Sunday, September 11, 2011

It Happens Every Year.....

I've been listening to the increased air traffic for the past week now. We live in the 'no fly zone' of Washington DC so you notice when a plane flies overhead. My story is that they are surveying the skies, in search of evil they can prevent. As a being that is fixed to the ground, I'm always a bit curious about how this would work.

This morning, this September 11 morning, I awake praying it would not be a crisp fall day with a cloudless blue sky. I am rewarded with a beautiful day that is not exactly like the fateful September 11 of ten years ago. Isn't is funny. I spend an enormous amount of energy working to recreate special moments in my life, hoping to remember the smells, lights and sounds that transform mere memory into today's reality. Yet, once a year I am automatically transported back to this one particular morning in my life where everything is crystallized with excruciating painful detail.

This year, I am reminded by the TV, newspapers and radios, it is different. This year marks the 10th anniversary. It's amazing how easy it is to sink back into the abyss. Movies, documentaries, ceremonies, memorials, editorials - inundated at will, I soak my heart in the memories and lives of those who perished and their people who lost love and still live life, seemingly to its fullest. At my home we are whole, physically untouched by the ravage of hate that changed the world that day. And yet, here I sit with a familiar anxiety that shortens my breath. I am left restless.

There are many like me. People who have heartbreak for all the suffering. People who live where these heinous acts occurred and who, with the wondrous and mysterious energy of life, were spared. I feel my pain and fear from ten years ago as acutely as I feel the light breeze from that crystal blue day. I remember the looks on the faces of those fleeing the City as I myself drove to my children. The haunting process had begun. It continues. I am quite certain I am not the only mother who gave her children strict instructions to stay off the metro and avoid downtown DC this weekend, and I was not the least bit cowed by the roll of their eyes. In fact, I think they listened. It will take more generations to transform this date out of life and into literature.

During that time after, when days became weeks, and weeks became months, my restlessness demanded more action than tracking air plane paths over my neighborhood. I became inspired to do more, serve more, be more in the world. It was a journey that took me to my home at the AANP, a safe place to learn and love, a place where service matters and work makes a difference. And in today's time 'after,' on the 10th anniversary of 9-11, I ponder this newly awakened restlessness of mine. I am startled with the fact I found this part of my life's work because of the events around 9-11, and now grapple with the fact this Anniversary coincides with my leaving the work I have loved so deeply. Indeed it is time to reaffirm my commitment to being a healing presence in the world.

One person, one act, one moment- repeat, repeat, repeat. This is how I will train my restlessness into action. This is the only way I know how to honor those who died. This is how I choose to change the world.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I am upset of Muff because he said Ga....

I am upset of Muff, because he said Ga! This old childhood refrain my husband's family still uses on occasion was a young boy's expression of undetermined meaning...and today it resonates deeply for me.

Congress, the President, the pundits and political contributors - mere Muff. And Ga, the stuff that indecision, poor conclusion and ineffective leadership are made of. Everyday our elected officials grow closer to a decision on how to resolve an impasse over the debt limit, we simultaneously watch agreements blow up. Why? Because he said Ga.

Because he said that we must stand on our principles. Because she said we cannot cut Medicare. Because he said we can't increase revenue. Because she said we cannot ask the poor to sacrifice for the rich. All the while states struggle. Teachers are laid off. Pensions are sacrificed. Our infrastructure decays. Our health status spirals downward. Unemployment and CEO wages increase. Childhood hunger grows.

It seems everyone is in denial. We continue to believe our principles will save the day. Ga! It is no longer enough to believe we can regulate the economy into reducing the unemployment rate. It is simply not feasible for the wealthiest of us all to hire 9% of the U.S. with their George Bush tax cuts. It is unfathomable to believe that Medicare and Social Security are perfect just the way they are.

What, if not who, will lead the way to something sustainable? Something that is viable. Something that will serve my grandchildren's grandchildren. We must first start from a place other than self, party, and please forgive me...god and country. No more rhetoric. It is time for us to articulate what we already know. We are actually all connected to each other and every word and deed I take has an impact, positive or negative on you. As my t-shirt says...humankind, be both.

The Country seems to be growing inpatient doesn't it? I would like leaders who are willing to make the hard choices and call a spade a spade. And, in doing so will use language that persuades vs. provokes, inspires vs. inflames, empowers vs. embarrasses. I for one am done with the results of our popularity contests - these folks can make some really bad choices for being such well-educated adults.

