Triggering Reactivity

We get triggered by people, situations, and events and find ourselves reacting in ways that, in the aftermath, we are ashamed of, know consciously to be ineffective or destructive, or that we thought we had outgrown. It can be disheartening, depressing, and cause us to feel hopeless, unmotivated, and angry at ourselves as well as others. At a very basic level, this is the basis of addiction. We want to ease the pain or stress that we are feeling! We revert, often without conscious thought, to old coping mechanisms. We just want to stop feeling the uncomfortable vibes or jitters that we experience when we come up against behavior, thoughts, or actions that trigger unconscious or subconscious reactions.

For example, why do some people overeat? Even when they know consciously that they are not hungry? Beyond the taste buds that give the message that whatever is being eaten is delicious, the unnecessary food is providing a balm to an uncomfortable feeling. Perhaps eating has become a way to stop feeling alone, worthless, and unloved for many of us. And it works, at least temporarily! For those few minutes while we are eating the comfort food, we feel soothed and less uncomfortable. The loneliness, the self-disparagement, and the feelings of being unlovable diminish in volume. 

This sets up a patterned way of dealing with uncomfortable emotions. Does the food have anything really to do with the feelings? No, it’s just a method of coping that seems to alleviate the pain of the emotions just long enough time for us to begin to feel some relief from the uncomfortable emotions. And that is one of the hallmarks of these coping mechanisms, they are temporary, and thus must be constantly repeated to regain a sense of emotional equilibrium.

Eating is not the only way to deal with uncomfortable feelings. Humans are inventive in their coping mechanisms! Alcohol, drugs, sex, abusive relationships, thrill seeking, self-abusive behaviors, angry outbursts, and inflicting physical, emotional, and verbal pain on others are other ways that people have found that relieve the stress of their emotional pain. But not all addictive behaviors are seen from the outside as negative!

Another example can be seen in people who seem to thrive and truly come alive only in times of crisis. They are there to help family, friends, and the greater community survive a threat or difficult time. These people become the saviors that others constantly call on for help. This rescue pattern can become so embedded in the rescuer’s psyche that they look for crisis situations to manage and, sometimes when it can’t be found, will create situations where their invaluable help is called on. This is not necessarily consciously recognized but when their assistance is not desperately needed, these individuals do not feel happy, fulfilled, or even alive. Again this is an addiction, albeit often seen in a positive way by the receivers of such assistance.

Being able to come to the rescue allows these people a way to feel valuable and worthy. Taken to a bizarre extreme, we witness the phenomena of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Although this syndrome is fairly rare, less extreme examples are all around us. If an individual was praised as a child only for their ability to maintain calm and offer assistance in an emergency, this becomes a way for the child to continue to find value with others and self. This is the way the child feels fully loved.

What do habitual unconscious reactions, built-in automatic responses, and addictive patterns have in common? Often they are the learned consequences to events that happened in the past. When we find ourselves challenged in the present, our past memories can cause us to react without even knowing we are being triggered. We bypass the conscious thought process of what might be the best way to respond to the challenge in the present by triggering an automatic resolution that has worked for us in the past. Reactively responding to a present situation always means we are functioning from our memories and past experiences. By clouding the present with filters from the past, we lose objectivity and may not clearly see the present situation. New ways of approaching any situation, whether challenging or trouble-free, can be missed because we are entrenched in the old pattern of thinking and cannot see the new solutions or opportunities.

There are currently a number of methodologies to help us rid ourselves of no longer useful emotional and mental patterns. But before we can avail ourselves of any method, we must be able to bring these unconscious and subconscious patterns to the surface. It has been posited that conscious thought is only about 10% of all the thinking and remembering we do. The vast majority of memories and thoughts are below the conscious level. This can be a major stumbling block. How can we become aware of what is not recognizable?

Generally, how we feel about ourselves and others will reflect any biases we may have embedded in our memories that cause a habitual emotional response. If we are unhappy with ourselves, attention needs to be paid to ferret out what circumstances seem to trigger negative self-talk. If we seem to have a “go-to” emotion such as anger towards others, what is the true source of the anger? What are our thought habits? Do we tend to catastrophize events and outcomes or do we anticipate positive results? Do we seem to repeat actions that do not give us our desired conclusions? What do we really believe about ourselves in terms of our potential, capability, worthiness, and loveability? All of the answers will be reflected in our lives on a physical, emotional, mental and energetic level.

If our existences are in harmony with what we want out of our lives, then chances are that we are not going to act from past experiences and will not respond reactively. On the other hand, if we are not happy with how we interact with family and friends; where we are in our careers; our health; our romantic partnerships then chances are that we are holding onto and acting from outmoded or false preconceptions.

Some scientists posit that we hold memories and, therefore, behavioral patterns in all of our cells not just in the brain. This is one reason why there is such interest in energy medicine healing methods such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), Acupuncture, Energy Medicine, and The Healing Codes. By working with the body in ways that combine physical touch and activation, these methodologies can help to remove old ways of thinking and behaving by embedding new and more effective ways of functioning in the physical body as well as in the thinking mind.

Many individuals have found that unearthing old patterns through talk therapies alone have not done the job of removing the old habitual patterns. It certainly can help to bring awareness of old emotional templates but by going over old patterns repeatedly, sometimes individuals feel worse and can become even more stuck in the old ways of behaving and responding. Continually reliving past trauma can cause us to make the mental pathways in our brain that contain the trauma to become more entrenched.

We want to discontinue to think in those ways – to abandon the dendrite pathways that cause us to function in the old way. By taking the acquired awareness of what is below the surface (unconscious and subconscious thinking) and applying energy medicine techniques to clear the body of the old patterns, people can make remarkable changes in how they experience formerly troubling challenges. How and when they respond to a situation can become more considered and thoughtful and not a knee jerk reaction. By functioning without the filters of the past, an individual can operate from a more authentic place; from the standpoint of who they are in the present instead of who they were in the past. We stop limiting who we think we can be and begin to expand who we are capable of being. We begin to live in the present without the holdovers from the past.

