathe out love, compassion and light to them. It can take as little as a few seconds, and make a huge difference.

5. Walk.

We instinctively know that being in nature is healing. For me, being barefoot and taking long walks is the best way to get out of my head and find my natural rhythm with the world around me.

Let’s Not Make the Movies of Our Mind into Horror Films.

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Why do I think I always have to be getting somewhere?

Why do I think that the world isn’t strong enough to bear the burden of my shadow, so that I have to hide it and pretend everything is okay?

Why do I think the worst thing I can do is let people down, at the expense of my own truth?

Why am I scared I will never truly belong to the communities I love and respect so much?
Our thoughts can be dizzying, terrifying things.

If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself more than once getting dragged into a very deep and intense storyline produced by none other than your mind. It may have started with a simple nagging feeling, and rather than shrugging it off, you’ve let yourself get absorbed in a drama featuring such rambunctious characters as Doubt, Fear, Guilt, Hopelessness, Confusion and Thwarted Dreams.

While these journeys are scarier than any horror film, we accept them as fact with alarming ease.

We take them to be natural extensions of “who we are” and “how life is”, and because of this, they keep returning with a vengeance.

In Buddhism, there is the belief that we will face the same situations in life until we’ve finally learned the lesson. We’ll meet people and situations that trigger us is in similar ways, until we finally get it. If we think that “getting it” means blaming people because we know it’s their fault and avoiding our challenges because we “know” they are impossible, we are on the fast track to a sequel situation.

All this is because our minds are so good at taking us along our egoistic paths and abetting our desire to avoid confronting our deepest and truest selves.

It’s not very often that we take the time to “think about thinking,” or “how we think.” We tend to assume that our thoughts are merely an extension of us, and cannot lead us astray. We don’t really question the idea that we are our minds, so we don’t critically engage with what is happening as they tear loose and run wild.

We also know that we are simply not happy a lot of the time. We feel frustrated, dissatisfied, defeated, thrown for a loop, maybe backed into a corner.

When this happens, our first instinct is to leap right into the realm of why and how.

“Why has this problem occurred, and how can I fix it?”

Then we scramble, rationalizing our behaviour, finding ways to blame the perceived culprit of the problem, or else attacking the problem with apparent, potential solutions that are fuelled by our certainty that we’ve failed before and are doomed to fail again.

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” ~ Einstein

Problem solving is a skill we’ve developed as humans and has been key to our survival. Learning how to get from point A to point B and how to procure food and shelter, for instance, are great instances of how our thinking minds have been our ally.

However, when it comes to our more “negative” emotions and sense of being stuck, our highly evolved ability to problem-solve actually gets in the way and leads us to a dead end.

Why?

Because we are perceiving these things as “problems” in the first place.

Through meditation and mindfulness practice, we come to see that perceived problems are simply interior states, reactions of our bodies minds and spirits to our external circumstances and our habituated ways of being in the world due to our past behaviours and conditionings.

Rather than “solve,” we learn to “sit with” and accept, and understand the transient nature of our thoughts, feelings and emotions. We learn that gently regarding what is going on within us with respect but non-attachment lightens the heaviness we associate with problems, and allows us a more compassionate attitude toward our selves and the situation at hand.

We learn that “shrugging it off” does not mean avoidance, but the ability to observe how we are feeling, and watch as the feeling both arises and passes away. We even realize that problems are actually opportunities to learn and grow, which makes them the exact opposite of problems.

I’ve studied cinema for many years, and found that we can either be so absorbed and emotionally involved in a movie that we have lost all critical faculties, or that we can learn to pull back, and examine how the filmmakers constructed the film so that it could have such a powerful pull and effect on viewers.

It’s fascinating to realize that the same can be said of our minds.

We can learn to see our minds as constructions that can be understood and dismantled so that their power over our true nature can be lessened.

Sitting down with the intention of watching our thoughts appear and disappear, we see that these fickle entities are not the foundations of our identity, and from there, our opportunities to contemplate who we have become and how we can free ourselves are virtually endless.

The Work of a Healer. {There’s No War in World}

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

The Work of a Healer

(Thailand)

Do you ever wonder about the hidden memories that form us?

I was just going through thousands of travel photos looking for a particular image for a story I’m working on.

Along the way, I came across this image, above, and it just arrested me.

I’d completely forgotten about it, but now, I can remember it in vivid detail as such an important piece of what was to come into my life.

Soon after I lost my job (over five years ago now, I can hardly believe it!) I started travelling on my own through Southeast Asia. I ended up falling in love with Thailand’s Northeast, called “Isaan”. It was here that I spent a lot of time working toward healing many wounds, and where I would eventually find a path toward becoming a healing practitioner myself.

But the beginning of that journey was still months down the line. For now, I was bumping along in local buses, traipsing around from village to village, stopping where I felt I needed to be. I was working on letting my intuition guide me, and this hot, arid land was pulling me in.