Consider the impact of courage...commitment...compassion....confidence....connection and community could have on our current situation. Is anyone up to taking on Muff and his/her Ga?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Power of Intention

Amazing things happen in everyday life. I'm not talking about headline events. I'm talking about the insanely ordinary happenings of life that give meaning to the word intention.

This week my sister's divorce became final and my dear friend Nan married the love of her life. For each the outcome is the same. Deep satisfaction with a life choice to be true to oneself. My sister was married for 25 years to the same man. Nan has more than one experience with love and marriage. Both speak to me about a sense of calm and peacefulness. Both hold an intention to be happy and whole. Their paths though different have brought them power and a sense of self that radiates through the phone.

We have wonderful marriage rituals don't we? We collect our loved ones to celebrate with us. We sing songs and read poetry, take pictures, wear new cloths and have a special cake. Not so with a divorce. A cold courtroom with judge and lawyer. No pictures. No cake. No ritual.

Perhaps we need a new ritual. What if during her wedding we honored Nan's strength and truth, the very traits that enable her to step into her new marriage more happy than I have ever known her to be. What if we honored my sister's bravery and her power, the very traits that enable her to walk in new shoes, on her own and in her own way. What if there were a ritual to honor our intention to be whole and happy in life - what would that look like?

Today I will light a candle for Nan and my sister to honor the way they choose to be in the world, and in recognition of how their ability to truly love themselves empowers me. A cause for celebration if ever there were one.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy Tuesday

It's unusual in Washington to be driving home from work on July the 5th with your car windows open. It's normally way too hot, but not so today. So in my haste home, contemplating my anticipated gas discount accumulated from my grocery purchases (a highlight given today's economic challenges) I was pleasantly surprised to hear "Happy Tuesday" out my left window from a lovely man walking to my own destination, the gas station. My reply...thank you...with a smile... left me thinking about the possibilities any Tuesday has to offer. To that end, I come across what might constitute the largest bundle ever assembled by a homeless person. Impressive and quite overwhelming. I head home, ever grateful.

The normal evening activities proceed, dinner, a teen, regular life in general. Feeling challenged I choose a walk through my woods sans dogs. In my solace I sit and watch the lightening bugs. An amazing light show reminiscent of my childhood, now cherished in my own back yard, and recently amazed to find in Ecuador at 9000+ feet in elevation.

It's inspiring to watch. Happy Tuesday everywhere.

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July, Washington DC

When most people think of Washington DC they picture white marble buildings with panoramic views of the Potomac River, or perhaps the image of elected officials defending impossible positions both literally and figuratively. Many don't realize that the 10 square miles constituting Washington DC is home to 500,000 people, including myself, my husband, the four native Washingtonians we are raising- two kids and the dogs. Our 4th of July tradition includes our own 'main street' parade in the Palisades neighborhood.

This year marks the 45th occurrence for the annual event, for which there is absolutely no registration - just show up, be creative and participate. Indeed any local politician worth his or her salt walks the parade route and an absence would be immediately noticed in this particular part of Washington. Federal officials need not be concerned. This is strictly a hometown event and we are absolutely content with having only own 'nonvoting' Member of Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton join our festivities.

Political statements abound on our local topics of statehood, voting representation in Congress, and this year's proposal from American University to expand. More important, and prevalent, are the kids. Children on decorated bikes, the local elementary school, and teenage girls on a pick-up truck just like any parade in American. Certainly like that of my home town, Springfield Missouri, if we had ever had such a parade....There is a Brazilian dance troupe,
a band of "Different Drummers" and a swim team that comes out every year.

It's the 4th of July for all Americans today, which is a rather unifying thought. It is apparently what has drawn the 10's of thousands of visitors to my home to see the fireworks on the Mall tonight. I suspect it is also what draws the rank and file back to the streets of a Washington neighborhood year after year to wear red, white and blue in the most silly ways imaginable, and to gather our own crowd for the post-parade proverbial feast of hot dogs, watermelon and lemonade.

Happy birthday America, its nice to be home.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Solstice in Ecuador

There are remarkable healers in the world. Giovanni is perhaps the most talented of any I have met, and I did so in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador.

