Wow, this summer really flew by.

I’ll remember the Summer 2018 as a time of rejuvenation. I needed, and very much wanted, to restore and improve my physical and spiritual health. I knew I needed to put myself on the right trajectory for the next decade or more of my life, and as we all know, health is everything. In short, it was wonderful. I totally immersed myself in relaxation — consciously living in a state of low tension, low anxiety, low self-induced stress, and on and on. And doing so every waking moment and every sleeping moment. Relaxation permeated every aspect of my life, my activities and my relationships. And everything blossomed! I knew everything would improve, but what took me by surprise was the level of improvement. It was truly transformational.  Without exaggeration, I feel that I am a different person than I once was, both physically and mentally. I look at my old self as a stranger. I Improved my health, my relationships with others, and my sense of self. So how did I do it?

My first step was fully committing. I made myself and my health my top priority. No compromise. If there was anything that would impede that commitment, it was out of my life. 

Starting with the physical, it took a lot of thought and planning. And it wasn’t easy. My body wasn’t close to 100%, and that’s an understatement. There was a a lot of wear and tear after close to six decades on this planet. I strived to stay physically active my whole life — running, hiking, biking, and competitive horse riding complete with a few nasty falls. It all took a toll. I started having increased shoulder, knee, and back issues.

I knew that i needed to nip it in the bud — stop further damage and, if possible, look for ways to heal. Unfortunately, people aren’t blessed with the regeneration capabilities of lizards that can grow new tails! But there are advances in medicine that give the body a big assist. I did some research, and it just so happens that nearby me, right in Vermont of all places, there is a well-regarded physician who has dedicated his practice to help the body maximize its ability to regenerate ligaments and other critical tissues. Patients come from great distances to see him, but for me, he was, fortunately, right around the corner. These procedures actually rebuild and heal small tears. The key is doing it early before those small tears progress into irreparable large tears that require surgery — and patient outcomes from traditional orthopedic surgery are far from guranteed. So, I spent much of this summer healing from these procedures and building back strength from the new tissue growth. I splurged on a hybrid E-Bike and rode about 1200 miles this summer through my local hilly farmland with my husband. This type of exercise is easy on the joints and helped rehab my knee. And now in the fall, I am physically able to get back to my full exercise program of hiking and getting ready for ski and snowshoe season.

I also have had respiratory issues in the past. I knew that to maintain my health I needed to also focus on my breathing, or more accurately, relaxing into breathing less. That’s right —with breathing less is better than more. And mouth breathing causes and exacerbates a host of medical problems. “Working hard” is the opposite of what we do in a technique known as “breathing normalization.” I had to undo years of bad breathing habits into proper breathing. We use a very specific measurement in breathing normalization to determine respiratory health, and mine has nearly tripled. I am still completely medication-free for my asthma since November 2016 and my symptoms are nearly completely gone. I follow a routine of daily relaxation and breathing exercises that I enjoy as well as an hour or more of daly physical exercise. I have also incorporated the “less is better” approach in my eating, and have substantially reduced my desire (addiction really) for sweets. I never thought it possible, but my sugar cravings have withered away. It’s a freedom of choice that you don’t realize is taken away from you when you are addicted to “treats” to the point where you feel you must have them knowing full well these substances are harmful. By normalizing my eating, I enjoyed a little side benefit — a loss of nearly 15 pounds — and enjoying clothes that sat dormant in my closet for too many years. Recently, I have started daily intermittent fasting, trying to go 14-16 hours between my last meal of the day and breakfast the following morning.  The results have been incredible.

Early fall, I attended a retreat with B. Alan Wallace. This retreat, called “Dreaming of Reality” touched on a variety of interesting topics including Lucid Dreaming, Dream Yoga, and the Nature of Reality. This seven-day silent retreat included teachings and mediation sessions. It’s a wonderful time to extract yourself from the daily minutiae of life, focus on your practice, and gain insight into your own mind. I am now getting ready for a retreat with a group where most of the participants are taking the same Buddhist Online Mediation Program known as Tara’s Triple Excellence. This program, which in its entirely takes several years to complete and is still being developed by many dedicated volunteers (of which i joined), is a truly transformational step-by-step program along the Buddhist Path. It supports a daily practice including study, reflection and meditation.

It sounded trite, but it’s true — You have one life, and making yourself a priority is essential. This is not to say to be self indulgent, narcissistic or selfish. But as you are instructed when flying, you have to  “put your oxygen mask on first” to enable you to help others. Whether its physical or mental health ailments that are occurring, if you don’t put yourself first, you won’t get better. Self-compassion is a key component. You have to love yourself to want to make yourself a priority. Finding fault with ourselves and living with regret or anger over what could have or should have been is totally non-productive. As a teacher, I find many of my students don’t do this in practice. They say that they really want to get better, but then put other things first. By making yourself a priority, you’ll then have the resources to help others and you can be of benefit to all. You can’t ladle out soup to others if your stock pot is empty!

I also had my logo redesigned to more closely align with my one personal growth and little epiphanies that have taken me in a different direction. instead of my tagline “Just Breathe,”, it is now “Breathe Less.” Just like eating too much, drinking too much, many of us breathe too much. Poor breathing habits negatively impact one’s health, exacerbating many conditions including asthma, anxiety, coughing and more. Our complex, technology-driven high stress world is far from the one human beings were designed to manage, and the fact is that it’s a strain and detrimental to our bodies and our overall health. Medicine may have improved, but as a whole we are much sicker. Just think of our obesity epidemic for starters and the number of people on all sorts of medications. Breathing normalization method brings people back to a more natural world of being. It allows the body to heal itself and not relying on pharmaceuticals to relieve symptoms caused by living unnaturally. It’s a healthier way to live, and I’m enjoying every moment it!