Fly Like A Butterfly

I recently had the joy of observing the life cycle of monarch butterflies over two weeks when I visited my parents. Of course, the beauty and majesty of the monarch butterfly is hard to ignore and that is what first caught my eye. The bright bold colors of its orange wings with black trim and white polka dots called my attention and I couldn’t help but follow its flight, at first seemingly random but then with closer observation, I noticed there was a ritual and watched as the Monarch danced happily around the milkweed flowers, back and forth but always coming back.

I was soon curious about the milkweed—the red, orange, and yellow colors of its small flowers, reaching out on a long tall stem, calling out to the Monarch. On the stems were caterpillars, beautiful creatures, no more than an inch and a half long, wearing yellow, black, and white stripes. They seemed camouflaged at first but once I spotted one of them, I started to see more. There they were, five of them, on separate milkweeds, methodically chewing on the leaves until they exhausted the supply and were satisfied enough to become a chrysalis. (Upon writing this, I learned that a chrysalis is a hard protein shell of butterflies while a cocoon is a silk structure spun by moths.) Each morning, I was reassured when I saw droppings under where the caterpillars were and I watched the milkweed leaves disappear as the caterpillars grew fatter.

I searched around the garden for chrysalises and spotted three of them. Two were close to the ground, hanging under the protection of a broad leaf. The other was higher up on a lone stem, also under a leaf. I wondered how the caterpillars decided where to hang and dwelled on the dexterity of it but every day, I checked in on them, hoping to catch a butterfly emerging.

One day, as I watched the Monarch land on a milkweed, I noticed it was doing something with its abdomen and realized it was laying eggs! I was excited and honored to be able to see first-hand something so intimate. As it flew from stem to leaf to leaf, I watched it lay a total of ten eggs, appearing as small white pimple-like dots, easily going unnoticed if I hadn’t seen the butterfly in action.

I never did get to see the eggs hatch or the butterflies emerge from the chrysalises as the temperatures went below freezing for a couple nights in a row. The milkweed plants didn’t survive the frost and neither did the caterpillars nor the chrysalises. My heart wept for them as I felt their loss so deeply. I hadn’t realized how attached I’d become to them over just two weeks, reminding me of how connected and rooted we are to nature and how precarious life can be.

A couple days after I left home, I received a call from my dad saying that he spotted a new chrysalis. Perhaps a caterpillar had survived the frost and this gave me hope. And so continues the cycle of life and death and new beginnings, seemingly part of a bigger Plan.

Given time to connect to other living things up close and personal, I’m amazed by their instinctive nature—how the Monarch knows where to find the milkweed; how it knows where to lay its eggs so that when the caterpillars hatch, they have direct access to food; how the caterpillars find a protected spot to hang and become chrysalises, not to mention the miracle that happens inside the chrysalis to allow the Monarch to emerge. The whole life cycle seems so perfectly designed.

I’d like to think our lives are just as perfect, as we are created in the same image of Nature as are all living beings. Of course, there are things in our human lives that may taint and mar this image but the omniscient intuition is present in all of us. I wonder what the world would be like if we could all tap into this perfect Beauty and let it shine, just like a butterfly.

REGAINING HOPE

breast cancer

My mom has breast cancer. She was diagnosed in April 2015 and has since gone through 7 rounds of chemotherapy and had a mastectomy. I recently went with her to a radiation oncology appointment for an initial consult. After waiting for about an hour and a half, the doctor finally came in, and despite being so late, I appreciated his patience, attentiveness, and bedside manner. He took the time to explain the risks and benefits of radiation and what to expect. He spoke in a calm, gentle manner, answering all of my mom’s concerns and I could tell that he was good at what he did.

And then, knowing that my mother didn’t want to have radiation or any more treatment at all for that matter, I asked him: “Are there any other ways to prevent recurrence other than radiation?” to which he immediately responded, “None.” There was no pause, no room for discussion. I was silent after that. Being in Integrative Medicine, I knew better.

However, from a patient’s perspective, the moment he said, “None,” he had taken away our hope, our power. He put us in a position that felt like if we wanted to prevent recurrence, the only choice was to have radiation. The decision would be made out of fear and would also ask us to surrender to and trust an “expert,” a “specialist,” a stranger. He put us in what felt like a “lose-lose” situation. On one hand, of course we didn’t want the breast cancer to return. On the other hand, my mother didn’t want to have to go through radiation treatment.

I was upset, probably more so than my mother. Not because there were no other options (because there are), but because I was so deeply disappointed by the medical system that it hurt. It not only fails to take the opportunity to empower and motivate people but it in fact causes harm by stripping away hope at the most critical times. I didn’t blame the doctor. I understood the system he was trained in for I had trained in it myself. He seemed like a kind-hearted person with good intentions. However, he was not only unaware of the alternate possibilities, he was oblivious to how his words (and the execution of them) might affect his patients. To his credit, for what he knew, he was well-versed and a great doctor. Unfortunately, what he knew was limited.

