Grace in Growing Older

Arrggghh! Growing Older!

I severely strained my lower back muscles almost 4 weeks ago and am still dealing with the recovery and pain. As a former professional dancer and lifelong athlete, I’m not a stranger to injuries or muscle pulls. But this time, it’s been a resounding message to me about how to adjust to growing older.

What precipitated the back spasm was an impossible move that no one in their right mind should attempt. I folded forward and down from my hips with straight legs, then twisted my upended torso to the right, and reached out to grab my 3-year-old grandson, trying to pull him towards me. Yes, a stupid move. Especially since I preach while I’m teaching movement classes about the vulnerability of the lower back. Just because I was able to get away with doing something like this in my dancer’s prime doesn’t mean that I should have ever done it – let alone now. Yet sometimes I forget that I’m not 25, 35, 45, or 55+ years old anymore because I generally feel so at ease in my body. I was instantly humbled!

I want to stay feeling at ease in my body as I continue the inevitable aging process. The challenge is how to learn to adjust to the ever-increasing need to recalibrate what will be beneficial and what will not, in terms of physical effort?

Awareness clearly seems to be the first step. What is it I am attempting to do? Is it reasonable to ask my body to do that? Perhaps I need to think about the logistics before I act. If I had thought about what I was trying to achieve before I reached for my 40-pound grandson in an exaggerated position, I would have understood that it was quite an inefficient and risky way to bring him closer. Of course, standing upright and bending down with my knees on the floor towards him would have given me the proper leverage and support to pull him to me. What had I been thinking? That is the bottom-line question – I hadn’t been thinking. I was just reacting without processing what I was asking my body to do. Awareness is key.

Understanding my body more deeply would also be helpful. What is my normal posture? Am I standing correctly on my feet and allowing the bones to balance in a way that enables the muscles and soft tissues to function in the best way? Have I been crouched over my laptop for too many hours so that the act of straightening up is painful? How can I expect to immediately jump from the crouched position to reaching high over my head to the shelf where the item I want is placed without injuring myself? The more time we spend out of alignment curved over, the more our muscles and soft tissues cannot react quickly to perform a completely opposite movement. Thus, the probabilities of wrenching ourselves increases. So, regaining correct anatomical alignment is critical for correct physical functioning.

Listening to what our body is saying is also critical. If we are exercising and we feel some warning sign that all is not right, we need to pay attention! My dance training was often diametrically opposed to that common sense idea. We were encouraged to push through the pain, constantly go above our last accomplishment, and most importantly, that the show must go on! In the past, I continued to perform on stage no matter what—once even after having a toenail painfully pulled out by the root backstage just before my entrance. I continued to perform through foot injuries, a broken bone in my hand, and major emotional life events simply because not to do so was unthinkable. And although we can get away with pushing through when we are younger, it is not a healthy way to proceed as we get older. Unfortunately, that “true grit” attitude is hard to break when it is no longer appropriate or useful.

If “true grit” and pushing through the pain and available physical stamina is no longer a reliable method as we age, then how can we do the things we want and need to do? One clear way is to be honest with ourselves about what our real capabilities are in our older years. What is the true amount of energy we have today? Did we sleep poorly the night before or stay up too late so that we have less vitality this morning? If so, what are the priorities for the available energy we do have today? Perhaps we can put a particular task on hold and aim for a better night’s sleep tonight so we can achieve the task tomorrow. Or maybe we could break the task down into smaller pieces and finish it albeit using a longer period of time. During this time with my current back injury, I’ve taken to bringing up clean, folded laundry by handfuls as opposed to lugging the whole laundry basket up and down the stairs. I can walk up and down stairs but not carrying a heavy load if I want to continue to heal from the back spasms.

