Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saying goodbye...

It's been a challenging week, a good one, but a challenging one none the less. 

I think the 'zone' I went into during my float session last week opened something up in me.  And then I had my first teleclass with Rev. Denise on  Monday night, and the crack widened into more of an abyss.

One of the comments she made was that to be able to move forward consistently, we need to be inspired, not just motivated.  She also noted that it's difficult to move forward if we are experiencing leaks in our energy systems that make it difficult to sustain that inspiration.  She urged us to look inside ourselves and see what leaks we might be experiencing.

Her comment about the need to be inspired hit home with me, and during the Q&A, I asked what we could do if we felt we had lost our inspiration.  When I was in Pittsburgh and had The Place for Reiki, I truly felt inspired in my work.  But since coming to Nashville, I've felt more dispirited than inspired.  

After a bit of discussion, Rev. Denise said that she felt compelled to ask me a question, and asked if it would be okay to do so.  I said yes, having no idea what the question might be.  In a quiet voice, she asked, "Are you happy?"  In the silence that followed, I could feel the tears threatening, and finally, in my own, even quieter voice,
answered, "No."

Funny thing is, until she asked the question, I didn't know I wasn't happy.  In fact, if someone had asked me if I was unhappy, I would have promptly answered "No," and felt quite truthful in doing so.  So it seems to me there is a netherworld somewhere between being happy and unhappy, that I had slipped into without my knowing.

By the time the call was over, I felt emotionally drained, and for some reason, physically exhausted, although I had done nothing that day to merit that.  Obviously her question had struck a deep chord and what I was experiencing was a result of that strike.  I went to bed shortly after that, knowing that I had work to do around this issue. 

You don't need a blow by blow description of what the week has been like, but in the course of filling half a journal and using more than a box of tissues, along with a lot of self Reiki, I've come to recognize that on some level I've been grieving the loss of The Place for Reiki and who I used to be when I was in Pittsburgh.

Once the realization hit, and I really gave it some thought, I realized that I had never intentionally grieved for what I had left behind.  I had closed the doors, packed up my things, and moved on, never giving myself the opportunity to say goodbye, or acknowledge, all that I was giving up.  But just because I hadn't intentionally grieved the loss, didn't mean that grieving wasn't happening.  It was, just at a subconscious level that was slowly, but surely, draining my energy, consigning me to that netherworld between happy and unhappy, entirely without my knowing, and certainly without my permission.

And I think because I hadn't said goodbye, hadn't acknowledged that I was leaving it behind, I had been holding on to the image of who I was, and how things used to be at The Place for Reiki, and trying to figure out how to be that same person and do that same kind of work here in Nashville.  The problem is, I'm not that person anymore and The Place for Reiki doesn't exist except in my memories.  In order to move forward, I have to let go of what was, acknowledge the end of all of that, and allow myself to become whoever I'm supposed to be on this next part of my journey.

The Place for Reiki was a container that gave me a space to become the person I needed to become back then, the person I would eventually need to be in order to make this move to Nashville.  And just like I had to leave my job at Holy Family completely to make room for The Place for Reiki and the person I became there, I had to recognize that it's now time to intentionally leave behind the way things were in Pittsburgh, in order to make room for whatever is coming in Nashville.

To formalize the process, to make it more real for myself, I decided to write a letter to The Place for Reiki, and to the essence of who I was there, not just to say good-bye, but to express my gratitude for all that happened in that space, and during that time.  As I wrote, the words came easily, as did the tears, and although much of what I wrote was not a surprise at all, giving myself permission to grieve the loss, to acknowledge it, to own it, brought up other things that were connected to that loss that I didn't even realize were connected.

It was a very powerful, very cleansing, very freeing experience, and when it was over, I could feel the difference in myself.  Yes, I felt lighter, but I also felt looser!  I hadn't realized it, but my whole body had been tense and tight for a very long time.  But until it wasn't anymore, I hadn't realized that it was.

To help my body acclimate to the change, I scheduled a second float session.  I may have zoned out again, although I'm not aware of doing so.  Instead, it seemed as if I was aware of every breath that I took for the entire time, and my body jumped and jerked, releasing and realigning as a result of the emotional work that I had done.  Some of the muscle releases were so subtle that I didn't even feel them physically, but instead felt the movement of the water that occurred when the release took place and the muscles shifted position.

I'm not sure what to expect now.  I don't have a clear idea of the next step to take, but since I've only just completed the work, perhaps it's too early to expect that I would.  I know transition is a process, and processes take time, so I'm going to be gentle with myself, and patient, and see where the process leads.

I do know that I'm grateful for the black and orange butterfly that showed up and guided me to Rev. Denise's class, and I'm grateful that she listened to the Guidance that lead her to ask the question I needed to hear.   And I'm especially grateful that I had the courage to answer the question honestly and to pursue a solution.  Saying goodbye wasn't easy, but it was something I needed to do.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Becoming One with Water

Saturday night I took off all my clothes, got in the shower, washed my hair, scrubbed every inch of my body, and stepped, naked, into a tank filled with ten inches of water saturated with a thousand pounds of Epsom salts. 
 The thing hanging from the top of the tank on the black cord is an emergency call button.