This is only one example but it happens all the time in medicine and patient encounters. Who gives these people in white coats the power to take away our hope and independence? Who gives them the right to think they know what’s best for our own bodies? Weeks after the appointment, as I was still exploring my feelings and pondering these questions, the answer came.  It’s us. WE let physicians and other medical practitioners take our power away. WE as a society have put them on a pedestal, letting them tell us what’s wrong with our health and what to do about it. We have put so much faith and trust in doctors that we fail to believe in ourselves anymore. Sure, they may have gone to school longer than we have, and they may have more training than we do, but does that mean they know OUR bodies better that we do? We, after all, are with our bodies 24/7 and the physician may only see it for 15 minutes, if that.

And so I invite you to reclaim your power. This is not to advise you against seeing a medical practitioner. On the contrary, take the opportunity to learn from their vast knowledge, expertise, and experience, and use medicine when appropriate. But do your own research, too.  Then, taking everything into consideration, tap into your own body’s awareness and inner wisdom to guide yourself in making the choices that are best for you and your health. Believe in yourself and there is always hope.

If you need help tapping in to your inner wisdom or would like to learn more about how to do so, contact me for a consultation.

GET BACK ON TRACK

(This is an excerpt and adaptation of a book I recently co-authored with Carolyn Fields: “Procrastinators Unite! Tomorrow.”)

Well, here we are at the end of January. Have you already forgotten about your new year intentions? It’s happened to all of us before. We get excited about something, a new project or goal, like going to the gym, renovating the house, or something as simple as reading a book. We start making plans and start off well but then “life gets in the way” and it doesn’t take long before we get off track. That goal soon becomes forgotten until weeks or maybe months later when we are reminded once more.

So how do we get back on track?

The first thing to do when you’ve realized that you haven’t met your goal is to forgive yourself. There’s no sense in beating yourself up over it. Understand and recognize that life happens. Realize that setbacks are normal and are part of the learning process.  Once you accept the circumstances, then you can do something about it.

Reflect and re-evaluate your priorities. Perhaps it’s true that your priorities have changed. Maybe renovating the house right now isn’t as imperative as, say, work or family obligations. Or maybe your finances have shifted and you’d rather spend the money on a new car. Whatever the case may be, be honest with yourself. Are you making excuses? Oftentimes, if something is truly important to you, you’ll make time for it, not excuses.

One way to evaluate this is to ask yourself: “How important is this goal to you?”  “What would happen if you didn’t achieve it?” If you were to rate its importance on a scale of 0 to 10 (10 being “I can’t live without it” and 0 being “I may say that I want it but I don’t really care”), what would you rate it? If you find that your rating is 6 or under, then it’s no wonder that your goal has gone by the wayside. Perhaps it’d be better to set that goal aside and find a more meaningful one to invest in.

If you find that your rating is 7 or higher, then let’s take a deeper look. We’ve established that your goal is important to you. Now ask yourself WHY your goal is important to you. Continue to ask yourself WHY until you get to an authentic emotional connection. I understand that this may be difficult for some of you as your WHY may not be apparent or obvious. I suggest finding a solitary pocket of silence to reflect and connect to your purpose. Sometimes journaling can help you find the answer. It’s important that your goal resonate in line with you and your self and not be an expectation of family, friends, bosses, or society. Having a strong sense of your WHY and a personal connection to your goal is crucial in your success. Not only will it drive you to achieve your aspiration, when you do finally reach it, you’ll feel a more profound sense of accomplishment.

Once you have this foundation in place, we can explore the simpler questions: Where do you feel stuck? What interfered with your progress? Where do you need more support? If you’ve been procrastinating, then ask yourself: What scares you most? What’s the worst thing that could happen? How would you overcome it? Take time to write down the answers to these questions as having this insight will help you recognize and prepare for obstacles before they occur.

The rub comes when you realize that you’re the one who’s been self-sabotaging your own progress. If this is the case, rate on a scale of 0-10, how confident you are that you will succeed. Think about how your life would change if you reached your goal. What are the risks involved in reaching your goal? What would happen if you didn’t reach your goal? Reflect on a time when you’ve experienced success. What have you learned from that experience and how did it change you? Explore your fears, hesitation, and resistance. Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help to work through these issues. Only until you resolve your fears and doubts and move up on the confidence scale can you accomplish what you put your mind to!

Now that you’re back on track and know where your challenges lay, you can take action to stay on track. Perhaps you need to surround yourself with positive people who understand the process and will continue to support and encourage you. Perhaps you need to break down your goal into smaller, more attainable steps. Perhaps you need someone to hold you accountable. Maybe find a friend who shares the same passion and goals and with whom you can work together.

For more ideas to help you reach you goal and thrive, click here to get the book “Procrastinators Unite! Tomorrow.”

