Saturday, October 19, 2019

Western Vs. Holistic Medicine (One Story)

So, I realize that this blog will be controversial. Those in the Western Medicine world will come up with a litany of things to throw at me. To them I say, "get your own blog." I am discussing my story, and only my story, and from my perspective what I have gone through and continue to with respect to my ongoing issues with my back. I have great respect for both traditions, however, it is not the only game in town. I guess that you can see where this is headed already. Here goes...

Since my fractured spine when I was 16 years old, I have had many ups and downs with my back. Yoga has been an amazing godsend for me and has helped keep me in a fairly good place for many years. However, the stress I had in my life, contributed by nearly 2.5 hours of driving a day, was undoing any physical yoga practice that I was able to muster the energy to do. Honestly, most days I was too exhausted to practice anything much. For many years I lived in constant pain. Now, the pain usually resulted from overexerting myself or being on my feet too long. I would come home and my husband would give me a bear hug and my back would "crack." Once this happened, the pain would go from an eight to a two or less. This was my usual for many years. Then, a couple of years ago when stress intensified, things got worse. I put on a little extra weight, and I started having ongoing issues with my right hip. As a soft tissue girl, I contributed it to muscle tension, and tried to get regular massages to alleviate this issue. Again, not enough massage, and too much stress and driving equals it not working to well.

About six months ago the pain started to travel around my right hip and down my inner thigh. It nearly got to my knee, and I often had trouble taking my first steps in the morning. I was pushing through the day and I knew that I was going to have to look into something else. I was not sure what the whole problem was. I had noticed that little by little, something was changing in my back because I was no longer to do the same postures I used to. My twists had been challenging and I could twist A LOT farther to one side than the other. When I did, I heard and felt scraping in my lower back. Backbends had become a thing of the past. Suddenly my back had just seized up, and I knew that it was more than tension in my muscles. So, I called my primary care physician.

By the time that I was able to see him, things and progressed to a pretty bad point. So much so, that he was able to push my insurance company to do an MRI, convinced that I had lumbar spine disc issues. I went that week and got my MRI and waited to hear something. For a week I got nothing from my doctor. So, I went to see my chiropractor and he was able to call and receive the MRI report the same day. We reviewed it and there were some surprising things there. Muscle atrophy around my fractured "deformed" vertebrae, and arthritis in all my lumbar facet joints. My disks, however, were apparently perfect.

I was in the middle of moving my home, so that was probably the last time that I got to see my chiropractor. But when I moved in to the new home, I quickly began seeing my old chiropractor, and he also received the MRI report. This was probably a four week period. And although I had called my primary, he still had not called me back. The woman in the office had said that there was some issue she found in their system and that was why they hadn't received the report, but that she had fixed it and they should have it the next day. Still, no word from my primary.

I started chiropractic care with my new/old chiropractor, gently. But he suggested that I try a detox to get my inflammation down. I knew that this was a major problem for me and decided to go for the detox.

I rang up my primary again - now about there months later - and was told that I missed a scheduled appointment to speak to him about my back. Now, I do not miss doctor appointments. And I know that nobody ever called me to schedule one, nor had a ever received the usual confirmation reminder call about it a day or so prior. Yet, they insisted that it had been planned and I had missed it.

In the meantime, I decided to start acupuncture for pain management and also to get the energy moving again in my back. I realize that discussing "energy" with my primary was not anything that he could discuss, so I reserved the opinion to not tell him about these holistic methods, and just do them myself. The first session moved so much energy that I had to sit in the waiting room for about a half an hour before I could leave. The second session started to really get things moving again. I was also a week into my detox, and had lost about five pounds too. The pain no longer radiated down my leg and was isolated to my right hip again. I felt like I was peeling back time, ever so slightly.

So I go see my primary, loaded with my information and he suggested physical therapy and pain management specialist. I stare at him. He gives me the scrips, and I leave the office. I make an appointment with the physical therapist, but the pain management guy can't see me for a month, and I cannot attend the one single appointment that they offer me, so they go into November, with one date when I will be out of the country. The woman on the phone says, "Well, I don't know what you want me to do. You aren't able to come at the times that I am offering you." "Okay," I say, "but you only gave me two dates in two months on specific times." This was greeted with silence, then more distain and attitude. I hang up. My primary gives me another option to call and I make the appointment to see him the next week.