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Body Awareness, Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

Body Image

As a young dance student, the ideal body image for dancers was to be rail thin with very few curves. Yet Marilyn Monroe was the existing sex symbol of the day and was a curvaceous blond bombshell. That didn’t quite jibe with what I envisioned for my young developing body if I was to ever reach my goal of being a professional dancer. It was hard to rectify the two different images – round, soft, and blond with thin, muscled, and athletic. One image reflected the current society’s ideal of womanhood and the other reflected my personal dream of being a dancer.

Are we tall or short, thin or stocky, curvy or lean, long-legged or big-busted, blue or brown eyed, blond with straight hair or black with curled hair? As an adult, we sometimes can see the beauty in all the many splendiferous variations in female appearance. But how many of us, deep inside, still harbor the sense that whatever we look like is not the right image? Did we grow up in an era when a beautiful woman was seen as tall, long-legged, thin, with straight brown hair? Or did our society see curvaceous, short, buxom, curly-haired red heads as the most desirable? Furthermore, what skin tone was the most admired? How could we not measure our own bodies against the picture of perfection that was held up to us in movies, magazines, by celebrities, fashion, and artwork?

If we weren’t in the small percentage of females that looked like whatever was the passing image of beauty at the age when we began to notice society’s standards of attractiveness, what did that mean to our sense of self-worth? Nowadays, girls as young as 3 years old are highly conscious of how they look in relation to others. And if they are subjected to criticism, no matter how oblique, it will begin to erode their sense of self-worth. One of my granddaughters began to feel very unhappy with her naturally spiral-curled dark hair when some of her pre-school mates talked about how different their hair was from hers in a somewhat derogatory way.

When we are subjected to comments like these, along with persistently seeing the current admired models of feminine beauty (which may not match what we look like), we begin to objectify ourselves. We start to see ourselves from the outside, the surface, rather than view ourselves from the inside. We begin to separate who we are internally from who we are externally. This disconnection of inner and outer can cause us to feel inauthentic. If we strive for an external appearance that is not in alignment with who we really are, then we can begin to believe we are not good enough.

If we can separate or disconnect from ourselves, then it becomes easier to disconnect from others. We may begin to believe that some people are better than others which is the beginning of prejudice, us vs. them thinking, which can eventually result in bullying, exclusion, and marginalization.

Another result of this disconnection can be that we see ourselves in pieces. My legs are good but my arms are saggy. I like the color of my eyes but my nose is all wrong. Each of us can spout, ad infinitum, a list of the “undesirable” parts of ourselves. When we deeply dislike a part of ourselves, our negative thoughts, words, and actions can affect those areas of our bodies. While we berate ourselves, the cells in that area hear the judgement. Just as cells are capable of holding emotions surrounding events in our lives, they will also internalize our feelings of dislike. That area may become stiffer, less pliable, less willing to function with the rest of the body. We may find ourselves injuring that area more often and we may gradually feel a numbness there.

Try this experiment: lie down on your back, close your eyes, and create an outline of your body in your mind’s eye as if you were drawing with a pencil. Are there places that seem more difficult to trace around than others? Could that be an area that you have disconnected from?

Our disdain for ourselves seems to grow as we get older. We notice wrinkles, extra flesh, and, horrors, grey hair!

Let’s ask ourselves what our preconceived notions are? Do we honestly think that as we grow more mature that we will remain as we were when we were 20 years old? How could that be possible? Is older automatically uglier? Only younger prettier? Could the lines and changes in our faces actually be visual reminders of the wisdom we have gained through the years instead blotches and blemishes that we want to disown? Could we instead be proud of the history that shows up on our faces?       

Why aren’t we enough as we are? Others love us as we are, why can’t we?

Augmentation to and decoration of the body has been found in all cultures throughout time. It is not the same thing as thinking we aren’t enough as we are, unless we are making modifications to distort ourselves or trying make ourselves look like someone else. Enhancement by jewelry, hair color, tattoos, and scarification can symbolize something deeply spiritual or emotional about ourselves, bringing to the surface what is inside of us. However if we feel compelled to do any of these things just to fit a preconceived notion of what is acceptable by society then we are not reflecting our own truth or our own authenticity. However, there can be a fine line in making modifications. Changing ourselves because we feel healthier, like losing weight, is vastly different than undergoing multiple plastic surgeries so we can resemble a Barbie doll.

Let’s embrace the areas of our body that we have criticized and learn to be grateful for the bodies that we have. Enjoy what they do for us. Appreciate how they carry us through our days and nights, gifting us with the unique perspective they give us. Whether we are able to look over the heads of everyone else, bask in the sunshine without worry of sunburn, or have strong thighs and calves that enable us to bicycle long distances.

We are uniquely ourselves and there is no one else exactly like us. We have our individual issues and challenges but we gain so much from our own way of being, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. The way that we view ourselves is how we present ourselves to others. If we believe we are beautiful both inside and out, that is how we will display ourselves to others. Let’s celebrate ourselves!

If we could embrace diversity in appearances and therefore embrace our own individual differences, perhaps we could begin to become more tolerant as a society. Perhaps our daughters would not feel so stigmatized if they didn’t feel compelled to conform to a current and passing ideal of beauty. Perhaps we would all become more comfortable in our skin.

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Body Awareness, Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

© 2019 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Stretching Into Spring

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine practice, moving from the winter season (yin energy) to spring (yang energy), means we move from contraction to expansion. We can apply this methodology as a metaphor for our physical bodies.