I first met Giovanni at his home in Otavolo where preparation was underway for a 9-hour sweat in his backyard. It would be my first, and it was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. He patiently explained through translation the flow of events to the three white, female Americans who had signed up for the experience. The other 25 participants ranged in age from 20 to 40. All of them spoke fluent Spanish - most were experienced in the rigor and routine of the journey we were to embark upon.

The ceremony that started at 9 pm and finished shortly after 6 am was lush, ripe with ritual that served as the connection to Mother Earth. With the summer solstice just days away, we joined our Ecuadorian companions in a celebration of life and renewed commitment to all that nature provides. The ebb and flow of heat, the pitch black of the lodge, the smoke and the smells combined with music to create a separate world from which we awakened by breaking our fast. Exiting that next morning I found a world brighter and more vibrant than I had ever seen. Giovanni's shepherd of the hot stones - central to the ceremony and back breaking work - was rewarded by a full body chiropractic adjustment the likes of which I may never witness again. And again Giovanni spoke to me, gently responding to my questions, interpreting my dreams and acknowledging the embodied sensations of an event that in its own way can be equated with the beauty, struggle and exuberance of childbirth. What an amazing way to celebrate Mother Earth.

A mere few hours later he arrived at our mountain-side inn, Casa Mojando. This time his healing took the form of a massage. For one solid hour my body was held with reverence as Giovanni skillfully moved through muscle groups and chakras. Mind, body and spirit now knitted together with the previous night’s experience.

On the solstice itself, he joined our group in San Clemente to celebrate with the indigenous community of which we were guests. Our gift from him was a second sweat for the Canadian and American guests, this time between two and three hours, where I was honored to sit in the inner circle and participate in the ritual itself. Shorter – yes. Sweeter – in certain ways.

Rich in ritual, simple in design, with intention clearly stated, Giovanni’s work is healing the world. Ecuador is a country from which I am learning a great deal.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Naturopathic Healing Road

This story, by AANP President Lise Alchuler, ND, FABNO, appeared in the AANP's November 2008 eNews.

A 67-year old man came to see me in my practice a couple of weeks ago. As he slowly shuffled down the hallway into my office, touching the wall occasionally for support, he muttered apologies for taking so long. I assured him that it was okay and to take his time. Once seated, he moved to the front edge of his chair and began his story.

He described a 20 year history of excruciating abdominal pain. His pain was so tremendous that his entire day revolved around minimizing it. It included long periods of staying perfectly still in a certain position so as not to aggravate the pain, a diet that consisted of chicken and white rice, a regimented schedule of pain medication, and sleepless nights. His days had, he said, gotten to the point where his life was not worth living. Over the years, he had consulted gastroenterologists, neurologists, rheumatologists, oncologists, and internists, and had received every conceivable test. At last, four years prior, with no options left, his gastroenterologist surgically removed his colon in an effort to relieve the pain. Unfortunately, despite the lack of his colon, his pain remained. He concluded his history with a question, "If this is in my head, can you please tell me what I need to do to get it out of my head? Is there any hope for me?"

As I listened to this man's tale of suffering, I was struck by several things: his suffering, the hope for health that still held flame within him, the harm done to him in an effort to help, and, finally, the vast potential for the principles and practices of naturopathic medicine. I assessed him naturopathically and made several suggestions. He returned a week later and the first words out of his mouth were, "I felt better over the last week than I have felt in the past five years. Each day, I had more time without pain. Yesterday, I slept for five hours without waking. I ate steamed spinach! Do you think that I might actually get well enough to move away and rejoin my family?"

Encapsulated in these declarations and his question was a compelling affirmation of the healing power of naturopathic medicine and the tenacity with which the human spirit holds onto hope and health. Listening to him, I too felt renewed and reinvigorated. As we continue down the road of his wellness, our faith in the inherent capacity for health that lies within, and in the transformative power of hope, will add spring to our step while our way will continue to be guided by the healing forces of Nature.

I carry this man's experience with me now. As our profession journeys into the arenas that we must travel into in order to grow - arenas of politics, public relations, economics, partnerships, etc. - we can call upon experiences of healing such as this in order to remember the power of our medicine. Through these remembrances, the motivation and direction for our profession's advancement is then obviously, and radiantly, clear.