Now two weeks into my detox I am feeling really good physically. I lost about eight pounds, and my daily pain is more consistently a two than an eight. Of course, I have moved and am not driving more than 50 minutes a day now as well as having A LOT less stress. And, there's the acupuncture and chiropractic care that I am doing on a regular basis.

The physical therapist and I have a good rapport. She understands yoga. She suggested three things to do daily, which it cannot hurt to try for a week to see where it gets me. She seems to really understand the two very different issues I am facing: one, the instability in my fracture that will never return due to the muscle atrophy, and two, the pain in my hip associated with years of torture. We decide to work on the later, as the former is a lot more complicated an issue.

The pain management guy is a spinal surgeon. Who knew? He listens to my story and does a little exam. He says, "you have a 51-year-old-back with an old compression fracture. Surgery is not suggested, and you seem to be doing everything else that I would recommend. Have you tried CBD?"

In fact, yes, I did a bout of CBD. It worked great initially, then nope. So, I consider finding another product that may better suite me. I thank him and leave, knowing that basically, I have to find another way to live with my issues, until I am so incapacitated that they have to do spinal fusion. Great...

Had I not gone to my chiropractor and started a detox, and then added acupuncture and certain specific yoga that I detailed for me, I would not be feeling better. Even the destress and the less commute, I would still be in pain from the chronic misuse and spinal, I am going to use the word "decay." None of the western medical doctors will say that I have disk issues. But my chiropractor says looking at the image there certainly appears to be disk issues. Even if the surgeon did admit that, he would still not recommend anything, except he can give me a nerve block if it starts to travel down my leg again.

I certainly cannot say that I am at peace with this. My out of pocket expense for holistic practices has been a lot, but it has worked. The medical insurance that I pay a lot for has provided me with little to nothing - except the images so that I can see for myself what is happening inside of me, and so that I can figure out the best way to handle that on my own.

If I am 80 years old and still able to lay down on the floor and crack my back in on a daily basis, I guess I will be happy about that. But wouldn't it be great to be able to wash dishes without being in pain after and have my back "out?" I can't stop doing things for myself because I am a person that does things, and I also do not have the luxury to pay people to do things for me. I pay for 100% of my medical insurance, and it provides me with imaging and emergency care. That is what I am using it for moving forward. The lack of concern or care from the various offices astounded me. I felt so unimportant, so neglected, so mistreated by office staff in the western medical offices. Yet, my chiropractor will spend an extra twenty minutes talking to me about whatever I want, and my Acupuncturists's Mother sat with me for nearly a half an hour until I felt okay to walk out. And, at the end of the day, western medicine basically said, do these few yoga poses and try CBD oil.

My story is unique. Nobody else in the world has a compression fracture where I do nor a spine that has mutated and changed in the way that mine has. I'm not in an ongoing acute phase anymore because I did things in my life to change that and because as a holistic practitioner, I understand what I need to do to heal my body so that I am, at the very least, much better than I was. Will my back change? No. Will it continue to be terribly unstable? Yes. Will I have to work mindfully and diligently to ensure that it does not get any worse? Absolutely. Will Western Medicine help me with any of that? Probably not. Will Holistic practices? You betcha.

I don't know what else to say. I certainly appreciate having doctors and my insurance. If I get sick or break something, I appreciate that. But, for this particular issue in my life, I have to say, once again, another checkmark for the Holistic practices.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Why I Joined the Seminary - It's All About ONE

This summer I did something that nobody who knows me could have predicted ever happening: I enrolled in seminary school for my Master's in Divinity.

As anticipated, this enrollment came with a huge mix of responses. Some of the people who I thought would "get it" the most, did not. Most people were simply shocked. A few understood. It is okay. I did not enroll for the approval of anyone else. And, my reasons are my own personal reasons, not to be understood, necessarily, by anyone else. But, due to the nature of my open-book policy, I want to talk about it a little. So, here I am.