This all takes patience. Being patient as our body heals and listening to the inner voice when it says stop and take a rest are crucial. We need to adjust the timelines we assumed in the past to match the timelines our changed physical bodies can actually meet in the present. Frustrating, yes! But only because we haven’t yet adjusted to the new version of ourselves as we are now. This is not easy – adjusting to the pace and ability of the older body. It feels like slowing down, giving in to the aging process. But, in truth, adapting is the best way to prolong our lives in these bodies.

We can also learn to ask for help—something that is so very difficult for many of us. It can make us feel diminished and less valuable to ourselves and those around us, and affect our perspective of how others view us. Could we ask for help? Fraught with myriad self-worth and self-esteem issues, it can be a hard question to ask. If we show vulnerability by asking for assistance, will we be thought less of? We might also be thinking, “I don’t want to be a bother to anyone” or “I want to do this now, not wait for or rely on someone else!”

It comes down to a self-respect. Do we respect our aging body’s wisdom to know what is right for us, even if it feels limiting? Can we view this innate wisdom as valuing ourselves instead of limiting ourselves and prioritizing the importance of keeping healthy and balanced for where we are now in our lives? If so, when we ask for assistance, if we remain grounded in our lifelong self-respect, the response from the person we are requesting to help us will be more respectful than if we had asked irritably because we didn’t want to admit that we needed help. We can also remember how eagerly we ourselves respond to requests for aid when the requester has come from a stance of self-respect.

Another perspective that might help us to accept the changes we go through as we get older is to realize that as our physical prowess decreases, our inner wisdom increases. Our experiences are varied and wide because we have lived a long time. Precisely because we have more experience, our ability to draw on past events, relationships, and know-how provides us with a wealth of tools to deal with the quirks and u-turns of life.

While our outer physicality has become restricted, what’s underneath the skin has become amplified. We may have more patience and be able to more fully and actively listen to others. Perhaps we can exist more in the moment and not sweat the small annoyances. Maybe we heed the call of our heartstrings and are more willing to see the good in others and, therefore, judge less harshly.

Each decade brings changes. When we were five years old, we wanted to ride our bicycles without training wheels. When we were sixteen, we couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and move toward adulthood. We may have had endless physical vitality and stamina during those decades but we still had many lessons to come in compassion, patience, and understanding. In a sense, there is a tradeoff that seems to flow throughout our lifetimes. Physical strength and prowess versus inner wisdom and empathy appear to have an inverse relationship. The longer we live, the more opportunities we gain to develop a bigger, loving heart.

It’s not easy – this process of getting older. It obliges us to recalibrate our priorities, recognize the reality of what is physically viable (and reasonable), and respect the enhanced wisdom that we’ve gained. It’s a lot to manage and balance. Fortunately, we have also had the time to acquire the grace needed to do just that.

© 2022 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Sheila Peters helps clients and students regain their natural flow of energy and increase wellness through techniques from Traditional Chinese Medicine, Eden Energy Method, shamanic practices, reiki, Jin Shin Jyutsu, intuition/channeling and movement. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

Updated: Energetic Spring Cleaning

We all know about the ritual of spring cleaning our homes – clearing out the winter miasma to get ready for the rebirth of spring. We feel motivated to tidy up our living spaces. We want the fresh breezes of late March and early April to flow in through the windows and doors to get rid of any feelings of inactivity or inertia left over from the inwards journey or hibernation during the colder months of the year. We are prepping our rooms and physical environment to embrace the sense of renewal that the spring heralds.

What about our physical bodies and energetic selves? Shouldn’t we also be performing a spring cleaning on an energetic level as well? Many of us begin to start moving our physical bodies when the weather outside begins to warm up and invites us to step outside. However, a holdover from the winter may still be influencing our bodies. An energetic spring cleaning can help purge any remaining holdovers from the winter so that we move into spring with renewed vigor and optimum health.

