Montse’s Rolfing Testimonial

Montse

I hope you’re enjoying the summer, whether you’re away on holiday or staying in town. This month on my blog you’ll read about the benefits of Rolfing, only this time it’s my clients who will share their experience with you. I thought that the experiences of different people might help you better understand the scope of this method.

This week I give the floor to Montse. Montse is a lovely person with a noble heart and a warrior’s spirit . She is a massage therapist who has been in practice for a lot longer than I, so it is a real honor to receive her review.

Why did you seek out Rolfing?

I’m doing Rolfing because eight months ago I broke my fibula, the ligaments in my ankle as well as the inner portion of the knee.

What changes have you noticed?

I’ve been walking since two and a half month after the accident. I’ve done physiotherapy, pilates and neuromuscular therapy, but still I could sense that I wasn’t walking properly. After the first session of Rolfing I walked out of Julia’s office feeling perfectly balanced on both legs for the first time in eigth months!


 How would you describe Rolfing?

I’d describe Rolfing as a whole body adjustmes. Our body at times comes out of alignment for different reasons and almost without us noticing it.

Who would you recommend Rolfing to?

I recommend Rolfing to everybody, but especially after an injury, or in cases of persistent pain in any part of the body, I’d also recommend it as a means to feel better and avoid postural imbalances which always bring consequences down the line. I am delighted with how I feel and with the amazing changes I’ve noticed in my body. I love Rolfing!


 Why do you like working with me?

I like Julia as Rolfer for several reasons. She is a good listener when it comes to understanding how you feel and she can interpret perfectly what your body needs. She never makes any judgements about your life and charges a fair rate. I’ve know Julia for the past two years and  during this time I have seen her evolve significantly both personally and professionally.

On Shamanic Dreaming (Part Two)

portait of dr. Pat Gay

This week I continue my conversation with Dr. Pat Gay on the topic of dreaming, dream symbols and dream “medicine.” Today we explore the concept of  “community dreaming” as well as how we can use dreaming to connect to our sense of purpose. If you missed part one go here.

Explain “community dreaming.”

Each dream can be examined on three different levels – nature, community and personal. There are two types of community dreaming – when someone shares a dream with you and when your intention is to uncover the meaning in a dream that applies to a group.

When someone shares their dream with you and you believe that you have an insight to share about it, resist that impulse. Only the dreamer can interpret their dream and the feeling that you have an insight to share means that their dream has something to say to you about issues or questions in your own life. This is how sharing their dream will be a gift for you.

Community dreaming is also when we intentionally look for the medicine a dream carries for our family, clan, social circle, or even our work group.

Why is community so valuable in shamanic traditions?

To be actualized human beings requires community, and Western values undermine your highest impulse toward creating mutually supportive and collaborative systems. In my family’s tradition, which is of Angolan/Ghanaian origin, hierarchy is frequently the inverse of the Western world, and this is also true with dreams – personal meaning of dreams is the least significant, whereas the guidance offered by the dream for community is of greater value.

What type of community are we building when we share our intimate dreams and stories?

The West yearns for community and intimacy, for our hearts and souls to be witnessed by others and known deeply. Community and intimacy are radical and essential for an evolution in consciousness. Creating soulful community is a progressive and generative act against alienation, consumption, and destruction in the individualistic, competitive, and harsh Western world.

What other spheres exist besides the “personal” and “community” in shamanic traditions?

In animistic cultures, nature is the embodiment of God. Therefore interpreting a dream for the guidance offered by the natural world, or in service of it, is most relevant. As the embodiment of God, discerning what nature wants to teach and what it asks of you is critical for a personal and collective evolution in consciousness. This requires you not only attend to the humans that populate your dreams but also the elements of the environment, including the inanimate. Moreover, the presence of sexuality, passion, pregnancy, and nudity in a dream strongly suggests the nature perspective, or “what is natural,” wants attention.

man with kite running on beachWhat is the relationship between nature and the individual?

Animistic traditions understand that all of existence possesses a spiritual essence and all is related. An intimate relationship with nature is the antidote to Western feelings of alienation, depletion, living without purpose, even feeling broken and lost. Without a relationship to nature you cannot have clarity about your own sacred nature.