First of all, understand that I did not grow up in an organized religion like most of my friends did. While my friends were headed to church on Sundays, I wrote stories or read books. I was raised by parents who always told me that when I was old enough, I would figure out what I believed in. My Grandmother was Jewish, but did not practice any rituals nor went to Synagogue. My grandfathers and other Grandmother was not religious. My Father's extended family was associated with the Methodist church in their town, so when I was born, and probably since I was the first grandchild and everyone wanted some big celebration, I was Baptized in a Methodist church. I still have the little Bible they gave me. It is scribed all over inside...and I love that.

Growing up I remember going to Catholic church with my cousins when I slept over their house. Getting dressed up and going out was fun, but I did not understand all the components of the service and giggled a lot every time we had to stand up or sit back down. It seemed kind of silly to me. I remember my cousin Kristin and I getting yelled at for laughing in church a lot.

In Burlington City where I grew up, we lived on a small two-block street. Across the street was a church that held Vacation Bible School during the summer and many of my friends were going to attend. I asked my parents if I could go and since it was no extra cost they said Okay. We didn't have a lot of money back then, and I'm sure that the fact that I was going to be attended to for a week sounded pretty good to my mother as well. And if she needed me, I was literally right crossed the street. I actually loved Vacation Bible School! I learned all these incredibly Bible stories that my friends already knew. They seemed bored and couldn't wait to get to arts and crafts, but I loved listening to tales about Noah, Moses, and Jesus. They were wonderfully colorful and with positive messages at the end. Well, the spin for children was positive, anyway.

Now about another block away there was another church in our neighborhood - St. Mary's. I used to walk through the yard on the way to school because it was a shortcut. I felt very comfortable there. One day I lost my house keys and I was so afraid to tell my parents. My mother told me that she would not be home in time and I would need to use my key to get in the next day. I started sweating. I didn't know what to do. That day after school I stopped and, instinctively went inside the church. I went to the front pew and sat down, and prayed to God to help me find my key. I was so scared. I was scared to tell my mom that I had lost the key because I thought that she would think I was irresponsible and I was scared that I was praying to something that I did not understand. But, I did it nonetheless. I didn't know how long I should stay there. I looked around a little. I was the only one in the church. I thought that I should get going and made my way out of the church and down onto the bluestone path, sliding my hands into my vest pockets.

Suddenly I realized that there was a hole in my pocket - the last place that I had left my keys. I stopped short, just steps away from the church door. I took off my vest and snaked my hand through the hole and around my vest. And there it was - my house key, tucked in the back of my vest, hidden, but present.


God had heard me. Or, I thought, I was magical. I erred on the side that God had heard me, but I never told anyone about it until many, many years later. But it has always stayed with me.

As a twenty-something-year-old I started to go to friends weddings. Due to my lack of connection to spirit, I made this running joke that every time I went into a church for a wedding or a funeral that there was a 50/50 chance it would burn down. People thought this was funny, so I kept it up. But somewhere in the back of my mind I had this interest in learning more about world religions. I even toyed with taking some courses during my thirties and forties, but never did. But that interest was always there.

In my twenties I found new age, earth-based spirituality. Rituals and energy became a huge part of my life. I found out about the Divine Feminine and that really opened me up to the nature of spirit. It expanded my understanding, but I still felt mildly disconnected. Many of the women that I met along this path were very deep into Goddess worship. And while I respected that aspect, I felt somewhere that there needed to be some sort of balance, no? I mean, you can't hate men and find power in the Goddess only - isn't that the same as honoring God and relegating women to second class citizens? I kept my mouth shut about it. I went to the rituals and did all the earth-based, energy, elemental stuff. And I learned to honor the Goddess when I felt her, when it was authentic.

And then l I became a yoga teacher. Now, that happened purely out of physical reality of the benefits of yoga on my body and mind. But, it opened me up to Hinduism, and I learned of the comparable natures of Shiva/Shakti and the dance that the Divine Masculine and Feminine do together. One is no more or less important than the other. That felt right. Through my continued yoga education, I was led to many Hindu rituals that honored the many faces of God through different deities - both male and female. To this day, Lord Ganesha is one of my deepest connections that Hinduism brought me. And yet, I knew there was more.