All winter we have been on an inward journey, staying inside our homes to conserve heat and perhaps becoming reflective about what lies in our future during the New Year celebrations. As spring arrives we ask ourselves to change that behavior and begin to reach out and open up to enact any plans or intentions for the new growing season. Somewhat like a seed that has remained in hibernation during the cold months and then begins to sprout as the air temperatures begin to warm. The contrast between contraction and expansion is quite extreme and we often feel quite exhausted with the effort.

Think about when you were a child during periods of fast growth. We called the aches and pains in our limbs “growing pains”. Our bones were lengthening and expanding and our muscles, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues had to grow and accommodate this growth. This all took energy! Like the childhood complaint of growing pains, when we move from the contraction of winter into the expansion of spring, we are also using energy. Hence our fatigue.

One of the ways that we can regain vitality and strength is to stretch. There are many ways to stretch our bodies but what they all have in common is the ability to unblock held pockets of energies. By releasing blocks and opening up tight areas we allow the flow of the primo vascular circulatory system to move more smoothly. The primo vascular circulatory system has more commonly been known for centuries as the Meridian system. When the body has more flow it can more easily heal itself and help body parts to rejuvenate.

The rejuvenation of the body is particularly enhanced when we keep our spines lubricated and loose. After all, our skeletal structure is what the rest of our physical body rests upon. If there are compromised sections of the spine then the nerves that attach to those sections will echo their distress into various related areas of the body. That results in pain. When those nerves are allowed to function freely the pain is alleviated.

Bella Lewitzky

As a young professional dancer, I was constantly taking dance classes, rehearsing, choreographing, and performing. I certainly had sore muscles but my spine was continually being activated with curving, arching, twisting, contracting, and lengthening movements. I never imagined the day I might feel restriction in my spinal motions. Nevertheless, in my 6th decade there are days that I wake up with back pain. Usually it is because I haven’t done enough flexibility exercises the day before. On those days, I am reminded of one of my early mentors – Bella Lewitzky – who performed well into her 60’s. I thought it a bit of an overkill back in my 20’s after I first met Bella when I heard that she spent an hour each morning manipulating her spine before she began her day in the dance studio. I no longer think it was overkill!

Most of us aren’t prepared to spend an hour just working on spinal flexibility but it certainly would behoove us to spend at least 15 minutes a day. We could accomplish that by taking a dance, stretch, Pilates, or yoga class or by simply bending our bodies forward in our chairs from time to time throughout the day rolling down and back up through each of the vertebrae to improve articulation and then twisting in our chairs from side to side. If we walk, jog, play sports, we want to make sure that we stretch our spines as well as our arms and legs before and after we have exerted ourselves. This helps us as we mature and move through the various stages in life.

Our lower back is probably the most vulnerable spot in our spines. It is the area that gets the most complaints, particularly in pregnant women. As the baby grows, a pregnant woman’s center of gravity moves forward and her posture changes, causing the spine to support the additional weight exactly at this vulnerable low back area. Then after giving birth, the new mother carries the baby and often doesn’t shift her posture back to her pre-pregnancy alignment. Her muscles get used to this placement and she carries this postural habit throughout the rest of her life.

The same result occurs when we allow ourselves to gain too much belly weight. The abdominal muscles release and don’t act as the natural “girdle” that they are meant to. As the abdominals stretch out, the low back contracts into a perpetual arch and never gets a chance to lengthen out and release the arched position. When we activate the spine we can reenergize the abdominal muscles by contracting them which allows the spine to open up and stretch.

When I was a young child I never imagined the day would come when I was taller than my 6 foot father. Being 5’ 4”, that seemed like an impossible event. Yet, when he was in his 80s, that’s just what happened. It was shocking to me although I’m not sure that my father recognized the change as much as I did. So what had happened?

Some experts claim that height related shrinkage in older age is partly due to genetics. However it is widely recognized that exercising can help prevent exaggerated height loss as we get older. Weight bearing exercises help to increase bone density; learning to sit, stand, and walk with your spine in correct alignment reduces stress on the vertebral discs; and regularly stretching in all directions – up, down, sideways, diagonally, and gentle twisting actions helps to maintain flexibility.

Since the bony structures of our body are connected via muscles, ligaments, and tendons, if one part of the spine gets compressed and loses mobility, it causes other parts of the skeleton to have to bear the load or compensate for lost agility. Hence we constantly hear of the danger of hip fractures in those that have compromised spines. Rheumatologist Abby G. Abelson, MD, FACR says “People are more likely to die in the year after a hip fracture; people are more likely to die after a spine fracture as well.”

We have the power to counteract age related height shrinkage just as we have the power to release blocked areas of energy in our bodies. We can help ourselves move from a condition of contraction into expansion just as nature moves from the yin energies of winter into the yang energies of spring. By starting a bit at a time we can regain mobility and flexibility in our spines, increasing our chances to live full and healthy lives!

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Body Awareness, Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

© 2019 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Yin and Yang – Non-Identical Twins

Yin and Yang energies are very different in aspect, outlook, and appearance. Yet they come from the same parentage, namely, Source. Although we often think they are separate and function in completely different ways, the truth is that there is some Yang in Yin and some Yin in Yang. Each of these opposing yet complementary energies needs the other to operate at their highest potential. Balancing the two energies is one of our important life quests in order to function at our highest and best health.

Balancing yin and yang isn’t the act of maintaining an equal and static position like measuring gold with weights to determine the exact value of the valuable metal. Yin/Yang balance is a constantly fluctuating equilibrium as we are faced with the challenges and joys of human life. In some life situations, we might wish to use more Yin energies to manage what is before us. Likewise, another situation might best be served by utilizing more Yang energies.

