How Can We Help? In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the world has been protesting the inequities that Black People now experience and have experienced for centuries. It’s time to change. Black Lives Matter!
You can help:
Support Protesters – march, feed, house, provide medical supplies
Speak out – with family, friends, your communities, whenever you see injustices
VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!
Peace and normalcy is not about the ending of protests and rallies. It’s about the ending of systemic racism.
Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical
Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and shamanic practitioner. She also teaches
classes and workshops in Stretch/Body Awareness, Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz
Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: firstname.lastname@example.org, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s
website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.
It began as a daydream. The idea of escaping to Florida got
encouragement from my son and daughter-in-law. Then the New England winter
strongly reinforced it. And suddenly it began to feel like it could become a
reality. Despite all of the urging, there was a lot of resistance on my part.
Could I afford it? Would my classes suffer? Would my clients feel as though I’d
abandoned them? Would I be lonely or bored?
The main issue, though, was that I’d never thought of myself as a Snowbird. I had envisioned them as grey-haired, decrepit, old people escaping the harsh winter months because they couldn’t hack it. They were burned out and frail; they didn’t have the gumption or energy to make it through the colder months. That wasn’t me!
In retrospect, I have to admit that I was finding the ice,
frigid temperatures, and shoveling of snow more onerous than in the past. In
order to counteract the winters, I had been taking one-week vacations to
beautiful scenic spots for several years – the Dominican Republic, Brazil,
Belize. These vacations seemed to restore both my body and soul, and I returned
to New England each time feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Last February, I returned from a snorkeling trip where my
hair, long-dyed, lost much of its color. Although I had contemplated letting my
hair go gray for a couple of years, I always seemed to pull back from actually
committing to the process. I knew it would take years for my natural gray to
fully return, as my hair is long, and I balked at chopping it all off. After
this particular trip, it just seemed to be the right time, and I am now a multi
colored woman! Grey/silver hair for about 6 inches, then a mixture of browns
with a couple of brightly colored green and blue streaks underneath.
So, I had now achieved 2 out of the 3 items in my list of
what made up a snowbird: I had grey hair and admittedly I was getting older.
But decrepit – never! This is when I realized that aging itself is a choice. If
I didn’t limit myself in terms of physical activity and health, why did I need
to limit myself in terms of how I thought about being a snowbird? In fact,
there were many advantages to spending time in Florida in February!
Miami Beach – warm, humid, flowers and leafy trees, ocean,
and family! My son and daughter-in-law had moved here over a year ago and my
grandson was just 7 months old! One of my best friends and energy medicine
colleagues lived in Miami. No snow, no cold outside temperatures or dry
roasting hot rooms inside the house. No need to put on excessive layers of
clothing. I could enjoy the beauty of a new place, discover new neighborhoods,
meet new people, and push myself to explore what was unfamiliar. Being a
snowbird no longer seemed to be about shortcomings but more about breaking
limiting habits, thoughts, and boundaries.
In this first short week, I have moved into a small but
perfect, for me, cottage in a neighborhood that I most likely would never have
seen had I stayed in a South Beach hotel. The area is filled with extravagant new
mansions that face the bay but also more modest homes that were built years ago.
Walking around, I have discovered fantastic gardens, elaborate wrought-iron
gates, and wildly varied styles of architecture. There are no high-rises here,
and the trees are filled with birds and squirrels while little lizards scurry
to get out of the way of my feet on the sidewalk.
I am walking everywhere here and sometimes think I know
better than the maps I consult on my phone. That leads me to investigate places
that I would never have been seen otherwise. The free trolley is a boon, though
sometimes they don’t stop because they are full. This means I have to be
patient and temper my expectations while I wait for the next trolley. Each day,
I am reminded of how much I am driven by my schedule and routine at home.
Learning how to live in a new environment compels me to create
new mental maps. How do I get the things I need when I don’t know where to get
them? How do I get to those places without a car? What are the basics that I
really need to survive and thrive? What can I live without that I never
imagined? It begins to narrow down what is essential away from what is
Perhaps what this experience is teaching me is to see more
clearly without the filter of external expectations, imagined limitations, and
unrealizable ambitions. To acknowledge all my attainable desires and wants and
needs. To release what is not attainable or even realistic. As Joseph Campbell
so succinctly noted, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to
accept the one that is waiting for us.”
After all, going on this journey to a new place and learning
how to create a life here in Miami Beach isn’t the most difficult of challenges.
I’m not completely alone and English is spoken here. But in a sense, it’s like
going to a strange and unfamiliar country. I have to relearn myself and figure
out where I fit into the new environment. I am evaluating who I am becoming at
this stage in my life and looking at future possibilities.
My maternal grandparents visited San Miguel de Allende in
Mexico when they were in their middle seventies for five months. Part of their
motivation was my grandmother’s lifelong interest in painting. For me, they
serve as an example of what is possible at an older age. We don’t have to stay
home and wither away. We are fully capable of continuing to grow until our
physical death, capable of rejuvenating who we are through new experiences and
exposure to the unfamiliar, capable of finding new passions that fuel ongoing
It is important for each of us to try out new circumstances,
to venture outside of our comfort zones, to reach for the unknown but often
dreamt of. The novel experience doesn’t have to be extreme, and we don’t even
have to travel away from home to encounter a fresh adventure. However, for me,
this time my adventure was becoming a Snowbird.