Explain what you mean by “giving the dream back to the natural world”

When you work with the nature dimension of a dream then you will find yourself giving the dream back to the world. The natural world yearns for communion and intimacy with you, and for recognition by you. Embodying dream wisdom will organically lead you into acts of creativity – e.g. creating a ritual to honor the dream wisdom, deepening a meditation practice, being of service to community, creating a piece of art… This is an example of giving the dream back to the natural world.

How can we nourish our relationship with nature when we live in a city, apartment, etc.?

A technique that I enjoy is called “dream incubation.” You would meditate before bedtime to clear and calm your mind. Then ask the question: how can I nourish my relationship with nature, here, in the city? and allow yourself to fall asleep with that. The dream you will “incubate” during the night is the answer to your question.

Meditation is one of several possible practices that promote an intimate relationship with yourself. The natural world teaches us that personal authenticity, including compassion and creativity, is nourishing and nurturing our relationship with our own true nature.

**This concluded the interview with Dr. Pat Gay. Did you like it? I’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

**You can follow Pat Gay on facebook and check out her fabulous dream-masks here.

Shamanic Dreaming and Soul Medicine

 

portait of dr. Pat Gay

Dr. Pat Gay

This week features part one of a conversation with Dr. Pat Gay on shamanic dreaming, understanding dream symbols and how to establish a relationship with the dream world. Dr Pat Gay is a clinical psychologist and visual artist based in La Canada, California. She was initiated into the practice of shamanic dreaming by her grandmother.

Pat and I met in 2007 in St Louis, Missouri, where I attended a series of workshops she was giving there. During that time, Pat introduced me to shamanic dreaming which radically shifted my understanding of dreams, forever! What follows is part 1 of our recent conversation on dreaming, dream symbols and how to incorporate dreams into daily life.

ceramic high fire glaze mask

Dream Mask by Pat Gay

Pat, can you give us a little background about yourself and how you came to shamanic dreaming?

My grandmother was a medicine woman in our community and one of her core practices was working with dreams and as a kid I was a sponge and continued her practice.

What differentiates shamanic dreaming from traditional dream interpretation?

Dreams are alive, and their guidance is their medicine for the person who had the dream, yet when the dream is shared in community it becomes medicine for anyone who resonates deeply with it.

Traditional dream interpretation focuses mainly on interpreting symbols, whereas you focus on feelings and sensations as a key to unlock the dream’s message. Why is that?

Let’s say you dreamed of a spider and you look up “spider” in a dream book. That interpretation is useless because it has nothing to do with your soul’s experience or it’s truth.

The truth of the dream lies in your emotional and somatic experience. Do not think about the dream, or analyze it, just feel it. What are my emotions and how are my emotions shifting? How does this dream feel in my body?

Once you have the emotions and sensations how would you go about interpreting the events in the dream?

The core of the dream’s gift is in that scene which is strange, embarrassing, tragic or revolting. That is the deepest medicine because that is the scene that is revealing and asking for the deepest healing.

mascara de ceramica

Mascara de ensueño de Pat Gay

You embody the sensations and emotions of the dream as well as the symbolic environment and then relate it to your waking experience without being in a hurry. You keep and open question.

Yes, I keep an open question and I walk through the day with the dream knowing the answer will come.

You’re in a constant dialogue with a deeper dimension and it seems to me that the only person that can have that conversation is you. Right?

Others can help. First, when you share the dream say it in the first person, present tense. This is because the dream is alive here and now. Others are useful in promoting understanding not by interpreting or giving their opinions, but by feeling the dream themselves and thoughtfully asking questions that support you in uncovering your own soul’s truths.

You always encourage me to honor my dreams by bringing them into the world through art, or some kind of symbolic action, can you explain why that is important?

In dreams we encounter ancestors, mentors, lovers, monsters and adversaries whose intention is to support our healing and evolution. We honor their generosity and bring the dream guidance and support into this world through creative practices that symbolize and embody the medicine.

Dream Mask by Pat Gay

Dream Mask by Pat Gay

You also worked on an project that resulted in dream masks. Will you tell us about it?

A few years ago, I had a dream asking me to create a body of work that would be a vehicle for transporting the medicine of the dream into the waking world. After writing the narrative of the dream and making sketches I created a ceramic mask that incorporated the elements of the previous night’s dream. Over the course of a year I created about 80 of these high fire ceramic vessels. It was a year of devotion and thrilling to be a vehicle to bring so much healing into the world.