Yin and Yang have often been described through observations of polarities, e.g., night and day; cold and warm; wet and dry; inward and outward; soft and hard. In the traditional Chinese symbol, Yin is represented by the black side with the white dot in it, and Yang is represented by the white side with the black dot in it. The small dots of opposing color illustrate the concept that some Yang can be found in yin and vice versa.

The relationship between Yin and Yang has been described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and a valley. Yin, or the shady space, is the dark area obscured by the mountain’s bulk, while Yang, or the sunny place, is the bright, easily seen portion. Interestingly, as the sun moves across the sky, Yin and Yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what had been obscured and masking what had previously been revealed. Thus Yin and Yang represent opposite, equal, and complementary qualities. Further, whenever one quality reaches its peak, it will naturally begin to transform into the opposite quality. Like an undertow in the ocean, Yin and Yang transform into each other like waves coming into the shore and then retreating, only to rise and fall over and over again.

What are the individual features of Yin and Yang? Below is a chart that illustrates some of the opposite/complementary characteristics of each of these energies.

YIN YANG
Water Fire
Moon Sun
Cold Heat
Dark Day
Night Light
Autumn and Winter Spring and Summer
Receptive, introspective Active, Assertive
Inward directed Outward directed
Deep Superficial
Solid Hollow
Internal Surface
Creative Logical
Flow up from the Earth Flow down from the Heavens
Associated with “feminine” qualities Associated with “masculine” qualities

Beware of thinking of the above features as absolutes. Nothing in the universe or in life is simply black or white. Each exists in the other and each needs the other in order to exist. Remember that both energies are transforming into each other as well, so while they appear to be polar opposites they cycle from one aspect of the duality to the other aspect constantly.

Historically there has been some use of the “feminine” and “masculine” aspects of Yin and Yang to justify a pecking order, namely that Yang energies trump Yin energies. Thus we have seen women considered inferior to men and barred from taking positions of leadership. Nothing could be farther than the truth. This is why the chart lists the associated gender qualities last. Although there is some relationship to gender, it is very subtle and not meant to be pejorative or restrictive.  Jared Osborne, a Men’s Coach, QiGong Teacher, and Transformational Psychotherapist, has this to say:

… “Quite often men are described as Yang and women as Yin. This can be true when compared to each other. But it depends on what you’re comparing – and even when. For example, physical characteristics: height, strength, hardness, and an outwards focus are all things we can ascribe as Yang and (generally) ascribe to a man as compared to a woman. However, emotionally, who is more Yin and Yang? I’d contend a woman is more Yang emotionally than a man: stronger, seen, outwards. Man tends to be a more inwards, hidden, passive emotionally.”

It is interesting to look at the various facets of our lives in the context of Yin and Yang. When might a more Yin approach be more productive and where might a Yang approach be more useful? If we have a colleague, friend, or family member who is undergoing a difficult life transition, would it be most helpful to offer reflective, introspective comments or superficial, assertive declarations in our conversations? When a meeting is scheduled for a yearly performance review, would it be better to actively state our accomplishments or to quietly wait for the reviewer to notice what we have achieved? In our current political climate, we can see how Yin and Yang energies play out and can imagine how a different tack might change the dynamics.

The natural world around us also reflects the concepts of Yin and Yang. It makes sense that spring is a Yang season. It is a time of growth – seeds are beginning to burst from their opened husks, sending shoots from under the earth and up towards the sun. Leaves unfurl; birds lay eggs; animals wake from hibernation and breed and give birth; and the planet grows green with vibrancy and expansion – all qualities of Yang energy. The summer then celebrates the expansion of Yang energies into the most sumptuous and extravagant design! We humans feel alive and enlarged and we are motivated to move our bodies actively at the beach, in the mountains, at parties, in joyful groups mingling and socializing. We feel expansive and want to make the most of this very Yang period!

Suddenly summer ends and we find ourselves moving into the Yin season of autumn. This abrupt change into the energies of contracting and harvesting of what has grown during the spring and summer can feel harsh and restrictive by contrast. Although we are reaping the benefits of summer’s bounty, there is a melancholy that may overcome us when we realize that we are entering a colder, more introspective period of the year. And yet, there is now a chance for us to rest and review what we have learned through the riotous boom time of the past season. What worked and what needs to be changed? What no longer serves us and how can we shed inoperable ways of functioning?

Winter deepens our desire to go within and delve into the depths of ourselves. Because we have acclimated to the Yin forces throughout the autumn, we are able to turn ourselves to the creative side of Yin introspection. Thoughts swirl in our minds as the winds outside do likewise. Ideas begin to surface, new ways to approach old issues arise, and hope begins to sprout. We may begin planning our literal physical gardens for the coming Yang spring season as well as the metaphoric gardens of new careers, new adventures, or new relationships.

Knowing that the seasons blend from one to the other can help us to understand the partnership that Yin and Yang play in our lives. In a very real way it is hard to separate the two energies from one another because they are different sides of one whole. Each would not function well without the other, precisely because they are constantly transforming into the other. We need both to be fully functioning and healthy in the daily balancing of our bodies, emotions, thoughts, vitality, and relationships. Yin and Yang.

© 2018 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches classes and workshops: Stretch/Body Awareness, Energy Body Tune-up, Crystals and Healing Stones, Chakras, Jazz Dance and more. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

Summer Reflections

At some point each summer I start to feel a sense of melancholy. The summer scent of musty cut grass in the air makes me feel sad because I know that the long, warm, lazy days of ease will come to an end. Oh the summer is not over by a long shot! But I can hear and smell the passing of the season even as we are at the height of it.