Baking Soda Baths One simple way to begin an energetic spring cleaning is to take a long relaxing bath. Pouring a cup of baking soda into the bath water enhances the letting go of the old season. Baking soda is a great natural home remedy, especially for the skin. It helps to neutralize skin acidity facilitating the refreshing, renewing and softening of dry winter skin. Baking soda performs the same service for energetic and emotional patterns. It assists in the elimination of energetic and emotional patterns that no longer serve us. Toxins are removed, both energetically and physically, with a baking soda soak that can be augmented with the addition of pure sea salts and organic essential oils.

Smudging Smudging is an ancient healing and clearing practice to relieve negative energies and unwanted emotional or energetic patterns that may be lingering in our homes. It is accomplished by burning sage or sage in combination with other herbs such as sweet grass, cedar or pine needles. Wafting the resultant smoke with feathers or the hands into the corners of our living spaces helps to dislodge and remove the negative energies.

We can smudge ourselves as well. Guiding the smoke up along our bodies, we can invite new thoughts, emotions, and positive energy to enter into our lives while clearing out what no longer serves us. A lovely smudging prayer can be found at The Chopra Center website:

A Smudging Prayer

May your hands be cleansed, that they create beautiful things.

May your feet be cleansed, that they might take you where you most need to be.

May your heart be cleansed, that you might hear its messages clearly.

May your throat be cleansed, that you might speak rightly when words are needed.

May your eyes be cleansed, that you might see the signs and wonders of the world.

May this person and space be washed clean by the smoke of these fragrant plants.

And may that same smoke carry our prayers, spiraling, to the heavens.

Energy Medicine Exercises There are also a number of energy medicine exercises that can help to clear out unwanted negativity in your physical and energetic fields. In fact, doing a daily energy routine will help you to continually rebalance, renew, and refresh your body and subtle energies. One of the best daily routines and one I do every day is based on the work of Donna Eden, a well-known pioneer in the field of Energy Medicine. I have created two videos that demonstrate my daily energy sequence. One includes verbal explanations of the exercises and the other is shorter, leaving out the explanations. They can be accessed here: https://youtu.be/xPtOE7o1Afo and https://youtu.be/l4e5TJz1_1k.

Here are two other exercises that can clear negative emotions and can augment an energetic spring cleaning:

Emotional Clearing Place the right palm on your heart chakra at the center of your chest. Allow yourself to deeply feel the emotion, belief, or behavioral pattern that is troubling you. Once you have connected with this feeling or idea, raise your left arm slightly out to the side and imagine that this emotion, belief, or pattern is now draining out of your body through the Heart Meridian. This meridian begins in the deepest part of your armpit and runs along the inside of your arm, through the palm and out the small finger. As the tip of your small finger begins to feel full, envision the emotion leaking out of the tip and leaving your body and biofield.

Porcupine Reactivity According to Ellen Meredith, (Medical Intuitive, Energy Medicine Practitioner, Conscious Channel, Author, and Teacher) when you are in Porcupine Reactivity, you may seem prickly or off-putting to others. You might feel agitated, grumpy, gnarly, over-energized or exhausted, unnaturally calm, detached or listless. The following exercise is Ellen’s way to rebalance and clear out these unwanted energies.

  1. Place both hands at the crown of the head, as if grasping the edges of a “sock” that is inside out.
  2. Breathe in and pull both hands up to full extension above the head.
  3. Breathe out and pull each hand out and downwards in an arc and tack the ends of the “sock” to the ground.
  4. Grab the other ends of the tube and with your in breath, pull the “sock” up with arms extended to above your head.
  5. With your breath out, tack the ends to the crown of your head.
  6. Repeat the above steps, starting and ending at the third eye chakra.

By completing an energetic spring cleaning, we allow ourselves to let go of winter energies and any unwanted holdovers from the past season. We flush out the old energy to provide ample room for the renewed energies of spring so that we may blossom in the coming season.

© 2022 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Sheila Peters helps clients and students regain their natural flow of energy and increase wellness through techniques from Traditional Chinese Medicine, Eden Energy Method, shamanic practices, reiki, Jin Shin Jyutsu, intuition/channeling and movement. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

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.