*The second part of this conversation continues next week, in the meantime, you can visit Dr. Pat Gay’s dream masks here and follow her on facebook.*

See you next week!!

Finding Peace in Everyday Life

One of the amazing things about living in Byron Bay was the unbelievable beauty and magnificence of the nature there. It was immense, lush and majestic. It presence added breath and depth to my life and to the yoga practice. It helped me tune into my own nature, calm my mind and cultivate a state of open receptiveness that was both nourishing and fulfilling.

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Shortly after I arrived in Byron Bay I moved into the yoga shala for a week. The accommodation I had booked online from Barcelona turned out to be a disaster and my new home wasn’t available for another week, so in the interim my teacher offered me a spare room in her shala. I was stoked!

The Center of Balance yoga Shala is a beautliful and peaceful place, backed by woods at the end of a quiet street. Because I had no internet and didn’t know anyone yet, my time was filled with silence. I’d catch myself zoning out, mesmerized by the sounds of nature all around me, they were beautiful, strange, exotic and unfamiliar. I had never listened to such a loud silence!

Each hour of the day offered a different soundscape. In the morning tropical birds welcomed the day with their scandalous racket (listen to them here!) At noon the droning sound of the cicadas was almost deafening. In the evening it was the frogs chirping and later on at night I’d listen to the eerie creaking of the bamboo patch. And, if I listened very carefully, I could hear the comforting sound of the ocean further away across the main road.

Lane in meadow and deep blue sky. Nature design.

As I listened, I noticed that the quieter I got inside, the more I could hear; I couldn’t think and listen at the same time, listening required attention. My mind would slow down and my inner dialogue would lose substance, I felt nourished and fulfilled without doing anything! I loved this place of wonderment. It taught me that contentment was not dependent on doing anything as much as it was the result of just being present and relaxed.

Back to reality!

In contrast, my everyday city life in Barcelona is the opposite. I struggle to find a sustainable balance between being soft and present and and carrying out my work and social obligations. I either feel like there’s not enough time in a day for everything I’ve got planned, or that I don’t have the energy to do it all! I spend too much time preoccupied with what comes next and distracted from what is happening now. Since I’ve been back my mind has grown more scattered and my wandering thoughts feel important again.

Because city life is stressful, it’s important to consistently remind oneself to slow down and do less. It is times like these when it’s helpful to recommit to your daily (yoga or meditation) practice and review the fundamentals. In my yoga practice I apply this by letting go of my ambitions and returning patiently to the quality of my breath: is it smooth, soft and free of strain?

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Another way I’ve found to remind myself to slow down is to bring nature indoors. According to Chinese medicine, the liver is one of the organs most susceptible to stress; I learned that one can nourish their liver energy by surrounding themselves with green, leafy plants. If you come to my house you’ll see I have plants indoors and now you know why! They infuse the place with a feeling of peacefulness. Though I don’t naturally have a green thumb, once I figured out that each plant needs to find it’s preferred spot we get along just fine.

Lastly, I like to remind myself to pause and listen to the sounds around me; though they may not be as exotic as in the antipodes, they do snap me out of habitual thought patterns and back into the appreciation of now. As I write this, for example, I can hear the spring rain falling gently outside, far away thunder grumbles intermittently as car tires roll on the wet asphalt. It is a simple, everyday luxury to just pause and be with these sounds for a few moments.

What are your personal rituals and practices that help you slow down and re-establish a sense of peacefulness in your everyday life?

 

The “Three Days” Rule

The “3 days rule” came to me while I was in Australia earlier this year. It is a practice in refraining for three days. It goes like this: when something or someone unsettles you, refrain from reacting and sit with “it” for a few days. What I discovered is that by the third day I’ll have either forgotten about it completely or I’ll have found an appropriate response.

Melissa, my awesome host in Byron Bay, had to remind me of my own advice on a couple of occasions. She loved the three day rule  and would remind me of it often. She’d say: “Three days!!!” We’d both laugh, then she’d add her own twist “and if three’s not enough, take seven!” It became our inside joke. I wrote it down in my journal next to her photo to remind myself to take a time out when needed.