As I crossed the threshold into the 93.5 degree water (the temperature at which your body and the water become one and you can no longer discern a separation between the two) and pulled the door shut behind me, I was enveloped in total darkness and complete silence.  I let go of the door handle and pushed myself into the center of the tank.  As instructed by the owner, I laid back in the water, hands above my head, and let the water support my body.

This is the inside of the tank.  I never saw it until the flash from my camera went off when I took the picture after my session was over.

He told me the hardest part is the first few minutes, because it's something new and we're not used to an environment devoid of light and sound.  We're also not familiar with what it's like to be weightless, and so it's often difficult to allow our bodies to relax completely and trust the water to do what the water can do - support us and hold us up.

Surprisingly, I didn't find that part difficult at all - the floating part.  I've been swimming since I was a child, and one of my favorite parts of being in the water was just floating on my back and letting the water support me. 

The lack of sound and sight was a bit more disconcerting, and yet not unnerving.  I couldn't see a thing, and the only sounds initially were the gentle sloshing of the water as I slowly moved my arms and legs, acclimating myself to the sensation of total weightlessness in this black void, and the sound of my own breathing, which seemed inordinately loud. At first I thought I must have been breathing really heavily, and then I realized that it was the lack of any other sounds in the environment that made my own breathing sound so loud.  And then as I relaxed into the experience, I realized I could hear another sound - the beating of my own heart.

It took a while to get used to hearing my breathing and my heart beat (I have no idea how long.  In that environment I lost track of time.), but eventually even those sounds faded into the background. 

Then it was time to attend to my thoughts, which were a chaotic jumble: thoughts about being in the tank of course, but old memories, current concerns, faces of family and friends, wondering if this might take me to a deeper level of consciousness that might allow me to 'see' God, or experience the Divine in a more intense, more personal way.  Some were so fleeting they passed through with only the faintest of awareness, and others lingered until I forced my focus back to my breath.  I did find myself wondering if I could really do this for ninety minutes, which was the length of the session I had scheduled. 

And then I was gone.  I don't know if I fell asleep, or zoned out, or left my body.  And I didn't realize I was 'gone' until I came back.  I didn't come back with a start, feeling disoriented or confused.  Just all of a sudden I was once again aware that I was in the tank, and also aware that for a while, I hadn't been aware.

I stretched, and my fingers felt like they needed to pop, so I cracked two of my knuckles, and in that silence, it sounded like two champagne corks popping.  As I stretched, the skin on my stomach felt tight, and when I touched it, I felt the crustiness of the salt that had dried on my skin.  After my initial submersion into the water, once I turned over and laid back, the buoyancy of the water caused portions of my body to be above the water line, and while I was 'gone', the water had evaporated and left a crust of dried salt behind.

The next thing I noticed was a stirring in my bladder, and although I knew I could leave the tank to go the bathroom and then get back in, since I didn't know  how long I'd been immersed, I didn't want to get out with only a few minutes of the session left if I could wait it out.   And then I heard the music that signaled the end of my float session.

Having been weightless for ninety minutes, I found it challenging to get my arms and legs to move appropriately to put me in position to open the door to the tank.  I wondered briefly what would happen if I couldn't open the door.  But with a little extra concentration and effort, I pushed the door open and very slowly exited the tank.

I felt very heavy, and moving was an effort.  I took another shower to wash off the salt, and as I moved around to dry off and dress, re-acclimating to the force of gravity, I noticed, as my movements returned to normal, that I was more flexible than before my time in the tank.  I could bend my knees, and bend at the hip easier, and I didn't have any pain or discomfort in my body at all.  I couldn't remember the last time I felt like that.

I also felt very calm and peaceful, rested, and yes, drained. But in a good way, like I would have been content to just sit and do nothing for awhile, which is actually what I did in the waiting area, before I got in my car and drove home.  And that night I slept very deeply, and woke up the next morning still free of pain.  Today my body still feels better than it did before my float.  I also feel a deeper sense of commitment to the plan of action that I've set for myself, and it was easier to motivate myself to get an early start today, rather than languishing in bed after the alarm went off.  All in all, I like the results.

Float tanks, or sensory deprivation tanks, as they used to be called in the 70's, aren't anything new.   What is new, is that they are becoming more and more accessible to regular folks like you and me so that we can benefit from the experience. 

Research shows that after 30-45 minutes of floating, our brains begin producing theta waves, which are responsible for that state between waking and sleeping, that most people are only able to access after years of deep meditation practice.  Floating naturally increases the amount of dopamine and endorphins in your system, which boost your mood and enhance your sense of well-being, responses that can last for days after a session.  Floating helps to relieve chronic pain and stress, and when our bodies aren't fighting gravity and taking in a lot of external information, they have a lot of extra resources available to use for other things.  Many people report experiences of great creative and personal insight after floating.

For myself, the greatest benefits have been the deep sense of relaxation and the reduction in physical pain and discomfort.   But they say that the more often you float, the more profound your results may be.

I've scheduled two more sessions.  I'm hoping for some of those ah-ha moments of deeper insight and  greater meaning, something I think would be very helpful as I move forward and work to figure out where I'm going and what my life is supposed to look like next.  But I'm also proud of myself for trying something different, something that I've wanted to try for forty years, something that took me outside of my comfort zone.  Because when you're naked in the dark, surrounded by silence, floating in a tank of water and completely alone, it's like nowhere else you've ever been, except perhaps in the womb, and who remembers that?