I could go on and on with my studies in Buddhism, Shamanism, and other Pagan religions. Suffice it to say that for most of my adult life, I have done my fair share of independent research into the nature of God. I continue to do so every day. One of the things that I have come to understand is that what makes one person find understanding and meaning, is important for them. But, it may not be meaningful for me. And yet, I can find a peace of meaning and understanding in someone else's experience. And yet...

Who is God to me?

Flash to my recent Dark Night of the Soul, a three-year period of intense internal examination. Too much to discuss here. Coming out the end was an understanding of true Oneness, something I taught in theory for nearly twenty years. And there it was - this need, a calling, to deepen my ministries and attend seminary school for my Masters in Divinity. Why? The truth that I have come to know is that everything is ONE, that energy on a planetary level is changing rapidly, and people need help navigating these changes. Through an Interfaith approach of honoring all spiritual traditions, I hope to help guide people to their own deep understanding of Oneness. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what path anyone takes to get to their own connection, just as long as they eventually do find one.

So, there you have it. I'm in seminary school. I've already been given the title of Associate Minister with The Interfaith Temple, and I continue my journey. Where it takes me remains to be seen. The seed was planted many years ago, probably when my parents first told me that I would figure out what I believed in on my own. And what I believe is that we are all ONE. And that it is our duty to expand from duality into Oneness by whatever means we are inspired to take.

I'm here for you, if you want to go deeper. Just reach out.

Rev. Tracey

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Lessons on Being Challenged by Others

This weekend while at a retreat for my seminary school (which I will blog about separately), the idea came up that I may be challenged by my interfaith approach. Without hesitation I said, "Oh, I am used to being challenged, that won't be a problem for me." In fact, within the span of that weekend, I had received a message challenging me about something. I have found myself in this situation many times in my life and have come to some very powerful conclusions - for me.

First of all, I want to say that when someone challenges something that I have said, I stop and take pause. I listen to what they have to say and I give myself time to digest it and feel it. Then, I do a little research to see if I am, in fact, coming from a truthful place. Sometimes that research is meditating on who I am. Other times I am pulling out books or looking up things online. The point is, I don't just lash back quickly. I take time to look into what I am being challenged about.

When challenged, and even upon deep inquiry, we may not ever know who is "right" and who is "wrong" because there may not even be a context for that. Something that I have come to believe in VERY strongly, is that there are many ways, many paths, many completely different ideologies, and there is validity in all of them. What works for or resinates with one person, may not with another. So why not honor differences, instead of creating division?

We could bring this idea from simple conversations with friends, to the social media context, politics, and religion. The arenas in which this touches are endless. The basic theme is that there are differences, and they are not mostly being honored. More and more there is a need to be right, share your idea or viewpoint, and not create space for another to explore theirs.

I wish I could remember the movie I saw years ago with a Catholic Priest who struggled with his faith. And one of the kids who he was working with went to the head of the church and said this of the Priest. The head of the church said to the kid, "It is because he challenges his faith everyday, that makes him a good Priest." Yes. It is good to be challenged! It is good to investigate what you feel, think, or know. And, at the end of the day, if after that investigation you still feel the same, then great, you have a deeper sense of self and a deeper conviction to your ideology.

As an owner of a yoga studio, I often share what I have learned, which comes both from teachers, my own reading and research, and self exploration of the practice. Someone who practices Bikram Yoga and teaches to lock the knees, would challenge my teaching people to NOT lock the knees. I explain that locking the knees stresses the joint and allows one to rely on the joint and general flexibility, thus putting strain on said joint, rather than the strength of the muscle around the joint, which creates a balance of tone and flexibility. There, I explained myself. Go try it out, if you practice Bikram. If you like it, keep it. If it does not work for you, let it go and go back to locking your knees. I can't change what you feel is right, nor should I want to. Guess what? I will still "like" you if you do not agree with me. But don't insist that I am wrong, and that the Bikram method is the only valid one. This type of thinking is what gets us in trouble all the time.