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How it came about it

As you may know, I spent February, March and April of this year studying Ashtanga Yoga in Australia with a well known teacher. For those of you not familiar with Ashtanga, it is a dynamic style of yoga in which one practices a fixed sequence of poses, while paying special attention to the breath, pelvic floor engagement and direction of one’s gaze. It is a silent practice, everyone moves at their own pace focused on their breath, inner sensations and thoughts.

After practicing like this, day in and day out for a while, I’d noticed how unresolved situations in my life would bubble into my consciousness. Often the triggers were emails from family or friends back home. Something would rub me the wrong way and uncomfortable emotions would swirl around my gut as unpleasant arguments took over my thoughs. I learned to let the inner storm blow over. After a while, the intensity dissipated and that thing that was nagging me would now seem completely unimportant. By day three I would have forgotten all about it!

DeathtoStock_Desk9

What I learned

I learned to refrain from reacting. I decided not to answer emails immediately, instead I’d wait for the right time. Until I experienced it for myself, I thought refraining meant repressing. What I realized is that refraining is like pressing the “pause” button. You do not act out your feelings and, at the same time, you don’t repress them either. Refraining makes space for the energy to shift and reveal something new.

I also learned that things takes time; that answers come when they’re ready. I learned that I can’t force them, rather I can invite them in by making space. The same goes for creativity and insights, they have their own agenda and come in their own time.

Of course, I forgot all this good stuff soon after it I had learned it. Lucky for me, Melissa was there to remind me:) “Three days!” became our inside joke and reality check.

Breathe

I dare you to try it!

Most of us are so hyper-connected through emails, text messages and social media that we feel we need to be reachable every minute of our lives: from this perspective, three days will seems like eternity! Start small, take three minutes, turn your phone off and breathe. Gradually give increase the time you allow yourself to feel, pause and process. Repeat often!

Ever wonder why yogis are strong but don’t have bulky muscles?

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I did. My curiosity lead me to do some research and this is what I discovered. In yoga we spend a lot of time engaging our muscles isometrically as well as lengthening our muscles both actively and passively.

In technical terms these actions are called isometric muscle contractions, isometric stretching and passive stretching. These types of practices tone and lengthen our muscles and give us both the flexibility and strength we need to prepare for more advanced poses.

How to build strength and flexiblity

An isometric muscle contraction is when we activate a muscle, or group of muscles, without movement.The name isometric comes from greek and means “same length” as in the muscles don’t create movement though they are engaged.

This means that the muscle fibers contract but the actual muscle doesn’t shorten or lengthen because there’s no movement involved.

An example of this is when you take five breaths in down dog: your arms are pushing the floor away, your thighs move back, your core is engaged, yet you are not moving; you are activating your muscles isometrically.

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The opposite of an isometric contraction is an isotonic contraction: in this type of muscle activation the muscle (or muscle group) alternatively shortens then lengthens as you move. It does this by switching from concentric to eccentric contractions.

An example of this is a classic sit-up. When you lift your shoulders off the floor you contract your abs concentrically and when you lower your shoulders back down you contract you abs eccentrically. The key to this contraction is movement. There’s no such thing as an isotonic stretch because stretching involves being still and isotonic contractions occur during movement.

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Isotonic Contractions build and strengthen muscles but they also shorten them. In yoga you’ll find that isotonic contractions are offset with deep stretches so as to retain maximum flexibility.

Here’s two yogic stretches you’ll  love

Isometric stretching involves contracting a muscle that is held in a lengthened position using a prop (like your own hand or the floor). An example of this is – one of my favorites – quad streches! (see photo below). This pose stretches the quads and feels delicious!

To isometrically activate the quads you have to press your foot into your hand; hold here and take five deep breaths. Isometric stretching simultaneously lengthens and strengthens themuscle/s you are working. I love them!

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Another type of stretch commonly practiced in yoga is called passive stretching. This is when you don’t actively do anything but instead let gravity, time and breath stretch and relax your muscles.

This may sound familiar if you’ve practiced Yin-Yoga or if you’ve been to a restorative yoga class. In both cases you hold the poses for longer and concentrate on consciously releasing tension in your body. Passive stretching is gentle and soothing; it also favors the healing of tight and/or overstrained muscles.

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This concludes this month’s “Anatomy Highlights” series which will resume in October alongside the anatomy study group. If you’ve enjoyed reading I’d love to hear from you.

Also, please share on your favorite social media and with those who will enjoy it.

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