If you would like to set up a personal consultation to work through your road blocks, contact me here. Let’s get you on your way!

 

BE WITH NATURE

I was recently at a medical conference in San Diego and though it had a great energy of people, like any other conference, we spent much of the time sitting in a dark room listening to lectures. However, being the active person that I am, I took time during lunch one day to go for a quick swim in the bay. Worried that I’d be late for the afternoon talks, I hurried out of the water back onto the sandy beach. But just as I was about to step back onto the concrete, I felt something pulling me back as I suddenly became acutely aware of the sand beneath my bare feet. I wasn’t ready to leave the sun and warmth to go back inside. Not just yet.

My body slowed as I allowed myself to sense everything around me, utterly and completely. I buried my feet into the warm sand, feeling the fine softness of the earth as every grain trickled between my toes. My body radiated a light glow from the tender warmth of the sun. I listened to the gentle breeze brushing against the palms and the small waves lapping onto the beach. I breathed in the mild salty air from the bay. My shoulders dropped… My breath deepened… I closed my eyes and just breathed… As I stood there experiencing, I was gently reminded of the beauty and perfection of this thing we call LIFE. And for that moment, I felt it. I felt it penetrate deep into my soul and spirit. I felt it fill and embrace every inch of me. What I felt was… peace, joy, warmth, wholeness, LOVE.

I carried that feeling with me as I opened my eyes and stepped back onto the concrete, now ready to continue the day with renewed meaning and intention.

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience when you’ve lost yourself in space and time, alone yet connected to everything around you. And if you haven’t had this sort of awakening, I invite you to experience it. Go out into nature, wherever it may be—the beach, the mountains, the forest, the canyons, the river, etc—and indulge in your senses. Allow yourself to carry this newfound profundity with you back into everyday life.

There is research to support that being in nature is healing to the body, mind, and spirit by increasing positive emotions. Here are some ways to get in touch with nature, even if it’s difficult to be outdoors:

  1. Garden
  2. Exercise outside.
  3. Have a picnic in a park.
  4. Go for a walk in the forest.
  5. Cultivate indoor plants.
  6. Look at natural scenery, whether it’s looking out a window or looking at pictures.

Now go. Experience. Feel. BE with nature.

If you need more help on how to connect with nature, please feel free to send me a message here.

THE POWER OF POSTURE

posture

Have you ever watched a toddler walk and noticed how they have just the right posture? They can perform effortlessly perfect squats while keeping their backs straight, butts down, shoulders back, and feet pointing forward. This is truly amazing, considering many of us can’t do perfect squats now.

If you’re like me, at some point in life, we started to slouch, our necks began to crane forward, and our shoulders tightened up to our ears. My theory is that it started in grade school when our naturally dynamic and fluid bodies were forced to sit for a significant amount of time, often hunched over reading or writing. Add to that a backpack loaded with heavy books, causing us to round our backs and roll our shoulders forward. The situation worsened as we entered middle school and high school when recess was taken away and physical education no longer became a requirement. I can’t imagine how school is now that computers and technology are so integrated into the curriculum. And think about what happens if you have a desk job where you’re sitting in front of a computer for eight hours (or more) a day!

The human body was meant to move! Alas, not all of us have the privilege of having an active job and even so, that may have its own consequences. The solution is not to study or work less but to be more aware of our bodies.

Notice how you’re sitting right now. Don’t try to change anything. Just notice. Are you slouched or rolled forward? Are you leaning to one side? Are you arms or legs crossed? Notice how you feel in your body.

Now sit up straight. Roll your shoulders back and down, opening up your chest. Avoid craning your neck forward by tucking your chin back and looking forward. Plant both feet firmly on the ground. Engage your core to keep your low back neutral. Now notice how you feel. Take a few breaths here.

Correcting your posture not only helps prevent common physical complaints of neck, back, and shoulder pain but also helps lift your mood, energy, and confidence! You may have watched Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about power posing. If not, you can watch it here.

Below are some easy exercises to help improve your posture:

  1. Stand tall: Teach your body what it feels like to stand up straight by standing tall with your head, shoulders, and back against the wall. This may feel uncomfortable at first but with practice, you’ll find that you won’t need the wall anymore!
  1. Snow Angels: Every morning and night, lie on the floor and do “snow angels” with your arms for 2-3 minutes. Try to keep your shoulders and elbows on the ground. This will help open up your chest and strengthen your back.
  1. Open Up: If you have a desk job, make an effort to get up and stretch every 30 minutes. Or at least open up by interlacing your hands behind your head and pulling your shoulder blades down and back to open your chest.
  1. Strike a Power Pose: Stretch your arms out like you’re going to hug someone. You can even add a small back bend and open your chest up to the sky. Open up your body, mind, and spirit to the possibilities and be available for whatever comes your way.

With awareness and practice, you’ll soon begin to notice an increase in energy and productivity. I suppose our parents and teachers were on to something when they told us to sit up straight!