Perhaps the melancholy is more acute as I grow older. I’ve had many cycles of seasons under my belt so perhaps I am more intensely aware of the passage of time. My beautiful and boisterous granddaughters bounce and jump around in the grass, ferreting out tiny pine cones in the trees, laughing at the bunnies who zigzag so as not to get caught, and plucking wild and domesticated flowers off willing branches to be presented as bouquets to their mom. They don’t notice the passage of time. They are in the thick of the moment. I watch their strong tanned limbs move with abandon and I remember how I felt when I was their age. I join my granddaughters in running across the field with arms out spread as if they are the soaring wings of angels.

I think of the plans I had for this season earlier in the year – what have I achieved and what still remains to be done? A sense of urgency emerges but it feels almost absurd. Why hurry, why worry, why fret? Summer is still here with its boundless possibilities and hopes! The sun is shining and there is still time, still opportunity, still serendipitous chance. And so I drink in the intoxicating nectar of the light, the animals and the birds, the smells, and the sounds. I feel the love emanating from people I care about and from the very earth itself.

The melancholy begins to lift.

It’s a bit like the ancient fable about the grasshopper and the ant. If we spend all our time worrying about the future, do we enjoy the present? If we spend all our time being in the moment, do we quickly become part of the past? Past, Present, Future. In a more modern context, if you are so busy taking that perfect snapshot with your cell phone, are you a participant or merely a record keeper? If you don’t take the photo, can you be sure that you will remember the moment?

Of course the key is balance – balance between work and play, enjoying the moment and planning for the future, between action and relaxation. But that balance can sometimes be elusive. If we get stuck believing that where we are is not where we are supposed to be, then we can’t be fully present. We may begin to feel frustrated or impatient or that we are losing out. We may even feel melancholy.

How do we balance it all while being fully present to each side of the equation?

I’ve learned that trusting in myself is a large part of the answer. Having faith that my inner voice will give me a sign or nudge when it’s time to transfer to the other side of the equation. I haven’t always believed that I would have that inner understanding available when I needed it. However, as I get older, I see that my intuition is usually reliable.

I’ve also learned that the more I listen and follow my inner voice, the more the rest of the world seems to echo that understanding. Opportunities arise that resonate with what my intuition is saying to me, making it easy to choose the path ahead. So while I can sense the passing of the summer even as I enjoy the delights of the season, I understand that this is the balance that occurs in all aspects of life.

 

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Body Awareness, Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

 

© 2018 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Recalibration

Recalibration. It can be the act of resetting goals, changing a message or purpose, or altering the way one operates. While recalibration can often be challenging, even painful, it can produce an opportunity to find new possibilities. It can last short-term or it may affect the rest of our lives. Recalibration can also be a response to mistreatment directed at us or at what is going on around us.

On a personal level, recently I woke up to a small disaster in the form of water on the cellar floor leaking from a 4 year old water heater. Seeing the water pouring out onto the cement floor was hard enough but knowing that a lot of my children and grandchildren’s belongings and mementos were getting wet was heart wrenching. My son’s childhood drawings and his collection of baseball and football cards and helmets were soaked and ruined. My daughter and son-in-law’s stock of artistic and politically activist t-shirts for their part-time business were mostly recoverable but some of the stock was beyond redemption. Toys and clothing being held as hand-me-downs from my current granddaughters for any future little beings were drenched.

Replacing the water heater was a short term challenge for me – I only had to reschedule clients for one day and reallocate funds to pay for the repair. But my son lost objects of remembrance that he had treasured and stored in my cellar in the hopes of retrieving in the future. Toys, t-shirts, and hand-me-downs have been brought to the dump. My son’s recalibration period will take longer than a day to process.

Sometimes recalibration involves rethinking how much we are able to do physically. Especially as we “evolve,” as a dear friend prefers to call the process of aging. In my own life, I recognize that I don’t have the physical stamina that I had when I was younger. In my many years as a professional dancer, I was worn out after 8+ hours in the dance studio but I was ready and willing to get up and do it all again the next day. Now, I doubt that I could do a full 8 hours in the dance studio any day of the week. Currently I’m satisfied if I work out 2 hours a day. At some point, I had to rethink where I wanted to apply my physical energy during each day. I still wanted to maintain physical fitness but I preferred to spend the bulk of my day practicing energy medicine on my clients and colleagues. The physical energy that such a practice utilizes has a higher priority these days for me.

Many of us learn the hard way that we need to make changes in our career path, in our companions, or in our lifestyle. When mental/emotional stress causes us to have a cardio event; when a sudden jarring and unexpected accident occurs; when a loved one passes; when we lose our job – these are times to revisit and recalibrate what is most important to us.

Six years ago I had both a best friend and a long term boyfriend. Unfortunately they really disliked each other. When I went on vacation with my best friend, the boyfriend would go out of his way to text many times a day, call at inconvenient times, and disparage our vacation plans. When I was home with the boyfriend, my best friend would barrage me with negative comments about my boyfriend’s actions. The one time I brought them together, they sniped at each other constantly. I felt like I was a mediator at a battle field. A zinging comment from one side was matched and anted up in a nastier comment from the other side. Clearly, I needed to do something about these two important people in my life.

With time and attention, what became apparent is that they both treated me in similar ways and that this was the basis of the problem. Since I was an easygoing person, both were invested in controlling me. It suddenly was obvious – it was me who needed to change! I needed to create better boundaries! I eventually ended both relationships, paving the way for more beneficial relationships. This period of recalibration took some time and entailed some emotional pain but I learned a great lesson.

I remember a waitressing job I had in my very early 20’s. The restaurant was brand new, and the owner was trying to boost her clientele. I obliged and began to talk the place up, urging many of my dancer and theatre friends to come to the restaurant. It worked! Business picked up over the next two weeks until the owner pulled me aside and fired me. Her reason? My friends weren’t the “kind of clientele” she wanted – they were too lively and she wanted quieter customers. Wham! Time for rethinking where I wanted to work and the kind of places I wanted to be associated with. I wasn’t too surprised when the restaurant went out of business about a month later.

