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.
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.
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.
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.
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.