Nakhon Phanom is a tiny town along the Mekhong River with Laos on the other side and Hanoi not far away. Of historical interest is the fact that during the Vietnam War, some U.S. forces were stationed at an air force base there.

But this is just context; once in the town, the rest of Thailand, let alone the world, falls away into the deep recesses of the imagination. In my memory, the sun is always shining, the people smiling, the days lingering, the river a breezy, pleasant backdrop to the town, and you can easily go days without spotting another foreigner.

I found a strange, charming place to say, a large, rather imperial looking hotel that may once have hosted dignitaries but was now barren and spare, though clean. I was referred there when I asked locals where I might find somewhere to stay, and the older couple running the place seemed really nice. I got a room on fourth floor for reasons I still don’t quite know, and felt like the little girl in the fairy tale who closes her eyes one day and ends up a princess in her own castle, a little isolated by bedazzled nonetheless.

I spent days whiling away time at the Internet shop across the street, trying to discover the movie showtimes at an old Soviet-styled, one-cinema movie theater in town, and embarking on a 4km odyssey in unimaginable heat to visit a house Ho Chi Minh once hid out in. I ate street food, and spent evenings writing in my journal, staring at a clear black sky and feeling unbelievably solaced.

Then, one morning, I was heading out in the morning after paying for another night at the hotel, and I saw what you can see now, in the photo. A woman – a wife? A friend, or neighbor? – treating a man who sat, quiet, eyes-closed, in a gentle act of receiving.

It took my breath away. Something stirred inside of me I honestly didn’t have a language for. I don’t know if it was the selflessness, the kindness, the power of human touch or the dawning knowledge that a combination of love and attunement with universe – with self – could make balance in a wounded being …

For a fleeting moment, I became vividly embodied, somehow brought back to myself for what felt like the first time.

Then I quietly walked away, had my breakfast, and by the time I returned, they were gone.

A couple of months after that, this image and all it stood for long out of my mind, I found myself drawn to a place where I was introduced to Reiki, where I had some profound experiences involving the woundedness in myself, and began a powerful and ongoing journey of and with healing.

As I take the photo in, I have to wonder about that healing session in Nakhon Phanom, a magical little jewel lighting up a path I’m still on today, arrived at by a series of movements – choices, instincts, stumblings-upon – that defy anything the logical mind could produce, and yet are still, gloriously, majestically there.

I couldn’t be happier for that, or more grateful to these two beautiful human beings who stepped out onto the sidewalk that morning in a gentle riverside town to share their beauty and harmony with the world. May they be at peace.

Oliver Sacks: Changing the Way we Think about Our Brain can Change the World.

Artwork by Tammy T. Stone

Artwork by Tammy T. Stone

 

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.” ~ Oliver Sacks

 

Recently, I was thinking about what the world would be like—or rather, how our perception of it would change—if we were suddenly told that Earth was now called Jupiter, and Jupiter was now called Earth.

How would we think about this other Earth, which we have never seen with our own eyes? How would we re-conceive the new Jupiter, a place now simultaneously “ours,” and yet filled with our imaginings of a place far, far away?

It was reported recently that acclaimed physician, author and professor of Neurology Oliver Sacks was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and as I heard the news, I realized how “Sacksian” my line of questioning above is—how much his ideas, gleaned through readings of his books, have influenced my way of being in the world.

Oliver Sacks has accomplished what very few others have: in addition to his tireless work in the field of neurology, he has managed, through his gifts as a writer and storyteller, to make the brain a fascinating and accessible subject for the layperson (or the “ordinary curious,” as I like to think of us!) I can never put his books down once I start reading them; they are like being led into a vast, incredibly deep and riveting ocean by a gentle, inquisitive and assured guide.

It would be impossible to underestimate how far-reaching the study of the brain is for anybody with a natural curiosity about the world, philosophy, metaphysics, psychology, and virtually every area under the sun. The brain is our incredibly nuanced and mysterious gateway, so we need to know: how does the “normal” brain function?

And, as Sacks has been investigating for decades, what do some of the “abnormal brain conditions” illuminate about the nature of human perception and experience?

What might life look and be like for someone who’s been blind from birth, and has suddenly gained access to sight? (Spoiler: not easy). Sack’s explorations of a rare case of this were turned into the film At First Sight, starring Val Kilmer.

Among some other well-known research topics by Sacks are: encephalitis lethargica, which has people unable to move, sometimes for decades, explored in his book “Awakenings” and the film of the same name, starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams; colorblindness; aphasia (the inability to form speech), Tourette’s syndrome; hallucinations; synesthesia, in which the “wires cross” and a person might “see sounds” or “hear colours,” and Korsakov’s syndrome, in which people suffer from memory loss (so that, for example, a 60-year-old might still believe she/he were a 30 year-old).