Sheila Peters is a
certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and shamanic
practitioner. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Body Awareness,
Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: email@example.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s
website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.
In 2005 I bought a Subaru outback. It took me 5 months to find the right one! Strangely enough, various friends came out of the woodwork and spontaneously loaned me their vehicles while I searched and searched and searched for the perfect car. When I saw the navy blue station wagon, I finally knew it was the right one! I had been tempted to settle many times in the 5 months preceding my final decision but I continued to search because I knew the perfect car was still out there. What made me wait so long?
After 14 years of trusted and valued service, I recently replaced that car and bought another one. This time it took me only one day to make the decision. How was I able to make such a quick decision this go-round?
When I decided to train as an Energy Medicine Practitioner, there were those that let me know that I was doing something crazy. Even some family members shook their heads at my “hare-brained” scheme. I was risking “financial stability at an age when I should be retiring” and shrinking into older age. No way! Somehow I knew that this was the path I needed to follow even if it led to failure. I would deeply regret it if I didn’t go for it. As it turns out, it has led to great personal fulfillment and growth and become a new career. Rather than shrinking, I have expanded. The naysayers have become some of my biggest fans. What made me take that leap of faith?
A good friend of mine, A, was a single mother raising 2 boys in her late 40’s while she worked full time. One of her boys had life threatening health issues. She had already been to graduate school. Nevertheless, A had a dream of doing something that would improve the quality of life for those living in poverty in her urban area. When a small newspaper notice caught her eye, she decided to investigate. Despite having no idea how she would manage the additional financial burden and the resultant work/life balance, my friend went for it. It took a total of 9 years, but A completed her Doctorate of Public Health. She told me the “minute I learned something new, I put it to use”. Her gamble paid off in a big way not only for her but for the many people who benefited from her newfound knowledge and expertise. With all that had been on her plate, how did A make the decision to undertake an almost impossible task?
Our leaps of faith are not only about beginning something new but can also take the form of leaving behind what is working extremely well in our lives. B had a hugely successful business that attracted many clients, employed skilled teachers and service providers, and garnered much praise in social media. Yet B felt like it was time to do something else; create a new model for her offerings. Jumping into a new proposition had no guarantees it would match her previous success. Moving to a new location with a different model while exploring unproven methods was a big risk. She could lose it all. Still B felt she wanted, in fact, needed to try a new path. Despite all of the potential setbacks, B chose to move forward and let go of her past.
These urges to do something are not found only in mature individuals. All ages experience a sudden and often urgent impulse to act. Consider C. He was out riding his bicycle with his childhood friends, none of whom were older than 10. Each was daring the others to more and more daring tricks on their bikes. Finally one of C’s chums suggested riding down a long unused road that ended in a bridge spanning a small river. The quest was to jump from the bridge into the water from the still moving bike and swim to the other side of the river and retrieve the bike before anyone else completed the task. The venture was enthusiastically received. But C suddenly had a wave of cold fear move through his body and he knew that he had to convince his friends to not accept this challenge. He had no idea why but it was of paramount importance that he stop his chums in their tracks.
The others called him a wimp and began laughing at him. C stuck to his guns and finally managed to convince his friends to turn around and go for ice cream instead. Later the boys learned that the bridge had collapsed into the river creating a mound of rumble. Had the boys continued on their mad venture, one or more would have had serious injuries as they went headlong towards the bridge and crashed into the river into the fragments of the bridge. Where did C’s premonition come from?
Intuition; the ability to sense something ahead of time; the sense of knowing what the next step is; a strong hunch – what are these signals that suddenly appear that we know we can totally trust? It is as if we understand something clearly and immediately without the need for conscious reasoning. We can call this knowing an instinct, a gut feeling, a sixth sense, or a message. Whatever we call it, we have all had instances of it. The phone rings and we know who it at the other end. We meet a friend and his new date and somehow we know they will end up married. We make plans and, at the last moment, decide we shouldn’t go, to later find out we just missed being in an accident. We turn right instead of our routine left and suddenly find ourselves passing the perfect house we’ve been looking for.
Many experts posit that our leaps of faith are really the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, instantaneously bridging the gap between the conscious and nonconscious parts of our mind. We absorb clues to what might happen by processing tiny but telling facts through observation of non-verbal communication such as body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. But this doesn’t completely explain all of what our “inner voice” tells us. There are those that believe we are receiving information from a source outside of our physical bodies and brains, perhaps from a higher self or the collective unconscious.
Regardless of our belief about where such messages come from, we may have discomfort with the idea of relying on our instincts. In our society, we have learned to believe that rationality prevails when making decisions. Yet most of us have, at some time or other, trusted an intuition and realized the benefit of having done so. Perhaps we need to revisit our belief around intuition. When that niggling in the back of your brain, funny feeling in the pit of your stomach, or sudden urge to change your plan next comes up, pay some attention to it and possibly act on it. It may be one of the best decisions of your life!
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.