A “Smaller” You

by Paul Gerst

We live in an age and a culture that promotes a bigger, stronger, and faster is better, lifestyle. As consumers in a capitalist society that is what we’re supposed to do, but without turning this into a heated political discussion, I would like to turn the focus to the effects this “bigger-is-better” lifestyle has on our health. Can simplifying or reducing aspects of yourself and your life make you healthier and happier?

It is prudent at this point to make a comparative list of the pros and cons of Bigger vs. Smaller. What makes this difficult is that there are many aspects that must be defined and maybe more importantly, it is not that one is “right” or better than the other; it is simply to make you think and then make healthier, more balanced choices, not just for you, but for those close to you, and also for the world.

Bigger: We are strong individuals and can work through difficult problems.
Smaller: We don’t make disagreements about being right or winning; we communicate more openly with the intent to come together.

Bigger: We help drive our economy; we acquire assets and items which delight and entertain us and our loved ones
Smaller: We don’t buy things we don’t need and we live more simply, coming to realize that happiness comes from within, not from our possessions.

Bigger: Some will view us as passionate and full of heart; higher highs.
Smaller: Some will be able to let go and move on more quickly, avoiding the lower lows.

Living Space
Bigger: More room provides more opportunities to simply get alone time; can entertain others; represents success.
Smaller: Less to maintain, pay for, and manage, allowing more time for leisure; less stress.

Social Network
Bigger:  More friends provide more opportunities for recreation, staying occupied.
Smaller: Fewer friends are easier to maintain and have deeper, more connected relationships; can have alone time.

Bigger: More money, status, benefits.
Smaller: More time for the other things in life; not “married” to work, less stress (assuming one is living within his means).

The trend is likely obvious to most of you by now, so the need to flip these examples for cons is not necessary, though I would encourage you to make a complete list of your own. If you have a spouse, have them do their own and when each of you are done with the lists of aspects of your life and the Pros and Cons of doing that aspect “bigger” or “smaller,” prioritize what you want to change the most as number one and so on. You and your spouse can take great strides to better understand each other; who is he/she?  What matters most to him/her?

What it boils down to is this: After assessing your life at present, are there aspects of your life that you can get rid of or make “smaller” to lower your stress and increase the quality of your health, relationships, etc.? The answer most of you will arrive at is, YES!

Now that it has been loosely established that most people in our culture have too much clutter; things, thoughts, activities, plans, etc. it is time to identify the effects of this clutter on us, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Excess, another way of describing the clutter, is something that creates stress in many forms. For example, excess food will stagnate our digestive system, not allowing for complete digestion, absorption, and assimilation. This diminishes function in the digestive system and if excess eating persists over time, other systems that rely on the energy and nutrients from proper digestion will be affected, on top of the systems that will be affected by the extra waste (what the body doesn’t break down or use).

This example demonstrates how the physical is affected in one way, but in reality, the body is a whole and thus, the physical will affect the mental, emotional, and spiritual and vice versa.

Using a reverse scenario, let’s say that someone gets caught up in mental and emotional overload, that is to say that this person has an overabundance of negative thoughts and resultant emotions that create stagnation and lead to imbalance. We’ll choose a common one and say that the person views themselves as a victim, having been hurt and abandoned in the past to the point of harboring resentment and anger. This anger has been suppressed and yet it has grown to the point where the slightest provocation can set off a reaction that is far stronger than most anyone would find appropriate. To the “Reactor,” it feels normal or warranted because it has built to this point. They don’t think about the situation before them in an isolated way, it is but a part of an ongoing string of negative events!

The resultant symptoms may be muscle tension in the abdomen, chest, shoulders, neck, jaw and/or head causing or lending to indigestion, shortened breathing, muscle tightness and pain, neck aches and/or headaches.

In the above cases, these individuals would benefit from the “smaller” lifestyle. For the over-eater, by simply reducing the amount of food consumed or simplifying so that they can work with someone who will help them identify the underlying causes of their emotional eating and find healthy replacement behaviors. For the “Negative Thought Farmer,” (c’mon, admit it, you’ve done this), a simpler existence or “smaller” amounts of thought (meditation would help here) would do wonders in avoiding the “making mountains out of mole-hills” issues, which means less fighting, resentment, etc. Overall, it means less stress and a healthier you.

Next time you find yourself reacting to another driver, your child, parent, or your partner, take a deep breath, exhale all the way and focus on these two things:

1) How can I make myself “smaller” here?

2) What is the outcome I want in the end? (Is winning or being right more important than finding a solution that is best for everyone and has all parties as happy as they can be?) Put this into practice and you are likely to become a much healthier and happier person!

Paul Gerst L.Ac. has been a practicing Acupuncturist for 14 years.