When was the last time that you were challenged by someone about something that you "believe" in? And, how did you handle it? What was the resolution?

Its sad that today many people do not understand that not only is it important to be challenged so that we can look deep within ourselves and question our truths, but it is also even more important to accept other viewpoints as their truths. (And, of course, I am not talking about sick situations of mass injustices that hurt and kill other beings. That is another entire discussion, and honoring narcissistic energy that only wants to hurt others for their own gain is certainly never going to be okay).

Swami Satchidananda said, "Truth is One, Paths are Many." This idea is shared in the Yogaville LOTUS Shrine in Virginia at his ashram that I had the privilege to visit last year. It resonated with me deeply, since I named the studio ONE, and truly believe that we are all One, and that we can coexist with different viewpoints and ideologies, as long as there is love and respect for one another that goes along with it.

So the next time that someone challenges you, take a moment to reflect. Maybe do some meditation or research. And respond from a deeper place of understanding, but in the energy of love and respect. Let's see if we can change the world, one challenge at a time.

In Love & Light,

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

October's Theme: I EMBODY

After the energies of the 8th and 9th chakras, it may feel a little more comforting to come into the 10th chakra this month, as it is literally located below us in the earth. But remember, things are not what they used to be - and the earth of the Earth Star Chakra is quite different than the earth of the Muladhara chakra!

Sometimes the Earth Star Chakra is known as the Subpersonal chakra or Super Root, and is located about 12-18 inches below the feet in the earth. It is the grounding point for the whole entire chakra system and is said to keep us connected to both earthly energies as well as Universal energies. The Earth Star Chakra is linked to "Mother Earth," Gaia, or Pachamama. When you need to discharge negative or impure energies, asking Divine Mother to take it from you and transmute it is powerful. The Earth Star Chakra is also deeply connected to Archangel Sandolphon, who is involved with our entire existence here on Earth. 

So let's tend back to the earth energies this month, but in a deeper way.

10th Chakra Basics:
Name(s): Earth Star
Location: Below the Feet about a foot into the earth
Color: Brown to black
Issues: Legacy and Nature
Physical Connection: Feet, legs and bones

Things to Ponder about the 10th Chakra:
  1. What aspects of the natural world do you draw upon or bring into your life?
  2. How do you connect to the Divine Mother Earth, Gaia energy?
  3. How do you interact with nature and the things of nature?
  4. Do you grow herbs and plants and work with natural healing?
  5. Is there a place in nature that holds a special energy for your spirit?
  6. Do you know how to ground to the earth?
  7. You are a product of nature, the world, ancestry and divnity - how connected are you to all of those things?

Some things to do this month to work with the 10th Chakra:
  1. Walk barefoot on the earth or dig into the earth
  2. Tree Rooting Meditation to the Earth Star Chakra
  3. Clean up the planet
  4. Reduce your "footprint"
  5. Earth Healing work
  6. Plant trees, let the weeds grow, and garden as often as you can
  7. Reconnect with your crystals and crystal healing
  8. Yoga Practice

So what type of things should you practice for your 10th Chakra?

Asanas - All standing postures. Seated postures where you root down through the sitting bones, anchoring the roots of those bones into the Earth Star. 

Sequence - Mindful connecting to the earth, but more deeply than in the 1st chakra. Not necessarily slow and steady, as the vibration here is much higher than the 1st chakra, but still not flying through. Remember that the deeper we dive into the earth, we encounter water tables, so connect a little to that flowing energy as well.

Breathing - Squat Breath. Standing with feet, hip-width apart and toes pointed outward, inhale the arms above the head. On the exhale, bend the knees coming down to a birthing pose or full or half squat. Inhale pushing up through the feet and legs and repeat. As you exhale, pull down any lower or negative energies and release them into Mother Earth, asking for Divine transmutation.

Meditation - Tree of Life Meditation. Root down from the soles of your feet to the Soul Star Chakra, feeling the deep connection between all nature in the world. 