When we are compelled to recalibrate, it often comes in the form of an opportunity to ask ourselves some searching questions. Perhaps we discover that there are new priorities in our lives? We may find that we have new options that align more closely with our heart’s desires. Possibly we can let go of some of our “shoulds,” and open up to more of our “wants.” Can we tailor our future in more constructive and beneficial ways? Do we have the chance to be more creative, to retune our thoughts and emotions, and to get to know ourselves on a deeper level?

As an Energy Medicine Practitioner, I see clients every day who are doing just this type of introspection. Recalibrating their thoughts and emotions toward the people around them, their occupations, their marriages or partnerships, or themselves. If we are not aware of or are avoiding what is troubling us, then we cannot take steps to alter what is bothering us. Despite being sometimes heavy-going, sometimes agonizing, or more rarely pain-free, recalibration is a necessary part of growth. As my clients see more clearly what their actions and emotions are evoking in their lives, they are inspired to make new decisions about how they wish to live in the future.

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Body Awareness, Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

 

© 2018 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

 

 

Networking at the Physical Level

We all understand what a social network is–an  interlacing of the people and groups we personally know. Through active or passive outreach to other people and groups, we can extend our network. Eventually through this web of interlacing, we can be in touch with someone from another culture or country that we’ve never even dreamed of visiting. And yet, somehow, we have created a connection with this new person, and they have become part of our larger worldwide network.

In the same way, our bodies network. One part of our physical body doesn’t need to reside directly next to another part to have a relationship. Although the lungs don’t sit next to the brain, through breath they obviously relate. The brain needs oxygen which the lungs supply and conversely the lungs won’t work if the brain doesn’t function. Therefore the functions of the lungs and the brain are interlaced, and they are networking.

We have a better understanding of the web that the flow of blood creates as it moves through the body. If we cut ourselves anywhere, blood will begin to seep through the cut. So it seems clear that the circulation of blood is system wide, and we understand that blood communicates with all parts of the body.

But do we fully comprehend that the rest of the body is constantly interacting, constantly networking, constantly communicating at every level: organs, bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, fluids, nerves, other connective tissues, and the outer covering that binds it all together – the skin?

Most of the time, we are not conscious of the communications that are taking place within our physical vehicle. Perhaps in a yoga or stretch class we suddenly are aware of blood flow or that a muscle has released some stiffness or blockage. Or we stub a toe and the nerves send us a clear and conscious message that pain is present. That message reverberates up the leg. However, the millions of messages that occur within our bodies are not consciously felt nor recognized. In fact, the body is in a constant state of riotous networking, picking up minute and sometimes lifesaving information, as our conscious life goes blithely on.

Our conscious thoughts and emotions also have an effect on the physical functioning of our bodies. We have all experienced pain in our hearts when someone we love has passed. Or the pounding of the blood in our heads when we are outraged or angered. Or the need to curve over and hold our stomachs when something shocking and sad has occurred. Our emotions and thoughts are networking directly with the rest of our bodies. Whether we are conscious of it or not, each part of our body, down to the cells, hears the message of pain, shock, sorrow, or anger.

Of course, messages of joy, love, happiness, and excitement also communicate throughout the body as well. At those times we feel expansive, glowing, energized, a sense of vitality.

Dr. Bruce Lipton, a renowned cell biologist, has discovered through his extensive research that our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions can have a profound effect on the functioning of each of our individual cells. Over the years, Dr. Lipton’s research has enhanced the field of Epigenetics. How we think about ourselves influences the environment in which cells evolve, grow, die, or thrive. According to Dr. Lipton’s theories, we are constantly networking with our bodies through conscious or subconscious thoughts and feelings.

If we are feeling badly about ourselves, for example, we are creating a different milieu for our bodies than if we are feeling positively about ourselves. Self talk, whether critical or encouraging, has a direct impact on how we function throughout our bodies. If we tell ourselves that we are stupid, that same message passes through the physical network and changes the environment that the cells are operating in. If the communication that we are stupid becomes chronic, then the habitual growth pattern of the cells will be effected by this message. Our self talk directly networks through the cells with every part of the body: organs, bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, fluids, nerves, other connective tissues, and the skin.

We can affect specific parts of our bodies, in the same way, when we talk critically about that area. For example, many women are displeased with the size of their hips and verbally chastise themselves. Each time they look in the mirror, they send negative thoughts, emotions, and words to that part of the body. When I have asked these same women to do a body outline scan in classes, they are unable to feel the area around their hips in the same way that they can feel other areas. They have become numb through constant self-criticism. It is almost as if the cells that make up the hip area have become deadened through this barrage of self-hate. Because the body is a mesh of interlacing networks, the numbness in the hips is going to affect other parts of the web.

All of us occasionally speak disparagingly of ourselves. Often we may recognize a phrase that we hear others regularly repeat about themselves. For some of us, this negative self-talk can become an entrenched habit of speech. Consciously or subconsciously, this repetition creates the environment in which our bodies perform their functions. The interlacing becomes polluted with self-denigration. The atmosphere becomes tainted and the cellular network takes on a dourness that imbues all of its cellular participants.

This is why I urge students and clients to tackle the habit of negative self-talk. Our bodies, our very cells, are listening to what we are saying, thinking, and feeling about ourselves. Of course, we can and should observe things we might wish to change or improve (e.g., behavior or habits), but we do not have to constantly berate ourselves and put ourselves down. It is abundantly clear that a child hearing relentless disapproval and condemnation eventually internalizes the message and begins to act accordingly. The same action-reaction happens to us as adults if we unremittingly reprimand ourselves.

It may help to visualize a large red stop sign whenever you catch yourself beginning to insult or harangue yourself. Or perhaps the thought of a warm hug can restore your composure. Or remembering the latest accomplishment or time you felt positively about yourself. No part of your body benefits from constant negative self-talk. The point is to restore peace in the network thereby allowing a return to harmonious communication and healthful interaction.