Horse Insight: A Tool for Wellness

by Jayne Nuutinen Wolff

Horses are fascinating animals full of grace, insight, and strength. For centuries, mankind has found many ways to use them as helpers in their daily lives. In the beginning, horses were used to carry us farther and faster than we could go without them. People still ride today, but mostly for pleasure and showmanship. In the last few decades, horses are also being used to help us heal in body, mind, and spirit, including conflicted areas of our lives. Let’s take a look at how this evolved.

Based on early literature and the discovery of cave paintings, people have been using horses for almost as long as we have been here on Earth. I often wonder how the earliest people trained horses to be in relationship with them. I believe it would be similar to how humans build relationships with one another.

Training methods for horses have progressed from being down right nasty and hurtful (Breaking a horse), to a pressure release model (Natural horsemanship), to the newer Partnership model – that of observing, listening, and creating a trust relationship. This newer way of thinking and relating to horses nurtures a relational bond helpful to people as another tool for healing. Horses are prey animals that are eaten by predators. Their instincts require them to be alert for their safety minute to minute. Realizing the wisdom horses can impart to us, due to their prey status, can help us gain perspective for our own lives.

For their safety and survival, horses need to be aware of everything that surrounds them, including people (who sometimes act like prey animals). They can sense from miles away whether a mountain lion is hungry or satisfied. Thus, they know whether they should go into a fight or flight response or to be peaceful. This is similar to the way people respond to fear in their lives. Horses can use this safety instinct to decide how they will work with us and how they will mirror what is going on within our subconscious.

We can determine the meaning of their reactions towards us based on their body language, which helps us to become conscious of our inner thoughts and emotions. This knowledge helps us understand why we are living our lives the way we are and can allow us to see where changes might be helpful. Since being aware of everything that comes into their presence is a horse’s natural instinct, we can trust they will communicate this awareness to us through their body language. Horses only see what is happening around them at this very moment in their lives. In most cases, they don’t fret about the past or worry about the future.

By observing how horses communicate with other horses in their herd, horse-loving people have learned how to communicate with them. Horse communication is typically done through body language with very little vocalization. Humans vocalize more and are often unaware of what their body language is saying about them. The words spoken may not always match subtle nuances of facial expression and body postures. We tend to cover up our true emotions for various reasons. Horses do not know how to manipulate; they only know how to operate in the present moment. They sense the feelings behind our words and actions. Thus, horses are a great tool to discovering our subconscious thoughts and feelings.

So for those times when we are stuck in our lives, horse insight can be helpful in our self-discovery and healing process. We can learn a lot from horses, if we are willing to give them the chance to speak to us. Horse coaches and counselors use horses as teachers to help people to become aware of the things in their lives that may need to change or heal.

Here is a partial list of things horses may help people looking for change accomplish: knowing their life purpose; recognizing and honoring their most important values; having more balance in their life; following a healthier lifestyle; building closer relationships; personal growth; and deeper spirituality. Horses, in general, have a gentle spirit and usually choose to work with us even though they wouldn’t have to. And by showing respect for their power and wisdom, we can gain much from them. I am among the growing number of horse lovers who are using horses to help people transform their lives with the awareness that horses reflect to us.

Jayne Nuutinen Wolff is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Master Herbalist, and Equine Enthusiast. Her specialties include: CranioSacral Therapy, Emotional Release Work, Flower Essence Therapy, Horseback Riding Instruction, and Building Relationships with Horses. She uses all these modalities in a unique way to restore your inner peace so you can become who you were born to be. For more information, please checkout my website www.amtamembers.com/healthessentials.

The Science of Happiness

by Ann Recine, RN MSN APNP, Louis Recine, S.F.O., Koreen Schultz, BSN

Have you ever considered the health benefits of forgiveness? Most of us agree with C.S. Lewis who said, “Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” OK. Let’s say someone is rude to you in the grocery store, or you get a nasty e-mail. I bet that: “Is this a great opportunity for forgiveness, or what?” is not the first thought that enters your mind. Well, after you read what science has to say you’ll probably be much more likely to have that response.

There’s been an explosion of research in the field of psychoneuroimmunology. Psycho…neuro…what?? Psychoneuroimmunology is the science that shows how positive emotions affect your nervous system and your body defense system to fight disease and heal itself. And hard on its heels, there’s been a surge of interest in Positive Psychology, which, let’s face it, is easier to pronounce.

Eight years ago the American Psychologist devoted its millennial issue to the emerging science of Positive Psychology, the study of positive emotions, positive character and positive institutions. Today, Positive Psychology continues to gather together the best theory and research to study what makes life worth living. Is that not cool? The research methods and designs that have advanced medical science have been used to create evidence-based practice to help people have lasting happiness. And who wouldn’t like that?