Many of us will never directly experience any or most of these conditions, but we may well approximate subtle variations of some of them. For example, maybe we haven’t lost our memories of the last twenty years of our lives, but we’ve certainly lost many memories, struggle to remember things, and wonder how much of what we remember is fiction.

We may have “normal” brains, but how is it that we live in a colour world, but can “understand” or process black-and-white films with such ease? It’s really amazing, how much of a “whole” world we can create with some of the “pieces” missing.

This question, as a film student, brought me to one of my favorite filmmakers, Sergei Eisenstein, who didn’t have synesthesia, but longed to create a synesthetic world on film, where the magical experiences of sight and sound would become all intertwined into a harmonic whole in the viewer’s mind—a sensory world that would cut straight to the emotions.

Most of Eisenstein’s films, because of the era, were made in black-and-white, but he was obsessed by the possibilities colour cinema would open up; reading his dreams about making colour films, you’d think he was talking about voyaging into the entire universe and all its galaxies—such were the horizons one “small switch” in perception could open up. He was an artist and visionary, working with his tool of cinema to grasp at the very limits of what humans, as thinking, perceiving and emoting beings, can do.

For him, film was the grand stage mediating between subject and object, observer and observed, experiencing and experienced. For Oliver Sacks, this grand stage, affording so many possibilities for knowledge and growth, is the human brain.

Using actual case studies, Sacks has fashioned anecdotal scenarios out of the most seemingly bizarre outreaches of brain function, and also out of his impassioned beliefs in the power of music to dig right into our souls, and has allowed us entry into a spellbinding kaleidoscope of human existence. People like the man engaged with in “The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat,” who does just that, are an invitation to consider the very broad arenas of human subjectivity, identity, and how we relate to the world through thing like our senses, cognitive abilities, and memory.

It’s a dizzying, tantalizing world Sacks has brought to life for us. Here are just a few of his words and observations. Much more can be found in his collection of books!

On Music, Art and Healing

“It really is a very odd business that all of us, to varying degrees, have music in our heads.”

“There are, of course, inherent tendencies to repetition in music itself. Our poetry, our ballads, our songs are full of repetition; nursery rhymes and the little chants and songs we use to teach young children have choruses and refrains. We are attracted to repetition, even as adults; we want the stimulus and the reward again and again, and in music we get it. Perhaps, therefore, we should not be surprised, should not complain if the balance sometimes shifts too far and our musical sensitivity becomes a vulnerability.”

“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”

“Certainly it’s not just a visual experience – it’s an emotional one. In an informal way I have often seen quite demented patients recognize and respond vividly to paintings and delight in painting at a time when they are scarcely responsive to words and disoriented and out of it. I think that recognition of visual art can be very deep.”

On Perception

“Perception is never purely in the present—it has to draw on experience of the past; (…). We all have detailed memories of how things have previously looked and sounded, and these memories are recalled and admixed with every new perception.”

On Hallucinations

“With any hallucinations, if you can do functional brain imagery while they’re going on, you will find that the parts of the brain usually involved in seeing or hearing—in perception—have become super active by themselves. And this is an autonomous activity; this does not happen with imagination.

“This usually occurs at the moment when my head hits the pillow at night; my eyes close and…I see imagery. I do not mean pictures; more usually they are patterns or textures, such as repeated shapes, or shadows of shapes, or an item from an image, such as grass from a landscape or wood grain, wavelets or raindrops…transformed in the most extraordinary ways at a great speed. Shapes are replicated, multiplied, reversed in negative, etc. Color is added, tinted, subtracted. Textures are the most fascinating; grass becomes fur becomes hair follicles becomes waving, dancing lines of light, and a hundred other variations and all the subtle gradients between them that my words are too coarse to describe.”

On Nature

“My religion is nature. That’s what arouses those feelings of wonder and mysticism and gratitude in me.”

On Speaking

“We speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. Speech is a part of thought.”

On Language

“Language, that most human invention, can enable what, in principle, should not be possible. It can allow all of us, even the congenitally blind, to see with another person’s eyes.”

On the Brain and Imagination

“…when the brain is released from the constraints of reality, it can generate any sound, image, or smell in its repertoire, sometimes in complex and “impossible” combinations.”

On the Survival Instinct

“But it must be said from the outset that a disease is never a mere loss or excess—that there is always a reaction, on the part of the affected organism or individual, to restore, to replace, to compensate for and to preserve its identity, however strange the means may be: and to study or influence these means, no less than the primary insult to the nervous system, is an essential part of our role as physicians.”

On Bliss

“There are moments, and it is only a matter of five or six seconds, when you feel the presence of the eternal harmony…a terrible thing is the frightful clearness with which it manifests itself and the rapture with which it fills you. If this state were to last more than five seconds, the soul could not endure it and would have to disappear. During these five seconds I live a whole human existence, and for that I would give my whole life and not think that I was paying too dearly…”