 

 

 

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Energy Body Tune-up and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

 

© 2017 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Inspiration

In breath… out breath.

Our breath informs us. It can teach us much about ourselves if we tune in to it. If we pay attention.

So many aspects of our lives can be found in how we are inhaling and exhaling. Taking in and giving out. Receiving and yielding. Are we breathing shallowly or deeply or somewhere in between? Are our in breaths short and our out breaths long? Or the reverse?

How much of our lungs are we truly engaging when we breathe? Do we allow our lungs to fully inflate – front to back and side to side? Our lungs are like bellows and bellows work best if they are inflated according to the purpose of the moment. Are we generous with our breaths and therefore with ourselves and others? Are we stingy in our breathing, and what does that say about our emotional health?

Do we habitually hold our breath – stop the process – at certain moments in our lives? If so, when does that happen – when we are shocked? Surprised? Sad? Excited? Learning a new skill? Does holding the breath serve a function that assists us in those moments or does it make the tension of those times harder?

We focus on our breath when we are meditating. The rhythm of a bodily function that is automatic can have a calming, centering effect. Coming back from the brain’s busy thoughts to the breath can bring us back into the present moment. Be here now! The rhythm is comforting – we can sense ourselves as living beings when we focus on the breath, not the machinations of an overactive computer-like brain. We are alive and more than the grey matter in our skulls!

In breath… out breath.

When we breathe we are also engaging one of our main sensory systems – the sense of smell. A small whiff of an aroma can trigger strong memories – of past events, of places, of a special individual. Who has not been transported by the scent of newly mown grass, the waft of a newborn’s crown, the whiff of ocean waves, or the perfume of a fragrant flower? Our emotions become involved as we breathe in the odors around us. We associate feelings with each of these smells and can imagine the contexts in which we may experience the same emotions again.

Breathing can remind us that we have a future and a past. The oxygen and nutrients that we inhale into our lungs pass into our bloodstream and thereby into all of our muscles, organs, and cells. We nourish all of our body with our inhalations. The completion of this process is exhalation – where the body expels what is no longer useful or needed – the detritus of the oxygenation process – carbon dioxide. We nourish and then cleanse the body with each breath.

As we inhale, we are bringing in the future health of our body and then, as we exhale, we release what no longer serves us – the past. The amount of time that each inhalation of breath takes to come into our lungs, circulate throughout the body, and then finally be exhaled takes 21.6 minutes on average.

We carry an inhalation for a significant period of time as it travels through our physical mass. Understanding this may cause us to change the way we take our inhalations because it will affect how we feel in 20 or so minutes. If the in breath is shallow then perhaps we will not be able to cleanse our bodies as deeply as we may need. If the in breath is very full, will we let go of more than we think is best for us in the subsequent full exhale? How do we want to feel in the future and what of our past do we want to let go of?

Thus breathing is not just about the rhythm, it is also about what will happen and what has already passed – the present, the future, and the past. It encompasses all time, at least until we stop breathing altogether which means we are no longer alive in this life.

Out breath… in breath.

We use the metaphor of inspiration in other ways as well. A new idea, dream, formula, or cause appears fully formed in our mind’s eye and we say that we have been inspired. Breath has been blown into a new awareness or concept and the vision has been given life.

When we are inspired we often feel as if we have been guided by something other than ourselves. By Nature? By the Divine? Where did that idea come from? It seems to flow into our consciousness just as oxygen flows into and out of our lungs without great thought on our part. To be inspired is to be connected with something outside of ourselves, to be part of a grander scheme, a bigger whole. We can see a bigger part of the picture.

Artists, writers, dancers, composers, scientists, inventors, children, parents – all of us feel the occasional moment of inspiration when a sudden discovery or idea makes us feel more alive, more present, more capable of bringing joy, peace, and understanding to the world. We are fueling our hearts through inspiration just as our lungs are fueling our cells through inhalation.

Breathing has much to teach us if we are mindful and pay attention to the in breath and the out breath. Breathing has the capacity to connect us to all that is – our bodies; our emotions; new ideas; past, present, and future – with all that is outside our bodies: Nature, other individuals, and the Divine.

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Energy Body Tune-up and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

 

© 2017 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

The Value of Plateaus

At this very moment I am experiencing a plateau. Other ways to describe this might be: writer’s block, being stuck, seeing no progress forward, a creative slowdown, or a state of little or no growth. I’ve been here before and, wow, it can be frustrating! It feels like nothing is happening, or that perhaps I am even going backwards. This state feels endless, like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

When I was young and studying ballet, a plateau would hit just after I’d begun to feel as if I were finally mastering whatever technical skill was challenging me at the time – triple turns, a split leap, or a high leg extension. I’d achieve the longed-for goal and oftentimes I would then become stuck. I couldn’t seem to reach the next goal no matter what I did. I would become disillusioned with myself and even critical. I guess I expected my body to master one skill and then immediately set off onto the next challenge without any kind of rest or assimilation period. Demanding!

In retrospect, it seems obvious that my body and mind needed a catch-up period.  My mind needed time to integrate what my body had learned to do, thereby fully absorbing the intricacies involved and incorporating them so they would be more automatic. What I didn’t realize back then, is that during this catch-up time, the body and mind are still working but in a different way than during the initial push towards mastery.

Both parts of the learning process are necessary – the practice building up to mastery and the integration leading to automatic functioning. Mastering the challenge seems much more exciting than the integration phase because we can measure the progress and both see and feel the growth. While we are integrating the changes, however, we can’t always measure what’s happening because it is occurring deep in the body’s and mind’s cells at a subterranean level. Since we can’t see or feel the integration process, it can register as if nothing is happening and we are stuck. But it’s not at all true that “nothing is happening”!