These scientists created a handbook and classification system of six Virtues and 24 Character Strengths that increase human well-being. They developed reliable methods to assess these traits in people. Interestingly enough, they discovered an amazing similarity of common character strengths in all 50 states and in 40 different countries around the world from Azerbaijan to Venezuela.

One of the twenty-four Character Strengths identified by scientists that help humans to thrive, is forgiveness. How does a quality like forgiveness help a person to thrive? Research has shown that people who forgive unconditionally have more resistance to illness, less fatigue, better sleep, better general health, and they age well. People who are forgiving have less anxiety, depression, and anger.

Happiness research not only tests what emotions increase human well-being but how to learn to increase or exercise these qualities. For example, research shows that in order to learn to forgive more it helps to focus on examples of people who are good forgivers or people you have never met but whom you admire for their ability to demonstrate forgiveness.

It is also important to pay attention to the physiological states that help you to be able to forgive – being tuned into how your body feels at any given time and knowing how to adjust it and make it calmer can help. Yoga or mindfulness meditation can aid you to develop this presence of mind and body. A calm body and mind make it possible for you to more accurately see the choices you are making. For example, when you have a calm mind and body you can see that in choosing not to forgive you may actually be choosing a life goal of revenge, or self-protection that leads to negative emotions of anger, fear, and hate.

When you are calm you can see that choosing to forgive yourself and others is choosing a life goal of giving an unconditional gift to yourself, others, and maybe God, too. You can see that this leads to emotions of peace, joy, and love. When we are struggling to increase a positive quality in ourselves, the most important thing is to remember your past success with the particular quality and know that you can do it again.

Forgiveness is just one of the 24 Character Strengths that will increase your happiness, help you feel that your life is worth living, and give you the tools to respond to nasty e-mails, cranky shoppers and all those other cool experiences. If you want to discover great ways to increase your happiness and health and possibly also become part of the internet-based research work of the University of Pennsylvania, go to: http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/

The Art of Hawaiian “Lomi Lomi” Massage

by Sarah Heinze

The Hawaiian definition of “Lomi” is “to rub, press, crush, massage, rub out; to work in and out.” During the rhythmic dance of a Lomi Lomi massage, the therapist uses palms, forearms, knuckles, fingers, and thumbs to apply long, soothing strokes that feel like gentle waves rushing over the client, relaxing muscles and melting away tension.

Most of what is known about traditional Hawaiian healing practices has been handed down from ancestors and living elders. Both ancestors and elders are referred to as “kupuna”. The kupuna teach that there is oneness of life, that all things in the world are living and connected as a part of one big family. They believe the natural tendancy of all living things is to seek and maintain harmony and balance. There is also believed to be a very strong mind-body connection, therefore mental stress and muscle tension are highly related. Originally, Lomi was only practiced and taught within each family, as it was passed down from generation to generation. This tradition continued until 1972 when a well known practitioner from the Kona Coast, Auntie Margaret Machado, decided it was time to help others by sharing the knowledge with all those who desire to learn, Hawaiian or not. Her training by her grandfather began when she was a small child and she gained mastery through a lifetime of practicing. Auntie’s definition of Lomi Lomi is “the loving touch-a connection of heart, hands and soul with the source of all life.” Over the years thousands of people have traveled to Hawaii to receive and learn Lomi Lomi massage from Auntie Margaret, and other kupuna teachers.

Lomi Lomi generally begins with the therapist resting hands on the client’s back while the two breathe together, and both privately saying a personal blessing. The blessing might be, for example, asking for whatever healing is needed to take place during the session. The traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi taught by the kupuna is known as “temple style.” This involves the client lying directly on the vinyl table and covered by a small towel. In the Midwest, the most common type of lomi is the “Big Island Style” or Auntie Margaret’s method, which is combined with a more western approach. In this approach the client remains fully draped and only the body part being addressed is exposed. Lomi Lomi is the practice of body manipulation and massage for those desiring treatment to address spiritual, emotional, and physical disharmony. It combines the use of prayer, breath, and energy to release areas of tension in the body. Gentle stretching of the body and rotation of the joints will be assisted but never forced, to assist the flow of energy and further relax muscles. While it is often referred to as a spiritual massage, the technique can also be very specific and tailored to meet each client’s individual needs. In this respect, no two Lomi Lomi massages are exactly alike; but what they do have in common, are the benefits of increased circulation, a relaxed nervous system, and relief of muscle tension, all while experiencing a beautiful, graceful, and very unique style of massage. Imagine being transported to Hawaii at the end of a long day, without having to get on a plane!

Sarah has been working as a Licensed Massage Therapist since 2002. She is currently practicing at Sans Souci Massage in Altoona. You can schedule online at www.sanssoucimassage.com or call 715-830-9890 to book an appointment.