Come by this October for a more deeply rooted experience on the mat.

Love & Light, Tracey & the Teachers at One Yoga & Wellness Center!
Stone of the Month: Black Obsidian
Obsidian is a natural volcanic rock that is actually glass. It is black to brown with golden inclusions. It helps to keep energy well grounded, clears subconscious blocks and brings an experience and understanding of silence, detachment, wisdom and love. A POWERFUL healer and protector.

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Special Message from Tracey for October...
Ah, Earth Star, how lovely to see you here!

To me the Earth Star chakra feels a little like coming home. Well, coming home if someone else had come in to your house, changed everything around and removed all of your personal items and knick knacks (let's refer to this as the energy that no longer served you) so that you could focus on what was really important in the world - healing the beings in it as well as the planet itself.

Here is what I picture when I think of connecting to the Earth Star Chakra: living in a little cottage in the woods, living off the land, taking care of the animals and other people in the community and living in peace. Sounds a little like Snow White, but this is no fairy tale and there is no Prince waiting to "rescue" anyone. If it sounds strange or unattainable, trust me that it is not. There are a lot of people all over the world that are living this way now, creating new communities that live harmoniously with Mother Earth, leaving a very small footprint, and/or working to repair the Earth's crystal grids. A couple of years ago, a very good student of mine, who many of you know, took off on such a journey. Many people felt that he had "lost it," but I felt very deeply that he was embarking on this very type of voyage. He lived and worked on organic farms all around the country, taking him to Alaska and, eventually, Hawaii, where he has landed. He told me that when he got there he finally felt at home. So my question is, how many of you do not feel at home - at home?

Our quest for progress has taken us further away from the connection to our home planet. In the not too far distant future, if we do not change things, this very home may become uninhabitable. If that scares you, then maybe it should. If instead it inspires you, then Hallelujah, and let's get to work! Some may say, "Well, what can I do?" First of all, everything is energy - our thoughts, our words, and our actions. And all energy affects other energy. So, if I think that I can heal myself or the planet, and I think this enough, then I will start to talk about it to others (exhibit A - this newsletter), and if I talk to enough people and inspire them, then more people will get involved to make the connections to the planet and our collective healing. This is the ripple effect, and its happening already just by you reading this.

How can we help now? We can start with healing ourselves. If we are sick or tired or sick and tired, we have not got the prana, the life force to generate our own healing, let alone anyone else's or the planet. SO, go back over your health, home, work, and all the items of the 1st chakra, and if you STILL haven't done what you need to, uh, helllloooooo, time has come! 

Next, and I truly believe this, we all need to learn how to heal with energy. If you have not taken a Reiki Level I class, do it. If you did a while ago, but aren't using it, why not? Get to working with healing energy however you can! Do you like crystals? Take them out of the box and put them to work! Create crystal grids, place them in plants and, here's a novel idea, put them back in the earth! 

If you need to get back in tune with Gaia, Mother Earth, then time for a retreat away to immerse. A low budget camping trip will do the trick. But, if you really want to plug in, consider joining me on one of the Sacred Journeys coming up - especially Galapagos and/or Peru in September 2020. This trip promises to be life changing in plugging you into the planet's healing energies. Not sure if any of this is for you? Do me a favor, take a day and go to a park. Get up north or west to a park that you can actually get lost in. Take some water and healthy snacks like nuts or fresh fruit, and take a walk. Find a comfortable place to sit, and plant it there - for a while. Try not to DO anything. Just sit, walk, stand, lay down and BE with the place. If you've gone with another person, make a pact not to talk and to separate a short distance to give each other space to contemplate. After some time, and before it begins to get dark, start heading back, taking anything you brought with you, but leaving everything else as it was. If this does not change your connection to Mother Earth or give you insights on how to heal yourself, others, or the planet, then let me know. Heck, I want to hear the good parts too, so let me know when it goes well!

I decided to put a Nature Hike on the events in October. This is also an awesome way to connect to your 10th Chakra with me. So let's do this together, and start to inhabit a deeper sense of connection to all humanity by plugging into the Earth.
In Love & Light,