Eventually I recognized this instinctual mastery/plateau pattern in my work as a dancer, and I learned to be patient through the periods of “stagnation,” knowing that another period of growth would ultimately emerge.

However, the mastery/plateau blueprint is not only found in the dance world. I began to identify this pattern in other parts of my life as well – in career advancement, in financial markets, and in relationships. Careers don’t usually climb in a continual upwards growth-line. Often there are setbacks, lateral promotions, time-out to care for children or elders, and moves to a completely different career track. Yet, in the end, overall growth is observable. In fact, the periods of “non-growth” may even benefit the individual more, but in less tangible ways. Financial markets expand and contract constantly over the years. Relationships, too, have fallow periods where connection or intimacy may lessen for a while.

Expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction. This is the way that Mother Nature works as well. We experience rapid growth of flora and fauna in our planet’s spring season with plants and animals maturing in the summer. Then the autumn and winter are rest periods for the earth when seeds and animals can create reserves and hibernate in preparation for the next growing season. Patience is necessary while awaiting spring.

Patience is necessary while we await our next period of personal or creative growth as well. The integration phase is just as essential as the development stage and, as counterintuitive as it may be, the non-growth period is vital to the complete mastery of new growth!

For me, right now, I am exquisitely aware of the plateau I am in. Rather than beat myself up, however, I am continually reminding myself of the positive aspects of being in a catch-up period. I am surrendering into this breathing space and learning to respect and trust its benefits. I am allowing myself to rest, integrate, and create reserves so that when the next growth phase occurs, I will be rejuvenated and ready to spring forward.

 

© 2017 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches Stretch/Energy Body Tune-up and Jazz Dance classes and workshops. For more information email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

The Courage Required for Transformation

Man cannot discover new oceans until he has courage to lose sight of the shore. Anonymous

Often we only think of transformation in terms of the end result. That’s when we celebrate and reflect on how far we’ve come! We enjoy and feel pride in ourselves for arriving at the new place, whether it’s a new job, new relationship, new understanding, or new version of ourselves. We know that we have put in hours of work, revision, research, and contemplation getting to know ourselves and/or others so that we are able to move forward into the next best thing. The journey has traversed a multitude of potential barriers in the form of challenges, obstacles, and less than stellar encounters. Yet we prevailed and have been transformed!

What we may forget about in the act of jubilation, is the starting point of any change. In facing a major makeover in our lives, we often face a great deal of fear. It can present as an underlying sense of discomfort and anxiety or a debilitating fear. We are embarking on a shift from a familiar situation and taking a leap into what is unknown and unsure. It takes courage, sometimes large amounts of courage, to change and face what may feel like insurmountable odds.

Humans are creatures of habit. Habits are how we learn to function in society. Some habits are simply automatic like breathing; others are necessary for survival like eating and drinking regularly, having a physical shelter where we can sleep safely, or wearing clothing to protect us from the elements. Other habits include how we interact with others, what our habitual mindset is, what emotions are most available to us, or how we treat ourselves. These last patterns are often the result of constant verbal, emotional, or physical reinforcement received at the hands of our parents or guardians. These patterns become locked in and we move about our lives with these habitual patterns running in the background influencing everything we do, say, or believe.

When we are no longer content or able to remain functioning from the background behavioral and emotional patterns, that is when we look for a way out – a way out of where we are in the present moment. Perhaps it has become unbearably difficult to stay in the same job, home, relationship, or, even, be the same person. Perhaps we will die – either quickly or slowly – if we don’t make a switch. Maybe we are so bored that to face another day like yesterday and the previous days without a change is unfathomable. We can be running away from a painful past or moving forward to an idealized future. Regardless of our motivation, we are looking for a course correction.

In order to transform, we must be willing to shed our skins, like snakes, so that the new skin can begin to emerge. During the shedding and before the new skin has fully formed, we are vulnerable. We don’t have the comfort of the old habits to maintain us and, yet, we also don’t have the new future pattern firmly in place. This is where fear comes in.

How do we know that what we envision will work? What if the vision is a moving target? What if we “fail”? How do we trust what we’ve never actually experienced before? Will we have to leave everything and everyone we’ve known in the past behind? Will anyone love us when we have changed? Will we recognize and like ourselves in the future?

Our very identity is at stake. We may have an image or dream to guide us but there is the moment of leaving behind what was and standing at the precipice, before we reach for what will be. We are by ourselves at this moment. It is our decision alone to go forward, stay still, or go back. Leaving the familiar awful for the mysterious unknown. This takes courage, enormous courage.

Sometimes we don’t have the courage required for transformation. In the end, we want to stay as we are with no alteration in our habits. A former friend of mine found that when he was standing on the precipice of transformation, he was not willing to let go. His decision was to maintain the habitual belief that he was not lovable and didn’t deserve to be in a romantic relationship. He was unwilling to change his “story”. Painful as this was to observe, my friend made his choice and turned back from the ledge and walked back to his old way of being. The familiar patterns held a siren song for him from which he couldn’t break free.

In my own life, it has taken enormous courage to make a later life career change to become an energy medicine practitioner. To do so, I had to surmount the fear of financial ruin, the fear of ridicule by family and friends, and the fear that I would fail. Energy medicine is on the cutting edge of health practices and has not been widely respected in the western world. I had to buck the prevalent trend in western medical theories and beliefs. There were days of almost paralyzing fear that I was embarking on a fool hardy course. But in the end, I had to move forward into this new career. Despite the anxiety, I had to step out from the precipice to continue to grow as a person. I found the courage to stride forward into the mysterious unknown and transform.

© 2017 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

 

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches Stretch, Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz Dance classes and workshops. For more information email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.