Kids + Essential Oils = A Happy Day!

Summer has zipped by and now it’s back to school time for the kids. You’ve been gathering the notebooks, folders, pencils, and new shoes and clothes for what will hopefully be, a stress free start to the new school year. Though now you wonder, what can be done with the moodiness, attitudes, fears, and worries with moving into the next grade and possibly a new school?

There is an amazing solution to all those questions and concerns. Welcome earth’s medicines: essential oils and the art of aromatherapy!

Aromatherapy means to treat with aroma (scents) through inhalation and/or application, enhancing the quality of body, mind, and spirit. This is a field that has increased in popularity over the years, due to its incredible, life-changing abilities. The plants, trees, fruits and flowers are providing for us the essential oils, or their life force energies. These essential oils are what people are eager to know more about. Aromatherapy not only delivers the calming effects of the scents, but also the many health benefits unique to the essential oils. As Colleen K. Dodt states in her book, The Essential Oils Book, “Pure essential oils have a place in every home and every lifestyle. They are nature’s alternative to the many synthetic chemicals that have invaded our lives and homes in the name of health, cleanliness and environmental enhancement.”

There are hundreds of single oils and oil blends, as well as, many companies and organizations marketing essential oils. To use essential oils for their healing properties, it is imperative to use pure therapeutic-grade, high-quality organic essential oils that have been certified from the seeds that are planted to the bottling and sealing of the finished oil. The use of the essential oils begins with educating yourself on their benefits and many uses.

Each of the essential oils contain its own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual qualities. For an example, lavender essential oil is a calming, peaceful scent, whereas peppermint essential oil is one of the oldest and most highly regarded substances for indigestion. Essential oils can be uplifting, invigorating, calming, cleansing, and great for a person’s well being.

With the new school year upon us, let’s look at the essential oils that will be beneficial for our children.

The first and most popular is Lavender. It is used in the traditional medicine of many cultures as a calmative. Studies have shown that the fragrance of lavender is calming, balancing and relaxing. It’s considered the most versatile of the essential oils. It may also assist the body when adapting to stress or imbalances. It may be used to soothe and cleanse common cuts, bruises, and skin irritations. (As stated by Young Living Essential Oils)

Orange essential oil brings peace and happiness to the mind and body. It’s an excellent essential oil for depression, stress, tension, frustration, and anxiety. Orange helps to lift the spirits and promote joy. A great scent for children! (www.aromathyme.com)

Roman Chamomile essential oil may help with restless legs, insomnia, muscle tension, cuts, scrapes and bruises. It is also soothing for tantrums and will promote a good night’s sleep. Put 1 drop on the pillow at bedtime. Used in the bath they can be blended with liquid soap to help them disperse. (Aromatherapy-The Essential Beginning by D. Gary Young and www.aromathyme.com)

A powerful blend especially beneficial for children is Peace & Calming®. This special blend has been formulated by Young Living Essential Oils. Peace & Calming® is a gentle, fragrant blend of tangerine, ylang ylang, blue tansy, orange, and patchouli essential oils. Peace & Calming® promotes relaxation and provides a deep sense of peace after a stressful day. It’s great to diffuse in the home and/or to massage 1-2 drops on the bottoms of the feet. Helps calm overactive and hard to manage children. Especially helpful and comforting to young children after an overactive day.

• Peace & Calming® essential oil blend can help purge your system of nervous emotion, increasing emotional wellness.
• Peace & Calming® has an uplifting scent that evokes positive emotions.
• Peace & Calming® is portable and can be used wherever crowded areas may be overwhelming.
• The essential oils that comprise this blend are safe to use on the feet to help even the fussiest of children.

Therapeutic-grade essential oils are very strong, yet safe when used as directed. The essential oils should always be kept out of reach of the children. Keep oils out of the eyes, ears, and away from mucous membranes. When using  essential oils with children, it is wise to dilute 1 or 2 drops of essential with ½ – 1 tsp. of a vegetable oil. Application to the bottom of the feet is an excellent place for quick absorption. If at any time questions or concerns arise, contact an expert in the field of aromatherapy and the use of essential oils.

This is a short list of many beneficial remedies that we have been given by the earth to support and assist our children. Let’s be one step ahead of the kids and be prepared for all the happenings throughout their young lives! Enjoy exploring the magic of the essential oils.

Jean Kowalski, LMT, ATP® is owner/practitioner of Colors of Joy Healing Arts Center in downtown Eau Claire. Jean specializes in creating holistic healing experiences that engage the mind, body, and spirit. She facilitates retreats, workshops, and seminars, as well as working on a one-to-one basis. www.jeankowalski.com;youngliving.org/colorsofjoy